Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Season Preview: DEATH TO THE WEST

A new year brings a newly aggressive team name for a newly competitive franchise. But as with The Moon Colonists, the name's referent is slightly unclear. What, exactly, is the owner trying to kill? Taking a critical race theory approach, he works for the single whitest, most establishment institution since the Knights Templar, so he can't really be advocating the overthrow of western society. We'll explore a few options as we move through the preview.

Is he anti-Yay?

The obvious place to start is with newly arrived tentpole 1B Albert Pujols. While the team payed a pretty high price to obtain him, it's never a bad thing to have the consensus best player in baseball on your team. Much of the rest of the IF is filled with reasonable second-tier options. Bounceback candidate Mark Reynolds balances out likely BABIP victim Alex Avila (a possible Reynolds recovery is especially important, as we'll discuss in a bit), and the Irish Frankenstein of Ryan Robert Daniel Murphy provides adequacy insurance at 2B. 

So ultimately, the success of the supporting cast will rise or fall mainly on Jose Reyes, who rides a big new contract into Miami. At this point, Reyes has established himself enough that it's safe to assume a high level of performance if he stays healthy. Of course, that health is by no means a sure thing. Backup SS J. Honny Peralta at least provides a reasonable fallback option. But it's unlikely that Peralta would be the second star the IF needs in order to make a run at the board. If you like Jose's wheels, though, this is a solid squad.

Maybe he's a Grizzlies fan?

Here's the rise-or-fall unit for this team. There are three possible scenarios here, which turn on the performances of four players: Logan Morrison, Alex Gordon, Matt Joyce and (IF) Mark Reynolds.

Scenario #1: Three of those four players have top-third seasons at their positions. That lets the team use stud Jose Bautista to preempt the sole flop at either OF or 3B, depending on the identity of the flopper. Bautista is elite at either position, which is quite the luxury. In this scenario, the offense really comes together and the team threatens the board

Scenario #2: Two of those four players have top-third seasons. Bautista stays pinned down in the OF until the team can find an upgrade at 3B or OF. The team probably stays competitive in the meantime, but isn't quite good enough to get into the money slots.

Scenario #3: One or fewer of the four have top-third seasons. Team looks to re-flip Pujols to get back some of those jillion draft picks they are missing for next year.

I am high on Morrison, Gordon, and Joyce, so I think there's a good chance that Reynolds ends up on the bench by mid-May, and the team makes a run.

Aw, who are we kidding. 
Starting Pitching

Sabathia, Gallardo, Bumgarner, CJ Wilson, Dan Hudson. That is actually a fantasy pitching rotation. Goodness. There's not much behind the starters, unless you think that Jrjr Jurrjurr can manage to outrun the regression monster for another year. But none of the top guys have especially problematic injury histories, so that's not as big of a deal as it might be for some other rotations. Pitchers can always go sideways for no reason, but this is among the safer rotations heading into the season.


Serious question: who was the last closer this franchise had on its roster? We feel like it might be Ambiorix Burgos, which tells you all you need to about the historical strength of this unit. Sadly, the trend persists to this day. The pen features two deposed closers in K-Rod and Francisco Cordero, and two non-closer, non-fireman relievers in Mark Melanoma and Jo-Elle Peralta. The best hope for saves looks to be Sean Marshall, and even that is an artifact of Ryan Madson's recent injury. Saves will have to be bought or found, because while this team is better than usual, they're not good enough to punt a category and still hit the board.


Last year it was pretty clear that there were two good teams, and then an undignified muddle of teams fighting for third. This year, though, looks more like the 2010 season, when the league was flat and our previews were mostly baffled. Want more proof that this is a crazy year? Both WTF and this team could make board runs.

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