2010 projected leaders: Saves & Relief ERA

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Over the next several days, I’ll be dipping into my 2010 projections and presenting some leaderboards.
Saves
1. Mariano Rivera – 40
1. Francisco Rodriguez – 40
3. Joe Nathan – 38
3. Jonathan Papelbon – 38
5. Jonathan Broxton – 37
5. Brian Wilson – 37
7. Heath Bell – 36
7. Huston Street – 36
9. Francisco Cordero – 35
9. Trevor Hoffman – 35
11. David Aardsma – 34
11. Andrew Bailey – 34
11. Joakim Soria – 34
11. Jose Valverde – 34
11. Billy Wagner – 34
– Save projections don’t tend to make for very interesting lists. One or two pitchers from the group above will likely end up with 45-50 saves, but it’s hard to project anyone to finish with that kind of total. Rivera finished with 44 last year, but that was his first season over 40 since 2005. Nathan had 47, but that was after three years of 36, 37, and 39.
– If he were guaranteed to remain in San Diego all season long, I might have pushed Bell over 40. Teams that play low scoring games tend to rack up the most saves, and the Padres should play about as many as any team. Bell, though, is a possibility to be dealt in July, perhaps even to a team that would return him to a setup role.
– Seattle is another team that I could see generating 50 save chances. Aardsma, though, won’t necessarily remain their best reliever. Mark Lowe, Brandon League and Shawn Kelley will all be candidates to overtake him if he stumbles.


Relief ERA (minimum 50 IP)
1. Mariano Rivera – 2.18
2. Joe Nathan – 2.41
3. Jonathan Broxton – 2.54
4. Joakim Soria – 2.64
5. Jonathan Papelbon – 2.73
6. Billy Wagner – 2.77
7. Phil Hughes – 2.79
8. Carlos Marmol – 2.88
9. Heath Bell – 3.01
10. Luke Gregerson – 3.07
11. Mike Adams – 3.09
12. Takashi Saito – 3.10
13. Andrew Bailey – 3.11
14. Francisco Rodriguez – 3.12
15. Francisco Cordero – 3.14
16. Brian Wilson – 3.18
17. Joe Thatcher – 3.19
18. Sergio Romo – 3.21
19. Ramon Troncoso – 3.22
20. Rafael Soriano – 3.25
– I don’t suppose I really had to use the minimum 50 IP. The only pitcher disqualified from the top 20 as a result was Hong-Chih Kuo. I have the injury-prone left-hander at 2.61 in 41 1/3 innings.
– Four Padres make the list. It’s partly a testament to Petco Park, but San Diego has one of the game’s very best bullpens. Adams allowed just one earned run in 15 1/3 innings on the road last season. Bell had a 3.08 ERA and Thatcher came in at 3.26. Only Gregerson struggled, finishing with a 6.48 ERA in 33 1/3 innings, but he still struck out 40 and allowed just three homers in 33 1/3 innings away from Petco.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.