Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day At Long Last

There are few cooler things than Opening Day baseball. Even if you are just casual about the sport, you have to love the start of the season. It is the ultimate American sporting day, probably just a notch below the opening day of March Madness. And although we have some apparent postponed games today (already two are tallied up), today is still going to be an exciting one, just to know that the sport is finally back and that the games finally count after such a ridiculously long spring training period this year.

Paul Maholm will take the hill for the Bucs a bit later on today as long as it isn't freaking snowing in St. Louis. Because the season kicks off today, I wanted to finally get down my personal predictions for the players and the team as a whole, as any predictions that come after the start of the opener come with an asterisk attached to them. So here we go:

Ryan Doumit: 465 AB .297 BA/ .360 OBP/ .480 SLG
Adam LaRoche 387 AB .276/ .346/ .481 (Traded in late July)
Freddy Sanchez 573 AB .295/ .332/ .403
Jack Wilson 478 AB .270/ .308/ .369
Andy LaRoche 521 AB .271/ .353/ .445
Nyjer Morgan 237 AB .270/ .331/ .354
Nate McLouth 570 AB .275/ .357/ .461
Brandon Moss 486 AB .265/ .334/ .453
Andrew McCutchen 263 AB .262/ .340/ .384
Eric Hinske 346 AB .257/ .343/ .454
Ramon Vasquez 302 AB .248/ .314/ .384
Craig Monroe 194 AB .227/ .295/ .418
Luis Cruz 244 AB .246/ .292/ .357
Jason Jaramillo 111 AB .243/ .333/ .342

Paul Maholm 213 IP 4.06 ERA 147 K 1.33 WHIP 12-12 Record
Ian Snell 178 IP 4.40 ERA 143 K 1.42 WHIP 10-11 Record
Zach Duke 174 IP 4.91 ERA 85 K 1.55 WHIP 8-13 Record
Ross Ohlendorf 151 IP 4.65 ERA 112 K 1.48 WHIP 7-9 Record
Jeff Karstens 120 IP 4.80 ERA 72 K 1.51 WHIP 5-7 Record
Daniel McCutchen 83 IP 5.10 ERA 64 K 1.62 WHIP 2-5 Record
Matt Capps 70 IP 2.57 ERA 54 K 1.03 WHIP 37 Saves
John Grabow 46 IP 3.91 ERA 40 K 1.26 WHIP (traded in late July)
Tyler Yates 63 IP 4.43 ERA 57 K 1.49 WHIP
Sean Burnett 65 IP 4.85 ERA 40 K 1.58 WHIP
Evan Meek 51 IP 3.88 ERA 38 K 1.39 WHIP
Craig Hansen 47 IP 5.36 ERA 34 K 1.70 WHIP
Jesse Chavez 40 IP 5.63 ERA 25 K 1.80 WHIP
Donnie Veal 10 IP 8.10 ERA 5 K 2.00 WHIP

Obviously, I'm not projecting this out to be a very good baseball team. There is a definite lack of power, especially if a projected Adam LaRoche trade goes through. The bullpen is going to be a cobbled-together mess for the most part. Really, I only have a couple guys with breakout-type seasons. I like Evan Meek a lot and think he will be up with this team before May 1st and will become our best righty setup man by year's end. I also think Andy LaRoche has a nice season at third base (a .798 OPS would have placed him anywhere between 9th and 12 among qualifying major league third basemen in each of the past 5 seasons. Not too shabby.) I think Ryan Doumit will have a lower SLG, but only because the batting average may drop a bit. If anything, I'd guess his home run total increases (to 20 or so) and that the doubles total decreases a bit. Brandon Moss will be a serviceable corner outfielder at the plate (not in the field though) and can at least hold the fort down until Tabata is ready at some point in 2010.

I think Jack Wilson falls off a cliff this season at the plate and won't even be tradeable for a few spare fungos by season's end. I also think Nate McLouth's power regresses a bit. Andrew McCutchen is not going to be the immediate savior we are all praying for. Don't get me wrong, I've seen this kid play and think he will be VERY good, but a .724 OPS probably is around the range we should reasonably expect. Any more than that, and it's a gift. This season is just about getting him comfortable with the bigs to the point that he is capable of a big 2010 season. Nyjer Morgan gives us so-so numbers but clearly isn't starter material. Freddy Sanchez's average bounces back but the power doesn't and he begins to stumble down that same cliff his buddy Jack is struggling with. I also think Craig Monroe stinks the joint out this season. I don't like Monroe much, and the only reason I see him getting as many at-bats as I have him slated for is because the Pirates need some power.

As for the ain't sexy. Paul Maholm's ERA was a bit too good last season, and while I still like Maholm and think he'll turn in a decent year I think that a 4.00 ERA is more in his range. I think Snell bounces back a bit, as he was bit by some bad luck on the mound last year, and that Duke gives us a second consecutive year of mediocrity. At this point, there's no reason to expect anything different from the Duke. I like Ohlendorf to show some flashes this season and provide a glimmer of hope as a 3/4 starter type for the coming years. And I think Karstens will be one of the better number 5 starters we have seen in Pittsburgh, but that's not really a complement. I also predict that Tom Gorzelanny doesn't pitch an inning in Pittsburgh and makes the dreaded trip to Mobile to see Dr. Andrews, as his struggles seem best explained by an injury to me.

In the bullpen I figure Matt Capps has a big year as the closer and could challenge for 40 saves. I also think this is the season that the long-rumored John Grabow trade finally comes to fruition. Other than Meek there's nothing here to be surprised or excited about.

All in all, I'm projecting a 71-91 record for the Pirates in the coming season, and the sad thing is I think I'm probably being a little optimistic considering all these issues.

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