The AL East from ’08 to ’09

Instead of going team by team this off season, I will review the divisions as a group. And whereas last year, I used a version of BaseRuns, with some modifications for strength of schedule and the like thrown in, to determine the ranking of teams’ true talent levels, this year I will use WAR as provided here on FanGraphs.

Part Six: The AL East

Last year the AL East reigned king over everything. The Red Sox were kings of baseball, the best team according to BaseRuns. The Rays, no slouches themselves and eventual AL Pennant winners, were 2nd, at 2nd. The Blue Jays followed in the 4th overall spot just ahead of the Yankees in 5th. The poor Orioles were left out of the love fest however, finishing 23rd overall.

In 2009, little changed. The Yankees climbed up from fifth to take the top spot both in the division and in baseball overall. A fitting rank for the team that took home the World Series crown. The Rays once again were bridesmaids in 2nd, and this time didn’t see a pennant flag out of the deal. The Red Sox completed the AL East trifecta with a 3rd overall ranking.

The Blue Jays were unable to hang so tight with the big boys this season and fell down a few spots to 10th while the Orioles remained the Orioles, slipping from 23rd to 25th.

The overall rating for the Yankees is likely to change significantly a few years from now after we have enough data to build out a better park effect for New Yankee Stadium. For now though we have to go with what we have, and that leaves the 2009 Yankees as a supremely powerful group of hitters. Other than that, not much changed in the AL East last year and given the strengths of Boston, New York and Tampa, not much should change in 2010 either except a further decline for Toronto now that Roy Halladay is gone.

Here’s a summary of the ranks for the AL East teams, with 2008 first.
BOS: 1, 3
TAM: 2, 2
TOR: 4, 10
NYY: 5, 1
BAL: 23, 25




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


49 Responses to “The AL East from ’08 to ’09”

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  1. Dirty Water says:

    1st: Youkalis, Teixeira.
    Better defensively, and with consistent batting splits, Youkalis takes the cake. And for $11 mil less, no less.

    2nd: Pedroia, Cano.
    Who ya got, some no defense, lackadaisical excuse for a pro, or the lil giant. Easy: Pedroia.

    SS: Jeter, by a hair :)

    3rd: Arod, easy, although I do wonder if he’ll actually be able to even catch a ball in 2-3 years. What a crappy contract that thing is deemed to be. $30 mil for a DH? only in NY.

    LF: Cameron, Damon.
    Possible bias here but I’ll take Mike. Both players swings are well suited for their home ballparks, but Mike’s defense trumps Damon’s OBP.

    CF: Ellsbury, Granderson
    Ellsbury’s resume indicates he’s the supreme defender, and he’ll never get pulled in the 7th because of a LOOGY, but still, there’s his work in CF last year to be considered. Granderson, by a hair.

    RF: Drew, Meathead
    Gotta take the pro here. JD Drew.

    C: Martinez, Posada
    Behind the plate, both make people cringe, but age must be considered here seeing that Posada will be playing his 38th year. Martinez.

    P: CC, AJ, Vasquez, Pettitte, Hughes/Joba; Beckett, Lester, Lackey, DiceK, Buchholz.
    In respective order, Lester and Buchholz blow that staff away. So although I’m willing to concede the top spot to Sabathia, right now, the rest are not even close. Boston, by a lot.

    CL: Papelbon, Rivera.
    FG says that these two don’t matter; have no bearing on games, so since I’m posting this on their site, I’m just gonna ignore these two.

    RP: Incomplete.

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    • Gary says:

      Did you just say Jeter’s better than Scutaro by a hair?

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      • Tank the Frank says:

        He also said “Ellsbury’s resume indicates he’s the supreme defender.”
        Has he ever heard of what a zone rating is? To post that on FanGraphs of all places is embarrassing.

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    • Stuck says:

      Dirty Water: Always a relevant, level headed, nonbiased poster.

      1st Base: Youkilis (Not Youkalis) vs. Teixeira (Teixeira wins)

      Both players are in the upper echelon in terms of 1st basemen, and are near-equals. Youkilis gets on base slightly more, but by virtue of his Fenway-assisted AVG. Teix has more power, way more power. He’s also more durable than Youkilis. They’re both plus defenders (even with UZR not being Teixeira’s friend this year). Any sane person would take Teix over Youk.

      2nd Base: Pedroia vs. Cano (Wash)

      Once again, both very good players. Defensively, Pedroia is better than Cano, but Cano is no slouch. Robbie has good range, and a tremendous arm for a second baseman- the opposite of Dustin, who needs to sling it underarm wherever he is. Cano is also a better hitter, and doesn’t need a 37-foot wall 300 feet away from him to hit for a high average, but Robinson also needs to hit .310 to have a decent OBP.

      Shortsop: durrr jed lowrie is the next derek jeter hurr durr

      3rd Base: A-Rod > The corpse of Mike Lowell (another Fenway hitter)

      Left: Seeing as the Yankees don’t have one of these at the minute, I guess Mike Cameron wins.

      Center: Curtis “No Lefties Please” Granderson vs. Jacoby “How I Take Routes?” Ellsbury (Granderson Wins)

      Curtis is a better defender, has so much more power (even more now that he’s moving into NYS), just don’t ask him to hit lefties, oh and he’s pretty quick too. But as fast as Grandy is, Ells is still faster, and a better thief. But…. He probably shouldn’t be playing center, and is a poor leadoff man. Even with Granderson’s struggles against lefties in his career (something like a .600 OPS), he’s still better offensively than Jacoby, coupled with the superior defense, it’s no contest, Granderson all the way.

      Right: Meathead vs. The Glass Man (Drew wins)

      They’re pretty much the same player. Swisher will give you 150+ games, with slightly more power, but at the expense of 20-odd points off AVG. When healthy, Drew is the superior player. He’s also not exactly playing in the best LHB environment. Both very good players.

      Catcher: Martinez vs. Posada (Wash)

      Martinez hits for a higher average, but has less power than Posada. Posada can call a better game (whatever that means), block pitches, and keep it from being a total track meet. V-Mart is going to play more games, but will he catch more games, considering how poor he is defensively? Pick your poison.

      DH: Johnson vs. Ortiz (Wash)

      Depends what you’re looking for here? You want OBP? Johnson. You want DINGERZ? Ortiz.

      Do you want someone who in all likelihood can fall off a cliff next year? Ortiz.
      Do you want Mr. Freak accident? Johnson.

      Starters: CC>Beckett, Lester> AJ, Vazquez=Lackey, Pettitte>Laptop Thief, Joba/Hughes/Gaudin >Geriatric Knuckleballer

      Closer: Rivera >>>>>> Anusmouth McLoademup

      The bullpen will be a crapshoot, always is.

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    • trebek29 says:

      wow dirty water definitely cannot tell you are a boston fan or simply a yankee hater. first off tex is simply better then youk. the fact that tex is far more expensive is not a product of theo being a better negotiator/ gm then cash, it is that youk was not on the open market (his current deal was an extension) and thus youk had essentially no leverage in the negotiations. and let us not forget the only reason tex is not your 1b is b/c the yanks wanted him more. jeter by a hair? no comment necessary. boston rotation by far and away better then new york? the combined WAR for each staff is more or less the same. and i LOVE the easy out of not talking about closers b/c FG doesnt, avoiding giving the nod to the yankees. granderson by only a hair? you should checkout beyond the boxscore diamond rankings and how jacoby fairs. ill give you a hint: not pretty at all.

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    • RollingWave says:

      sure, a 33 year old that for the first time in his career reached 600 PA in a season AND hit over .750 OPS is a hair inferior to a guy who’s probably already got his Cooperstown plaque made at age 35, what’s so hard to see about that?

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    • Tm says:

      Youk = Tex
      Pedroia = Cano
      Jeter >
      A Rod >
      V mart slightly edges out Posada
      Granderson slightly edges out Els
      Drew slightly edges Swisher
      Cameron > Gardner. Cameron = Damon
      Ortiz = Johnson.

      CC > Lester
      Burnett = Beckett
      Vazquez Dice K
      Joba, Hughes, Buccholz too early to call. I would give laptop the edge though, he pitched well in the ALDS, Hughes fell apart and Joba wasn’t fantastic either.

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  2. t-lonious munk says:

    God I hate trolls, he(or she, I’m no sexist) doesn’t even realize damon is not a yankee. Lets do us all a favor and ignore the above post since (s)he didn’t even provide a shred of evidence to support the silly claims made.

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    • Dirty Water says:

      Silly claims?

      I’d like any Yank fans to lay odds. Damon, Holliday, Bay or another. It’ll be Damon, for sure.

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      • t-lonious munk says:

        I wouldn’t surprised be anything cash does seeing as I don’t make claims to know what he’s thinking. Seeing as he’s been pretty unpredictable (how many yankee fans saw this off season coming?) I gotta say Brett Gardener has the best shot right now. Funny you didn’t include him since Cameron’s advantage over Brett would be the most convincing inequality in favor of the sox.

        Your silly claims:
        Jeter (5 WAR projected) is more then a hair better then Scutaro (2.7 WAR projected)

        Tex is also projected to outplay Youk, though by a hair and that’s basically a toss up on who gets a better BABIP.

        Granderson (5.6 projected WAR) is also a good deal better then Ellsbury (3.7)

        And I take issue with your proclamations regarding the pitching but the season is WAY to far away to bother with these comparison.

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      • Tom B says:

        I’ve been trying to point out your biased yankee hating nonsense for about 3 weeks now, byut now you just proved it to everyone. way to go clown.

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      • Matt says:

        I don’t think they’ll sign and major LF this year (as Cash is saying) because Carl Crawford SHOULD be a free agent after 2010. THAT’S the guy they want. Why lock up Bay or Holliday for 4/5 years when you can lock Crawford up for 5/6?

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  3. Dirty Water says:

    I’ve thought about Gardner in CF, Granderson in RF, but I just believe that’s less likely to happen (actually, almost impossible, IMO) than resigning Damon for 2. However, I base that opinion on the Yanks unlikelihood of spending even more cash for Holliday. That, in itself, may be my own little pipedream.

    ‘by a hair’. Come on, I know sarcasm is difficult on the NET but doesn’t a smiley face indicate anything to you? OK, Jeter by leaps, bounds and continents. Happy?

    Youkalis also covers 3rd. There is no toss up between the two, IMO. Youks is the more consistent hitter and defender, and he offers the Sox depth that Teixeira no longer can.

    WAR murdered Ellsbury because of his defense, but scouting reports don’t agree with that assessment. He had a real crappy 2009 but this is suppose to be an elite defender, which he had proved in prior years. I do not think 2009 was indicative of his ability but we shall see.

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    • Dirty Water says:

      Crap. Nesting and (Granderson in) LF, not RF, FAIL. Wish these posts could be edited (hint).

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    • t-lonious munk says:

      If you want to give Ellsbury the benefit of the UZR doubt then you have to do the same for Tex, which would make him the more valuable player over Youk, at least according to WAR. And even if you do give Ellsbury the benefit of the doubt, you’ll have a hard hard time finding anyone who thinks he’s gonna be as good and Granderson, especially since NYS3 is literally the perfect park for him. Youk can play third which is great, but the yanks don’t someone to play A-rod’s position (jeter) so you can’t really penalize Tex for that. I mean Swisher plays first base, that doesn’t make him a better player then Drew.

      Cash is on record saying the person who plays the best center fielder will start there, so I’m gonna say if Brett gloves his way to CF in spring training it will be that way in april.

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    • Dirty Water says:

      No I don’t. Teixeira’s cumulative UZR for the last 5 years at 1st is -3.3 while Youk’s is 40.7. How is that even comparable?

      Truth is, it’s not. Fact is, Texieira is considered a good 1st baseman for the exact same reason Jeter owns GG’s – they both make spectacular diving plays on balls most other players play as routine.

      the end.

      Now if you want to argue that Teixeira is the better between the two because he hits more HR’s over that short porch in NY, go ahead. Just don’t go claiming he’s the better well-rounded ballplayer, because he’s not. There is no data to support it.

      Re: Ellsbury. Hard to defend the boy after his clusterfuck in 2009. I think he’s better; others more learned think he’s a lot better, but he’s gotta be better to be, you know, actually better.

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      • t-lonious munk says:

        Fangraphs has Tex’s career total first base UZR at 11.6 and Youks total career first base UZR at 18. So I have no idea what your talking about with that. I don’t know the margins of error involved with those numbers, and its well known that scouting reports love tex’s glove far beyond fielding numbers do (and each method has flawless). Still, lets say that yes youk is a better defender, last year was still the first year youk ever outproduced Tex in terms of WAR. Given that Tex usually out produces Youk and is younger, my money would be on Tex to perform best this year.

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      • Dirty Water says:

        I have no idea now which orifice I pulled that 40.7 from but it’s obviously inaccurate. Sorry. But whatever, FG and FG data both show that Youks is the better defender, and he’s more versatile. They are equal as hitters, with Teixeira having more power and Youks being more reliable on the road. Teixeira has a longer history but all charts show Youks is still progressing. So:

        “Better defensively, and with consistent batting splits, Youkalis takes the cake. And for $11 mil less, no less”, which is what I said (not that Youks has this ginormous advantage). Yep, I’d say it again. Youks is better, in my opinion.

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      • t-lonious munk says:

        Tex had a slightly below career average BABIP last year and is still younger. You say he’s a product of NYS3 but his best offensive year wasn’t even last year when it was his home park, so that argument hardly holds water. And its rather typical for hitters to hit better at home, so penalizing him for that is nonsense.

        Youk is leaving the peak of his career, and his last two years have been fueled by high BABIP numbers (more so the most recent year), he’s a regression candidate if either of the two are.

        My ultimate argument for Tex is that if Theo wanted him to start at first for the RS over Youk. And since Tex isn’t a shortstop Theo can’t be wrong about this. So how then can Youk be the better option?

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      • Dirty Water says:

        He had 40% less HR’s on the road last year (15 to 24), playing 2 additional games away, to boot. His year was certainly fueled by Coors East. It was also his 2nd consecutive year with a sub-.900 OPS on the road.

        And your ultimate argument for Teix is that with Youkilis being the better defender, and therefor able to shift across the diamond to open up 1st for another bat, Teix is somehow better? Really? What about his taking the 1st month off every year, does that also prove he’s better?

        Nonsense. Same with his being 13 months younger somehow being at all relevant, just nonsense. For his career, Teixeira has proven he can hit more HR’s in friendly stadia than Youks has had the opportunity to. That’s it. That’s the only redeeming quality he has over Youkilis.

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      • t-lonious munk says:

        Well I was making a joke about theo and his short stop issues, scutaro is not the answer to Jeter and well know that. I have already said that Youks ability to play 3rd or left doesn’t really make him a better first baseman, especially with A-rod on the Yankees which would render any 3rd base ability of Tex useless.

        Age does matter, it means Youk has left his prime years, usually defined as 25-30, and Tex has a little more sunshine to bask in.

        Hitters hit better at home, so that point about Tex not OPSing over .900 isn’t that convincing. Park factors show Fenway to be a better hitters park then NYS3, and the reason the Yankees hit so many home runs there is that they have a lot of good power hitters.

        Ok tex takes advantage of the short porch, does that make him a bad hitter no? I don’t think you’d take away Lowell’s WS MVP and 2007 numbers because he played in the ideal park for his bat would you? Tex has a better track record, and is projected universally to perform better next year. But not by much, and no one is calling the greek god of walks anything less then a stellar player.

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      • Dirty Water says:

        Man, there are so many holes in your response I am disinclined to respond to any of them. Which is probably best anyway. Time for this topic to die.

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      • Matt says:

        In terms of WAR, Tex and Youk have been basically the same player, with Tex a little better.

        2009: 5.1 for Tex, 5.6 for Youk
        2008: 6.8 for Tex, 5.6 for youk
        2007: 3.9 for both

        Fact is, Youkilis is better at Fenway because of the Green Monster (all those doubles) and Tex is better at Yankee Stadium because of the short porch. They fit their respective squads…I’d call it a wash.

        As for defense, look at Jeter’s error numbers to get a good idea as to how valuable Tex was. A good number of Jeter’s error numbers in previous years were throwing errors that guys like Giambi couldn’t dig out.

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    • Tom B says:

      I don’t think Youkilis get bonus points for poorly playing other positions.

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  4. trebek29 says:

    i also love how, other then c.c., the rest of ny’s rotation “doesnt even come close” to comparisons with boston. have you ever seen dice-k pitch? his projections are fantastic also. and a.j. and lackey are more or less the same exact pitcher (both have exact same career FIP’s)

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    • Dirty Water says:

      Beckett AJ
      Lackey => AL Vasquez
      DiceK => Pettitte
      Buchholz > (86 IP)Hughes/RP Joba

      I see no issue with those comparisons, and I certainly see DiceK outpitching the soon-to-be retired Pettitte in 2010.

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      • trebek29 says:

        this line of debate is pointless b/c it depends who is matched up with who but ill argue it one last time. i agree with you leaving lester and c.c. out b/c last yr and projected WAR’s make them more or less equal. We will discount Vasquez’s WAR and FIP from last year for obvious reasons and use his 5.0 projection, which is greater than Beckett’s 4.7 but again more or less equal. Burnett and Lackey are projected for a 3.3 and 3.9 respectively and both have injury histories. However Lackey has had some padded stats throwing in the AL west his entire career (SEA and OAK have had some awful lineups the past couple of years) and both have literally the same exact career FIP. Lackey’s FIP and WAR are probably a tad bit overstated as well b/c of his switch to the AL east, but more or less the 2 are the same as well. Dice K and Pettite? Dice K projects at a 2.2 WAR and I dont know many red rock fans who even like the guy who needs 140 pitches to throw 5 innings, at the most. Not only does Pettite project for a higher WAR and has a better career FIP, both Hughes AND Joba project to have higher WAR’s as well, although only one of Hughes and Joba will actually get to start barring injuries. Clay’s 2.5 WAR projection, on top of his career WHIP (atrocious) does not lead to a logcial conclusion that hed be better than either phil or joba. More or less its way too early to argue this BUT to say that NY’s rotation “is not even close” to Boston’s is simply incorrect and in fact a compelling argument, USING ACTUAL STATS, is that NY is in fact better. But leaving that aside, to say Boston’s is by far and away better is 100% irresponsible.

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      • Jeff says:

        You talk about using stats to compare players (Teix ns Youk) but when it comes to Ellsbury… it’s different? Then, you just want to throw away the closer position?

        And then you have Buchholz> Joba or Hughes… Buchholz has never pitched above 100 innings in a single season in the majors or in the minors. Plus, he has a career FIP of 4.51. Somehow, he will still out best any Yankee pitcher…

        And Matsuzaka > Pettitte? Again, you only use stats when it bolsters your own biased predictions. All the stats say that Pettitte > Dice-K.

        I guess gut feeling is better “stat” for certain players…

        Using your logic: My gut says Francisco Cervelli will be better than Martinez. Why? Because he is a Yankee and Martinez is a Red Sox.

        I think it would’ve been easier if you had just wrote: anyone who plays for the Red Sox > anyone for plays for the Yankees. It would’ve saved you a lot of time.

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      • DT says:

        You are out of ur mind.. let go on a statistics sight and completely ignore the numbers.

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      • Dirty Water says:

        What makes you think I believe differently about Ellsbury?

        I did consider his 2009, and basically tossed out every prior year he’s experienced, you know, when he was actually far better in the field. I did give the nod to Granderson, primarily because I trust his defense more. What are you bitching about?

        I prefer Buchholz because he will be our 4-5 starter in 2010, he did show last Aug-Sept he can handle the spot, he has more plus pitches than Joba has brain cells, and besides, neither Joba or Hughes know what the hell their assignments for 2010 are yet. They could both relieve, for all you know.

        “And Matsuzaka > Pettitte?” Yup. In a heartbeat. I judge DiceK on his ’07 and ’08 years, not ’09 when he was obviously hurt from day one. I don’t trust Pettitte because of his age. If he’s healthy though, I could see him outpitching DiceK. Maybe, although many expect DiceK to be supremely motivated this year.

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  5. Dirty Water says:

    (formatting)

    CC over Beckett
    Lester over AJ
    Lackey over Vasquez
    DiceK => Pettitte
    Buchholz > (86 IP)Hughes/RP Joba

    I see no issue with those comparisons, and I certainly see DiceK outpitching the soon-to-be retired Pettitte in 2010.

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    • trebek29 says:

      see post b/f this.

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    • SteveP says:

      So you’d take Dice-K and is 4.23 FIP in 2007 over Pettitte and his 3.87 FIP in the same year? Or in 2008 when Dice-K posted a 4.03 mark and Pettitte posted a 3.71 FIP Dice-K was a better pitcher, right? And we won’t even discuss last year since you’ve already conceded that. What’s with the soon-to-be retired Pettitte crack? Does whether or not Pettitte will pitch in 2011 have any bearing on how he’ll pitch in 2010? When I look at his numbers, I see a very competent mid rotation starter on a contending team, not some old guy hanging onto past glory while his skills are clearly eroding. In fact, Dice-K dreams he could be as good as Pettitte.

      And Buchholz has proven he’s a ML caliber starter no more than Hughes or Joba have. In fact, I believe Joba has better numbers as a starter for their short careers. Buchholz is not clearly better than anybody…

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      • Dirty Water says:

        Yeah, I would. I consider DiceK a 3rd year player who had an advantage playing AAAA ball for years in Japan. But he’s still just a junior to us. Still young, too. And talented.

        Now, if the Yank FO was not so obviously concerned with Pettitte’s shoulder (which they and others have to be, otherwise he wouldn’t be signing one year team friendly contracts), it’s a different story. Yeah, I’d take Andy’s experience over DiceK’s talent in a heartbeat if I knew he’d last the year. Only problem is I don’t think he does.

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    • Tm says:

      I’d actually agree with your first 3 but the last 2 are a crapshoot. Dice K could rebound to what he did 2 years ago or struggle like last year. Buchholz like Joba showed glimpses of something special, this year will probably give us a better idea of what they will produce. That said, I’d take Pettite over Dice K, Lackey and Beckett. Lester pitched poorly in the ALDS but I think he can pitch better. Burnett is so hard to rank because if we get game 2 of the world series burnett hes better than even CC. If we get game 5 burnett, hes horrible.

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  6. Ronald says:

    Personally I think it is way too early to compare the lineups.
    It is only X’mas people. NY is going to sign a LF and who knows what BOS will do, but for sure they need a bat in their lineup.

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  7. CJ says:

    Dice K sucks. If I was Boston I’d rather start Tanazawa or even Bowden.

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  8. CJ says:

    I have no issue with the first three but
    Pettitee>>>>>>>>Dice K
    Buccholz=Hughes/Joba

    Seriously I doubt Dice K is that much better than Chad Gaudin

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  9. Mike Green says:

    Trash-talking on Christmas Day. Have you no shame? :0

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  10. Andrew says:

    Youk is way more versatile than Tex. Remember that one time he played Left Field at Yankee stadium?

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  11. Sandy Kazmir says:

    I find it interesting, though not surprising, that this article pointed to the Rays as being the best team in 08 and #2 in 09, and a slapfight ensues about the only two teams that apparently exist in the ALE. Keep underestimating a team that has worked to fill it’s two greatest flaws. I cannot wait until April.

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    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      I should correct this, I initially read it on my mobile and mucked up the exact rankings. The Rays were 2nd both years.

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    • Raf says:

      Be that as it may, the reason NYY had a lousy offensive 2008 was because of injury to Posada and off years by Jeter, Cano & Cabrera. Hard to do much of anything when you’re running 3 automatic outs in your lineup.

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  12. Anon says:

    Have you even seen the park factors, Dirty Water? Fenway came in at 1.072 while YSIII came in at .965…. but t3h bandbox!

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  13. Rob in CT says:

    LOL at people trying to reason with Dirty Water.

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