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MLB Predictions: Will It Last? Thoughts on 10 Hot and Cold Starters

Popular opinion regarding how certain major league teams and players start a season generally holds that all authoritative conclusions made before June 1 are premature. Because teams and players turn cold starts into fine seasons, and hot starts into prolonged slumps, forecasting performance based on the season’s initial third often results in poor predictions. 

All the experts who eulogized David Ortiz’s career at 34 years old in May 2009 certainly learned hard the lesson that two months of at-bats is simply not enough to accurately predict a player’s rest-of-season destiny. If it were, Ortiz might have ended up with something like eight home runs and 50 RBI instead of the 28 and 99 that approximate his career averages.

The season’s first two months, as in all, feature slow-starting household names as well as no-namers lighting pitching staffs on fire.

For those struggling, like Albert Pujols and Tim Lincecum, it is hard to fathom them continuing in their futility. Likewise, it is suspect to assume that the likes of Lance Lynn and Chris Capuano will continue their Cy Young performances throughout the season on the mound.

Superficial stats are often fool’s gold when predicting future success, which is why a glimpse at the underlying vital signs of these 10 players sheds light on just what can be expected from them as the calendar flips to June.

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Pressure’s On, Cardinals: Why Albert Pujols Is Leaving St. Louis

News broke on Friday that Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols will veto any trade proposal involving him.

The upcoming free agent stated earlier this offseason that he will not negotiate during the season, meaning the Cardinals ink him to an extension before he reports to Spring Training, or he will become a free agent after the 2011 season.

This announcement by itself isn’t remarkably significant, but if you read between the lines, it’s evident the Cardinals have substantial doubt that they can/will hold onto the three-time NL MVP.

Here’s my prevailing thought: if the Cards were confident that they will re-sign Pujols, there would not even be a hint of discussion about a trade.  If they feel the chances of a extending Albert are strong, then the possibility of a trade would be a complete afterthought.  After this bit of news, though, it’s clear that it is not an afterthought.

Until Pujols signs an extension or signs with another team, everything is speculation (we learned that from the NBA’s free agent season last summer).  Here’s a break down of what we do know about Pujols and the reasons he might stay or leave.


1. Continuity and familiarity

Pujols has never suited up for another team in his 10 prolific seasons in MLB. Regardless of how favorable or unfavorable the situation has become, staying in the place you’re familiar with is always more comfortable than making a change.


2. St. Louis is arguably the best baseball city in America  

The Gateway to the West has long been among the best baseball cities.  The tradition, the culture, the fan base.  Since 2000, the Cardinals are second only to the Yankees in total home attendance, and boasts one of the most loyal and knowledgeably fan bases in baseball. Pujols’ upright character mixed with the fans’ adoration of him as their own creates a marriage that would not be easy to dissolve.


3. Success

 In Pujols’ career, the Cards have won the third-most games in baseball, taken seven NL Central titles, won two NL pennants and one World Series in 2006.  Pujols could leave, but there are a select few teams who could contend better than St. Louis for a World Series.                                     


4. Legacy

Here’s a list: Rogers Hornsby, Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Curt Flood, Lou Brock, and Ozzie Smith.  If Pujols plays his entire career (or most of it) for St. Louis, he has a great chance of being remembered as the best Cardinal ever.  That is no small feat considering the names in the preceding list.  

Pujols could retire a career Cardinal as the all-time leader in every major hitting category, which will not be possible if he leaves now.  There’s a lot at stake for Albert Pujols’ legacy as a St. Louis Cardinal.




1. Payroll flexibility

 The number that Pujols is expected to command is $25 million a year for at least six years.  Some estimates have it as high as $30 million per year.  If the Cardinals add that to their current payroll, their flexibility and ability to improve in other places will plummet. Already 13th in payroll, the St. Louis would certainly rocket into the top seven or higher.  

Pujols and his representatives will be aware of this.  Their roster hasn’t been good enough to win a championship the last few years, so how could the team improve if Pujols earns double his current salary of $13.8 million?  Pujols could earn his money just the same with another team that is able to surround him with other players.


2. Hometown discount?

Given the strong relationship and mutual loyalty between Pujols and the Cardinals, the organization might assume or even ask for a hometown discount.  Now, Pujols is not a selfish or greedy player by any means, and has been severely underpaid his entire career.  Will he continue to be alright with that after 11 seasons of 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in his first ever free agent offseason?  Only time will tell.


If you’re Pujols, there are more positives to staying in St. Louis than negatives, which doesn’t matter all that much.  The only thing that matters is what Pujols thinks his options are.  Maybe, for the first time in his career, he wants to be pursued and catered to.  Maybe he wants to sit back and watch the offers roll in and the contract numbers pile up.  Only Albert has those answers.

The news about Pujols voiding any trade is not earth-shaking, but it does reveal something about how negotiations are going and what each side is thinking in late January, just a few weeks before Pujols’ contract ultimatum.

He very well could stay, but I think this news means he’s leaning towards leaving.  Now that would be earth-shaking news. 

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Los Angeles Angels: 5 Ways To Break Down The Vernon Wells Trade

I always knew that Arte Moreno would do something this offseason, I just didn’t know when he would strike or how conventional the move would be.  

The Angels’ owner struck in the quiet of the January offseason, making his trademark splash in the trade pool Friday by jettisoning out-of-position Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera for Gold Glove center fielder Vernon Wells.

While not a move that anyone had on the Angel radar, the move certainly carries significant impact for the team’s immediate and long-term future.  Initial reactions to the trade are mixed, so let’s dive in and break down the effect that it has on the Angels.

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Los Angeles Angels: Lack of Big Deals Foolish or Just Looking Ahead?

Heading into the winter after their worst season in eight years, the Angels looked like they planned on being among the offseason’s biggest buyers.  Arte Moreno and Tony Reagins both asserted that they would do everything they could to shore up the team’s obvious weaknesses.  They targeted All-Star left fielder Carl Crawford, and were thought to be the favorites to sign him from day one.  If there was a big free-agent name available this winter, the Angels were going to inquire on him.  They were linked to all the big names, from Crawford, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko, to Adrian Beltre and closer Rafael Soriano.

We’re nearly three months into the offseason, most of the big names are gone and big news is already made.  The Angels, with glaring issues in the bullpen, at third base and left field, would surely make a big-money splash or two in the free-agent pool.  It seemed like everyone was conceding Crawford to sign on to play with his pal Torii Hunter, but the Angels’ hard-line negotiating left no room for paying Crawford a dollar more than what they thought he is worth.  One by one, the big contracts were signed by the impact free agents.  It seemed like every team got a piece of the pie except for the Angels.

When all was said and done, the Angels’ free-agent haul read like this: veteran lefties Scott Downs for three years/$15 million and Hisanori Takahashi for two years/$8 million.  Ugh.  The bullpen is in a little better shape now, but what about the needs in the field?  It seems like the Angel brass forgot what they set out to do just a month before.

There is a lot of speculation and confusion as to what the strategy is for Reagins and Moreno.  Maybe they’re bad negotiators who didn’t have the courage to commit to Crawford or Beltre or Soriano. More likely, I think they are playing their cards close to the vest, which has characterized recent decisions regarding personnel and acquisitions.

Here is what I think is going on: Moreno, always concerned with his balance sheet and happiness of the fanbase, is doing all he can to make good on his promise to not raise ticket and concession prices due to increased payroll.  He’s hoping that he will continue to accrue good will with the fans over the long term, so that they repay him in loyalty and trust in times like this offseason when frustration and confusion reign.

That’s not all.  I think the decision-makers are looking ahead to next winter, when (as of current contract status) names like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Robinson Cano, Brandon Phillips, Jose Reyes and Aramis Ramirez will be on the free-agent market.  The current offseason of restraint and savings are just one cog in the wheel to position for a spending spree next year.  Maybe they make a big run at Pujols, and why not?  The Cardinals will be the only other team with the flexibility and room to compete for him.

After his struggles over the last two years, maybe Reagins thinks he can get Aramis Ramirez to fill the void at third base at a discount.  Slogging through another year with a platoon at third would certainly be worth signing Ramirez, right?  I think so, especially given the alternative of overpaying Beltre by $25 million this year, like Texas just did.

The point is I’ve seen Moreno and Reagins do curious and unconventional things before.  They go against the grain. They take gambles. They wait for a big payoff while everyone else chases instant gratification.  Prudence and restraint are vital in any kind of business investment.  The same goes for running a baseball team.

Frustrated?  Confused?  Angry?  Anxious?  I am all of the above regarding the current Angel landscape.  However, I’m glad to have Arte Moreno as my owner, and he has proven himself trustworthy as an acquirer of players over the last eight years.  I trust that he and Reagins are doing something good for the team, even if it isn’t quite visible on the surface or paying immediate dividends.   

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