Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Future looks Bright in Troy

Clearwater, Florida: As all teams in the NASBL prepare for the 2010 season in their spring training facilities, it's easy for teams to have a positive outlook on the season. The bright Florida sun and warm weather always seem to bring out the the best in players, fans and management alike. The new look Haymakers are not exempt from this phenomenon...."We plan on contending for the playoffs," says 3B/DH Mark Reynolds, "We are going to surprise some people." Reynolds isin't the only player on the team with playoff hopes. "I know I'm new to the team, but we have a great bunch of guys here," says pitcher Max Scherzer, "this lineup is going to be much better than they were last year." He may just be right. The 2010 Haymaker lineup is looking to improve on a lineup that produced near the bottom in every category last year, cumulated by a second from the bottom team batting average. With improved play from Mark Reynolds, Jason Bartlett, Andre Ethier, Brandon Phillips, Billy Butler, and Hunter Pence all anchored by 3B/C and new star Pablo Sandoval; Troy should have no problem scoring runs.
Always a strength of a Haymaker team, this years bull-pen looks as strong as ever. Six arms deep with two quality lefties anchored by closer Huston Street; there should be no problem stopping runs from scoring late in the game.
The main weakness of this year's team though is what keeps them a possible contender instead of a bone-a-fide contender. There are a couple of decent young arms in Jered Weaver and Max Scherzer, but after that it looks rough. Mike Pelfrey and Jon Garland will have to work a good number of innings, and it will be tough for them to be able to pull a .500 record.
When GM/Manager Ken Anderson was asked about a possibility of a playoff spot; he said, "Anything's possible. Right now we're just trying to get ready for the season. If we do enough to prepare, we could definitely make a case for it."

Here's a look at the Haymakers depth chart for the upcoming season:
C: Geovanny Soto/Pablo Sandoval /Omir Santos
1B: Billy Butler /Fernando Tatis
2B: Brandon Phillips/Omar Infante /Juan Uribe
3B: Pablo Sandoval/Juan Uribe/Mark Reynolds
SS: Jason Bartlett /Juan Uribe
LF: Andre Ethier /Jose Batista/David Murhpy
CF: Chris Dickerson /Brett Gardner/Omar Infante/Jose Batista
RF: Hunter Pence /David Murphy
DH: Mark Reynolds

SP: Jered Weaver
SP: Max Scherzer
SP: Jon Garland
SP: Mike Pelfrey
SP: Justin Masterson
SP: Homer Bailey

Closer: Huston Street
Setup: Mike Gonzalez
Setup: Brandon Lyon
Relief: Jason Bulger
Relief: Jeff Fulchino
Relief: Pedro Feliciano

Season Preview - Outlaw Josey Wales

Burlington, VT

Everything is happier in Outlaw land. Well, that might not have always been true, but it surely applies to the feelings heading into the 2010 NASBL season with OJW coming off a NASBL Championship season. The TG South looks like a tighter 4-team race this year as the division’s dominant forces OJW and NJT may have taken a step back while the bottom half of the division teams have their constituents buzzing. Burlington Free Press’ TG South blogger Tuba Do Jinx Uris takes us below the Mason-Dixon line to give us the scoop on the defending NASBL champs.

Five-Year Win Trend

2009 101

2008 90

2007 68

2006 87

2005 74


‘09 Record: 101-61, 1st in TG South
Pythagorean Record: 101-61 (+0)
Current NASBLOTA Projection: 96-66 (1st in TG South)

2009 Review

Outlaw finished the 2009 season in first place, 4 games ahead of the Trash Heap. They were able to win 11 more games than they did in 2008 and improve from on their position of 6 games out of first place. In 2009, OJW scored 830 runs while allowing a league 2nd best 648. There were many bright spots for OJW in 2009, with one being Ryan Dempster’s 21-7, 3.11 campaign.

2010 Outlook

While the rich got richer in the form of two 1st round draft picks (Elvis Andrus & Nelson Cruz), the toughest challenge will be holding the opposition under 700 runs again. The pitching staff was hit hard by injuries, leading Mark Hildebrant to rely on an improved defense (four 1-range players in the IF!) to limit crooked numbers on the score board. Four big question remain for this team: (1) Is Manny Ramirez in a nonstop downward spiral or can he put together a healthy end to end season? (2) Will the Outlaw rotation, full of part-timers, be good enough to pitch well all season? (3) Is Elvis Andrus, taken #3 overall, the NEXT BIG THING? and (4) When will GM Hildebrant relax his “Joba Rules” and unleash Mr. Chamberlin’s considerable talents on the rest of the league?

2010 Team


Rod Barajas

Chris Coste

Gabe Kapler

Melvin Mora

Nick Punto

Alfonso Soriano

Ryan Theriot

Tim Byrdak

J Devine

Javier Lopez

Jason Frasor

H Kuo

G Smith

New Arrivals:

Jared Salty

David Ortiz

L Valbuena

Elvis Andrus

Adrian Beltre

Nelson Cruz

Grant Balfour

J Carlson

M Lowe

DJ Carrasco

Kevin Jepsen

Matt Capps


The catching position was not a big source of strength for Outlaw a year ago, and not much has changed heading into this season. With former prospect Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s shoulder still an area of concern and his offensive numbers never really coming together, Mike Napoli should see a good chunk of playing time in 2010 and punish LHP in the process.


The Texas infield is one of the teams biggest strengths and it’s what sets them ahead of most other clubs. With Adrian Gonzalez at first, Dustin Pedroia at second, Elvis Andrus at short and Adrian Beltre at 3rd, there aren’t many teams that can match up with an infield like that form both an offensive and defensive standpoint.

Gonzalez has firmly established himself as a star and is the club’s first baseman of the present & future while Pedroria comes in as a sleeper for the TG batting title. Andrus is a strong ROY candidate and should meet expectations in 2010 as he works to improve the skills he displayed with his glove. Mr. Consistency, Beltre, will continue to shine with his glove and provide more than adequate offense in support of the Outlaw line up.


Jason Bay is a big time home run threat, Rajai Davis can run after the ball and around the bases with the best of ‘em and Nelson Cruz will start in right and the trio will combine for a very good offensive and average defensive outfield for Outlaw. Should anyone need day off, Manny Ramirez is more than a capable backup as he fights his way back into the mix.

Designated Hitter

Manny and his former minor league teammate David Ortiz will hit RHP well from the DH spot and should post about a 120 OPS+ against lefties.


Franchise mascot Omar Vizquel is back again, this time to tutor young Elvis in the finer arts of glovemanship and provide about 150 ABs worth of experience. Ryan Ludwick and Manny make up very good #4 and #5 OFers.

Starting Rotation

Outlaw’s rotation is experienced but lacks a true top of the rotation innings-eater. Much of the rotation’s success will depend on the health of Rich Harden and Jake Peavy. Getting a combined 225 IP from these two talented hurlers will go a long way for Outlaw success, but you should expect them to miss at least a handful of starts in 2010. Ryan Dempster, the #1 on paper, won 21 games in 2009, but heading into this year appears to lack true “ace” stuff. Scott Baker will be a competent 25+ start option for Mark and Scott Kazmir and Joba Chamberlin’s combined production are above average for their back of the rotation status. The team hopes it can nurse Tim Hudson back to health so he may return to his past dominance.


The bullpen is one of the team’s biggest strengths. Broxton and Soria are great closer options and the rest of the pen is littered with very good set up men and other options for closers if the need arises in the form of Downs, Balfour and Matt Capps amongst others.


Breakthrough Performance…

Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Sharing more of the time behind the plate with Mike Napoli should allow Saltalamacchia’s offensive game to develop more and as his catching demands lessen, he should find his swing and become more of the offensive threat he was projected to be. With his shoulder feeling better after off season surgery, and being just 25 years old, Saltalamacchia still has a bright future ahead of him. As long as he can take some time to work on his plate discipline and reduce the number of Ks, the rest should improve on its own.

Ready to Rebound…

Manny Ramirez

Coming off an “injury” plagued 2009, MannyBManny can only improve in 2010. You could say that after 2008, he suffered from hitters Verducci effect where his body just wasn’t ready to play a full season without pharmaceutical aid. He’s gone through a lot and has a questionable work ethic. As long as he can listen to what his body is telling him in terms of injuries he should be able to stay on the field and produce.

Ready to Disappoint…

Rich Harden

Harden needs to fill a vital role in the rotation and for someone who just hasn’t pitched a lot of innings due to injury, there’s not much he’ll be able to do when the inevitable DL stint occurs. If (When?) Harden gets hurt, it will leave a huge hole talent-wise in the top of rotation, which will cause Outlaw to pull players out of different roles to fill a need. This may not end well for Outlaw or Harden if he isn’t able to pitch a full season.

Don’t Be Surprised If…

Outlaw regresses a bit and New Jersey wins the TG South. As mentioned many times herein, the key will be the ability of the pitching to repeat 2009’s success. If not, the fallback is a sterling defensive infield and hopefully increased production from Manny and a big season with the bat from rookie Nelson Cruz.

Be Shocked If…

Elvis Andrus dose not compete for TG ROY. He’s just too talented and will get a lot of run scoring opportunities hitting ahead of Adrian Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz.

Rock Steady…

Adrian Gonzalez

One thing that stands out more than anything in this lineup is Adrian Gonzalez’s consistency. He’s a hitter with excellent bat control, and someone who can drive the ball on a consistent basis. None of that even mentions his gold glove caliber defense.

Achilles Heel…

Age & Injuries

Father time is catching up with more than a few of OJW’s All-Star caliber players. Between Manny & Big Papi, the offense ain’t what it used to be. And the bullpen car best be driven by a paramedic.

In the Next Three Years…

Look for Outlaw to be consistent winners in the TG South as their young position players gain experience and become leaders within the club house and the rotation returns to health. Hildebrandt has a good group of young players who are still learning and with each year of experience these young players gain, the better the team will be as a whole.

Goosebumps Moment…

The raising of the banner in Outlaw Stadium. This is what season ticket holders have been long waiting for, and OJW rewarded their loyalty by bringing home the hardware.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Q&A With Lake Champlain GM Steve Beard

Burlington, VT

Here's the actual transcript between a new Burlington Free Press blogger and GM Beard.

Hello Steve. My name is Dinosaur Jib Tux, I am the NASBL Blogger for the Burlington Free Press. My (a-hole) editor asked I get an official comment from you regarding the upcoming season and the recent trades made by the perennial Taste Great East Cellar Dweller Illinois Chow Chows. So:
Q: Mr. Beard, in light of the aggressive moves made by Brad "The New Elder" Sherlag, do you feel your three-year stranglehold on 3rd place in the TG East is in jeopardy? Have the fans expressed anxiety?

As I said prior to this year's draft, I'm supremely confident LCC can return to its rightful 90+ win / 3rd place spot in the TGE. At the risk of angering a sleeping giant, I'm pretty sure 4th place in our division will once again be nailed down by a Sherlag with a good record. Have the fans expressed anxiety? Not in the least. Sales of giant LCC foam souvenir "thringers" (a slip-on sponge hand with three fingers proudly extended) have never been higher.

Q: In case the rumors from, a rabid LCC fan site, are true and your head has actually been in the sand, here are the deals for your review:
  • GRK sends Carlos Zambrano and GRK #4 to ILL for James Shields and ILL #1

  • LVI sends Angel Pagan to ILL for Chad Gaudin and ILL #2

Your comment?

I was surprised to see former Cannibal James Shields go. Just a few months ago, Brad had told me he was a believer in Shields. I actually was wondering who got the better end of the deal on this one just in terms of 2010 pitcher performance, but that was only until GRK GM Johnny Miller cued me in that Shields was getting consistently shelled in spring training action. We've seen Big Z before, in a Hawaiian cerulean wave shirt. But he may be a bit tougher on this year's Cannibal squad, as we've gone more RHB-heavy than normal.
Angel Pagan doesn't raise too many concerns in a strictly head-to-head sense. He's very tough against right-handed pitchers, but here at Lake Champlain we teach all our pitchers to throw with the left hand (except for the intransigent Edwin Jackson, who makes up for his right-handedness by having a left-hander's stuff: in an effort to fit in he gives up more bombs to RHB).

Q: LCC GM Steve Beard used to have the handle Trader Beard. But in recent years LCC has taken a more passive approach to the trade market. Should the CanniFans, as they call themselves, expect a swift and decisive response to ILL's statement moves?

I intend to act with a swift and decisive level of passiveness. Inaction, after all, is a form of action. I took the long view on this year's team, and had a plan for it almost from the day the 2009 season ended (for us that day was August 1st). Despite one somewhat more than casual flirtation with "that really hot girl who you know just wouldn't be good for you, but still" (Albert Pujols), I've been sticking with that plan pretty much straight through.

Q: It used to be hard enough to keep up with HHA and SPR. Now ILL is nipping at your heels. Will the realization that the TG East is getting even stronger rekindle the long-rumored realignment talks at the NASBL Head Offices in St. Albans, VT? Is it true that you commissioned a Blue Ribbon Panel of experts to examine how to broaden NASBL's appeal and one of their suggestions was a radical floating realignment plan?

Only one team in the TGE has ever proposed realignment, and it wasn't LCC. The proposal was several years ago, and the NASBL's annual Blue Ribbon Panel rightfully responded to the suggestion with much the same revulsion as Joe Buck responding to Randy Moss's moondance at Lambeau field several years ago. (Editor's Note: Ironic that GM Beard would drop a mooning reference, many in the camp think that's exactly what he's been doing to his fanbase for the last 4 years)

Q: Additionally, a recent addition to ILL's rotation was 1st round pick Brett Anderson. Anderson was acquired with LCC's former #1 round pick and is seen by scouts as someone with a great future who also possesses a quality card for the upcoming season. We know how LCC historically adores 'backward cards', and Anderson certainly is a backward lefty. How do you feel now that in hindsight it's obvious LCC let a prototypical LCC-style player get through the cracks?

C'mon, this is a Barbara Walters style softball of a question. The pick with which we could've gotten Brett Anderson was the same pick that yielded us Troy Tulowitzki. As much as I would've like to have added a 7th left-handed starter to our rotation (seriously - we already have 6), it was definitely past time to replace Edgar Renteria at short. While Tulo didn't add much last year other than defense and occasional power (6hr in 204 ab with LCC), that's 2 more things than Edgar was bringing to the table. Okay, maybe that's not fair. Edgar was bringing several things to the table, not least of which were a fork, a knife, and a beer gut. But none of that was really translating as well on the field as we had hoped.

Q: Another LCC-mantra is to not value corner OFers and 1b-men too much. Players at these positions are easy to obtain and should not have too much invested in them in terms of salary, draft position, etc. Yet, with LCC's first 2 picks in the 2010 NASBL Rookie/Free Agent Draft, GM Beard pulled the trigger on Garrett Jones and Nick Johnson. Both of whom are defensive liability, 1b/OF/DH types. The exact type of player that has littered the Cannibals roster in the past. Fans were promised a shift away from this beer league softball roster management, but here we go again. Can you please explain why a) you seemingly reverted to the old beer league school and b) you used valuable draft picks on otherwise easy to obtain skill sets.

This in part goes back to the Tulowitzki deal - we actually spent our 1st round pick on defense at a critical up the middle position. Combined with the other big LCC in-season trade in 2009 where offensive and defensive OBA machine Chipper Jones went south (about 30 minutes south) for defensive whiz Ryan Zimmerman, and the defensive skills of incumbent flycatchers Curtis Granderson, JD Drew, and Chris Young, this could be one of the better defensive LCC teams ever. With regard to why GI Jones and Nick Johnson are now on board, they as well as fellow defensive liability Luis Castillo represented what we like to think of as singularities in the Strat world: The best at one phase of the game at one position. In the case of Jones, we looked at him as the best power-hitting corner guy in the deck. We looked at Johnson as the best OBA guy in the deck. And while Castillo isn't the best OBA guy in the deck, he's the best at one of those "add a bunch of categories together" comparisons that Bill James abhors so much: Best OBA guy vsR at 2b. Johnson and Castillo were 2 of the guys that were in The Plan for quite some time. Johnson since last fall, and Castillo after we were unable to pull of a Felipe Lopez trade with NJT prior to the roster cutbacks.
So while it's true LCC doesn't like to spend big on easy to obtain skill sets, on draft day the thought in the War Room was that "highest OBA card in the deck" wasn't so much an easy to obtain skillset as a unique skillset we only had one chance at grabbing. It could certainly be argued that we overpaid for that skillset, but I looked at it like it was a planned expense that was in the budget.
As far as old-school beer league softball is concerned, I guess ultimately I'm guilty as charged. I'm genuinely interested in seeing how close the LCC offensive plan of "two OBA guys followed by seven 20+ HR guys" can come to the annual Cannibal goal of 1,000 runs scored.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chows add to Outfield Depth

Illinois Times -- The Chows will now be sitting out both the 1st and 2nd round in next year's draft. Following up the big trade to bring in Zambrano, Illinois addressed their shortage of quality OF by trading Gaudin and a 2nd for Angel Pagan.

GM Brad Sherlag described the move as follows "Morandini now has a lot of choices in mixing and matching. The Chows could go with an OF of Pagan, Bourn and Beltran most of the time or could decide to play Beltran in CF vs. Lefties and go with Pagan, Bourn and Fukudome as their primary OF rotation. He might even do something crazy like play Beltran in all divisional games regardless of what side the pitcher throws from. Without stashing Shields away for next year, Gaudin was really an extra part for us. Instead of having a pitcher we would hardly ever use, we now have an outfielder who can play all three positions and give us some quality ABs."

When asked if this trade was in response to an article that appeared in a Burlington, VT newspaper that gave Springfield an 8 Sherlag lead in the OF, Sherlag said "Of course not - what the heck is a Sherlag? I am not familiar with the article you are talking about, but if it said our OF was a little short, we know that was the case. That is why we pursued Pagan. We had him fairly high on our draft board and were not able to get him in the draft."

When asked if the Chows were done, Sherlag said "I don't know - if the right deal came along we would listen. We would still like to get a CF vs. LHP or a top LF vs. RHP (which would allow Beltran to play CF vs. L), but frankly I am not sure what we have to give up. Our entire roster now has a role. For the right player we could "

The Chows OF now consists of:

Bourn, Beltran, Willingham, Raburn, Fukudome, Pagan & Gomes (though Gomes will likely DH vs. LHP)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Did Z Best Wieters? Look at the Photo

Illinois Times -- More details of the Zambrano, Wieters fight are coming to light. In this grainy cell-phone photograph provided by an unnamed Georgia player, you can see the extent of Matt's injuries. Apparently, the Roadkill trainer had to rub an extremely strong salve all over Wieters face to try to heal the damage inflicted by a raging Z.
The fight appears to have originated when Wieters refused to try to catch Zambrano's out pitch (a slider) with a speedy runner on first. According to the Georgia player who provided this photograph, when Zambrano went to talk to Weiters about pitch selection, Wieters said, "I have a lot of money to be made in this sport and I do not want to be regarded as a Piazza. I will throw guys out, and if high heat is what it takes to make my arm appear a little better, high heat is what the 'Kill staff will throw."
Zambrano and Wieters have yet to comment on the incident. But from the photo above, it appears that Matt had more injuries than the slight swelling above Zambrano's eye.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Carlos Zambrano's career with the Georgia Roadkill was cut short after a reported fight broke out in the dugout at the club's Spring Training complex at Lake Buena Vista, FL.

Details are sketchy at this point as the initial report had "Big Z" involved with A.J. Pierzynski but now it seems that "NBT" (Next Big Thing) top prospect Matt Wieters had to be seperated by several teammates including AJP & Jeff Francoeur. Zambrano was sporting a large welt over his left eye & shouted "I'll be throwing heat for The 'Kill long after that punk is finished".

GM Miller was overheard saying "MY NAME IS JOHNNY & IT MIGHT BE A SIN BUT I'LL TAKE YOUR BET, YOU'RE GONNA REGRET, 'COS I'M THE BEST THAT'S EVER BEEN". He then immediately contacted Chow Chows GM Brad Sherlag & sent "Big Z" packing (with GRK's 2011 #4 pick) for James Shields & ILL's 2011 #1 draft pick.

Big Z gives Chows a Big 3

Illinois Times - Today Chows GM Brad Sherlag cashed in his biggest two chips and declared the Chows as "all in". Illinois agreed to send its 2011 #1 pick and James Shields for Carlos Zambrano and Georgia's #4 pick.

"We were a starting pitcher short this season and in our division and league, that was probably going to keep us on the outside looking in for the play-offs. Backing up Carpenter and Halladay with Zambrano gives us the depth we need this year. It was really tough to part with James Shields, we were willing to carry 15 pitchers this season to minimize his use in a down year since we believe in him for the long term. Shields was a critical piece in this trade and we could not find a way to work a deal for Z if he was not part of it. We are sure that James will have years of success for Georgia."

The Chows rotation now looks solid for this season and pencils in as follows:

1) Carpenter

2) Halladay

3) Zambrano

4) Anderson

5) Wells/Maine

Swingman - Volquez

Duensing will now be part of the Chows bullpen instead of the rotation.

Now that the Chows are going for it this year, Illinois will be looking to add either an outfielder, a catcher or a shutdown middle reliever during the post Block 1 trading frenzy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Tale of Two Sherlags

Sherlag v Sherlag - Part I Offense
Burlington, VT

Easter is around the corner, and it's time to rev up America's favorite tradition - unwanted forced time with family members. Nothing says "Get this damn thing over with" more than another holiday get-together involving Aunt Midge having one too many and pinching your rosy cheeks.

A little known fact is that in the Sherlag household the annual argument is not over who gets the last piece of ham. Rather, it is about whether or not this is FINALLY the year little Brad can compete with Doug's Springfield 9.

Well, all you Sherlags and Sherlagettes out there, this is your opportunity to grab the Cliff Notes and dominate the conversation. Follow along as the Burlington Free Press, who has been disturbingly quiet on the Albert Pujols front, dives into the debate and looks at each team's primary players position-by-position. Along the way, a new metric is introduced, the Sherlag. Based on a scale of 1-5, a Sherlag indicates how much of an edge one team holds over the other in the given category. 5 Sherlags shows a wide gap (think Pujols vs. Overbay) and 0 Sherlags is a virtual dead heat (think Beard's bladder vs. that icy cold rack of Canadian ale).


ILL - Kurt Suzuki & Pudge
SPR - Zaun, Ryan Hanigan & Teagarden

Ahh, the old quantity vs. quality debate on two fronts. On one hand ILL gets almost 1000 ABs out of their duo, while SPR has under 700 ABs to spread across their 3 catchers. The good news for ILL is they won't have to worry about usage, the bad news is that Pudge can't hit a lick. SPR gets the edge here, a Zaun and Hanigan platoon will produce better results than the competition. EDGE - SPR 2 Sherlags.

First Base/DH

ILL - Helton & Pena
SPR - Berkman & Dunn

The prototypical case of a dead heat. Each team has quality bats at these power positions, almost equal in production. The only tiebreaker? Defense. The Chows will get to and hold onto balls just a little better than the 'Topes twosome. EDGE - ILL 0.5 Sherlags.

Second Base

ILL - Prado & Counsell
SPR - Roberts

Middle infield, home to countless scrappy SOBs. And we all know how valuable scrappy, dirty-uniform guy is, don't we? Each team is represented by a significant amount of grittiness at 2b. All three glove the ball decent enough, but a Ecksteinianly-small edge is awarded to ILL for depth of quality players at this position. EDGE - ILL 1 Sherlag.

Third Base

ILL - Chone & Beckham
SPR - A Ramirez & Stewart

ILL takes both the quantity and quality awards in this category. If only Aramis gathered more at bats, SPR could've contended. Chone is a top-flite 3b and Beckham more than capable of producing in his rookie season. That is not to totally dismiss the valued production SPR will get out of their 3rd-sackers, merely to demonstrate the relative strength the Chows have. EDGE - ILL 3 SHERLAGS


ILL - Hanley
SPR - Furcal & Ryan

No need to waste ink, Hanley is a top 10 NASBL talent. The others are serviceable, but by no definition elite. EDGE - ILL 4 SHERLAGS

Outfield (Grouped together given NASBLs rules)

ILL - Beltran, Bourn, Willingham, Radburn & Fukudome
SPR - Cuddyer, C Gonzalez, Choo, Nyjer, Ellsbury & J Hamilton

Finally, SPR steps up to the plate and hits a long ball. ILL's best OFers, Beltran and Radburn, are limited to a half season's worth of ABs, and the rest of the Chowtfielders are better suited for platoon duty and/or possess only a few of the requisite 5 tools (Bourn, Michael). Sherlag the Elder's SPR OF contingent is formidable. They can, and do, do everything. Catch a screaming line drive, check. Throw out a baserunner, check. Hit for power, check. Stretch the BB into a double, check. SPR's OFers stack up very favorably against the entire league, and certainly stand head and sherlags above ILL's. EDGE - SPR 8 SHERLAGS (larger scale w/3 positions in play).

SUMMARY - ILL has definitely closed the talent gap and is ready to challenge SPR for Sherlag supremacy. My sketchy math skills reveal a one-half Sherlag advantage for SPR in the hitting and fielding categories. Stay tuned for Part II - Pitching, to see if Doug can hold onto his scant lead. Coming soon ...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chows Were Interested in Cain

Illinois Times -- A source in the Chows front office confirmed that Illinois was one of the teams that contacted New York about Cain. The Chows are in the market for a front-line starting pitcher and were prepared to give up a substantial offer if Cain was available. The rumor had Illinois dangling Shields plus their first round pick in next year's draft. Illinois has always treated their first-round draft picks as sacred in the past. Of course in the rumor mill, one can never be sure if this information was accurate or not.

Knights: Cain Won't be Dealt in '10

(New York Daily Mirror - March 10, 2010)

NEW YORK - Never underestimate the power of the press.

A source within the Knights' front office has advised that since the publication of the Mirror's review of the Knights 2010 draft, the front office has received a number of calls from other teams interested in dealing for underachieving righty Matt Cain. Rather than respond to each inquiry individually, GM Mitch Pak issued the following statement this morning.

"Ever since a local tabloid published an article about our draft selections, we've received a number of calls about the availability of one of our starters. I'm here to tell everyone that regardless of the opinion of a tabloid journalist (and I use the word loosely), none of our starting pitchers are now nor will be available for trade at any time during the upcoming season. We think that the Knights have an excellent starting rotation, perhaps the best ever in our history, and it would be foolish for us to trade a starter now."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


( New York Daily Mirror – March 9, 2010)

The Mirror presents its review and analysis of the array of hits, misses and head-scratchers that was the Knights’ 2010 draft.

NEW YORK – Mitch Pak established once again that when it comes to the draft, he is nothing if not unpredictable.

Where conventional wisdom had the Knights addressing their most glaring need in the opening round of the draft – catching – Pak opted instead to strengthen the starting rotation by drafting young fireballing righthander Josh Johnson. While Johnson is unquestionably a solid choice, the starting rotation was one aspect of the club that was not in need of an obvious upgrade, anchored as it was last season by LF Rookie of the Year runner-up Jon Lester (12-10, 3.86 in 2009) and bolstered by veteran lefty Joe Saunders (4.33 ERA, 120 K’s). An anonymous source in the Knights front office (the same source that was leaking inside information from the Knights draft “war room” via Twitter before being mysteriously silenced) suggested that Pak is “very concerned” about Matt Cain’s ability to regain the form he displayed in his 2007 rookie season, when he was 15-10. There is also legitimate worry that Cain, who was the Knights’ #1 pick in 2007, simply does not have the makeup to even be a reliable #2 starter behind Lester, as he yields too many hits. Cain is 34-45 with a 5.82 ERA and 1.61 WHP in his three seasons in New York and his star (not to mention his trade value) has fallen sharply since ’07.

Pak also was allegedly concerned about fan reaction in the event that Adam Wainwright, whom the Knights dealt last year to Georgia in exchange for Vladimir Guerrero, develops as expected into a front-end starter for the rejuvenated Roadkill. Despite the passage of five years, Knights fans are still smarting over the infamous 2005 deal that sent closer Joe Nathan to Georgia for Barry “The Biggest Loser” Zito. Nathan went on to become a perennial All-Star while Zito became a punchline for cheesy late-night comedians.

Despite posting a 29-win improvement over the Disaster of ’08, the Knights were still considered to be an offensively-challenged team in ’09. The team RBI leader, Xavier Nady, had just 75 RBI despite 31 homers and 34 doubles and CF Grady Sizemore had just 73 RBI despite 28 homers and 38 doubles. While having even a faded Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup will probably ease the Knights’ run-scoring woes in ’10 to a degree, the club decided to focus on improving the offensive attack overall. That was the probable reasoning behind the selection of three-year veteran LF Juan Rivera in the early rounds of the draft. Rivera played for LF Central rival Pocono from 2005 through 2007 and posted a career .316 average and .878 OPS. His last season with the Chin Music, 2007, was also his finest, when he batted .338 with 17 homers, 53 RBI and a .921 OPS in 115 games. The knock on Rivera is that he is injury-prone and has never proven his worth over 162 games. That should not be too much of a worry with the Knights, since Rivera will be playing under Mitch Pak’s extensive platoon system. Rivera will probably share playing time in left with returning Knight Jason Kubel (19, 65, .243 in ’09) and, to a lesser degree, Luke Scott (13, 48, .229) and will likely not have more than 400 at bats in ’10.

The Knights were also thinking about offense when they drafted 26 year old second baseman Alberto Callaspo. While not technically a rookie (he had a cup of coffee with the Grizzlies last year, during which he hit .295), Callaspo was taken as insurance in the event that returning veteran Clint Barmes isn’t up to being the full-time second baseman (a real problem area for the Knights since the departure of Mark Loretta some years back). In 106 games at second and short for the Knights last year, Barmes hit a solid .290 with 11 homers and .795 OPS, but he shared the second base job with incumbent Ty Wigginton. The Knights had concerns over Barmes’ inability to effectively hit right-handed pitching and his glove work was suspect as well. Callaspo and Barmes are the only second-basemen on the Knights roster right now, so look for them to compete for the starting job as the spring progresses.

A somewhat intriguing choice by the club was the selection of 41 year old Gary Sheffield in the 12th round. At this stage of his career, Sheffield is mostly a designated hitter, although scouts maintain that he can be useful as a bottom-of-the-depth-chart corner outfielder. While he was out of the league in ’09, Sheffield has had a marvelous 12-year NASBL career, the last six with the Knights’ cross-Hudson rivals, the New Jersey Trash Heap. Sheffield ’s career average of .290 and a career OPS of .909 to go with 280 homers, 922 runs scored and 1,426 hits will likely merit serious Hall of Fame votes down the road. Figure to see Sheffield as a dangerous pinch-hitter and spot starter at both DH and in the outfield. Privately, the Knights are hoping that Sheffield will not be another in a string of faded veterans who come to New York to finish their NASBL careers and give the club almost nothing in the process. (See David Cone in ’03 and Mike Piazza and Jeff Kent in more recent years.)

The Knights suffered a PR disaster last year when Mitch Pak inexplicably failed to draft a second catcher behind Jason Kendall, requiring Kendall to catch all 162 games. The resulting overusage penalty ( Kendall , at age 35, had well over 600 official plate appearances, his highest number since ’02) sent the Knights into poor draft position in the middle rounds. While Mitch Pak was not enamored of any of the available catching talent in the ’10 draft (in a burst of prescience, he reportedly compared Georgia ’s overall #1 pick Matt Wieters to the Knights 2008 mega-bust Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a comparison subsequently validated by Baseball Prospectus), he clearly needed to ensure that the club had enough catching talent for the upcoming season. Choosing quantity over quality, Pak selected Ronny Paulino, Rod Barajas and, in the 13th round, Jason Varitek to don the tools of ignorance for the Knights this year.

Varitek, 38, is the grizzled veteran of the group and will be entering his 11th year in the league. He is regarded primarily as a defensive asset now and will probably be used by the Knights as a late-inning defensive replacement. Knights fans will recall Varitek from his career here that spanned from 2003 through 2006. His best year as a Knight came in 2004, when he hit 29 homers and knocked in 88 runs. Barajas, 34, has only played 276 games over three seasons in the NASBL and owns a career average of .262. His best season came with the Texas Thunderbirds in 2006, when he hit .293 with 18 homers, 58 RBI and an .841 OPS. He is considered to be a fair at best defensive catcher. Paulino, at 28 the baby of the group, last played in the NASBL in 2008, when he split 63 games and 161 at bats between Lehigh Valley and Troy . In 195 career NASBL games, Paulino has a .260 average and .663 OPS. He will most likely start the season second on the catching depth chart. Clearly, the Knights are hoping that this trio will perform respectably as a single unit, since their individual performances will probably be underwhelming, to be charitable.

In the later rounds, the Knights also drafted veteran Julio Lugo, chiefly to back up #1 shortstop Cristian Guzman. Despite an ability to play both infield and outfield positions and some pop in his bat, Lugo has had a very spotty NASBL career. While his resume indicates that he started in the league back in 2001, when he had a solid rookie season with the Canyon Country Cannons (.274, 8 HR, 45 RBI, .726 OPS), he bounced around after that and missed the 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2009 seasons. He last full season in the league came in 2006 with Lake Champlain , when he hit .278 with 3 homers, 59 RBI and 95 runs scored. He last swung a bat in the NASBL in 2007 with Troy , hitting .284.

With their final pick in the draft, the Knights brought back utilityman Ty Wigginton, to back up Michael Young at third. Wigginton has spent the last three of his four NASBL seasons with the Knights, with varying degrees of success. His best season came in 2008, when he led the team with 30 homers and 86 RBI, but his success was lost in the giant mound of cow flop of that 118-loss debacle. The Knights like Wigginton’s hard-nosed makeup but were disappointed at his lackluster ’09 numbers (16 homers, 45 RBI, .253) once he started to share time with Clint Barmes, and eventually cut him. With Young manning the hot corner in ’10 and with second being covered by Barmes and newcomer Alberto Callaspo, Wigginton will probably not see much playing time.

On the pitching side, after drafting Josh Johnson with their first pick, the Knights refocused on rebuilding the middle relief staff, one of the team’s strengths in 2009. The Knights cut five relievers after the ’09 season, retaining only closer Chad Qualls (4-2, 2.86, 9 saves) and middlemen Jeremy Affeldt (1-4, 2.86, 1.23 WHP) and 40 year old lefty longman Darren Oliver (3-2, 3.47, 1.25 WHP). While the Knights are banking on the strength of their rotation, particularly the top three starters, to provide substantial innings in order to take the pressure off the pen, Mitch Pak is not losing his focus on the need for solid middle relief in the event that a starter gets blown out (which is not uncommon in the NASBL).

Thus, coming to the Knights are three new bullpen arms – and one returning friend. Making his NASBL debut this season is 25 year old righty Tyler Clippard. For MLB’s Washington Nationals in 2009, Clippard put up excellent numbers in relief – a 4-2 record with a 2.69 ERA in 41 appearances spanning 60 IP. What really captured the Knights’ attention regarding the rookie was his 1.13 WHP and a miniscule .172 average against. Scouts around the league have indicated that Clippard has a nasty fastball (67 strikeouts in 60 innings) but that he has bouts of wildness (32 walks). Recently retired Knights legend Mike Mussina, now a special roving instructor with the club, will no doubt be working with Clippard as the season draws closer.

Another NASBL rookie joining the Knights pen is righthander Phil Coke. The organization is hoping that the 27 year old hurler will have the same measure of success he did last year with MLB’s New York Yankees, for whom he posted a 4-3 record and 1.07 WHP. The big knock on Coke is that he allows too many home runs and too many extra base hits, as evidenced by his high 4.50 ERA, which was the result of too many earned runs (30) being plated despite not a lot of hits allowed (44).

36 year old Tim Byrdak made his NASBL debut last season with Outlaw and had a good season despite being used sparingly. In 26 appearances with the Wales , spanning 25.1 innings, Byrdak, who has developed a forkball in recent years, was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.24 WHP. Like Tyler Clippard, Byrdak does not give up a lot of hits but does have a tendency to wildness and the longball.

Finally, the Knights welcome Octavio Dotel back to the organization as part of the middle relief corps. Dotel, 35, was drafted by the Knights in 2009 after having missed the previous three seasons due to various injuries. Dotel rewarded the club with a solid year, striking out 59 in 53 innings while walking just 26 and posting a WHP of 1.37.

In conclusion, this page sees the Knights as fielding an improved team on both sides of the ball. However, the lack of a big-time, 40-homer slugger in the A-Rod or Pujols class will continue to keep this team out of serious playoff contention. If everyone performs up to expectations, we believe the Knights can finish over .500, possibly with 83 wins, in 2010.

Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 1st Round through the eyes of Baseball Prospectus

Burlington, VT

The opening round of the 2010 NASBL Rookie & Free Agent Draft was both compelling (8 of the 16 picks were made by teams other than their original owner) and deep with talent. Rather than go through the silly exercise of HAVING AN IMMEDIATELY IMPORTANT OPINION (something the WLL can't resist), we'll simply turn to the experts and see what they have to say about the 16 shiny new toys. The experts are the folks over at Baseball Prospectus and all material is from their Essential Guide to the 2010 Baseball Season.

1. GRK Matt Wieters - Wieters didn't walk as nearly as much expected, symptomatic of someone who's pressing, and the decreased selectivity could also explain the power drop. We still expect big things from him, even if he doesn't sign autographs for five thousand people using only two fishes and five loaves of bread. Comparables - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Sherman Obando, Charles Johnson, Steve Decker

2. VFS* Tommy Hanson - Hanson will be in the rotation in 2010, and with an improved changeup and better command within the strike zone, he could move into elite status over the next few years. Comparables - Jason Bere, Wade Davis, Kevin Gross, Jimmy Haynes

3. OJW* Elvis Andrus - Andrus wasn't drop-dead good, mind you, not with an OPS just over 700. Nor does it mean he won't be good in the future; he's just not there yet. The good news is he's still six to eight years away from his prime. Comparables - Edgar Renteria, Oman Infante, Alcides Escobar, Luis Rivas

4. TRY Pablo Sandoval - El Osezno is not the sort of player where pat assertions about regression to leaguewide marks for line-drive rates or BABIP mean much. His exceptional plate coverage makes him ore dangerous because he won't just try to hit your pitch; he can hit your pitch. He's in line to launch lava-hot liners after an aggressive off-season conditioning program. Comparables - David Wright, Carlos Baerga, Michael Barrett, Scott Rolen

5. NYK Josh Johnson - Johnson finally threw off the still-smoldering wreckage of Joe Giardi's Marlins stint. Reasons for [future] acquiring team to exercise caution: by virtue of his two injury-afflicted years, Johnson experienced a big jump in his workload, and fatigue may be an issue, especially as his ERA increased every month of the season, rising from 2.60 in April to 4.11 in September. Comparables - Ed Halicki, Pete Vuckovich, Gaylord Perry, David Goltz

6. ILL Chris Carpenter - His story isn't finished yet. (A)fter last season's exploits, another bit of greatness or another disappearance onto the DL seem to be the poles he operates from, with little chance of anything in between. Comparables - Clay Carroll, Jason Grimsly, Julian Tavarez, Tanyon Sturtze

7. ILL* Gordon Beckham - His skill sets work even better at 2b, and his bat will be even more valuable up the middle. Players who move this quickly (through the system) tend to be stars, and there's an excellent chance that when you visit The Cell three years from now, you'll be greeted by a sea of No. 15 jerseys. Comparables - Ron Hunt, Ken Keltner, Dale Berra, Bob Bailey

8. ILL* Brett Anderson - What's surprising is how much of a forward leap he took, and he now looks like a potential All-Star. His [stuff] was always advanced for his years, but it was with his fastball that he took the biggest step forward in 2009. Anderson has been upgraded from good to great. Comparables - Renyel Pinto, Scott Olsen, Jaime Garcia, Glendon Rusch

9. GCG David Price - The most troubling aspect of his season was his struggles with his vaunted slider, which had been considered a plus-pitch. It generated swings and misses just 4.8% of the time, 4th lowest rate in the league. He'll have to restore his feel for that pitch in order to fulfill the lofty expectations set for him. Comparables - Sean Marshall, Britt Burns, Steve Cooke, Chris Nabholz

10. HHA Andrew McCutchen - He has all the tools necessary for stardom, including great speed, rapidly emerging power, and the type of range and arm to become an outstanding defensive CFer. The Pirates have had their share of phenoms fizzle out, but McCutchen is the real deal. Comparables - Ellis Burks, Rontrez Johnson, Winston Ficklin, Kevin Belcher

11. LVI* Rick Porcello - He is another in a line of recent, high-draft picks whose minor-league numbers are completely useless for analysis. He fully deserved his spot in the rotation last year - other than a couple small hiccups he was solid and consistent. The worry shifts toward keeping his pitch counts and innings in check, as he's only 21. Comparables - Jon Garland, Buddy Carlyle, Bronson Arroyo, Kyle Hartshorn

12. LVI* Phil Hughes - He was successful in the pen last year. In the short term, that role was exactly what he needed, but in the long term, limiting him to one-inning appearances would be wasteful. Comparables - Stan Williams, Fausto Carmona, Don Cardwell, Lindy McDaniel

13. VFS J.A. Happ - He benefited from a lofty 85% rate of stranding runners, well above the league average of 72%, and he may not strike out enough hitters to make his high walk rate stand up. Happ won't be excellent every time out, but he should be a rotation stalwart for years to come. Comparables - Dave Williams, Vaughn Eshelman, John Halama, Rich Hill

14. HHA* Kendry Morales - By all accounts, he had a surprising 2009 season. Credit Morales for adjusting to big-league pitching and making solid contact far more often than he had in the past. Even if PECOTA suggests a major regression, this is one case where you're better off letting go of those numbers. Comparables - Ryan Garko, Shea Hillenbrand, Bob Hamelin, Paul Sorrento

15. SPR* Nyjer Morgan - Although he'd been previously criticized for sloppy outfield play and bad routes, Morgan's dramatic defensive improvement and high OBP made him a 5-win player last year. As wonderful as all that is, and as much fun as it is to root for someone with his back story, the enhancement is not likely to last. His low walk rate and nonexistent power make his offensive value too reliant no a slap-and-dash approach to maintain a high batting average. He's already 29, but his speed and defense should age well and he has shown he can be a starting CFer. But is Nationals fans expect an All-Star, he's not the droid they're looking for. Comparables - Milt Thompson, Kerry Robinson, Alex Cole, Endy Chavez

16. OWJ Nelson Cruz - His power is not a ballpark fiction, but he's a fly-ball hitter in a fly-ball-hitting environment finally logging a full season. Between his Ks and fly balls, racking up RBIs will depend on his hitting more homers. Nelson is a fine regular in his prime, he just shouldn't be asked to be the best hitter in a contending lineup.

* - Indicates traded pick

Big Giant Massive Honkin' Blockbuster Earth-Shattering Trades

The little trade of Albert Pujols and Robinson Cano for Carl Crawford, Chase Utley, LVI #1, ILL#2, and GRK #4 made me think of former NASBL blockbuster trades. It's not too often that any owner has the nads to either trade one of the undisputed best players in the game or to give up the whole farm for one player.

In my 19 years in NASBL I can recall only two trades of this magnitude.

In the early 1990s, Ken Griffey was the undisputed future of baseball. Juan Gonzalez and David Cone were a little older but were two of the best players in baseball and best cards in the Strat-O-Matic set. Young Willoughby Fighting Monkees manager Mike "Digger" Hutter had Griffey but was looking for more immediate rewards. NASBL founder and Dallas Fort Worth Spurs manager Red Robbins had Cone and Gonzalez. A marriage was made and Juan Gone and Cone were traded for Griffey. All three players dominated baseball for several years. Griffey lost more time to injuries, but Cone and Gonzalez were out of baseball well before Griffey so I would call this trade a draw.

In January of 1997 "trader" Mike Johnson owned the first pick of the NASBL draft. Oklahoma City manager Dave Covert had the 2nd or 3rd pick and coveted a young shortstop by the name of Alex Rodriguez, who Dave knew would go first. I don't remember the exact details but Covert gave up the farm to move up to the first pick in that draft. In fact I remember trader Mike telling me that he had told another owner to "get your own farm team" when that owner complained about how much Mike had gotten for that pick. History has been kind to Dave and ARod has been the kind of franchise player worth trading the farm for.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Next Year is Here! errr umm The Future is Bright!

Illinois Times - Chows GM Brad Sherlag controlled 1/3 of the top 9 picks in this year's draft. The Chows were expected to go one of two ways. Sherlag could make an imprint on the Chows for years to come in a draft loaded with young talent. Or, Sherlag could draft some players who excelled during the 2009 MLB season and figured to lead a team into the promised land in the 2010 NASBL campaign. Instead, Sherlag couldn't decide if he was going for this season or the future.

With the #6 pick, Sherlag chose Chris Carpenter who will instantly be one of the elite starters in all of NASBl. "Having a 1-2 of Carpenter and Halladay gives our staff credibility it has never had before. We have two legitimate aces now and believe we are contenders." No one can dispute Carpenter's talent, but his health and age (34) make this a pick for this season. So after leaving the podium with Pick 6 in the bag, and having previously traded their 2nd round pick for Todd Helton, the direction was clear - the Chows were all in for the 2010 season.

Not so fast, with pick #7, the Chows selected 3B Gordon Beckham. The only problem is, Illinois already has the hot corner manned by Chone Figgins. Chone is poised for a break out year in 2010, so why did the Chows select a 3B with the 7th pick? "We feel Beckham was the best available player on the board. We also believe he can play 2B in the future and will form our future DP combo with Ramirez. However, we will ease him into the NASBL by letting him get his feet wet playing 3B against lefties." Beckham is only 23, so he can become what Sherlag thinks he will, but this pick just doesn't mesh with taking Carpenter.

OK, so going into pick #8, the Chows are now going for the future, so will it be young McCutchen, Rasmus, Porcello o Price? With the #8 pick, the Chows take Brett Anderson. Anderson is only 22, but is not as highly regarded as Porcello or Price. "We had Anderson as the 4th best pitcher on the draft board behind Johnson, Carpenter and Hanson. We had him as the #3 pitcher for upside and had him ahead of Price and Porcello with our 2010 projection." When the Illinois Times asked Sherlag if he was straddling the fence with this pick he said "Absolutely not. We believe that Anderson is better than Price or Porcello this season and will be throughout his career."

Will Illinois have the horses to compete for a playoff spot this year? Sherlag thinks so, "We have a real solid line-up against both sides. We figure to get on base more than ever this season. Our defense is the best it has ever been with a 1 in CF, a 1 at 3B, a 2 at SS, LF, RF, 1B and C. Our staff has two aces, Anderson and Wells are a legit 3 and 4 and we have depth in starting pitching with Volquez, Maine and Shields. Nathan again anchors our bullpen."

"If we are in it at the end of Block 1, we will be aggressive on the trading front. Shields is still on the right side of 30 and I believe we could easily turn him into a better starter for this season at the Block I trading deadline. Some teams will realize it is not their year and we have some attractive players to supplement with picks to get the very best players that find themselves on the block." Will the Chows be one of those teams? Only time will tell.