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Happy pitchers and catchers! In honor of the first real sign of spring, we’re trying something new with the Hit List, namely this feature’s first-ever offseason report card. Our PECOTA-driven Projected Standings will be along soon enough, but here we’ve subjectively graded each team while attempting to answer the question of who “won the winter” by best filling their needs via free agency, trade, and internal promotion, with an eye towards the future as well as the present, and a heavy dose of first-run PECOTA metrics. Our “we” is more than simply the royal kind this time around, as Tommy Bennett will share the Hit List responsibilities with me this season; we’ll alternate coverage of each league to keep things fresh. Welcome aboard, Tommy! —JJ
Rk Team
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Hit List Factor
Comment

1


Brewers
A
.000
Flat
Skinna-Greinke-a-dinky-dink: Zack Greinke (3.52 ERA, 4.6 WARP) becomes a symbol of the team’s hope, while Shawn Marcum (3.88, 3.0) gives him more support than he is used to; both shore up what’s been the league’s worst rotation over the last two years. Even if Greinke can’t escape Yuniesky Betancourt (.235 TAv, 0.0 WARP) and his defense, he can at least rely on Takashi Saito (2.92, 1.0) to help finish off opponents. On rare occasions, Greinke throws to backup catcher Wil Nieves (.211, -0.1), who is—let’s say—handy with the glove.

2


Phillies
A-
.000
Flat
But What About the Peanut Rotation? The best problems to solve are the ones you don’t have in the first place. Cliff Lee (3.17 ERA, 5.8 WARP) nonchalantly catches the Phils’ offer to join their crackerjack rotation. That at least opens the possibility that they’ll need to carry only 11 pitchers, which is good since the team simply brings back Jose Contreras (4.36, 1.8 as a swingman) and J.C. Romero (4.72, -0.3) instead of pursuing further upgrades. Much of the uncertainty surrounding the offense comes from top prospect Domonic Brown (.268, 0.4), who’s charged with filling the departed Jayson Werth‘s shoes.

3


Cardinals
B
.000
Flat
85 Wins Ain’t Gonna Cut It Any More: As the Pujols negotiations swirl, GM John Mozeliak has to devise a way to sneak past the Brewers and the Reds. Lance Berkman (.299 TAv, 3.4 WARP) and Jake Westbrook (4.27 ERA, 1.8 WARP) look like reasonable gambles for their prices, but it’ll take more than Brian Tallet (4.92, -0.2) and a fiver to buy a playoff hot dog in St. Louis. Ian Snell (4.73, 1.0) and Miguel Batista (5.28, -0.8) sign on the same day, which doesn’t augur well, but Jim Edmonds (.260, 1.1) has a chance to be more than just a mascot.

4


Padres
B
.000
Flat
New Look Up the Middle: The loss of Adrian Gonzalez means the offense will take a hit, but the Pads are banking that defense will carry them, and this team may win more games than last year’s 90-win model. The capable double play tandem of Orlando Hudson (.260 TAv, 1.6 WARP) and Jason Bartlett (.257, 2.0) plus new center fielder Cameron Maybin (.261, 1.9) all profile well with the leather, and could prop up even relatively marginal newcomers like Chad Qualls (3.81 ERA, 0.1 WARP) and Dustin Moseley (5.08, 0.3). Brad Hawpe (.285 TAv) is the new first baseman, and while he’s no glove whiz, he couldn’t be worse than the -11 FRAA work in right field that suppresses his PECOTA WARP total.

5


Mets
B
.000
Flat
Guaranteed Rate of Return: Now that the stingy Sandy Alderson is in town, the money faucet gets turned off. Out drip deals for risky commodities like Chris Capuano (4.50 ERA, 2.1 WARP) and Chris Young (3.43, 2.8), and either or both could end up being worth significantly more than the cost. They told three of their friends—Scott Hairston (.260, 0.8), Taylor Tankersley (4.80, -0.3), and Taylor Buchholz (4.30, 0.1)—who will in turn tell their friends—Chin-Lung Hu (.238, 0.7), D.J. Carrasco (4.50, -0.5), and Ronny Paulino (.250, -0.1)—and so on, and so on, and so on, leaving the Mets with more bodies, but without the big contracts.

6


Pirates
B
.000
Flat
With Roster Liberty For All: Give them your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to play corner spots. Failed prospects Andy Marte (.255 TAv, 1.1 WARP) and Josh Fields (.259, 0.7) join more established (if not much more distinguished) corner players Matt Diaz (.264, 0.7), Garrett Atkins (.263, 0.5), and Lyle Overbay (.264, 0.9) and create a crowded roster. With the exception of Overbay, though, none of the offensive additions looks to displace any of the younger players in the near future. Scott Olsen (5.25 ERA, 0.8 WARP) and Kevin Correia (4.50, 1.9) join the rotation behind a full year of James McDonald (4.34, 1.8), and at least you can say none of them is Zach Duke. Quantity is not always quality, but at least it isn’t total ignominy.

7


Braves
B-
.000
Flat
Flash: Braves fans’ fantasy teams now feature 50% more puns, as Dan Uggla (.288 TAv, 3.0 WARP) yuk yuks his way into town $62 million richer and pushes Martin Prado to left field, where his value is less obvious. Scott Linebrink (4.45 ERA, -0.1 WARP) brings more experience than talent to an otherwise young bullpen, while George Sherrill (4.11, 0.1) is the new constable in town (Lefty Trainwreck Rehab Junction, pop.: 1). Minor league deals prove that Yohan Flande (5.69, 0.0) is not an alcohol-based sauce sold at klezmer festivals and that Rodrigo Lopez (5.70, 0.4) is still a baseball player.

8


Reds
B-
.000
Flat
Put on Your Walt-zing Shoes: GM Walt Jocketty spends most of his money on players who had already signed his dance card—Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Bronson Arroyo. At the fringes Jocketty adds twinkletoe Fred Lewis (.263 TAv, 0.8 WARP) and World Series hero Edgar Renteria (.246, 0.9) to shore up the bench, assuming Paul Janish (.237, 0.6) knows how to lead at short. Otherwise this is largely a reprise of its division-winning predecessor, albeit with significantly more Aroldis Chapman (3.44 ERA, 2.9 WARP) to dance el vals.

9


Cubs
C+
.000
Flat
Grammy Night Performance, Here We Come: Jim Hendry strikes early by booking the club’s option on Aramis Ramirez (.288 TAv, 2.3 WARP) and inking Carlos Pena (.287, 1.7) to a one-year gig. Between the two, PECOTA projects 54 home runs, or 36% of last year’s team total. In the comeback artist of the year category, Kerry Wood (3.92 ERA, 0.3 WARP) returns to the scene of the crime via another one-year deal; he’s joined by Todd Wellemeyer and Braden Looper in the new alt-country band Ghosts of NL Central Past on their full-length debut, Ode to Lady Marmol-ade.

10


Rockies
C+
.000
Flat
Money for Nothing: Extensions galore give the impression the team is spending like crazy, but the Rockies add few new players. Jorge De La Rosa (5.09 ERA, 2.0) re-ups for another round of promising peripherals, but PECOTA just wants its MTV. Matt Lindstrom (5.10, -0.2) arrives and immediately gets an extension, which makes less sense than most Eighties music videos. Ty Wigginton (.260, 0.6) comes to town to fill in as necessary, and Jose Lopez (.243, 1.3) makes for a decent fallback option in case Ian Stewart (.277, 2.3) or Eric Young, Jr. (.246, 1.1) don’t work out in the infield, but with all the splashy spending, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the Rockies are paying to preserve the standing of a team that finished in third place.

11


Diamondbacks
C
.000
Flat
The Towers, the Towers, Rapunzel! The prince of bullpens has yet to pull off a splashy act of gallantry, but he adds healthy arms in Armando Galarraga (4.69 ERA, 1.5 WARP projected as a starter) and J.J. Putz (3.25, 0.9), while also letting down his hair to retain the fringy services of Aaron Heilman (4.60, -0.1). A better bullpen will be more than useful when Joe Saunders (4.97, 1.9) discovers opposing hitters don’t need locks of hair to scale the left-field wall at Chase Field. Rapunzel’s hair won’t be quite so windswept now that the air-moving powers of Mark Reynolds have decamped—the Diamondbacks replace his projected .280 TAv with the apparently ageless Melvin Mora (.248 TAv, 1.1 WARP). Despite the downgrade, it’s a better idea than overpaying aging mid-market sluggers on multiyear deals, particularly given this team’s 2011 outlook.

12


Marlins
C
.000
Flat
Heads Up! The Marlins waste no time getting a head start on the offseason by making sure no other team has a shot at prize commodity . . . John Buck (.255 TAv, 1.2 WARP)? That Beinfest and Co. are willing to go to three years to get the deal done just makes it more of a head-scratcher. The Marlins also acquire one of last year’s biggest head cases, Javier Vazquez (3.79 ERA, 4.4 WARP), for whom PECOTA has something of a soft spot. Trouble is, you never know which Vazquez you’re getting, which means relying on him in your rotation is an activity best left for the headstrong. The team rounds out the roster with the additions of NL East castoffs Greg Dobbs (.242, -0.1) and Shawn Hill (4.62, 1.1)—not exactly heady times in Miami.

13


Dodgers
C
.000
Flat
Community Property: As Frank McCourt’s problems mount, the biggest impact signing is Juan Uribe (.255 TAv, 1.4 WARP), which says as much about the Dodgers’ bevy of other minor moves as about Uribe’s abilities today (never mind his abilities in two years). Marcus Thames (.265, 0.5) is at least capable of hitting lefties in a limited role, and Matt Guerrier (3.63, 0.5) is durable if overpaid, but there’s also Rod Barajas (.237, 0.5), who gets an obscene $3.5 million when a year ago he was roster flotsam, and Dioner Navarro (.239, 0.6), who dares fans to spot the difference. The exception to the rule is Jon Garland (4.37 ERA, 2.5 WARP), who completes the lap back to underrated—it only took him about five years—and fits in nicely at the back of a Dodgers rotation further fortified by the re-upping of Ted Lilly (3.51, 4.6).

14


Giants
C-
.000
Flat
To the Winners Go the Roster Stability: The only additions to the championship club are Miguel Tejada (.249 TAv, 1.5 WARP), whom the Giants imagine will play shortstop, and Jeff Suppan (5.74, -0.3) who is just brutal at this point. Elmer Dessens (4.21, 0.4) is cheap enough to be useful, but otherwise this is an example of a winning club standing Pat and getting worse in the process.

15


Nationals
C-
.000
Flat
The Failure of PAYGO: $126 million nets a player in Jayson Werth (.295 TAv, 3.0 WARP) who doesn’t even get to keep his beard, and his supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired given that outlay. Mike Rizzo hopes Werth and Adam LaRoche (.273, 1.8) can fill the void in the offense left by departing slugger Adam Dunn. Perhaps a bigger concern is the real possibility of extended playing time for Jerry Hairston, Jr. (.242, 0.3) and Alex Cora (.224, -0.4) in the infield. Tom Gorzelanny (4.73 ERA, 2.3 WARP) is a neat enough addition, but apparently PECOTA and the Nationals are together in holding onto delusions that Chien-Ming Wang (4.33, 2.2) will be useful again.

16


Astros
D
.000
Flat
The Good Guys Lost: A bad team with a bad farm system is at least a relatively blank slate. Onto it, Ed Wade paints a trade for Clint Barmes (.242 TAv, 0.9 WARP), who could barely hit in Colorado. He also adds “utility” man Bill Hall (.244, -0.5), who combines with Barmes to provide just about nothing up the middle. The team acquires Ryan Rowland-Smith (4.78 ERA, 0.7 WARP) and promises to bury him at the bottom of a weak starting pitcher depth chart, because Nelson Figueroa (4.00, 1.5) is still hanging around! Brett Wallace (.257, 0.0) gets his chance to impress. The best you can say here is that not much money was expended.

The Prospectus Hit List rankings are derived from Won-Loss records and several measurements pertaining to run differentials, both actual and adjusted, from Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings through the close of play on every Thursday.

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JoshC77
2/15
Nice debut on the Hit List there Tommy!
LynchMob
2/15
I think the Padres' loss of Adrian's glove/defense will be significant also ... I think that's the part of Adrian's game that BoSox (and AL) fans will be most surprised with.
tomterp
2/15
I'm not sure why Werth wouldn't be able to keep his beard, just as Guzman, Young and others before him have. Sure enough, he arrived at the Nats' spring training home in Viera with it coming in strong. Maybe worth a bump past the Giants to 14th?
TraderBob
2/15
Just a nit pick - Typo or Misplacement ... At the moment Cubs grade is a B+ but are ninth on your list positioned in a C+ slot.
PBSteve
2/15
Thanks, TraderBob. Fixed.
mwunder0
2/15
How can Matt Garza not be mentioned in the Cubs off-season moves? I hate the Cubs more than just about anyone, but I don't think they deserve a C+ this off-season
Robotey
2/15
As a Mets fan it's encouraging to see them finish high in any ranking, whether it's offseason acquisitions or ballpark restroom cleanliness.
georgeforeman03
2/15
Let's be honest, though, the restroom thing is just a park effect. Once you control for that, their 94 BRC+ is rather pedestrian.
raygu1
2/15
Shocked at the placement of the Dodgers offseason! Padres give up their best hitter and they are ranked #4? The Padres will win more games than last year? LAD improved their starting rotation with Lilly and Garland....probably one of the best rotations in the NL now 1-5. I would be very surprised if the Padres win 80 games let alone 90+.
joelefkowitz
2/15
Except they only retained Lilly, and the addition of Garland is more than offset by the downgrades from Martin to Barajas, and Furcal to Uribe. I agree that the odds of the Padres winning MORE games than last year seem slight, but the players they brought in almost make up for the loss of Adrian, and they restocked their farm system. That's a pretty good off season.
raygu1
2/15
The Padres are the 2010 version of the Mariners....good D and no O.
yankeehater32
2/16
Except their defense is actually good, and they have more than 1.5 starters worth talking about. And a ridiculous bullpen.
raygu1
2/15
re: Lilly...he pitched in LA for two months. This year he will pitch in LA for 6 months. BIG difference. And how many teams have a 5th starter that can pitch 200 innings? Uribe replaces Dewitt, not Furcal. LF is a hole, but Ned has 5 months to make a trade to improve LF. Please take a look at Martins stats and tell me if he is better than Barajas. Barajas provides power. MArtin did not. Same BA.
irussma
2/16
Umm, do you think games played in April, May, June and July don't count in the standings? Sure, the Dodgers could make a trade at the deadline to fill their LF hole. They'd be much better off if that hole were filled right now.
mattidell
2/15
I was confused when I read that last part, but I interpret it to mean that had they kept the same lineup from last year, they would probably lose more games than the squad they have now. I am pretty sure he didn't mean he thinks they will win 90.
raygu1
2/16
no this is what he said, assuming you are talking about the Padres: "The loss of Adrian Gonzalez means the offense will take a hit, but the Pads are banking that defense will carry them, and this team may win more games than last year's 90-win model. " seems to me he thinks they COULD win more than 90 without AGonz. I don't see it. What hitter in that lineup scares you?
WaldoInSC
2/17
If you're a Padre fan, they all scare you.
rgmoore68
2/15
I agree - they also retained Kuroda on a team friendly contract. The moves they made to shore up the depth and quality of the pitching staff at least offsets the lack of moves on the offensive side.
Canuck
2/15
The Dodgers improved their team over the off-season and the Padres made their team worse. Yeah, these rankings really make a lot of sense.
mpet29
2/15
I'm a Dodger fan, but even I can't say with any certainty that they've improved over the offseason. Yes, signing those starting pitchers was great, but they were the same guys they ended last year with (other than Garland). Their offense looks like it could be brutal; are you really excited about Barajas, Uribe, Gibbons, and Thames?
Canuck
2/15
Mike Petriello: It is not about being "excited" by Barajas, Uribe, Gibbons, and Thames. Barajas just might be an improvement on the yet-again disappointing Martin we had last year at catcher. With Uribe's power, he should easily be more productive than DeWitt and Theriot combined were at 2B. Considering how much time Manny missed in LF last year, and how much of a non-factor he was in many games when he was in the line-up, I can certainly see Gibbons and Thames combining for a better triple slash line than we got out of the LF position in 2010. And that is all before we get to the pitching. We didn't even have a fifth starter in 2010, and now we are going to have a fifth starter who is really too good to be a mere fifth starer. And Ted Lilly should be better than whatever we got out of the fourth starter slot in 2010 considering how much time Padilla missed to injury. And sure we overpaid for Guerrier, but I have no doubt he is going to help out the bullpen a great deal, serving as a reliable rubber arm much like Paul Quantrill did in 2003 when the Dodgers' bulllpen was seemingly bulletproof. So yes, I think the Dodgers improved substantially this off-season. The key is to consider how bad the parts of the 2010 team were that have been replaced.
Robotey
2/16
I've lived in LA for over ten years as a non-Dodgers fan, just an observer of the Frank n Jamie show. This year's recipe--spend for decent pitching--smart move--spreading the risk--no Jason Schmidt debacles repeated here, minimizing the years. Offensive acquisitions are definitely unspectacular but it comes down to where they are at the Break and if they're willing to spend money then. Their pitching can keep them within half a dozen games of a playoff spot--especially in NL West--and a big bat pickup can help squeeze them into October. Otherwise the only fun to watch will be in the courtroom.
TheRedsMan
2/15
I think you left off a key way of improving in the off-season, improvement from existing players on the roster. A young player doesn't have to be promoted from the minors to be a step up from the guy who manned the position last year -- a young talented player is likely to be a step up from himself. I suppose you could argue that the team shouldn't be given credit for that because it's passive, but if we're trying to project improvement, it should factor in. And just curious, does your projection for Berkman include what is likely to be a disastrous OF adventure?
joelefkowitz
2/15
Young talent is never a given to improve. The Justin Upton was supposed to improve.
TheRedsMan
2/15
A given to improve? Of course not. But the changing talent level of existing players on the roster, young and old, should be considered. Offseason decisions are made in consideration of these expectations and it is incomplete to evaluate an offseason while ignoring that.
georgeforeman03
2/15
No love for Freddie Freeman? IMO, that represents a significant improvement over the smattering of veterans Atlanta rolled out last year at 1B.
crperry13
2/15
Yes! Go Astros! :P
flyingdutchman
2/15
No mention of Matt Garza? Also the Elmer Dessens deal fell through yesterday.
ddrezner
2/15
Is it just me or does it look like a strong majority of the NL had crappy offseasons? The Mets placed 5th primarily for not doing anything really stupid. That's a really low bar, and yet 10 other teams did worse.
ostrowj1
2/15
"Not doing anything really stupid" is a great accomplishment for the Mets! Maybe they were graded based on historical performance, not in relation to other teams?
BurrRutledge
2/15
Running a baseball team is not brain surgery, but "Not doing anything stupid" is the first rule of the medical profession, so they have something in common at least...
Jmast7
2/15
Mets not doing anything stupid is the equivalent of Jeff Francoeur having an OBP over .330 - it may happen once in a while by accident, but it's by no means a great achievement. The fact the Mets are fifth speaks volumes about the rest of the NL.
Richie
2/16
Regarding the Pods' "ridiculous bullpen", aren't bullpens especially volatile? Even more so than defense? Both 'Plexiglass' and 'Late Season' factors prophesy a huge dropoff for the Padres. I'll put my money on them being right.
ellemanm
2/16
The world champion Giants residing at the bottom....hmmm. I disagree!! GO Giants.
rweiler
2/16
Granted the Giants didn't do much to improve during the off season, but this ignores the fact that they improved substantially over the course of last season. Torres replaced Rowand in center, Posey replaced Molina behind the dish, Pat Burrell replaced Torres in left, and Ross replaced Schierholtz in right, and a healthy Freddy Sanchez replaced an injured Freddy Sanchez at 2nd. They had a lot of players arbitration eligible or FAs that were worth resigning, and except for Uribe, they resigned them. Between that and the money owed to Rowand and Zito, there wasn't much more they could do. The one quibble that one might have is that J.J. Hardy was apparently available for almost nothing and he would have been a better choice at SS than Tejada.