Yoenis Cespedes—Book Excerpt

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Yoenis Cespedes is a Cuban defector with a physique that’s been compared to Bo Jackson. He has power to all fields, speed, a great arm and can play center field.

He can bench press 225 pounds 80 times.

He’s such a terrifying presence that when he walked into an ultimate fighting tournament as a member of the audience, the combatants left and he was crowned the champion.

The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue wanted to flout convention and place him shirtless on the cover of the 2012 edition.

He delivered four babies on a flotilla in his treacherous journey to the United States.

He cooks a mean Veal Picatta.

He hit tennis balls with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in a handicap match. And won.

Cespedes taunts Happy Fun Ball.

Look, I have no idea how good this guy is going to be and nor does anyone else.

He’s an intriguing talent with a ridiculous resume and accompanying expectations that are going to be impossible to meet.

The Athletics stunningly jumped in to sign him to a 4-year, $36 million deal without a no-trade clause and the opportunity for the 26(?)-year-old to be a free agent at its conclusion.

Like most Cubans, he’s a hacker and plays the game with reckless abandon. He may not be ready for the big leagues immediately and is a massive risk for a team that can’t be taking massive risks.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide, now available.

There’s in depth analysis on everything from Billy Beane to Tim Lincecum to Bryce Harper to Yu Darvish to Derek Jeter with relevant stats and context for all 30 teams with playoff and World Series predictions, post-season awards, which players might be traded at mid-season and fantasy suggestions.

Click here for a full sample (this link is of the Blue Jays) of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.


2012 American League West Predicted Standings

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Wins Losses GB
1. Texas Rangers 93 69
2. Los Angeles Angels* 90 72 3
3. Seattle Mariners 70 92 23
4. Oakland Athletics 64 98 29

* Denotes predicted Wild Card winner.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers lose starting pitching (Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson), but find innovative ways of replenishing it.

They lost Lee after 2010 and inserted Alexi Ogando into the rotation and he made the All-Star team.

They lost Wilson after 2011 and finally shifted Neftali Feliz into the rotation permanently and signed Joe Nathan to take his place as closer. Then they won the bidding for Yu Darvish.

They can hit, they can field, they can run, they can pitch, they’re willing to make bold trades in-season, and they’re not constrained by contemporary orthodoxies that are circular in nature and taken as fact because “everyone is doing it”.

If everyone is doing it, it’s probably as good a reason as any to do something else.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels were never the team to spend lavishly on the biggest of the big name free agents, but after losing out on Carl Crawford last year and taking on the toxic contract of Vernon Wells, GM Tony Reagins was fired and replaced by Jerry DiPoto. DiPoto was handed what amounted to a blank check to make the team better, they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and traded for Chris Iannetta.

The bullpen is still a question mark, but they trot out four ace-quality starters and have more bats than they know what to do with.

The balance of power has shifted West and the days of the Yankees and Red Sox being anointed playoff spots as a rite of spring are over.

Seattle Mariners

Jack Zduriencik supporters are leaping from his ship like it’s the Hindenburg.

Not every negative thing that’s happened with the Mariners is his fault—I find it hard to believe he wanted to bring Ken Griffey Jr. back for a second season in 2010 and if he has a brain in his head, he’d love to be rid of Ichiro Suzuki—but he got the credit, he gets the blame.

Chone Figgins has been a disaster. They’re trying again to give him a starting job at third base and are batting him leadoff.

That won’t last.

The trade Zduriencik made in getting Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi is going to be terrific.

The Mariners are still offensively challenged, are relying on a patched together bullpen with upside, have good starting pitching and defense.

The division is a nightmare and support of this regime is crumbling. They’d better overachieve or Zduriencik is going to be in serious trouble by the waning days of the season.

Oakland Athletics

Is the intense study of sabermetrics undertaken by Brandon McCarthy going to repair his constant injuries? He’s the darling of the stat guys because he implemented numbers to improve his results—and it worked—but it’s all a bit over-the-top thinking he’s turned a corner, never to return to what he was.

Their number two starter is Bartolo Colon; their bullpen is gutted; the offense is woeful; the defense is questionable.

But ignore the facts. Billy Beane is a genius because a book and a movie said so.

It’s Hollywood and creative non-fiction!! You can believe it if you want…if you’re an indoctrinated, agenda-driven moron.

Far more in depth analysis is in my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide, now available.

Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.


Pettitte’s Return—A Realistic Assessment

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Now after all the rushing to be first with the story, relentless typos, factual missteps, and analytical idiocy, how about some sanity regarding Andy Pettitte’s return to the Yankees?

Let’s take a look.

Do the Yankees need him?

Not really.

It’s nice that they can bolster their starting rotation with Pettitte if Pettitte is able to contribute, but they don’t really need him.

After getting past the over-the-top excitement, squealing and blatant Yankees propaganda from would-be reporters, Pettitte is creating a logjam of starters even if Freddy Garcia is (as expected) the odd-man out.

Was this a baseball decision?


Of course there’s no risk with signing Pettitte to a 1-year, $2.5 million minor league contract with no incentives once he’s recalled, but for them to re-sign him at this late date is more of a stroll down memory lane for one of their heroes from the dynasty years than a pure baseball decision.

If Pettitte wanted to come back, the Yankees had to sign him, but at age 39 (40 in June) he’s not a guarantee to be anything close to what he was.

There’s no room for sentimentality when putting a team together and this is a sentimental/ticket sales/partial baseball maneuver.

How does this affect the young pitchers?

Pushing aside Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes is unfair and potentially destructive.

No matter how much the Yankees dismiss his contribution or clearly decry his abilities with their actions if not their words, Nova has earned a spot in the starting rotation. That Nova pitched well without the constraints that hindered the other Yankees’ young starters has made the organizational edicts regarding pitch counts and innings look paranoid, foolish and debilitating to their development.

As shaky as Hughes has been, much of it has been due to the way the Yankees have straitjacketed him. They know how to find talented starting pitchers but not how to make them into significant big league contributors until they’re out of pinstripes. This is understood throughout baseball and there are teams waiting for the Yankees to lose their patience with Nova and Hughes—or for the surplus of starters to become a problem—and trade one or both of them so the pitchers can pitch and maximize themselves in ways they won’t as Yankees.

Pettitte will be with the Yankees for 2012. If they’re forced to deal either Hughes or Nova and one becomes a significant contributor for another club over several seasons, then the Yankees will have made a mistake.

And what of Pettitte?

Pettitte’s three years with the Astros have been conveniently blocked out by Yankees-colored glasses.

Even when it’s discussed how he left, the caveats start popping up: “the Yankees disrespected him and he took less money to be closer to home.”

Blah, blah, blah.

Now the conquering warhorse has returned again.

I doubt this was planned. What I believe happened is that Pettitte came to spring training to see his friends and help out with the young pitchers and got the bug to play again.

There’s nothing wrong with that and there’s no one to blame, but had the Yankees known about this being a possibility, they could’ve saved the money and the roster spot they’ve wasted with Garcia and, more importantly, they wouldn’t have made the trade of Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

This becomes a series of “if this, then that” speculations and a domino effect. If they felt Noesi wasn’t ready to provide the innings the further along Pineda will, Pettitte’s presence would’ve let them keep Noesi in Triple-A for a full season. They’d still have Montero, wouldn’t have signed Raul Ibanez and still could’ve signed Hiroki Kuroda.


It’s a nice enough story. Everyone likes Pettitte. The Yankees can use him. But in the long run, it’s probably going to do more harm than good given the past and future ramifications of Pettitte’s decision to come back and that the Yankees are jumping right back into letting him do it with what appears to be a guaranteed spot in the big league rotation when he deems himself ready.

They might regret it in a year or two if Montero becomes a star; if Pineda pitches poorly; if they deal Hughes or Nova; if Pettitte isn’t what he was.

There are many ways for this to go wrong.

And bet some of them will.


Bryce Harper In Center Field is a Bad Idea

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It’s good to know that Davey Johnson hasn’t entered the realm of the elderly manager.

Given how thin he looks and that his voice seemed to be a shell of what it once was after taking over the Nationals last summer, it’s still a question as to how much of a managerial fastball he has left and if he’s going to maintain his energy throughout the season. I might be reminiscing about the manager of the 1980s Mets who dealt with a star-studded, young and out-of-control team that was lucky to stay out of jail while they were playing.

Their scrapes with the law (and more) had to wait until their playing careers were over: see Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra, Darryl Strawberry and Wally Backman.

Now he’s having a spring training look at Bryce Harper in center field and is insistent that there’s a legitimate chance that the 19-year-old will make the big league club to start the season.

Can Harper play center field?

Johnson thinks he can and the youngster played 20 games at the position in A-ball last season.

But is it a good idea?

Probably not.

Johnson doesn’t have the greatest history with adhering to reality when he believes in something strongly and that’s a detriment to being a truly great manager. In Johnson’s category of managers are Jim Leyland and Tony LaRussa who at times blindly stuck to failing strategies rather than acknowledge that they were wrong about anything. They clung to decisions they made even if they were hurting the team.

Johnson is the same man who, as manager of the Mets, stuck Kevin Mitchell and Howard Johnson at shortstop; continually wrote Gregg Jefferies’s name in the lineup when he needed to be sent down; put Keith Miller in center field; and absolutely refused to tell Strawberry to move from his Shea Stadium strawberry patch of faded grass which was his position—within a 15 foot radius—against every hitter on every pitch.

Johnson’s ego was part of the reason he was such a successful manager and able to keep that Mets group in line to a certain degree, but it was also part of the reason that most of his teams faltered at the end. Had the 1980s Mets paid a bit more attention to defense and fundamentals rather than starting pitching and home runs, they could’ve won more than one championship.

Johnson needs a rein on his over-the-top calls. It seems that the Nationals are entertaining the thought of having Harper break camp with the big league team.

If they deem him ready physically and especially emotionally; if they feel he can help the team contend, then by all means they should do it. But in center field?


If they bring him North, Jayson Werth can play center field and Harper can play right. With all the scrutiny that will surround him, Harper doesn’t need to be learning a new position for a team that expects to win and a veteran pitching staff hounding him if he fails to make a play that an experienced center fielder would make.

Johnson needs someone to check him. In his other managerial stops, Johnson would be told to do something by upper management, then ignore it when he wrote the lineup cards.

He’s a great manager, but he’s made the same mistakes before. It shouldn’t happen again.

Click here to listen to my appearance with Les Norman on Breakin’ the Norm.

My new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide is available.

Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.


Radio Appearance with Breakin’ the Norm

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Here’s my appearance from Tuesday with Les Norman on Breakin’ the Norm on 810 WHB in Kansas City talking about the Royals, Tigers, Cardinals, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Matheny, Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and many other things. Check it out.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide is available.
Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.


2012 American League Central Predicted Standings

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Wins Losses GB
1. Cleveland Indians 91 71
2. Detroit Tigers* 88 74 3
3. Kansas City Royals 81 81 10
4. Chicago White Sox 72 90 19
5. Minnesota Twins 70 92 21

* Denotes predicted Wild Card winner

Cleveland Indians

The Indians have all the components to take the next step from their near .500 season in 2011.

There are positives amid the negatives of the old warhorses’ injuries and contract statuses. Grady Sizemore keeps getting hurt, but the Indians couldn’t have expected him to return to form nor expected him to stay healthy. His injury and absence will give them the chance to see what Ezequiel Carrera can do. Travis Hafner is in the final guaranteed year of his contract and some players manage to stay healthy when there’s a large amount of money on the line.

Carlos Santana is a mid-lineup run producer; they have a highly underrated 1-2 starting pitching punch with Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez; and their bullpen is deep.

Detroit Tigers

The entire season will come down to how obstinate Jim Leyland is about the decision to move Miguel Cabrera to third base.

I was about to say “experiment”, but is it really an experiment if we know what’s going to happen?

He can’t play third; the Tigers have pitchers—Doug Fister, Rick Porcello and even Justin Verlander—who need their defense to succeed; and Leyland is adamant in saying that not only is Cabrera going to play third but that he won’t be removed for defense in the late innings in favor of the superior gloves of Don Kelly and Brandon Inge.

Eventually Leyland will probably bow to reality and Cabrera and Prince Fielder will share first base and DH.

I say probably because it depends on whether Leyland is going to be the old-school baseball guy who’ll see weakness in admitting he’s wrong or the one who admits the team’s playoff spot in jeopardy and bows to reality.

The extra Wild Card will save the Tigers.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals are loaded up with young players and have to give them the chance to sink or swim on their own without looking at them for a month and sending them down.

Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas will be in the lineup every day for the Royals for the next decade, but the other youngsters Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez, John Giavotella and Danny Duffy have to be given the legitimate chance to play without wondering if they’re going to be sent down immediately if they slump.

The starting pitching is young and improving; the bullpen has been bolstered and is diverse.

Chicago White Sox

Is this a rebuild or not?

Are they going to continue listening to offers for the likes of Gavin Floyd or will they hold their fire?

The decision to hire Robin Ventura as manager was a “he’ll grow with us” maneuver, but the foundation of the team is still in place.

It’s not a rebuild or a stay the course blueprint. They’re just doing things.

When serious structural alterations needed to be made, just doing things translates into 90 losses.

Minnesota Twins

Much was made of Terry Ryan’s return to the GM seat.

But so what?

They made something of a lateral move in letting Michael Cuddyer leave and replacing him with Josh Willingham; they got a solid defender and good on-base bat with Jamey Carroll; and they did the “Twins thing” in signing cheap veterans who can contribute with Jason Marquis and Ryan Doumit.

Their bullpen is loaded with a bunch of bodies and has already lost Joel Zumaya.

Much depends on the health of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau and even if both stay on the field, there are still too many holes offensively, defensively and—most importantly—in the rotation and bullpen to ask how much they can be expected to improve from losing nearly 100 games in 2011.

Far more in depth analysis is in my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide, now available.

Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.


American League East Predicted Standings

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American League East Predicted Standings:

1. New York Yankees                        94       68         —

2. Toronto Blue Jays                         87       75           7

3. Tampa Bay Rays                            85       77           9

4. Boston Red Sox                             81       81          13

5. Baltimore Orioles                           65       97          29

New York Yankees

The Yankees benefited greatly from the lack of decisively bold movements and drastic improvements of their rivals. While they’re repeating prior mistakes with paranoia and pitcher-babying, they have the offense, abundance of starting pitching and deep bullpen to again rise to the top of the division.

The bench is something that will have to be addressed as the season moves along because Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones aren’t suitable backups regardless of the Yankees’ propaganda machine unequivocally stating that they are.

Expect Alex Rodriguez to have a comeback season and hope that the overwhelming pressure they’re putting on Michael Pineda doesn’t haunt them.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays needed a name arm or a name bat to be a preseason favorite and didn’t get either.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t contend; it means that they’re going to have to get big seasons from young players Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar and Henderson Alvarez. Sergio Santos must prove he can close for a full season and throw strikes; Brandon Morrow has to develop into a trustworthy top-tier starter without restrictions.

I picked Jose Bautista as the AL MVP.

Tampa Bay Rays

Again forced to scrounge around the bargain bins, they reunited with Carlos Pena to increase their power at first base. The Rays have been good and lucky in finding bullpen arms who fit into their system and rejuvenate stalled careers—running a club that way is rife with risks that eventually it’s not going to work.

B.J. Upton will play like a maniac all season as he heads for free agency.

With their young starting pitching, they could make it to the World Series or falter and be out of contention to put such stars as Upton, James Shields and David Price in play for a trade at mid-season.

I’ve got them somewhere in the middle.

Boston Red Sox

It’s chaos.

Who’s running things?

Is there any cohesion between John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine?

At least when Theo Epstein was there—like it or not—you knew there was one person mostly in charge; now with Theo gone and Lucchino grasping for power; Henry providing self-protectionist alibis; Cherington marginalized; and Bobby V being…Bobby V, there are going to be voices, whispers, Machiavellian power plays and rampant dysfunction the likes which have not been seen in Boston since 2001.

Are they making the types of moves that laid the foundation of their annual championship contending teams from 2003-2010 or are they desperately trying to patch holes and find “name” people to replace the “name” people who are gone?

I like Valentine, but his polarizing personality can go both ways. The Red Sox starting rotation is short and they have black spots in their lineup at shortstop, right field and possibly catcher.

It’s a time bomb with Valentine and Josh Beckett.

Baltimore Orioles

I don’t hear much about Buck Showalter’s status as a miracle worker after the team came apart last season.

Following a hot start, they reverted to being the Orioles of the past 15 years.

Dan Duquette has received unfair criticism and there’s a lack of context in the good work he did as the Expos’ and Red Sox’ GM, but a lack of talent is a lack of talent; an impossible division is an impossible division; and until they develop their young arms and stick to a strategy for the long term, there’s not much that will change in Baltimore.

Duquette must be allowed to take the marketable players—notably Nick Markakis and Adam Jones—and see what types of offers he can get for them to replenish the system with multiple players. They’re not going to do the Orioles any good as Orioles.

Far more in depth analysis is in my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide, now available.

Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.


2012 Baseball Guide Radio Appearance

All Star Game, Ballparks, Books, CBA, Cy Young Award, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Hall Of Fame, History, Hot Stove, Management, Media, MiLB, MLB Trade Deadline, MLB Waiver Trades, MVP, Paul Lebowitz's 2012 Baseball Guide, PEDs, Players, Playoffs, Politics, Prospects, Spring Training, Stats, Trade Rumors, Umpires, World Series

I’ll be a guest tonight at 8 PM Eastern Standard Time on Breakin’ the Norm with former big leaguer Les Norman on 810 WHB talking about my new book Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide, the Royals, Cardinals, Tigers and other stuff with the 2012 season.

Up for discussion are the Royals, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Dayton Moore, Ned Yost, Alex Gordon, the Tigers, Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Jim Leyland, the Cardinals, Mike Matheny, Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran and other players.

Click on this link to go to WHB’s website.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide is now available.

Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwordsBN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.


2012 Preview—Toronto Blue Jays

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Toronto Blue Jays

2011 Record: 81-81; 4th place, American League East

2011 Recap:

The Blue Jays are simultaneously developing their young starting pitchers and putting together an offense and bullpen that can compete in an impossible division.

Manager John Farrell showed his inexperience as a rookie by allowing his baserunners to run and attempt to steal bases with reckless abandon.

Jose Bautista had his second straight MVP-quality season. Brett Lawrie emerged as a notable rookie and possible future star. But the inconsistent offense and growing pains of the young pitchers led to a season of undeniable mediocrity at the bottom line with an 81-81 record and 4th place.


RHP Sergio Santos was acquired from the Chicago White Sox.

RHP Francisco Cordero signed a 1-year, $4.5 million contract. (Reds)

OF Ben Francisco was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies.

LHP Darren Oliver signed a 1-year, $4 million contract with 2013 club option.

RHP Jason Frasor was acquired from the Chicago White Sox.

C Jeff Mathis was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels.

RHP Jim Hoey was selected off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.

LHP Aaron Laffey signed a minor league contract.

RHP Jesse Chavez was selected off waivers from the Kansas City Royals.

INF Omar Vizquel signed a minor league contract. (White Sox)

LHP Trystan Magnuson was purchased from the Oakland Athletics.

RHP Rick VandenHurk signed a split contract. (Orioles)

SS Jerry Gil signed a minor league contract.

RHP Cole Kimball was selected off waivers from the Washington Nationals.

RHP Andrew Carpenter was selected off waivers from the San Diego Padres.

INF Luis Valbuena was purchased from the Cleveland Indians.

RHP Robert Coello signed a minor league contract.

INF Brian Bocock signed a minor league contract.


RHP Frank Francisco was not re-signed. (Mets)

RHP Jon Rauch was not re-signed. (Mets)

C Jose Molina was not re-signed. (Rays)

OF Adam Loewen was not re-signed. (Mets)

LHP Brad Mills was traded to the Los Angeles Angels.

RHP Nestor Molina was traded to the Chicago White Sox.

LHP Wil Ledezma was not re-signed. (Dodgers)

OF Darin Mastroianni was claimed off waivers by the Minnesota Twins.

RHP P.J. Walters was not re-signed.

OF Dewayne Wise was not re-signed. (Yankees)

INF/OF Chris Woodward was not re-signed.

INF Jayson Nix was not re-signed. (Yankees)

RHP Shawn Camp was not re-signed. (Mariners)

INF/OF Mark Teahen was released. (Nationals)

2012 PROJECTED STARTING ROTATION: Ricky Romero; Brandon Morrow; Henderson Alvarez; Brett Cecil; Carlos Villanueva; Kyle Drabek.

2012 PROJECTED BULLPEN: Sergio Santos; Francisco Cordero; Jason Frasor; Darren Oliver; Casey Janssen; Dustin McGowan; Jesse Litsch; Luis Perez; Joel Carreno; Jesse Chavez.

2012 PROJECTED LINEUP: C-J.P. Arencibia; 1B-Adam Lind; 2B-Kelly Johnson; 3B-Brett Lawrie; SS-Yunel Escobar; LF-Eric Thames; CF-Colby Rasmus; RF-Jose Bautista; DH-Edwin Encarnacion.

2012 PROJECTED BENCH: OF-Ben Francisco; C-Jeff Mathis; OF/DH-Travis Snider; OF-Rajai Davis; INF-Mike McCoy.

2012 POSSIBLE CONTRIBUTORS: INF-Omar Vizquel; C-Travis D’Arnaud; LHP-Aaron Laffey; RHP-Jesse Chavez; RHP-Jim Hoey; LHP-Trystan Magnuson; INF-Luis Valbuena; LHP-Evan Crawford; RHP-Alan Farina; RHP-Danny Farquhar; INF-David Cooper; SS-Adeiny Hechavarria; OF-Moises Sierra; RHP-Rick VandenHurk.

FANTASY PICKS: RHP-Carlos Villanueva; RHP-Brandon Morrow; RF-Jose Bautista; 3B-Brett Lawrie; SS-Yunel Escobar.


Early last season, GM Alex Anthopoulos was the newest member of the media-anointed “genius” club.

Yes, he was remarkably clever in somehow managing to get the Angels to take Vernon Wells and almost his entire contract off the Blue Jays’ hands, but that didn’t make him a genius. He lost the “genius” label almost immediately by trading the player he got in the Wells deal, Mike Napoli, to the Rangers for mediocre reliever Frank Francisco.

Anthopoulos is a good, smart and aggressive young GM. But he’s not a genius.

There’s a constant movement to name someone as a “genius” and this particular time it was Anthopoulos.


Is it for the sake of a story? Is it because for there to be an idiot, there has to be a genius and they’re interchangeable?

I don’t know.

But what I do know is that a baseball executive is only as good as the moves he makes. The perception of “good” or “bad” GMs is determined based on what passes as “analysis” from the masses, but the majority of the masses don’t know what they’re talking about. So what’s the appellation of “genius” worth?

If what a GM does makes sense, then he’s got a foundation to keep his job. If not, he doesn’t.

It’s that simple and has little to do with results. If a move makes sense and it fails, he shouldn’t be criticized for it after the fact.

The Blue Jays needed a bat this winter and didn’t get it. They looked into Prince Fielder and his demands for years and dollars were too pricey for the Blue Jays.

Instead, they’re making do with the moves they made in a frenzied flurry last summer when they acquired Colby Rasmus from the Cardinals and Kelly Johnson from the Diamondbacks.

They could’ve used a starting pitcher as well, but their bid for Yu Darvish fell short after a few days in which it was rumored that they’d won the bidding. Interest in Roy Oswalt was not reciprocated. Instead, Anthopoulos beefed up the bullpen with the re-acquisition of Jason Frasor; the signings of veterans Darren Oliver and Francisco Cordero; and the trade for Sergio Santos.

The moves make sense.

Whether or not they’ll work is the question and determinative factor for the masses to judge Anthopoulos.

John Farrell is still learning how to manage in the big leagues and the Blue Jays overaggressiveness on the bases cost them runs last season. Capricious stolen bases are the opposite of what I would assume Farrell had been exposed to while he was pitching coach for the Red Sox and I don’t understand why he allows his baserunners such leeway especially with an all-world basher like Jose Bautista in the middle of the lineup.

Farrell is well respected and knows how to handle the pitching staff, but he has to improve his in-game strategies and running the lineup. He exhibited some of the same strengths and weaknesses that Bud Black has shown as Padres manager and the absence of experience in manipulating the lineup and offensive strategies are why I would be very reluctant to hire a former pitching coach as a manager.

The Red Sox were interested in possibly having Farrell replace Terry Francona and the Blue Jays had a strange policy of allowing people under contract the option of leaving if that’s what they chose to do. This public disclosure lasted for a few days until the widespread indignation at such as bizarre policy spurred them to backtrack and say the Red Sox could not speak to Farrell.

If the Blue Jays are going to improve from their 2011 record of 81-81 (the essence of mediocrity), their manager is going to have to improve as well.


Ricky Romero was selected in the 2005 draft one slot ahead of Troy Tulowitzki. Obviously most teams would prefer to have the shortstop, but it’s not as if Romero is a bust. He’s become a top of the rotation starter whose innings have increased year-by-year in his three big league seasons. Now he’s a 220-inning man and had a fine season in 2011 going 15-11 with 176 hits allowed and 178 strikeouts. Romero is predominately a ground ball pitcher who benefited from the Blue Jays good infield defense and had a BAbip of .245 that’s going to be hard to repeat.

Romero has been compared to Johan Santana because of his fastball/changeup combination and deceptive motion. With a little bit better support from his offense, Romero would easily have won 20 games in 2011 and is a good bet to break out and become a household name in 2012.

The Blue Jays have rebuilt Brandon Morrow’s motion and confidence after a disastrous tenure with the Mariners in which he was jerked from the starting rotation and bullpen and had to live with the ignominy (through no fault of his own) that Giants’ star Tim Lincecum—from the University of Washington—was passed over in the draft in favor of Morrow.

He’s shown flashes of unhittability and racked up the strikeouts, but if the Blue Jays are going to contend, they’re going to have to take the shackles off of Morrow and he’s going to have to be durable and consistent.

The Blue Jays signed him to a contract extension for 3-years and $21 million with a club option at $10 million for 2015.

Now they need him to produce.

Morrow struck out 203 batters in 179 innings in 2011, but he’s still a work in progress. There are games that Morrow gets crushed and allows crooked numbers in bunches and it blows up his ERA.

In 2012, Morrow has to come close to 200 innings and slide in behind Romero as a legitimate co-ace. He has the stuff to do it, but he must harness his brilliant stuff with consistency, command and control.

As Morrow goes, so go the Blue Jays.

Righty Henderson Alvarez made his big league debut in 2011.

Alvarez was an undrafted free agent signed in 2006 and was impressive in 10 starts as a rookie. He’ll be 22 in April. His control and maturity stand out for someone so young. He walked 8 hitters and struck out 40 in 63 innings and wasn’t intimidated by being in the big leagues.

He changes speeds and has a wide array of pitches including several variations on his fastballs, a cutter, a slider and a changeup. He’s willing to pitch inside and has a plan to attack the hitters and executes it.

Jim Palmer used to say that pitching is a matter of getting ahead in the count and expanding the strike zone. That’s what Alvarez does.

Brett Cecil went 15-7 in 2010 but wound up back in the minors after an awful start in 2011. He pitched better after his recall in late June and was undone by a few more bad starts and a lack of run support. His season ended with similar across the board numbers as what they were in 2010, but his record in 2011 was 4-11.

The lefty doesn’t have overpowering stuff, loses the strike zone and is prone to giving up homers.

After spending the majority of his career as a reliever with the Brewers and Blue Jays, Carlos Villanueva moved into the starting rotation for 13 starts in the summer and acquitted himself well. He has the starter’s arsenal of four pitches—fastball, curve, slider, changeup—and, as long as he throws strikes, could do the job serviceably.

Villanueva has been a decent middle-reliever as well, so the Blue Jays have options on where and how to use him.

Kyle Drabek pitched reasonably well for a rookie into June, got knocked around in three starts and was sent back to the minors. He was recalled in September and pitched out of the bullpen. His numbers look far worse than they actually were with an ERA over 6. After he was sent down, he got pounded in Triple A Las Vegas with an ERA over 7 and a woeful hits/innings pitched ratio of 111/75.

He’s only 24 and his pedigree as the son of former NL Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek is beyond reproach. Eventually, he’s going to be a very good starting pitcher in the big leagues. If it’s in 2012, the Blue Jays are going to make a playoff run, if not he’s eventually going to be part of a young, deep starting rotation with Romero, Morrow and Alvarez.


After allowing both their closer Frank Francisco and set-up man Jon Rauch to depart (for the Mets), the Blue Jays traded for White Sox closer Sergio Santos and signed veteran former closer Francisco Cordero. Santos is going to start the season as Blue Jays’ closer.

Santos is an interesting story.

Drafted in the 1st round in 2002 as a shortstop by the Diamondbacks, he wasn’t such a bad hitter that it became obvious that he should either quit or find another position. He had power and that lightning arm. In December of 2005, Santos was traded to the Blue Jays along with Troy Glaus for Orlando Hudson and Miguel Batista. Still playing shortstop, he stagnated in Triple A and in 2008, the Twins selected him off waivers. He batted .228 for the Blue Jays’ and Twins Triple-A clubs and became a free agent.

In 2009, the White Sox signed him and made him into a pitcher.

He pitched in 26 minor league games at four different levels in that one year, posted an 8.16 ERA and 20 walks and 37 hits in 28 innings. He also struck out 30.

Making the White Sox roster as a relief pitcher in 2010, he appeared in 56 games and struck out 56 in 51 innings. By 2011, after Matt Thornton faltered in the closer’s role, Santos took over and saved 30 games. He struck out a ridiculous 92 batters in 63 innings and, because he spent so much time as a shortstop, he doesn’t have the wear and tear on his arm a full-time pitcher would.

He’s still learning how to pitch and loses the strike zone, but he has a power, moving fastball, a changeup and a slider and can be a dominant closer once he grows accustomed to the role and actually being a pitcher.

Veteran righty closer Francisco Cordero was left out in the cold during this winter’s saturated market for closers and took a 1-year deal from the Blue Jays to function as a set-up man/tutor/insurance for Santos.

Cordero no longer throws as hard as he once did and doesn’t strike out as many batters, but he’s a competent veteran reliever. He can be prone to the occasional longball, but deals well with both righties and lefties and will benefit from the Blue Jays solid infield defense.

Jason Frasor was sent from the Blue Jays to the White Sox amid the mid-season deals Anthopoulos made last summer. A longtime Blue Jay who was a durable, effective and versatile reliever, they reacquired him on New Year’s Day for two minor leaguers. Frasor strikes out around a batter per inning, is more effective against righties than lefties, but can get lefties out as well.

To the best of my recollection, Darren Oliver talked about retiring in 2006 after the Mets cut him late in spring training and only decided to keep pitching after the Mets changed their minds and brought him back.

That was six years ago.

Since then, he’s gone from the Angels to the Rangers and now to the Blue Jays. Going to Canada, he certainly can’t claim that he’s going to pitch as long as he’s near home.

The 41-year-old lefty is still a highly effective long reliever who, like the other relievers in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, can get out both lefties and righties. Having pitched in the hitters’ heaven of Texas, Oliver only allowed 7 homers combined in his two seasons with the Rangers.

He’s a solid and respected veteran pitcher and a positive, professional presence in the clubhouse.

Righty Casey Janssen has developed into a good reliever after missing the entire 2008 season with a torn labrum. Janssen is a ground ball pitcher who will benefit from the Blue Jays’ solid infield defense and only allowed 2 homers in 55 games in 2011. He has a wide arsenal of pitches, good velocity and, as appears to be a trend for Blue Jays’ relievers, he can get out both righties and lefties.

Dustin McGowan nearly had his career destroyed by shoulder injuries but made it back to the big leagues and in four September starts working on a limit of 80 pitches, he was able to reach the mid-90s with his fastball and showed promise in returning to some semblance of effectiveness.

Injuries—a torn hip labrum and shoulder problems—sabotaged Litsch just as it did Janssen and McGowan. He returned in 2011 to appear in 28 games, including 8 starts. Litsch’s stuff has never been overpowering, but he battles and pounds the strike zone. Now, in spring training, the injury bug has hit him again. Litsch had an infection in his shoulder from the site where platelet rich plasma was injected to speed his recovery from shoulder inflammation. He’s going to miss at least 6 weeks.

Lefty Luis Perez spent his career in the minor leagues as a mediocre starter and may have found a home in the Blue Jays bullpen in 2011. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and has a slider and changeup.

25-year-old righty Joel Carreno has put up massive strikeout numbers in the minors. He has a 90 mph fastball, a sharp-breaking slider, a cutter, a changeup and a curve. His stuff and minor league results profile him as a starter, but his strikeout numbers in the big leagues (14 in 15 innings) and 325 in 271 minor league innings in 2010-2011 show that he could be a useful arm out of the bullpen.

Jesse Chavez was claimed off waivers from the Royals. Chavez was somewhat effective as the nominal closer for Triple-A Omaha in 2011 and will be an extra arm for the Blue Jays. He’s never pitched as well as his stuff indicates he should.


After the season he had with the Rangers, I’m wondering if the Blue Jays are regretting trading Mike Napoli for Frank Francisco days after acquiring him for Vernon Wells.

Sure, they had J.P. Arencibia “ready” for the big leagues and Travis d’Arnaud on the way up, but Napoli had 30 homers and a 1.046 OPS for the pennant-winning Rangers; he also threw out 36% of basestealers.

Arencibia on the other hand, hit 23 homers and did little else of use. He threw out 24% of basestealers (exactly what he’d posted in his final two minor league seasons); batted .219 with a .282 OBP and struck out 133 times. He had a .255 BAbip, so maybe he was hitting in a bit of bad luck, but slightly better luck wouldn’t repair his poor defense or rampant strikeouts.

It wouldn’t surprise me if, once d’Arnaud is deemed ready, Arencibia is traded or becomes a part-timer or backup.

Adam Lind had a terrific first half, but injuries to his back and wrist ruined what looked like it was going to be a repeat of his massive 2008 season in which he was a blossoming star.

Lind will hit 25 homers and 30-40 doubles; he strikes out a lot and adjusted well to a new position at first base. The Blue Jays could use a more consistent and threatening bat behind Jose Bautista than what Lind has been in the past two seasons. He’s more suited to batting sixth than fourth.

Kelly Johnson was acquired from the Diamondbacks for Aaron Hill in a trade of two disappointing players who, in the past, have shown better production than what they were giving to their former teams.

Johnson has 20+ homer power, provides 30+ doubles, and will steal a few bases while playing good defense at second base. He walks a fair amount and strikes out a lot. Since 2009, he’s alternated good and bad seasons with the Braves and Diamondbacks. He had a .781 OPS in 33 games with the Blue Jays after the trade.

Brett Lawrie was acquired from the Brewers for Shaun Marcum before the 2011 season and spent the first four months of the season in Triple-A Las Vegas demolishing the Pacific Coast League to the tune of a .353 average, .415 on base and 18 homers. He was scheduled to be recalled earlier in the season before he was hit on the hand with a pitch and delayed. Once he got to the big leagues, he made it clear that he had no intention of ever going back down.

He had 9 homers with a .953 OPS in 171 plate appearances. He’s a fine defensive third baseman and can play second as well. At 22, he’s brimming with confidence and is poised to become an entrenched entity for the Blue Jays and an All-Star.

After being driven out of Atlanta by Bobby Cox and the Braves’ veterans because of his frequent gaffes and selfish behaviors, Yunel Escobar has found a home in Toronto.

He signed a contract extension for 2-years (2012-2013) at $10 million and the club holds options for $5 million annually in both 2014 and 2015. If Escobar plays the solid defense and hits as he did in 2011, he’ll be a ridiculous bargain. He had 11 homers, 24 doubles and a .782 OPS in 133 games last season and could be even better as he matures.

25-year-old, lefty-swinging outfielder Eric Thames took over in left field after Juan Rivera was traded and Travis Snider was demoted; Thames hit 12 homers in 394 plate appearances. He strikes out a lot, but has shown some on base skills. He struggled badly against lefties as a rookie batting .209, so he might be platooned in 2012.

Colby Rasmus was being torn in multiple directions while with the Cardinals. His drafting was questioned by the old-school people in the front office who chafed at the new school thinkers who were brought in and seen as unwanted interlopers; his father Tony openly interfered with the way the Cardinals wanted Colby to hit; Albert Pujols called him out for his perceived whining and unhappiness when it got out that he’d asked to be traded; and Tony LaRussa didn’t want to play him.

The Cardinals made a series of drastic trades at mid-season and dealt Rasmus to the Blue Jays.

That they won the World Series after Rasmus was gone has resulted in the specious reasoning that it was Rasmus who was the problem and once he was gone, everything fell into place for the Cardinals.

Of course, it’s ludicrous. The Cardinals wouldn’t have made the playoffs had the Braves not collapsed.

Rasmus wasn’t a clubhouse problem because of personality, lack of ability or attitude. He was a clubhouse problem because he was caught in the middle of a war zone between multiple parties and couldn’t deal with the pressure to perform amid the shots being fired over his head.

He’s 25 and it’s not easy to be a coach’s son and live an enabled life with the game coming easy and then be the rope in a tug-of-war.

He’s better off with the Blue Jays.

Are the Blue Jays better off with him?

Rasmus batted .173 after joining the Blue Jays, but he battled a wrist injury and missed most of September.

He showed his ability in 2010 as he had an .859 OPS and 23 homers in 144 games. He had good power numbers and on base skills in the minors and is a solid, if not spectacular bat with pop. If the Blue Jays simply tell him that he’s going to be their everyday center fielder and leave him alone, he’ll be fine.

Jose Bautista proved that his 2010 season—in which he hit 54 home runs—was not a fluke with another 43 homers in 2011 to lead the American League. He also led the league in walks, slugging percentage and OPS.

Because of the bizarre and overaggressive way in which manager Farrell allows his runners to try to steal bases and self-defeating lineup decisions, Bautista only drove in 103 runs with those 43 homers. For a hitter who’s on base 44% of the time, Bautista only scored 105 runs.

This is nowhere near enough and if the team is going to take advantage of the basher that Joey Bats has become, they have to bat him fourth and surround him with hitters who get on base in front of him and won’t try to steal bases for no reason to risk running them out of innings. They need hitters behind him who can and will drive him in.

As for Bautista himself, he’s become one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball and is a good choice for the MVP.

Edwin Encarnacion may have had an epiphany in the second half of the 2011 season when he batted .291 with a .383 on base percentage and 11 homers. For the season, he hit 17 homers and had an .787 OPS. Encarnacion has always had All-Star talent and was so oblivious to his surroundings that two of the most patient managers in recent baseball memory—Dusty Baker and Cito Gaston—wanted to strangle him.

He’s listed as the Blue Jays DH for 2012, but I’d hesitate to think that he’s going to continue the good work that he showed over the final few months of last season only because he’s Edwin Encarnacion and it’s in his DNA to aggravate, tease and regress.


Veteran righty-swinging outfielder Ben Francisco was acquired from the Phillies and will see plenty of at bats as a possible platoon partner for Thames and occasional DH. Francsico has 10-15 home run power if he gets significant at bats; he can steal a few bases and doesn’t strike out much.

Jeff Mathis was acquired from the Angels as a defensively-minded backup to Arencibia. Mathis can’t hit—he’s a .194 career hitter—but he can handle a pitching staff and in a strange twist, hits really well in the post-season. The Blue Jays only hope that they have the opportunity to see Mathis become a different player in October.

Travis Snider has received every opportunity to stake a claim in the Blue Jays’ lineup, but hasn’t grabbed and run with it. The 6’0”, 240 pound Snider has posted good power/on base numbers in the minors, but has yet to show much in the big leagues. With the Blue Jays’ DH spot in flux, he might get another chance in 2012. He’s only 24, so there’s time for him to right himself.

Rajai Davis is a backup outfielder who stole 34 bases in 95 games for the Blue Jays in 2011. He can play all three outfield positions and has hit well in the past when given a chance to play semi-regularly.

Mike McCoy is a 31-year-old, journeyman utility player who can’t really hit (career big league average of .194), but can play multiple positions well and has a good eye at the plate. He also stole 12 bases in 80 games last season.


The Blue Jays 2012 season will come down to a series of “ifs”.

If manager John Farrell takes his foot off the gas with the ridiculous stolen bases and does a better job of running his offense…

If the young pitchers Morrow, Alvarez, Cecil and Drabek slot in solidly behind Romero…

If the “good” Johnson and Encarnacion show up…

If Lawrie and Rasmus continue their development…

If Lind is healthy and hits somewhere close to as he did in the first half of last season…

If Santos is able to close for a team with designs on contention…

If the Red Sox and Rays are downgraded enough for the Blue Jays to slip past them…

If, if, if.

The Blue Jays are very talented and have many questions surrounding them. This is why they would be a legitimate playoff choice if they’d gotten another proven basher to team with Bautista in the middle of the lineup and if they’d gotten a legitimate, frontline starting pitcher.

But they didn’t.

So they’re left with the multitude of “ifs”.

I wanted to pick the Blue Jays to make the playoffs or enter the last week of the season with a chance to make the playoffs in 2012, but when the “improvements” are limited to Santos, Cordero, Mathis, Oliver and a lot of hope, I can’t pick them to surpass the big guns in the American League.

The extra Wild Card team is giving teams like the Blue Jays an opening that wasn’t there before, so if they get into the mid-80s with their win total, they’ve got a legitimate shot of getting in and once they’re in, they have the components—young pitching, a deep bullpen and that mauler Bautista—to put a scare into anyone.

If they’re in contention at mid-season, they’re going to have the minor league talent to make a big acquisition at the deadline along the lines of David Wright or Matt Garza, but that’s not going to come to pass until June or July.

As of right now, they’re hovering between the innocent climb from 81-81 mediocrity to 90+ wins and playoff contention.

It could go both ways and they’re going to wind up somewhere in the middle of those two conclusions.


The above is a clip from my book Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide.

It’s available on Kindle, Lulu, Nook and Smashwords with other outlets on the way.


Smothering Pineda

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For a pitcher the Yankees are counting on to a be a top of the rotation force and cost them Jesus Montero—who GM Brian Cashman compared to Miguel Cabrera—they’re showing a remarkable level of paranoia when it comes to Michael Pineda.

First it was the repeated reference to minor leaguer Jose Campos as a “key” to the deal; then there were the Cashman statements that if Pineda doesn’t improve his changeup, he (Cashman) supposedly said that he’ll have made a mistake in trading for him; now there’s the velocity and weight stuff.

There’s a troubling scrutiny surrounding every move that Pineda makes that lend credence to the sense that the Yankees are so terrified of Pineda failing that they’re looking for excuses if he does.

Either they wanted him enough to give up a potential top-tier power bat like Montero and a good arm in Hector Noesi to get him or they didn’t.

Today there were multiple reports about Pineda’s velocity with an underlying sense of “whew” when he hit 93 mph. This is after he topped out around 88 in his first spring start.

Never mind that velocity is a tool to determine where a pitcher is now in comparison to where he was before and that it’s spring training and there’s no reason to be thinking about velocity.

None of that matters.

It comes down to this: Why are the Yankees so worried about this pitcher?

Is the velocity something to pay attention to? Absolutely. And for all of 2011, he regularly reached the upper 90s. The big concern with Pineda was his supposedly “worse” second half of the season after an All-Star first half.

In reality, his first half and second half were pretty much statistically identical apart from a worse Batting Average on balls in play. In the first half, his BAbip was .247 and in the second it was .286.

Was he tired in the second half? Probably. Prior to 2011 when he threw 173 innings, he’d thrown a max of 139 in a season in the minors. Will he be better suited to giving the Yankees 185-190 innings in 2012? Probably. This is because he won’t be under the stress of a horrific offense with the Mariners to be perfect in order to win.

They traded for him so, in a similar vein to them buying A.J. Burnett, this is what they wanted and this is what they got.

All of the harping, expectations and demands didn’t help Burnett and they’re not going to help Pineda.

In fact, they could smother him.

And they’re well on the way to doing that and ruining another young pitcher.

Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide is now available.

Click here for a full sample of team predictions/projections. My book can be purchased on KindleSmashwords, BN and Lulu with other outlets on the way.