Wednesday, April 24, 2013

2013 Season Preview: The Braun Advantage

Okay, so this post is about 2 1/2 weeks late, which we can attribute to fatherhood, recluses, spring weather, and some post-draft fatigue from writing these previews. But better late than never, right?

Because everyone knows this team is pretty good, we long ago decided to eschew a conventional preview because the only real question was whether they were ridiculously good, very good, or maybe had a shot at finishing out of the money.  Originally we were going to do an analysis of which members of the defending champions were using the cream and the clear, but that became dull fast and sort of moot since the Ryan Braun witch hunt seems to have slowed.  So let's instead take an approach that honors the late Roger Ebert: 7 thumbs up and 7 thumbs down for the PEDbots.

Thumbs Up

1.  Mike Trout with a 25% regression off last year would probably be the AL MVP this year, in production if not in name.

2.  FOUR players on this team had more home runs in 2012 than Trout: Edwin Encarnacion (42), Adam Dunn (41), Adrian Beltre (36) and Andrew McCutchen (31).

3.  It's rare that you can have on your team players that lead both the NL and AL in the same category, but in Trout and Evereth Cabrera, this team is pretty locked in on steals.

4.  There are a lot of fun mix-and-match parts in the outfield.  Coco Crisp gives you no power but a bunch of steals; Brandon Moss gives you no speed but solid power, and Norichiki Aoki gives you solid production across the board.  Matched against the right pitching, these three guys should play quite well along McCutchen and Trout.

5.  They have two guys named Ellis that ply their trade in Los Angeles and neither negotiates million dollar deals for breakfast.

6.  I'm not sure I would want a bullpen of Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera in 2 years, but for this season, they're a pretty likely source of 60-70 saves, which is fairly heady given the current state of closers.

7.  This owner is the most successful in the league other than Tucker.  If there's a hole to fill in July, we would be shocked if he didn't properly address it.

Thumbs Down

1.  If you're wondering why I didn't discuss starting pitching yet, that's because this isn't a strength.  Their best pitcher is Zack Greinke, who's out with a fighting injury for a while.  Jordan Zimmerman is perfectly fine as a #2, but after that it gets to a lot of ex-Marlins (AJ Burnett, Josh Beckett) and a Met (Dillon Gee).  If they really think that Lance Lynn is going to win 18 games again, Andy will gladly give the owner Kent Bottenfield's phone number to discuss his fluke season and his Christian music albums.

2.  The injury bug hasn't hit this team hard, it's pummeled them in the early stages.  Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Jason Motte, Colby Lewis...that's a lot of quality on a mend.

3.  Their hitting isn't optimally aligned.  Ramirez will eventually come back from the DL but won't play third over Beltre, and probably won't push Cabrera's 40 steals to the bench.  That puts him at DH, which means none of Aoki/Crisp/Moss will play since Adam Dunn is taking that 3rd OF spot.  Depth is good, but with weak hitters at catcher and second, it may not matter here.  

4.  Carlos Marmol appears to be actively involved.

5.  Joaquin Benoit appears to be remotely involved.

6.  Travis Wood appears to be rostered.

7.  Most of the power hitters we discussed above are prime candidates for regression.  Is there a single person that thinks that E-5 is going to hit over 40 home runs again?  Adam Dunn has a .184 batting average over the last two years.  And the Moss/Crisp/Aoki triumverate have Plexiglass Principle stamped across their respective foreheads.


As you can tell, we struggled to cobble together a real criticism of this team besides their starting pitching.  They're going to hit, they're going to steal bases, they'll accumulate saves and they'll try to trade into another starter come summertime.  The clear favorite to repeat, but the pitching is dicey enough that they're not the monolith we thought they might be in November.

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