Baseball Preview 2013: What To Watch For

November 30, 2012

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The 2013 baseball season is just around the corner.  At some point in the coming months, I’ll delve into each league in more detail.  Today, however, we’ll just take an overall look at things to watch for in 2013.

Players to watch

Mike Trout – Trout’s season was a historically great season.  He hit .326 with 30 homers and 49 steals in just 139 games, and also provided great defense at a premium position, center field.  It’s very possible that Trout will never again have a season as good as his 2012 season.  In fact, this is pretty likely.  If Trout averages .300 with 20 homers and 30 steals for 15 more years (he’d be 36 at the end of that span) while playing above average defense in center field, those numbers would most likely get him into the Hall of Fame.  Don’t engrave the plaque yet, though – a lot can happen in 15 years.  Some are worried that Trout’s body type (stocky) won’t be able to retain his blazing speed for very long.  This could be true, but it might also be true that he’s just a freak.  Trout still is several years away from a player’s traditional peak years, so it’s possible that he might actually get better …

Bryce Harper – Harper was a far more highly touted high school player, but he was completely overshadowed by Trout in 2012.  However, Harper still had a very good season, hitting .270 with  22 homers and stealing 18 bases.  He’ll need to kick those numbers up a fair amount to reach the potential people see for him, but the fact that he was able to hold his own in the majors at age 19 is extremely impressive – this is a rare achievement.

Jurrickson Profar – The top prospect in baseball was promoted by the Rangers at the end of the year.  He had a cup of coffee in the majors and put up fairly bad offensive numbers in the very limited action.  If Profar can hold his own in 2013 – and I think he can – this will create an excess of middle infielders for the Rangers.  The smart move would be to trade Elvis Andrus.  They could also trade Ian Kinsler and move Andrus to second base, but this would actually destroy value.  Shortstop is a more valuable position than second base, and converted Andrus to a second baseman would make him a less valuable player.

Shohei Otani – Otani announced that he wanted to sign with a Major League team out of high school rather than a Japanese professional team.  He was then drafted by the Nippon Ham Fighters, which could put a wrinkle in the plans.  The consensus seems to be that Otani is still free to sign with an MLB team, although this might straning relations between MLB and the Nippon Professional Baseball League.  Otani is 6’4″ and boasts a 100 mph fastball.

Josh Hamilton – Hamilton is a free agent and will get a lot of money from somebody.  There are a couple of things that should scare some teams.  First is the history of off-field problems, most notably with drug abuse.  Everyone is cheering for Hamilton to stay clean and sober, but realistically, Hamilton’s risk is greater than that of some random player (Peter Bourjos, for example).  A related concerns is whether the drug abuse in his earlier years have caused damage to his body that will cause him to break down in a few years.  Major League contracts are fully guaranteed, which means a team could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars if something bad happens.

Teams to watch

Toronto Blue Jays – The Blue Jays made a trade with the Marlins that netted them Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and Jose Reyes.  This is a big influx of talent and I’d expect the Blue Jays to make a big jump in the standings.

Florida Marlins – The Marlins won just 69 games last year … and then dumped most of their good players (with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton).  This could be a historically awful season.

The 2012 playoff teams – The Yankees are getting older.  The Orioles have a great bullpen – but can they sustain their incredible record in one run games?  Can the Nationals close the deal with Strasburg pitching an entire year?  Are the A’s for real?  Can the Angels avoid digging a big early hole again and win the West?



People Of The Month

November 28, 2010

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Staff Sergeant Salvatore Giunta

On November 16th, Staff Sergeant Giunta became the first living Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War.  The Medal of Honor was awarded for his heroics after his platoon was ambushed by Taliban fighters on October 25, 2007.  Among the actions that Giunta took during the fighting was to chase down Taliban fighters who were attempting to carry off a wounded American soldier.  Staff Sergeant Giunta killed one of the soliders ad caused the other to flee.  Although Giunta pulled his comrade to saftety, the soldier later died.

In any case, I would be proud of such a heroic soldier.  In this case, it hits home even more because Giunta is an Iowan.  Not only is he from my home state, but he grew up just a couple of miles from the office where I work (although news stories mention that he grew up in town of 6500, Hiawatha is part of the Cedar Rapids metro area – the second largest metro area in the state).

The local news media has been all over this story.  Not only did they cover the presentation live, but they advertised the event weeks in advance.  They also covered the parade when Giunta returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Elizabeth Smart

This month, Elizabeth Smart finally gave testimony in the criminal trial of Brian Mitchell.  Mitchell and his wife, Wanda Barzee, abducted Smart and held her until their arrest nine months later.  Although some people suggest that Smart could have escaped if she really wanted to, in actuality, factors such as Stockholm Syndrome actually make it mentally difficult for hostage to break away.

It has been more than seven years since Smart was reunited with her family.  She seems to have made a remarkable adjustment.  She has not become a recluse, but instead has made an effort to reach out and help others. – through TV interviews, a collaborative book with other victims (free download from the US Department of Justice), and most recently, as a Mormon missonary.  Far from using her abduction as reason to pull back from society, she has instead used it as motivation to do much good in the world.

Josh Hamilton

We go down a few rungs on the ladder to the world of sports.  Josh Hamilton was a heralded baseball prospect in high school – being picked with the #1 overall selection in the 1999 draft.  Hamilton eventually began to abuse drugs and alcohol, and by 2006, his star had faded so much that he was left unprotected in baseball’s Rule 5 draft.  He was selected by the Cubs, who immediately flipped him to the Cincinnatti Reds (yeah, Cubs fans, that has to hurt).

After being traded to the Texas Rangers, Hamilton blossomed into a bona fide star in 2008 – wowing crowds at the All-Star game home run derby and finishing seventh in MVP voting.

In early 2009, Hamilton was reported to be in a bar, asking questions about where he could get some drugs.  The 2o09 baseball season was also a disappointment for Hamilton, whose numbers slipped considerably.

In 2010, Hamilton once again appeared to have his act together – clean and sober.  He hit .359 for the year, with 32 homers.  Even though the Rangers shut him down in September to allow him to recover from injuries and be ready for the playoffs (a smart move), Hamilton’s season’s work was enough for him to reach the pinnacle  – being named the American League MVP in the same year that his Rangers advanced to the World Series.

I sincerely hope that Hamilton is able to continue to remain clean and sober – his achievements on the field are secondary to his battel with addiction.

Overrated stat of the month

I am annoyed at how often talking heads point to the number of rushing attempts a football team has in their wins versus their losses.  The suggestion is that teams that run the ball often win more often than those who don’t.

This is a classic example of confusing cause and effect.  Quite often (although not always), teams runs the ball a lot because they are winning – it’s not that they are winning because they have run the ball a lot.  Let’s say you’re up 30-3 at the beginning of the 4th quarter.  What sort of plays are you going to call?  Runs, of course – because the clock doesn’t stop after running plans (it does stop after an incomplete pass) and you’re able to eat more clock and make it more difficult for the other team to come back.  Likewise, the team that is down 30-3 is probablty going to throw a lot of passes in an effort to get points in a hurry.  At the end of the game, the winning team will have a lot of runs and the losing team will have a lot of passes – but simply because the score dictated the game play.

Idiot quote of the month

The Pac 10 conference has a round robin schedule in which every team plays every other team.  While many other teams play seven or eight conference games, Pac 10 teams play nine.  Washington coach Rick Neuheisel has pointed to his as a reason why the Pac 10 went into the weekend in danger of not being able to fill all of its six bowl slots, saying “… it hampers everbody, because it’s five more losses for the conference.”  That’s true, but the extra conference game also means that it’s five more win for the conference, too (with 10 teams playing an extra game, five teams must win and five teams must lose).  It’s only a net loss of five wins for the confernce if you assume that the teams would have gone 10-0 in games against non-conference foes instead of the 5-5 record in the conference games.  Note that the five teams that were struggling to reach six wins have a combined 8-7 record in non-conference games.