Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Few More MLB Season End Observations

Here are a few comments about the 2010 MLB regular season which ended this afternoon.

1. Bucking Up in Baltimore

The Orioles went 34-22 under Buck Showalter. Prior to Showalter's arrival on August 3rd, the Orioles were 32-74 under Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel.

We will hear more from the O's in 2011.

2. Cubs Must Keep Quade

Mike Quade is exactly what the doctor ordered. When Lou Piniella stepped down as Chicago Cubs manager on August 22nd, Quade stepped in and the Cubs went 24-12 the rest of the way. Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano all regained their old form.

Yet I worry the Cubs won't bring back Quade. Indeed, the Cubs have interviewed former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge, Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (who is currently managing the Triple-AAA Iowa Cubs) and most recently former Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin. As of this writing, Cubs GM Jim Hendry hasn't invited Quade for an interview.

The Cubs have their guy. They don't need to interview anyone else. They will be making a big mistake if the don't bring Quade back in 2011.

3. Pity the Poor Pittsburgh Pirates

I did not predict a last place finish for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2010. In fact, I picked them to finish fourth and to possibly have their first winning record since 1992.

Instead, the worst was yet to come. The Pirates finish the 2010 season with a 57-105 record. It's their worst showing since 1952. Bucs players were seldom in a position to win one for the road. They finished 17-64 away from PNC Park in 2010 matching the 1963 New York Mets for the worst road record in the MLB history. It is expected that manager John Russell will not be back for the 2011 season.

I would say the Pirates have nowhere to go but up. However, in this case I hold my tongue.

4. Bruce Chen Throws His First Shutout

Kansas City Royals southpaw Bruce Chen's season ended on a high note when he pitched a complete game, two-hit shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.

It was Chen's first major league shutout and he did it in his 144th big league start. Chen started his first big league game with the Atlanta Braves in 1998. To say that Chen has bounced around would be an understatement. He has gone on to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets, Montreal Expos, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers before arriving in Kansas City in 2009.

Chen didn't exactly shine with the Royals last season going 1-6 with a 5.78 ERA in 17 appearances. This year Chen went 12-7 with a 4.17 ERA. His 12 wins led the team in victories. Who would have imagined that Chen would win more games in 2010 than 2009 AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke?

The question is whether Chen can replicate his success in 2011. His career appeared to have turned a corner after he won 13 games with the Orioles in 2005. In 2006, Chen fell to 0-7 with a 6.93 ERA. So at 33, Chen still has to prove he can perform consistently in the big leagues.
But he could become our generation's Mike Morgan.

5. Toronto's Tower of Power

Whatever the shortcomings of the Toronto Blue Jays they weren't with the bats.

In 2010, the Blue Jays slugged 257 home runs. Jose Bautista led the club (and all of MLB) with 54 home runs. In addition to Bautista, the Jays had six other players with at least 20 home runs (Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, John Buck, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Aaron Hill.) They would have had eight players with 20+ plus homeruns if they hadn't traded Alex Gonzalez to the Braves in mid-season.

6. The Rockies Hit Rock Bottom

The Colorado Rockies earned a reputation of winning big at the end of the season. That appeared to be their destiny again in 2010 after winning ten games in a row in early September to get back into the NL West and Wild Card picture. But the Rockies skidded until they hit rock bottom.

From September 13th, the Rockies went 4-15. They lost thirteen of their last fourteen games including eight in a row. They would finish with a record of 83-79, nine games back of the San Francisco Giants.

7. Whither Tim Wakefield & Jason Varitek

While Red Sox Nation bid farewell to Mike Lowell, he might not be the only Red Sox player to have played their last game in a Sox uniform.

Pitcher Tim Wakefield and catcher Jason Varitek have been with the Red Sox since 1995 and 1997, respectively but may be playing elsewhere in 2011.

The 44-year-old knuckleballer struggled this season going 4-10 with a 5.34 ERA splitting the season both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen. Wakefield needs seven more victories to hit the 200 mark and fourteen more victories to become the Red Sox all-time leader in victories. But Wakefield has a bad back and it's unclear whether he is in Theo Epstein's plans for 2011. Then again you can never have too much pitching.

Ditto for Varitek. The 38-year-old catcher missed much of the season with a broken foot. Even if the Sox fail to re-sign Victor Martinez it isn't a sure bet Varitek will be brought back even in a back up capacity. Varitek has played his entire big league career in Boston and has been the team's captain since 2005.

The Red Sox will look very different without Wakefield and Varitek. Whether that different will be better very much remains to be seen.

8. The Wright Stuff

The New York Mets had another lousy season. But not every Met was lousy.

Now, third baseman David Wright did not have a lousy season in 2009 as his .307 batting average would indicate. But his power numbers fell off significantly finishing the '09 season with 10 home runs and 72 RBI. Wright had career highs in home runs and RBI in 2008 with 33 and 124. In 2010, Wright would regain his power numbers. While his average fell to .284 he hit 29 home runs and drove in 103 runs.

9. Will Kim Ng Be the Mets Next General Manager?

Despite David Wright's good numbers, the Mets will surely fire both manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya.

Will Kim Ng finally get a chance to become a general manager?

She's been an assistant GM since 1997. She was Brian Cashman's right hand with the New York Yankees from 1997 to 2000. Since 2001, Ng has been the assistant GM with the Los Angeles Dodgers serving three different GMs. Has there been anybody in baseball who has been an assistant GM longer than Ng?

Of course, if the Mets were to hire Ng as their general manager she would become the first woman and Asian-American to become a general manager not only in MLB but in all of professional sports. But aside from that she has paid her dues. Let's see what she can do.

No comments: