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Stephen Strasburg Scouting Report

21-year-old pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg made his major league debut in front of a sold out Washington crowd Tuesday night and, as he has done again and again, managed to surpass every expectation that comes with being an historical talent. What can we possibly say about Stephen Strasburg that hasn’t already been said about previous hyped, top prospects with great potential?

Needing only 94 pitches, Strasburg made it through seven innings allowing four hits and two runs on a Delwyn Young home run. The fireballer struck out 14 batters without walking anyone and he retired the last ten batters he faced, striking out the last seven.

Drafted first overall by the Washington Nationals in the 2009 MLB amateur draft out of San Diego State and billed as one of the greatest amateur pitchers in draft history, the expectation was that Strasburg would move quickly through the minor leagues and make his debut before the 2010 All-Star break. He did just that, making 11 starts between Double and Triple-A, posting a 7-2 record with a 1.30 ERA, striking out 65, walking 13 in 55.1 IP (one home run allowed). Everyone who saw him pitch came away impressed. Curt Schilling proclaimed Strasburg would be one of the best pitchers in baseball immediately upon arrival and more than a few eyebrows were raised. We even noted how Strasburg would combine with Bryce Harper to form the new faces of the Nats’ franchise.

So what makes Strasburg such a widely-acclaimed talent?

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Joe Torre Has a Blog

I was going pretty crazy when I saw Joe Torre’s State Farm Commercial. It’s a humorous spot that features Torre surfing, doing yoga, walking with a lap dog in Beverly Hills, and pretty much everything else that’s considered trendy in LA. Seeing how Torre’s already embracing the LA culture, why not go the max and join the technological revolution too, right? That’s exactly what he’s done — starting a blog that’s hosted by MLB.com. Even if it’s not penned by Torre, his words and subject matter are pretty humorous.

Here’s an interesting tidbit about LA culture. It’s not just a TV cliché: People really DO carry pocket dogs around with them wherever they go. I have no idea where you’d put these little yip-yaps when you go to the restroom, or even why they’re such a hot accessory; then again, I just moved from a town where people buy color-coordinated pepper spray cans. But I do know it’s a real phenomenon; I learned about it first-hand when I found myself walking down Rodeo Drive with this little white Maltese or Pomeranian named Butch under my arm.

I really don’t care if Torre’s not punching in the keys on his blog — that’s some funny stuff right there. Where do you put those yip-yaps when you go to the restroom? A town where people buy color-coordinated pepper spray cans? Attention Gilbert Arenas: there’s a new sports blogger out there who could be giving you a run for your money.

Ned Colletti Explains How the Manny Ramirez Trade Went Down

The Manny Ramirez acquisition has been one of the most intriguing story lines the Dodgers have had in the past 20 years, no doubt about it. The fan response has been incredible, with merchandise and ticket sales exploding, and for good reason. ManRam has been crushing the ball since coming to Los Angeles and figures to keep driving runs in like usual. One of the questions that really was yet to be answered was the how. As in, how exactly did the Dodgers wind up getting Manny at the deadline? Ned Colletti joined Peter Brown on Sporting News Radio to explain how the trade got done:

I had talked to [Red Sox GM] Theo Epstein the night before [the deadline] on a different matter, on different players, and sent him an email with a response back to that conversation at night and wished him well with the reported three-way that everyone was talking about. I left it at that, went back to where I live and took a nap for a while, got up early, checked the email, and there was a note there from Theo thanking me from the note. But he didn’t sound real positive suddenly. I went into the office, worked a few hours, called Joe Torre at 8am and brought him up-to-date on some other talks we had on other fronts, and told him it was kind of interesting that the Red Sox, Pittsburgh, Florida deal had not come to fruition. And I was wondering if we might be getting a call at some point in time so I wanted him to start thinking about it.

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Dodgers Finally Have a Real Superstar

So a few days ago it was a great day to be an Angels fan (and it’s still a great time to be one too, with plenty of room left on the bandwagon), but of course now it has become a great time to be a Dodgers fan as well. Despite tossing away $100 million on the likes of Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones, and Juan Pierre, Ned Colletti made all the pain and suffering go away with one swift, deadline-beating blockbuster on Thursday. Colletti pulled off the ultimate coup, getting Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox. If you really examine things, he has acquired Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez for the bargain price of Jon Meloan, Carlos Santana, Andy LaRoche, and Bryan Morris — all without spending any cash — much to the delight of Mr. McCourt. Even though I was completely on board with both the Schmitty and Andruw signings which turned out to be busts, I agree with Simers who says this is finally a fullproof deal. That just means something bad is bound to happen.

Putting pessimism aside, the Dodgers finally have a legitimate superstar on their team — something they’ve lacked for a very long time. The Angels got one when they signed Vladimir Guerrero — a player who was in his prime and a legitimate MVP-candidate. Manny might not be a regular season MVP candidate anymore, but he still is one of the most entertaining players in the league, not to mention best clutch hitters. With Manny, the Dodgers finally have a legit superstar on the team for the first time in years and that’s enough to make the trade work. I’ll tell you this much — and this is probably all that McCourt really cares about — the first thing I thought of when I heard the Dodgers got Manny was “Man, I need to get to the stadium to see Manny play!” And that’s exactly it — Manny puts asses in seats. People don’t go to the ballpark to watch Juan Pierre drag bunt his way on, Russell Martin throw a runner out, or even to see Matt Kemp hit a home run. They go to watch Manny be Manny, and that includes tripping over a ball in left field turning a single into a triple, not running out a grounder to short, and of course, getting that monster clutch hit. With Manny, you have to take him as the complete package and embrace the great with all the bad.

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What’s the Word? D-Backs, Youngsters Might Be Studs

This is written by Larry Brown Sports contributor, Alan Hull, who was not particularly fond of Larry’s Diamondbacks preview.

So recently I’ve been intrigued by the preseason postings over on Bodog.com, listing the Arizona Diamondbacks as a 45/1 favorite to win the World Series (down now from the 50/1 it was when it opened). I figured throwing 20 bucks in the hopes of making a cool grand would be pretty sweet.I pitched the idea to my boy Larry Brown and he just didn’t see it. What’s to like about this mish-mash of minor leaguers, burned-out Big Units and a bullpen that leaves much to be desired

Come along, friends and allow me to explain.

In order to win the bet, the following must occur:

  1. The D-Backs must win their division or make the playoffs via the wild card.
  2. The D-Backs must win the World Series.

To begin with, let’s just go ahead and assume the D-Backs win the division, which I know, I know, is a lot to assume right off the bat but the argument makes the most sense this way. I will get to how this may or may not take place in a minute.

Going back to winning the World Series, I’m going to drop some wisdom here for a minute: the best team in the playoffs doesn’t necessarily win. The best team, at best, has a slight edge over the worst team (see: 2006 Cardinals, a.k.a. the worst World Series winner of all time at whopping 83 regular season wins), but I digress—I only mention this to emphasize that making the playoffs is the most important facet of the argument as well as how the D-Backs could very well have a team that could excel in the playoffs.

If one examines the teams that have made World Series appearances over the past few years, generally they possess strong rotations or superior front-of-the-order rotation guys. Those guys get ridden through the playoffs and the bullpen is forced to step it up, albeit with increased rest and fewer appearances. Examples include: Detroit 2006, White Sox/ Astros 2005, Red Sox 2004, Marlins/Yankees 2003, Angels/Giants 2002.

Where does that leave the D-Backs? Well, they have one very young Cy young Winner in Brandon Webb and the rest of the rotation filled out with a much more scrutinizable Randy Johnson, Doug Davis, Livan Hernandez and (insert rotation winner’s name here following Spring Training).

There’s a lot not to like about that rotation: the legitimacy of Webb’s breakout; if Randy Johnson is still a major league pitcher at age 44; Davis’s increasing walk totals, Livan Hernandez’s age/weight; and who the hell that 5th guy will be. I understand that. I do, really.

Still, I like Randy, I always have. This past season, I really liked his chances, although he ended up with an ERA of 5.00. I was thinking more like 3.00, prior to the season. Personally, I think the guys a head-case and he let the New York thing get to him because his statistics last season were fantastic. I believe he got bombed one time (10 times) too many and this killed his overall numbers. He was still 21st in strikeouts last season (172), 22nd in K/9 (7.55) and 24th in K/BB (2.87), all relative “Ace” numbers. Not to mention, he’s moving over to the National (*cough* Crap) league next season, I think an improvement on last season’s ERA is not out of line.

Here’s how MLB pitchers broke down last season:

ERA GS IP

#1 Starter 3.91 28.5 181.2

#2 Starter 4.61 26.6 165.

#3 Starter 4.74 27.6 167.5

#4 Starter 4.82 20.8 123.4

#5 Starter 4.96 20.6 126.8

I feel fairly confident saying that Webb, Johnson and Davis could exceed the #1 – 3 expectations, perhaps significantly, with their array of other starters meeting or falling within the average. Those factors put them in a good place as it relates to both the playoffs and the regular season. Not to mention, I like a playoff team with Webb and, perhaps, a revitalized Randy Johnson (at age 44!), with something to prove, leading the D-Backs into the playoffs.

Then, there’s their offense. Their offense will live and die with the performance of their talented core of young players. I really like their offense, while most people don’t know what to expect, I have very high expectations for their offense. While a collapse here or there may occur, more likely, they will be above average or well above average at every position.

Here is the 2006 lineup and their respective AVG./OBP./SLG. figures:

C – Johnny Estrada (.302/.328/.444)

1B – Conor Jackson (.291/.368/.441)

2B – Orlando Hudson (.287/.354/.454)

3B – Chad Tracy (.281/.343/.451)

SS – Craig Counsell (.255/.327/.347)/ Stephen Drew (.316/.357/.517)

LF – Luis Gonzalez (.271/.352/.444)

CF – Eric Byrnes (.267/.313./.482) / Jeff DaVanon (.290/.370/.448)

RF – Shawn Green (.283/.348/.429) / Carlos Quentin (.253/.342/.530)

Out of those, I think Miguel Montero could match or come within reach of Johnny Estrada’s production, Hudson will probably regress a bit (but still bring his stellar defense with him), Chad Tracey will improve a bit and Byrnes and Davanon will make up for Gonzo’s departure in left. Meanwhile, I predict Jackson and Quentin will take great steps forward in the coming year and Drew and Chris Young will break out in a big, big way. I’ll leave the projecting to you, but that’s a mighty fine offense.

Last season, the D-Backs went 76-86, scoring 773 runs, allowing 788 runs, performing below their Pythagorean record of 80-82. Pythagorean wins are generally considered a better measurement of a team’s performance than wins when projecting future performance, so the D-Backs were not as far from .500 than they may at first appear.

Using 80-wins as the baseline, I think it’s reasonably safe to say that any of the teams in the NL West could win the division with 90 wins. Between the upgraded rotation and the fast-improving offense, that gap is looking awfully thin.

If General Manager Josh Byrnes can make a shrewd move for a bullpen guy or two, they’ll be in even better shape, but they have a handful of live arms in the bullpen, including Juan Cruz (4.18 ERA), Brandon Lyon (3.89), Jose Valverde (5.84) and Jorge Julio (3.83), who may be able to luck their way into some success.

Throw all information this into the melting pot, combine that with the Padres’ lack of depth and the Dodgers’ lack of offensive threats, then yeah, I do like the Arizona Diamond backs as a 45/1 favorite to win the World Series. I’m not even going to say that I like them to win their division, but that is certainly the first step and that, friends, is the word.

Along the same lines, I really like Cleveland at 28/1.

UPDATE: Alan and Larry have placed a friendly wager on Arizona’s final record this year. The over/under line is 86.5 wins. Since Larry predicted only 78 wins for the D-Backs this year, needless to say, he’s already made reservations for when Alan buys him a meal as payment.