Selecting the four starters for the nine possible playoff teams is easier in some instances than others.
Last Friday, I brought up the Reds' rotation situation as they gear up for their first post-season series since 1995. We can't peg everyone's rotations perfectly just yet, of course, because there are still a few issues to resolve—which two teams from among the Braves, Giants, and Padres will join the Reds and Phillies in next week's action, for example, set against the much less exciting proposition over who is going to win home-field advantage in the AL.
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The AL East is the least friendly division in baseball for pitchers, but can we hope for more from some young hurlers in 2011?
Sticking with a young pitcher in the American League East can be difficult, but it can pay off when the starter is talented enough. Take Clay Buchholz and David Price for example—you can argue that both pitchers have been lucky and performed better than their SIERA suggests they should, but there's no denying their impressive campaigns given the context they have to pitch in. Via quality of opponent OPS, Buchholz has faced the fourth most difficult lineups in baseball (747, while allowing an OPS of 614) and Price, the 13th (744, 650). Today we'll take a look at some pitchers who haven't found the same success in the AL East yet, but have potential to survive in spite of their setting in 2011.
Brian Matusz has scuffled a bit in 2010 after showing promise in a 44 inning sample in 2009. The lefty has seen his strikeout rate dip to right around the league average (6.9) and his walk rate climb to the same (3.5). While he's dropped his homers to the average as well, he has allowed a .431 slugging—a significant portion of that comes from a lofty batting average against though, as his ISO allowed is .151.
Pegging BP's favorites in both leagues, in the standings and for the major awards.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting. Picking favorites for the Wild Card for the respective leagues initially might have seemed easy, since the selections universally favored the second-place team in the AL East, while all but two voters picked their second-place teams in the NL East to earn the non-division champ playoff team, but a tie in the rankings had to be broken in favor of the team named the Wild Card winner on the most individual ballots, which is sure to upset some people.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that's been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
What should you look for in the #5 battles in Tampa Bay and San Francisco?
The Tampa Bay Rays have three young pitchers in the mix for the #5 spot in the rotation. Wade Davis, 24, is the favorite according to HEATER Magazine's Ricky Zanker. 27-year-old Andy Sonnanstine, who started Game 4 of the 2008 World Series, is on the outside looking in, and the 23-year-old Jeremy Hellickson is on the outer rim as well.
Davis has impressed both in his 767 innings accumulated in six seasons in the Minors as well as in the 36 innings he pitched at the Major League level last year. In the Minors, he averaged nearly a strikeout per inning and finished with an aggregate ERA of 3.47 or lower every year since 2005.
Looking ahead to who could top next year's prospects lists in the junior loop.
One of the most frequent questions I get, be it via e-mail, chats, or the comment sections in the articles, is which player on [insert team here] has the best shot at moving into the Top 101. That's a much different question from who is the best prospect not in the Top 101, as the focus needs to move solely to growth potential. Building on last year's "Future Top Dogs" series, let's keep that category in this year's version, while also taking an honest list at last year's prognostications.
A look at the best available starting pitchers and the potential impact they could have on a team.
If this year's free-agent crop of starting pitchers were a graduating high school class, their prom theme would have to be "Risk and Reward." Having passed the November 20th commencement ceremony, after which members of the class can be hired by prospective employers, one market aspect has become increasingly clear. Aside from valedictorian John Lackey, the student body consists of one of two types: either the troublemaker with the potential to achieve, or the consistent yet unnoticed pupil whose lack of flakiness tends to overrate his attributes in relation to the former archetype. Essentially, teams are going to dole out lucrative contracts to mid-pack starters, else they decide to diversify their risk amongst those voted "most likely to spend time on the disabled list," signing a couple to incentive-laden contracts in the hopes that at least one will pan out and reach his potential.
Sorting and separating the best and worst baserunners from the rest.
"I don't really like to run, and that's why I didn't go out for track in high school. I ain't no fool, I see those dudes running around a track for a living. I wouldn't want to run against them. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself." --Willie Wilson