Throwing it Around

It’s a white Saturday, and we’re snowed in at Grandma’s house. Which means there is plenty of time for reading and writing about baseball stuff with grandma handling the baby. And we’ve seen plenty of links worthy of being linked. Here are a few:

-Yankees Manager Joe Girardi says he’s open to two closers. [NY Daily News]
-The Yankees are sniffing around Yoan Moncada and consider him #1 overall draft talent. [ESPN Yankees Blog]
-Carlos Gonzalez is looking to put a disappointing 2014 behind him quickly. [Denver Post]
-It’s the 25th anniversary of Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects. A neat look back in time. [Baseball America]
-Bruce Bochy had stints put in his heart valves, but he’s feeling better. [MLB.com]
-The Rockies are going to have a new broadcast angle in 2015! [Fangraphs]
-It’s probably been a while since you’ve read up on Byron Buxton, but don’t forget about him. [Twins Daily]
-The top 30 teams to control in MLB the Show ’15, from a fun standpoint. [Operation Sports]

I’m Calling it Now: Bryce Harper goes apeshit in 2015

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We’ve made this proclamation before, but this year feels a little different. I don’t own him on any fantasy teams, so we can cross that mark of curse off the list.

Bryce Harper won’t be the MVP of the National League in 2015. But he’s going to stay healthy a full year and finally have a year worthy of him being in the discussion.

After reading a recent Q&A with Nationals beat reporter Chelsea Janes regarding all-things Harper, it’s important to remember that he’s just 22 years old and he’ll be that age all season. Most guys are wrapping up their times in the minors at that age and hoping to break into the big leagues. Harper already has four postseason home runs and has appeared in two All-Star games.

It’s not exactly like he’s done nothing. He just hasn’t been Mike Trout.

We still love Bryce Harper so much – even if at times he’s hard to love. We hope he doesn’t hold the Nationals over a barrel when the time comes to sign a long-term contract.

But this is going to be the year Harper stays healthy and plays in 150 games and makes the Nationals his team. He’ll become a household name and post near a .900 OPS and cross the 30 home run plateau for the first time. We suspect he’ll do all this because everyone will notice just a little bit less than they would have when he was 19, 20, or 21; and this will benefit him.

At the end of the day the cream always rises to the top. Harper has shown enough to show he has elite tools. He’ll play right field, which seems a more normal position for him than left; it’s a more organic place for a star to rise.

Harper will have some MVP awards in his future, we’ll say at least one or two; and it won’t be in 2015. But the Harper we saw in April of 2013 and in the postseason of 2014 will be around a lot more often in the season to come. It’s going to be glorious for those who own him in fantasy and for the ham and egg baseball purists who are dying to see this guy succeed.

Your Saturday Baseball Post

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Today I’m up early because I’ve had a nightmare I have more often than any other. It’s always the same dream. It usually happens this time of year.

It’s approaching spring. I’ve got my glove and my new bat ready to go in my bat bag; and I’m at the high school. Inside behind those locked doors are the same group of guys I grew up playing with (I assume we’re headed into our senior year). Like a cruel joke, I’m locked out of open gym and the batting cages. They’re existing indoors without me, starting a new season. My teammates are making throws and getting their arms sore; and the train is moving on from the station without the guy who loves it most. My baseball coach Jeff Riley is somehow always unreachable for me in this nightmare. I cannot let him know that I will be playing baseball this year – that I’ll be “trying out” – I am going to miss baseball season and it’s going to happen without me getting to play. This is the most horrifying nightmare I usually encounter in my life.

Today’s house of horrors dream was worse than usual. Not only did I miss tryouts completely, but by the time things got sorted out and I made it to school grounds my team was playing their opening game. I show up to a new field that was not our home park, and they’re christening the newly constructed glossy thing without me being in left field. ‘Those rotten bastards’ I think to myself. Didn’t anyone wonder where I was? I had always taken a lot of pride in being a good teammate. The best teammate.

I get to the field and my mother is in the stands. I don’t have a jersey so I ask her if I can steal the jersey off her back just in time to run into the dugout with my sliding shorts on under some athletic shorts. I’ll put on any pair of baseball pants available when I get in there. I’ll explain to them that I always planned on playing. She reluctantly gives me the jersey which she points out is not the same new one that my teammates are wearing. I don’t care – just give me the damn jersey and I’ll get in there and explain things – that baseball season can’t exist without me.

I get around the corner to the dugout, and of course it’s the opposing team’s dugout. The fellas have switched sides and we’re now on the third base line instead of the first base line which is the dugout I’ve entered as a Brave my entire life.

I finally reach my dugout and see a bunch of faces I don’t know. A bunch of new cowboys. I am searching frantically for a familiar face who will just know me. I finally see him, and he’s got his glossy nameplate above his brand new cubbyhole; it’s Nick Mott. Thank God you’re in here Nick, you can maybe help me sort all this out with coach.

The game is ongoing and existing without me. This thought is picking away at me in the back of my mind. Game one will probably go in the books forever without me even recording an at-bat. But I can let that go as long as I can force myself on the team. I finally reach Nick in the dugout for some comfort and I ask him ‘what’s going on man?’. He looks at me with some confusion and says ‘hey it’s good to see you, but is it true what everyone is saying about you?’

I pause for a moment, and in shock I ask him what is everyone saying about me? Tell me, Nick. All these guys in this dugout I don’t even know. It’s baseball season for God’s sake and I’m not even part of this team yet. But look at me – I’m in great shape – best shape of my life. Don’t I look ready? Are they saying I didn’t want to play this year? Where would such a lie generate from?

I continue to press him, and he doesn’t tell me the proverbial word on the street about me. Rule number one about personal sports nightmares: you can’t control what teammates say or don’t say.

I woke up from this in a complete cold sweat, giving you an idea about the angst and stress this bout of sleep has given me. It is then that I realize that I must face the harshest reality of all. It’s Saturday morning, I’m next to my dog. Indeed, Baseball season is coming and it will exist without me.

I will never experience another sore arm. I’ll never come to bat in another ninth inning with the game of the line. I’ll never have pine tar on my gloves again, lightly taking in the smell while I’m on deck waiting for my turn to hit. I’ll never slap hands in the line with the group of guys I love again after a win.

This period of my life that I loved so much is done and gone. No matter how long I live, it’s something that I can’t get back. It’s a nightmare I have to quietly face in my mind each day in the spring. Today it just happens to be why I’m up early. Like anyone else out there who used to play who no longer can, it didn’t end as I wanted it to. There was never that perfect closure for me, really. That last home run circling the bases. I’m the 99%. My last tie to the game I love is to write about it straight from my heart.

I’ll take solace in the fact that it’s almost spring – and I’ll think about the warmth of all the memories. There’s still something comforting about this time of year and baseball if you played it, from all the years left behind devoted to it.

Thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers. Enjoy your Saturday, and know baseball season is on it’s way. No matter what reminder you have.

Then the Mighty Giambles set down his bat; and retired

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Jason Giambi retired from baseball today, ending a pretty remarkable career.

Take a good look at the run this guy had from 1998 to about 2003. It’s about as strong a peak you can expect from a player’s age 27 season until his age 32 season.

Giambi spent 20 years in the big leagues, compiling 440 home runs and 2010 knocks. We bet he’s got a helluva story to tell.

The last couple years, Giambi was like a glorified bench coach who had the ability to step in the batters box and hit one out of the park. He’s provided us with some memorable moments on this blog, that big hairy old monster. He will be missed.

The Moncada Butterfly Could Find a Home This Week!

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Wherever Yoan Moncada finally lands and spreads his wings, that franchise immediately becomes more attractive for the next decade or so. By the end of this week, we just might learn who that lucky franchise might be (please don’t let it be somewhere like San Francisco).

From everything we’ve read that’s been printed about Moncada, he’s the next young superstar from Cuba in this game. A lot of people have speculated that Moncada will spend significant time in the minors, but we don’t see it that way.

Whoever lands him will be shelling out monstrous contract money including a hefty signing bonus. It will be the type of contract that has him on the fast track to the big leagues (remember the Reds with Aroldis Chapman, for instance). If he performs in the minors like we think he might, we think he’ll be in a big league uniform by season’s end.

And he’s going to be a guy we stalk with posts on this blog. We cannot wait to get out our net, snatch the elegant Moncada butterfly from the air; and add him to the fraternity of greatness in baseball.

Team Over/Unders 2015

David Pardum at ESPN Chalk has the Over/Under for team win totals for 2015, with the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim checking in with the most wins projected in both leagues. These numbers are pulled from the sportsbook at Atlantis Casino & Resort.

If I were betting these, here’s how I would swing:

National League
Washington Nationals (93 Wins) – OVER
Los Angeles Dodgers (91) – OVER
St. Louis Cardinals (87.5) – UNDER
Pittsburgh Pirates (85.5) – UNDER
San Francisco Giants (85) – UNDER
San Diego Padres (84) – UNDER
Chicago Cubs (81.5) – OVER
Miami Marlins (81.5) – OVER
New York Mets (81) – UNDER
Milwaukee Brewers (80) – UNDER
Cincinnati Reds (79) – OVER
Atlanta Braves (73.5) – UNDER
Arizona DiamondBacks (72.5) – OVER
Colorado Rockies (70.5) – OVER
Philadelphia Phillies (67) – UNDER

American League
Los Angeles Angels (87.5) – UNDER
Detroit Tigers (86.5) – OVER
Boston Red Sox (86) – OVER
Seattle Mariners (85) – UNDER
Baltimore Orioles (84.5) – UNDER
Toronto Blue Jays (83.5) – OVER
Kansas City Royals (83) – UNDER
Oakland Athletics (82.5) – UNDER!
Chicago White Sox (82) – OVER
Cleveland Indians (81) – UNDER
New York Yankees (80) – OVER
Tampa Bay Rays (77.5) – UNDER
Texas Rangers (76.5) – UNDER
Houston Astros (73.5) – OVER
Minnesota Twins (68.5) – OVER

Your Saturday Baseball Post

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There are 52 days remaining until Opening Day, and it’s Valentines Day. Valentines Day is really just a day designed to get guys in trouble because they ‘didn’t do enough’. It falls smack dab in the middle of the worst month on earth. A barren wasteland in the sports world, the weather is disgusting and we’ve all had our fill of snow and ice; although the NBA Saturday night All-Star stuff is tonight, if you can consider that a worthy distraction.

I just can’t wait until Saturdays like this one are filled with matinee match-ups and box scores alike. If there was a way to fast forward the time, I would happily sacrifice 53 days of my life to get this to pass. Every year, it’s a real struggle.

We’ll press onwards because the greatest sport on earth awaits us all. Have a great Saturday, get your wife some chocolates, and thank you for your continued support of Diamond Hoggers.

Baseball Things Like these Jumbotron Illustrations Make Me Happy

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I found this via Deadspin today, and I am so glad that I did. They’re called “Jumbotron Art” and they feature some nostalgic players from the game’s great past, many of which scream RBI Baseball and ’89 Upper Deck from my childhood.

You can actually buy original prints of these for $100, of which I might do once I have a real man-cave to put them in to honor them properly. I wish I could paste all of them on my blog; but if you click through the jump, there’s time for a few I pulled.

Continue reading

MLB Could Change the Strike Zone to Promote Offense

Score another point for Rob Manfred!

Citing a source, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports says that baseball is considering altering the strike-zone, specifically the frequent calling of the low strike that has seen offense dip to 1981 levels of obscurity.

Runs per game fell to 4.07 in 2014, the lowest mark since 1981 and the 13th fewest since World War II, and studies from The Harball Times’ Jon Roegele and Florida professor Brian Mills pegged the low strike as a significant culprit.

Since 2009, the average size of the called strike zone has jumped from 435 square inches to 475 square inches, according to Roegele’s research. The results: Pitchers are throwing more in the lower part of the zone, and hitters are swinging at an increased rate, knowing the tough-to-drive pitches will be called strikes.

Roegele’s study estimated 31 percent of the offensive drought could be attributed to the strike zone while Mills estimated it’s between 24 percent and 41 percent. After seeing a strong correlation among the size of the strike zone, all-time-high strikeout rates and historically low walk rates, members of the committee now are fairly certain the relationship is causative, too, and seem primed to do something about it.

I miss the days of middle infielders routinely hitting 25 home runs. I think those days were due to a lot more than just a liberal zone, but anything that would promote a hair more offense I’m in favor of. And most importantly, I think it would be a little more exciting for the casual fan of the game.

I think if it happens, it’s going to be like when your spouse loses weight. The notice we take to it will be gradual, because you’re watching every day but the metrics will slowly show a rebound in the numbers most of us who crave offense want to see.

I’m starting to think this Manfred really does have some things figured out about how to make baseball mainstream and as popular as possible again. He’s got some nice ideas of things that need to happen that Selig just never could have been modern enough to embrace. Although I do appreciate Selig never considering putting ads on uniforms. If Manfred does that, I’ll want someone to put his head on a stick like Mussolini.

Report: Marlins Park to host 2017 All-Star Game

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With the 2015 All-Star Game being held in Cincinnati, and the 2016 going boring on all of us for a year to San Diego (who wants a Petco Home Run Derby, anyways); the game’s midsummer classic will return to a fun and deserved site in 2017 in South Beach.

This report comes via the Miami Herald today – and hopefully the Marlins’ brass can see the goodwill coming their way for you know; ponying up and spending some money to improve their franchise. Anyone who says that the Marlins will just blow it up again is clearly wrong, the Marlins are going to be forced to field a team that contends until at least the latter half of 2017 now; which we expected them to do anyways.

It’s worth pointing out that the Marlins were originally awarded the 2000 All-Star Game, only to have it stripped and given to the Braves. After opening their new stadium in 2012, they were originally expected to get this year’s All-Star Game, but it was given to Cincinnati instead – which has been a long-deserved All Star game site.

The Nationals can be expected to get the 2018 All Star game we think, just in time for Bryce Harper’s big departure to a larger market. It is likely that in the next four years we will have an All-Star game in an NL park that has never before hosted the game. Pretty exciting stuff, especially if you’re someone who still believes that baseball has the holiest of All-Star competitions like we clearly do. It’s the one exhibition of it’s type that has always remained competitive and sacred.

Building a case AGAINST Jose Abreu

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It’s been a long time since I’ve been as impressed with a rookie power bat like I was Jose Abreu in 2014. I admit that moments like this one could lead to a little man-crush blindness on my part on a guy. I will not usually do my due diligence on Abreu; entering his age 28 season, rolling up to my fantasy drafts ready to add him to a roster at all costs without any reservations.

Recently, Ray Flowers who is considered by some to be a Fantasy Baseball Expert has taken Abreu’s hype to task by saying things like he’s not a top five fantasy first basemen in 2015, and then tonight this:

What I’m here to do is build a case against Abreu and dig a little deeper before I’m in too deep and have him on four or five rosters just in time for his collapse. It seems Flowers has done a bit more work than I have on the subject, so I’ll begin with reasons why you might want to look away from Abreu on draft day or proceed with caution.

  • Abreu had a .356 BABIP in 2014. Alright, this is going to go down. You can theorize a couple things here when a guy has a high BABIP: 1) the guy is so lucky he shits golden eggs; or 2) he hits the ball real hard when it’s in play and it’s past people. I think it was more a combination of the two then simple luck. Fangraphs had this man at 100 line drives even last year. That’s exceptional (23.3%, almost a fourth of the time he hit a line drive).
  • Alright, so he’s not going to sustain a .356 average on balls hit in play, what if that number goes to just .300 which is assumed as league average. You’ve still got a monster on your hands who hits .275 or .270 instead of .319, and there’s no reason to think the power numbers decrease based on his fb% and gb/fb ratio. But I’m not building the case against Abreu here, am I?
  • Abreu was afflicted with ankle tendinitis in May of last season, landing him on the disabled list and being the sole reason he didn’t hit 40 home runs. In my opinion, this is an injury that has a fair chance of returning at some point. It’s not to say that it’s a chronic problem, but it’s not exactly like a viral infection that needed a few weeks to clear up. For those that have had tendinitis in a joint, these things have a way of flaring up again.
  • Abreu’s O-Swing % last season was 41.7%, a full point higher then Josh Hamilton who got himself into a mess of a season by notoriously swinging at too many pitches and namely; too many bad pitches.
  • Abreu entered last season with no book on him – seeing a fastball come his way from the opposing pitcher 52.7% of the time. Check this off for reason to be concerned; while this number could see itself decrease, this is well below the 60% that a prime-aged Albert Pujols saw or the 64.2% that Mike Trout saw in 2014. He’s more likely than anything to see more fastballs and unless bat speed decreases, he’ll handle them. But we’re working to build a case against Abreu here.
  • Abreu might see some time at designated hitter with Adam LaRoche being added to the White Sox roster in the offseason. Abreu’s zone-rating was -2.4 last season while LaRoche has a career -1.9; including a -5.2% last season. Best guess is two-thirds of the time Abreu will be the positional first basemen while LaRoche DH’s. This would allow for more chance for injury and increase some fatigue but some players admittedly hit better when they’ve brought their glove to the park. At best, this theory is a push.

More or less, I’ve thought of all the angles here. It all adds up to a very low chance of Abreu regressing much – and if he does you have a .270 hitter with 30 home runs and around 100 RBI. That’s close to first round value in today’s MLB and it’s certainly in the top 25 overall players in most fantasy formats.

We will dig this post up after next season and review what went right and what went wrong for Abreu. We’ll go with a bullish projection on him: .285/40 HR/110 RBI and cite increased talent in the lineup and of course the launching pad he plays his home games in while being a year wiser. Now don’t make us look foolish Big Cuban Stud.

Your Saturday Baseball Post

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See the kids on the back of the bus – hitchin’ a ride?

First fantasy draft of the year tomorrow! That’s the good news. The bad news is that me, my wife, and my two month old are all sick. February absolutely sucks. February in Ohio is even worse. You have to love the weather swinging from negative temperatures back up to 40 degrees – that’s good for the old sinuses!

I picked up this bad boy last night:

Not because I really need it, but because buying one of these every year for bathroom reading is a right of passage and helps remind of the things I should already know. Like that they have Giancarlo Stanton on the cover but list him as the 25th most valuable player in fantasy – WRONG. Or they have Jay Bruce hitting just a paltry .237 this year – give me the over on that.

As a whole, fantasy magazines are too damn scared and conservative to ever make a bold prediction or go out on a limb. I love me some Mike Trout, but I think Stanton will be the number one overall hitter in fantasy this season. And all these magazines are too scared to say Billy Hamilton will steal 80 bases, numbers like 65 seem much safer for them. Take a damn stab at something!

And you all, take a stab at enjoying your Saturday. We can get through this, press onwards.

Baseball