Saturday, September 18, 2010

Season 13 Previews: NL North

Well unfortunately for the NL North I'm going to make them my test division. Being that this is the first blog that I've done and don't have as many seasons of experience in the league as some of my fellow owners, it could be ugly and way out there. Seriously though, I am a lifelong hard core baseball fan and love stats. HBD is a dream come true for me, as it has everything I've ever loved about baseball, stats and competition. With that being said, here we go.

What is there to say about this division? It's pretty much routine that Fargo will finish first, Helena will finish second and usually take a wild card spot, then the other two will battle it out for the best of the bottom half. I mean, except for one season, that is exactly how the division has played out. It's pretty simple if making predictions here that you just right it in like that and if you get one of the bottom two wrong then you say, "Hey, at least I got the top two correct." The question then becomes, can it ever change? Well, I'll give you a little insight to that.

Fargo Woodchippers

After a disappointing season in Fargo, that seen the team go 87-75, which was the worst record in team history, fans are wondering if this team has hit the wall. They were still the best hitting team in the NL with a .279 average, but they were only 7th in OBP(.338), HR(214), and Runs(787). They were 3rd in the NL in fielding percentage(.985) and had a 69 plus plays compared to 46 minus. That is a pretty good fielding team. Pitching, they were 4th in the NL in ERA(4.00) and held opponents to a .261 average, which ranked 6th. They do have a dynamite closer Polin Castillo, who converted 45 saves out of 51 tries. They have a young and outstanding rotation that should be together for a while. So how did they go about improving this team even more? Sign free agents? Nope. Instead of going after free agents, they decided to focus on their own players. They signed RF Alton Olson, RP Vincente Juarez, 1B Jamie May, SP Karim Ontiveros, and SP Roland Sweeney to extensions to lock up some of their key players for future seasons. They only lost RP Dusty Dorsey that did anything worth mentioning for them last season, but his skills are on the decline. Owner starbuckdc says "The window of dominance may be closing, but we still feel strong about this season." Well, I think he is still down about last season because I don't see the dominance ending any time soon with this team. They are young and have a great GM that knows when to hold em and knows when to fold em. They are still in my mind the team to beat in this division and I can see them bouncing back and winning 100 games this season. I could see them in the World Series this season and I don't think anyone would be surprised.

Helena Ass Clowns

This team has a history that most teams would love to have. Last season they went 71-91, and that marked the first time in their history that they had a losing record. How could it be possible that a team could be so good for so long and never take the division title? I guess when you make the post season 7 out of 12 seasons, it doesn't really matter. After all they do have a championship and the team that wins the division every season only has one more than that. I guess you could say that they have been pretty dominant themselves. Last season though was another story. They finished 13th in the NL in Average(263), 14th in OBP(321), 9th in HR(207), and 11th in runs(758). They didn't do so great in the field either, 8th in fielding percentage(983), and had 55 plus plays compared to 75 minus which was the 2nd worst in the league. The fielding obviously hurt their pitching as they finished 13th in ERA(4.82), and 11th in opponents average(274). Overall it was a disastrous season for this great franchise. They still have some key players on this team though. C Charles Torres is a great hitter, CF/SS/1b William Wang is a very talented player and the speedy 2b Francis Norton is a pretty good player himself. They have a very good closer in Ezdra Johnson, and they have a couple young starters that are going to be real good in Carlos Nieto and Diego Valbuena, but overall the pitching staff leaves something to be desired. In free agency they signed 6 time all star and 2 time mvp Lloyd Patrick and the speedy outfielder Jeff Creek that will bolster the offense and Creek should help the defense as well. They resigned 2 time all star starting pitcher Wayne Perez. They jettisoned 3b Mule Monroe and aging RF Samuel Calderon. They added a couple Rule 5 guys in relief pitcher Peaches Vazquez, who has the potential but may never realize it, and 1b Alex Rivera, a guy that could be a very good hitter. This is a team that I feel underperformed last season as a whole and with the additions they made could make it back above the 500 mark. I'm not ready to say that they will be a post season team, but they have a history and owner that proves they know how to win and get there. They aren't an old team and have some young talent so I believe they are headed back up and not down, as last season would suggest.

Trenton Thunder

Well, they finished third last season. Barely in third, but never the less, in third. 70-92 was where they finished. After three straight 100+ loss seasons, they made some progress by cutting 12 losses off the previous seasons total. Owner qtip32 is in his 3rd season of trying to remake this team and get them to the top and has at least shown the fans in Trenton improvement. Offensively the finished 12th in the NL in average(264), 16th in obp(316), 13th in HR(188), and 15th in steals(68). On the fielding side of things they were 13th in fielding percentage(979), and 11th in plus plays(34), but 12th in minus plays(62). They were 10th in ERA(4.59), 10th in opponents average(270) and 13th in saves by only converting 40 out of 64 tries. From the looks of things, they need to improve in every category in order to make any type of run. So they traded SP Brad Porter and 3b Marc Whitaker to Toledo for 2B Joe Betemit and SP Josias Ontiveros. The strange thing about that was that Ontiveros was left unprotected for the rule 5 draft and then drafted back by Toledo. They did sign SP Anthony Simon and SP Howard Fischer to help the pitching out, but that was about all they did in free agency. Trenton did promote 1B Rich Pierce(21) who has speed, hitting and a good eye to replace 1B Miguel Pichardo, who they lost in free agency. They promoted RP Ryan Maloney(25) who should be solid reliever with a very good Knuckleball. SS Cozy Corbin(25) was also promoted and he should provide speed, power and a good glove to the squad. They released RP Mack Tate and his 46 games and 2.91era, and 3b/2b Marshall Lilly who hit 10hr and hit 285 in 141 games last season. I do like closer Aaron Moorhouse(25) who in 65 games had a 4.61era a 7-8 record and converted 22 of 32 save opportunities, in his first full season in the bigs. They also have a good SP Esteban Villa. Trenton didn't do a whole lot in the off season but they did bring up some players that should help and have a few players in place that are good as well. I can see this team improving over last year, but they are not a post season competitor yet. They still have some work to do but they do have some talent in the minors that will help them in the coming seasons.

Cleveland Indians

Well what is there to say about this club? Only one winning season in their history and that was way back in season 4. They have had only one 100 loss season, but it sure seems like this team has been stuck in mediocrity or worse for the last 12 seasons. They have one of the highest payrolls in the league again this season and that didn't help them last season. Lonely548 is in his second season running the show for this franchise and needs to give the fans in Cleveland reason to believe it is worth spending that hard earned cash to go to the ballpark. If they have to settle for last place again it is going to be a hard sell. They finished last season at 65-97 and while it wasn't the big triple digit loss season it was pretty close. Offensively they were 7th in average(270), 9th in obp(331), last in HR(133), but 5th in SB(115). Defensively, 14th in fielding percentage(978), 15th in plus plays(20) and 14th in minus plays(72). They were 14th in ERA(5.35), 15th in opponents average(294) and 14th in saves, converting 38 of 55. This team really needed to improve in every category so fans figured it was going to be a big offseason. It wasn't. They only moves this team made was picking up the option of SP Chris Thompson, and signing 1B Kevin Wall. They do have some good players in place in SP Luis Rijo(29), SP Davey Quinones(27) and SS Corky Whitehead(25). But for the most part this is an aging group that is seeing most of it's players closing in on the big 30 or already above it. They have some players at the lower levels that should help out in a few seasons but the upper minor league levels are pretty bare, so it looks like these are the guys that will be filling the roster in Cleveland for a while. I don't see this team improving over last season and I'm really think things look pretty grim for this team that shares a division with Fargo and Helena.


I guess it's my turn to fill in Fargo, Helena then fill in the blanks. I actually think this season is a little easier to pick the actual order of finish for this division. Unless something major like a trade or injury or just something totally unforeseen happens then this division is really going to come out the same as last season. I think that Helena and Trenton are better than last season but not enough better that they will overtake the team in front of them. Fargo is still one of the best in the league, and will win the division. Helena will be better and will challenge for a wild card spot.

1.)Fargo Wood Chippers

2.)Helena Ass Clowns

3.)Trenton Thunder

4.)Cleveland Indians

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