Archive for February 2010

Breaking down the Princeton Offense

February 25, 2010

We like basketball. We know some of you like basketball. So here’s a nice piece on the Princeton Offense by ASJ of our sister blog, With No Regard 4 Human Life.

Quote:

Over a few weeks, I’m going to do a series of threads breaking down different types of offenses and defenses ran in the NBA. Today, we will focus on the Princeton offense.

The Princeton Offense, named rightfully so after the offensive genius of Pete Carril (renowned Princeton head coach), is an offense focused on breaking down an opponents defensive set. The reason the Princeton Offense is so difficult for teams to prepare for is because all 5 players on offense are constantly in motion.

There are four parts to the Princeton Offense set.

Part One:

A Princeton Offense usually starts with a high post entry and a cut at the top of the key on the strong side. The strong side is whatever side the ball is on.

Orange is the movement of the ball. Blue is the movement of the player(s). Excuse the terrible artwork. I’m doing this on MS Paint.

Clockwise, from the bottom left, the players are the G, F, C, F, G. Once the PG makes the high post entry pass, he’ll cut to the basket either to a) Get the ball back and go for a layup or b) if the layup isn’t there, to go to the opposite corner and everyone rotates clockwise. So now the setup looks like this:

Click the link and read the rest!

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2010 Divisional Previews & Predictions: AL West

February 24, 2010

The baseball season is inching closer and with that poses the question of who will win each division this year. This is going to be part one of a six part series that I will be doing. I will do my best to predict the order of all six divisions. The AL West could very well be one of the best divisions in baseball this year and it should contain the most exciting divisional race in my opinion. The Mariners, Rangers, and Athletics all improved themselves and even though the Angels took a step back, they should still be contenders in this division. Do not count them out.

1. Los Angeles Angels

Key Departures: Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero, and John Lackey

Key Arrivals: Joel Piniero, Hideki Matsui, and Fernando Rodney

Before you criticize me for not picking the Mariners, listen. A year ago, the Angels had one of the best offenses in the major leagues and they were also a 97 win team. Sure, the Angels lost Lackey, Figgins, and Vlad but they gained Matsui, Piniero, and Rodney. It might not look like it, but they earned a lot of that value back. Vlad is not getting any younger and I am not sure how much value he holds at this point in his career. I would prefer to have Matsui DH and I think he can be worth about 2-3 wins there. You all know my feelings on Lackey. The past two seasons he has made only 51 starts. You need more starts out of your #1 pitcher. Piniero does a GREAT job of getting ground balls. When a pitcher does a good job of that anything is possible. He has a chance to duplicate last years numbers and he can be just as valuable as Lackey, or possibly more valuable. The loss of Chone Figgins will be the most difficult to make up for and they will have to get Erik Aybar and Howie Kendrick to step up. I also think that Scott Kazmir can return to his old form which will make the Angels rotation much better. Do the Angels have as good of a defense as Texas or Seattle? No, but they have fewer question marks in their rotation compared to Seattle and Texas. That is a big plus. I am going with a safe pick here, and picking the Angels to win the west.

2. Seattle Mariners

Key Departures: Russell Branyan, Jarrod Washburn, and Adrian Beltre

Key Arrivals: Cliff Lee, Milton Bradley, Chone Figgins

Call me crazy, but I see the Mariners finishing second in the west. I see a lot of holes in this team and at times I feel like im being somewhat generous with putting them ahead of the Rangers. I will give the Mariners credit for having the best off-season, but not enough to win the division. Where will the major run production come from? Most of the Mariners hitters hit a lot of singles and they will have to rely on playing a lot of small ball and run prevention in order to win. I don’t think they have a good enough rotation to a point where they can rely on that to carry them. Russell Branyan is gone and please don’t tell me you are counting on Milton Bradley to be your main run producer, Mariners fans. He has only had 400+ at-bats in a season two times in his 10 year career! Two times! In the past couple of years, Bradley has had numerous injuries to his legs. Can you count on him to give you the 400+ at-bats that you need and also rely on him to be your biggest run producer? That’s a lot of pressure to put on a so called “clubhouse cancer”. Before Washburn went to Detroit, he was absolutely superb with Seattle by posting an ERA of 2.64 in 20 starts. That is probably a similar ERA as to what Lee will provide. Now I know Lee is much more valuable, but you cant discount what Jarrod Washburn provided for the Mariners. The Mariners rotation still has a lot of question marks beyond Felix and Lee. Will Ian Snell step his game up? How will Rowland-Smith do in a full time starting role? Can Bedard remain healthy? Luke French should also get some starts here and there. These guys will be important and could determine just how good the Mariners are this year. I do like Seattle’s bullpen more than the Angels, but I don’t think that will be THAT much of a significance.

3. Texas Rangers

Key Departures: Marlon Byrd and Kevin Millwood

Key Arrivals: Vladimir Guerrero, Rich Harden, and Darren Oliver

The Rangers are a team that given how well their rotation can be, could end up winning this division. They have a lot of potential because they are all fairly young and have a lot of upside. They also had the 6th best UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of 32.5, so we know they have a pretty good defense. Similar to the Mariners, I think that the Rangers have too many question marks in their rotation to end up winning this division. I know that somewhat contradicts with my first sentence but that is basically due to me not having enough confidence to put them ahead of the Mariners or Angels. Harden and Millwood could end up being a wash if Harden can’t stay healthy and Vlad is not getting any younger and you have to wonder how much value he holds. Rich Harden will have to prove that he can stay healthy because he is clearly their ace going in. If he can’t stay healthy, their rotation could be a mess. However, as far as their offense goes, they probably have the best in the division. Adding Vlad Guerrero makes it even stronger and they have a nice core of young guys such as Chris Davis and Julio Borbon looking to make contributions. They also have the best bullpen in the division. I liked the addition of Darren Oliver and they will probably use Neftali Feliz in the pen and in the rotation. I just don’t think that is enough for me to push them ahead of the teams listed above.

4. Oakland Athletics

Key Departures: None.

Key Arrivals: Ben Sheets, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Coco Crisp, and Jake Fox

I really like the Athletics in the future because they have many young players with a lot of upside, but as for now, they will finish in the cellar of the AL West. The bright spot in Oakland could end up being Brett Anderson, who is an ace in the making. The addition of Crisp should give them a respectable outfield but they will still struggle to put runs on the board. Last year their offense posted a wOBA of .321 and I don’t think Jake Fox, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Coco Crisp will help it all that much. Their offense just does not stack up with others in this division and I do not see how they will be able to compete. They will likely win a little less than 75 games they won last year because the AL West as a whole should be better this year. However, their bullpen is really good at the top with Brad Ziegler, Andrew Bailey, Michael Wuertz, and Joey Divine. Maybe if Billy Beane decides to open up his wallet, they could try to add a big time free agent or two next off-season.

YC’s AL West Predictions:
1. Rangers
2. Mariners
3. Angels
4. Athletics

Disco’s AL West Predictions:
1. Rangers
2. Angels
3. Mariners
4. Athletics

JeffMac’s AL West Predictions:
1. Mariners
2. Rangers
3. Angels
4. Athletics

ES42’s AL West Predictions:
1. Rangers
2. Angels
3. Mariners
4. Athletics

Dougbies AL West Predictions:
1. Mariners
2. Angels
3. Rangers
4. Athletics

Yankees outfield situation

February 15, 2010

This is just a quick post, so if it seems  rushed, you know why.

Heading into the season, the Yankees have six outfielders on their extended roster. Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Randy Winn, Jamie Hoffmann, and Marcus Thames. Ideally, the Yankees only need 4-5 outfielders, so who should get playing time and who should get the boot?

For starters, let me tell you my projected outfield (haha, for starters). Swisher in RF, Gardner in CF, and Granderson in LF. Obviously, Swishawk is a lock in right. Also, it should come as a no-brainer Granderson is starting, but I have him in left.  Gardner is a better fielder. Granderson is projected to have a 0.0 UZR/150 in 2010 and his three year UZR is “just” 1.2. Meanwhile, Gardner has put up spectacular 27.6 UZR/150 in 789 career CF innings and his projected 2010 UZR/150 is 2.8. Sure there’s just a 2-3 run difference between the two, but I fully believe Gardner will post a better rating than 2.8, while Grandy will stay close to his three year average.

Now comes the tricky part- choosing the bench. With Granderson and Gardner both starting, that’s two black holes against lefties. So ideally, the Yankees need a rerserve OF who can hit lefties to platoon with Gardner or pinch-hit for him and Granderson. Well, in 2009 Winn had a -9 wRC+ against lefties in 125 PA- a SSS. For his career he has fared a little bit better, posting a 105 wRC+.

The next option would be Marcus Thames. Against lefties in 2009, Thames had a 110 wRC+ against lefties. For his career in 691 PA against lefties, he has a 122 wRC+ with a .360 wOBA. 691 PA is still a SSS, but it’s evident Thames is just a flat out better hitter than Winn against lefties, with more power. Power that could be beneficial in NYS if the HR rates stay the same.

Give me Thames as the 4th outfielder on the bench, to platoon with Gardner against lefties and/or pinch-hit.

That leaves two players for one spot- Randy Winn and Jamie Hoffman. Winn is being paid $2mil by New York in 2010. Hoffmann has to stay on the Yanks roster or he’ll be returned to LA. Hoffmann offers more potential. He is younger, can hold his own ground offensively, and is supposed to be a good fielder. Meanwhile, Winn is getting older and coming off a bad offensive season.

If given the choice, Hoffman should be given the spot over Winn. In reality, New York won’t want to waste $2mil on Winn and then cut him or not play him. So it may be money that makes the final decision.

To recap:

RF- Nick Swisher; CF- Brett Gardner; LF- Curtis Granderson

4th OF- Marcus Thames

5th OF- Jamie Hoffmann

See ya later- Randy Winn

But in reality it will be Winn who earns a spot over Hoffmann.

Clearing the Bases: Colorado Rockies

February 14, 2010

Trade Brad Hawpe.

Sure this might be a tired topic in the SABR community, but it is true. The Rockies really should trade Brad Hawpe. Why?

1) It’ll open up their OF logjam for the better

2) It’ll save them some money

3) It can help them contend in 2010

4) Hawpe could bring in a decent return

As it stands right now, the Rockies have four OF: Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, Seth Smith, and Brad Hawpe. It also looks like Fowler has the CF job locked up, while Gonzalez has the LF job locked up. That seemingly means Smith will be relegated to the bench, as Hawpe has been a starter in RF for 4.5 seasons now. However, that’s a big mistake.

Hawpe should not be starting in Colorado, despite being a good hitter. He tied his career high in wRC+ last season with 130, and has a career mark of 120+. He’s probably the best hitter among all their OF’ers. There’s also been no Coors affect with Hawpe, who is .379/.508/.375wOBA/121wRC+ hitter at home and .375/.489/.367wOBA/116wRC+ hitter on the road. But his defense is PUTRID. From 2007-2009 his UZR/150 was -27.2, -46.6, and -25.9. HOLY SHIT. That is terrible. -46.6? His glove was sooooooooooooooo bad, he took away about 4-5 wins on defense alone. The result is poor value. While he can hit, his glove erases all that offensive output and then some. His WAR in respective order the past three is seasons is 1.3, -.6, and 1.3. That’s not even the value of an average player!

Meanwhile, Seth Smith is younger, cheaper, and probably more valuable. While he may not be as good a hitter as Hawpe, he is close and certainly a better fielder. Smith raked in AA and AAA, and did the same in Colorado last season. In 387 PA (a relatively SSS compared to Hawpe), he had a wRC+ of 129. Rememeber, Hawpe’s was 130. Bill James, CHONE, Marcel, and the Fans all project Smith to have a wRC+ within the range of 125-130 in 2010. If he can do that, or come close, noone in Colorado will miss Hawpe. In over 700 career OF innings, a very SSS, he has a 9.0 UZR/150. Moreover, he is projected to have a 5.0 UZR/150 in 2010, compared to -19 for Hawpe.

Smith will provide more overall value for Colorado in 2010, and should be the everyday starter. So trading Hapwe ensures that Smith will start. Not only that, but it will save them money. Trading Hawpe, depending on who Colorado gets in return, will save the club $7mil. That could be huge for a team like Colorado when it comes to arbitration and signing players next season, or making trades at the deadline in 2010. Moreover, while it lowers payroll, the team just gets better. They’ll be promoting a better player to Hawpe’s spot. For a team that will be in the running for the NL West and the Wild Card, that could be a world of difference. And the icing on the cake is the return. Hawpe is probably seen as a solid player to baseball front offices. While he won’t command top prospects in return, the Rockies could heist someone for a couple decent prospects or a ML player who can contribute to the big league club and it’s run at the playoffs more than Hawpe would have.

Trading Brad Hawpe makes way too much sense for Colorado.

Possible suitors?

– Seattle Mariners: Sure they have Milton Bradley, but their offense is still weak, and there is a good chance he won’t work out. If he doesn’t, Hawpe would be a good DH, which is the optimal position for him if you want his max value.

– Tampa Bay Rays: If Pat Burrell struggles again and Tampa is in the playoff race, Hawpe would be a good bat to add to the lineup.

Tim Lincecum re-ups in San Fran

February 12, 2010

The Tim Lincecum arbitration case has been settled with Timmy signing a two year, $23mil deal. Both the Giants and Linecum come out as small winners.

Obviously, the Giants signed Timmy to a discount. While it’s not the $8mil per year they hoped for originally, paying him less than $12mil a season for the next two years is bargain. He’s won back to back Cy Young’s and is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. His market value has to be at or over $20mil per year. However, this could have been a chance for San Fran to lock up him long term. While they will have that shot again in two years, his price could go up even more by then. Maybe they don’t want to get themselves tied up with a long term deal, especially with next year’s FA class, but it was an option worth exploring. Still, had Lincecum won the arbitration case, he could very well be making more than $23mil over the next two seasons, so on that end San Fran comes away in good shape.

As for Lincecum himself, he also is a small winner. Yes, he could have taken the chance of winning the case which would have led to more money this year and probably next year. But what if he lost? Even worse, what if he gets hurt this season? Whether he would have won or lost his case, an injury would surely have effected his arbitration case next off-season. So he took the guaranteed $23mil. Can’t blame him.

I wonder how much pot $23mil can buy…

Clearing the Bases : Minnesota Twins

February 9, 2010

Last year in Minnesota the Twins needed one more game to decide the AL Central winner. The fans had their homer hankies waving in the air for their team to get a chance to make the playoffs. It was a happy ending for the Twins in the final regular season game at the Metrodome. Not for long though as they were swept out of the playoffs by the new World Series Champions, the Yankees. It is a new season now though. The Twins will play outdoor baseball at Target Field this season. Many wonder how it will affect the team. It will sure not be as loud and the turf will be gone. Will Mauer have another MVP season? Will Justin Morneau have a big impact? Will Francisco Liriano return to full strength? These questions will show if the Twins have a good season or not.

Lets start with Joe Mauer the reigning MVP. I expect another solid season from Joe Mauer. Remember he was out for a bit to start last season and yet still posted spectacular numbers. Mauer’s .365 batting average is the highest by a catcher in MLB history and led the league. He was very valuable for the Twins too. Posting one of the top WAR’s in the league. 8.2 to be exact. WAR does not account for catchers defense. So he would of had a higher WAR. If he can stay healthy the Twins should be alright. No one is too sure of what he will do in Target Field, but we can project using CHONE’s projections. They have him at a .408 OBP and a .510 SLG. Mauer will make a good case to keep his MVP award in 2010. The Twins also need to spend the money on this guy to keep him in his hometown. He’s the best player at the most valuable position on the diamond.

Justin Morneau left the Twins with a stress fracture in his back on September 14th. He might have affected the AL Central race a bit more with being only .3 points away from his 2008 WAR. It might have not been decided in a 1 game playoff. If he can come back healthy he should have a good season and make the Twins middle of the line up very dangerous.

The rotation will be much better this season if Francisco Liriano can return to full health. He looked alright in the winter league, but can he return to his 2006 form? He had a 4.5 WAR that season. Towards the end of the 2006 season Liriano need Tommy John surgery. He missed the whole 2007 season. He was then called up for the injured Slowey on April 11th 2008. After posting an 11.32 ERA in three starts he was sent back down. For a pitcher who went under this surgery its almost lucky for them ever to get back. It will take some work and mostly luck for Liriano to return to form. He is probably the biggest piece to say if the Twins are a World Series contender or not.

The Twins needed a few pieces to fill out their line up. They needed a shortstop to replace Orlando Cabrera. They traded Carlos Gomez for J.J. Hardy of the Milwaukee Brewers. Hardy doesn’t bring much offense to the Twins, but he is a big defensive upgrade. He had a 6.7 UZR and a 8.8 UZR/150 last season. So the Twins made a good move right here to snag Hardy.

Another needed position was second base. They recently decided to go with Orlando Hudson. It was either Hudson or Lopez basically for the Twins, and thought Hudson was the best option. Hes not the best defender, but at least he has a bat. I remember saying this is the guy for Minnesota. Here are his 2009 stats.

OBP/SLG/wOBA/WAR

.357/.417/.342/2.9

The 2010 Twins starters.

Catcher – Joe Mauer
First Base – Justin Morneau
Second Base – Orlando Hudson
Short Stop – J.J. Hardy
Third Base – Brenden Harris
OutField – Denard Span
OutField – Delmon Young
OutField – Michael Cuddyer
DH – Jason Kubel/Jim Thome

Clearing the Bases : Arizona Diamondbacks

February 5, 2010

The Arizona Diamondbacks have had plenty of success in their short time as a major league ball club. Most of it being with the help of the future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. Johnson played twenty-two seasons in the big leagues and retired on January 5, 2010. Johnson played in games for six different franchises, most notably the Diamondbacks and Mariners. He intimidated many batters with his greasy mullet and intense stature on the mound. In his prime he could easily hit 100 MPH and though he had a great fastball his slider was his best pitch. Johnson accumulated 4,875 career strikeouts, the second greatest total ever. This past season he recorded his 300th win with the Giants.

During Johnson’s peak he spent three years in Seattle, one year in Houston, and four years in Arizona. I believe his peak was from 1995-2002. By 1995 he was thirty-one years old, but during that time he won 143 games. He lead the league in strikeouts five times totaling 2416. He pitched 1763.0 innings and had an ERA of 2.61. Some of his other numbers are below.

WHIP : 1.069
H/9 : 6.9
HR/9 : .8
BB/9 : 2.8
K/9 : 12.3

He pitched 193 games in his first stint in Arizona. In his 1389.2 innings for the Diamondbacks, he amassed an ERA of 2.65. He won four of his five Cy Young awards in Arizona along with his first and only World Series ring. In fact 2001 may have been Johnson’s best year as a Diamondback. He pitched close to 250 innings and had a 2.49 ERA. His FIP was 2.13 so he was a little un-lucky. His LOB% was 80%. That is excellent being that is around 6% higher than league average. His WHIP was 1.01. Johnson also posted a career high in strikeouts with 372. Johnson’s accumulated 91.8 WAR, 12th highest among pitchers in history

He is a sure Hall of Famer, but many will wonder if he is going in as a Mariner or a Diamondback. He won four Cy Young’s with Arizona and a World Series. I think that’s his choice.