Archive for 2011 Team Previews

Team Preview: Cincinnati Reds

After being ousted by the recent NL powerhouse Philadelphia Phillies in three NLDS games, Reds fans may be left wondering “what if?”. But 15 postseason-less and nine losing seasons later, the city of Cincinnati should be proud of their ballclub and can be assured that the organization is in good hands. The future has finally arrived at the Great American Ball Park while years of whiffing on player development appear to be over. GM Walt Jocketty has been able to anchor both the homegrown talent he inherited in 2008 and the talent the team drafted and acquired under his rule. Manager Dusty Baker received a two-year extension and will lead a team of seasoned veterans and promising young players, favorites for another NL Central crown.

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Team Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

For the Pirates, 2010 was the worst of times. The team’s struggles are well documented. They haven’t finished above .500 since 1992, a year they went to a seventh game in the NLCS. The closest they came to respectability during that span was in 1997, when they finished 79-83, second in the NL Central. The furthest they came was in 2010, when they won just 57 games and finished their fourth straight season in the NL Central cellar.

There is room for hope, though. The team has a number of promising young players already in the majors, and another crop that could help in the years to come. The rebuilding process might take a few more years, but it is certainly under way.

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Team Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals have had a rough few weeks. First, they failed to extend Albert Pujols‘ contract before the spring training deadline. Then, they lost ace Adam Wainwright for the season. In the aftermath, Vegas sportsbooks moved St. Louis from the favorites in the division to third behind the Reds and Brewers. Can the Cardinals compete without their ace in an improved division? If so, how?

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Team Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s not exactly high times to be a Dodgers fan right now. Sure, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, but most of the bitterness of the 2010 season is directed at the divorce battle between Frank and Jamie McCourt. General Manager Ned Colletti hasn’t exactlybeen  given the complete freedom to make whatever transactions necessary for the good of the big league ballclub, being hamstrung by financial constraints and all. But he was able to tack on to the starting rotation of homegrown Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley by re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly, while adding Jon Garland, giving L.A.’s rotation a well-rounded staff.

But if you think the additions and re-additions of Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames, Juan Uribe, and Rod Barajas will bolster an offense with several holes, think again. A left field and backstop sans Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin are the biggest questions for the boys of Chavez Ravine. A lesser question that will be just as publicized is the performance of current closer Jonathan Broxton, backed by an eclectic but mostly capable bullpen. The single most important X-factor that first-year manager Don Mattingly could use? A Matt Kemp revitalization, whose upside could be the difference between a third-place NL West team and a playoff contender.

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Team Preview: San Diego Padres

Of the 41 seasons the Padres have enjoyed, last season may have been the most painful. Finding new ways to show the standings would only serve to find new ways to visually represent the excruciatingly painful time that was last September in San Diego. But if you’re a sucker for punishment, Chris Spurlock at Beyond the Box Score obliges. Now that the team has finally traded away their slugging first baseman and lost their (only?) big bat, they are in rebuild mode, right? Maybe, except that we’ve had that thought before.

The Starting Nine
RF Will Venable* / Aaron Cunningham
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Chase Headley^
LF Ryan Ludwick
1B Brad Hawpe* / Jorge Cantu
CF Cameron Maybin
SS Jason Bartlett
C Nick Hundley

*lefty batter, ^switch-hitter

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Team Preview: Colorado Rockies

Say it with me – it’s not the pitching’s fault. Though it’s fashionable in Rockieville to blame the pitching, the Rockies’ pitching staff, led by Ubaldo Jimenez, was actually at the top of the WAR leaderboards for the second consecutive season last year. When you take into account how difficult Coors Field is to pitch in, Rockies pitchers often come out looking rosy. Since their inception, their combined pitching WAR of 322.7 ranks 6th in all of baseball, but the past two seasons have been especially exceptional. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the offense. If the offense turns around, 2011 could see the return of Rocktober.
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Team Preview: San Francisco Giants

Fifty-six years in San Francisco and one World Series title. Most Giants fans are probably set for another fifty-six years, and for some it’s time to get greedy. Unfortunately, despite some fundamental flaws that existed even during their improbable title run, the team did little over the offseason to inspire confidence. Can their mix of flawed veteran position players and elite starting pitching fuel another run?

The Starting Nine

CF Andres Torres
2B Freddy Sanchez
1B Aubrey Huff
C Buster Posey
3B Pablo Sandoval
RF Cody Ross
LF Pat Burrell / Mark DeRosa
SS Miguel Tejada

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Team Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

Starting today, FanGraphs is offering a season preview for each team in baseball. We’ll begin with the NL West and do three teams each day. Check back later for our thoughts on the Giants and Rockies, and stay tuned over the next few weeks where we break down each team’s chances in 2011.

After dealing Dan Haren to the Angels during the 2010 season, the Diamondbacks have gone into full rebuilding mode under new General Manager Kevin Towers. The team traded Mark Reynolds, but much of the relatively young talent which keyed Arizona’s powerful offense remains. Towers has surrounded that young talent with aging veterans, ostensibly hoping to use 2011 as a season for the young guns to learn how to win from the older guys. Unfortunately, much like last year, the Diamondbacks roster doesn’t project to do much winning this season.

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