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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

World Series Preview

The World Series starts tonight, and even if your team isn't a part of it, the fall classic is always something a baseball fan will tune in to. My March predictions for this year's fall classic were quite a bit off, thanks to injuries to the Tigers pitching staff and underachieving by the Mets. Here is a breakdown of a 2007 World Series that nobody in the World could have predicted.

Colorado Rockies vs. Boston Red Sox

Offense: On paper, the Rockies don't appear to measure up with the Red Sox offensively, but they have shown that they're streaky and certainly peaking right now. Recent history has shown that the team that's hot in October wins it all, and this year the Rockies are that team. Say what you want about Manny Ramirez or David Ortiz, Matt Holliday is the best player in this series. The Rockies have to get Todd Helton and Garret Atkins going. Willie Taveras also has to do a better job at the top of the order if they want to keep their streak alive. The Red Sox have the experience, and their lineup is deeper than the Rockies. Manny Ramirez and JD Drew had subpar regular seasons but have stepped it up in October. I have to give the lineup edge to the Red Sox, especially when the games are being played in Boston. EDGE: Red Sox

Starting Pitching: Again, on paper, the Red Sox have the clear advantage here. It's tough to match up with Curt Shilling, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka. However, Schilling and Matsuzaka have both struggled a bit this postseason and could be tiring. The Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeff Francis have been the reason why the Rockies are in the position they are and even though they aren't as known as Beckett and Schilling yet, it wouldn't surprise me to see either of these keep the Red Sox bat's quiet. I still have to give the edge to the Red Sox.
Edge: Red Sox

Bullpen: Surprisingly, the Rockies bullpen is better than Boston's. Manny Corpas isn't quite Jonathon Papelbon, but he's pretty close, and the guys setting him up are all throwing the ball very well right now. The Red Sox relievers haven't been as stingy, but have still been pretty good this October with exception of Eric Gagne. This series could come down to a battle of the bullpens as we are likely going to be seeing some offense. Edge: Rockies
Defense: The Rockies have a clear advantage here and it will show when Boston has Manny Ramirez covering ground in Coors Fields' huge outfield. The Rockies defense, like the rest of the areas on the team, has been rock solid over and they aren't going to make many mistakes. Boston will make mistakes on defense, but usually has the offense and the pitching to make up for them. Edge Rockies

Overall:
The Rockies have been the hottest team in baseball for the last month and that's why they're here. They haven't lost a game yet this October. On the other hand, they have been inactive for about 10 days and Boston has been playing consistently throughout the month. All in all, until someone beats the Rockies, I can't pick against them and I think they will win this series. As I said at the top of the post, a team that peaks late in the season like the Rockies did, normally succeed in the playoffs. This Rockies team reminds me a lot of the 2003 Marlins team that beat the Yankees and I think they will do the same to the Red Sox.

Series Prediction: Rockies in 6

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Arizona Fall League Update

The Arizona Fall League has gotten underway and there are a few Giants' of note participating this year. Daniel Ortmeier, Nate Schierholtz and Eugenio Velez are all getting an extension to their 2007 season. Ortmeier and Schierholtz are getting the most attention as both have a shot at starting somewhere for the Giants in 2008. The Giants' longterm plan of moving Ortmeier to first base has carried over into the fall and it's looking more and more likely that the position will be his next season. He's gotten of to a hot start in the AFL, leading the league in hitting with .406 avg. through his first 6 games while playing a flawless first base. He's also been getting a lot of mentoring from J.T. Snow during the process. I am very curious to see how this experiment works out. I never had high hopes for Ortmeier, but He kept getting better and better with the more playing time he got towards the end of the season. 6 home runs, a .287 average and .819 OPS over 157 big league at-bats isn't too shabby. Still, it's tough to predict anything good for a Giant farm-hand, but I could envision Ortmeier putting up respectable numbers if given a shot to play full time next season. I don't think a .275 avg., 15 HR, 75 RBI, and .780 OPS would be too far fetched. Not standout numbers by any means, but certainly employable.

Nate Shierholtz and Eugenio Velez are also thriving in the Fall League so far. Both these guys figure to play into the outfield/utility rotation in someway next season. Schierholtz continues to hit the ball well at every stop he makes as he's hitting .333 with 5 doubles. The only thing that Schierholtz still hasn't shown is patience. He makes very good contact, but doesn't walk. If he's going to take a starting outfield spot next season, he has to get on base more and he is going to have to show a little more pop. Velez hasn't hit the ball as well as Schierholtz or Ortmeier, but he is leading the AFL in stolen bases with 7. Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy both praised Velez at the end of the season for his speed and versatility, and one of them even compared him to the Angels' all-star, Chone Figgins. I doubt the Giants have the next Chone Figgins in Velez, but he is exciting to watch and with his ability to play all over the diamond, there is a decent chance he'll get a shot.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, October 12, 2007

Let the Speculation Begin

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota), the Giants are one of the three most likely destinations for free agent center fielder Torii Hunter. Everything at this point is just speculation, but this seems to be right up Brian Sabean's alley as far as players he'd have interest in. I have mentioned a few times in recent posts that I would steer clear of Hunter for many reasons. His best asset is his ability to play center field and a top flight defensive center fielder is about the last thing the Giants need at this point. They already have depth at the position with Rajai Davis, who proved to very good center fielder himself, and Dave Roberts returning next season. If Hunter were an average defensive player, he'd be worth nowhere near the amount of money that he is going to get this winter. Yes, he's above average offensively, but I wouldn't say he's an offensive force by any means. A career .793 OPS isn't worth paying 17+ million dollars a year for, regardless of how good the defense is. Even though I wouldn't pursue him either, it would make more sense for the Giants to go after Andruw Jones.

The only reason I would go with Jones over Hunter is because of the power potential that Jones brings. The Giants greatest need right now is a guy who can produce runs. Jones has been one of the National Leagues most prolific power hitters over the last eight years and he's only 30. I'd be willing to bet that this years fall-off was a fluke and he will be back again next season with another 40 home run, 100 RBI season. That would be the kind of bat that would be worth spending money on. It would also be interesting to see what kind of numbers he could put up in a park like AT&T. He has played in one of the most pitcher friendly parks in baseball his whole career and while AT&T isn't a hitters paradise, right handed power hitters can succeed there and I could see Jones putting up huge numbers. Also, with his off-year this season, it's likely that his demands of 20 million a year will decrease, even with Scott Boras representing him. So if it came down to it, I'd have to take Jones over Hunter, but would rather shoot for Carl Crawford.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, October 08, 2007

Free Agency Decisions On Horrizon

The Giants have made it known that one of their 4 impending free agents (Barry Bonds) will not be back with the team in 2008, but they still have 4 more decisions to make before they start exploring the free agent market in November. Ryan Klesko, Omar Vizquel and Pedro Feliz are set to become free agents as soon as the world series ends. The late emergence of Daniel Ortmeier as a potential first basemen probably pushes Ryan Klesko out of the mix. The two big question marks are Pedro Feliz and Omar Vizquel. The free agent market for infielders is very thin this winter so both players will have value. It's tough to find two better players that defend their positions as well as Feliz and Vizquel do, but both struggled with the bat this season and neither have much offensive upside at this point in their careers. It is very likely that the Giants will bring back one of the two, but not both. Due to the fact that the other top free agent shortstops on the market are Cesar Izturis and David Eckstein, I would rather see Omar Vizquel return for another season. I can't say the same for Feliz. While I have admired his defense for years and wouldn't oppose his return in a utility role, he's steadily been the worst offensive 3rd basemen in the league over the last 3 years and I don't want to watch him take another 600 at-bats with this team next season. 3rd base is a spot where you need to have some offense, especially with this team, and Feliz has proven he can't carry the load.

The only way I can picture Feliz returning and Vizquel not, is if the Giants were interested in acquiring a shortstop via trade. Brian Sabean has hinted that he is likely going to have to trade some young pitching for some offensive help. There are actually two guys who have been mentioned as being available, Miguel Tejada and Edgar Renteria, either of which would instantly become the Giants best offensive player if acquired. However, with the direction the Giants are heading, I don't think it would make much sense to trade away a Noah Lowry for a declining Tejada or Renteria. The only Miguel I'd trade Lowry for is Cabrera.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Evaluating '07

The negatives certainly outweighed positives for the Giants in 2007 as they finished in last place in the NL West for the first time since 1996. Here is an evaluation of the San Francisco Giants' 2007 season.

Starting Pitching
: Matt Morris carried the staff early, then Noah Lowry and Tim Lincecum emerged and ended up having very good years. Lincecum, Lowry and Matt Cain give Giants fans reason to be optimistic about the future. Cain pitched well enough to win 15+ games if he had gotten proper run support and relief help. The team also got a very good contribution out of Kevin Corriea as a starter and he could be in line for the 5th spot next year. The only negative this season was Barry Zito. He pitched a lot better towards the end of the season, but the 126 million dollar man was struggling so bad at one point that Bruce Bochy used him in relief a few times to give him extra work. Regardless, the Giants starting pitching is the best thing they have going for them and will be even better next season.
Grade B+

Offense: The Giants were inconsistent with the bats from start to finish this season. I knew this wasn't going to be an offensive powerhouse, but I did expect better than this. They had one streak in May when they were scoring regularly, but other than that, I can't remember a more stagnant Giants offense than what I saw this season. Dave Roberts did not provide the leadoff spark that the Giants where hoping they'd get when they signed him last winter. Ray Durham and Rich Aurilia were counted on being major contributors to this offense after what they did in 2006 but both of them struggled badly after getting multi-year contracts. The only hitters that held their weight were Barry Bonds, the team mvp Bengie Molina, and to a certain extent, Randy Winn. Dan Ortmeier and Nate Schierholtz provided some spark in September, but the Giants offense is going to be a work in progress and is likely going to take a few years to build back up.
Grade: D

Bullpen: The bullpen was once again a mess for most of the first 4 months of the season and they were the main reason for the teams struggles this season. Brian Sabean paid no attention to it in the offseason and it really came back to hurt him during the season. Things got a little better when Brad Hennessey took over as the closer, but not much. I hope I never have to watch Vinny Chulk pitch another game with the Giants and my patience is wearing thin with Jack Tacshener. As a matter of fact, there are only 3 people from this years' bullpen who I want to see on the team next year and they are Brad Hennessey, Brian Wilson and Tyler Walker. Wilson looks like he could be the closer that the organization was hoping he'd be, but the pen still needs depth and experience.
Grade: D

Defense: The defense was solid this season. Pedro Feliz and Omar Vizquel made up one of the better left-sided infields in the national league. Vizquel played well enough to win another gold glove. Rajai Davis also made some impressive plays after being brought over from Pittsburgh and he proved to be the Giants best defensive outfielder. Barry Bonds' range wasn't great in left field, but he played a lot better out there than I thought he would. The only guy who scared me defensively with this team was Dave Roberts. He makes the most routine plays look tough and it seems like he has trouble judging fly balls, especially during afternoon games. Roberts is best suited for left field and may move there next year with Bonds out of the picture.
Grade: B

Coaching/Management: Although he didn't have much to work with, I didn't agree with some of Bruce Bochy's decisions early on in the season and wasn't too impressed by him overall. The fact that he didn't have much to work with is Brian Sabean's fault. He was the one who decided to fill the lineup out with average-below average offensive players like Pedro Feliz and Rich Aurilia. He also set Bochy up with a very unreliable bullpen. I've never been too impressed with Dave Righetti and I don't think he challenges his pitchers to be aggressive enough in the zone. Matt Cain especially. The team underachieved, but the management did not do a great job in putting them in a position to succeed.
Grade: F
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________
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