Monday, May 2, 2011

NL Power Rankings Comments Explained

By The Common Man

Once again, ESPN’s Power Rankings are up, and The Common Man contributed the comments for the four NL clubs that are not currently covered in the SweetSpot Network. And as before, TCM wants to expand on the comments he provided for each club, the Rockies, Marlins, Pirates, and Diamondbacks:

Colorado Rockies (4): (Note: TCM's Rockies comments didn't run because of our new colleague, Logan Burdine, of Blake Street Bulletin making his debut)  TCM has to eat some major crow on Jorge de la Rosa, who he figured was a bad risk for the Rox. But de la Rosa has been excellent, going 4-0 with a 2.61 ERA and 29 Ks in 31 IP.

This offseason, The Common Man wrote that he,
“still has significant questions about the Rox rotation. For one thing, De La Rosa is, by no means, a sure bet. Keith Law likes him a lot, but that doesn’t change the fact that De La Rosa has a 5.02 career ERA (92 ERA+), is coming off an injury shortened season, and walks more than 4 batters a game. Another lefty, in 2009, was one of the most sought after free agents on the market, with a better career ERA+, and now the Mets are running out of ways to hide his horrible pitching. While promising, De La Rosa still essentially needs to prove himself, and paying him in excess of $10 million a year to do so is a very risky move.”
TCM’s definitely got to own this one, as de la Rosa has been fantastic. He continues to induce grounders and strike out batters at impressive clips, and his curveball has become an above-average weapon for him. He’s been a godsend as Ubaldo Jimenez has scuffled at the start of 2011. If de la Rosa’s able to stay healthy for the next three years, he looks like an excellent bet to be worth the $30 million the Rockies are going to pay him.

That said, he’s probably not reached a new level of performance. His numbers are greatly helped by an unsustainable .224 BABIP against him, and an unrealistic 3.1% HR/FB ratio (his career mark is 11.3%). He’ll come back down somewhat, but remain an excellent pitcher on a strong contender.

Florida Marlins: Jared who? Josh Johnson has a 0.88 ERA in 41 innings while striking out 39 and giving up just 18 hits. The nastiest pitcher in the Big Leagues.

Josh Johnson is incredibly good, and riding a very hot streak. To put it in some context, Johnson’s 0.88 is very comparable to Ubaldo Jimenez’s big start in 2010, when he went 6-0 with a 0.87 ERA for the Rockies. The only reason Jimenez (and Jeff Weaver this year) have received more attentionfor their efforts is because of their win totals. Meanwhile, Johnson is just 3-0 thanks to some bad luck and bad bullpen work. Since the start of 2010, Johnson is 14-6 with a 2.04 ERA and 225 strikeouts in 224.2 innings. He’s on another plane of existence right now. If TCM had to pick one pitcher in the league to win one game, he’d go with Roy Halladay, but Josh Johnson would be a very very close second choice.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are going to try and solve the riddle of Brandon Wood, who is vying for the title of worst hitter in baseball history with his 23 OPS+. Best of luck.

Since 1901, here is a list of all the non-pitchers who have gotten more than 500 plate appearances and have an OPS+ below 30 (via Baseball Reference's Play Index):

John Vukuvich.161.203.22220
Bill Bergen.170.194.20121
Brandon Wood.170.201.26023

That’s it. Three guys. Given his lead in plate appearances, it’s tempting to just give the award to Bergen on principal, but given that Wood has both equipment and conditioning on his side, along with 100 years of advancement in baseball instruction, TCM’s inclined to say that Wood’s closing in on the award. He’ll have a hard time getting past Vukovich, who had an OPS+ of 12 from 1971-1973 in 374 PAs, but if anyone can do it…

Still, given their only other viable SS right now is Ronny Cedeno, this is a decent risk by the Pirates, who will be out nothing if Wood can’t figure anything out.

Arizona Diamondbacks: “I say this as a frustrated fantasy owner, don't be worried about Kelly Johnson (.180/.255/.320). His .227 BABIP will right itself soon enough.”

There’s just not much to see here. Johnson came back strong last year from a down 2009 that was exacerbated bya .247 BABIP. Similarly, his BABIP is the trouble this year as well, along with a slight uptick in strikeouts. But this is mostly a luck issue.

If you want someone to be worried about, check out Joe Saunders, whose velocity has slipped, has developed a sudden inability to find the strike zone, and who has been absolutely mauled in three of his six starts so far.


William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Poor Brandon Wood. Alas.

I was on the de la Rosa bandwagon before the season started. So I am feeling good about that.

Saunders is awful. He can't get anyone out right now. But he never was that good to begin with.

Stephen Zielinski said...

I'm sure a snarky comment about Brandon Wood indicates a lot about the Pirates. But I'm too stupid to figure it out.

The Common Man said...

TCM could talk about how Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia are going to regress. He could talk again about how Andrew McCutchen is getting BABIPed to death, or bemoan once more that Pedro Alvarez is incredibly frustrating. Neil Walker is becoming a very good player, and Garrett Jones and Joel Hanrahan will both make excellent trade targets.

But it's a long season, Stephen. There's time for them all. Brandon Wood is in the news. And he's interesting. Get over it.

Obie said...

Interesting?? I dont know about that...Whats news to me and interesting is how the Pirates have won as many road series' already in this early season then they did all of last year. And how they are only 1 game out of 2nd place in the NLCentral and 1 game back from being a .500 ball club. COME ON, The Pirates have been a terrible team since TCM was in diapers, cant we give Hurdle and the Bucs a little credit??

The Common Man said...

Not exactly true, as TCM remembers the Francisco Cabrera single, and Sid Bream dash home distinctly. He was sitting on his basement sofa at the time. And, actually, TCM really liked those Pirates teams, because of Bonds/Bonilla/Van Slyke/Drabek, but also because of the really effective platoons they used at C (LaValliere/Slaught) and 1B (Redus/Merced).

And TCM still likes the Bucs; they're probably his favorite NL team. But they can't sustain this relative success from the early going, Obie. The pitching is in way over it's head at the moment and likely headed for a regression. And Pedro Alvarez is a damn mess.

Brandon Wood, however, is historically bad, which makes him interesting, and TCM wanted to acknowledge that while it was still relevant. If you'd like to talk about something else in the ESPN Power Rankings, you're welcome to start your own Pirates blog, gain a following of loyal readers, and join up.

obiesFlies said...

Thats ok not that into the blogging. Actually just saw the Power Rankings and honestly (even though I am a Pirate fan) I did not understand it so it led me here! I hope this story makes world wide sports news though because he has been slighty stepping up since this. Like his 2 run double in the bottom 8th tonight!
I was in grade school when Pittsburgh had the killer B's you mentioned above and AVS and they were some good teams.
TCM- Are the owners to blame for the Pirates downfall? The current owner also own Seven Springs ski resort which is by me and I feel like he puts more attention into that. Also feel like anytime we have a good young player he trades them away for younger undeveloped players. I loved Nate McClouth and Nijer Morgan as young buccos but gone with the wind quick. The list can go on and on but i'm sure you know it better than me so I wont go to into it. Oh...Morton got another win (4-1) since the regress comment. Maybe they are all TCM blog fans and you fueling their fire within! If you are a true semi pirate fan like you say please keep up the trash talking! I would be very happy with a .500 season! it has been like, what, 18 years? Maybe it will go full circle and we will have a Pittsburgh/Baltimore WS again??

obiesFlies said...

ince you get so high you can only regress right? may a 12-12 season for Morton? I like what he has shown so far and it seems the offense and defense is stepping up for him. 12-12 sounds reasonable to me ecspecially after looking at his horrid career 14-30 record. ESPN might be doing the Minnesota reach though with the 20-5 projections!
I will try to follow your blog now though. I like how you talked a little trash but in a knowledgeable and classy way. And you mentioned Sid Bream...I forgot all about him. Those were the days though. When the bucs were good enough to have rivals like the Braves and the Mets

Dr. J. Joseph Thomas said...

I realize that it may be difficult for this guy to closely follow all 30 MLB teams but the power rankings are sometimes suspect. It is easy to simply stick the Pirates near the bottom because they have been for so many years now but wake up. They have a better record that 13 other teams and the have one of the better relief pitching in the majors. I wouldn't expect a playoff run yet but things are looking up for the Pirates which is more than it seems tobe for "The Platoon Advantage:

The Common Man said...

@Dr. Thomas
Really, for a doctor, TCM would expect you to have better reading comprehension. The Common Man has nothing to do with where teams are ranked in the Power Rankings; rather, he just provides the comments to contextualize how the team is doing.

The Pirates are definitely a team on the rise, but they have a lot of holes to fill, particularly in the rotation, before they get out of the bottom tier in the National League in terms of their overall quality. But TCM wishes them luck, as he's a fan of the Bucs and would like to see them return to prominance.

The Common Man said...


The problem with the Pirates stems from years of neglect and crying poor by the previous owner (McClatchy) and General Managers (Bonifay and Littlefield). Given the lack of talent that Nutting and Huntington inherited, they've done a good job of restocking the club with young position players and taking risks on players like Garret Jones, Kevin Correia, Joel Hanrahan, and even Brandon Wood.

You're investing too much into young players who aren't actually that good. McLouth was overvalued, and the Pirates managed to turn him into two B prospects before he got expensive and went downhill. That's how a team like the Pirates has to succeed, jettisoning over-priced talent in favor of good, cheap players. The trick is, and always will be, identifying those players who are good bets to succeed in the future.