ChipperJones (Source: USAToday)

 

Hoppy’s Senior Circuit Review – Goodbye 2012

 

 The holidays seem to have brought a foggy view to everything recently, and with this ridiculous NHL lockout still in the news sickening everyone, the last weekend of the NFL regular season upon us and the NBA in full swing there are plenty things sports to talk about… but, let’s stick to baseball as we finish off 2012 in style and start the official countdown to spring training 2013!  Let’s get to it!

Some Highlights of the NL 2012 Season:

  • One of the greatest players of our generation – both statistically and as a true player – retired in Chipper Jones. I am not sure that there have been more than 3 or 4 better left-handed hitters ever, and he is also one of the best all round 3B to ever play as well. The first overall pick in 1990, Jones always approached the game with grace and humility and always made everything look easy.  Career stats of .303, 1619 runs, 2726 hits, 549 doubles, 468 homeruns, 1623 RBIs, .930 OPS and more walks (1512) than strikeouts (1409) make Chipper a unanimous first ballot HOFer in my books, even without considering how great of a clubhouse leader he was.
  • MLB had a total of seven no-hitters in 2012 which tied an all-time record – Johan Santana threw the first in Mets history against the Cardinals, Homer Bailey threw a 1BB/10K gem vs. PIT and Matt Cain threw a perfect game against the Astros. In 2013 I expect to see Wainwright throw his first no hitter (surprisingly…), as will Lincecum and maybe Strasburg, along with one out of nowhere gem (a la Bailey in 2012)
  • The Nationals shut down the high-speed train call Strasburg before the end of the season to protect his reconstructed elbow. This move was absolutely beaten to death in the sports media world, especially after the Cards came back and beat the Nationals in the NLDS. In the long run, this likely will still be a great move as WAS will be a playoff contender for many years to come. With a full season of Strasburg in 2013 (say 200 IP) and a full two years removed from Tommy John I expect 19-5, 245K/65BB with a 2.85 ERA from him.
  • Bryce Harper with his warrior eye black and ridiculous persona arrived in Washington and ended up winning NL ROY. Mike Trout took all the headlines among rookies and deservedly so, but Harper had a solid season for a rookie, especially considering the media crush everywhere he went. 2013 should look something like .283-108R-27HR-72RBI-24SB as he improves on his rookie campaign (Mike Trout will regress – mark my words!).
  • The LA Dodgers were purchased for a record (and utterly foolish) $2.15 billion by a group led by Magic Johnson. The only bad part in the end is Frank McCourt got richer after raping one of the legendary MLB franchises for his own purposes… I had hoped he would have got a nickel and been deported or something.  Either way the new ownership has totally altered the landscape with the trades for AGonz, Crawford, Beckett and Hanley, and the signing of Zack Greinke to start.  2013 and beyond will be interesting to watch and it is now World Series title or bust in LA. I expect AGonz to return to his pre-2012 self with .325-100-35-110 numbers and Crawford to be healthy(er) and put up decent numbers as well. Hanley moving back to SS should help make him happy again and a line something like .280-80R-25HR-90RBI-25SB should be in reach with guys like Kemp and Ethier back and healthy for 2013. I am still not a huge Greinke guy, but 15-17 wins and a 3.25 ERA is what I see for him.
  • RA Dickey came out of nowhere to win the NL Cy Young and put up an astounding 32.2 IP of scoreless baseball – thankfully he was traded out of the hole that is the NYM to Toronto who are all of a sudden the World Series favorites.
  • Melky Cabrera was on his way to winning the NL batting title until he was exposed as just another PED user… speaking of lying/cheating PED users, Ryan Braun had another stellar season (.319-108-41-112-30).
  • The Cardinals watched the greatest hitter of our generation walk away for $240+ million over 10 years from the Angels and didn’t really miss a beat, losing to the eventual WS champion SF Giants in the NLCS – guys like Beltran and Molina stepped up and put up great seasons and led a young clubhouse, Wainwright came back strong from Tommy John and Jason Motte showed he has true closer stuff, and Allen Craig and Jon Jay grew up fast to fill holes and have very bright futures. I continue to see Craig as a top 10 hitter in a few short years with 35HR power and 125RBI level production to go with a .300+ AVG.  Jay should turn into a serviceable third OF option hitting .300+ with potential for 100R and 20+SB. Waino should be a top 3 NL Cy Young guy in 2013 and Motte should put up 40+ saves and around 86K/17BB again.
  • Cliff Lee put up possibly the best 6-9/30 start season ever – after not getting a win for the first 3 months (including a ridiculous 10 inning performance @SF giving up 0 runs with 7K/0BB in a no decision), Lee finished the season with 207K and only 28BB (as usual) and a 3.16 ERA. 2013 will be very different for Lee with a repeat of 2011 likely on the way.
  • The Washington Nationals gave everyone a peak into just how talented their club is and will be in the coming years: Harper-Desmond-Morse-Espinosa-Zimmerman are an incredibly talented young hitting core, and Gio-Strasburg-Zimmerman make an impressive young core of a rotation to go with Soren and Clippard in the pen. I love Morse and Espinosa going into 2013 as draft bargains as the others always grab the headlines, and with Dan Haren in the fold now, 98 wins might be the starting point for WAS in 2013.
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Some News This Past Week from the NL:

  • Adam LaRoche and the Nationals continue to work on a contract for the first basemen after a career year at the age of 33. After winning his first golden glove and silver slugger awards LaRoche is looking for a three-year deal, the Nats are sticking with two years. As I have said before, I doubt LaRoche repeats his 2012 season again.
  • Mike Gonzalez signed a $2.25M deal with the Brewers to solidify their bullpen. With Axford and Jim Henderson already in place, Gonzalez will add a former setup/closer type arm if he can continue his decent form from 2012, on top of the other two signings in Gorzelanny and Badenhop. Fantasy-wise Gonzalez will have little to no value unless half the bullpen gets hurt and MIL still doesn’t have much of a rotation.
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Rants and Ramblings: 

The Houston Astros leave the NL Central and jump to the AL West in 2013 – odds are they will not fare any better as they are not very good to be nice, and TEX and LAA will duke it out for the top two spots. I suppose it is a good move for MLB, all divisions are now 5 teams and all that, but I don’t get it otherwise… but who really gets anything Bud the Spud does some days…

 

Top free agents still not signed – Michael Bourn, Rafael Soriano, Kyle Lohse…my gut tells me all land in the NL somehow, but who knows anymore!

 

And once again to everyone – after a great 2012, hopefully everyone has a happy and prosperous 2013!  Be safe and happy during your New Year’s Eve celebrations!

 

 

Catch me on twitter @CanuckHoppy

 


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