Monday, February 25, 2008

I Zinc Ve Have Sometink to Proof, Yes?

...he says in his best Colonel Klink voice.

This past season, aside from the perennial strong performance from the East Lyme club, the Zinc division did not enjoy a lot of success. Let's look at the status for each team moving into free agency (and sorry if I missed some transactions - there have been a few!).

Cream City:
The Pirates battled but ultimately lost out for the worst record in the league. They fought the good fight though! Now after a complete rebuild they look poised to take the division if the dice fall their way a bit.

Key acquisitions: Frank Thomas, Russ Springer, Joe Saunders, Shane Victorino, Reynel Pinto, Mark Teixeira, Aubrey Huff

Key departures: Ryan Shealy, Cory Sullivan, Xavier Nady, Ryan Doumit, Francisco Cordero, Carlos Villanueva, Hideki Matsui, Chris Young (OF)

SPs: AJ Burnett & Rich Hill headline this group, which slots Jeff Francis, Ian Snell, and Daniel Cabrera into the 3-4-5 roles. This is a reasonable and balanced rotation which should match up fairly well with most teams.

Bullpen: The loss of Cordero will hurt some, but Accardo,Valverde, B Wagner, and the newly acquired Springer provide plenty of quality innings.

Hitters: The Teixeria trade really sets up this lineup nicely, which now has a power SW bat to complement a strong leadoff bat in B Roberts, and an OF studded with talent youngsters like Victorino, Jeremy Hermida (likely DH), BJ Upton and Corey Hart, along with veteran CF Aaron Rowand. JJ Hardy and a platoon of Wilson Betemit and Brandon Inge round out the IF, leaving C as the only spot with real question marks.

Summary/projections: The Pirates will sport an above-average offense, solid defense, and sufficient starting pitching to make a strong playoff run. The bullpen should be able to hold on most leads. I look for 88-92 wins here.

East Lyme:
The top dog in the division last season may be sorely challenged to hold onto that status in 2008-2009. With its cash stash dwindling and some key players aging, East Lyme made a few moves to get younger and cheaper while not drastically harming its talent base. Two future HOFers are gone in Bonds & Maddux but at least Bonds is easily replaced.

Key acquisitions: Woody Williams, Dave Weathers, Chad Qualls

Key departures: Barry Bonds, Greg Maddux

SPs: The East Lyme rotation will be led by two of the top LHs in all of baseball, Erik Bedard & CC Sabathia. The rest of the rotation will feature some combo of RHs Williams, Bonser, Wakefield & Vargas and maybe a FA or two.

Bullpen: New acquisitions Weathers and Qualls will play key roles here, as will returning vets Bob Howry, Damaso Marte, CJ Wilson and Joel Zumaya.

Hitters: Jack Cust looks to take over the DH duties from the departing Bonds, and joins Derek Jeter, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott, and Carlos Beltran to form the backbone of the Crush lineup. The infield will feature ROY Ryan Braun and Mark De Rosa as well as up & comer 1B Conor Jackson.

Summary/projections: This is an offense that will not have trouble scoring runs, though infield defense leaves something to be desired at this point, and SPs beyond the top 2 are weak. This looks like a team that will score runs and hold onto most leads due to a deep bullpen, but will lose a few blowouts as well against better pitching. I see an 85- to 90-win season here.

San Jose (updated for Sizemore trade):
Like Cream City, the Scorpions are looking for a turnaround, but in this case it may still be another year off. The new blood injected into the franchise will help, but free spending of cash in order to acquire players and picks may hurt the club in free agency.

Key acquisitions: Joe Blanton, Carlos Pena, Josh Hamilton, Manny Delcarmen, Ryan Church, Randy Johnson, Kevin Correia, Andrew Brown, George Sherrill, Ryan Doumit, Mark Ellis, Barry Zito, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ron Villone, Mike Lamb, Cory Snyder, Randy Wolf, Chuck Lofgren, PNC Park

Key departures: Grady Sizemore, Fausto Carmona, Brian Bannister, Vernon Wells, Jeff Clement, Humberto Sanchez, Carlos Villanueva, Chad Cordero, Kevin Millar, Nick Punto, A Otsuka, Tom Gordon, Carlos Silva, Rudy Seanez, Scott Baker, Chris Ianetta, R Springer, J Lopez, McLouth

SPs: The Scorpions lacked a true #1 SP after dealing Carmona for a big bat, but the acqusition of Blanton will help some. So now Blanton, Zito and Bush will serve as the mainstays of the rotation, then mix & match with the Unit, Wolf, Correia, and whatever scraps can be found in free agency.

Bullpen: Springer was dealt, but replaced soon after by the live young arm of Manny Delcarmen. Manny will join Gregg, Janssen, Sherrill, Brown and Villone to make up a deep and talented bullpen which fits the home park nicely.

Hitters: Pena, Grady Sizemore and Jimmy Rollins made up the heart of the lineup along with platoon RFer Hamilton, but Sizemore was moved in a deadline deal to improve pitching and acquire picks. In the short term he'll be replaced in the lineup with Church vs RH and Logan vs LH, which will weaken the OF defense to a 3 in CF (Hamilton) but should not hurt the offense much. The C platoon of Doumit & Snyder should be productive enough, and Mike Lamb & J McDonald will do the same at the hot corner. Rent-a-player Ellis will turn a lot of DPs with Rollins as a partner. The club holds signing rights to other players at multiple positions, so free agency will also have a bearing on the final lineup spots of LF/DH/3B.

Summary/projections: The addition of Blanton and Johnson to the SPs makes it a deeper and more talented group, capable of keeping games close, and the bullpen is back to being a strength with the addition of Delcarmen. If the final lineup spots are filled with league average or better bats, the offense should be productive enough to win some games. This looks like an 84-88 win team if the final holes are filled reasonably via FAs & the draft.

The Seariders are waiting for a new swell to come in but that swell may take a while to build. Finances and talent that is a ways from maturing have dictated another year of rebuilding for this club.

Key acquisitions: Chris Capuano, Charlie Haeger, Clay Hensley, Humberto Sanchez, Carlos Silva, V Wells, Tom Gordon

Key departures: Barry Zito, Jacoby Ellsbury, draft picks

SPs: This team acquired much-needed cheap innings in its last deal and Silva and Capuano headline a group that will just tread water until reinforcements (Gio Gonzalez, an improved John Danks?) are ready.

Bullpen: Some reasonable upside with Aardsma, Jorge Sosa, and Luke Hudson, but off years for some of this group made things tough on their owner.

Hitters: Aside from Aaron Hill, not a lot to look at here. Hatteberg will provide his usual strong OBP, but youth & power are lacking at nearly every position. I anticipate some restocking via the draft.

Summary/projections: Another 50-55 win season coming here, and possibly worse as the division rivals are stronger. 2010 maybe better?

2 Swings of the bat:

Other Side said...

Nice job, Dave, though I think Cream City's top is closer to 95-98 wins. Of course, I'm biased.

btw: The 3rd base platoon will be Aubrey Huff and Inge (unless something falls my way). I hope to use Betemit as little as possible.

Good luck to all.

Other Side said...

Oh, and while I'm happy for East Lyme, it should be pointed out that either Buckeye (the current San Jose franchise) or Cream City had up to this year won the last four division titles and Cream City and Buckeye are the proud owners of the last two BRASS titles.

Go East Lyme in the playoffs. Do the Zinc division proud.