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UCB Project: 2013 American League Predictions

Posted on March 25, 2013 at 1:00 PM
It's that time of year again.  When hope is new, the grass smells clean, and people foolishly put down what they think will happen in the baseball season to come.  The United Cardinal Bloggers are no different.

Every year we take a crack at these things.  Sometimes it goes pretty well--Pittsburgh's late fade last year kept me from nailing them being third and over the .500 mark.  Sometimes it goes disastrously--I had Boston winning the AL East last year.  Yeah, that was pretty much bad from the get-go.

However, terrible performances don't stop us from trying it again anyway.  (Kinda like Mike Matheny continuing to use Victor Marte last year.)  So we'll do it again on the same kinda schedule--the entire American League today, then each division in the National League gets a day before wrapping it up on Friday with postseason predictions and awards.

Since we hardly pay attention to the American League--we all know real baseball lets a pitcher hit, don't we?--let's try to make a quick pass through there today.  If you want to use these as a guide, odds are you better figure the opposite is really going to happen!
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Playing Pepper 2013: Oakland Athletics

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 1:45 PM
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat.  If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers.  We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.  

Oakland Athletics 
94-68, first in the AL West, lost in the ALDS 

While the Wild Card era has taken away a lot of the great pennant races, there are still times where the unexpected happens. Last year's AL West was the latest case in point.

Everyone expected Los Angeles and Texas to duke it out, but Texas shot out of the gate and was up 6.5 games by the end of April.  At the end of May, Oakland was sitting in last place and seemingly looking to next year.  However, two things then happened--Texas hit a skid and Oakland started winning.  And winning.  And winning.

To the point that when the two teams met at the end of the season, Oakland trailed by just two games.  A postseason berth had been clinched, but Oakland wanted to avoid that play-in Wild Card game and, with a dramatic sweep of the Rangers, were able to do just that.

What can this team do for an encore?  After all, the Angels added a big bat and the Rangers aren't going away.  To find out, we've got three diehard A's fans to enlighten us.  David Wishinsky writes The Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan (Twitter handle: TVPRCRetirePlan) and has started up his own podcast; Sean Davis writes for the FanSided blog Swingin' A's and is on Twitter @SeanD25; and Tamara Davis (no relation to Sean, I'm pretty sure) writes for the Aerys blog Oaktown Breakdown and can be followed @Tamara_Harumi.

Stick around and see if they think the sophomore jinx has a new victim lined up and if the A's can repeat at the top of the division!
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UCB Prediction Week, Part I: American League

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Every year about this time, the United Cardinal Bloggers take aim at their predictions for the upcoming season.  It's a great way to look at the divisions, get a feel for what is going on, and write down picks that you will be trying to scrub from any internet search engine by probably July.

I'm far from an expert, so take all of these picks with a grain of salt.  There are few gut picks that don't have a lot of basis in reality, so feel free to take that into consideration when reading them.

Since the American League doesn't really matter as much, we at the UCB just lump it all into one day.  So keep reading to see how I pick the divisions to shake out.
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Playing Pepper 2012: Oakland Athletics

Posted on March 16, 2012 at 9:00 AM
In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad.  Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.

Oakland A's
74-88, third in the AL West

Well, at least they had Moneyball.

The A's finished 22 games out of the lead last season and spent an active offseason getting even younger.  The heady days of the early part of last decade are well in the rear view mirror and the club seems stuck until and unless they get to move up to San Jose and a new ballpark.

Until then, the A's continue to rely on the fact that Billy Beane hasn't lost his touch and that he's positioning this club for another run.  That's what today's bloggers are holding on to, at least.

David Wishinsky writes a mouthful-of-a-blog The Todd Van Poppel Rookie Card Retirement Plan, named after the can't-miss pitcher that missed.  You can also find him on Twitter at tvprcretireplan.

Jason Leary can be found over at Junk Ball, writing about what's going on with the guys in green.  He's on Twitter at JunkBallBlogger.

Bee Hylinski is the proprietor of Contract Year and she also has a book coming out soon by the same name.  Bee is the president of the Oakland BBA chapter.

Coming up, we talk about the Oakland offseason and about an old Cardinal farmhand.
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Playing Pepper 2011: Oakland Athletics

Posted on March 13, 2011 at 1:57 PM
Two years ago, I started a series I called Playing Pepper, where I asked questions of bloggers of each major league team about the season to come.  Not only was that informative and entertaining, it led to the spawning of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  With spring training coming up, it's time to get back into shape by again playing a little pepper.

Oakland Athletics (81-81, 9 GB and second in the AL West)

When most people think of the A's, they probably think small market or Moneyball.  Cardinal Nation has a little different view of the team in Oakland, since the Cardinals resurgence from the mid-90s hole they were in ties directly to the hiring of former Athletics such as Walt Jocketty, Tony La Russa and Mark McGwire.  (Though we tend to try to block out that whole Mark Mulder situation.)

Last year, the A's surprised some people by finishing ahead of the heavily favored Angels, even if they did finish behind the equally surprising Rangers.  Can they take the next step?  Can they be this year's surprise team from the West?

For an organization that has the reputation for being cutting edge, there just aren't a lot of Oakland bloggers out there.  Bee Hylinski writes for the blog Contract Year and has done a number of things in her life, including being a mayor, the chairman of a non-profit organization, and a tax, estate planning and probate lawyer.  She's also written a book with the same name as her blog that she hopes to get published soon.

For the longest time, Bee was the only Oakland member of the BBA.  Late last year, though, Jason from Junk Ball joined the ranks.  Like the title suggests, you never know just what you are going to go.  You can also find Jason over on the Twitter as well.

Stick around and find out just what the green and gold have to look forward to in 2011.

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A Holliday Weekend

Posted on June 21, 2010 at 4:36 PM
It's late in the day, I've already written about my electronic tragedy of the weekend and I've worked up my Baseball Digest column (to be up later this evening, probably).  Let's take a quick crack at this weekend's series with the Oakland A's.  Oakland is one of those teams I'm a little fond of, though not as much as when Tony La Russa and Mark McGwire were running around over there.  Still, love those green uniforms.

Friday (6-4 win)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  Three hits, including a home run that put the team on the board early.  That lineup switch--or the warmer weather--seems to be working.
Goat: David Freese. 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Notes: Again, not the sharp Chris Carpenter, but the offense was able to bail him out of his really bad inning.  Also nice to get back into the NL Central lead after this one and Cincinnati losing to Seattle.  How nice was it that the Cards miss Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez and their closest competitor has to face them?

Saturday (4-3 win)
Hero: Adam Wainwright.  Eight innings of one-run ball.  Plus, if I didn't choose him, Holliday probably sweeps the weekend.
Goat: Ryan Franklin.  Apparently didn't have anything, giving up a run (eventually two) and getting nobody out.
Notes: Another home run and multi-hit and RBI game for Holliday.  Good work by Jason Motte to limit the damage in the ninth, almost getting out of it without giving up anything.

Sunday (3-2 loss)
Hero: Matt Holliday.  OK, uncle.  Two home runs gets you back on the list.
Goat: Albert Pujols.  Two strikeouts and a fly out in the biggest situation late in the game.
Notes: Another tolerable outing by Jeff Suppan.  Still not able to go too long, but first time through the lineup he's a rock.  

Like Bernie Miklasz says in today's column, consistency seems to be the hobgoblin of this team.  Holliday gets going, Colby Rasmus and Pujols slow down.  (Though, to be fair, Rasmus did hit two bombs this week, so that's something.)  Freese hit all four of his home runs in, what, a week's time?  Granted he's kept his average up and been hitting some doubles as well, but it goes to the streakiness of this team.

The fact that the Cards are up 1.5 over the Reds with the engine not fully functional tells you about the NL Central but also about how good this pitching staff has been.  Without the emergence of Jaime Garcia, this team is well back, especially after Brad Penny's injury.  Garcia's got to get some credit for team MVP, just because of what he's meant to a team like this.

Day off today, which means a slow day in Cardinal Land.  Matt Holliday did get Player Of The Week, which is nice.  That may be a symbol of this Cardinal team, though.  I mean, when you look at the stats, save for the middle infield nobody just looks bad.  But then you see Holliday's week that pumped these numbers up, Rasmus was POW a couple of weeks back with a strong seven days, and Freese got it back in May.  I could have sworn that Pujols had gotten one this year as well, but I can't find it in a Google search.  Still, that helps highlight the peaks and valleys this team has on a regular basis.

Looking forward to the Toronto series, should be a good pitching matchup.  We'll look at tomorrow's game, well, tomorrow, but I want to mention that Ian Hunter from The Blue Jay Hunter will be joining us on UCB Radio Hour on Wednesday, so if you have any questions about the Jays, let me know or give us a call!

Playing Pepper 2010: Oakland Athletics

Posted on March 11, 2010 at 10:44 PM
Last year before the season began, I posed five questions to a blogger for each team, so as to get to know the rest of baseball.  I focus so heavily on the Cardinals that sometimes the rest of MLB can pass me by.  That went very well, so much so that it spawned not only a postseason edition but was part of the impetus for the formation of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

So this year, I've brought 
Playing Pepper back, with a little bit of a twist.  Instead of five questions, I posed 10 questions, and this year every team got the same set.  Plus, tapping into those BBA connections, I sent them to every blogger representing that team in the BBA.

We'll try to do two a day in a general alphabetical order---ah, who are we kidding, we'll get them up when we get them up.

Oakland Athletics
2009 Finish: 75-87, fourth in the AL West

Interestingly enough, Oakland is the only team not represented in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  Over 140 blogs and not one of them has a focus on the green and gold.

Oakland's blogger landscape is dominated by Athletics Nation, so I sent along the Playing Pepper Ten to them, asking them to take a look.  Christy was kind enough to send back some short and sweet answers, which gives you a break from reading some of the treatises that I've been posting!
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Cardinals Get Holliday

Posted on July 24, 2009 at 2:10 PM
Well, Albert Pujols may read this blog, but obviously the front office doesn't.

If you haven't heard by now, you are probably living in a vacuum or really have a strange idea about where to turn to for your news, but Matt Holliday is a Cardinal and Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortensen and Shane Petersen are A's.

It's enough to make you run through the five stages of grief.  I spent the morning sure it wasn't going to happen, very angry that it was actually going to happen, skipped over the bargaining and went straight to depressed that it had happened, and now am moving to the acceptance that it has happened and there's nothing we can do about it, so move on.

The price of Wallace was bad enough, but the other two as well, including probably one of our top pitching prospects?  For that, I was expecting that Oakland was paying the rest of Holliday's salary or at least had allowed for a window of negotiation where the Cards would work on locking down an extension.  Instead, the Cards just get back $1.5 million of the $6 million Holliday is earning the rest of the way.  Really?

According to Derrick Goold on Twitter, the organization is hoping to get him in and do the sell job that way, like they did with Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.  There are three problems with that.

One, it's a different game nowadays.  I think it's harder to use that hometown discount/sea of red motivation than it was a few years back.

Two, Matt Holliday is a Scott Boras client, a client that Boras has indicated will see free agency.  None of the other guys were Boras players.

Three, the Cardinals gave up more in this trade than any of the other trades.  They are risking a lot on the fan base, a fan base that Tony LaRussa was at odds with just earlier this week.  

It just reminds me of Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars: "I'm taking an awful risk, Vader.  This had better work."

So the Cardinals have again dealt with Oakland, after the majestic Mark Mulder trade that most Cardinal fans have yet to forget or forgive, even five years later.  (That happens when one of the guys you give away turns into a top 5 pitcher while the guy you get breaks down almost immediately.)  Perhaps, if this trade is going to be completely analogous to the earlier one, we should care more about losing Mortensen instead of Wallace.  The big prospect we gave up in the Mulder trade, Daric Barton, created much angst, but hasn't exactly set the world on fire.  If Haren hadn't blossomed, that'd have been a no-win deal.

What's done is done, though, so Cardinal fans have to pick themselves up and welcome Holliday into the fold.  For what it's worth, national writers think the Cards did OK for themselves and may have set themselves ahead for an October date.  Keith Law does make the point that he leaves the tougher AL and that should help some, though the idea that power fastballs "knock the bat out of his hand" doesn't make me feel great for postseason.

Tony LaRussa finally got his man.  We'll find out if it was worth the cost.

It's likely that Holliday will be in the lineup tonight, making me quite aggravated that events are going to conspire to keep me away from the TV tonight.  Looking forward to seeing him in Cardinal red this weekend and hopefully giving this offense the boost he was acquired for.

Just When You Want To Give The Front Office Credit

Posted on July 23, 2009 at 11:13 AM
Maybe this is just writer speculation.  Maybe it's Billy Beane trying to drive up the price for Matt Holliday amongst other teams.  Maybe it's a joke that's gone too far.

But this report that the Cardinals might be starting to consider sending Brett Wallace to Oakland for Halladay sends chills up my spine, so much so that you are getting a short blog post dealing with it.

Let's list out the reasons that this is a bad idea, shall we?

1) Matt Holliday is a Scott Boras free agent.  You aren't likely to get him to sign a nice, hometown discount extension.  You aren't likely to have smooth negotiations to get him to give up his shot at free agent riches.  You are likely to have the same hole in the offense after October that you do right now without the hope of a prospect coming up to fill it.

2) Matt Holliday isn't a game changer.  Holliday's a good player, don't get me wrong.  Under other circumstances, I'd love to have him in St. Louis.  Even with his recent hot streak, though, he's not an MVP candidate outside the confines of the Rocky Mountains.  He's a good, solid bat, one that could help but not necessarily carry the offense.  I don't know that putting him instead of Ryan Ludwick (especially with Ludwick's resurgence) makes teams more likely to pitch to Albert Pujols instead of walking him.  You don't trade your top guy for a nice player.  You trade your top guy for someone that you are as close to 100% as possible will make a major difference.

3) You could get the same offensive boost, perhaps, in just promoting Wallace.  Tony LaRussa seems to want Mark DeRosa at third, fine.  Put Wallace in left field.  We've dealt with Chris Duncan's defense out there for so long, I think we could tolerate Wallace's, especially if he starts contributing offensively.  If he gets really bad, move DeRosa out there and him back to third.  I know he's no great shakes there either, but you've got the option.

4) It's Billy Beane.  Have we learned nothing from the Mark Mulder trade?  Beane may have lost a little bit of his invincibility aura, but he's still got the reputation.  And while Daric Barton, the big time prospect in the Mulder trade, didn't pan out as expected, I think we still would rate that deal as a loss, right?  Do you really want to see Wallace dominate the AL for 5 years for two months of above-average production from Holliday?

5) Pitching is more pressing.  There are a lot of options in the offense. Ludwick is in good form again.  Pujols is Pujols.  Colby Rasmus is becoming a dependable bat.  DeRosa is chipping in.  You have the new acquisition of Julio Lugo, seeing what he can do.  You have the possibilities of Troy Glaus and Khalil Greene returning.  If you used 13 hitters, you probably wouldn't have to worry as much about the offense either, allowing for more pinch hitting and matchup play than you have with this short bench.

Whereas the GM and manager both say that there are no better options in the system than Todd Wellemeyer.  Todd Wellemeyer has a 5.68 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP.  If there's no one better, you need to go out and find someone.  I wouldn't use Wallace for just anyone, of course, but as I've said ad nauseum, Roy Halladay would be one that I would.

6) Wallace is cheap.  When Pujols's contract comes up, you are going to need quality players that are being paid at below-market rates due to club control.  Rasmus is one of those guys.  Wallace can be another.  You don't just give him away for a guy that, even if you are going to resign him, would take millions of dollars, dollars that may mean the difference between Albert Pujols, lifetime Cardinal and Albert Pujols, New York Met.  At least if you got Halladay, you'd have him for two years and could let him walk after 2010, getting picks and saving money.  You can do that with Holliday, but instead of two playoff pushes, you get one.

This is a horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea and I hope that this is the only time it sees the light of day.

Playing Pepper 2009: Oakland Athletics

Posted on February 23, 2009 at 11:30 AM
As the players start getting themselves ready for another season, I thought it'd be a good idea to do the same.  I contacted a blogger for each major league team and posted them five questions.  This is the result.  You can find the tentative schedule of teams here and today's main post is right here.

For a while there in the mid-90s, when Tony LaRussa was fresh in the managing chair in St. Louis, it was like Oakland East under the Arch.  LaRussa brought a number of coaches and players with him that had worn the green and gold and that helped him have early success in the Midwest.

The most recent dealing with the A's, though, has been decidedly less in favor of the Redbirds, as we all remember the calamitous Mark Mulder for Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton trade.  Long will it live in infamy.

To see how the current Oakland squad is doing, I turned to Arin of Arin It Out, another Blogs By Fans site.
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Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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