What to Watch for in Baseball, 2010

February 23, 2010

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With the baseball season just around the corner (really – it is!), here are some things to watch in 2010.  We’ll likely have a few articles on this topic.  The order for these articles will be the ever-popular “whatever happens to pop in my head today”.

The Nationals

All the hoopla was about the signing of Stephen Strasburg, but the Nationals also put a bit of money into the team during free agency.  They didn’t go crazy with the money (15M over 2 years for Jason Marquis being the costliest deal).  Nor did they cost themselves draft picks by signing any Type A free agents.  What they did do is make several low risk moves.  The deal I like best is Chien-Ming Wang signing a 2M deal for 2010.  Wang won’t be healthy enough to pitch until May, following recent surgery.  However, if he can return to the form that saw him go a combined 28-13 over 400+ innings during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, then it’s money well spent.

The gNats also picked up several other guys who could help them.  Ivan Rodriguez behind the dish, Matt Capps in the pen, and Adam Kennedy at 2B are among the guys who could help.  They also have some decent players already in the lineup.  Perhaps this is the year that people realize that Adam Dunn is a fine offensive player who just happen to be weak in the areas that critics like to jump on – strikeouts and batting average.  Seriously, folks, strikeouts just aren’t that big of a deal – and Dunn makes up for his batting average by walking a ton.  Oh, yeah, and he hits lots of homers.  (Let’s not talk about his defense.

Am I suggesting that the Nationals will make the playoffs?  Holy crap – of course not.  But they’ll no longer be the laughingstock of the league.  That honor will fall upon the Pirates some unknown team.

The Rockies

Hey, I’m a Rockies fan,  so of course I think the Rockies are a story to watch.  But, really, they ARE a story to watch this year.  Prior to 2007, the Rockies had made the playoffs exactly once – in 1995.  In the last three seasons, they have made the playoffs twice.  Many fans tend to write them off as a fluke because both seasons were characterized by very slow starts and red-hot second halves.  If the Rockies can put together a strong wire-to-wire season in 2010, more people may look at them as legitimate perennial playoffs contenders.

There are lots of young players to watch with the Rockies.  If Troy Tulowitzki can avoid the disastrously slow that plagued him last year, he may make a run at an MVP award.  Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ian Stewart should all take another step forward.  Youngster Jhoulys Chacin may also crack the rotation this year.  Starting pitcher Jeff Francis will be returning from injury.

The rise of the Rockies could be aided by the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt.  The McCourts own the Dodgers – and we all saw what happened to the Padres in the aftermath of the divorce of their owners, John and Becky Moores.

The Cardinals

Not only did re-signing Matt Holliday make the Cardinals a force to be reckoned with in the near future, but it also sent a strong message to Albert Pujols that management is truly interested in having a strong team around him (and thus making it more likely that they will be able to re-sign him).  I’ve been impressed with Pujols since seeing him during his brief stint with the Peoria Chiefs (low A).  Making Albert Pujols happy is a good idea.

On the field, Pujols and Holliday are a fearsome combination in the 3-4 spots in the lineup and Carpenter and Wainright similarly strike fear in opposing hitters at the top of the rotation.  I’m struggling to find a scenario that doesn’t have the Cardinals winning the NL Central, barring a major injury.  Sure, the Cubs might be capable of a run, but you know they’ll find some way to mess it up.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan @ 40Tech
    Feb 23, 2010 @ 08:10:38

    Agreed that the Rockies could be scary if they put together an entire season. For the Cards, it’s also going to be interesting to see how Holliday does away from Denver. I’m a Phillies fan, and the big questions in Philadelphia center around the bullpen (Can Lidge return to form? Is Romero healthy? Who will take Park’s spot?), the bench, and the #5 spot in the rotation (looks like Jamie Moyer vs. Kyle Kendrick).
    .-= Evan @ 40Tech´s last blog ..2 Ways to Get TV on Your iPhone – Slingplayer vs. OrbLive =-.


  2. Martin Kelly
    Feb 23, 2010 @ 09:02:23

    I am just going to sit here quietly and hope that my Pirates don’t set the record for losses this year.


  3. kosmo
    Feb 23, 2010 @ 09:18:42

    I suspect that Holliday will be a guy who kills the ball at home and puts up lesser (but still good) numbers on the road during the course of his career.

    Last year – outside of Colorado – he posted a .982 OPS at home and a .830 OPS on the road. He posted positive home splits in St. Louis AND in Oakland – despite the fact that Oakland is a pitcher’s park.

    Although much is made of Holliday’s sub-par numbers in Oakland last year, there are a few things to consider:
    1) Oakland is a pitcher’s park

    2) He was switching leagues, forcing him to learn the tendencies of hundreds of new pitchers

    3) While his April (.648 OPS) was horrible, he has historically been a slow starter – combine this with the other factors, and the slow start is hardly surprising.

    4) After that slow April, Holliday put up very strong numbers in Oakland. Baseball-reference.com seems to be having some problems right now – I’ll update later with those numbers.

    If you take Holliday’s home/road splits in a vacuum, they may lead you to believe that he was simply a factor of Coors Field. But line up the split differential (home OPS – road OPS) to those of his teammates. Over the long term, Holliday’s differential dwarfed everyone else’s. Huh? Shouldn’t the park have similar effects on all players – or at least all righthanded hitters?

    I think that the PARK does have a similar effect – but the fact of being AT HOME has different effects on different people. For some – and I would put Holliday in this group – they are pushed to excel. For others, they perform worse at home that the raw ballpark effects would suggest – something I would attribute to feeling pressure at home.

    Regardless, Holliday is a great test case. He is the first Rockies hitter to leave Colorado during his peak years (Castilla and Walker left, but not in their prime – meaning that we would expect an erosion of their skills with resultant lesser numbers). The rest of Holliday’s career may very well shape the lens through which other Rockies hitters are measure.

    (Oh, and I’m not suggesting that Coors didn’t help Holliday – clearly it did. I’m simply suggesting that it wasn’t the sole reason for the numbers.)


  4. kosmo
    Feb 23, 2010 @ 21:17:39

    OK, baseball-reference.com is serving all my needs again 🙂

    Holliday’s OPS for the A’s from May 1 through the trade on July 23 was .880. Again, this despite OAK being a bad park for hitters. So he definitely turned the corner after the first month.


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