2007 Baseball Preview

2007 Baseball Preview

#30 Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Matt Fargo

2006 W-L 61-101
2006 O-U 70-80-12

It’s difficult for the Devil Rays to compete in the American League East having to go up against the open pockets of the Yankees and Red Sox. However, Tampa Bay isn’t even competing as it seems to be in transition mode every single season. This year looks to be no different as the Devil Rays will rely on young hitting, young starting pitching and an inconsistent bullpen to try and get out of the cellar. Passing the Orioles is a possibility but beyond that, it will be another long season in Florida.

Money

Despite losing 101 games last season, the Devil Rays were not horrible against the money line thanks to some enormous lines they were given. Tampa Bay did drop 18.5 units throughout the season but all of the damage was done on the road. Tampa won a league worst 20 games away from home last season and that showed in its profits as the Devil Rays dropped 29.3 units. At home, they finished a game above .500 and snagged 10.9 units of profit. It didn’t happen often but when Tampa Bay was favored, it was successful, going 15-8 +5.7 units. Really big moneylines did not help as the Devil Rays went 6-21 -7.4 units as a dog of +200 or more.

Because of the horrendous Devil Rays pitching last season, you would think that a lot of the games went over the total but the offense was so bad that the majority of their games stayed under. They got into slugfests in their own division, going 40-33-1 over in the AL East but went 30-47-11 under in all other games. With a team that did not do much in the offseason in any category, we should expect to see more of the same. Tampa Bay totals are likely going to be inflated once again due to the pitching so early on we should see some value.

Offense

Tampa Bay scored fewer runs than any other team in baseball, averaging only 4.3 rpg including a woeful 3.9 rpg on the road. This was due to the fact that the Devil Rays finished with a .314 on-base percentage, the worst in the AL by a large margin. If there is any good news for the offense it’s that it cannot get any worse. The infield is in complete shambles but the outfield of Delmon Young in right, Rocco Baldelli in center and Carl Crawford in left has the potential to be one of the best around. Potential is the key word. There is always the possibility of a breakout but until these youngsters can all put it together at once, expect more of the same.

Pitching

Starting pitching has always been an issue in Tampa Bay and this season will be no different. Scott Kazmir is the ace of the staff and at 23 years old, he has a huge upside. The concern is his durability however as he was shut down early last year due to shoulder problems. After Kazmir, it’s a free-for-all. James Shield and Casey Fossum are the only other legitimate starters, which is not saying much. As for the bullpen, it was the biggest disappointment last season as Tampa Bay was 27th in the league with a 4.98 ERA. Amazingly, the Devil Rays had leads in 121 games last season but lost 60 of those, which set an American League record. Add to the fact there is once again no closer.

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Re: 2007 Baseball Preview

#29 Kansas City Royals
Matt Fargo

2006 W-L 62-100
2006 O-U 80-73-9

Kansas City has finished in last place in the American League Central the last three seasons after an 83-79 finish in 2003. It looked as though things were turning the right way for the Royals but they won 25 less games in 2004 and have yet to recover. This could be the season that things go back up but considering the fact that Kansas City has averaged just over 58 wins the last three seasons, we can’t be overly optimistic. This division has produced the American League pennant winner the last two seasons but it’s safe to say the Royals aren’t going to extend this trend in 2007.

Money

The Royals had the 2nd worst record in all of baseball last season but they were the 5th most profitable team, picking up 10.9 units. The reason for this was obviously the big moneylines that Kansas City had as it finished a very respectable 24-39 +15.5 units when an underdog of at least 2-to-1. Playing at home was not an advantage for the Royals as they finished 34-47, the worst home record in all of baseball but still managed to gain 3.1 units. Kansas City played 46 day games and won only 11, dropping close to 15 units before the sun went down. The Royals were a chalk only four times all season long and we should see something similar again this year.

Young and inconsistent pitching pushed 80 games over the total as Kansas City allowed an MLB-worst six rpg. The Royals and their opponents averaged a combined 10.7 rpg and that number jumped to 11.4 rpg at Kauffman Stadium where they went 41-35-5 over. The only low scoring games came away from grass parks where Kansas City played 11 of its 15 games under. The Royals won only 13 of 39 games against left-handed pitching yet only 19 of those games stayed under the number.

Offense

Kansas City was a disappointment at the plate last season, finishing 11th and 12th in batting average and runs scored in the American League respectively. Kansas City finished last in the league in slugging percentage as well. The Royals were not able to bring in much to improve things but they are going to rely on youngsters once again led by third baseman Alex Gordon, the 2006 Minor League Player of the Year. His promotion will likely move Mark Teahen, the team’s best player from last season, to the outfield. If Mike Sweeney, who is coming off his worst season since 1998 because of injuries, can stay healthy then the offense could be a pleasant surprise.

Pitching

The Royals used 14 different starting pitchers last season as inconsistency and injuries hurt throughout the year. Kansas City finished with a league worst 5.65 ERA and that ERA was identical at both home and on the road. The good news is that no one from last season’s opening five-man rotation is back. The Royals upgraded their pitching, or at least tried to upgrade, as they signed Gil Meche to a 5-year, $55 million contract. Meche is 55-44 with a 4.65 ERA in six seasons so an upgrade is a lofty term. The Bullpen blew a league-high 31 saves so the addition of Octavio Dotel as the closer should help. The middle relief also added David Riske while rookie Joakim Soria should contribute right away.

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Re: 2007 Baseball Preview

#28 Washington Nationals
by Matt Fargo


2006 W-L 71-91
2006 O-U 85-72-5

Following a promising 81-81 record in their first year in Washington, the Nationals had hopes of contending in the National League East in 2006 but they could not overcome an incredibly slow start. Washington went 13-27 in its first 40 games and even though it went a respectable 58-64 the rest of the way, the house was cleaned. Manager Frank Robinson was let go while superstar Alfonso Soriano took his skills to the Cubs. There is now an owner and a general manager in place however so the direction is going the right way. It’s rebuilding time for Washington and while the future does look bright, it’s going to take a while.

Money

Washington was a middle of the road team as it dropped 6.5 units on the season. Most of that damage was done during that early 40-game stretch as the Nationals dropped 12.9 units over that span. From May 18th on, Washington was +6.4 units so it wasn’t all too bad during the summer. The Nationals were a game over .500 at home and showed a slight profit of 1.7 units but it was the dismal play on the road that hurt backers. Washington was favored too often, 34 times in fact, and dropped 11.9 units in the process. Taking the Nationals in the big underdog role was not wise either as they went 0-6 when getting a +200 or more moneyline.

Washington was near the bottom of most offensive statistical categories yet it finished 13 games over .500 in contests that went over the total. This is in contrast to going 23 games under in the previous year. It certainly wasn’t luck as the Nationals had the worst ERA in the National League at 5.03. The bullpen was decent but the starters, all 11 of them that were used at one point throughout the season, were inconsistent. RFK was a pitchers park in 2005 and in 2006, it saw 41 of 81 games go over. With a starting rotation even more suspect this season, we could see the disparity be even more in 2007 and watch a ton of games fly over.

Offense

The loss of Soriano is a big blow to the offense that wasn’t very good to begin with. The production will now rest on the shoulders of Ryan Zimmerman and Austin Kearns. Zimmerman has loads of potential and is coming off a very solid season. Kearns was average after coming over from Cincinnati and will need to show more in his first stint as an everyday player. Kory Casto is a rookie outfielder that has a great upside after winning the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year twice. His transition to big league pitching might be tough. Nick Johnson, who seems to always be hurt, needs to stay healthy for this team to score enough runs.

Pitching

This is where the real problems are. John Patterson is the “ace” if he can even be labeled that. He missed most of last season with a forearm injury and if he can show anything from his 3.13 ERA of 2005, he will start a good foundation. The problem is there is absolutely nothing after that. Mike O’Connor is the Nationals returning leader in wins with 10 but along with that is a 4.81 ERA. Former prospects of other organizations, Joel Hanrahan Colby Lewis are both getting looks. The bullpen will be the bright spot as Chad Cordero is one of the best closers around when given save opportunities while the return of Luis Ayala, who missed all of last season, will strengthen the unit even more.

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Re: 2007 Baseball Preview

#27 Pittsburgh Pirates
by Matt Fargo

2006 W-L 67-95
2006 O-U 78-78-6

15 years and counting. It has been that many consecutive seasons that the Pirates have finished below .500 and 2007 should make it 16 in a row. Pittsburgh is one of those small market clubs that cannot spend any money as it is in the bottom five in baseball in payroll. The Pirates finished ahead of the Cubs last season but Chicago went out and spent $300 million while Pittsburgh landed only one player, Adam LaRoche, and it had to trade its closer to do so. The young talent on this team is excellent but for this team to sniff .500 baseball, all of those young guys need to have breakout seasons while the few veterans need to carry the load even more. One glimmer of hope is the fact that Pittsburgh went 37-35 after the break last year so building on that momentum is always a possibility.

Money

Pittsburgh got itself into a huge hole early on as it started out 30-60 while dropping 25.3 units in the process. The backers that didn’t shy away however made some of that back in the second half as the Pirates netted just over 13 units following the All-Star break. Pittsburgh was the typical home/road team as it gained nine units at home thanks to going five games over .500 but the road was a different story. The Pirates won a National League low 24 road games and dropped over 21 units. One thing to keep an eye on again this season is when facing left-handed starters as Pittsburgh was a putrid 13-36 against southpaws for -21.7 units.

Pittsburgh was dead even in the over/under department. The Pirates finished 38-40-3 over at home and 40-38-3 over on the road so there was no advantage either way. The pitching was decent enough to not allow a ton of runs but still below average, while the offense could not score as the Pirates were dead last in the league in runs scored. While losing 36 games against lefty starters, 30 of those games went over the total showing the breakdown of the pitching. Not much went on during the offseason so it will likely be another similar year for the totals.

Offense

Run production was the problem last season as the Pirates averaged a league-low 4.3 rpg. Pittsburgh finished with a .263 batting average which was middle of the pack but its slugging percentage of .397 was dead last in all of baseball. It was the only sub-.400 slugging squad. The Pirates lone move to upgrade was picking up LaRoche who is coming off a very productive 2006 in Atlanta where he hit 32 home runs and knocked in 90 runs while slugging .561. He along with Jason Bay will provide the power. Freddy Sanchez will need another big year while Chris Duffy needs to break out as the lead-off hitter after a poor season last year.

Pitching

The pitching is extremely young but it was not horrible last year and another year of experience can go a long way. Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny are all 25 and under and the future looks bright for all. There is no fifth starter in place yet but if Shawn Chacon can regain his 2005 form, the rotation can be very solid. The bullpen was a strength last season, finishing 5th in the National League with a 3.98 ERA but there might be a slide this season. Middle relief is a big question mark as is the closer situation with Mike Gonzalez, who didn’t blow a single save last year, now in Atlanta. Salomon Torres takes over that role and he did look good at the end of 2006 so he could surprise. Matt Capps had a great rookie season and should once again be productive as the set-up man.

2006 W-L 67-95
2006 O-U 78-78-6

15 years and counting. It has been that many consecutive seasons that the Pirates have finished below .500 and 2007 should make it 16 in a row. Pittsburgh is one of those small market clubs that cannot spend any money as it is in the bottom five in baseball in payroll. The Pirates finished ahead of the Cubs last season but Chicago went out and spent $300 million while Pittsburgh landed only one player, Adam LaRoche, and it had to trade its closer to do so. The young talent on this team is excellent but for this team to sniff .500 baseball, all of those young guys need to have breakout seasons while the few veterans need to carry the load even more. One glimmer of hope is the fact that Pittsburgh went 37-35 after the break last year so building on that momentum is always a possibility.

Money

Pittsburgh got itself into a huge hole early on as it started out 30-60 while dropping 25.3 units in the process. The backers that didn’t shy away however made some of that back in the second half as the Pirates netted just over 13 units following the All-Star break. Pittsburgh was the typical home/road team as it gained nine units at home thanks to going five games over .500 but the road was a different story. The Pirates won a National League low 24 road games and dropped over 21 units. One thing to keep an eye on again this season is when facing left-handed starters as Pittsburgh was a putrid 13-36 against southpaws for -21.7 units.

Pittsburgh was dead even in the over/under department. The Pirates finished 38-40-3 over at home and 40-38-3 over on the road so there was no advantage either way. The pitching was decent enough to not allow a ton of runs but still below average, while the offense could not score as the Pirates were dead last in the league in runs scored. While losing 36 games against lefty starters, 30 of those games went over the total showing the breakdown of the pitching. Not much went on during the offseason so it will likely be another similar year for the totals.

Offense

Run production was the problem last season as the Pirates averaged a league-low 4.3 rpg. Pittsburgh finished with a .263 batting average which was middle of the pack but its slugging percentage of .397 was dead last in all of baseball. It was the only sub-.400 slugging squad. The Pirates lone move to upgrade was picking up LaRoche who is coming off a very productive 2006 in Atlanta where he hit 32 home runs and knocked in 90 runs while slugging .561. He along with Jason Bay will provide the power. Freddy Sanchez will need another big year while Chris Duffy needs to break out as the lead-off hitter after a poor season last year.

Pitching

The pitching is extremely young but it was not horrible last year and another year of experience can go a long way. Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny are all 25 and under and the future looks bright for all. There is no fifth starter in place yet but if Shawn Chacon can regain his 2005 form, the rotation can be very solid. The bullpen was a strength last season, finishing 5th in the National League with a 3.98 ERA but there might be a slide this season. Middle relief is a big question mark as is the closer situation with Mike Gonzalez, who didn’t blow a single save last year, now in Atlanta. Salomon Torres takes over that role and he did look good at the end of 2006 so he could surprise. Matt Capps had a great rookie season and should once again be productive as the set-up man.

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