Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Season Preview: Evil Empire

[Ed note--I'm probably going to ignore Ang, throw caution to the wind, and toss out some sort of predicted order of finish once we're done with these. Since there's no way I can win, I figure I won't be offending anybody.]

Evil Empire

Let's be clear: there's no room for politics in the pages of the Gowanus Rotisserie Baseball Gazette. Hell, there's often not enough room for baseball. We even hear occasional comments to the effect that there's apparently no room for jokes. So please, don't read anything in to the various photo accompaniments here.

For example, the picture above is relevant not for its categorization of the Evil Empire, but rather for its Rage Against the Machine reference. Rage is an appropriate kickoff for the discussion of this franchise because I fear that this team going to cause its owner more rage than is usually considered healthy. There are a lot of question marks of both the injury and the performance sort scattered around the diamond for this club, with particular issues in the rotation. A whole bunch of things are going to have to go right for their pitchers for them to be competitive, though it's not as though we haven't had surprises before in this league.


The infield is a game of One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, as Derek Jeter, Carlos Delgado, and Garrett Atkins will share space with either starter/fluke Brandon Philips or supersub Tony Graffanino, a player who is below replacement level at four different positions, plugged in at 2B. I may well be overly negative about Philips, who is still young and playing in a great home run park in Cincy. Nonetheless, 2B does stand out as a potential weak spot. The team is also backing up the injury-prone Delgado with the injury-assured Nomar Garciaparra, who I am contractually obligated to love even though he's falling apart and no longer plays for Boston. A few years back, who'd have thought that one team could have Jeter and Nomar and not be a lock to win? UTIL man Troy Glaus is a little bit wasted in that slot, what with his eligibility at 3B and (in a quirk of Colston-ian proportions, SS), but that just gives the team a little bit more trade fliexibility, which never hurts.


One thing this team has is speed in depth, which is tough to do in a 12-team league. This is especially evident in the OF, with Alfonso Soriano, Corey Patterson, and Torii Hunter present. All three can steal bases while still providing value in at least one other category--several in the case of Soriano. And there's still Scott Podsednik on the bench with his SBs. Starting off with that big of a leg up in one category is an underrated way to stay competitive, and it's tough to see how this team will finish out of the top 3 in steals.

But while there's depth in terms of speed, there's not much in terms of overall depth at the position. Podsednik is coming off a major leg injury, and there's no telling whether he'll get all of his speed back. Without a healthy backup OF on the roster, the team is vulnerable to an injury to one of its starters. They might be better served ditching Tony Grafs and picking up a spare OF for use in an emergency.


The ace of the staff is Aaron Harang.

Man, I'm tempted to just end this section right there. I suppose a little more analysis is probably called for, though. Anyway, Harang is actually an underrated guy--he had good rate stats last year, despite playing in a hitters' park. But that doesn't mean that you want him as the first name in on your list of SPs. Chris Capuano is another underrated guy, who isn't that bad as a #2. After that, though, there's trouble. Doug Davis and Jon Garland are just innings-eaters in hitters' parks, and Josh Johnson is out indefinitely. The two Tigers pitchers, Nate Robertson and Kenny Rogers Roasters might provide some decent value at the bottom of the rotation. Still, though, this is a team made up of a whole bunch of #3-type starters. Those kind of staffs sometimes rack up decent counting stats (W and K), but nearly always tank in the rate categories (ERA and WHIP).

Assuming that JJ Putz's recent elbow problems don't get any worse, the bullpen is in nice shape with Putz, Chad Cordero, and Joe Borowski hanging around. If the team doesn't jump out of the gate strongly, they'll be in a good position to flip a closer or two for goodies they can use next year.

Prognosis: Good offense, but not enough pitching for this year. However, they've got a decent core and the ability to flip SBs and SVs to get them in shape for a run down the line.

No comments: