This is part one of a very long roundtable that took place this Sunday on the playoff chances of teams and the end of seasons awards. Participants: myself, Dan Scotto, SalB918, and Dan Lucero, author of Up in the Rockies. PArt two will come sometime later in the week, tomorrow if possible. I have a math class at 8 in the morning and I commute, so I might not have time to get it up in the morning. Enjoy!
Sal B: Okay - and this is an easy one - do the Cards take this division?
Dan Lucero: Unless they're all suspended for steroid use, yes
Marc Normandin: Does anyone else make it out of the NL Central, winning the Wild Card?
Sal B: Houston has a shot, of course. They're offense scares the crap out of me, though. Down the stretch they play FLA , STL, and PHI..
Dan Lucero: I like Houston's chances - all those candidates in the East will be beating up on each other this month and the Stros could sneak in
Dan Scotto:: Yeah, I agree with Dan Lucero. The NL wild card winner is going to be around 88, 89 wins, mostly because the NL East's teams will be beating each other up. Houston can sort of skirt through the mess for the most part.
Dan Lucero: It: doesn't look like Clemens is hurt bad, so they won't be missing him
Marc Normandin: I think it is the only way for them to do so, but if Clemens continues to pitch with an injured back and now an injured hamstring and either pitches poorly or misses one or two starts, they are possibly done for.
Dan Scotto: Houston's schedule is not easy, but the number of inter-division games for the NL East teams implies that there will be a lot of beating each other up.
Dan Lucero: That's not a very good lineup they've got, either - that's of some concern
Sal B: I agree
Dan Scotto: Yeah, i picked Houston for 75 wins this season...because I didn't think they'd hit at all. Ensberg saved them.
Marc Normandin: Houston's strength is literally comprised of 7-9 players all told, and thats out of 25.
Dan Lucero: Well you were right...about not hitting, that is. Taveras as a leadoff man is a huge mistake.
Sal B: I don't like them in the playoffs either, should they get there.
Marc Normandin: They are dangerous in a short series though
Sal B: I disagree
Dan Scotto: Well, if the Astros get in they'll probably get the Braves in the first round.
Dan Lucero: They're gonna have to win some 2-1, 3-2 ballgames...
Marc Normandin: Clemens-Pettite-Oswalt makes for a tough time for any lineup not in Boston or New York. I think Houston is capable of catching fire and winning it all, much like the Angels and Marlins before them. I don't even necessarily think Houston is that good. But I do know they can be dangerous over a short stretch
Sal B: Having an awesome front three is no guarantee of success. I think the Braves can take them pitcher for pitcher in the front two. Clemens-Smoltz, Oswalt-Hudson. Sounds like an even match to me
Dan Lucero: They've got the best closer in the NL right now so they're capable of winning low-scoring, close games.
Dan Scotto: I'd give Houston the slight edge in pitching, but the Braves can outslug them any day.
Sal B: What about FLA? I think they have a great shot at the WC
Dan Lucero: Again, this is a team that doesn't hit enough. They're a lot like Houston in that their pitching is the lynchpin.
Marc Normandin The only team that really hits enough out of the WC contenders is Philly, and they have weak pitching.
Dan Lucero: Philly's pitching staff doesn't have the studs that every other staff does but they've got 4 guys that keep them in the ballgame every time out.
Dan Scotto: I think that florida has the best "players" this side of St. Louis: Delgado, Cabrera, Willis, Burnett...a ton of talent
Sal B: Agreed...but a team that plays Mike Lowell every day right now is in trouble
Dan Scotto: If you replace Lowell with Hermida...
Sal B: Yes...play Cabrera at third and stick Hermida in the outfield.
Dan Scotto: Do you think they'll do that?
Sal B: Absolutely not
Dan Lucero: If anybody would do it, it's McKeon.
Sal B: No - winning makes organizations more conservative. The Marlins won't risk it now.
Marc Normandin: channeling Richard Wade does anyone else think San Diego is more dangerous in the playoffs than in the regular season?
Dan Lucero: No. They just dropped two of three to the Rox at Petco Park. No.
Sal B: No. They stink now and they'll stink in October
Dan Scotto: Prediction: San Diego upsets Chris Carpenter in game 1, and then get assaulted for 3 in a row
Marc Normandin: Peavy and Eaton make a dangerous 1-2, and that lineup is much better off on the road, which is where they will be playing everyone except the WC winner
Sal B: Again, not enough hitting in San Diego
Marc Normandin: Does everyone like the Braves in the east and the Padres out west for the division titles, or do we have a dissenter amongst our ranks?
Dan Lucero: No dissent here - the fact that Colorado is the best team in the West right now means that nobody is catching SD.
Dan Scotto: I think that San Diego's pretty much a lock... I'm not quite as solid on the Braves, but it's difficult to pick against them
Sal B: Braves in the East, no problem.
Dan Lucero: And the Braves are gonna win because that's what they do.
Sal B: The Braves are five games up - it would take a miracle for a team as inconsistent as the Phillies to catch up. I'm not buying
Marc Normandin: Agreed
Dan Scotto: I agree with you, but the phils have proven that they can get hot
Marc Normandin: The divisions are settled, and the Wild Card is anyones game in the NL. The Phillies seem unbeatable at times, if they do hit one of those stretches it could make it interesting. But I also see them failing after that long enough for the Braves to stay on top.
SalB918: Doubt it. I'm looking at BP's adjusted standings right now. And the Braves have a 1.5 game edge on the Phillies as it is, even adjusted. So the Phillies won't outplay the Braves on native talent.
Dan Lucero: Make mine the Marlins for the WC - I think they'll win enough close games down the stretch.
Dan Scotto: The Mets are the major underachiever this year. At least according to Pythagoras
Marc Normandin: AL Divisions: Red Sox/Yankees?
Sal B: By BP's adjusted rankings, the Yankees and Red Sox have the same record. Comments?
Dan Scotto: Studes did something in his "10 things I didn't know last week". http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/ten-things-i-didnt-know-last-week16/ ."The Red Sox and Yankees are the Same Team"
Dan Lucero: The Yanks are clearly doing it with mirrors on the mound.
Marc Normandin: The Red Sox are the better team when healthy, but if that point is going to come this year is beyond my knowledge
Sal B: Studes is basically right. I don't know if the Sox can keep bludgeoning opponents into submission. I like the Yanks bullpen, but I like the Sox offense.
Dan Lucero: The Sox have one of the worst bullpens I've ever seen - and I've seen some bad bullpens out in Denver. It's an interesting comparison to make - both of these teams outslug you.
Marc Normandin: As someone who watches them nightly, yes they can. Boston is hitting .284/.360/.459 as a team with an .820 OPS. And opponents are hitting .278/.337/.444 with a .781 OPS.
Sal B: Not bad. I wish one Oakland outfielder would do that. Sox hitting 279/351/447 away from Fenway. Still solid.
Dan Lucero: The Sox have to keep beating up opponents - they've got nobody they can give the ball to right now. In the late innings, that is. Now, if Foulke looks good right away, forget I said that.
Sal B: Well, the Sox won't come upon great starters in NY. But what about OAK and ANA?
Dan Scotto: Oakland can take them, but only with Crosby and Harden healthy. Well, at least, I'd pick them if both were healthy.
Marc Normandin: DiNardo will help when he moves to the pen. DiNardo is nothing amazing, but if he can act as a stabilizer in any way then the bullpen can use him
Sal B: Winning makes teams conservative, I say - does Epstein/Tito have the gumption to play DiNardo and Papelbon?
Dan Lucero: Papelbon will pitch until he proves he's unreliable, which may not happen. I think, and this is despite the fact that they're capable of running colder than cold, that OAK has to be considered the AL favorites, and the Tribe may not even make the playoffs.
Marc Normandin: If the Red Sox cannot get healthy, I think the Indians and A's are co-holders of top AL team.
Sal B: Yes, but there's the chance that neither make it to the dance anyway.
Marc Normandin: And oddly enough, I think the White Sox are less scary than NY
Sal B: The Indians bullpen is going to be huge for them down the stretch and in October if they make it that far
Dan Scotto: They're a very balanced group: the rotation's not great but it's not bad, the bullpen is outstanding, and they have an above-average offense.
Dan Lucero: Hafner is creaming the ball again, and so is Martinez
Sal B: Yeah, Hafner/Martinez are key.
Dan Scotto: Hafner since June 1: .338/.416/.675. Martinez since June 1: .339/.409/.541
Dan Lucero: What's the playoff rotation for the Red Sox in the first round? Is Clement the Game One starter?
Marc Normandin: Clement/Wells/Wake/Arroyo if Schilling cannot get into form. Clement is pitching well again, and Wells has been very good since scuffling at the beginning of the year. (Wells threw a 1 run CG coming back from suspension as this roundtable was occurring.) So the Sox are more like the 2004 Cards than the 2004 Sox.
Dan Scotto: That's just not all that intimidating.
Sal B: There's a rotation that scares nobody. Is that all 120 million buys?
Dan Scotto: Zito/Harden/Haren/Blanton.
Dan Lucero: I like that one a little better
Sal B: IF harden is healthy
Dan Lucero: With any luck Zito should be a Cy Young contender this year
Dan Scotto: Washburn/Colon/Lackey/Byrd (Santana)?
Dan Lucero: I think the Halos have to figure Magic Santana into their playoff rotation
Marc 32155: Washburn, Colon and Byrd don't worry me for some reason against patient teams. Lackey does, and Escobar would.
Sal B: Washburn is a bad fit in Fenway
Dan Scotto: Millwood/Lee/Sabathia/Westbrook
Sal B: Who's the AL east favorite then?
Dan Lucero: Boston
Dan Scotto: Yeah, it's got to be Boston.
Marc Normandin: It depends on how the NY/BOS series play out.
Dan Scotto: The Yankees have had some serious bad luck with their rotation.
Dan Lucero: I just don't see how New York can keep doing what they're doing with guys like Small, Leiter and Chacon pitching every five days.
Marc Normandin: Thoughts on Chacon in NY: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/story/2005/7/29/81330/6133
Dan Scotto: In addition to the bad construction, Pavano, Wright, Mussina, Wang, are all hurting.
Sal B: Going with Boston - ONLY because they have the lead now. These two teams are very similar. I hear the Small-Wang combo is outdoing the Big Unit himself
Marc Normandin: AL Central: Any chance the White Sox turn back into the Pale Hose?
Dan Lucero: They're basically the 1906 White Sox - the Hitless Wonders. You've got Konerko, Everett, and...?
Sal B: Their hitting isn't that bad. But it is worse than it was last year
Dan Scotto: I think it's below average, certainly. Before Chicago just won 3 in a row, I would have given the Indians a real good shot at taking it, but 8.5 is a large margin.
Marc Normandin: It does rely greatly on the homerun that Ozzie Guillen refuses to acknowledge. I don't think Everett even counts. Carl Everett's VORP is 15.1. I don't see Chicago causing too much damage in the playoffs, especially with Garland and Buehrle slowing down.
Dan Lucero: When Pablo Ozuna is prominently involved, you've got problems
Sal B: Timo! Timo! Timo! Away from US Cell, The Sox are hitting 265/321/406. Too large a gap...Ozzie just has to figure out a playoff rotation at this point.
Marc Normandin: They would face the Wild Card winner, who could very well end up being the A'sor Angels, and that does not bode well for Chicago.
Dan Lucero: Buehrle-Garland-Contreras-Duque. They don't want ANY part of Oakland
Sal B: Yeah, OAK has owned the Sox this year.
Marc Normandin: The Athletics are not the type of team Chicago beats up on consistently. They have an offense and a pitching staff capable of fighting back against the occasional 3 headed Chicago Monster. The Angels are the White Sox, only better by the way. Because they are not as reliant on the homerun as the ChiSox, and have a better pitching staff and pen, but still have a weak offense reliant on a few.
Sal B: I think the Sox have to be rooting for the A's to win the division at this point. Correction, Marc: the Angels are what the White Sox wish they were.
Dan Scotto: The bottom line is that the White Sox don't match up too well in any series....
Marc Normandin: Cannot wait until they win the WS and make us all look like bumbling fools...
Sal B: Yes, but they do win a lot...that has to count for something, right?
Marc Normandin: Not necessarily. Pythagorean projections do not always level out. Just because your ahead of your projection doesn't mean it regresses...it will catch up to them in 2006 or in the 2005 playoffs most likely.
Dan Lucero: I'd vote for Jay Payton for MVP before I'd vote for Scotty Po.
Dan Scotto: Speaking of that...that sets up a good transition.
Sal B: Discussion begins and ends with A-Rod.
Marc Normandin: Its actually kind of a thin list. I have A-Rod, Sheffield, Ortiz, Manny, Vlad and Hafner on my list
Dan Scotto: The AL doesn't have too many worthy candidates
Dan Lucero: There's A-Rod. if the Tribe make the playoffs, Hafner should be in the discussion. Manny and Ortiz, certainly.
Sal B: A Rod: 84.1 VORP...Tejada: 65.6...Ortiz 63.2. Jeter: 56.3 VORP - higher than Sheff and Giambi. Manny 49.5 VORP. Great year, but substandard for him
Marc Normandin: I'm not so sure I buy into the whole "if you take player X away from the team, they would miss the playoffs" argument. So I'm most likely to vote for whoever was the best player.
Dan Lucero: Poor, poor Miggy T. at least he's got his 2002 award to fall back on
Sal B: A Rod is so far head and shoulders above every other player that it's not even funny.
Dan Scotto: I've got to agree. A-Rod #1, and then the rest of the field follows.
Marc Normandin: A-Rod it is.
Dan Lucero: A-Rod's the guy - even though I'm sure a playoff disappearance is coming
Marc Normandin: AL Cy Young. A race of many 1A caliber starters. Except Halladay, who apparently angered a some deity this year, and has had his ruin smote upon the mountainside. If he had not missed so much time earlier as well he'd still be ahead of Santana
Sal B: I would have gone with Halladay before he went down
Dan Lucero: Too bad Zito didn't get any run support this year or in my mind he'd be the frontrunner. Santana has a shot if he goes 6-0 down the stretch. I think this award has a chance to go to a lot of guys if they dominate in the month of September. For example, say John Lackey has a huge month, goes 16-5 total, and the Halos make the playoffs - then he's got a shot.
Sal B Zito has been fabulous. If he goes 5-0 down the stretch...who knows? But I don't see that happening
Dan Scotto: Because I don't see any real legit starter candidates (Zito and Santana not withstanding), I'm going into the reliever pool. At least, until Santana runs off a 6-0 month with a 0.54 ERA
Sal B: Who's the number one reliever in the AL?
Dan Scotto: Mo rivera
Marc Normandin: The reliever pool is tough as well, because there is no Eric Gagne this year to take the attention away from the few real dominant guys.
Dan Lucero: Are we going to give the MVP and the Cy Young to guys on a team that misses the playoffs? Because that's a possibility.
Marc Normandin: I dont mind, I was rooting for Johnson and Sheets over Clemens last year. Rivera has been great, but not historically like Eck or Gagne.
Dan Scotto: But I can't find a starter that I like better. 63 IP, 68 K, 11 BB, 2 HR, 1.42 ERA. The other thing, and I don't know how much stock I put into this, but at the Oscars, they sometimes award a guy for "career accomplishment" or to make-up for past close calls. I can't see anyone who REALLY deserves it this year. Mariano's been great, as always, and he's never won.
Marc Normandin:cough A-Rod 2003 cough
Dan Lucero: FWIW, the Cy Predictor has Rivera first, Joe Nathan second.
Marc Normandin: I think Santana is my man, but Halladay would have been.
Sal B: Nathan leads the AL in WXRL. Huston Street: 64.3 IP, 63 K, 23 BBB, 2H, 1.23 ERA.
Marc Normandin: No consensus pick?
Dan Scotto: Street's been really, really good too. Like, unbelievably so.
Dan Lucero: It's too hard to say - this race won't be clear until the dust settles
Sal B: If Mo gets a mention, Street has been right there with him. I don't think Street should win, and I don't think Mo should win either. As much as I hate to say it, Big Bart out in Anaheim looks to be the best so far.
Dan Lucero: I'm going to go out on a limb with this one and say that with a couple more wins - say, a 3-1 month - Mark Buehrle is the Cy Young
Marc Normandin: AL Jackie Robinson Award? Any favorites?
Dan Scotto: Street. Street has been unbelievable
Sal B: Street, and it's not close
Dan Lucero: ROY has gotta be Street
Sal B: Although Dan Johnson and Joe Blanton have been awesome as well...
Marc Normandin: I think it should be Street, but let's not discount Johnson and Gomes. Shelton has hit excellent as well
Dan Lucero: What about Cano?
Marc Normandin: Cano is slipping faster than the career of a Surreal Life castmember.
Sal B: Cano: sub 300 OBP
Dan Scotto: Cano's the most overrated rookie I've ever seen. I'm in the NY area and everyone's acting like he's some sort of god...
Dan Lucero: That OBP sucks but he's filled a hole for the Yanks.
Sal B: So vote for him MVP, not ROY
Dan Lucero: alright then. Cano for MVP.
Dan Scotto: Cano, Chacin, Gomes, Street, Blanton, Johnson...
Dan Lucero: is Iguchi in this discussion at all? .286/.352/.455
Dan Scotto: Iguchi, too.
Sal B: Notice the pre-season favorite is not even in the discussion: Swisher
Marc Normandin: Iguchi has less VORP than Gomes in more time
Dan Lucero: Looking at the numbers in front of me, Street's still my ROY but Iguchi is a close second.
Sal B: AL West: OAK or ANA?
Marc Normandin: Oakland, even without Crosby. http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/story/2005/9/1/0227/04783. Scutaro rather than Crosby is only a loss of half a win to a win over the 30 game period left. Over the course of a full season, that is a big deal. Over a month, not so much
Dan Lucero: Oakland
Dan Scotto: Oakland.
Sal B: I'm a big Oakland fan - but I don't know...It's close enough that a half game might just do it.