Sunday, September 09, 2007

The All-NL Central Team!

The fun thing about such an undertaking is that besides it being easy material for four posts, I got to test myself as a homer. I think I was able to avoid the homer bug too much. I’ve chosen a good chunk of home-town players, but I also took about as many from three other teams. This is a team balanced out mostly by the Cards, Cubs, Brewers and surprisingly, the Reds.

Anyway, I’ll just get to the positional battles.

Starting Rotation

The first battle! I spent some money here, in the form of $24.06M. I grabbed two left-handed and three right-handed starters and the right/left split did play a role in the #5 starter. Of the three lefties—Hill, Lilly, Gorzelanny—I decided that the two Cubs players were the best of the three, due to higher strikeout rates. The ERAs were all pretty close, as were the innings pitched. So Hill and Lilly made it, and due to not wanting three left-handed starters, I cut Gorzelanny. He’s the top honorable mention, certainly.

From the right side, Aaron Harang was the most obvious choice, with a 13-3 record when I started and a 14-4 record as of today. Oswalt seemed like an obvious choice too, especially since I had to have an Astro and there were only a couple choices that fit from the Astros. His skimpy 3.35 ERA was reason enough despite his hefty price tag (13M—definitely would have been under budget if I had taken Gorzy instead). That left the last choice down to Big Z, Snell, Wainwright and Sheets. Sheets and Big Z were too expensive for their output this year (Big Z has been up and down, Sheets has been hurt, both make 8-digit salaries). Snell, while having pitched pretty well this year, can’t match Wainwright in the ERA or win-loss record department, as Snell has a losing record. Picking an all-star pitcher (even if it’s just from one division) with a losing record seems like it’s not the way to go. So Adam Wainwright gets the 5th spot in the rotation.

First Base

Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder.

Prince Fielder vs. Albert Pujols.

Is there a right answer? Is there a wrong answer?

I couldn’t figure it out. A combination of higher OPS, better defense and baserunning, proven track record and my fanship of St. Louis baseball led me to initially choose Albert Pujols. In fact, I didn’t change my mind until I was writing this post and updated my stats (since my first stats were from about 2 weeks ago)

Fielder, for most of the season, has led the NL in Slugging, and currently has a .615 slugging percentage. This slugging percentage is better than Pujols’ .563 slugging this year (although is still behind Pujols’ CAREER slugging of .620). Fielder also has more home runs (43-30), RBI (104-88), and costs considerably less $415,000-$12,900,000. In addition, despite what I said earlier about OPS, it’s changed since my first stats back in late August. Fielder is on a tear again, and has pushed his OPS up to 1.002, while Pujols seems to be in a mini-slump and his OPS sits at a still unreal .987.

Sorry Albert Pujols, but I can’t spend 12.5M on baserunning and defense when Fielder is out-producing you this year.

Second Base

This one wasn’t tough, but it could look tough if you consider batting average, so I thought I’d quickly defend myself. Phillips of the Reds wins over Sanchez because, despite the 30 point difference in batting average, Phillips has a higher OPS, hits for power (25 HRs to Sanchez’ 11(August stats)) and has speed (25 SB’s to Sanchez’ 0). Oh yeah, Phillips also costs less by over 2M.


Both guys in question made the team, because of course, there’s a bench. The question for your starter is: Do you want speed or power from SS? Ryan Theriot (25 SBs) or J.J. Hardy (23 HRs). Well, the combination of Hardy cooling off and the fact that I have power all throughout my lineup led me to go with Ryan Theriot for the starting spot. J.J. Hardy does make an appearance on the bench though.

Third Base

This is the Pujols/Fielder battle all over again, except it’s a Cub that got knocked off the team by a hot-hitting young Brewer. Ryan Braun is a machine, with an OPS of 1.005, 28 HRs in 374 ABs (13.35 ABs per HR), and a nice little price tag of the league minimum. Ramirez is by far better defensively and understands the game better, and is certainly having a good year overall. But it’s the same argument as before, so Ryan Braun has to make this team.


When it’s a close call, the defense suddenly matters more. The nominees here were Yadier Molina, Johnny Estrada and Javier Valentin. 40 points of OPS from first to last, none are huge home run threats, none put up big RBI numbers or have speed(imagine that, a slow catcher?). So I went with the hometown guy in Molina. The numbers are pretty close to identical offensively for all three, but Molina guns down runners all over the diamond, whether they’re stealing or even just leading off too far. He also was a clutch hero last fall, hitting the home run that put the Cardinals ahead in Game 7 of the NLCS against the heavily favored Mets. Of course, I need a 2nd catcher for the bench, so one of these two other guys will make an appearance below.

Infield Analysis

That totals the infield at $1,738,000 total. I actually didn’t mean to go cheap here, as I originally was going to bring Pujols into the mix, and his 13M salary would have put this part of the team on par with the others. Instead, this allows me some wiggle room elsewhere.

I’m not sure how good defensively these guys are as a whole, but having seen Molina play plenty, I know this team would be solid there. Ryan Theriot is a definite hustle player who isn’t going to make errors due to a lackadaisical attitude. So in two of the positions I feel pretty good. The corners could be better, if Pujols and Ramirez had been chosen, but then I would have had to give up production elsewhere.


Remember our rule here: One player must be a center fielder for his team (my posted definition of this is having played at least 100 innings in center this year at the time I first compiled stats in August).

The best choices for the center field position were Alfonso Soriano, who of course started the season in center for the Cubs before being moved primarily to left (why they don’t play him in right with his arm is beyond me) and Corey Hart, who again, while not the full time guy, has played there for 150 innings, more than enough to show he’s capable out there. (Note: The rule’s existence is so that myself or anyone else participating doesn’t put an outfield of Carlos Lee, Adam Dunn and Chris Duncan out there—none of those guys are playing center)

Looking at the two guys, I was first intending to take Alfonso Soriano, because of all he does for his club. His arm is stellar and he’s one of the rare guys who has 30/30 ability, and potentially 40/40 ability. However, two factors led me to go with Hart instead. First was the fact that he was a LOT cheaper, at $395,000 to Soriano’s $10,000,000. But beyond that, looking at their numbers, they’re pretty much the same, with many close calls going towards Hart’s favor. Hart leads slightly in OPS (.882 to .860), stolen bases (22-18) and blows him away in RBI (68-51—this is mostly due to Soriano’s position in the lineup). Meanwhile in average, runs scored and HRs he’s close to Soriano.

If you could look back and take one of these two guys this year, as much as Cubs fans seem to love their new lead-off hitter, Corey Hart is the man.

That settles center, but how about the corner spots? Adam Dunn has been a beast this year, with 36 homers, 96 RBI and a .932 OPS. Of course, he has a pretty mediocre batting average, due to his all-or-nothing swing, but he manages to draw walks to have a respectable(but not great, for a slugger at least) OBP of .384, right on line with his career average. He gets the nod for one corner spot, leading us to our tough choice.

The battle of Ken Griffey, Jr. vs. Carlos Lee.

The case for Griffey: His OPS(my favorite stat) is higher, .875 to .909, which is not a huge difference, but significant enough. Their slugging percentages are pretty similar, so most of this comes in that Griffey gets on base about 4% more often than Lee. Griffey has also outhomered Lee 30 to 27 and plays better defense. On top of that, while Griffey is still well-compensated for his role on the Reds, his salary is 3.1M less than Lee’s. Last, but certainly not least, Griffey is a fan-favorite pretty much throughout baseball, whereas Carlos Lee is a name only somewhat known by casual baseball fans outside of the cities he’s played in.

The case for Lee: The man is an RBI machine, with 105 RBI, good for 3rd in the NL. Don’t forget, he’s doing this for the punchless Houston Astros, who are 26th in the majors in runs scored and 22nd in on-base. With more players who could get on base around him, he might have 10-20 more RBI this year. Lee also has a higher batting average by 14 points and doesn’t represent the injury risk Griffey does.

The verdict: Griffey’s health is a concern, but this year he’s played 134 games so far and should break the 150 game mark. His charisma, defense, OPS, and slightly lower salary are enough reason to take Griffey over Lee here.

Which takes us to the last two parts of this exercise:

The Bullpen

Rules concerning this: Gotta have an ACTUAL closer and gotta have at least one lefty.

The easy choices were the lefties. There were two lefties out there pitching well, and as I expressed in the original post, the idea would be to get two lefties if possible. This is also the only place I could find a Pirate having a good enough year to justify making the team(apologies to Gorzelanny, of course). So Damaso Marte and Brian Shouse both make the team.

From there, the easy place to look is the St. Louis bullpen, where they have 4 guys who have had a WHIP below 1.0 for most of the season. Percival, Springer and Franklin are all your typical middle relievers as far as salary goes, ranging from league minimum(Percival) to a little shy of 2M(Springer). I thought about taking all three, but there are some other good candidates out there, so I took two out of the three. As much as Percival has been a lift to this team, his smaller sample size compared to the others made him the odd man out. Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer made the team. Troy Percival doesn’t. The only concern here is Franklin’s poor K/9 rate (an abysmal 4.69), but his WHIP and ERA haven’t shown signs of this being a problem, with a WHIP under 1 and an ERA of 2.03.
From there, we pick up the anti-Ryan Franklin. The best strikeout reliever in the division in the Cubs Carlos Marmol. This kid is a stud and if the Cubs are wise, he’ll be closing games out for them in 2008. His K/9 of 12.23 is amazingly good, and according to the Cubs announcers last night, he has the best strand rate in the NL at, I believe, around 94%. He did give up one inherited runner last night after they said that, but being put in with nobody out and the bases loaded, that’s still more than you’d get out of most relievers.

After that, I took two closers. One a veteran closer who has been trashed by his team’s fans in the past for making things too interesting, and another a young guy who’s only been the closer about half a season. The first is Jason Isringhausen, who is having a career year this year, with 28 saves and a 1.77 ERA. The other is Matt Capps, who at 24 was promoted to being closer, and now has 15 saves and a 2.13 ERA on the season. I would install the veteran as my closer, and Capps as my 8th inning righty.

That settles the bullpen. Onto the last part,

The Bench

Now, I spent most of my money on the real part of the team, so the bench will be closer to what a real bench could potentially be. Many of the high-priced snubs wouldn’t be happy on the bench, so you won’t see an Aramis Ramirez, Albert Pujols or Carlos Lee on the bench. Instead we have several players who are either on minimum contracts or are outplaying bench-type contracts and earning significant time in the starting eight.

First, I pick Hunter Pence, the kid from Houston. With an OPS hovering around .900 and an average that is very Pujols-like, this kid is showing he can play. In addition, he gives flexibility to the manager being a center fielder. He has some pop, with 14 homers, and some speed, with 9 steals. He’s a good all-around player that could fill about any role the manager asks.

For my 2nd outfield choice, I choose Chris Duncan. The Cardinals lefty has knocked out 21 homers and driven in 70 runs and gives a left-handed power option off the bench. He can play either corner outfield position, although he’s best suited for left, where his defense, while vastly improved from 2006, is still shaky at times.

For infielders, I’ve chosen Johnny Estrada, the switch hitting catcher, to back up Molina, and two middle infielders, in J.J. Hardy, a power hitting shortstop and Freddy Sanchez, a guy who can deliver a base hit when you need one. Between the middle infielders, the infield is covered.

That fills out the team. The next post will list player stats, salaries, and the probable lineups for this team. (And I promise I’ll link player cards on the next post, unlike this one, where I was lazy)

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 08, 2007

All NL Central Bullpen

(As always, stats are accurate as of the beginning of August 29th, when I started this project.)

The bullpen becomes more and more important in recent seasons as starting pitchers throw fewer and fewer complete games. Every pitcher relies on someone else to finish at least the 8th and 9th for them usually. Obviously when you look at people for your bullpen (at least if you're building an all-star type bullpen like this project is designed to do), you're going to look at a few things.

ERA is still important, but less important for relievers, because many times they come in with inherited runners, and letting those runners score is just as damaging to the game, but not at all damaging to their ERA. So in addition to ERA, the main stats I'll consider will be K/9, showing their ability to get a key strikeout in a tight situation, and WHIP, telling us how many baserunners they usually put on in an inning of work. Innings Pitched will also be important to show how big of a sample size we have to rely upon for the validity of their WHIP and K/9.

Remember our rules too - at least one lefty is required, with the real attempt being to have two. We also must have one person who is ACTUALLY their team's closer.

Anyway, enough talk, let's nominate!

The Nominees!
(leaders in each category are bolded/italicized, as in the last post)

Player - Team - ERA - IP - K/9 - WHIP - Salary - Throws

J. Burton - Cincy - 2.56 - 31.2 - 8.24 - 1.26 - 380k - R
M. Capps - Pitt - 2.06 - 70.0 - 7.20 - 1.01 - 401k - R (closer eligible)
F. Cordero - Mil - 3.20 - 50.2 - 11.90 - 1.14 - 5.4M - R (closer eligible)
R. Franklin - StL - 1.92 - 65.2 - 4.52 - 0.90 - 1.0M - R
J. Isringhausen - StL - 1.50 - 54.0 - 7.83 - 0.93 - 8.75M - R (closer eligible)
B. Lidge - Hou - 3.07 - 55.2 - 12.13 - 1.19 - 5.3M - R
C. Marmol - ChC - 1.53 - 53.0 - 12.23 - 1.15 - 400k - R
D. Marte - Pitt - 2.03 - 40.0 - 10.12 - 1.10 - 2.6M - L
T. Percival - StL - 2.39 - 26.1 - 9.23 - 0.91 - 400k - R
C. Qualls - Hou - 3.01 - 68.2 - 9.04 - 1.30 - 441k - R
B. Shouse - Mil - 2.38 - 41.2 - 6.26 - 1.03 - 975k - L
R. Springer - StL - 2.63 - 51.1 - 9.47 - 0.95 - 1.75M - R

And there we have our nominees for the bullpen. Feel free to peruse the last few posts if you want to participate in this. Anyone coming this way from Viva El Birdos, I appreciate your reading of my humble blog. Feel free to post your own teams on this thread in the comments or once I get the new thread up, which will be my actual team with a dialogue as to why I chose players in close situations, and post teams there.

Friday, August 31, 2007

All NL Central Team Outfield Nominees!

Slight rule change: The Center Field rule will be altered slightly as such: The player must be a legitimate option in center field THIS season. The easiest way to do this is to say the player must have played 100 innings in the field at center so far this season. This opens up the field of potential center fielders slightly to include two of my nominees that have played somewhat significant time at center, but are not full-time center fielders.

I thought about making Griffey eligible for this exercise, since he's been a full-time center fielders until this year (he hasn't forgotten how, surely), but he hasn't played in 130 games since 2000, and this year, his first year NOT as a center fielder, he's already at 126 with a month left, so I'm assuming at least some part of this new healthy Griffey is due to his move.

Players that are eligible for center field can play a corner outfield position, but players who are NOT eligible for center can NOT play center. Right/Left field distinctions should be made for the final roster, but right fielders aren't limited to right field and left fielders aren't limited to left field.

The Nominees!

Player - Team - BA - OPS - HR - RBI - R - SB/Att. - Salary
(alphabetical by last name), * - denotes Center Field eligible
Something new I'm going to do on this one, that I might go back and do on others, Bolded stats indicate the highest among this group.

C. Duncan - St. Louis - .273 - .876 - 21 - 66 - 71 - 2/3 - 400k
A. Dunn - Cincy - .263 - .931 - 36 - 91 - 84 - 9/11 - 10.5M
K. Griffey Jr. - Cincy - .283 - .909 - 28 - 82 - 71 - 6/7 - 8.4M
*J. Hamilton - Cincy - .279 - .901 - 17 - 41 - 46 - 3/6 - 380k
*C. Hart - Milwaukee - .281 - .845 - 18 - 57 - 64 - 19/24 - 395k
G. Jenkins - Milwaukee - .265 - .831 - 19 - 54 - 41 - 1/3 - 7.3M
C. Lee - Houston - .305 - .893 - 26 - 102 - 75 - 8/13 - 11.5M
X. Nady - Pittsburgh - .293 - .849 - 11 - 66 - 71 - 2/3 - 2.2M
*H. Pence - Houston - .323 - .894 - 12 - 47 - 45 - 8/12 - 400k
L. Scott - Houston - .254 - .837 - 14 - 56 - 40 - 2/3 - 382k
*A. Soriano - Chicago - .295 - .840 - 18 - 42 - 74 - 18/23 - 10M

I wanted to get one more post up before I traveled today. Bullpen most likely won't be posted until I get back home after the Labor Day weekend. I'll try to find time over the weekend to update this and the last post to link player cards in case anyone reading wants to examine other stats that I have not posted(or double check the ones I DID post). I also intend to go back and bold the stats where players lead their positional rivals. If I have time, my last update will be to Italicize anyone NOT eligible for the batting title, due to lack of at-bats, just to give the full picture of who the REAL full-time players have been this year, because that's pretty important information.

Have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend. If you're boozing over the weekend, get someone else to drive. Beyond the safety concerns, usually the cops are out in force on these types of weekends.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 30, 2007

All NL Central Team Nominees! (Infield Edition!)

Alright. I've talked about the starting pitching nominees, which takes me to the next set of nominations. So let's go around, from position to position.

At Catcher!

Three choices here that make any sense.

Player - Team - BA - OPS - HR - RBI - Runs Scored - Steals/Attempts - Salary
(format used for all positions)

J. Estrada - Milwaukee - .279 - .702 - 8 - 40 - 36 - 0/0 - 3.4M
Y. Molina - St. Louis - .282 - .727 - 4 - 30 - 27 - 1/0 - 525k
J. Valentin - Cincy - .287 - .742 - 2 - 29 - 12 - 0/0 - 1.25M

Estrada gets the edge on power numbers, with twice as many homers as Yadi and more RBI and Runs Scored than either of the other two. Valentin actually has the highest OPS(which in my opinion is the most important stat). Molina pretty much takes the edge elsewhere, with salary, stolen bases (insert ironic laughter here) and his defense, which, as stated in the previous post, plays a minor, but still important, part in the decision. A three-way race at the weakest position

First base: This one's pretty obviously a two-man race and no one else even enters the argument. Derrek Lee has been good this year, but he doesn't compare to Pujols and Fielder.

P. Fielder - Milwaukee - .281 - .976 - 39 - 97 - 84 - 0/2 - 415k
A. Pujols - St. Louis - .322 - .991 - 30 - 84 - 83 - 2/8 - 12.9M

Pujols has the better track record, batting average and OPS. Fielder has put up 9 more homers and costs a lot less. That's basically your choice. If the money's available to spend on Albert for this team, this is a REALLY tough choice. If I blow through my money elsewhere, this is a good place to take the cheap player and save 12M for similar production though.

Second Base: Another weak position overall, but two players stand out as nominees.

B. Phillips - Cincy - .286 - .814 - 25 - 78 - 89 - 25/32 - 408k
F. Sanchez - Pittsburgh - .312 - .809 - 11 - 66 - 71 - 0/1 - 2.75M

Weirdest thing here is that Biggio doesn't make it. He's definitely showing his age this year at the plate.

Third Base: I originally had four nominees, but really, one of them (Encarnacion - Cincy) had a far lower OPS than the other three, so I've cut him. This is another one like first base, but with a third guy thrown in. The young stud(from Milwaukee even) against the veteran player who's putting up his normal numbers.

R. Braun - Milwaukee - .333 - 1.020 - 25 - 66 - 62 - 11/15 - 400k
M. Lamb - Houston - .293 - .830 - 11 - 38 - 41 - 0/0 - 2.7M
A. Ramirez - Chicago - .310 - .894 - 18 - 79 - 51 - 0/0 - 9M

Finally, the last position!
Shortstop: Three guys here, this could be a tough one, due to the different things these players bring to the table.

A. Gonzalez - Cincy - .264 - .790 - 16 - 56 - 53 - 0/1 - 3.5M
J.J. Hardy - Milwaukee - .279 - .803 - 23 - 72 -71 - 0/3 - 400k
R. Theriot - Chicago - .285 - .720 - 3 - 39 - 72 - 22/26 - 390k

And there they are! Sorry I was too busy to link their information cards. PErhaps I'll spend an hour doing that tomorrow if I have time. Sometime this weekend, I'll try to post at least the outfield candidates, although with Labor Day being a busy family weekend for both my wife's family and my own, the 'pen might have to wait until we're back to the workweek.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The All NL Central Team, 2007

I decided to have a nice multi-post topic that I could go into a lot of detail on. What I've decided to do is create the All NL Central Team for 2007. It's perhaps the worst division in baseball, and at some positions you can see why. However, we've still got some excellent talent in our little part of the majors.

Of course, with the Central, we've got six teams to choose from, which gives for a larger talent pool to choose from than say, the AL West. So at least we have that going for us.

Now, to make this feasible, I've decided on some rules to make this a realistic team on some level. The rules are designed to keep this from being just a true all-star team that relies on veterans on huge contracts. They're designed to make it so that I HAVE to choose some players who are on either rookie contracts and are overperforming or are just generally on more frugal contracts than they'll probably receive if they keep up their current pace.

These rules include:
1) That my "team" is constrained by the average payroll of the NL Central teams. 2007 payrolls can be found here. This limits me to a somewhat frugal $74 million in payroll. This would put my team, should I spend it all, in 18th, between the Twins and A's.

2) For the outfield, any three outfielders can be selected, but one of them must be a center fielder.

3) The bullpen must contain 1 person who is actually a team's designated closer and should also contain at least 1 lefty, preferably 2.

4) Starting position players must be selected at the position they played most during the 2007 series (No putting Berkman back in the outfield, he's a first baseman now).

5) Defense and previous years DO matter, but should be secondary to the current year's offensive stats. So if I say Pujols and Fielder is a push on this year's stats, assuming I can afford Pujols' salary, he would be the one I'd choose.

6) I must fill a standard 25-man roster and every team MUST be represented.

7) Individual player salaries are per Unlisted salaries will be assumed to be at $400,000, around where many rookies and minor-league deals are valued at.

Now, I'm going to post my nominees for positions in probably two posts, then over the course of the next week or two, I'll take chunks of this team per post, and tell why I chose them (with a final post summarizing the whole team).

For today's post, to finish up, I'll simply show my nominees for starting pitching.

Player - Team - Record - ERA - K's - IP - Salary - Throws
(stats are as of 8-29, BEFORE games were played)

R. Hill - Chicago - 8-7 - 3.68 - 154 - 161.1 - 400k - L
T. Lilly - Chicago - 13-7 - 3.85 - 140 - 168.1 - 6M - L
C. Zambrano - Chicago - 14-10 - 3.95 - 143 - 173.1 - 12.4M - R
A. Harang - Cincy - 13-3 - 3.68 - 166 - 181 - 4.25M - R
R. Oswalt - Houston - 13-6 - 3.33 - 130 - 178.1 - 13M - R
A. Wainwright - St. Louis - 12-9 - 3.86 - 113 - 163.1 - 410k - R
T. Gorzelanny - Pittsburgh - 14-7 - 3.58 - 114 - 173.1 - 386k - L
I. Snell - Pittsburgh - 8-10 - 3.93 - 147 - 169.2 - 408k - R
B. Sheets - Milwaukee - 10-4 - 3.39 - 90 - 119.1 - 11.1M - R

Bolded/Italicized indicates they have the highest(or in ERA, the lowest) in that stat.

These are the nominees for the starting five. They obviously have different strengths, different salaries, and different levels of accomplishment. Anyone else interested in participating in this activity either on your own blog or posting on mine, you're certainly not bound by this list. If there's a starter that I left off for some reason that you want to include, feel free. I don't imagine you'll find someone you'd rather have from the Central than these 9, but if you do, way to go.

Coming next: The nominees for each infield position (and maybe the outfield, or that might be a separate post).

Bullpen will be last, with bench players being chosen from the infielders and outfielders that did not make it.

Labels: ,