As part of my new job, I’ve been indoctrinated into the elaborate code of acronyms that surround modern education-speak. One of those acronyms is “IEP”, which it turns out refers to the “individualized education plans” given to Special Ed kids.
I confess to having felt a pang of guilt upon learning this, because we here at the GRBG have consistently referred to the It’s Enrico Palazzo franchise as IEP for years now without realizing that we were essentially calling the team a bunch of retards. Tonally, that’s considerably harsher than we usually like to go.
Perhaps it’s best, then, that the franchise has chosen to streamline its name, simply going by “Enrico Palazzo” this season. That both eliminates the IEP issue and sets up a fun Rays/Devil Rays parallel as EP tries to bounce back from last year’s catastrophe and rebound back into the money. Let’s take a look at how far they’ve advanced towards that goal.
Well, the team is off to a pretty good start here. I don’t know that there’s a team out there that wouldn’t trade its left side of the IF for EP’s duo of David Wright and Hanley Ramirez. I also like Kendry Morales to take one more half-step forward, as LAA’s offense is pretty much going to run through him this year. Those three, plus acceptable up-the-middle placeholders Dan Uggla and Miguel Montero, put EP very much on the road back.
In contrast to the IF, which is both young and good, the OF is old and iffy once you get past Andre Ethier. Johnny Damon and Raul Ibanez each outperformed expectations last year, but their birth certificates are going to catch up with the both sooner or later (and Damon made a disastrous switch in home ballparks). Carlos Quentin hasn’t managed to stay healthy pretty much ever, though he does give the group a needed dose of upside. Some in-season shuffling will probably be called for here.
The top of the rotation (Sabathia/Cain/Harden/Burnett) is surprisingly good for a team that was last in pretty much every pitching counting stat last year. The two Yankees in particular are likely to win an obscene number of games this year. Unfortunately, just as we were about to write a glowing review for this section, we glanced down to the bottom of the rotation and saw Edwin Jackson (coming off a fluke year and heading to a lousy park) and perennial GRBG punching bag B. Ronson Arroyo. Suffice to say that we think the last rotation slot or two are going to see a lot of different occupants this year.
We preface this section by noting that the team’s owner couldn’t be present for the end of the draft, meaning his pen is stocked in part by guys he might not have intended. But, with that caveat out of the way: Fail. Kerry Wood and Brandon Lyon are textbook examples of Opening Day closers who are unlikely to make it through the whole season intact (and indeed, Wood is already hurt). Those two are backed up by JP Howell (out until May) and Scott Downs (third in line for saves in Toronto). So, based on the current injury, EP’s opening day ‘pen will consist solely of Brandon Lyon and a middle reliever from the toughest offensive division in baseball. Yikes.
Honestly, for a team that came in eleventh last year, this edition of the EP squad is quite good. There are pieces in place that will let the team get back into contention. Unfortunately, we’re not sure that there are enough of those pieces to support contention this year. EP will likely have to content himself with a return to mid-table respectability this year, and aim to make a real push for the top in ’11.