Happy Birthday Diamond Hoggers!

One year ago today it all began for this blog. Today, February 27th; a date that will live in infamy, is the 1st birthday for Diamond Hoggers. In that time we’ve done more than just recap ballgames and give you a look at Major League Baseball from a different perspective. We’ve tried to appreciate the world’s greatest sport, America’s Pasttime for all that it is worth.

In an age where so much negative fuels sports talk, we like to think here at Diamond Hoggers that we look at things from a lighter side of view.

We can promise you that in our next year, things are only going to get better. More coverage, more strong takes on the game, more humor, more stories about random ballplayer, more recaps, more fun.

This blog is celebrating the first of it’s many birthdays today; be sure to check back to see who wishes us a happy 1st birthday.

On Baseball Prospectus

I went to Barnes & Noble the other night and enjoyed some of the freebie’s that it allowed me. Their top 100 Prospects for 2008 have been made public, with Wonder Kid Jay Bruce being ranked #1 overall in baseball and Homer Bailey at #9.

I read what BP had to say about Jay Bruce, and I’ll paraphrase here:

They began comparing Bruce to Larry Walker. They started to talk in terms of his enormous potential and mentioned his very strong leadership skills. Basically, Bruce checks out perfectly in this area and figures to be a clubhouse leader before he’s of age. He’s a mature kid who will lead with his play but won’t be afraid to step in and lead by saying something.

They then talk about his skills and how he rates out on the 75 point point scale by scouts. Bruce’s bat is rated out at a 60, his speed at a 55, his arm at 60, his power at 65, and his fielding at 55 but 60 if he is in right field and not in center. They go onto talk about how if he plays center for the long term, he will not be able to put on the body build needed to produce the numbers that a power hitter of his potential would.

Overall I’d reccomend this read to the die-hards out there, as they talk about the best young prospects in baseball in some depth and outline team lineups in 2010.

Throwing it around

It’s only tuesday but hump-day is on the horizon. We’ve been spending our workdays dreaming of spring saturdays at the ballpark; and it’s not that far off. Everyone is in training camp now, and the ‘games’ are coming in which we’ll finally have something to talk about other than you know, steroids and court cases.

-C. Trent Rosecrans gives us an anecdote about Adam Dunn hazing rookie Jay Bruce. Dunner is always up to no good. [C. Trent Rosecrans]
-There’s no long-term contract on the horizon for Prince Fielder in the near future, despite the owner anouncing that he’s not going anywhere. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
-Phil Hughes has a blog. [Bugs and Cranks]
-Hoping Felix Hernandez does a bit better, but if he pulls off these numbers I can live with it. [Roto Professor]
-Bartolo Colon doesn’t look that bad. [Y! Big League Stew]
-And for you baseball fan hornballs, Jamie Kotsay’s modeling pics. [UmpBump]

Detroit Tigers 2008 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the Detroit Tigers.

The Tigers have assembled a lineup that has the firepower to compete with any team in baseball. Starting with Curtis Granderson, they have one of the finest lead-off men in all of baseball. Granderson had over 20 triples last season and over 20 home runs. Many would refer to him as a ‘poor man’s Grady Sizemore’, but Granderson is a poor man’s nobody. He’s one of the best athletes in the game. Second will be Placido Polanco, who has an amazing head. Then you get to the thunder. Magglio Ordonez will hit 3rd, with Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield to follow. Cabrera is the crown jewell, and the only concern with Ordonez and Sheffield is can they stay healthy and be out there for a full season.

From there, you’ve got Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria, Jacque Jones and Ivan Rodriguez. Everyone is talking about the additions of Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis; but adding Jones and Renteria will really help this team. They are two fine veterans who have been there in this league. This lineup, at least on paper, appears to have as few of holes as any in baseball. They have power, speed, veteran presence, and should be a really tough out 1 through 9.

Rating: 9.0

This is once again an area where the Tigers are very sound and defined in. They have their rotation already laid out. Ace Justin Verlander comes off an impressive season where he had a sub 3 ERA and a no-hitter. The addition of Dontrelle Willis should be interesting, Willis could re-gain his dominating form since few of the American League hitters have faced him previously. It usually favors pitchers when unfamiliarity is involved, initially. Two more lefties will be in the rotation, Nate Robertson and Kenny Rogers. The rotation is rounded out by Jeremy Bonderman, who’s had a rocket arm since birth but hasn’t put it all together yet. If this is the year he figures it out; this may be your AL Pennant winner.

The bullpen has some nasty arms in it as well. The closer is actually one of the lesser intimidating arms in the ‘pen, in Todd Jones. Jones is a gritty closer who does it with smoke and mirrors rather than stuff. He relies on guile and experience. In other words; he’s vulnerable. The set-up guy is Fernando Rodney, who has a fireball arm and some closing experience. A big loss to them is the injured Joel Zumaya, who figured to be their closer of the future at one time. Francisco Cruceta and Yorman Bazardo should factor in as the long relievers. Zach Miner and Jason Grilli will also log innings. Bobby Seay and Tim Byrdak are the crafty lefties.

Rating: 8.6

Manager Jim Leyland has guided Detroit to a 183-141 record in his two seasons with the team. This includes a trip to the World Series. We here at Diamond Hoggers are big fans of little Leyland. This is for many reasons. We believe he’s probably still smoking like a chimney, refusing to cave to the crave of most long-term baseball men; dipping. Leyland has seen every situation a thousand times; all that remains for him is for his players to execute and win him a World Series. He has the personnel to do it finally, and Detroit’s window should remain open for a year or two at least. Leyland will only help this team, rarely if ever making an in-game mistake from a management standpoint.

Rating: 9.1

This team has many personalities on it. Gary Sheffield usually puts on a show with his mouth. Miguel Cabrera has gotten in some trouble off the field. Willis the same. As long as they’re winning, as usual chemistry will be overstated in terms of a positive thing. They should win more often than not. They’ve got that new ballpark in Detroit, and it’s a pitchers park. They’ve got the hitters to knock down the walls there, and the speed at the top of the order to stroke the gaps. I like the makeup of this team very much; and they’ll enjoy some of the finest ‘meshing’ in the league this year.

Rating: 9.0

If teams and fans alike are sitting around and waiting for a collapse of the Tigers in 2008, it won’t happen. This team is good enough that if everything went wrong, they’d probably still win 90 games. Things should go right, so I have them in the 95-100 win range. They’ll have the task of playing the Cleveland Indians around 20 times which should be a season long grudge match that should go back and forth until late september.

This team will be one of the four to get in the playoffs, whether by way of winning the divsion or by taking the wildcard. Like the Indians, they need to take a step further than making the playoffs with the talent that is on this team. If they fall short of an ALCS win; disappointment will be the word used. Look out for these guys in 2008, it’s going to be a fun ride in the Motor City this summer.

Rating: 8.9

The Kirk Gibson Series Home Run

In our opinion, this is the biggest home run ever hit in baseball history. It should be by a member of one of the most storied franchises ever.

Everything added to the drama. He hit is off the game’s most dominant closer at the time, against baseball’s powerhouse team. Gibson was hurt, limping into the batter’s box for his pinch-hit. If you read David Wells’ book, he talks about what a tough mental individual Kirk Gibson is, and how he was created to hit this home run and for this at-bat.

Gibson was a superstar of the 80’s and put the 1988 Dodgers on his back; turning an entire series with one swing of the bat. His place in this game’s history lives on forever, long after the lights will go out at Dodger stadium and ballparks around MLB alike.

Los Angeles Dodgers 2008 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the Los Angeles Dodgers.

*If you ever go to Dodger Stadium, we want you to try a Super Dodger Dog and some fresh Jalapenos. We would.

Diamond Hogger’s Los Angeles Dodgers blog of choice: Sons of Steve Garvey

Rafael Furcal will lead off. Furcal is a great igniter and when he gets on base, if the legs are well he’s a major pain in the ass for the opposition. Following Furcal is our favorite fucking bat boy: Juan Pierre. There’s no more bat-boyish player in the entire game, and we expect Juan Pierre to be more of a bat boy then ever in 2008. He’ll single you to death, he’ll drive in 36-46 runs, and he’ll steal 50 bags. Our favorite Dodger will hit 3rd, James Loney. Loney should have a long and promising career in baseball. He’s similar to Mark Grace at this point in his career. He plays every day, good glove, hits for average with some extra base pop but hasn’t developed his power stroke. We think Loney could hit .315 in a full season’s work.

Everyone knows the clean-up hitter, Andruw Jones. Jones comes over after a long career in Atlanta and he’s trying to prove he can still play. What the hell happened to Jones last season? Coming off a career season in 2006, he needed to do well last season because he was in a contract year. He responded with one of the lowest batting averages of his career and a disappearance of his power numbers. He’s not playing in the best ballpark as far as being condusive to power hitters goes.

Ageless Jeff Kent will most likely begin the season hitting 5th. We’re waiting for a monumental collapse of Kent, we’re just glad it didn’t come last season with Kent a viable member of our fantasy team.

Tool-player Matt Kemp will play right field and hit 6th, and we call him that because he’s a superstar based on his tools. That is good for about a season and then it begins to get you in trouble if you don’t produce. We’re really not that high on Kemp. He is a dime-a-dozen. The Dodger’s face player is their catcher, Russell Martin. Cut in the mold of former Dodger gamer Paul Lo Duca, LA fans are hoping Martin can put up the numbers in his prime that Mike Piazza did. Los Angeles has always prided its franchise on having a fine backstop; but we don’t think it’s just casual hype with Martin. This kid can play. He’s tough and hits balls that go out of any park. He also gained most of his notoriety for banging out Alyssa Milano last season. He’s had a promising start to his career.

Hitting 8th will most likely be Mr. Mia Hamm, Nomar Garciaparra. He basically defines much of the Dodger lineup. Inflated value off past reputation. He doesn’t hit for power anymore and he doesn’t play great defense. He’s brittle these days. He’s probably going to hang onto his job at the hot corner because Joe Torre loves veterans. Keep an eye on mega-prospect Andy LaRoche. We promise he’s going to be better than brother Adam. He’s a corner infielder with some pop.

Overall this lineup has a lot of age in it. That coupled with the fact that they play in a mammoth ballpark tells you that this team will need to out-pitch their opponents to win.

Rating: 7.2

The Dodgers starting rotation is a strong and underrated group. That starts with their ace, Brad Penny. When he’s healthy, he’s as filthy as any starter the opponent can trot out there. He’s got hard and heavy stuff that makes hitters extremely uncomfortable. He’s got a favorable contract and is a steal at his price.

Chad Billingsley should be the #2, and he’s shown a lot of promise in the early going of his career. He’ll be the next one if all goes as projected. The Dodgers are excited about this kid, and look to him to provide about 15 wins this season if they’re going to be a contender for the division.

Derek Lowe, Hideki Kuroda, and Jason Schmidt round out the Dodgers starters. Lowe is an innings eater who on any given night can look like a staff ace. That or he gets hit extremely hard. Kuroda is the latest Japanese import and like most Japanese imports, he’s got some funky ass movement on his ball. He is somewhat a wildcard as with most Japanese pitchers who haven’t been in MLB before. The 5th starter is Schmidt. Schmidt probably won’t return to form as a staff ace at this point in his career (he’s coming off shoulder surgery to boot), but he’s a warrior who could show flashes of his prior brilliance. If he does that this group is going to be very tough.

Takashi Saito very much helps this group. You had to know the guy was going to be dominant if the Dodgers were willing to part with Eric Gagne (and boy did they sell that stock at the right time). When he comes into a game, it’s over 95% of the time at worst. He’s one of the top 5 closers in the game, let alone the N.L.

The set-up guy is Jonathan Broxton (solid). Joe Beimel is the lefty specialist (solid). Scott Proctor, Rudy Seanez, and Esteban Loiaza are likely to get the call on any given night.

Rating: 8.1

You thought he was done, and so did we. Joe Torre surprised us all, and will most likely finish his managerial career in Los Angeles. Torre alone probably adds 1o wins to a team per year, regardless of personnel and competition within the division. He’s a great manager, and there aren’t that many throwback, great managers left in baseball. JT Godfather will be missed in New York, and will show his in-game brilliance time and time again out in California this season. If the Dodgers end up surprising and making the playoffs, you have your #1 reason why right here.

Rating: 9.3

Poor spending over the recent history has hurt this franchise. When you spend as much as the Dodgers and you have as little postseason series wins to show for it over the last 10-15 years; you can blame the people at the top. GM Ned Coletti was a family friend of my ro
omate, ironically.

As far as chemistry goes, this is an aging roster. It’s an All-Star team from the late 90’s. That isn’t as bad as it could be, as Joe Torre likes his veterans. He knows how to motivate an aging player.

They have the personnel to help themselves in that ballpark. Gap power, lots of speed and pretty good pitching. This will give them a chance. They have a lot of guys who should play fine together, but I wouldn’t expect them to be especially great in close/late ballgames or coming from behind.

Rating: 7.0

This team has the makings of a decent group, but I don’t think they’re going to win the West. The things that will help them are obvious. A dominant closer, a great manager, speed at the top of the lineup, and having a team that is built to play in their home ballpark. Their downfall will be that they have a bit too much age at this stage in the game. The careers of too many in their lineup are flickering and in decline. I think this is a team that could finish 4 games or so above .500 for the season.

Rating: 7.9

Throwing it around

‘Another saturday night and I ain’t got no-boday’…. how’s that song go? No worries. It gives us time to get caught up on Throwing it around, and see what is going on around the league.

-Derek Jeter says he’ll play shortstop for as long as he possibly can. [New York Daily News]
-The Milwaukee Brewers are talking extension with Ryan Braun; why are they not talking extension with Prince Fielder? [MLB Trade Rumors]
-In case you haven’t heard, Barry Bonds is considering playing baseball in Japan this season, is he serious? [Larry Brown Sports]
-Little David Eckstein is a Toronto Blue Jay. I know this because I read Deadspin’s baseball season previews. [Deadspin]
-The Toronto Blue Jay’s top 5 home runs of 2007. [The Mockingbird]
-Yahoo! is sending their head baseball blogger to spring training. Oh the lovely life for some. [Yahoo! Big League Stew]
-Sandy Koufax visited Mets spring training today. [MetsBlog]
-The young guns of the AL West [The Baseball Analysts]