Saturday, March 13, 2010

NL Central Preview Part II:

In the quest to answer the ultimate question of where do the Brewers stack up against their NL Central brethren, it is time to complete the second park (pitching half) of the NL Central Preview:

Our standings after the first half are:

Brewers 22
Cardinals 23
Cubs 25
Reds 29
Pirates 34
Astros 35

Starting Pitching

Cardinals-Carpenter/Wainwright/Lohse/Penny --4
Cubs-Zambrano/Lilly/Dempster/Wells/Silva-- 8
Brewers-Gallardo/Wolf/Davis/Bush/Parra/Suppan's Expiring Contract--12

The rankings for this are fairly relative and contextually based as none of these rotations are without their question marks. The Cardinals get the nod because their question marks are less glaring. For them the questions are Can Carpenter stay healthy ? Maybe Will Wainwright pitch as well as he did last year? Probably not Will Lohse do what Kyle Lohse usually does ? Probably Will we see the Brad Penny that struggled in Boston or the Brad Penny that pitched strong in San Francisco ? Arguments for the latter--He's still in the National League, he had Dave Duncan as pitching coach--Argument against--He doesn't get to make half his starts at Pac-Bell

For the Cubs--Can Zambrano stay healthy AND not be a distraction? Probably and Probably not Will Ted Lilly be an All-Star and be the only representative again? Maybe and Probably not Will Randy Wells sneak up on anyone again? Unlikely Will Cubs fans still rationalize that trading for Carlos Silva was a good idea even though he is one of the WORST pitchers in the league. Regardless of how rocky Miton Bradley's tenure was in Chicago, they reality is that they got ABSOLUTELY FLEECED IN THIS DEAL. Since we are on the subject here are five things the Cubs could have gotten in return from Milton Bradley and have it work out better for them than trading for Carlos Silva.

1) Random AA Player
2) Random A Player
3) $20 Starbucks Gift Certificate
4) CDs from any of the following artists......Nirvana, Heart, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Queensryche, Jimi Hendrix, Soundgarden
5) Matt Hasselbeck......he might play a completely different sport but it's not that hard to top Carlos Silva's "production"
6) A bag of baseballs

On one hand I feel I am being too generous with the Brewers rotation rankings. On the other hand, the rotations ranked below them ain't setting the world on fire. The argument for....Yovani Gallardo has ace potential. He showed many flashes of promise as he struck out 200+ batters last year and he was the only Brewers starter that didn't make me absolutely cringe. I am a bit concerned that he walked 94 batters as well but he's only 24 and he's on the cusp of being one of the elite pitchers in the game.

The argument against--relative weakness from 2 to 5. The Brewers addressed their rotation needs by signing Randy Wolf over the winter. While the Brewers stretched it money-wise with their decision based on his career year, I still see him eating some innings winning about a dozen games and having an ERA close to 4. Not exactly #2 pitcher caliber stuff but an improvement over last year. The Brewers also brought back Doug Davis and its reasonable to expect his performance will be similar to Wolf.

In the 4-5 position it's likely that Suppan will get a spot he does not deserve well because he gets paid a lot of money. The last spot will be between Parra (who is too talented to pitch as bad as he did last year) and Dave Bush while not having the high ceiling as Parra has shown the ability in to put up Wolf/Davis type numbers. Not to be forgotten is that the Brewers have a new pitching coach (Rick Peterson) who does have a sucessful track record in the bigs.

In terms of starting pitching, the Reds are the biggest wildcard in the equation. In terms of how they actually do in terms of starting pitching comes down to 1) Is this the year Homer Bailey lives up to the hype surrounding him? and 2) Is Aroldis Chapman as good as everyone says he is?

For the Astros the question is begged Can Oswalt stay healthy and will Rodriguez pitch as well as he did in 2009? Maybe and Maybe and will the Pirates pitching be as bad as it looks on paper? Dude, it's the Pirates and the last time I checked the calendar it isn't 1992.



While the Brewers starting pitching cost them a chance to contend for their second straight trip to the playoffs, the bullpen did what they could. Hoffman had a 2009 season that defied his age. It would be too much to expect a repeat of 2009 but Hoffman is still one of the better closers in the league. Like Wolf, the Brewers stretched a little bit on years and money for Hawkins. Still, Hawkins has shown he can be an effective pitcher as long as the team hes playing for isn't dumb enough to put him in the closers role. Todd Coffey is example one of too many to count of players that seemingly were going nowhere until Doug Melvin picked them off the waiver wire. There's a lot to like about Coffey....the full on sprints from the bullpen....the fact that it took him forever to give up a run when the Brewers signed him. Plus the full on vendetta he has against the broadcast team of the Reds.

The this single-handedly makes Todd Coffey the man story as found via a Google Search for Jeff Brantley Todd Coffey and the first organic result from the Dayton DailyNews:

Former Reds relief pitcher Todd Coffey, now with Milwaukee, pitched a 1-2-3 inning against the Reds then ran into a railing in front of the Brewers dugout because he was staring at the radio booth where Jeff Brantley was seated. When Coffey was with the Reds, Brantley said of him, "It is difficult to pitch with both hands around your throat."

If that's not epic I don't know what is.......

The Reds get the second spot with the back of their bullpen anchored by Francisco Cordero. I'm going to skip talking about the Reds bullpen and discuss a random Francisco Cordero anecdote. So the gym that I work out at has 7 TV screens. Five of them actually have cable (unfortunately one of these...sometimes two is dedicated to the vile that Sean Hannity calls "analysis".....but thats another rant for another day).....Anyways, the two other TV screens run a blatant inundations of local ads on a 5-10 minute cycle and usually there's some recent news and some sports trivia questions that run within the cycle of these advertisements. Anyways, I was working out one day and one of the trivia questions was who won the 2006 NL MVP. The first choice was the winner (Ryan Howard) the second choice (Barry Bonds) while off his MVP-peak would still pass for a plausible wrong answer....the third choice.....Mr. Francisco Cordero.....hmm I wonder which one isn't like the others. The same Francisco Cordero who while having a fine career being a 3 time All-Star and quietly putting up a career ERA+ of 148 but also the same Francisco Cordero who has never finished above 24 th in MVP-voting.

If we were going solely on what happened in 2009 instead of what's likely to happen in 2010 the Cardinals would have a higher rank based on Franklin's career year. I'm definitely not sold on Franklin repeating his career year........I'm not sold on Carlos Marmol getting through the year without giving the Cubs fits at closer.....I'm not sold on anyone that puts on a Pittsburgh Pirates uniform.......Also, if the Astros keep Brandon Lyon in the closers position....wait for disaster.......some people were made to be middle-relievers and not closers....Brandon Lyon fits perfectly within this scope of some people.

Final Results:

Pirates-79 every other projection and even my pre-conceived notions of this case was second worse case was fourth and probable case was third. If this holds up we could be up for an epic battle for the NL Central title. Of course, this assumes a lot of things go right, i.e. the starting rotation getting their act together, the bullpen being strong all year and what I believe will be the make or break factor assuming little to no change elsewhere....the ability of Rickie Weeks to stay healthy AND effective all year. It will take seven months to figure out whether this is the smartest or dumbest posting I write all year. I'm either on to something that no one else is or I just gave homerism a really, really, bad name......not the avant gard homerism you see given to the Yankees by ESPN but Carlos Silva-bad we play the waiting game.

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