Monthly Archives: March, 2013

2013 Preseason Awards: National League Cy Young

Yesterday, we released The Nine Best NL Starters for 2013, so this will come as no surprise to those of you who did last night’s homework. Yet, for completeness sake, we’ll go through it for those of you who had that paper to finish for MLB Trade Rumors.

The NL has some great starters and a lot of top flight starters just missed the cut here. You can refer to the list linked above to see how I rank them, but my reasoning should be clear through my description below.

And the award will go to…

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Stephen Strasburg (SP – Nationals)

There are two major concerns with picking Strasburg for NL Cy Young. First, would be the workload, which the Nationals claim will not be limited during this season. Second is his health. He’s now two years removed from Tommy John’s Surgery and showed no real ill effects last season. So, I’m banking on a full, healthy season from Strasburg.

Given that, he’s my Cy Young pick.

Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee are all fantastic pitchers who I expect to have very good seasons, but Strasburg, if performing at his best, is the class of the league.

In 45 career starts he has an 11.21 K/9 and 2.40 BB/9 in 251.1 innings to go with a 2.94 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and 8.0 WAR. Of active starters with at least 250 innings, no one has a higher strikeout rate and less than 30 have a lower walk rate. No one has a lower FIP.

About that FIP, the next closest active starter with a FIP that low is Kershaw. Kershaw’s FIP is more than half a run higher.

We can often get caught up by small sample sizes and extrapolation where it isn’t appropriate, but everything about Strasburg points to this being real. Scouts rave about his stuff and he put up amazing numbers in college. The minor league numbers are consistent.

Stephen Strasburg, when he’s been on the field, has an incredible mix of high strikeouts and low walks. And he’s only 24, so there is a lot of reason to believe he’s going to get better before he gets worse. Roll that all together and I’m picking him to win the NL Cy Young.

I’m not worried about injuries for him, and if we assume every starter in the league performs to their ceiling, I’m taking Strasburg easily. No disrespect to Mr. Kershaw, but Strasburg will be king in 2013.

Disagree? Just watch the dude pitch.

The Nine Best National League Starting Pitchers for 2013

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

Over the last nine weeks, we’ve chronicled the best players at each field position and the best starters the AL has to offer. Here, we’ll wrap up this particular run with the National League’s best starters.

I’ve often commented on the level of difficulty each list gave me during its construction, and this one, like the AL list, gave me trouble because there were a good number of candidates for the back half of the list. I feel strongly about the top five, but I think 6-15 could go in a lot of directions.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these rankings as a topic of debate and a way to preview the 2013 season. We’ll pick up next Saturday with other types The Nine lists, but we’ll revisit these lists throughout the season to see how well they prepared us for the future.

9. Johnny Cueto (Reds)

Cueto has pretty consistently outperformed his peripherals in the past and finally had a top shelf season this year in Cincinnati. Cueto remains in his prime and pitches in front of a pretty complete team. I thought about some other guys for this spot, and it killed me to leave Halladay off this list, but this one feels right.

8. Zach Greinke (Dodgers)

Greinke is now a very wealthy man and has a friendly home ballpark. He’s got great stuff but is susceptible to blow up innings. If there wasn’t a bit of a question about his elbow for the start of the season, he’d be a bit higher. Greinke is as talented as almost anyone on the list, but he tends to underperform his peripherals and his health is a bit uncertain.

7. Matt Cain (Giants)

Cain is an absolute workhouse with great control whose WAR undervalues him because it doesn’t appreciate his apparent ability to limit BABIP. He’s never missed a start in seven seasons, clearly has no-hit stuff and is very reliable. The ace of the world champs belongs on any list of this kind, and his contract looks incredible compared to some of the big signings of late.

6. Gio Gonzalez (Nationals)

Gio is a bit wild, but the strikeout rate and the walk rate are trending in the right direction. I’m not his biggest fan and there will certainly be steroid talk this season, but the numbers are telling me he’s a top six starter for next season. I’d rather have Cain or Greinke on my club, but if we’re going to try to be objective about next year, we probably have to give the edge to Gio.

5. Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)

Wainwright had two Cy Young type seasons in 2009 and 2010 before missing all of 2011 after having Tommy John’s Surgery. It took him a few months to return to form, and looks locked in and ready to go. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game when he’s healthy and all signs point to a big season from the 31 year old ace of the Cardinals.

4. Cliff Lee (Phillies)

Lee is coming off five excellent seasons in which he threw 211 innings or more. He has amazing control and a fine strikeout rate. He only has one Cy Young on his shelf, but this lefty ace could easily have a couple more. He is, without a doubt, owner of the best 6-9 season in baseball history and shows no sign of slowing down.

3. Cole Hamels (Phillies)

Everything about Cole Hamels’ game is awesome. Strikeouts, few walks, durability. He doesn’t quite have the ceiling of the others, but he’s consistency keeps him at the top of this list. The changeup is one of the best in the game and he remains the youngest of the Phillies aces heading into 2013.

2. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

Kershaw is awesome. I don’t think I have to say anything else. He’s 25, has a Cy Young and a couple of near misses. He’s the best left handed pitcher in the game and should be for years to come. The only question about Kershaw is if he or Verlander will break the $200 million barrier for starters.

1. Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)

Last season was all about the innings limit. When he’s allowed to pitch, he is off the charts incredible. His career strikeout rate is 11.21 with a 2.71 BB/9. If he can hold up and stay healthy, he’s the best pitcher in the league. His stuff is amazing to watch. Is he Justin Verlander? Maybe not. Is he as close as any right hander in the game, you bet. Stephen Strasburg is the real deal.

What do you think? Kershaw or Strasburg? Or, someone else?

2013 Preseason Awards: American League Cy Young

In continuing our preseason awards series, we have arrived at the boring one. Sorry about that, but these things happen. Sometimes the pick is too obvious and the drama is lacking. This is one of those times.

On Sunday, I ran down our list of the The Nine Best AL Starters for 2013 and there are a lot of great names on that list. Felix Hernandez, David Price, Yu Darvish, and my breakout pick Matt Moore are all going to make a run at the top pitching honor in the AL, but the award will be outside their grasp.

And the award will go to…

A photo from directly above the author's desk.

A photo from directly above the author’s desk.

Justin Verlander (SP – Tigers)

You knew this was coming. Verlander enters his eighth major league season as the front man of one of the best, if not the best, rotations in all of baseball. He’s been a machine and continues to mix dominance with durability.

He has run off four 6 WAR or better season in a row and has a Cy Young and MVP from his 2011 campaign. Heck, he should have won another Cy Young last season.

Verlander is the best pitcher on the planet, and there are really only a handful of guys who really compare. Anything can happen, but it usually doesn’t. Usually, Goliath beats David and the Soviet Union wins the 1980 Gold Medal.

This seems like one of those times. Justin Verlander is simply too good at throwing a baseball to not pick him for the Cy Young. I just couldn’t pick anyone else, even if I wanted to. It’s certainly possible that he doesn’t win the award in 2013, but if I picked anyone else I would simply be making a bold prediction just for the sake of doing so, and I hate people who do that.

Justin Verlander is the best starting pitcher in the American League until someone proves otherwise.

2013 Preseason Awards: American League Rookie of the Year

Yesterday I wrote on the subject of NL Rookie of the Year and pointed out a good preseason candidate is a talented player with a clear path to playing time. Such a player is actually pretty hard to find in both leagues and I found it to be tougher in the American League.

Surprisingly tough. So tough, in fact, that I violated one of the conditions and went for talent alone along with what I believe to be a path to meaningful playing time even if it isn’t full playing time.

There are a ton of great prospects on AL teams, but this one should be the best in 2013. Heck, he should have been up a year ago.

And the award will go to…

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Wil Myers (RF – Rays)

Myers was the centerpiece of the Royals’ trade for James Shields this offseason and I was among those to believe it was a foolish move for Kansas City. Myers has the ability to hit and hit for power while playing solid defense in a corner outfield spot. And he’s ready to do it now. He’s not a prospect who needs a lot of seasoning, he’s one who’s ready to contribute.

He should do so this season for the Rays whenever they decide to call him up. It will happen in one of three ways. A key player on the MLB club will get hurt and they’ll need him, he’ll sign a team friendly extension, or June 1st will roll around and his arbitration clock will get pushed back a season. At any rate, Myers figures to get four months or more in the show this year and they should be good enough to earn him some hardware.

He hit 37 homeruns last season to go with his .316/.389/.602 slash line between AA and AAA. He’s a little heavy on the strikeouts but balances it with a lot of walks too. The typical comparison for Myers is a right handed Jay Bruce.

And he’s just 22 years old. Myers is not just the best prospect on the Rays, he’s one of the five or six best in the entire sport. Jurickson Profar is another AL prospect who comes to mind for the 2013 season, but his path to playing time is blocked by All-Stars while Myers is blocked by Matt Joyce, Kelly Johnson, or Luke Scott. Mostly, he’s blocked by service time.

The power hitting outfielder should get a few swings in the minor leagues this Spring before getting the call to St. Pete, but once he’s there he will be there to stay. Myers looks to pair nicely with Evan Longoria in the middle of the Rays order for years to come.

Barring injury, either to Myers or to one of the players keeping Profar out of the lineup in Texas, the smart money is on Myers to claim the Rookie of the Year honors.

2013 Preseason Awards: National League Rookie of the Year

The Rookie of the Year award is one of the most interesting awards to discuss at the end of the season most years because it can mean so many different things. It could be the most valuable rookie, the rookie who played the best during his time in the show, or a rookie who had a good season and looks to have a brighter future.

Predicting who is going to win at the outset of the season is quite difficult most seasons because it is so hard to determine playing time. Oscar Taveras, the Cardinals outfielder, is likely the best player in the NL with rookie status this season, but his path to playing time is blocked. If Carlos Beltran breaks his ankle tomorrow, things change quite a bit.

So when choosing a preseason Rookie of the Year, one must look for talent and one must look for consistent at bats or innings. We at SABR Toothed Tigers considered a number of candidates for this award including Taveras, but ultimately settled on who we consider to be the talented rookie with the clearest path to a full season of playing time.

And the award will go to…

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Adam Eaton (CF – Diamondbacks)

With Justin Upton and Chris Young out of the picture, Cody Ross will slide to right field this season for the Dbacks, giving Eaton a chance to take the everyday job in center. The newly 24 year old Eaton looks to solidify the leadoff spot this season and brings above average regular potential to the table.

Most scouts don’t consider him to have superstar potential, but he could be a very solid major leaguer for years to come. Eaton is very good on defense with excellent speed and a great arm that will play at any of the three outfield spots.

He’s stolen 40 or more bases in each of the last two seasons across multiple levels and has consistently put up a better than .300 average and .400 on base in the minor leagues. His 5’8” frame isn’t built for power, but if you’re looking for a speedy leadoff hitter who plays great defense, Eaton is your guy.

He’s a very good player with little left to prove in the minor leagues and should have an everyday spot on a decent to good big league team. It’s hard to find a lot of other NL players who fit that bill. The Mets and Cardinals have pitchers who could contribute in a big way, but there is more uncertainty there in my opinion. The Padres Jed Gyrko is another candidate, but he’s playing on a lesser club in a tougher park, all while likely playing a new position. He gave Eaton a run for his money in our voting, but came up short.

Adam Eaton has hit at every level and looks poised for a strong rookie campaign in a field of players with difficult paths to full seasons of playing time. He’s not an MVP type player like Mike Trout was last year, but when 2013 is over, he’ll get his hands on some hardware of his own.

2013 Detroit Tigers Season Preview

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Well folks, the time has come. Less than two weeks from now, the Tigers will be at Target Field taking on the Twins and getting the 2013 season under way. It has seemed like a quiet offseason for the defending AL champs, but they actually made some big moves by signing Torii Hunter to a two year deal and re-upping with Anibal Sanchez for five seasons.

The Tigers have two consecutive division titles under their belts and a pennant flying this season for their work thwarting the rest of the AL in 2012. With essentially the entire team coming back in addition to the aforementioned additions and a healthy Victor Martinez, all signs point to another big season for the Tigers. Things can go wrong, but the expectation surely is that the Tigers will repeat as AL Central champs.

You can read my AL Central preview here, my preseason power rankings here, and my standings prediction here, all of which point to my agreement with the conventional wisdom about the Tigers chances. I think they’re going to be very good and a force with which to be reckoned. Here’s why.

The Starting Pitching

The Tigers have six starters who belong in a major league rotation. The staff is led by Justin Verlander, who is the best pitcher in the game according to most, and backed up by three pitchers who can make a strong claim to #2 starter status: Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez. Those potential number twos are the strength of the rotation because it makes them extremely deep. It would surprise no one if any of those pitchers accomplished something close to a 4 WAR season (they’ve all done it before), and it would be incredible if they all managed to do it.

Think about this, Verlander is the oldest member of the rotation. The Tigers have three pitchers in their primes with a history of strong performance behind the game’s best starter. That’s pretty good.

And then there are Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly. Both of which deserve to start this season. I wrote here that I’d go with Porcello and he is making his case this Spring with an excellent strikeout to walk ratio and a much better breaking ball. To his credit, Smyly isn’t struggling either. It’s a good problem to have.

I would argue the Tigers have the best rotation in baseball and I can’t make a case for them being any worse than third entering the season. In the next two weeks, the Tigers are going to trade, send to the pen, or demote a pitcher capable of a 2-3 win season. That should be all you need to know.

The Lineup

At this point, it just sounds like I’m naming parts of a baseball team, but the lineup is very good. Austin Jackson was a top five AL outfielder last season and is joined by fellow top ten AL outfielder Torii Hunter at the top of the lineup. If that wasn’t enough, MVP and elite hitter Miguel Cabrera follows them, sitting ahead of Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.

If there is a better first five hitters in the sport, I haven’t found them. Behind that force lurks the underrated Andy Dirks, the on-base machine Alex Avila, and the poised for a bounce back Jhonny Peralta. Omar Infante will hit ninth and hopefully prevent anyone whining about second base this season.

The Tigers are blessed with exceptional depth on the bench, but the overall quality of the lineup is impressive. They can’t replace many of their players, but they should be able to weather one serious injury at a time without much problem. Every player in the Tigers lineup has either been an All-Star or had an All-Star type season very recently with the exception of Dirks. The infield defense is sub par, but with a much improved outfield defense and strikeout inclined starters, they can probably outslug any problems.

Experience

On occasion, pundits overrate the value of experience over talent, but in the Tigers case, it should help. The Tigers have been to the playoffs in consecutive seasons with a very similar roster and the experience of having worked through long seasons with trials and tribulations should play to their advantage. The Tigers players should be well conditioned for October baseball after seeing what it takes to keep themselves in top condition over the last two seasons deep into the Fall.

The Leadership

Again, this is a quality that is somewhat controversial, but the Tigers have a lot of personalities in their clubhouse that will nurture a winning environment. Losing streaks will be handled appropriately and there shouldn’t be any infighting or problems. Victor Martinez’s presence will be welcomed back this season along with the addition of Hunter and the ever-present Jim Leyland, whom everyone seems to adore. Experience and leadership are hard to measure, but if they matter at all, they should work in the Tigers favor.

The Bullpen, Even the Bullpen

I wrote at length recently about why Rondon will succeed as the closer and why it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t. Benoit, Dotel, Coke, Downs, Below, Putkonen, and others are all available out of the pen. The Tigers don’t have anyone like Craig Kimbrel or Aroldis Chapman, but they have many, many pitchers who could be solid, reliable relievers. The position is volatile and unpredictable, but the Tigers are well stocked with potential arms in the pen. They won’t lead the league in bullpen-ness, but they won’t be bad.

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I don’t think it is too bold to say that the Tigers are among the best teams, on paper, entering the 2013 season. I would argue they are the second best team, behind Washington. Things can always go wrong, but they go wrong for every team. I always hedge and say that so long as the Tigers are no less unfortunate than their competitors, they should win the division quite easily.

The Royals and Indians are better and the White Sox aren’t pushovers, but the Tigers are the class of the Central. With upheaval in the East and a strong West, the road to another pennant will be trying, but it is certainly within the Tigers’ grasp.

With elite level star power in Verlander, Cabrera, Fielder, and others, it’s hard not to dream on the Tigers 2013 potential. They have it all, including a chip on their shoulders after a poor showing in the Fall Classic.

For the Tigers, this could be the year that the roar is officially restored.

Happy 10th Birthday, 2003 Tigers!

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It was ten years ago that the worst baseball team of the last generation, perhaps of the last half century, began their season in earnest. Here are the facts.

The team, managed by Alan Trammell, went 43-119. They scored 591 runs and allowed 928. They finished a whopping 47 games out of first place in the AL Central. Somehow, the Tigers still outdrew Tampa Bay in 2003.

But it was so much more than the bare facts. It was year two of the Dombrowski administration and year one of the three year experiment with Trammell at the helm. It was the bottom of the bottom.

119 losses.

The only offensive player to post higher than 1.0 WAR was Dmitri Young (2.1). The position players, as a whole, posted a negative 0.7 WAR. The only team of position players to be worse in my lifetime was the 1998 Twins (-2.0).

The pitching was better, if you can call it that. The pitchers combined for a 3.8 WAR, which is only 12th worst since 1990. But for perspective, let’s remember that 25 individual pitchers posted WARs of 3.8 or higher last season.

That’s really terrible.

Let’s add a little context. Who was this team? Who played the most at each position? Ladies and gentleman, your 2003 Detroit Tigers!

Catcher: Brandon Inge

First Base: Carlos Pena

Second Base: Warren Morris

Shortstop: Ramon Santiago

Third Base: Eric Munson

Left Field: Craig Monroe

Center Field: Alex Sanchez

Right Field: Bobby Higginson

Designated Hitter: Dmitri Young

I don’t know, that isn’t so bad. If I was evaluating that offense, I’d consider them one of the worst four teams in the league, but I don’t think I’d put them down for 119 losses or anything. The pitching staff?

Nate Cornejo, Mike Maroth, and Jeremy Bonderman pitched full seasons and Adam Bernero, Gary Knotts, Matt Roney, Wil Ledezma, Nate Robertson, Chris Mears, and Shane Loux all made several starts. Some of those guys had decent runs in their careers, but none of them happened during 2003. If this was my rotation in 2013, I would probably be looking for a new one.

So these names are certainly a blast from the past. Lots of Tigers from the days before the Tigers were Verlander and Cabrera.

The 2003 Tigers were very terrible. It was sad and comical and a mess. But there is another side of the story that we often divorce from this team.

This was the beginning of the baseball renaissance in Detroit. It was this terrible season that earned the Tigers the #2 pick in the 2004 draft (At this time, the first pick alternated leagues so the Padres went first).

With that pick, the Tigers chose Justin Verlander and everything began to change.

Dombrowski chose Verlander, who is now the Tigers ace. They signed Pudge Rodriguez that offseason and traded for Carlos Guillen. Both played major roles in the Tigers resurgence.

Then Magglio Ordonez came to town. The Tigers took a chance on him when no one wanted to and he rewarded them greatly. And then there was Kenny Rogers and Jim Leyland. And breakout seasons from Inge and Granderson. Monroe and Thames.

DD took Maybin and Miller in the 2005 and 2006 drafts and later turned them into Miguel Cabrera.

A magical run in 2006 came before a string of extended success. The Tigers have finished below .500 just once since that 2006 season.

The seeds of the current powerhouse, big spending, contending Tigers were planted among the ashes of the 2003 Tigers. The hapless, terrible 2003 Tigers gave us Justin Verlander, and soon, a real winner.

Mike Illitch brought in Dave Dombrowski who showed Mr. I what a winner could look like in Detroit. Now Illitch backs up the money truck and fans storm the turnstiles. Detroit is a place for premier free agents. Fans have astronomical expectations each season and anything short of 90 wins seems like a disaster. People revere the Old English D instead of pity it now.

This wonderful run of baseball at Comerica Park happened for a lot of reasons, but the 2003 Tigers deserve some credit. They were so bad that things finally started to change. Verlander through the draft. Pudge through a mitzvah of his own. Maggs as the marriage of a broken player and a team looking for a savior.

Then the floodgates opened. Cabrera and Fielder and Scherzer and Fister. Anibal Sanchez, Torii Hunter, Alex Avila.

Just ten years ago, the Tigers were drawing poorly and losing more games than any American League team ever had. But then, as it usually does in times of great struggle, everything changed.

Maybe that never happens if the Tigers hadn’t bottomed out like they did. We’ll never know. But as we “celebrate” the ten year anniversary of the worst team I’ll ever cheer for, let’s also remember it was that devastation that led to this great era of Tigers baseball.

The Tigers enter the 2013 season as the division favorites and World Series contenders after back to back playoff berths and an AL Pennant, but they do so on the backs of a 119 loss club that came ten years before.

Here’s to the 2003 Tigers. Happy birthday, guys.

The Nine Best American League Starting Pitchers for 2013

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

The previous eight weekends have featured lists of The Nine best players at each of the main field positions for the 2013 MLB season. You can access these lists here all season long and I will provide status reports of these lists as we proceed through 2013.

There will be no list for relief pitchers because there are so many of them and their range of performance is so small that making a list isn’t very interesting. There will also be no DH list because there just aren’t enough full time DHs to make it worthwhile. Only 15 teams can have a DH and some of them employ platoons. Picking 9 DHs out of like 13 guys seems silly.

But starting pitching is a place of great interest and I struggled to decide how to break it down. With more than 150 players receiving starts in a given season on the hill versus a number closer to 30 for the field positions, I’ve decided to break it in half. I thought about lefties and righties, but decided American League and National League would be more fun.

Here, without more nonsense, are The Nine best American League starting pitchers for 2013 according to SABR Toothed Tigers. The list is difficult to make because there are many excellent candidates, so as always, don’t get too worked up about it.

9. Max Scherzer (Tigers)
Scherzer will turn 29 during the upcoming season, which will be the fifth full one of his career. The strikeouts shot up last season and he kept his walk rate below 3.00 per 9 for a second straight season. He had some arm issues late in the season, but pitched well enough in the playoffs to make us think the winter off was enough to reset his aching body. He’s a flyball and strikeout pitcher, which will work well with the Tigers defense and last season was his most complete effort in the sense that he didn’t go through long stretches of poor performance. I still wonder if he can repeat his delivery and keep his awkward mechanics in line, but if he can continue on the path he started last year, he has a shot to be a force in the AL.

8. R.A. Dickey (Blue Jays)
Dickey is coming off two and a half very good seasons and an NL Cy Young. We can’t worry too much about his age given his knuckleballing ways, but we should worry that he’s moving to a less pitchers’ friendly Rogers Centre and slightly better AL East. Dickey won’t do quite as well under those conditions, but we can control for those context type factors. I don’t think he’ll be a Cy Young again, but his ability to make the ball dance should be enough to keep him on this list for another season.

7. C.C. Sabathia (Yankees)
Sabathia showed signs of aging in 2012 for the first time after 11 above average to great seasons leading up to it. He’s still a workhorse with great control and hasn’t had an ERA above 3.38 since 2005, with much of that time spend in the tough AL East. CC is probably making his final appearance on this list for his career, but he will remain one of the best pitchers in the AL for 2013.

6. Doug Fister (Tigers)
Fister had a higher WAR than all but 12 AL pitchers last season, despite only making 26 starts due to a nagging oblique injury during the first half of the season. Had he pitched at the same rate over 34 starts as he did over 26, he would have easily been a top nine pitcher last season. There is no reason to think anything but injuries would stand in his way. The strikeout rate is on the way up and his control has been excellent in a Tigers uniform. He’s only 29 and could easily be poised for another fine season. He also happens to be my favorite pitcher to watch. His mix of modesty and control with great fastball movement makes for excellent viewing. He’s also super tall. That’s fun too.

5. David Price (Rays)
The reigning Cy Young winner in the AL is fifth on this list, not because I don’t like him, but because I like his opponents more. Price has three straight 4.0+WAR seasons and is right in the middle of his prime. All signs point to another great year from Price, but I think he’ll be just shy of Cy Young conversation in 2013.

4. Matt Moore (Rays)
So when I previewed the AL East, I said Moore would be the Cy Young of the division. In doing so, I also decided he would be a better pitcher than his teammate David Price. Perhaps that was foolish, but I’m bullish on Moore and think people overlook him. He was a top three prospect entering last season and had made an excellent late season cameo in 2011. A year of control issues later, and everyone seems to be looking past him. I’m not. Moore is not yet 24 and has a lot of developing left to do. He throws gas from the left side with two solid offspeed pitches. He was a solid #3 starter in his first big league season. I don’t see any reason to think he can’t make the leap to #1 a year after he was the best prospect in the league.

3. Yu Darvish (Rangers)
Darvish tied Price last season for third in the AL in WAR and should still be on his way up. The strikeout rate was superb and if he can limit the walks at all, he’ll be an elite starter. After a year in the states, he should be poised for a better season because he won’t be adjusting to life in America and can focus solely on pitching. The stuff is great and his first year of results matched that.

2. Felix Hernandez (Mariners)
Felix is about to turn 27 and already has 38.3 career WAR and four straight 230 IP + seasons. The velocity ticking down is the only thing to worry about with the game’s richest pitcher, but he’s shown the ability to be effective at all speeds and is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro. He’s an ace and a stud and any word you can think of to describe a top pitcher. The only thing he isn’t is number one on this list.

A photo from directly above the author's desk.

A photo from directly above the author’s desk.

1. Justin Verlander (Tigers)
I’m not sure what needs to be said about Verlander. His first three seasons were very good and his last four have been phenomenal. He has a ROY, Cy Young, MVP, and has never missed a start in seven seasons. He’s entering his age thirty season as the game’s best and more reliable starting pitching. With four above average to elite pitches, the two time no-hitter thrower is every hitter’s worst nightmare.

How would you rank the AL’s arms? Sound off. Check back next weekend for the NL list.

Five Reasons Why I Can’t Get Into the World Baseball Classic

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Given my intense love for baseball and my somewhat obnoxious patriotism, one would assume I’m living and dying with every pitch of the World Baseball Classic. But I’m just not. I’m having trouble caring a whole lot about it, and it’s time to explore why.

The tournament is supposed to expand the game’s market outside the U.S., but in order to be relevant, it also has to attract U.S. fans, and I should be an easy target. But I don’t care that much. Here are some reasons why this might be, and how we might be able to fix them.

1. It’s March

Don’t get me wrong, baseball is wonderful in any month and season, but the fact that it is March has many drawbacks for this kind of event. First, a lot of players are begging off because they aren’t ready for the season and don’t want to risk injury. If the WBC happened midseason, it might make certain players more likely to participate. They may still not want to do it, but I’m sure at least some players would play who otherwise didn’t. And it’s hard to really care about the WBC when the world’s best players aren’t there. No Verlander, Kershaw, Price, Hernandez, Lee, Trout, Harper, McCutchen, Posey, etc. It’s hard to think of this as anything but glorified exhibition when the U.S. is starting Ryan Vogelsong in an elimination game. Second, even if players were willing to play in March, they aren’t in game shape. If we really want to showcase baseball, don’t we want Justin Verlander and Mike Trout playing in midseason form? We have Spring Training so players can get their timing and get ready for the season, I don’t want to watch players compete for world glory who haven’t had more than 20 ABs yet.

2. The Rules are Silly

I’m mostly talking about these pitch count rules that limit starters to a number of pitches in each round and restrict relievers to certain resting periods given how many pitches they threw the day before. This is an artifact of the tournament taking place in March, and it’s stupid. If your ace pitcher is dominating, he has to come out in the first round after like 75 pitches. How can we really get excited about the WBC when the rules make the game so different from how it should be played? It’s basically the Little League World Series with older players.

3. We Should Be Cheering Against the United States

What? Remember how I said the purpose of the WBC is to expand baseball into other markets? Well it doesn’t do much good if the U.S., Venezuela, and Japan win all the time. Upstart teams like the Netherlands or Italy making deep runs into the WBC would be ideal. We want fans who don’t follow baseball to start following baseball. That doesn’t happen if the countries that already like baseball beat their countries 11-2. So it’s hard for me to get excited about the WBC because the best outcome on the whole is not the outcome I wish to see personally.

4. There is Other Baseball Going On

Specifically, Spring Training. My team is preparing for the season, and I’m interested in following roster battles and player preparations. It’s not that I don’t want more baseball, it’s that my attention is split. Sure I’d like to follow WBC games, but the WBC should be the only game in town when it’s going on. It’s once every four years, let’s take a week or ten days off in July so that it’s the only thing on the menu. We can all watch the WBC and only the WBC. Even if the other problems didn’t exist, it’s better for the WBC to not have to compete with the start of MLB.

5. I Love My Team More Than My Country

I hope I never run in a Republican primary now that I’ve put that in writing, but I’m pretty sure that it’s the truth. A friend of mine asked me why Verlander wasn’t pitching in the WBC and I told him the standard reasons he gave when he decided against it. And you know what? I’m glad Verlander didn’t play in the Classic. I’m glad Sanchez and Cabrera got knocked out early. I don’t want Fielder or Scherzer or Jackson playing in the WBC because I don’t want them to get hurt doing something other than playing for the Tigers. I care way more about the Tigers 2013 season than I do about the baseball pride of my country. It matters more to me that the Tigers are ready for the season than that my country does well, so I selfishly don’t want my favorite players involved. I imagine many feel the same way. I lamented about that the game’s best don’t play in the WBC, which makes the tournament cheap, but I’m glad that’s the case. I’d rather the U.S. lose to freaking Canada in the WBC than they win at the cost of one of my team’s players getting injured because he played in games before he was ready. This might make me a bad American, but I think it makes me an excellent fan.

So it’s just hard for me to get excited about the WBC. To solve this, let’s move the tournament to the All-Star Break and skip the game every four years. We can shift the format to limit play to 10-14 days rather than closer to twenty. We also need to incentivize players to participate and get rid of the silly rules that turn the games into farcical approximations of baseball. Finally, there needs to be a reason to cheer for the U.S. above patriotism. Baseball is better off if a new market beats the U.S., so there needs to be a reason why that isn’t so. I’m not sure what that is. Maybe if we let the previous winner host the next WBC, so there is actual benefit to winning in terms of start times and in person viewing chances.

I love baseball and I’m glad there are quasi-meaningful games on right now, but I just can’t be bothered to care a whole lot. It makes no difference to me who wins and it’s not like we’re watching real world class baseball. Lots of the game’s best players are participating, but many aren’t. If people in Italy don’t get to watch Verlander and Trout, what the hell are we having a WBC for anyway? This should be a showcase, but instead it feels like a joke. Plus, good grief there is way too much bunting. Like an absurd amount of bunting.

Love the WBC? Tell me why I’m wrong. Hate it? Agree with me in writing. Join the discussion in the comments section or on Facebook/Twitter. Also, I’m given to understand people sometimes communicate in person, so you could always try just talking about the WBC with your social group.

The Over/Under Guide to the 2013 Detroit Tigers

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth
Many people like betting on sports and many people also like talking about sports as if they were betting on sports despite having no actual intention of doing so. This is a post for both types of people, but with more emphasis on the latter because some of these are quite specific and probably couldn’t get much action.

Below are my 2013 Detroit Tigers Over/Unders. Comment and share this post and let’s get a little contest going. I have set the numbers at where I think they are most likely to fall, meaning I believe it is equally likely that the outcome will be over and under and I am indifferent as to which to choose.

1. Team Wins (93.5)

2. Justin Verlander Strikeouts (249.5)

3. Austin Jackson Diving Catches (0.5)

4. Longest Winning Streak (7.5)

5. Longest Homerun Hit by a Tiger (448.5 ft)

6. Times FSD Shows Rod Allen Charging the Mound in Japan (1.5)

7. Times Mario and Rod Make Reference to Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez’s clubhouse value (140.5)

8. Cliches Doug Fister Uses in Postgame Interviews (724.5)

9. Miguel Cabrera Homeruns (36.5)

10. Times Alex Avila Gets Hit with a Foul Tip (∞)

11. Longest Rain Delay During a Non-Suspended Game (2:45.5 hours)

12. Comerica Park Sellouts (37.5)

13. Justin Verlander Near No-Hitters [defined as six or more no-hit innings] (1.5)

14. Games Played by Victor Martinez Not at DH (10.5)

15. Highest Batting Average for a Tiger Who Qualifies (.325)

16. Extra Inning Games (8.5)

17. Walk-Off Wins (4.5)

18. Max Scherzer’s K-Rate (10.5)

19. Lynn Henning Hate Tweets About Jhonny Peralta (85.5)

20. Date at Which Bandwagon Fans First Jump Ship (May 11)

21. Playoff Clinching Date (September 21)

22. Stolen Bases for Team Leader (19.5)

23. Number of Times Tom Brookens Pulls a Gene Lamont (2.5)

24. Tigers All-Stars (5.5)

25. Tigers Players with UZR’s > 4.0 (1.5)

26. Times Mario and Rod Discuss Non-Baseball Topics at Length (5.5)

27. Tigers Grand Slams (4.5)

28. Starts for Andy Dirks (120.5)

29. Number of Fans At Game 162 [Played in Miami] (9,850.5)

30. Games that Will Be Fun (160.5)

Post in the comments with you bets or on Facebook or Twitter. The winner will have next year’s contest named after them!

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