You know the saying, âSave the best for lastâ?
What about the âFinish the worst firstâ?
No? While maybe not as catchy, it certainly applies to our first installment of FansEdgeâ 2010 Major League Baseball Preview â and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Sure, Pittsburgh didnât have the worst record in baseball, (beating out the Washington Nationals by three less defeats) but they have been â by far â the worst team in MLB for nearly two decades. The last time the Pirates boasted a winning record I was studying simple addition and Barry Bonds hadnât yet begun studying âthe Clearâ, allegedly.
A lot has changed since 1992 â see home run records â but one thing remains a constant: Pittsburgh finishing at or near the bottom of the National League Central Division.
But itâs 2010. New decade. New personnel. And a new era, right?
Thatâs what the Pirates front office hopes for, at least. Some would call 2009 a rebuilding season for the Pirates; I call it a season of purging.
2010 features yet another injection of youth, and this time they may have actually gotten it right.
Out: Nate McLouth, Freddy Sanchez, Nyjer Morgan and Jack Wilson. In: Lastings Milledge (24 years old), Ronny Cedeno (26), Andy LaRoche (26) and Andrew McCutchen (23).
Speed and defense.
That will be third-year manager John Russellâs calling card if his team takes the next step â and is actually acknowledged by the rest of its division.
And it starts in center field. McCutchen, Pittsburghâs top prospect, lived up to the hype in his rookie season, finishing second among position players in the Rookie of the Year voting. Displaying tremendous speed (22 stolen bases) and modest power (12 home runs) in just over 400 at-bats, McCutchen has an opportunity to resurrect a once-proud franchise.
He is joined by a number of disappointing prospects intent on fulfilling their potential with a new team. Former cast-offs like Milledge, Cededno and LaRoche have been given another chance to resurrect their still young careers in a more relaxed environment.
Unfortunately, youâre not going anywhere in baseball without pitchingâŚand thereâs a reason Iâve waited this long to address the rotation situation. The Pirates are anchored by Zack Duke and Paul Maholm, and boast a band of young talent. Sound familiar?
But youthful exuberance rarely beats good hitting, and with 11 victories leading the staff last season, someone needs to grasp the âAceâ title for this team to have any chance of competing with the likes of the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Team MVP: Andrew McCutchen. Who else? The Piratesâ best prospect since Barry Bonds had a tremendous rookie campaign, highlighted by a 3-HR game. With a full season ahead, I expect a similar batting average with improved power and speed numbers: .280/19 HRs/71 RBIs/29 SBs
X-Factor: Pedro Alvarez. You may not have heard of himâŚbut you will. The only Pirate with more potential than McCutchen may be Alvarez. The 2nd pick of the 2008 MLB Draft, Alvarez packs tremendous power at the plate, hitting 27 HRs in the minors last season. Just 22, expect him to amass even greater power and anticipate a September call-up, at the latest.
Bottom Line: Pittsburgh will improveâŚbut donât expect to be singing âWe are familyâ just yet. They are still 2-3 seasons away from making any real noise â assuming they can hold on to everyone.
Here’s another post from newly minted writer Brent. His sports knowledge is vastly impressive and to be frank, a little worrisome. Below you’ll find a reference to Bo Jackson, someone named Charlie something and a Techmo Super Bowl video among other items. It’s quite the creation. We’ll try to get both new guys set up with accounts this week and cut out this bloviating middleman…
My fellow copywriter Ariel is giving you a taste of what youâll see in the playoffs this fall, but there is a lot you wonât see again until Spring Training.
I love Spring Training. I love that it gives every team a brand new start so they can suck and fall well short of expectations (New York Mets, Chicago Cubs), be awesome (Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees), or just experience more fledgling mediocrity (Milwaukee Brewers, Toronto Blue Jays). But for me, it doesnât get much better than post-season baseball. Iâm a Minnesota Twins fan and while the Twins havenât had much success in October in the last decade, they have at least been in the playoffs in four of the last seven seasons, including a Game 163 in 2008 that they lost to the Chicago White Sox. John Danks shut the Twins out in that game but could not deliver the same result in his regular season finale this year against the Detroit Tigers when he walked three in the first inning, including one with the bases loaded. Now the Twins and Tigers will square off in Game 163. 2009 is the third season in a row to require a 163rd game. Two years ago the Colorado Rockies beat the San Diego Padres 9-8 in 13 innings.
But there are guys who had phenomenal seasons who wonât see stadium lights after October 4th. Zack Greinke led the majors in ERA at 2.16, led the AL in WHIP at 1.07 and finished 3rd in strikeouts in all of baseball. And he won 16 games on a team that won 65 all season.
Albert Pujols got all the press this year in the NL, but what about Prince Fielder’smonster season? Prince set a Brewer record for RBIâs at 141, he hit 46 home runs, behind only 47 by Albert Pujols, and he hit .299 with an on-base percentage of .412.
Roy Halladayâs reputation speaks for itself and because Toronto couldnât get a deadline deal worked out (other than sending Alex Rios to the Chicago White Sox), he too will miss the playoffs, just as he has in every season of his career. The Toronto Blue Jays havenât seen the post-season since they won back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993. Remember Joe Carter jumping around first base? That team also had Minnesota natives Paul Molitor, Jack Morris, and former Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball stand out Dave Winfield (yes, basketball, he was also drafted by the Minnesota Vikings without ever having played a down of football in his life) on the roster.
Fernandez went from the Pads to the Mets in 1992 in a deal involving former outfielder/running back D.J. Dozier and then the Mets traded Fernandez back to the Blue Jays in June of 1993. The Padres received McGriff, Dozier, and Wally Whitehurst in exchange for a World SeriesâŚ (more or less, Iâm blowing it out of proportion. But I canât help but be reminded of when the Vikings traded for now MMA fighter Herschel Walker and gave the Cowboys a dynasty. I think Hershal Walker also tried out to be an Olympic bobsledder at some point, too. He dabbles.).
Our old friend Charlie Leibrandt from a few paragraphs ago played with a couple of two-sport athletes. He was a teammate of Bo Jackson on the Royals, who of course was an Oakland Raider and legendary Tecmo Super Bowl player.
Besides getting ready to vacation in warm climates, what else do these guys have in common with Greinke, Fielder, and Halladay? In the next few years, theyâll each probably receive ginormous contract offers from teams you will see in the playoffs this year: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and The Los Angeles, California Angels of Aneheim, USA. Or other big market teams, like the New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, and Chicago White Sox.
Small market teams find it difficult to hold on to their best young talent, even through the playersâ arbitration years, after all, Ryan Howard was awarded $10 million in arbitration after striking out 199 times. I wonder what Mark Reynolds of the Arizona Diamondbacks will get after striking out over 400 times over the last two seasons?
There are pitfalls to rooting for both small market and big market teams, however. Small market teams, like my Twins, have to wave good-bye to guys like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter because they cannot afford to keep them. The Tampa Bay Rays will find out the same thing when they try to hold on to Carl Crawford and others. The Florida Marlins know this reality well and will face it again when it comes time to pay Josh Johnson, Dan Uggla, and Ramirez.
Big market teams throw money at players like they are Pacman Jones making it rain. But that comes with great risk sometimes, too. San Francisco gave Barry Zito $126 million over seven years and they got a #3 starter at best. The Cubs are locked in to Alfonso Soriano for more than any club would like to be. Mike Hampton signed a monster deal once upon a time and then spent much of that time on the DL. The same can be said about Carl Pavano, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt and others.
Things you should know that have happened sort of under-the-radar and may be of help to you in future fantasy drafts or baseball nerd conversations:
Jair Jurrjens had a 2.61 ERA for the Braves this year, good for 6th best in baseball.
The New York Mets hit 95 homers as a team, last in the league and 149 behind the league leading New York Yankess. The Mets could combine home run totals with seven other teams and still have fewer than the Yankees did. Handfuls of players could combine their home run totals to have the greater than sign in their favor when compared with the Mets.
Fielder, Braun, and Mike Cameron > 2009 Mets.
Mauer, Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer > 2009 Mets.
The second baseman of the AL East* > 2009 Mets.
Pujols, Fielder, and Carlos Zambrano > 2009 Mets.