2009 Season Preview
year ago, I wrote in this space that the
Allentown Ridgebacks winning their third BDBL championship was a
The Ridgebacks are not only the best
team in the BDBL, but no other team is even close. It's hard to know
when things got so far out of control. Perhaps it was when Ed traded
Ryan Braun for David Eckstein. Or perhaps it was when Skizm traded
Tim Lincecum for Frank Thomas. Maybe it was when John Gill traded
Yovani Gallardo for Roy Oswalt. Or maybe it was when Tom picked up
Heath Bell -- a pitcher that was passed up 840 times before the
season, and for two free agent transaction periods after that -- at
the Chapter Three deadline last year, and Bell magically transformed
into a princess overnight. Whatever the case may be, the Allentown
Ridgebacks are back, and they're fully loaded to win championship
1st place, and the BDBL
championship, without breaking a sweat.
Sometimes it sucks to be right.
This year, I'm afraid the outlook is
the same, in that the fate of this season appears to be a foregone
conclusion. Barring the most stunning upset in league history, the
Los Altos Undertakers will win the 2009 BDBL championship. What
does this mean for the rest of us? It means we just try to enjoy the
ride, remember that it's all about the journey and not the destination,
and pray for the most stunning upset in league history.
In addition to predicting the
Ridgebacks' third championship, I also correctly picked four of the six
division winners and the OL wild card winner. My most stunningly
inaccurate prediction was picking the San Antonio Broncs (who finished
65-95 in last place) to win the Griffin Division. I'm not sure
what I was thinking there, but I blame Greg.
As a league, you also picked four of
the six division winners (but not the same four.) You also
correctly picked the Cowtippers and Ridgebacks as the OL and EL
champions, respectively. But you voted for "Other" over the
Ridgebacks to win it all, and three of you chumps actually thought the
Cowtippers would win. Will you never learn?
As has already been pointed out on the
forum, the Ozzie League looks especially weak
this year. Aside from the world-beating Undertakers, there is no
team that stands out as exceptionally dominant. It's almost as if
all the talent in the Ozzie League was consolidated into one team in
order to break the streak of Eck League championships.
contrast, the Eck League is overflowing with talent-laden teams,
including all four teams in the Higuera Division. How good is this
division? Three of the four teams currently rank among the top
seven in the BDBL in VORP. I had a difficult time picking a
division winner, and I think that if we simulated 1,000 seasons, each
team would win the division 250 times. Ultimately, this race will
be decided by managing, GM skills and luck.
As tightly-contested as the Higuera
Division will be, the Person Division may be even more competitive.
Three of the top four teams in the BDBL, as ranked by VORP, hail from
the Person Division. All of this means that the best pennant race
of all may be the Eck League wild card race.
So, even though Jeff's trophy has been
pre-ordered, and champagne corks are already being popped in the Los
Altos locker room, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about
the 2009 season.
Higuera | Person
| Hrbek | Butler | Benes |
Owner: Tom DiStefano
2008 Record: 100-60 (1st place, BDBL champions...again)
Projected Rotation: Tim Lincecum, Jake Peavy, Scott
Baker, Oliver Perez, Chris Sampson, Jorge de la Rosa
Bullpen: Carlos Marmol, Will Ohman, Dennys Reyes, John
Smoltz, Ramon Ramirez.
Projected Lineup: Kelly Johnson (2B), Carlos Beltran (CF),
Ryan Braun (LF), Justin Morneau (1B), Jay Bruce/Elijah Dukes (RF), Jorge
Posada/Rod Barajas (C), Mark Reynolds
(3B), Ben Zobrist/Nick Punto (SS).
A Cy Young winner at the top of the
rotation, a dominant closer in the bullpen and a lineup filled with
all-star hitters. Lincecum is the odds-on favorite to win the EL
Cy Young, which would give Allentown five of the last eight. Peavy
and Baker give the Ridgebacks three #1 starters, which is certainly a
nice thing to have. Marmol held right-handed batters to an
astounding 388 OPS last season. And the 13
main hitters in the Allentown lineup combined for an 811 OPS in MLB last
year, with nicely-balanced 828/803 splits.
Unlike past incarnations of the
Ridgebacks, the back end of this rotation is a little thin. Perez
shuts down lefties (521 OPS), but is a little vulnerable to righties (791.) And Sampson (117.1 MLB IP) and De La Rosa (130) are both limited in
usage. Posada (195 MLB PAs) is also limited in usage, which means
Barajas (.249/.294/.410) will get the majority of playing time
behind the plate.
The defending champs lost several of their
big contributors from last year (Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey, Aaron Rowand,
Ronny Cedeno), suffered a devastating injury to their $11 million
all-star catcher AND a 23-year-old ace-in-the-making (Yovani Gallardo.)
And yet still, somehow, some way, Tom DiStefano manages to find a way to
build a championship-caliber team. Good for him.
1st place, and the Eck League title. When in doubt, go with
Owner: Tony Chamra
2008 Record: 69-91 (3rd place)
Projected Rotation: Rich Harden, Chad Billingsley, Zach Greinke,
Mike Pelfrey, Dustin McGowan, Erik Bedard.
Bullpen: Mike Adams, Buddy Carlyle, Chris Volstad, Eric Stults, Joel Hanrahan,
Projected Lineup: Brian Giles (1B), Randy Winn (CF),
Brian McCann (C), Carlos Lee (LF), Andres Ethier (RF), Scott Rolen (3B), Aaron Hill/Kaz
Matsui (2B), Juan Uribe/Jed Lowrie (SS).
The starting rotation is very strong, with
two 200-IP workhorses with CERA's around 3.60 and Harden, who may be the
best pitcher in the league inning-for-inning. The lineup is also
very strong, with good on-base hitters up front and power hitters in the
middle. The presence of McCann gives the Mustangs a
true rarity in 2009: a catcher who can hit.
Weaknesses: The decision to play Giles at first base is a curious one.
The Mustangs have a Vg-rated first baseman in Casey Kotchman (with
819/708 splits), but Chamra had to find a way to get Giles' bat into the
lineup after committing $19 million to him over the next three years.
The hope is that by having an Ex-rated third baseman and an Av-rated
shortstop and second baseman filling out the infield, Giles' defense
will be offset. Plenty of teams in BDBL history have attempted
this strategy. Some (such as the Litchfield Lightning of
1999-2001) have succeeded, while others (most notably the Manchester
Irish Rebels and Madison Fighting Mimes) have not.
Outlook: The Mustangs are a very good team, and they will undoubtedly
be competitive this season. Villanova's starting rotation is a
little less dominant than Allentown's, and Allentown's lineup also
appears stronger on paper -- especially when taking Lee's ballpark
factors into consideration. So the Ridgebacks get the edge -- for
Prediction: 2nd place, and the EL wild card. With Harden potentially
making two starts per series, the Mustangs could do very well in the
post-season. If they add a power bat and/or an ace before the end
of the season, I give them the edge over Allentown to win the EL title.
Kansas Law Dogs
Owner: Chris Luhning
2008 Record: 96-64 (2nd place)
Projected Rotation: Matt Cain, Derek Lowe, Randy
Johnson, Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, Ian Smells.
Bullpen: Joe Nathan, Matt Thornton, Jesse Carlson,
Solomon Torres, Scott Linebrink, Anthony Reyes, Jeff Karstens.
Projected Lineup: Mike Aviles (2B), Kosuke Fukudome
(CF), David Wright (3B), Carlos Quentin (LF), Billy Butler/Lyle Overbay
(1B), David DeJesus/Scott Hairston (LF), Yunel Escobar (SS), Brian
Schneider/John Buck (C).
This is a very good starting rotation.
Cain, Lowe, Johnson and Meche each threw 180+ innings in MLB last season
with CERA's below 3.90 and opponent OPS's of 728 or below. Last
year's trade with Jim Doyle not only gave this team the ace of their
starting rotation, but their cleanup hitter (Quentin) as well. Not
a bad haul for a relief pitcher. Quentin teams with Wright in the
middle of the lineup to form a very powerful combination. The
Kansas bullpen is also very strong, with several high-quality setup arms
paving the way for dominant closer Nathan.
Weaknesses: The catching combo of Schneider and Buck is pretty wretched,
but Kansas is hardly alone in having a giant gaping hole in their lineup
from the catcher's position. Aside from Wright and Quentin, there
aren't any hitters in this lineup who strike fear into the hearts of
Outlook: The Law Dogs followed up their BDBL championship 2007 season
by winning 96 games last year. Unfortunately for Luhning, it
wasn't good enough to make it to the post-season Tournament of
Randomness. This year's squad is actually better than that 96-win
team in many ways, though this team could very easily win fewer games
due to increased competition.
Prediction: 3rd place. If the Law Dogs played in the Ozzie League,
they'd have the honor of losing to the Undertakers in the OLCS.
But in this division, they'll be forced to watch the post-season from
the sidelines once again.
Great Lakes Sphinx
Owner: Scott Romonosky
2008 Record: 59-101 (4th place)
Projected Rotation: Johan Santana, Gavin Floyd, Ubaldo
Jimenez, Jared Weaver, Zach Miner.
Bullpen: Bobby Jenks, Tony Pena, J.A. Happ, David Purcey, Zach
Miner, Jesus Colome, Troy Percival.
Projected Lineup: Michael Young (SS), Shane Victorino
(LF), Ryan Doumit (C), J.D. Drew (RF), Mike Lowell (3B), Chris Young
(CF), James Loney (1B), Jeff Kent (2B).
Johan Santana. And for $20.5 million
(and a guaranteed $61.5 million over three years, with a no-trade clause
this year and no escape clause), he'd better be a strength.
Santana heads a starting rotation that includes five pitchers with 175+
MLB innings and CERA's between 3.80 and 4.10. The starting lineup
has no glaring holes from one through eight -- at least, not against
Against righties (which they'll probably
face 90% of the time this season), the Sphinx are going to have some
problems scoring runs. Lowell, Cody Ross, Victorino, Chris Young
and Michael Young all sport OPS's against right-handers that are more
than 100 points below their OPS vs. lefties. This is a problem,
but perhaps an easily-fixable one. The bullpen -- including new
closer Jenks -- isn't particularly intimidating. Normally, you'd
like to see your closer with a K/9 rate above 5.6.
Outlook: Is this the year Great Lakes finally make it to the
post-season? Scott Romonosky certainly believes it is. He believes it so strongly, he
spent 32% of his team's total payroll on one pitcher, and made seven
trades this winter in an effort to break his team's streak once and for
all. The biggest obstacle in Romonosky's path is the competition
in this division. In any other division,
the Sphinx would look like surefire contenders, but in this division,
someone has to finish in last place, and I'm picking the Sphinx to
be that team.
Prediction: 4th place. I predicted great success for the Sphinx in
each of the past two seasons, and they made me look stupid both times.
Maybe my streak of stupidity will continue and Great Lakes will finally
capture that wild card now that I've picked them to finish last.
St. Louis Apostles
Owner: Bobby Sylvester, Jr.
2008 Record: 98-62 (2nd place, EL wild card)
Projected Rotation: Kyle Lohse, Tim Wakefield, Adam
Wainwright, Jose Contreras, Randy Wolf.
Bullpen: Jim Johnson, Brad Ziegler, Roy Corcoran,
Francisco Cordero, Joe Beimel, Scott Lewis, Jensen Lewis, Chris Perez.
Projected Lineup: Dustin Pedroia (2B), Chris Iannetta/Kelly
Shoppach (C), Albert Pujols (1B), Matt Holliday (LF), Aubrey Huff (3B),
Nick Markakis (RF), Hunter Pence (RF), J.J. Hardy (SS).
Ever since he was selected with the 18th
pick of the 2001 farm draft, Pujols has been the #1 strength of this
team. This season, he is surrounded by a wide array of all-star
hitters that comprise the best lineup in the Eck League. While
most teams have struggled to find a competent hitter behind the plate,
the Apostles have the luxury of two. Pedroia could very well score
200 runs this season batting at the top of this lineup. And
defensively, both Pujols and Pedroia possess Ex range.
By now, Bobby Sylvester's disdain for
pitching has become legendary. Last year, he managed to win 98
games with a starting rotation filled with #4 and #5 starters.
This year, he's attempting to repeat that feat. After trading away Joba Chamberlain, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jesse Litsch this
winter, the Apostles are left with another mediocre-looking rotation
filled with journeyman veterans.
Last year, I predicted the Apostles' lack of pitching would lead to a
third-place finish. Instead, they ranked fourth in the EL with a
3.82 ERA and won 98 games. Their pitch-to-contact strategy (just
6.0 K/9 as a team), combined with a league-best .252 average on balls in
play, made it possible. Was it merely a result of luck, or has
Bobby Sylvester discovered a secret DMB formula for guiding ground balls
into gloves? I, for one, am
anxious to find out.
1st place. While I remain convinced that
Bobby's strategy of shunning quality pitching was a Daffy Duck trick,
this lineup is so strong, they can win 95-100 games despite mediocre
pitching. This team can easily score 950 runs this season.
If they finish in the middle of the pack in terms of runs allowed (say,
750), that would give them 98 Pythagorean wins -- same as last year's
win total. And in this tough division, that should be good enough.
Owner: Steve Osborne
2008 Record: 76-84 (3rd place)
Projected Rotation: Ben Sheets, Daisuke Matsuzaka,
Armando Galarraga, Seth McClung, Darrell Rasner.
Bullpen: Kerry Wood, Octavio Dotel, Jesse Crain, Jeremy
Affeldt, George Sherrill.
Projected Lineup: Jose Reyes (SS), Mark Loretta/Dan
Uggla (2B), Ryan Howard (1B), Manny Ramirez (LF), Jason Bay (RF), Curtis
Granderson (CF), Jesus Flores/Bengie Molina (C), Joe Crede (3B).
Steve took a big gamble last winter by
signing an injury-prone Sheets to a six-year contract. So far, so
good, as Sheets should be among the best pitchers in the Eck League this
year. Matsuzaka and Galarraga (an outstanding free agent pick-up
last year) give the Funk three quality starting pitchers. Wood
takes over for long-time Funkadelic closer Joe Nathan, and should
perform nearly as well in that role. And the lineup is filled with
all-stars, including Reyes, Howard, Ramirez and Bay.
Against left-handed pitching, Nashville
seems to need an infielder who can either play first (where Howard's OPS
is just 746), second (where Uggla sports a 630 OPS) or third (where
Crede owns a miniscule 353 OPS.) Loretta (903 OPS vs. LH) can fill one of those
holes, and Ryan Freel (824) can fill the other, but that still leaves a
hole. The back end of
the rotation is thin, and finding enough innings to fill 160 games could
pose a challenge.
Playing in the league's best home run hitter's ballpark (modeled after
Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark), the Funkadelic should once again
rank among the league leaders in team homers. They hit 211 last
season, but ranked just sixth in runs scored, mostly due to the fact
that there weren't enough runners on base (just a .329 team OBP) when
all of those balls left the park. This year, thanks to the
resurgences of Bay and Ramirez, Nashville should score a few more runs
than last year. And with Sheets tossing more than 200 innings, and
the addition of Galarraga to the rotation, the Funkadelic should improve
upon their 76-84 record of last season.
2nd place. Unlike the other teams in this division, Nashville owns
a good balance of both pitching and hitting. But their pitching is
nowhere near as good as Southern Cal's, and their hitting isn't nearly
as good as St. Louis'. This division is so close, one trade (such
as St. Louis' last-minute deal for Markakis and Wolf) could make all the
difference between who plays post-season ball and who doesn't. As
the teams look right now, Nashville has a very good shot at both the
division and wild card.
Southern Cal Slyme
Owner: Bob Sylvester, Sr.
2008 Record: 116-44 (1st place)
Projected Rotation: James Shields, Ted Lilly, Joe
Blanton, Shaun Marcum, Jamie Moyer.
Bullpen: Hideki Okajima, Juan Cruz, Jose
Valverde, Jared Burton, Kyle McClellan, Trevor Hoffman.
Projected Lineup: Torii Hunter (CF), Hanley Ramirez
(SS), Nick Evans/Dan Murphy (RF), Carlos Guillen (LF), Ryan Garko/Adam LaRoche
(1B), Victor Martinez/Yadier Molina (C), Ryan Zimmerman (3B), Adam
Ramirez should post MVP-caliber numbers in
the heart of the lineup (unless he catches Jimmy Rollins Disease.)
The lineup has few holes in general, and the starting rotation (led by
true ace Shields) and bullpen are very strong. Having two quality
left-handed starters and two quality lefty relievers will be an asset
while playing in SoCal's lefty-friendly home ballpark.
Weaknesses: Neither Martinez (633 OPS) nor Molina (690) hit right-handers
particularly well. Kennedy can't hit lefties (596 OPS), and
doesn't even hit righties particularly well (719.) The only other
options at second base are Anderson Hernandez (861/716 splits, but in
only 91 PA's in total) and Alex Cintron (627/706 splits.) And at third base,
neither Pedro Feliz (636 OPS) nor Zimmerman (733) own league-average
numbers against right-handers. On the mound, once you get past
Shields, the rest of the starting rotation is filled with holes.
Lilly was oddly susceptible to left-handed hitting (928 OPS), and
neither Blanton nor Moyer is going to cause any opposing manager a
sleepless night (unless they lose sleep over the prospect of losing to
two soft-tossing control artists.)
Everything that could have possibly gone
right for the SoCal Slyme in 2008 went right...until the playoffs, of
course. Curt Schilling and Lilly each pitched far better than
expected, Ordonez enjoyed an MVP season, and role players like Molina
(875 OPS), Jacoby Ellsbury (881), Reggie Willits (828), Hunter (947) and
Garko (894) each contributed far more than anyone imagined they would.
The Slyme will need more of that good fortune this season if they are to
contend in this tough division.
3rd place. A year after setting a new BDBL record for wins, the
Slyme will be hard-pressed to break the 90-win barrier this season, due
to the increased competition and the unlikelihood of Moyer and Blanton
pulling a "Curt Schilling" in 2009.
South Carolina Sea Cats
Owner: Tony DeCastro
2008 Record: 62-98 (4th place)
Projected Rotation: Mike Mussina, Jarod Washburn, Sean
Gallagher, Cha Seung Baek, Daniel Cabrera
Bullpen: Matt Capps, Latroy Hawkins, Brian Shouse,
Cesar Jimenez, Matt Lindstrom, Yusmeiro Petit, J.C. Romero, Fernando
Projected Lineup: Felipe Lopez/Hank Blalock (3B), Nick
Swisher (1B), Juan Pierre (LF), Stephen Drew (SS), Lastings Milledge
(CF), Alexei Ramirez (2B), Ivan Rodriguez (C), Gregor Blanco (RF).
The Sea Cats have twice as many bullpen
arms as any team would ever reasonably need. Any one of those arms
could become decent trade bait down the road. Mussina, with his
odd splits (583 OPS vs. LH, 849 vs. RH), will also have some trade
This is the worst starting rotation in the BDBL. And even with a
bullpen full of quality relievers, you still have to get through the
first five or six innings somehow. Aside from Drew, the lineup
lacks any sort of threat to opposing pitchers, and the bottom half of
this lineup may be the weakest in the league. Is Juan Pierre
really this team's #3 hitter? According to DeCastro, he is!
The reason I referenced trade bait so often in the "Strengths" section
is because this team has no chance whatsoever to compete this year.
The 2008 season marked this franchise's second straight 90-loss season,
and the sixth time the team lost 90+ games in the league's first ten
season. 90 losses for this 2009 team would be a best-case
scenario. More likely, given the number of dominant teams in this
division and throughout the Eck League, we're looking at 100+ losses, and a $3
million+ penalty that will apply not only to 2010, but for every year
thereafter. This franchise is in desperate need of a makeover.
4th place, with an over/under of 50 wins.
Owner: D.J. Shepard
2008 Record: 79-81 (2nd place)
Projected Rotation: Javier Vazquez, Justin Verlander,
Manny Parra, Johnny Cueto, Carlos Villanueva.
Bullpen: Taylor Buchholz, J.P. Howell, Jon Rauch, Jerry
Blevins, Rafael Perez, Brian Tallet, Robinson Tejeda, Mike Gonzalez,
Projected Lineup: Nate McLouth/Mike Cameron (CF),
Milton Bradley (RF), Brad Hawpe/Daric Barton (1B), Aramis Ramirez (3B),
Jason Kubel (LF), Jhonny Peralta (SS), Asdrubal Cabrera/Mark
Grudzielanek (2B), Chris Snyder (C).
Throughout his BDBL career, DJ has always
stockpiled players like he's preparing for nuclear winter. As of
this moment, the Ryche totaled 6,935 MLB plate appearances last season, which comes to 7,629
PAs with 110% usage. On average, a team only needs about 6,175 PA's to
play 160 games, so the Ryche have more than 1,400 PA's here that
they couldn't possibly use in one season. In the infield, Omar
Infante (824/711 splits in 348 PAs) would make a nice starter at three
different infield positions (and two outfield!), yet in Akron, he's
nothing more than a bench player. In the outfield, Mike Cameron
(951/761 splits in 508 PAs) and Jason Kubel (704/833 in 517) would be
full-time starters for most teams, but in Akron, they are platoon
And in the pitching staff, the Ryche total 1,579 innings
(1,737 BDBL innings with 110% usage), which is roughly 300 innings more
than any team could ever use in a single season. The bullpen
includes nine quality relievers, and Akron plans to carry an
Weaknesses: Despite all that depth, the Ryche own just one first baseman
(Barton), who owns mediocre 787/629 splits. Shepard's solution is
to start Brad Hawpe out of position against right-handed pitchers, which
doesn't seem like the best solution.
There's nothing not to like about Akron's chances of competing
in 2009. And I certainly wouldn't want to play an extra-innings
game against this team after rosters expand in September. (Come to
think of it, maybe DJ's 26-inning marathon against Kentucky in 2002 is
what led to his strategy of heavy stockpiling.) In any case, the
Ryche will be competitive this season, just as they always have been.
I don't see any reason to believe they'll blow away the competition and
steamroll over the Ridgebacks and Undertakers en route to a BDBL
championship, but crazier things have happened.
1st place. Akron's lack of star power will become a problem in the
post-season, and I predict a first-round exit no matter who they play.
Chicago Black Sox
Owner: John Gill
2008 Record: 89-71 (1st place)
Projected Rotation: Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, Carlos
Zambrano, Jeff Francis, R.A. Dickey, Glendon Rusch.
Bullpen: Takashi Saito, Frank Francisco, John Grabow,
DJ Carrasco, Scott Schoeneweis.
Projected Lineup: Placido Polanco (2B), Alex Rios (CF),
Evan Longoria (3B), Miguel Cabrera (1B), Vladimir Guerrero (RF), Jarrod
Saltalamacchia (C), Jeremy Hermida (LF), Marco Scutaro (SS).
Gill's $25.5 million investment this
winter in Webb and Guerrero filled this team's needs perfectly.
Webb could become the first Chicago pitcher ever to win the Cy Young
award, and Guerrero provides valuable protection for Longoria and
Cabrera in the lineup. Each of those three should create over 100
runs this season. Oswalt and Zambrano complement Webb nicely in
The back end of the rotation is very thin, and every fifth game could
get ugly in a hurry. The bullpen could
also use a legitimate stopper in the closer's role, which would push
Saito into a more appropriate setup role. And the bottom third of
the lineup could also use a boost.
The Hrbek Division appears to be wide open this year, and I would expect
Gill to make a move early to fill those holes in his rotation and
bullpen. With a farm system loaded with talent, and several good,
young players occupying the 35-man roster, there is certainly enough
trade bait here to make vast improvements in those two areas.
2nd place. Chicago's top five
players are better than any player on the Ryche, but Akron has more
depth to remain competitive over a 160-game marathon.
Atlanta Fire Ants
Owner: Gene Patterson
2008 Record: 42-118 (4th place)
Projected Rotation: John Danks, Ervin Santana, Jair
Jurrjens, Kevin Slowey, Andy Sonnanstine.
Bullpen: Joey Devine, Hong-Chi Kuo, Jason Grilli, Ryan
Madson, Sean Marshall, Eddie Guardado, Max Scherzer, Arthur Rhodes, Joe
Smith, Jose Veras.
Projected Lineup: Mark Ellis/Blake DeWitt (2B), Ryan
Church/Coco Crisp (LF), Denard Span (CF), Jason Giambi (1B), Matt Joyce
(RF), Wily Aybar/Ian Stewart (3B), Orlando Cabrera (SS), Gregg Zaun (C).
The best pitching staff in the Eck League
-- second only to the Undertakers in the BDBL. Danks and Santana
are both #1 starters with nicely-balanced splits and dominant numbers
across the board. The rest of the rotation is filled with quality
starters who will not only perform well, but pitch a ton of innings.
The bullpen is led by two closers with dominant splits -- including
Devine, who held right-handed batters to a miniscule 312 OPS.
(That's OPS, not OBP.) And like a few teams in the
BDBL, the Atlanta bullpen includes more quality relievers than the team
could ever use. With TEN quality bullpen arms, at least three of
those guys won't even be on the active roster.
Some of that depth in the bullpen probably
have been sacrificed in order to add some bats to this lineup.
This may be the weakest lineup in the BDBL, with only one batter (the
Pr-rated, slow-footed Giambi) owning an overall OPS above 850.
Aside from Span, there is no one to set the table at the top of the
lineup. And aside from Giambi, there is no one to drive home any
runners that do happen to reach base.
As greatly as the Fire Ants improved their pitching staff this year,
it's difficult to imagine this team scoring any more runs than the one
that lost a BDBL-record 118 games last season. Atlanta has come a
long, long way in a very short period of time, but they still have a
3rd place. Pitching staffs have a way of spontaneously bursting
into flames. (Believe me, I know.) It's quite possible that
a year from now, the same Atlanta pitching staff that appears to be
poised for several years of dominance may completely flame out.
Because pitching is so fickle, teams must take full advantage of the
opportunity to compete through excellent pitching. For Atlanta,
that time is now.
Owner: Mike Stein
2008 Record: 67-93 (1st place)
Projected Rotation: Cliff Lee, Scott Olsen, Edwin
Jackson, Carlos Silva.
Bullpen: Justin Masterson, Scott Shields, Josh Johnson,
Tim Byrdak, Santiago Casilla.
Projected Lineup: Ray Durham (2B), Russ Martin (C),
Chipper Jones (3B), Bobby Abreu (RF), Aaron Rowand (CF), Jerry
Hairston/Fernando Tatis (LF), Jim Thome/Adam Dunn (1B), Troy Tulowitzki
The Cleveland lineup should be able to
cause some serious damage this season. The 13
main hitters on the active roster compiled an OPS of 820 in MLB last season,
with 852/808 splits. Cliff Lee is a force to be reckoned with
in the starting rotation. (Now there's a sentence I never thought
Weaknesses: Beyond Lee and Olsen, the remaining starters would have
difficulty making the five-man rotations of most other teams in the BDBL.
And the bullpen is extremely thin, and lacks a closer who can handle
both lefties and righties. The defense is also filled with Pr- or
Fr-rated fielders at first, second, left (when Tatis plays) and right
Outlook: It looks like Mike Stein is employing the Bobby Sylvester
strategy this season by virtually ignoring pitching and focusing
entirely on offense. This strategy has rarely worked throughout
history, and it would be a surprise if Cleveland's offense were strong
enough to overshadow their defensive liabilities. If Stein decides
to punt, there is no doubt in my mind that chaos will soon follow.
Lee is the biggest trading chit in the league right now, and where he
lands will severely affect the outcome of the pennant races. The
last two times Stein held such a highly-coveted trading commodity, he seemingly
acquired pennies on the dollar (although Lee -- who was acquired in the
Jason Schmidt deal of 2005 -- inexplicably and unexpectedly redeemed
that trade four years later.) If he plays his cards right, Stein
could get enough in exchange for Lee that the Rocks will return to the
playoffs in 2010. But if he plays them wrong...God help him.
Prediction: 4th place. I also predict that Lee will be traded for
several players on the Cleveland Indians. But that one's a gimme.
Owner: Mike Glander
2008 Record: 103-57 (1st place, OL champions)
Projected Rotation: Josh Beckett, Felix Hernandez,
Justin Duchscherer, Brett Myers, Boof Bonser, Aaron Harang.
Bullpen: Grant Balfour, Manny Delcarmen, Edwar Ramirez,
Brandon League, Justin Hampson.
Projected Lineup: Derek Jeter (SS), Ian Kinsler (2B),
Mark Teixeira (1B), Matt Kemp/Fred Lewis (CF), Melvin Mora (3B), Josh
Willingham (RF), Jody Gerut (LF), Javier Valentin/Kenji Johjima (C).
The Salem pitching staff probably won't
set any records this season, either, but they're still pretty good.
Despite the fact that four of the five starters from last year's squad
spontaneously burst into flames, the starting rotation has been completely
rebuilt from the ground up, and should be well-represented on December's Cy Young ballot.
The bullpen is led by two dominant closers, and the lineup features a
top-ten hitter at five different positions.
The back end of the rotation could make it
difficult for Salem to sweep many series this season. Myers,
Bonser and Harang may be assets in 2010, but they're only inning-fillers
this season. There's no sugar-coating it: Salem's catchers are the
worst in the league. The Cowtippers will essentially be playing
with a seven-man lineup this season, thanks to the epic collapse of
Johjima. And the Salem bench is among the weakest (if not the
weakest) in the league.
Another year, another contending team in Salem. And, no doubt,
another disappointing November.
1st place. This Salem is nowhere near as good as last year's team,
but it's still good enough to win this division.
New Milford Blazers
Owners: Anthony Peburn
2008 Record: 76-84 (3rd place)
Projected Rotation: Jeremy Guthrie, Dave Bush, Jorge
Campillo, Brian Moehler, Clayton Asswipe.
Bullpen: Dan Wheeler, Brian Fuentes, Dan Giese, Doug
Brocail, Jason Frasor, Garrett Mock.
Projected Lineup: Martin Prado/Ronnie Belliard (SS),
Brian Roberts (2B), Troy Glaus (3B), Carlos Delgado (1B), Jack Cust
(LF), Jim Edmonds/Gabe Kapler (CF), Ryan Spilborghs/Skip Schumaker (RF),
Kevin Cash/John Baker/Dioner Navarro (C).
The King of Cheese has out-cheesed himself
once again. This year's team will consist of four
platoons filled by at least nine SUS bastards, each with 850+ OPS's in a
small, statistically-insignificant handful of MLB at-bats. Against
both lefties and righties, the Blazers can field an eight-man lineup
where every hitter owns an OPS of 800+ against the opposing pitcher. This will undoubtedly result in an offense
that scores 850+ runs in the cheesiest way possible. The rotation is filled with
and the bullpen is headed by a two-man closer committee.
Weaknesses: The starting rotation is missing an ace. The $13
million man, Guthrie, posted nice 706/682 splits in 190+ innings, but he
doesn't fit the profile of a typical #1 starter. Offensively,
Peburn's strategy of excessive platooning often leads to usage issues in
the second half of the season. Baker (233 PAs overall), Belliard
(337), Cash (162), Edmonds (401), Kapler (245), Prado (254) and
Spillborghs (275) will undoubtedly play every game against the
Cowtippers, but over a 160-game season, they will have to sit the bench
quite often, and (barring a few trades) their at-bats will have to go to
Outlook: The patented Peburn strategy is to patch together a team of
pinch hitters and relief specialists capable of carrying the team
through 160 games while achieving some level of "success" (better defined as "not sucking.")
Lather, rinse, repeat. This one-year-at-a-time strategy resulted
in a triumphant 76-84 record last year. With weaker competition in
the Butler Division this year, expect a little better record. And
if there is any such thing as "poetic justice," that record won't be
nearly good enough to compete for a playoffs spot. While this
strategy of exploiting DMB's weaknesses with respect to platoon splits
has proven to work very well in the short term, it isn't very effective
in the long term. Because platoon players rarely perform well two
seasons in a row, the roster must be completely rebuilt from the ground
up every winter. Not an easy task, and hardly conducive to
Prediction: 2nd place. If history is any indication, expect Peburn
to flip some of his so-called "prospects" for more SUS scumbags
throughout the season. This will solve the usage issues he seems
to have every year, and keep the team competitive through the final
chapters of the season. Baseball Gods willing, that's as close as
the Blazers will get to the playoffs.
Owner: Ed McGowan
2008 Record: 98-62 (2nd place)
Projected Rotation: Aaron Cook, John Maine, Zach Duke,
Jeremy Sowers, Jo-Jo Reyes.
Bullpen: Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, Ron Mahay, Jake
Westbrook, Brandon Lyon.
Projected Lineup: Christian Guzman (SS), Joe Mauer (C),
Lance Berkman (1B), Prince Fielder (LF), Jorge Cantu (3B), Jeff Baker/Howie
Kendrick (2B), Rick Ankiel (CF), Shin-Soo Choo (RF).
There are no glaring holes in this lineup, and Berkman, Ankiel, Choo and Fielder all mash right-handed pitchers at an
890 OPS or better. Playing in Corona's custom-built ballpark that
is tailor-built for left-handed power hitters, all four should enjoy big
It's hard to fathom how Corona will get
through an entire season with this starting rotation. The five
pitchers above combined for just 770.1 MLB innings, which translates to
847.1 innings of BDBL usage. 160 games times 6 innings per start
yields 960 innings, so Corona will have to find an extra 113 innings
somewhere. Duke, Sowers and Reyes combined for a 5.31 ERA in 247
MLB innings. I'm projecting Fielder will play in left field, as
there is no other logical place to put him when a right hander is on the
mound. Against lefties, he would become the league's best pinch hitter. Having
the 275-pound Fielder rumbling around in left field for 105 games or so
will be amusing to say the least, but Corona fans won't find it nearly
as funny as the rest of us.
I think Ed made a small gaffe this winter when he placed a $10.5 million
bid on Berkman. I assume he was just looking to drive up the
price, and -- like me -- assumed Berkman would go for far more than
$10.5 million. There are worse fates than being "stuck" with Lance
Berkman for an entire season with no trade option, yet this team's money
could have been better spent on pitching. Without pitching, it's
hard to see the Confederates going anywhere this season.
3rd place. The balls will be flying out of Corona this season,
both when the Confederates are at bat and when they're in the field.
Unless something drastic happens (like a Fielder trade for an ace
pitcher), 2009 looks like a .500 season for Corona.
New Hope Badgers
Owner: Tony Badger
2008 Record: 73-87 (4th place)
Projected Rotation: Andy Pettitte, Todd Wellemeyer,
Doug Davis, Jason Bergmann, Jeff Suppan.
Bullpen: Kevin Gregg, Matt Albers, Sean Green, Wil Ledezma,
Brad Thompson, Lance Cormier.
Projected Lineup: Alfonso Soriano (LF), Grady Sizemore
(CF), Ryan Ludwick (RF), Derrek Lee (1B), Ty Wigginton (3B), Brendan
Harris (SS), Willie Harris (2B), Ramon Hernandez (C).
Ludwick magically appeared from thin air,
and now looks to be among the favorites to win the OL Babe Ruth award in
2009. He's surrounded by a very impressive cast, including
Sizemore, Soriano and Lee. Playing in one of the league's few
remaining hitter's parks, the Badgers should score a ton of runs this
Unfortunately, with this pitching staff,
New Hope will likely allow far more runs than they will score. The
Badgers went into the auction with only three starting pitchers (Pettitte,
Wellemeyer and Davis), a sub-par bullpen and no catcher or second
baseman. They emerged from the auction with the same holes in their roster and only
$9.4 million left to fill those holes from what was undoubtedly our
weakest draft pool in league history. The bottom third of this
lineup is far below-average, and the glaring holes in the rotation and
bullpen haven't been patched.
The Badgers went all out last year,
trading several cheap pitchers to add John Smoltz down the stretch, and
then taking on Alfonso Soriano's contract late in the season. The
result, unfortunately, was a last-place finish. New Hope is now
weighed down by several large salaries, which prevented this team from
filling the holes that needed to be filled in the auction and draft.
2009 looks like a rebuilding year, though Tony Badger always seems to
find a way to compete.
4th place. Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a ton of
trade bait here to use toward the rebuilding effort. Of the free
agents-to-be, Gregg and Wigginton probably have the most value, but
would have to be sacrificed early due to usage issues. The back
end of this rotation is pretty scary, and will likely drag this team
into 100-loss territory.
Owner: Nic Weiss
2008 Record: 61-99 (4th place)
Projected Rotation: Cole Hamels, Ricky Nolasco, Scott
Kazmir, Tim Hudson, Mark Hendrickson.
Bullpen: Brandon Morrow, B.J. Ryan, Damaso Marte, Joe Nelson, Bill
Bray, Mike Lincoln.
Projected Lineup: Orlando Hudson/Jose Bautista (2B),
Eric Hinske/Steve Pearce (RF), Magglio Ordonez (LF), Alex Rodriguez (3B), Joey Votto (1B),
Jimmy Rollins (SS), Gary Matthews (CF), Jamie Burke/Jeff Clement (C)
The best pitching staff east of Los Altos.
Thanks to the Jim Doyle Charitable Giving Association, the Hammerheads
own a starting rotation that is not only extremely talented, but
extremely cheap and young as well. The addition of A-Rod gives
this team a legitimate MVP candidate in the heart of the lineup.
The infield defense is also a strength, with Votto (Vg) and Hudson (Ex)
on the right side and Rollins (Av) and A-Rod (Av) on the left.
Weaknesses: Rodriguez's supporting cast is a little suspect at this point.
The last-minute trade that brought Ordonez to the lineup definitely
helps, but it still may not be enough to consistently generate a few
rallies. Votto could provide decent protection, but only if he isn't penalized
too heavily by ballpark factors. Players like Bautista and Hinske are quality platoon hitters, but those types of hitters don't
always perform as expected in the BDBL. There seems to be a
glaring hole in center field, as Matthews (632 OPS) can't hit righties,
and Melky Cabrera (670) isn't much better.
The catching platoon of Burke and Clement also leaves much to be
Outlook: This starting rotation is capable of carrying this team to a
division title. And although Marlboro probably won't score 900
runs with this lineup, they won't need to. The problems in the
lineup are easily fixable through trade -- at least in terms of finding
first basemen and outfielders. The hole behind the plate may be a
permanent problem. The main problem now for Marlboro is that Nic
has already blown through 40% of his allotted VORP cap.
Prediction: 1st place. With A-Rod, Tim Hudson and Orlando Hudson all
due to depart via free agency at the end of the season, the stars are
aligned for Nic Weiss' first foray into the Tournament of Randomness.
Manchester Irish Rebels
Owners: Jim Doyle and
2008 Record: 75-85 (2nd place)
Projected Rotation: A.J. Burnett, Greg Maddux, Chris
Young, Paul Byrd, Bronson Arroyo.
Bullpen: Jonathan Papelbon, Chad Bradford, Leo Nunez,
Brian Bruney, Odalis Perez.
Projected Lineup: Aki Iwamura (2B), Reed Johnson (LF),
B.J. Upton (CF), Carlos Pena/Marcus Thames (1B), Kelly Shoppach (C),
Adam Jones (RF),
Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B), Yuniesky Betancourt (SS).
Papelbon is among the most dominant
closers in baseball (and given what Jim paid for him, he'd better be!)
Burnett is a quality ace at the top of the rotation, and his supporting
cast of #3/#4 starters should perform well in Manchester's park.
The #3, #4 and #5 hitters in the lineup are all solid run-producers.
Weaknesses: Both ends of the lineup are a bit weak -- particularly the
left side of the infield -- and the back end of the rotation may cause
some problems. In place of Betancourt (684/694 splits), Manchester
could go with a shortstop platoon of Eric Bruntlett (742 vs. LH) and
Alex Cora (741 vs. RH), though Cora's usage will only take him through a
couple of chapters, at most. At third base, Kouzmanoff (661/762
splits) seems to be the only viable solution there, although Bruntlett
can spot start on occasion. Doyle opened up a new hole in the
outfield with his most recent trade of Markakis for Jones. The
upgrade at catcher makes up for part of that difference, but not enough
to break even.
Outlook: It's an odd strategy, but would we expect anything differently
from Jim Doyle? The Irish Rebels once owned a young and dominant
starting rotation that included Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and Scott Kazmir.
But Doyle traded away all three, and spent a whopping $35.5 million this
winter to replace those arms. The end result is a team that looks
decent enough to possibly beat last year's 75-85 record, but probably
not decent enough to beat the Hammerheads in the division.
Prediction: 2nd place. The strategy here is pretty clear.
Doyle shelled out $35.5 million to fill his rotation this winter, but
only $8.5 million of that (Burnett) is committed for 2010. Doyle
and Bliss are using the current rotation as a stopgap solution while
waiting for all those young pitchers Doyle acquired in the disastrous Kazmir/Hamels trade (Gio Gonzalez, Phil Hughes and Franklin Morales) to
ripen. It remains to be seen how well that
plan will play out. For now, the Irish Rebels are good enough to
avoid a rollover penalty in 2010, and possibly good enough to earn a
bonus. And next year, they'll have upwards of $27 million to spend
on more stopgap pitching if their plan doesn't work out.
Owner: Brian Potrafka
2008 Record: 99-61 (1st place)
Projected Rotation: Roy Halladay, Mark Buehrle, Wandy
Rodriguez, Braden Looper, Fausto
Bullpen: Craig Breslow, Cla Meredith, Trever Miller,
Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Brown, Duaner Sanchez, Ramon Troncoso.
Projected Lineup: Robinson Cano (2B), Marlon Byrd (CF),
Ken Griffey/Brandon Boggs (RF), Luke Scott (LF), Todd Helton/Aaron Boone (1B), Edwin Encarnacion
(3B), Jason Varitek (C), Maicer Izturis (SS).
For the third year in a row, following his
acquisition for the immortal Brandon Phillips, Halladay will anchor the Ravenswood
starting rotation. He should be among the league leaders in
several categories, and should earn a number of votes for OL Cy Young
before the year is over. He is backed by three very capable arms
in Buehrle, Rodriguez and Looper.
Weaknesses: This lineup has a lot of glaring holes. At second base,
Cano posted a 683 OPS against right-handers, and no other second baseman
on the roster posted an OPS higher than 701 vs. righties. At
third, Encarnacion was merely average (767 OPS) against righties, and
that number will probably fall after adjusting for ballpark. In
the outfield, Scott posted an OPS of just 702 against lefties, and he
doesn't appear to have a viable platoon partner. And like most
teams, the catching position is problematic, as no catcher on the roster
(with more than 154 total PAs) posted an OPS higher than 616 against
Outlook: It's hard to imagine the Infidels scoring more than 700 runs
this season. And as good as this starting rotation is, 700 runs
just isn't going to cut it. With Halladay approaching free agency
at the end of the season, he (along with Cleveland ace Cliff Lee) will
be among the most highly-coveted players on the trade market this
season. The last time Potrafka owned a highly-coveted ace pitcher
in his walk year (Johan Santana in 2006), he ended up with Encarnacion
and Scott Olsen. I think he can do even better this time.
Prediction: 3rd place. It's going to be a tough year for Skizm, as
we all know how much he enjoys losing. But if he plays his cards
right, he could set himself up nicely for a run at the division in 2010,
just as he did in his rebuilding year of 2006.
Las Vegas Flamingos
Owner: John Bochicchio
2008 Record: 70-90 (3rd place)
Projected Rotation: Nick Blackburn, Greg Smith, Tim
Redding, Luke Hochevar, Chien-Ming Wang.
Bullpen: Russ Springer, Tyler Walker, Saul Rivera,
Rafael Betancourt, Manny Corpas.
Projected Lineup: Johnny Damon (CF), Delmon Young (LF),
Mark DeRosa (1B), Chase Utley (2B), Xavier Nady (RF), Chase Headley
(3B), Edgar Renteria (SS), J.R. Towles (C).
Utley -- who combines a 915 OPS with Ex
defense -- is always a strength. Damon -- who will play his TENTH season with
the Flamingos, under his third different contract -- is also an asset at
the top of the lineup.
Weaknesses: With Wang losing half the season to injury, the Vegas starting
rotation is in shambles. Blackburn is a nice innings-filler at the
back end of a rotation, but he's no ace. And this team's #3
starter would have trouble fitting into the five-man rotations of most
BDBL teams. This team has no true closer, and features
below-average hitters at third base, shortstop and catcher.
Outlook: Last year, Johnny Bo spent $24.5 million ($75.5 million over
three years) on three risky "Type H" free agents -- a decision he would
immediately regret. Those three players (Travis Hafner, Betancourt
and Penny) are earning the same $24.5 million this season, despite
atrocious MLB seasons that have relegated all three to the reserve
roster. Despite that disastrous chain of events, Bochicchio dipped
back into the Type H pool this winter, signing yet another risky player
(Nady) to a guaranteed three-year deal. That's $32.5 million in
salary that will be allocated to those four players next year. And
Utley may miss a month or more of the MLB season. The future is not
bright in Las Vegas.
Prediction: 4th place. Bochicchio should make it his #1 priority in
2009 to dump those ginormous salaries at the first opportunity. To
do so, he'll likely have to package those contracts with players like
Utley, Wang, Young and Headley. It's a tough pill to swallow, but
the only other option is punting another season and building toward
Los Altos Undertakers
Owner: Jeff Paulson
2008 Record: 83-77 (2nd place)
Projected Rotation: C.C. Sabathia, Ryan Dempster, Jon
Lester, Matt Garza, Joba Chamberlain.
Bullpen: Mariano Rivera, Joaquim Soria, Jonathan
Broxton, Scott Downs, Geoff Geary, Billy Wagner.
Projected Lineup: Mike Fontenot/Rickie Weeks (2B), Ryan
Theriot (SS), Josh Hamilton (RF), Alex Gordon/Kevin Youkilis (3B),
Adrian Gonzalez/Richie Sexson (1B), Justin Upton (CF), Raul Ibanez/Jose
Guillen/Chris Duncan (LF), Chris Coste/Mike Napoli (C).
Okay, let's put things in perspective.
As of this writing, the 13 pitchers on the Los Altos roster who pitched
in MLB last season combined for a 2.78 CERA in 1,371 innings.
2.78. I'll give you a minute to let that soak in. Matt
Garza posted a 3.47 ERA in 184+ innings,
with 720/648 splits, and would be the ace for most teams in the BDBL.
On the Undertakers, he's a #4 starter.
Paulson paid a record $22 million for Sabathia this winter, and yet --
inning-for-inning -- he may not even be this team's best starting
pitcher. That honor may belong to the "swing man" in this
rotation, Chamberlain, who will either become an eight-inning stud or yet
another unbeatable bullpen stopper in the playoffs.
For the first time in the history of
writing these season previews, I need to start another paragraph in the
"Strengths" section, because the starting rotation isn't even this
team's greatest strength. Let's talk about the bullpen, which
begins with Mariano Rivera. Rivera held opponents to a 423 OPS
last season -- 367 for lefties, and 483 for righties. 423.
Again, I'll give you a moment to let that sink in. If you thought
Eric Gagne's 2004 season for Los Altos was the greatest possible
pinnacle of achievement for a relief pitcher, Rivera could very well
redefine that this season. But Rivera is just one of SIX closers
in the Los Altos bullpen. Of those six listed above, all six held
opponents to an overall OPS below 600 last season. This team's
sixth-best reliever, Broxton, posted a 2.48 CERA in 69 MLB innings,
and held righties to a 445 OPS. On this team, he's relegated to a
mop-up man or ROOGY role. It's comforting to know that even if I
had beaten Jeff's ERA record last season, I wouldn't have held onto it
for long. This Los Altos pitching staff may beat that record by
half a run.
Third paragraph. If this team's
lineup were filled with nine replacement-level hitters, the Undertakers
would still win the BDBL championship due to the strength of the
pitching staff. But this lineup is far from
replacement-level. As I type, the 16 players on the 35-man roster
compiled an 817 OPS in MLB last year, with nicely-balanced 820/816
splits. Against left-handers, only one batter sports an OPS below
800 (Ryan Theriot, at 778.) Against righties, only Theriot (734)
sports a sub-800 OPS. And in both cases, Jeff could insert Rafael
Furcal (1066/982 splits) at shortstop for up to 180 PA's (roughly 45
And finally, let's talk about the
bench. With platoons at catcher, first base, second base, third
base and left field, the other half of those platoons (who would all be
starters on other teams) will be sitting on the bench, ready to wreak
havoc on the opponent's bullpen. I'm not even sure what to do
about left field, as Ibanez almost seems like overkill. But then,
when you have SIX closers, I guess that sort of redefines the term
"overkill," doesn't it?
Weaknesses: Ha! If you find ONE, please let me know.
Outlook: It's difficult to imagine the Undertakers losing a single game
this season. 100 wins is a virtual certainty, and 117 (which would
establish a new BDBL record) seems well within reach. 117 wins
would give Los Altos $5.5 million extra to spend not only in 2010, but
in every year thereafter. By 2011, the Undertakers will
undoubtedly have reached the maximum $71 million overall cap, where they
will likely remain for several years. With Gordon, Upton, Matt
Weiters, Weeks, Jason Heyward, Chamberlain, Garza, Matt Harvey, Lester,
Brian Matusz, Soria, Julio Teheran and Alex White all years away from
their primes, the Undertakers dynasty has just begun. It will be a
very long time before it comes to an end.
Prediction: 1st place, and the BDBL championship. The Los Altos
Undertakers have become the New York Yankees of the BDBL, as their
talent is so overwhelming, anything less than a BDBL championship would
be considered a colossal failure. For the next several years, the
best the rest of us can hope for is an historic upset in the playoffs.
San Antonio Broncs
Owner: Greg Newgard
2008 Record: 65-95 (4th place)
Projected Rotation: Dan Haren, John Lackey, Edinson
Volquez, Jesse Litsch, Ryan Rowland-Smith.
Bullpen: Cory Wade, Heath Bell, Darren Oliver, Chad
Durbin, Renyel Pinto, Aquilino Lopez, Logan Kensing.
Projected Lineup: Conor Jackson/David Murphy (LF),
Casey Blake (3B), Chris Davis (1B), Pat Burrell (RF), Vernon Wells (CF),
Jose Lopez (2B), Clint Barmes (SS), Jason Kendall/Miguel Montero (C).
A very deep lineup filled with power
hitters. I couldn't even find room in the projected lineup above
for Jayson Werth (1020/767 splits), who would be a starter on most
teams. Counting Werth, there are six hitters on the San Antonio
roster who posted an 800+ OPS in MLB last season. Beyond the
hitting, the pitching staff is also very impressive, led by Cy Young
contenders Haren and Volquez, and backed by three quality arms.
And the bullpen is filled with solid pitchers with strong splits.
Weaknesses: The defense includes two Pr-rated fielders (Davis and
Burrell), but we're picking nits at this point.
Outlook: Let's face the facts. In any other division, this would
easily be a division championship team. But this Griffin Division
race was wrapped up long ago, and likely will be a certainty for years
to come. Newgard will have no choice but to be happy with an OL
wild card and a shot at one of those infamous BDBL playoffs upsets.
2nd place, and the OL wild card. I predicted this team would win
this division last year, so I'm hoping to redeem myself with this
Bear Country Jamboree
Owner: Matt Clemm
2008 Record: 91-69 (1st place)
Projected Rotation: Hiroki Kuroda, Joe Saunders, Paul
Maholm, Francisco Liriano, John Lannan.
Bullpen: Ramon Ramirez, Sergio Romo,
Javier Lopez, Brian Wilson.
Projected Lineup: Alberto Callaspo (2B), Corey Hart (RF),
Miguel Tejada (SS), David Ortiz (1B), Adrian Beltre (3B), Carl Crawford
(CF), A.J. Pierzynski (C), Hideki Matsui/Mark Teahen (LF).
The Bear Country bullpen includes a couple of relievers with eye-popping splits. In particular, Romo (a right-hander) held lefties to a 295 OPS in MLB. (That's
OPS, not OBP.)
Weaknesses: It sure is strange to see the Bear Country lineup without
A-Rod. His absence leaves a gaping hole that is not adequately
filled by Tejada, Ortiz and Beltre. The starting rotation begins
with three #3-type starters, but lacks a true ace (or even a #2
starter.) The last-minute addition of Lannan solves the problem of
usage this team may have encountered later in the year, but adding
another soft-tossing #4 starter won't propel this team into the
Outlook: With the trades of A-Rod and Tim Hudson, the injury to Liriano,
and the free agent departures of Brandon Webb, A.J. Burnett and Carlos
Guillen, the Jamboree roster has been decimated. 2009 will
definitely be the beginning of a major rebuilding effort. How long
that effort lasts depends on the health of Liriano, the return to form
of Ortiz, Crawford Tejada and Matsui, and how much value Clemm can add
Prediction: 3rd place. Even in a division that didn't include the
world-beating Undertakers, the Jamboree would have a tough time
competing. 2008 was most likely Clemm's final opportunity to win
the Griffin division title, and he took full advantage of that
opportunity. But it looks like it's going to be awhile before the
Jamboree play November baseball again.
Owner: John Duel
2008 Record: 73-87 (3rd place)
Projected Rotation: Jason Marquis, Jonathan Sanchez,
Dana Eveland, Jon Garland, Adam Eaton.
Bullpen: Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Arrendondo, Huston
Street, Alex Hinshaw.
Projected Lineup: Ichiro Suzuki (CF), Aaron
Miles/Brandon Phillips (2B), Geovany Soto (C), Nomar Garciaparra/Mike
Jacobs (1B), Garrett Atkins (3B), Garrett Anderson (LF), Emil Brown/Greg
Dobbs (RF), Jason Bartlett (SS).
In a year where good-hitting catchers are
as rare as good stocks, having a hitter like Soto behind the
dish is a real asset. K-Rod and Arrendondo make a formidable pair
in the bullpen, and have the ability to shorten a few games.
Weaknesses: Marquis (4.35 CERA, 702/783 splits) would make a decent #4
starter, but as an ace, he leaves a lot to be desired. The
rotation only gets worse from there. The starting lineup includes
only two players (Jacobs and Soto) with an 800+ OPS against
Outlook: Playing 16 games against the Undertakers (and another 16
against San Antonio) sure isn't going to help this team attain a decent
record. The Pads have an all-star catcher and two all-star
relievers, but little else to generate any sort of optimism or
excitement. Aside from those three, there are few marketable
players on this roster that would generate any sort of interest in
trade. (And at $7.6 million in salary next year, Rodriguez would
be tough to move.) In other words, it's going to be a long and
bumpy road ahead for this franchise.
Prediction: 4th place, with triple-digit losses. (The same
prediction I made for this team last year.)