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Old 12-22-2013, 08:29 AM   #1
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USBL Team Preview

Best record in the GCL preseason predictions report. Tied for the best spring training record after 15 games. No better time than now to write a team profile for the USBL, before the regression to the mean begins.

Spring Numbers:

A few fun facts: the USBL has nine regulars with at least 40 at bats thus far during the preseason. All nine of them are batting .300 or better. Five different starters have pitched at least 10 spring training innings. Four of them have an ERA under 2.00. The team is averaging exactly seven runs a game, almost double the runs against. USBL players command the four top spots in runs scored thus far.

No doubt the numbers will look different before spring camps close. And the only team standings that matter still have the USBL tied for first at 0-0. Long way to go.

Sticks and Stones from the War Room:

Not much strategy went into the USBL draft:

• Fill out the position players and starters before drafting any relievers
• Value past performance over ratings
• Pick the best player available, until the gaps start to appear

The result? Who knows? But there are a few certainties. The team is young. 26.3 years old on average for the nine spots in the lineup and five top starters.

The lineup top-to-bottom should be well-balanced. Potential platoons at catcher and DH lead to the following:

Against right-handed starters:
4 left-hand bats
4 switch-hitters
1 right-handed

Against lefties:
3 left
3 switch
3 right

Inside Scouting Report:

The Rotation:
The USBL selected Lloyd Patterson as a #1 starter, in the 3rd round. He was the 32nd starter off the board. There are a total of 123 GCL roster members who started and pitched at least 100 innings in 1984. Patterson had the 12th best FIP among that group. The team’s worst ranking pitcher is Chuck Wilson at 84th. Wilson’s only 25 years old, though, and due to improve upon his recent performances.

Sort the pitchers by ERA+ and the outlook for the USBL rotation is even better, with both Patterson and Nathaniel Shelton in the top 14. Once again Wilson trails the pack, but his 103 ERA+ was still good for 51st place.

It’s a similar story when ranking by WHIP. Patterson comes in at #14, and the weakest of the bunch, Jeff Thomas, manages an almost respectable 82nd. Thomas is coming off a triceps injury that cost him 2 months in 1984. His ratings suggest he has recovered, at least enough to justify taking him in the 17th round.

The Bullpen:
Yowch these guys are old. The USBL has eight players over 28 years old. Six of them are in the bullpen.

Jorge Jaramillo is 36
Christian White is 36
Juan Pagan is 37
Mike Fisher is 38
Nick Howard is 43

The USBL waited until Round 14 to draft a reliever, closer Juan Pagan. Combine that with a disregard for ratings, and the staff may not look so great at first glance. OOTP certainly doesn’t think much of them – 17th best relief staff according to the position report.

128 GCL relievers pitched at least 15 games and 25 innings in 1984. Here’s the FIP rank for the USBL bullpen arms that qualified.

Juan Pagan ------- 21
Brandon Reynolds 42
Mike Fisher ------- 50
Enrique Estrada -- 56
Jorge Jaramillo -- 74
Nick Howard ----- 84
Jerry Stevens ---- 91

There is no hiding that this is a mediocre bunch. The GM intends to sort through the murk over the course of the season, run with hot hands, and combat the limited quality with a heavy dose of quantity – there are 9 relievers to choose from on the 30 man roster, and all of them will get their chance. Four relievers have severe lefty-righty splits, and will serve as specialists in what promises to be a bullpen by bucketload.

The Offense:

238 GCL batters reached 300 or more plate appearances in 1984. Here’s the OPS rank for each of the 11 USBL batters who qualified.

C Jesus Ruiz ---------- 61
C Ryan Woods -------- 93
1B Travis Stokes ----- 62
2B Gary McCord ------ 100
3B Pete McPherson --- 9
SS Nelson Snyder ---- 22
LF Guillermo Padilla -- 14
CF Steffan Carver ---- 101
RF Alex Schultz ------- 109
DH John Irwin -------- 87
DH Mike Snyder ------ 139

Team highlights from the OOTP Position Report include:

• McPherson is ranked #2 in the GCL at 3B
• Snyder is #3 at SS
• Padilla #4 at LF

If you consider all 8 fielding positions, the USBL average rank is 9.9. That’s tied for 3rd best in the GCL with WBH, behind only Asahi2 and RIBC (Asahi2 RIBC and WBH are ranked 23/26/24 among starting rotations). And that’s more than enough acronyms for one sentence.

Woods bears watching, but no one should ever watch him baring. His 5-year OPS trend in the majors has been 833/885/820/847/737. He's only 28 years old - maybe 1984 was an aberration. Or maybe his 5'10" 215 lb. physique has finally made a meal of his bat speed.

The most significant question is at DH. The USBL chose John Irwin in the 9th round with the aim of parking him at first base. When Travis Stokes, a better fielding first baseman, was available in the 11th, the USBL decided to take him as well. So Irwin fell into a DH platoon with 21st round pick Mike Snyder. Irwin is only 24 years old and should be great, but maybe not yet in 1985. Snyder has served 10 years in the minors to confirm he’s something other than great. OK would be cause for celebration.

The Defense:

Position ratings noted below, bearing in mind that the peripherals are every bit as good as the overall numbers.

C Jesus Ruiz -------- 9
C Ryan Woods ------ 8
1B Travis Stokes --- 6
2B Gary McCord ---- 9
3B Pete McPherson - 6
SS Nelson Snyder -- 10
LF Guillermo Padilla 10
CF Steffan Carver -- 8
RF Alex Schultz ----- 7

The GCL seems to be a fielder’s league. The GM is happy with the defensive outlook, but the only Gold Gloves on the team belong to Ruiz (1979) and pitcher Chuck Wilson (1984).

Overall Outlook:

Refer to “Who Knows?” above. The GM anticipates a few hundred lost hours in the effort to find out.
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