Friday, March 29, 2013

NL West Season 23 Preview

This division made improvements last season. Seattle won over 100 games for the second time in team history, but failed in the post season. After winning the World Series in season 21, they came back strong during the regular season in season 22, but failed to even make the World Series, losing to the eventual champion Iowa City in the NLCS. Colorado Springs made a 21 game improvement last season and ended an 8 season playoff drought. They showed that they are a team on the way up and should be challenging for the division title soon. Albuquerque made a 27 game improvement last season. While they don't look like they are ready to make a push for the division title, they do look like it won't be long before they will. Oklahoma City was the only team in the division to win less games last season than the previous season. They dropped 3 more games last season. This is a team that needs a shot in the arm. They were on the way up, but for the past few seasons have been heading back down.

Seattle Strikers
Average.2635Fielding %.9873ERA2.821
Home Runs16312Double Plays32213Opp. Avg..2161
Ops.7336+ Plays841Strike Outs11544
Runs7694- Plays214Saves591

Season 20 Record: 106-56(NL West Champ)
Last 5 Seasons: 474-336

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for 1B JoJo Frandsen
Signed SP Alex Romano
Signed RP Babe LaRocca
Signed RP Bill Walker

Offense-Surprisingly, Seattle was near the top of the league offensively last season. That's been rare for this team. The addition of Frandsen should boost it even more this season. Benny Navarro put up solid numbers again in homers and RBI's. He set a career high in runs with 150 which is a big reason the Strikers offense improved. Veteran, Corky Whitehead continued to be an on-base machine, posting a .304 Avg. and a .374 OBP. If Seattle can add some more speed to this team, that will create a more dynamic offense, making them a top tier offensive team.

Defense- The Strikers continued their tradition of strong defense last season, finishing among the best in the NL with a .987 fielding percentage. Willis Foster collected some new hardware by winning the Gold Glove at third base. In my Opinion this team has one of the best infields in Pine Tar. Frandsen, Navarro, Alcantara and Foster, two Gold Glovers. It's a surprise this team didn't have more double plays with Alcantara at short.  Seattle will be virtually fielding  the same team as last year so the defense should continue to be strong.

Pitching- Seattle set the all-time team ERA record last season with a 2.82. It's not surprising when you look at there rotation. This team had four great starters last season with Rucker, Banks, Guerrero, Rivera. Miguel Rivera finally put i together with a 2.75 ERA and a career high 16-5 record. The bullpen was phenomenal finishing with 59 saves. 49 of those saves came from veteran George Eaton. Eaton converted 49 out of 50 chances, pure dominance. Seattle suffered a blow losing annual Cy Young contender, John Rucker.   Rucker has been the ace of this staff for years and was a huge part in their championship run.

Projection- Overall, the Seattle Strikers will contend for a championship this season. Ghutton improved the offense with Frandsen and the defense will be on par with the best. The lose of Rucker will cause this team to lose a few more games. The playoff rotation used to be the best in the league, now their beatable. That's where Seattle could struggle the most. Season 23 will be the 6th season in a row Seattle has claimed the NL West crown. If the Strikers get home field in the playoffs, they can win it all again.

Owner Interview-
Questions from around the league-Why did you become Commish? What do you like and dislike the most about the role? What's the one thing owners don't realize about being a commish? Seattle has been dominate due to great pitching, why trade Rucker?  Lastly, it only took you a season or two to get Seattle into first place and hold it for 11 of the last 13 seasons, what has been the key to your success? Last season you won the 2nd most games in Seattle history, what was the key? You won the world series the season before, what was different about this team? In the last 12 seasons, you've won 10 times and finished 2nd twice, what do you think has led to the long term success? Just 1 season removed from world series champs, is your team set up to make another run again? With the long term success you've sustained, how do you go about building your team, what's the part you value the most and also the most overrated aspect of the game to you? Explain why the blog here in Pine Tar has to be one of the best, if not the best, blogs in HBD?

ghutton9-I'm not really sure why I became the commish. I remember after domisgod left that I sent him a tc telling him I was interested, but he gave it to someone else. That following season, the person he gave it to said he didn't really have the time for it and passed it on to me. I've always loved running leagues of any sort since I was a young kid, from wiffle ball leagues, to nerf 2 hand touch football and even created my own dice football game and ran that league for 15 years before interest died down. The thing I like most out of the role is getting to know each owner in the league. The thing I like the least, is having to replace owners mid season. It's annoying having to send in a ticket for an owner that disappeared and then having to wait a whole week to replace them. It usually happens at the worst time too. People don't realize that a commish doesn't really have too much power. We are basically here to fill the league.
         Why trade Rucker? He is getting older and I seen an opportunity to add a young player that had my style of offense, speed and on base abilities. For every season I wait, his price tag drops. I also feel like I have the pitching depth to off set his loss. My team set the leagues single season ERA record last season. Losing him at worst adds a run a game allowed, which is still really good. Fingers crossed. I was able to get Seattle into first place so quick due to luck. Actually, my second season in the league, my team wasn't very good and I posted on the message board asking for advice. Someone mentioned that if they were in Seattle they would add range in the outfield and good gloves at most positions. So that's what I focused on and still do. The key to last season was depth. I had good players already in place, but the depth allowed me to sit tired players and bring in quality backups. My World Series Champ had a better 1-2 in the rotation. When I lost Valbuena it hurt my ability in a series. I still had good pitchers, but not shutdown like Rucker and Valbuena were that season. I needed more luck last season and didn't get it. I think my team will be really good this season, but we aren't set up to win a World Series. I knew this before I traded Rucker. I'm more focused on how I can get this team to that position within the next 5 seasons. I'm going to try to rebuild while being competitive and I think I have the pieces in place to do that. I build my teams around pitching, defense, speed and hitters with a good eye. In Seattle, even the best splits and contact won't result in a good average, but the park can not affect a players ability to draw walks and steal bases. A good defense can help an average pitching staff and good pitching with a good defense can be lethal. The most over rated aspect of this game is potential. I hate rebuilding and stocking up prospects because too many things can happen to derail them. I've had great prospects that never panned out due to injuries. Another thing that is right up there with it is Advanced Scouting. If you don't have 20 mil in it then you might as well have 0. My early seasons in this game seen me burned many times due to this. Until I figured out how to judge a prospects potential without it, I was getting burned over and over again.
          I put a lot into the blog. I feel like it is what makes this world unique. Other worlds have their special rules and turn up their noses to owners without good success, but I don't think that makes a world interesting. When I watch MLB, it's because I know the players and become invested in those players. I like the blog because it brings everyone closer to the game. You get to know players that you otherwise wouldn't. You get to see how other teams are run. You get to know a little about the other owners. Basically it allows everyone to not only be a part of this world, but to actually feel like they are a part of it. With the help of bobswagger91 and Arfy over the past few seasons, we've been able to add to it and make it more fun. Then last season we had quite a few owners help and that made it even better. I am also really loving these interviews this season. I look forward to each owners answers every time I send out a tc and can't wait to add it to the blog. I have some things I'd like to add this season, so hopefully we can keep up the reputation of having a great blog.

Colorado Springs Night Watchmen
Average.2634Fielding %.98213ERA3.927
Home Runs2034Double Plays3835Opp. Avg..26411
Ops..7583+ Plays4013Strike Outs11712
Runs8162- Plays4212Saves487

Season 20 Record: 87-75(Wild Card)
Last 5 Seasons: 360-450

Key Off Season Moves
Traded for SS Teddy Lemon
Traded for C Julio Palmeiro
Signed OF Cam Stubbs

Offense-Colorado Springs had a really good offense last season. Some people may not realize this, but Colorado Springs is not an offensive park. It is fairly balanced if not slightly a pitchers park. It's often confused with the ML Colorado Rockies, who are in Denver. This team has some pretty good hitters in the lineup for this season. Juan Perez is one of the best in the league at getting on base. King Ashburn is a rising star and can hit and steal some bases. Providing power for this team will be Julio Palmeiro, Chad Williams, Pedro Reyes and Brian Lowrie. Overall Colorado Springs has a pretty good offense with some solid depth. They should be near the top again this season.

Defense-This is an area that the Night Watchmen struggled last season. They traded for Teddy Lemon to upgrade at shortstop, but his abilities are on the lower end of what makes a good shortstop. King Ashburn provides decent range in centerfield, but his glove is also on the lower end for his position. This defense should rank near the bottom again this season unless they find a better defensive option at shortstop.

Pitching-The pitching was slightly above average last season. They didn't really address this in the off season. The rotation features Orlando Nieves, Patrick Wilson, Christian Park and Ismael Diaz. All four are good pitchers, but none of them are a true ace. Coming out of the bullpen is Alberto Blasco, who is a really good closer. Setting things up for him is Willis Phillips, who could be in for a breakout season. This pitching staff is solid. What I see is an above average group.

Projection-Colorado Springs made significant improvement last season and look to be continuing on the path up. They have a really good offense and a deep pitching staff. The defensive weakness hurts them though. After ending an 8 season post season drought last season, this team looks poised to make another run at a post season berth. They should contend for the division title, but if nothing else will contend for the wild card.

Owner Interview-
ME-This is season 23 for you. That's pretty impressive. Give me a little background on why and how you became a part of Pine Tar. I know things haven't been looking good for the Night Watchmen for a while, but last season they made some big improvements. What happened that put this team into contention and back into the post season? Is this success going to continue into this season? I know you've made a couple of trades and signed a nice OF in the off season. In those trades you traded away some key pieces from last season. How do you feel about the return you got? Are there any prospects coming through your system that we should be watching for and who are they? Give me a goal for this season.

toe64-I dabbled in some Gridiron and Hoops Dynasty before being asked to join HBD. Loved the idea of getting in on a league from Season 1 so the success and failure of my team is all on me. Early success in the first 13 seasons and then an 8 season drought with nobody to blame but myself. Last season's success was driven by draft picks finally coming into their own, especially pitchers. I lost SS Rafael Chavez to free agency, so needed to fill that hole but didn't see anything in FA that appealed to me. Also, wanted a better "pitch calling" catcher to help my improved pitching staff get even better. The Juice had what I was looking for in SS Teddy Lemon and C Julio Palmeiro and the price was right. I'll miss CF Jamie Ramsey and P Lon Curtis but believe I have got those spots covered. I may have only bought Lemon for one season but we'll see how he does. A WS ring might change his mind and I have SS Keith Williamson in AAA on the verge of making his ML debut so there is a method to the madness. Goals? Isn't everyone's to win the World Series? I'm no different. It will start with un-seating the Seattle dynasty so get ready! The Night Watchmen are on patrol!

Albuquerque Komodo Dragons
Average.2653Fielding %.97715ERA4.5813
Home Runs15613Double Plays4021Opp. Avg..27515
Ops..7257+ Plays834Strike Outs107013
Runs7209- Plays3611Saves3714

Season 20 Record: 74-88
Last 5 Seasons:  345-465

Key Off Season Moves
Selected OF Bronson Bapitst in Rule V Draft
Signed 3B Daryl Bonham
Signed SP Miguel Quinones
Signed SS Rafael Chavez
Signed C Yovani Guerrero
Signed SP Edgar Santana

Offense-Offensively Albuquerque was solid last season. They had a really good batting average, but didn't hit many homers and were around league average at scoring runs. The additions of Bonham, Chavez, and Guerrero will only improve the offense. This team is going to hit. They could use a bit more power other than Bert Heiserman, but that shouldn't hold back the offense. They have guys that can hit for average, draw plenty of walks, hit for a little bit of power and steal some bases. I think the offense will improve and can be considered an upper half of the NL talent.

Defense-The fielding was awful last season. They did have some good range with the plus plays, but they couldn't glove the ball very well. My guess is that Rafael Chavez is the teams starting shortstop and his talents are at the bottom end of shortstops. Daryl Robertson was the defensive replacement last season, and he could be really good. Geoff Saturria was this teams second baseman last season and he's pretty good for that spot. He's won a couple gold gloves and could challenge for another. Ernie Borders is the centerfielder and he has really good range and an average glove, but a great arm for the position. Really, they have solid gloves everywhere on the field except shortstop. I can't imagine they finish at the bottom again. They are at worst an average defense and I'm more likely to believe they are above average.

Pitching-The Komodo Dragons were in the bottom half of the NL in pitching last season. They added Santana, and Quinones for this season to help bolster the rotation. Harry Guerrero is a good starter and Julio Cordero is coming off a pretty good season. They will need all of them to have good seasons, but they are mostly just average starters that can eat up innings. This team needs an ace. The bullpen is average. Marvin Bere is a solid closer and I like Vasco Nunez as a setup man. I just don't see much else on the staff that stands out though. This is an average to below pitching staff.

Projection-This team is coming along nicely. They've been making improvements and this season should continue to do so. The offense is looking good and the defense should be much improved, but the pitching is holding them back. My guess is that Albuquerque is still another season away from competing, but should come close to the .500 mark this season. If a lot of things go right then they could make a wild card push, but the NL wild card is going to be a tough race this season.

Owner Interview-
ME-Well this is season 4 for you. Last season was a big improvement for Albuquerque. You were pretty active in free agency. Is this the year that the team makes a move in the division? Is the building process of this team going as expected? Do you have any big time prospects that we should be aware of that will be making an impact soon? What can we expect this season out of the Komodo Dragons? What is your goal for this season?

csudak-1) Last year we were only 7 games under .500, so the goal this year is win more than we lose. Competing with Seattle could be tough, as they have a stranglehold on the division. 2) When I took over the minors were empty and the ML team was aging. I've tried to stock up the minors with better overall talent and rid some bad contracts. This was the first offseason we spent some cash. 3) We don't have any real studs, but there are a couple of potential allstars. CF Vicente Palmeiro made the jump from rookie to AAA and had a solid season. With one more year at AAA we expect him to impact the ML club very soon. 4) Realistically we are hoping to crack the .500, but alot will depend on how our pitching comes around. If we are in contention for a WC spot, a mid-season trade might be in order.

Oklahoma City Prairie Dogs
Average.24515Fielding %.9857ERA4.2811
Home Runs12916Double Plays4022Opp. Avg..2608
Ops..68016+ Plays649Strike Outs102715
Runs59416- Plays3410Saves439

Season 20 Record: 61-101
Last 5 Seasons: 337-473

Key Off Season Moves
Selected Wilfredo Navarre in the Rule V Draft
Signed 1B Ron Hartley
Signed C Brett Coscarart

Offense-The Prairie Dogs finished at the bottom of the league offensively last season. They really needed to upgrade every aspect of the offense. While I think the additions will help them, I just don't think it will help enough. Carlos Zorrilla is a great young player that put up outstanding numbers last season. He's the type of player that you can build a team around. John Satou is another really good young player. These two are a pair that Oklahoma City can start to install pieces around and make the foundation of a successful offense out of. Right now the offense isn't very good though and I see them finishing near the bottom of the league again.

Defense-The defense for this squad was pretty average last season. Trey Shuck is really the teams only option at shortstop and he could use more range. He has an average glove though and a really good arm. Zorilla is the centerfielder, but he doesn't have much range. He does have the glove for the position though. This team looks like an average to just below average defense heading into the season.

Pitching-The pitching was slightly below average last season. Rick Owens is the ace of the staff and he fills the role nicely. Juan Ramirez has been used in relief in the past, but he's got the makings of a solid starter. Rey Perry could also be a solid back end of the rotation starter. In the bullpen Brent Beam is a solid closer but not spectacular. Besides him there isn't a lot of help in the pen. Overall this staff is pretty average.

Projection-Oklahoma City has some players that are really good, but the depth behind those guys just isn't there. This team has some pieces to build around, but they aren't ready to compete yet. This team will struggle to stick around in an improving division.

Owner Interview-
Me-Well usually you give me the run down on your team, but I haven't seen it yet this season. So how are you feeling about your team? It seemed like you were on the way up back in season 19, but these last few seasons have been a disappointment. What happened? Change of plans, injuries, things just didn't work out? Who are some of the future stars of this organization? What should we expect to see with the Prairie Dogs this season?

brentcnb-The Oklahoma City club enters its 11th season under the direction of brentcnb, and sadly, the organization has progressed little under the present owner's supervision. Unfortunately, due to some rather pronounced weaknesses in the team assembled for Season 23, it appears that the Prairie Dogs appear destined for a 3rd or 4th place finish in the division. Pitching is the strength of the team, while offense and fielding, remain below average. The owner is attemptimg to improve the team defensively, only time will tell if the efforts bear fruit.

First, I want to thank bobswagger91 for doing the review for my team. It's tough to write something up about your team. The thing is, I think I still have the team to beat in this division. The loss of Rucker will hurt some, but the rest of the staff wasn't a bunch of average pitchers. The offense is improved and the defense is still tough. Colorado Springs continues to get better and should challenge for the division crown this season. If the defense was better then I'd probably pick them to take the division. Albuquerque is a team on the move up and should finish better than last season. I just don't think they have the team in place to contend yet. Oklahoma City will continue to rebuild this season, but they do have some pieces in place now that should start helping soon.

1. Seattle Strikers
2. Colorado Springs Night Watchmen
3. Albuquerque Komodo Dragons
4. Oklahoma City Prairie Dogs

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