Thursday, May 31, 2007

Update: Dunn and New Approach at the Plate

Just thought I'd check on Dunn and see how if he is sticking with his more aggressive approach at the plate.

Year: BA / OBP / SLG / OPS

2004: .266/.388/.569/.957

2005: .247/.387/.540/.927

2006: .234/.365/.490/.855

2007: .263/.371/.564/.935


2004: .122____12.3__.159__4.24

2005: .140____13.6__.170__4.24

2006: .131____14.0__.164__4.18

2007: .108____12.8__.143__4.30

Year: % of Called Strikes / % of Swinging Strikes

2004: 31% / 19%

2005: 31% / 19%

2006: 29% / 22%

2007: 27% / 24% <---Decreased 1% and No change

Year: % Pitches Swung At / % Time Contact made when Swinging

2004: 39% / 72%

2005: 39% / 73%

2006: 40% / 70%

2007: 43% / 67% <--- Increased 1%/1%

Year: ABs per Strike Out

2004: 2.9

2005: 3.2

2006: 2.9

2007: 2.6 <--- Worse/Decline of 0.2

Year: % of Time Swinging at First Pitch of PA

2004: 28%

2005: 25%

2006: 28%

2007: 34% <---- Increased 4%

Dunn is staying aggressive. In fact, he's even more aggressive. He's swinging more often, at more first pitches, and making a bit more contact. His production is much better, but unfortunately his strikeout rate has gotten worse.

It'll be interesting to see how his production plays out over the season if he stays aggressive.

Dunn and New Approach at the Plate

(written at the end of April)

Well, I think it's time to seriously worry about Adam Dunn. I thought it was wise to trade Dunn this past offseason, because I subscribe to the theory that young players who survive solely on Old Player Skills (Power and Patience) tend to peak and decline earlier than young players who utilize a myriad of skills. Intuitively makes sense, as if you start at the bottom of the acceptable spectrum for speed and defense, then when you lose a step due to age you immediately fall below the acceptable floor for a Major Leaguer player. It's going to be much easier for Jose Reyes to continue to be successful when he loses a step, then it is for Adam Dunn.

I still believe that this is a crucial year for Dunn's career, as if he declines yet again then I think it's obvious that he's on the down slope of his career. He really needs a bounce back season, but at this point I'm not encouraged.

At this point, I think it's possible that Dunn peaked in 2004 and is declining. If he is in decline, then he may have lost a bit of bat speed. And, seeing his production decline, I think he has begun to change his approach in an attempt to offset the slower bat speed.


2004: .266/.388/.569/.957

2005: .247/.387/.540/.927

2006: .234/.365/.490/.855

2007: .269/.360/.474/.834

Both his on base skills and his power have been in decline.


2004: .122____12.3__.159__4.24

2005: .140____13.6__.170__4.24

2006: .131____14.0__.164__4.18

2007: .091____19.5__.124__4.03

Oddly enough, Dunn's power and patience are decreasing. His IsoOBP (OBP-BA), BB/PA (Walk Per Plate Appearance), and Pitches Seen Per Plate Appearance have all declined since 2004. He's getting less patient at the plate.

Not to mention, Dunn's Homerun per AB rate has increased, which means he is hitting homers with less frequency. Where did the power go??? In 2004, he hit a homer once every 12.3 ABs, but in 2007 he is up to one homer every 19.5 ABs.

Now granted, 2007 has a long way to go, but I'm not overly impressed with what I've seen from Dunn thus far. We've heard a lot about Dunn's new physique and the approach Brook Jacoby helped him develop at the plate. Thus far, I don't think the results are very encouraging. It seems like Dunn is getting more aggressive in an attempt to increase his batting average, but in doing so he's losing the power and patience that make him a special hitter.

There is a great new feature at BaseballReference that provides all the pitch data for each player and Adam Dunn's is fairly interesting. It provides clues to the type of approach that Dunn is using in each At Bat.

If Dunn's bat is slowing down, then I'd expect him to change his approach in certain ways. I'd expect him to be more aggressive and swing more often. If he''s being patient and forcing the pitcher to come into him to give him a pitch he can drive, but then can't pound that pitch then I would expect him to swing more often and expand his strike zone.

Whether it's because of a slowing bat or a new approach, that seems to be what Dunn is doing. Here's a breakdown of Dunn's ABs by pitches.

Year: % of Called Strikes/ % of Swinging Strikes

2004: 31% / 19%

2005: 31% / 19%

2006: 29% / 22%

2007: 28% / 24%

He is taking fewer called strikes (31% --> 28%) and getting more swinging strikes (19% --> 24%). So, despite the complaints about Dunn not swinging often enough, he's actually swinging much more often.

Year: % Pitches Swung At / % Time Contact made when Swinging

2004: 39% / 72%

2005: 39% / 73%

2006: 40% / 70%

2007: 42% / 66%

Dunn is swinging at more pitches (39% --> 42%), but making contact much less frequently (72%-->66%). And, sadly, his new approach isn't helping him reduce his strikeout rate. He is putting himself in fewer good hitting counts, because he is getting more aggressive. He seems to be flailing about in an attempt to make up for his declining production.

Year: Strike Outs per AB

2004: 2.9

2005: 3.2

2006: 2.9

2007: 2.8

He's also swinging at more first pitches than in years past:

Year: % of Time Swinging at First Pitch of PA

2004: 28%

2005: 25%

2006: 28%

2007: 30%

So, again, he's getting more aggressive and moving the conclusion of the At Bat up earlier in the count.

It seems like the "new Adam Dunn" has managed to increase his average, but he is seeing a decline in plate discipline, power, and strikeouts. And, if the strikeouts are increasing, then it seems unlikely that he'll be able to maintain any gains in batting average.

To me, it seems that if Dunn has to start swinging more often because his production is in decline, then it's the beginning of the end. If he can't wait for his pitch and crush it when he gets it, then he's not going to be a very valuable player. To me, it seems like Dunn is at the absolute bottom of the acceptable spectrum for making contact. If his contact rate declines even a little bit, then he may cease to be an effective ballplayer and he lacks any other baseball skills to offset the decrease.

Dunn seems to be trying to force a conclusion earlier in the AB, which could reduce strikeouts, but will also likely decrease his power and walk rate. Whether it's just a new approach or an attempt to make up for a slowing bat, something is changing his approach. And, given his limited skill set, any drastic change in approach at the plate seems ill advised. His strengths are diminishing and his weaknesses aren't improving much.

Dunn may be able to increase his batting average, but if it comes at the cost of his power and patience, then the price is just too high. It's still early in 2007, but he needs to take a big step forward this year, not a step backward.

If he declines again this year, then this may be the beginning of the end for Dunn.

Thoughts on Peter Edward Rose

I don't usually discuss Pete Rose, because it has always been such a hot button issue for Reds fans. However, given the Reds struggles these days, there isn't much else to discuss right now, so let's toss some gasoline on the fire.

The bottom line is that I just do not have much respect for the man.

No one is perfect. I'm certainly not and I don't expect anyone else to be. But, I don't think it's too much to ask someone to be accountable for their mistakes and, if necessary, make amends.

Obviously, that isn't the way Rose chose to handle his mistake. Instead, he spent~15 years denying the allegations until he was "Red" in the face. He told anyone who would listen that he was innocent. He lied for over a decade and called into question the character and integrity of both Bart Giamatti and Fay Vincent.

I don't begrudge him his gambling mistake, but I do begrudge him his 15 years of lying and refusing to own up to his mistakes.

The old Seinfeld joke is that sports fans root for clothes. If a player is on your team, then you love him. If he's traded, then you hate him. Basically, players are interchangeable. But, that's just not the way it's ever been for me. I've always liked players more than teams. When I was younger, I had teams that I loved. However, as I got older my interests narrowed and the Reds were the only team in which I really retained a passionate rooting interest. The Reds are the one team that has really remained "my team".

That said, I still love watching certain players. I love to watch Adam Everett field and Jason Giambi hit. I love to watch Ichiro's approach to the game. I love to watch Dougie Mientkiewicz dive for a ball at firstbase. I loved to watch Brian L. Hunter run, as he made it look so effortless. And, of course, I loved to watch anything and everything Barry Larkin and Eric Davis did on the baseball field.

That's part of the reason why I get excited when "my team" (Reds) adds one of "my players" (i.e. Bellhorn). Not only do I think "my players" could help the Reds, but it also makes rooting for the Reds even more enjoyable for me.

I only mention it because it is that perspective that makes it hard for me to understand how fans can root for certain players. Personally, I cannot fathom how Giants fans can root for Barry Bonds. Not only is he an unrepentant cheater, but by all accounts he has treated almost everyone like dirt throughout his entire life. His arrogance has led to a belief that he should not have to play by the same rules as everyone else. Unfortunately, everyone has always been so in love with his abilities that they have consistently allowed him to play by his own rules. At this point, he has contempt for all and respect for none. How can you root for someone like that?

I must admit that I wonder the same thing, albeit for different reasons, about Pete Rose. How can people still actively root for someone like Rose? Just because he is (or, in this case, used to be) clothed in the colors of my team, certainly does not make him someone for whom I wish to root.

I certainly don't begrudge anyone their opinion and I do realize that this is likely a minority opinion among Reds fans. I know many fans look at Rose and see Charlie Hustle and a gritty style of play, but all I see is a man whose oversized ego found 15 years of telling falsehoods preferable to simply telling the truth and being accountable for his mistakes. I see a man who only admitted to his mistake when he came to realization that it was in his own self-interest to do so. Not to mention, his admission was made in a forum that enabled him to profit from it and was likely only made because the clock was running on his chances to get elected to the Hall of Fame.

If Pete Rose would have simply admitted his mistake and apologized when it happened, then not only would he still have my respect, but he would more than likely be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Illegal Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs) and MLB Incompetence

I must admit that I’m tired of this subject. But, I’m even more tired of baseball’s hypocrisy, shortsightedness, and overwhelming greed on the issue. Obviously, MLB has made an absolute mess out of the illegal performance enhancing drug (IPED) issue. They didn’t act soon enough to prevent it and didn’t act effectively enough when the scandal broke. There is plenty of blame to go around for every party involved, but at the bottom of it all is money. That may be the case in all things everywhere, but I just wish all parties in MLB would open their eyes and realize that short-term monies aren’t more important than the integrity of the game and the health of the players. Neither the rising popularity of football, nor the ever quickening pace of society is going to destroy baseball’s popularity. But, the unchecked usage of IPED’s could cause irreparable harm to our national pastime.

Since the scandals have appeared, I’ve been reading up on the issues at play and much of what I’ve got to say in this post is based on the knowledge that I gleaned from these sources. The sources include The Juice by Will Carroll, Game of Shadows, the Last Nine Innings, and various other articles/books.


The usage of IPED’s isn’t exactly a new phenomena. In fact, they have existed pretty much throughout human history in one form or another. In the ancient Olympics, Spartan “coaches” gave their athletes various herbs and mushroom concoctions to give them the competitive edge. The substances dulled their pain and brought about psychotic like effects. In ancient Rome, some physicians experimented with substances which were designed to improve the performance of their gladiators. And, in more modern times, Nazi scientists developed substances which were designed to increase strength and aggression in German troops. After WWII, some of these scientists escaped to the Soviet Union, where their knowledge was put to use in Olympics competition in an attempt to make a political statement through sports.

So, all in all, perhaps it shouldn't have been unexpected to see the emergence of IPEDs in professional baseball. Sadly, baseball seems to be a sport in which IPEDs provide a wide range of heretofore unseen advantages. Fans, myself included, laughed when Alex Sanchez was caught using IPEDs. We were incredulous when pitchers were discovered to have used IPEDs. But, in reality, the benefits of IPEDs extend through to the minutest elements of the game.


Power: Clearly, IPEDs can make a hitter stronger and enable him to hit the ball farther.

Speed: Olympic sprinters certainly aren’t doping so they can hit 500 foot homers.

Plate Discipline/Batting Eye: There have been reports that some IPEDs (HGH, etc) actually improve eyesight. I tend to think that that’s more likely a psychosomatic effect, but at the very least a quicker/faster swing means that the hitter can let the pitch get much deeper before he has to commit to a swing. If you can react a split second later and let the pitch get a foot closer, but still get around on the pitch, then you’ll have a much better chance to recognize the pitch type and its chances to end up in the strike zone.

Arm Strength: Pitchers can benefit by getting stronger legs, core, and arm, which will obviously lead to improvements in velocity.

Recovery Time: IPEDs enable people to recovery much faster from the damage done in workouts. While this is one of the main reasons for the impressive bulk, it also can help pitchers. Pitchers who would typically be in substantial pain the day after working can now reduce the pain and recovery time, which would enable them to work more frequently at a higher performance level. This especially helps relief pitchers, who may have to work on back to back days.

Obviously, the impact of IPEDs is not limited to only the hulking power hitters. In fact, there is hardly an aspect of the game that couldn’t conceivably be aided by IPEDs. And, the next wave of IPEDs will likely only become more effective and less detectable.


Unfortunately, the ever increasing popularity of sports has led to always rising revenue streams. That of course means that there are vastly higher rewards for elite athletes. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but it has led to athletes who are always looking for an advantage. They are willing to risk everything for a chance to play at the highest level, which means that there are people out there who are willing to provide what they need to get there. Sadly, neither MLB nor the Players’ Association was able to step up and prevent the inevitable. Maybe they wouldn’t have been able to stave off the inevitable, but it would’ve been nice if they had stepped up to the plate.

Ultimately, the Players’ Association chose to protect the rights of drug users over the well being of non-users. By refusing to be proactive and cooperate with a drug testing program, the union instead chose to continue to hold its power in a death grip. The union would rather face any cost than to give up even a shred of power to MLB. The union cared more about maintaining its power, than it did about privacy concerns of its players submitting to drug testing. As such, it made protecting its own power a priority over protecting its members. People who chose not to cheat were left at a competitive disadvantage against those who were willing to cheat. Sadly, I’m sure there are countless examples of honest ballplayers losing their jobs to chemical enhanced ballplayers. The emergence of IPEDs left the players to decide whether to risk losing their jobs, dreams, and livelihood to chemical enhanced players who may have had inferior skills prior to using IPEDs. In the end, the union failed to protect the right of its members to be clean, instead choosing to protect the right of its players to be dirty.

As much as I despise Barry Bonds, I think it has become clear that he took IPEDs in order to get the big money contract and fame that were being afforded to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. He was jealous of the attention and money being lavished on the two sluggers, while his own prodigious accomplishments were being overlooked. Not to say that he has ANY justification for cheating, but a case could easily be made that he wouldn’t have used IPEDs if the playing field had been level.


Unfortunately, despite its hand wringing in public, MLB never seems to do more than necessary to look good in public. It took heavy, heavy congressional pressure before both sides would agree on a deal. And, I’d certainly be willing to bet that throughout the years Selig and company view steroids as nothing more than a bargaining chip to gain a greater piece of the revenue pie in the collective bargaining agreement. At the very least, they never pressed very hard for a drug testing policy. In fact, MLB continues to send mixed messages on just how serious they are about ridding the game of IPEDs. Recently, Selig ignorantly stated that amphetamine usage was the greatest problem in the game today; overlooking the fact that Human Growth Hormone seems to be used throughout the game and still is undetectable to current testing methods. And, perhaps even more madding is that MLB recently used both Bonds and Giambi in a commercial to promote the All Star game. How serious can they be about punishing cheaters when they still use their images to promote the game? What kind of message does that send to potential users? We’ll punish you when we need to look good, but will turn around and use you to sell tickets down the line? It’s these types of things that make me wonder if MLB is actually serious about the elimination of IPEDs. Even if they don’t care about anything more than money, they should certainly see that IPEDs aren’t exactly a way to ensure strong profits.


While MLB was undoubtedly thrilled by both the revenue and positive publicity generated by the home run record chases, you’d think they’d have the foresight to look at the big picture. While homeruns may have sold more tickets and created a buzz in 1994, they have also brought about significant financial problems and terrible publicity over the past five years or so. If MLB doesn’t take a serious stance against IPEDs, then the game’s popularity may indeed be weakened in the next decade, which will reduce revenue streams.

Already, I don’t think anyone actually cares about Barry Bonds’s homerun chase, despite ESPN keeping a running tally on its baseball score ticker. And, the single season homerun record is also tarnished. How is anyone ever to get excited about a homerun chase again? Who is the single season record holder? Does anyone care?

Even if baseball doesn’t choose to look at damage to the game’s integrity and popularity, they should at least be aware of the rising financial cost of IPEDs. The American Journal of Sports Medicine completed a study of MLB and IPED usage to determine the financial impact. It found that the number of days lost to injuries increased by 60% from 1989 to 2001. MLB teams paid $1BN for players on the DL between 1997 and 2001, with $317M spent in 2001 alone. This is undoubtedly due in no small part to the use of IPEDs, which increase muscles past the point where the ligaments and tendons can support them. This has led to a dramatic increase in football style injuries, including muscle tears and strains.


Cleary, MLB still needs to get serious about testing. They need to get EXTREMELY proactive and implement the most stringent testing program in the world. Each team should ante up a sizable amount of money each year to fund a testing and research program. And, the players/union should contribute as well. It is in the best interests of all parties in baseball to clean the sport up. Testing is a very difficult process. The users will ALWAYS be a step ahead of the testers, because a drug has to be identified before it can be tested. Testers have to target certain drugs in order for testing to even work and they clearly can’t do that if they don’t know that a specific illegal performance enhancing drug even exists.

Regardless of the problems inherent in testing, baseball MUST continue to clean itself up. They’ve taken very reluctant steps towards doing so, but it will not work until they are serious about doing it themselves. Given the ever changing nature of testing programs, Congress isn’t going to be able to stand over MLB’s shoulder and ensure that they are performing stringent testing. MLB must itself take the initiative to have very proactive, comprehensive testing. But, sadly, it seems like they are already turning their focus in other directions.

The big test will be what happens when Barry Bonds retires and the career homerun record spotlight is no longer cast on a cheater everyday. When that happens will MLB step up and continue to clean up the game? Or will the reduced negative attention allow them to finally sweep it back under the rug until the next scandal breaks?

While Barry Bonds may slip away, the problem of illegal performance enhancing drugs NEVER will. As such, MLB must continue to be diligent in fighting it. If they don’t, then they will be continually subjected to PR disasters and drug scandals, which may ultimately ruin the game’s popularity. I, for one, don’t want that to happen, but if they don’t improve the situation, then the next Jason Grimsley, Jose Canseco, or Mets' clubhouse employee will always be right around the corner.

NL vs. AL Pitchers and the Impact of the DH

I recently took a look at the performance of all NL and AL pitchers since the DH was implemented in the 1973 season. The goal was to see what kind of impact the DH had on pitching performance and how much better a pitcher moving from the AL to the NL could be expected to perform.

Since 1973:

League:_____IPs________BB/9 ____ K/9

American:__620,715.3 __ 3.38 ___ 5.56

National:___598,515.7__ 3.33____5.98

So, NL pitchers have struck out around half a batter more per nine innings than their AL counterparts, which of course is largely the result of NL pitchers getting to face the opposing hitter, rather than the DH.

I think the switch in leagues is something that should definitely be considered when acquiring starting pitching. American League teams expecting the same level of performance from a former NL pitchers may be in for a surprise. And, NL teams could reasonably expect improved performance from former AL pitchers. I think the effect is magnified for AL East pitchers, who had to face both the Yanks and BoSox, whose competitive spending continues to create MLB's version of the Cold War.

Dunn, Maas, and "Old Player Skills"

After watching Dunn continue to pile up the numbers, despite his low batting average, I thought that I'd give the Dunn bashers something that might actually justify their constant worry.

When I see a player like Adam Dunn, who is very big and not especially agile, I always thought this is a guy who is going to age poorly. People get bigger and less mobile as they age, so I think these types of players are going to be especially susceptible to the effects of aging. Mo Vaughn, Cecil Fielder, and Carlos Delgado are some of the players that I thought would be more susceptible to the effects of aging, as they don’t have much margin for error in the mobility and defense departments. Basically, I’ve always thought that big lumbering guys weren’t good bets to be of value later in their careers.

As such, I've pretty much always thought that Adam Dunn shouldn't be brought back much after the age of 30. At that point, he’ll be very expensive and his game seems unlikely to stand up to the test of time. I’m a huge Dunn backer, but I’m not sure that even I want to see him in GABP at first base or in leftfield at the age of 33.

In that same vein, I recently came across a book which contained a Bill James wrote an article wherein he discussed what he called “Old Player’s Skills” and “Young Player’s Skills”. I found it to be rather interesting, as James breaks down the issue much further, and I couldn’t help but think of a player that we all know and love (well, not all of us ;)).

In essence, James considers power and drawing walks to be “Old Player’s Skills”, as the majority of players tend to improve their power and walks as they age (I don’t necessarily agree much with the improved walk rate, but that’s a discussion for another day ;)). And, he considers speed and batting average to be “Young Player’s Skills”, as batting average and speed decline over time.

Now, here’s the part that directly relates to the Reds. James believes that young players who succeed primarily on the basis of “Old Player’s Skills” will peak EARLIER in their career and age FASTER! I’m sure we can all think of a particular Reds player who fits this mold.

I won’t get into their specific details, but James performed a couple of studies in which the players with “young player’s skills” did indeed have substantially longer careers than those who relied primarily on “old player’s skills”. Not to say that those players who relied on “old player skills” didn’t have good careers, but rather that they peaked earlier and didn’t last as long.

Recently, the writers at Baseball Prospectus recently used James’ theory to explain the remarkable career of Kevin Maas. For those of you who don’t know, Maas was at one time the hottest thing since sliced bread. Maas came up in 1990 at the age of 25, which is a bit old for a prospect, and hit 21 homers in 254 At Bats. Maas exploded onto the scene that summer and was compared to everyone from Will Clark to Roy Hobbs. Maas still holds the MLB record for being the fastest player to reach 10 homeruns, which he managed to do in 77 At Bats. He captured the imagination of much of the baseball world, including me.

Maas was a good prospect before hitting the majors, but he was one who relied on “old player skills”. He had a strong OBP and good power, but a knee injury and poor genetics robbed him of speed and agility, which made him a poor defender. He also never posted a great batting average in the minors, but likely deserved to be called up before the age of 25. After his meteoric rise, it didn’t take long for Maas to struggle and his career flamed out at an early age.

Now, Maas is an extreme example, but I think James may have been on to something with his theory. Now, that’s NOT to say that having a YOUNG player on the team who succeeds by virtue of “old player’s skills” isn’t a good idea, but rather that one should be wary of keeping him on the team for too long.

In other words, giving Dunn a HUGE contract after his current one expires may not be the best idea in the world, as he may well peak earlier and fade away faster than expected. And, having a big dollar contract tied up in a player of that kind could be crippling to this franchise. In James’s view, Dunn’s batting average won’t get better as he ages, but rather it’ll worsen. And, Dunn will become even more lumbering, as he adds on the pounds that come with aging and loses the speed that goes with it.

How much worse can Dunn’s batting average and defense get before it outweighs his walk and power production? At some point, the immense power and walk benefits that Dunn provides will be outweighed by his defensive, mobility, and batting average problems.

It won’t happen this year or next year or even the year after that, but it’ll likely happen SOONER than we think. Hopefully, the front office takes that into account when considering the next contract for Adam Dunn. Enjoy Dunn while it lasts, as he might not be around as long as we should hope.

As usual, just my $.02.

2007 NL Central Predictions

Well, better late than never. Here's some projections that I worked out during the first week of the season. Given the way the season is developing, I wish I could change it, but where's the fun in that?

I crunched a few numbers and came up with a bit of rough forecasting for the 2007 season. For each NL Central team, I took a stab at calculating out the individual performance of each player, the subsequent aggregate team production, and their respective W/L records using the Bill James Pythagorean Theorem.

It'll be fun for me to see how close it is, but at the very least, it'll give you something to hold against me in September. ;)

Without further ado, here's how I see the NL Central playing out in 2007:

1) Houston Astros - 84-78 .519 W%

I've got the Astros scoring 758 Runs, which is an increase of 23 over 2006. Carlos Lee paying dividends. And, I've got them Allowing 730 Runs, which is 11 more runs than 2006. I thought it would be higher due to the loss of Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, but Pettitte wasn't great in 2006 and they also suffered through Wandy Rodriguez and Taylor Bucholz, both of whom were awful.

2) Cincinnati Reds - 82-80 .509 W%

I've got the Reds scoring 766 Runs, which is an increase of 17 over 2006. The Reds lost Aurilia, but added Hamilton and are unlikely to see a complete team-wide offensive collapse in the second half like they did in 2006. And, I have them allowing 753 Runs, which is a decrease of 48 Runs. The addition of Lohse and the arrival of Homer helps them out in the pitching department. As does the removal of Claussen (6.19), Elizardo (5.37), and Dave Williams (7.20) from the mix. In the projection, I gave Milton only 130 innings. If he is allowed to pitch closer to 200, then obviously they'll be giving up more runs. Also, if they don't bring up Homer in the second half or if he imitates a gas can, then the pitching won't be quite so good.

Also, the improved defense of adding A-Gon and moving Griffey to rightfield helps.

3) Milwaukee Brewers - 79-83 .488 W%

I've got the Brewers scoring 740 Runs, which is an improvement of 10 runs over 2006. I've got Weeks and Hardy taking a step forward, but Bill Hall taking a step backward.

I've got the Brewers allowing 755 Runs, which is a decrease of 78 Runs. That's a mighty hefty improvement, but having Sheets back at full strength is a big improvement. Also, a step forward from Dave Bush and another solid year from Capuano.

4) Chicago Cubs - 79-83 .488 W%

I've got the Cubbies scoring 758 Runs, which is a 42 run improvement. That's the benefit of adding Alfonso Soriano and a full season of Derrek Lee.

As for the pitching/defense, I've got them giving up 778 Runs, which is a 56 run decrease over 2006. The Cubs add a bit more stability to the rotation, as Rich Hill should continue to be a very good starting pitcher. And, Lilly and Marquis should be adequate at the back of the rotation.

However, I see the Cubs defense as taking a hit with the loss of Juan Pierre and the addition of Izturis over Ronny Cedeno.

The big money spent should help, but not get them to the promise land.

5) St. Louis Cardinals - 78-84 .481 W%

I've got the Cards pegged for 750 Runs, which would be a decrease of 31 Runs over 2006. I think Edmonds (especially) and Rolen are slowing down, which hurts the offense despite an impressive expected showing from Chris Duncan. And, of course, Pujols is always Pujols. But, Yadier Molina and Preston Wilson don't help matters.

As for the pitching, I've got the Cards giving up 779 Runs, which would be an increase of 17 runs over 2006. Due to his elbow problems, I've got Carpenter only working 150 innings in 2007, which really brings down the staff. I really like Wainwright and Reyes, but 2007 may not be a great year for either.

If Carpenter doesn't come back at all, then it'll be a long year for the birds. At this point, they rely too much on Rolen and Edmonds.

6) Pittsburgh Pirates - 71-91 .438 W%

I've got the Pirates scoring 713 Runs in 2007, which is a 22 Run increase over 2006. The addition of Adam LaRoche should help, even though he won't be what he was in 2006.

As for the pitching, I've got the Pirates allowing 805 Runs, which is an increase of 8 runs over 2006. I like Ian Snell a lot, but after that there isn't much to get excited about. The bullpen isn't quite as solid without Mike Gonzalez.

And, the Pirates should suffer quite a bit from shabby defense. They were poor in 2006 and shouldn't be much better in 2007.

Well, there you have it. Take it with a grain of salt, but that's how I've got it pegged for 2007. Of course, big trades, painful injuries, or just the unpredictability/luck of the game could make this wildly off-base.