Friday, October 12, 2012

Things I Was Wrong About

The expiration date on any sports media content is usually only a couple days. Anything but the most revolutionary or inflammatory is usually forgotten quickly after the first read. This is especially true with blog posts where the high density of available content on any topic often makes any one opinion inconsequential. This allows people to sometimes get away with outlandish claims or opinions as they know they will never be held accountable for them.

So this is me holding myself accountable. The following are things I got wrong this season. Some of these were discussed on this blog, others were just private opinions. But I stand here today trying to understand my mistakes, learn from them, laugh at my incompetence, then hopefully move on.

Terry Francona
I didn't think there was a shot that Francona would sign on to be Cleveland's manager. Francona was one of the most respected managers in the game, could probably get almost any job he wanted, and likely demanded a salary a lot higher than most teams would be comfortable paying their manager, and it's not like the Indians are loose with the purse strings. Francona also had a great job with ESPN that he seemed to be pretty good at. I've gotten so used to dumping on Cleveland that I assume everyone feels the same way. Apparently not Francona, "People who don't know me may have thought I was looking for something different." I thought Sandy would finally get his big break, but it's looking more and more like he'll have to move elsewhere to get his shot, which now ironically may be best taken in Boston.

August Trades
Well I was right that Cliff Lee and Jed Lowrie wouldn't be traded, but I was completely wrong about saying there was no way any blockbuster would go down. Just going by the past 3 seasons, almost half the players traded were below replacement level, and only 5 of the 33 players traded had more than a year left on their contract at the time of the trade. Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford completely broke the mold on this.Although I anticipated the Dodgers being more free-wheeling with their expenditures, I didn't think that would really start to kick in until this offseason. I also didn't realize how desperate Boston was to blow up their entire team and start from scratch. Sure they weren't doing that well, but that didn't seem to me like it would be an issue to a team with almost unlimited funds. So although I was wrong here, I'm not faulting myself to heavily as a trade like this was completely unprecedented.

Travis Snider
Starting in left field for your 2012 Toronto Blue Jays, Travis Snider!!! That was how I expected the season to start. Never really seemed to happen. He got a 10 game appearance for the Jays in the middle of the season before he was shipped off to the Pirates. I'm really just disappointed with the entire ordeal. I thought he was the Jays best option with the most potential and that he should get the first shot, but also whenever he got the opportunity he never seemed to handle it well. Both him and the team were both at fault and it was sad to see this roller coaster ride end so unceremoniously. He has become quite a good defensive outfielder, but even after his trade to Pittsburgh and his opportunity for regular playing time he still wasn't able to do anything with the bat. I wish him the best, because I guess this was just never meant to be.

Powerhouse East Divisions
I'll take off half a point here. More than 50 games into the season there were points where every single team in the AL and NL East were above .500. This was obviously unsustainable but I didn't anticipate how far some teams would fall. I'll elaborate more on some of these below, but the Jays pitching staff hadn't made their collective trip to Dr. James Andrews yet, the Red Sox were still pretending they liked Bobby V, Philly still had some of their pitchers healthy, the Marlins hadn't imploded, and the Mets, well I was right about the Mets. On the other hand, both East divisions had a wild card team and the #1 seed in each league. The West has started making a push, but the East isn't going anywhere any time soon.

The Chicago White Sox
For the past few years I've been all-in on the White Sox only to be disappointed. This year I finally lowered my expectations, only to see them step up their game and almost take the Central division. The team had a sour taste coming into this season. They had lost two of their better players in Mark Buehrle and Carlos Quentin, and they seemed to be focused on the future by trading away relievers such as Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor. Alex Rios and Adam Dunn were also coming off of two of the worst seasons in the history of baseball. So what happened? Rios and Dunn regressed to the mean, which in their case was a good thing, and their pitching ended up being extremely good. Peavy and Sale both pitched tremendously and will grab some lower Cy Young votes and they even got a perfect game out of Philip Humber. I'm not sure how sustainable this all is though. Peavy will be a free agent if his $22M is not picked up as expected and this was only Sale's first season as a starter. Quintana outperformed his peripherals and Francisco Liriano did not show anything in Chicago that would discount the poor performances he'd had in Minnesota over the last few seasons.

Yoenis Cespedes
I could use this space to talk about the entire A's team, but I'll focus on Cespedes. I originally thought the signing was a disaster. It was a major investment, by a team that finished 22 games out of the division, in a player that all indications was at least a year away from the majors. The power was definitely there, but how could he possibly consistently hit against Major League pitching? Well all he did was hit. The A's placed him in their Opening Day lineup and he proceeded to hit homers in 3 of the first 4 games. He kept it up all season though, finishing with a .292/.356/.505 line. Without Cespedes, the A's are probably watching the playoffs from their couches instead of playing them on the field.

The Giants Offense
Who on this team was supposed create runs? Posey coming off his missed season? Brandon Belt who can't figure out how to stay in the majors? The disastrous outfield combination of Gregor Blanco, Aubrey Huff, Angel Pagan, and Nate Schierholtz? Well yes. Posey looks like he's going to get the Giants their first MVP winner since Bonds left and Pablo Sandoval came up with big hits when healthy. I feel a little redeemed now the Melky Cabrera proved that his performance really was all smoke and mirrors, but I still did not see them scoring this many runs.

Aaron Hill
26 HR, .522 SLG. This was the Aaron Hill I thought was dead. Turns out all he needed was a fresh breath of desert air. This one still hurts, especially while watching Kelly Johnson strikeout over once per game.

Ricky Romero
The warning signs were there, but I definitely didn't anticipate a season like this. Last year Ricky put up a 2.92 ERA with a 1.14 WHIP. He put up career highs in IP and Ks while also allowing a career low in hits. His FIP of 4.20 and BABIP of .242 seemed to indicate he was getting a little lucky and was due for some regression, but his 2012 was an absolute disaster. He was striking out 1 less batter per game while walking two more. He seemed unable to hit the outside corner and went long stretches where he couldn't throw a strike to save his life. I expected him or Morrow to lead the pitching staff in 2012 but going forwards I question whether Ricky will even be able to stay in the majors. I suspect his true talent level lies somewhere between the last two seasons and maybe there was something else that we don't know about that was affecting his play this year, because this was a train wreck.

Phillies Pitching
I know they were older and the rest of the division had improved, but I still thought that behind Halladay, Lee, and Hamels the Phillies would cruise to another division title. Alas it was not meant to be. I mostly blame injuries, although I didn't know that that could happen to Doc. This was a guy who took a liner of his head and still managed to make his next start. But even after coming back from his injury he still put up only a 4.93 ERA. I thought Vance Worley would develop into a solid starter and it looked to be going that way until he started pitching through bone chips and was ultimately DL'd for the season. In their place Kendrick and Blanton weren't bad, but no where near good enough for the Phillies to win the division. That, combined with the injuries to key offensive players like Utley and Howard was just too much for Philly to overcome this season.

Gio Gonzalez
I'll be honest, I was never really a believer in Gio and I thought the Nationals overpaid. He walked way too many guys and seemed to be a product of the Coliseum. Well he was amazing this year. He cut down his walk rate, led the NL in K/9, and put up a fantastic 2.89 ERA. Pitchers do tend to look better when moving to the NL, but Gio was a legitimate Cy Young contender this season and without him the Nationals probably don't win the division.

The Marlins
After restocking this offseason I thought the Marlins would contend for a wild card spot. Instead they finished with 69 wins and finished last in their division. Jose Reyes took a step back and only Stanton was able to provide the team any power. The Zambrano experiment started well but quickly fell apart. Nolasco showed no signs of improvement and Heath Bell was a disaster out of the bullpen. To top it off, when things started to crumble, the Marlins quickly bailed on the season by trading away Hanley and Anibal Sanchez. The season definitely didn't go the way Loria expected it to in the new ballpark. Sure the players didn't do to well, but I think the main cause was the sculpture in centerfield. That thing needs to be sent to the dump pronto.

Baltimore Orioles
I'll admit I was wrong about their record and them making the playoffs, but that's all I'm admitting to on this one. This team reeked of luck. Their +7 run differential is BY FAR the worst of any team with as many wins as they had. They won a ridiculous 16 extra inning games in a row, went 29-9 in one-run games, and they were an absolutely insane 74-0 when leading after 7 innings. Their bullpen may have been good, but no one in the majors is that good. Just for comparison, when leading after 7 innings, the Yankees lost 5 games, the Nationals lost 7, and the Reds lost 7. Guys like Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and JJ Hardy had great years, but I still look at this team and wonder how they made the playoffs. Only 61 of their starts went to players with an ERA under 4 (the Yankees were at 84, and the Rangers were at 85). Nothing about their success this year seems sustainable to me, so I'm not caving on this one so easily. Good for them, and good for their fan base, but I'm far from convinced.

I'm undoubtedly missing a few big ones here, don't hold it against me.

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