Tagged: Norfolk

2009 Award Predictions

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Continuing
with my craze of 2009 picks, I’ll brake down my predictions for the winners
(and two runner-ups) of all the major awards for the upcoming season.  Some awards are flawed like MVP, where some
voters pick the player who had the best overall season and some voters vote
literally for the player most valuable to a (usually successful) team.  I usually sway toward the player with the
best overall season so here it goes:

 

AL MVP

1) Mark Teixeira

            — It almost seems too easy to pick Teixeira as MVP, when
he is the bright new star on the team everyone is picking to go the
distance.  The New Yankee Stadium’s
short porch, identical to its predecessor, will make Teixeira an even more
dangerous power hitter.  If can have a
.632 SLG in the cavern of Turner Field, I can only guess that next season will
be one his greatest.

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2) B.J. Upton

            — No one knows for sure how much Upton’s shoulder
affected his power in 2008, but judging from his past slugging numbers, it did
a woozy.  I expect B.J. Upton to bounce
back and have his power explode onto the scene.  I’m guessing a 30/40 season in the works.  If only he was as good of a autograph signer
as he was a baseball player…

3) Grady Sizemore

            — As you may have already known, I’ve tabbed the Indians
as next year’s World Champions, and I fully believe Sizemore will be one of the
main reasons they are going to be so successful.  He could wind up having an identical line as B.J. Upton, but I
think Upton could rack more stolen bases and a better OBP.  But if the Indians go all the way, Sizemore
will without a doubt by vying for MVP.


NL MVP

1) Albert Pujols


Anyone want to argue with me?

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2) David Wright

            — As of
now, with all of their players healthy, the Mets are better than Philly.  Wright probably will be challenged by Carlos
Beltran and Jose Reyes for votes, but most likely will overcome.  The only question is whether Citi Field will
be better suited for right-handed or left-handed hitters.  Given some smaller, lefty-friendly confines,
Beltran could reach 40 home runs and Reyes could reach 20.

3) Hanley Ramirez

            — I had the
first pick in my fantasy draft this year and I chose Hanley.  Going from leading off to hitting third can
only help his numbers as long as Cameron Maybin can do a good job of getting on
base in the leadoff spot.  The Marlins
are poised to make a run for the NL Wild Card, but even if they falter this
year, Ramirez is almost a lock to have another great season.


AL Cy Young

1) Roy Halladay

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— Besides run support, Halladay has everything in
place to repeat his dominant 2008 performance. 
It really is impressive how effective he’s has been considering he
pitches in the best offensive division in baseball for the for the worst
hitting team in that division.

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2) Cliff Lee

            — Has
anyone figured yet why Cliff Lee had such a great year?  I don’t think so.  Well, then I have no reason to think Lee can’t repeat his pure
brilliance of 2008.  But of course, the
chances that he actually does recapture his sudden outstanding brilliance of
last season are not that great.  If I
were a betting man, I’d still go with Halladay.

3) John Danks

            — There are
a slew of young pitchers who I predict will take it to the next level in 2009
like Ervin Santana, Zack Greinke, and Jon Lester.  But I think Danks will be the one who really pitches himself into
the elite class of American League pitchers. 
He was rushed into the majors in his rookie season but I have a gut
feeling 2008 is only a little of what Danks can accomplish.

           

NL Cy Young

1) Tim Lincecum


I
didn’t think
Lincecum should have won the Cy Young last year, but I do
think he’ll deserve it this season. 
With Santana having health issues, Webb moving slightly back to normal,
and Sabathia moving to the AL, Lincecum is by far the top favorite for the 09
NL Cy, and I don’t see a reason why he can’t get even better in his second full
season.

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2) Cole Hamels

— Everybody knows how good Hamels already is
already but he’s still getting better each season.  I predict 238 innings and a 2.85 ERA for Hamels with a WHIP below
1 (he was only .08 above last year).

3) Chad Billingsley

— You saw what I predicted for Hamels and
Billingsley won’t be far behind if at all. 
Like Hamels, the 24-year old has been getting more effective every
season.  The big difference between
Billingsley and Hamels is that Hamels is entering his fourth season of starting
full-time in the bigs.  Billingsley is
just entering just his second.


AL Rookie of the Year

1) Matt Wieters

— I’m well aware of the possibility that Wieters
has only played half a season in Double A and might spend the first month or so
in Norfolk.  However it’s a sure thing
that Wieters will be in Baltimore by June if he stays healthy.  And if he stays healthy…[whistle]

My
Prediction: .377 OBP, 26 HR, 78 RBI,

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2)
Travis Snider

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— Unlike Matt Wieters and
David Price, Snider has the pleasure of knowing he has a spot in the lineup
come Opening Day.  I’m slightly worried
about how fast the Jays moved Snider through the minors in 2008, but his
numbers held up so I’m excited to see how well Snider can hit.  And needless to say, he needs to swing the
bat well to stay with Toronto since he really can’t do anything else.

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Prediction: .347 OBP,
19 HR, 71 RBI, 1 SB

3) David Price

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— It would seem David Price winning the 2009 AL
Rookie of the Year would be oh so fitting after he burst onto the scene down
the stretch and dominated in the playoffs last season.  But then reality sets in and a reasonable
fan realizes Price might spend a good chunk of time in Durham next year due to
the presence of Jeff Niemann.  Plus,
Price was having all of that playoff success as a reliever not a starter, where
he would have to spread all of his strength and energy into six or seven
innings, not one or two.  However, I’ve
obviously seen the first overall pick’s filthy stuff, so a full effective year
in the bigs definitely isn’t out of the question; just not very probable unless
someone in the Rays rotation gets injured.

My
Prediction: 21 GS, 3.60 ERA, 9 W, 4 L


NL Rookie of the Year

1) David Freese

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— Other than Freese, I would like to know the last
time a player completely skipped Double-A and still had an amazing year at the
next level.  Oh wait, I know: Albert Pujols!  Anyway, the 25-year-old Freese had a great
year in Class A Advanced Lakeland before being traded over to St. Louis for Jim
Edmonds (nice going Kevin Towers) and had an even better offensive season in
the PCL.  Troy Glaus will be recovered
from his injury by June at the latest, so Freese may end up either making the
Cards trade away Glaus or get traded away himself.  No matter what happens with Glaus though, I doubt Freese will be
forced back to AAA again.

My
Prediction: .356 OBP 26 HR, 89 RBI, 4 SB

2) Chris Dickerson

— Unless the horrific Reds front office for some
reason doesn’t let Dickerson play everyday, he’ll become the next young Reds
position player to break out.  Imagine a
prototypical athletic outfielder…that can actually hit.

            My Prediction: .362 OBP 15 HR, 69 RBI, 34 SB

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3) Gaby Sanchez

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— Sanchez is a risky pick here because unlike
other ROY candidates like Travis Ishikawa, Colby Rasmus, or Elvis Andrus, he
really needs to have a great spring to secure a major league roster spot.  However, I predict he will not only win the
Marlins first-base job but have a very good rookie year.  The only problem with Gaby Sanchez winning a
spot is that Dallas McPherson or Jorge Cantu will unfairly be sent down or put
on the bench.

                                                    Prediction: .343 OBP, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 5 SB

A Tiny Transaction

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OK, here’s another post about a minor transaction
most people completely looked over. 
Even I looked over it at first, but one thing led to another (I started
with researching the Orioles starting rotation) and I started extensive
research on one specific player: Kurt Birkins. 
Who?  You should know if you have
been an Orioles fan for over two years. 
He was an “average” left hander that made appearances from the bullpen
in 2006 and 2007.

 

Well, to make this story short: the Orioles placed
him on waivers this off-season and the Rays picked him up.  Birkins was in AAA this year, playing with
the Durham Bulls, before he was flat out released.  What did he do in AAA? 
Two wins, three losses and a 7.52 ERA in 36 games, all but one in
relief.  And that’s the
problem.  No, not his high ERA, I’m
talking about the fact he was exclusively used a reliever.

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In the game of baseball, managers and pitching
coaches have the tough job of deciding if a pitcher should be a starter of reliever.  There is a very thin line between the two,
but usually by the time a player reaches AA, the organization knows what the
future of that pitcher will be as.  If
you solely look at the ERA of pitchers, you would assume that almost every
pitcher is better suited for the bullpen. 
It really does make sense. 
Relievers put all of their strength into one or two innings, while
starters have to split their energy up into six innings or more.

 

It makes sense that if a pitcher is moved from the
rotation to the bullpen, his ERA will go down, unless that pitcher is of the
type that gets better the more times they see a certain hitter, although
usually, the case is the opposite for the pitcher.  Therefore it is difficult to judge whether a pitcher is more
valuable in the pen or rotation. 

 

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However, all of this discussion doesn’t apply to
Birkins.  That’s what makes him so
unusual.  He is one of the few pitchers
that pitches extremely better as a starter then a reliever.  Two years ago, Fausto Carmona
was a fine example, although some of his struggles may have come from the fact
that he was used as the team’s closer.

 

Obviously, Carmona is a starter now, but for some
reason, Birkins is still considered a reliever.  Maybe it’s because he is short. 
Maybe it’s because he is a left-hander. 
For whatever the reason, the only organizations Birkins has ever been
with have treated him as a reliever when he gets to the high levels.

 

The
Orioles drafted Birkins in 2000 in the 33rd
round
.  All the way through AAA,
they used him as a starter.  But when he
got called up to the majors in 2006, he was put in the bullpen, and never got a
chance to start. 

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Heading into 2007,
Birkins was again assigned to AAA Norfolk as a reliever.  Despite having made all but one of his
appearances in Norfolk last year, as a starter. 

 

I
just don’t get it.  Birkins made 19
starts in Norfolk the year before, and had a 3.05 ERA.  And then, he gets transferred to a reliever,
after he made 35 relief appearances with the O’s the year before and had a 4.94
ERA.  So, after struggling again with
the Orioles (as a reliever) the next year, Birkins was put on waivers, and
Tampa Bay claimed him.  In an instant, I
knew that desperately needing pitching Baltimore had lost a real legitimate,
young starter.  When claimed, Birkins
was only 27 years old.  I was really
hoping that the Rays would realize just how good of a starting pitcher Kurt
Birkins was.  But no, when the Rays again
assigned Birkins to AAA they also used him as a reliever.  You already know what he did this year.  I’m 90% sure if the Rays decided on using
him as a starter, his ERA would have vastly gone down.  That’s the type of pitcher Birkins has
proved himself to be over his career. 
More innings and a better ERA? 
What more could you want?

 

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From
the Rays point of view, it would have been hard to imagine someone being so
drastically better as a starter than a reliever, but if any pitcher can prove
it’s possible, it’s definitely Kurt Birkins.

 

On
August 29th, the Rays released Birkins.  Amazingly, no team has taken notice of what he did with Norfolk
in 2006, and he’s still unsigned.  If I
were a GM of a pitching deprived team, I would without a doubt, sign him to be
a starter.  Since Birkins still is still
looking for a place to play, the Orioles have a chance of redemption if they
bring Birkins back.

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Here is
Birkins’ statistics throughout his professional career.  Take note on the number of starts and relief
appearances each year.  See a pattern?  The higher percentage of his games that were
starts, a noticeably lower ERA.

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“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” of the Baltimore  Orioles

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The Good


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Unless you are a big fan
of the game, it was very easy to miss the minor move the Baltimore Orioles made
on Tuesday morning.  
Lou Montanez, a
Double-A outfielder, was called up to the Show (Anaheim, actually).  Montanez was it tearing up in Bowie (AA),
and was among the league leaders in many offensive categories:

 

In 116 games:

10th in
.OBP    (.385)

1st in HR            (26)

1st in RBI            (97)

1st in .SLG            (.601)

1st in .OPS            (.986)

1st in TB            (271)

 

More like the leader
in many offensive categories, but he fails to be the absolute best in getting
on base.  No matter, Montanez(pictured) really
earned this call-up.  He earned it way
more than
Chris Waters did, anyhow. 

montanez.jpeg

Who
would have thought Waters was so bad in AAA, with the way he pitched on
Tuesday?  Wow. 

 

Getting back to Montanez,
if you were really into baseball in 2000, you may recognize the name.  Lou was
drafted third overall by the Cubs
that year, but struggled with the organization throughout his whole
career.  He could get on base pretty
well, but the power never came, and that was his main asset because he wasn’t
very fast.   Finally, somehow, Montanez
found his power this year, his second year in the Baltimore system.  

 

Montanez wasn’t in the
starting lineup Tuesday, but I hope he’s a starter in Baltimore rest of the
year.  I really hope the Orioles don’t
act like the rest of this season means anything. 
Dave Trembley needs to realize that Jay Payton playing everyday over
Montanez would be complete idiocy. 
Montanez needs to play everyday. 
There’s no way around that fact. 
Trembley might be right if he said that Payton playing everyday would
mean the O’s could win three or four more games.  But how many games the Orioles win this year doesn’t matter.  Montanez could play a part in the Orioles
future.  Payton doesn’t. 

 

I hate it when a team that
is completely out of the playoff race, still is focused on winning that
year.  All the decisions made the rest
of that season should be made to benefit the future.  Mark Shapiro is a master of making those decisions. 
Ed Wade not so much.  The decision of who should start in center
for the Orioles is a perfect test on how smart management is.  I have confidence the Orioles will make the
right move and play Montanez, but if the same thing happened in Cincinnati,
Montanez would be on the bench.  Out all
of all the teams, I believe the Reds have the worst management.   I stand by my statement that Brian Sabean
is the worst GM in baseball, but the combination of manager Dusty Baker, GM
Walt Jocketty, and owner Bob Castelinni is extremely bad, just in the way they
all handle the club.

 

In other good news for the
Orioles, their High A club, the Frederick Keys no hit the Salem Avalanche. 
Brandon Erbe (7IP), Ryan Ouellette (1IP), and Freddy Deza (1IP) combined on the feat Tuesday.   I’m not going to pretend this news has that much meaning, but it
serves as a metaphor on how the Orioles are a bad team, but are intelligently
rebuilding.  The Astros are just as bad
of a team as the O’s, but decided against rebuilding.  Nice move Ed Wade.  Now
your farm system is stinking up a cloud.

 

The Bad

 

You’ve got to feel bad for
Hayden Penn(pictured) I mean his 2005 and 2006
call-ups were disastrous, but he was 20 and 21 years old then. 

penn.jpg

Now he’s a much better pitcher, and was
having a pretty fair season at AAA, but missed his first call-up because of
appendicitis.  Then, was scheduled to
get called up again, but suffered a freak injury when a sliver of broken bat
hit his leg.  So, in his place Chris
Waters made the start, and well, Waters will probably stay in Baltimore, to say
the least.  A 5.70 ERA in AAA? 
Then he gives up one hit in eight innings against the Angels?  Whatever works I
guess.  Penn must be frustrated at this
point.  I would be.   Plus, Penn has 2.28 ERA in his last four
starts. 

 

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I originally was inclined
to suggest that the Orioles should move
Dennis Sarfate (pictured) from the rotation
back to the bullpen. I thought the
switch was stupid because Sarfate had never started in the majors before, and I
really liked his future in the bullpen. 
But after I looked at his career statistics, I decided the O’s were not
that stupid.  When you’re a team like the
Orioles, you can afford to experiment. 
Sarfate put up good enough numbers as a starter in the minors, that I
think it’s worth a shot giving him a chance to come into the rotation for the
rest of the season.  Of course, we’ll
see how he does in his new role, but I believe a starter with 4.60 ERA is as
valuable as reliever with a 3.60 ERA.

 

The Ugly

 

We are now at “ugly”, so I
will start off by talking about the Orioles’ worst move this season.  The worst move was the move that was never
made.  Nobody was traded at the deadline!  Sherrill was not traded, Millar wasn’t
traded, Payton wasn’t traded, Bradford wasn’t traded, and Mora wasn’t
traded!  I understand that most of these
players (except Sherrill) were past their prime and getting overpaid, but all
that means is the Orioles can’t get as many or less coveted prospects.  If you read my previous entry “Sherrill Must
Go”, then you know why I felt the Orioles should get rid of Sherrill.  But Bradford, Mora, Millar and Payton also
should have been dealt for prospects. 
None of these players have any meaning for the Orioles in the future. 

 

Because of almacphail.jpgl these
player’s salaries, the prospects involved in the deal would not be
top-notc
h.  The deal would be simple,
though.  The more the Orioles pay of the
remaining money owed to the traded player, the better prospects Baltimore
acquires. For example, if Kevin Millar was traded to the Mets, and the Oriole
s
paid 70% of the money remaining on Millar’s contract, the O’s could acquire an
average AA level prospect like Shawn Bowman. 
But if the Orioles only paid 30% of the money, they would get a prospect
more like Jose Bierd, who’s in A bal
l.

 

Lastly, my biggest
question to Andy and Dave…why is Juan Castro with the club?  I mean you have an 36-year-old lifelong
utility infielder that has a .158 .OBP this year on your horrible rebuilding
team?  Look, I’m all for buying cheap
free agents and plugging them in holes so you don’t have to rush your prospects
to the bigs.  In you’re a rebuilding
team the last thing you want to do is rush your prospects.  But this is a different case.  

juancastro.jpg

In AAA Norfolk, Freddie
Bynum, Brandon Fahey, and Eider Torres all are being blocked in the majors by
whom?  Juan Castro?!  I would like to see Andy MacPhail speak with
Fahey, Bynum, and Torres, look them in the eye, and explain why Juan Castro is
better than all three of them.  I assure
you, calling up any of the three would not be labeled under “rushing
prospects”.  Any one of these players
could be with the Orioles as a utility men for the next five to six years.  We are not talking about Matt Wieters, but
these guys still play a part in the future. 
It’s stupid to let them play yet another year at AAA.  I have confidence that Bynum, Fahey, and
Torres will all be able to have their .OPS be higher than Castro’s .340.

 

I wrote about as many
different things concerning the Orioles, as the number of times Jerry Manuel
has walked to the mound in the 8th an 9th innings this
week.  Oh dear god, Jerry, just pick one
guy to close.  My pick would be Joe
Smith.  If Kunz can show he’s ready, I’d
turn to him because he’s the only real closer the Mets have.

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Oh, never mind about that
Chad Bradford comment.  He just got
traded to the Rays.  Great deal for both
clubs.  The Orioles acquired the always
valuable PTBNL.

bradford.jpg

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Oh by the way, milb.com is
having a poll on the best bubble photo. 
Here your choices:

Matt
Dominguez

West
Michigan Whitecaps Bullpen

Dustin
Martin

Vote on the milb.com
homepage in the lower right hand corner.  I voted Dustin Martin, but they are all so funny.