Friday, December 9, 2011

Matt Moore: The Pre-Arb Contract Extension and Brett Lawrie

Every team in baseball should do this. Today, the Tampa Bay Rays announced they had locked up Matt Moore through at least 2016 at $14M, with three club options tacked on the end.

Why do players sign these types of deals? Sure, they get the pleasure of a guaranteed multi-million dollar deal, but they also forgo the chance to earn hundreds of millions of dollars as soon as their six years are up. Moore is a pitcher, which increases his chance of injury of failure to make adjustments, either fate of which many top pitching prospects have fallen to in recent years, notably Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Homer Bailey, and to a point, Edwin Jackson.

It's one thing to follow what Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, and recently Matt Kemp have done, and another altogether to sign a player with a next-to-nothing amount of Major League service.

Deals of this kind operation under the assumption that if the player doesn't perform anywhere near expectations, the team will be saddled with a dead-weight contract. But, what kind of standards does Moore have to play to to live up to his salary? The answer: very low ones. Using my number of $2.4M per WAR (as Moore did not sign the contract before a full market), Moore will have to produce 5.8 wins. He could easily do that in 2012-2013 combined, if the Rays plan on giving him a starting gig right away.
I suppose the player's willingness to sign this type of contract depends on the individual player, but the Toronto Blue Jays need to sign Brett Lawrie to a similar contract, and soon. Sure, they probably won't have any problem retaining him if they wait a few years and using the Ryan Braun template, but this is about the reward of saving a ton of money at a disproportionate risk.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Word About Building an Effective Bullpen

Jonny Venters used his fastball-slider
combo to one baseball's best reliever seasons.
How did the Braves build such a dominant 'pen?
As detailed in BTTN's previous post, market value figures (~$4.5-5M/WAR) shouldn't be used to evaluate a player's value to his team in money, as while the going rate for free agents, a large amount of player's aren't playing under a Free Agent contract, and thus all players should simply be valued by the approximate $2.4M per WAR figure derived.

Relievers, I've realized, make the value system even more complicated. Teams suggest that they don't impulsively act by advanced metrics, and have strong decision-making ability within their front offices - yet we continue to see free agent relievers get paid based on the WAR-values they accumulate. So far this offseason, we've seen Heath Bell and Jonathan Papelbon get contracts that guarantee themselves $77M in the coming years, with others such as K-Rod, figuring to get similar astronomical amounts.

Yes, certain relievers, after inputting the 'Leverage Index' values into their WAR's (which determine the amount of leverage the relievers pitched in, and therefore can make a more accurate determination to their win-values), seem to be even 2-3 win-players. Craig Kimbrel's historically dominant season, even with his stumbles at the end of September, which can be strictly blamed on overuse, is valued by Fangraphs at 3.2 WAR. And yes, he was certainly worth 3.2 more wins than a scrub reliever available for the minimum (Wil Ledezma?).

But the thing is,finding dominant relievers can be much, much cheaper to do than to spend the big cash, and certainly much more easy than finding studs at any position. Two teams in recent years, have not only built up great bullpens, but have also solved the secrets of baseball's most misunderstood identity - by the media, fans, and even the players themselves.

First, the Atlanta Braves of course had a historically strong bullpen in 2011, one highlighted by perhaps the most dominant trio in Major League history - Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters, and Eric O'Flaherty. Of course, none of these relievers (or any others on the Braves) are making any money at all, and that's due to their organizational philosophy towards the bullpen. The Braves have drafted (and signed in Latin America) various starters in recent years pitchers that may have potential to start, yet have strong pedigrees if forced to relieve. High-upside arms with fallback options. In short, your bullpen should truly be filled with young players that have failed as starters. Venters and O'Flaherty both started their minor league careers as starters, but the Braves pulled the plug on both experiments as they struggled. 

This is a fact that has seemed a simple truism yet hasn't been utilized with any consistency as the closer role becomes more and more prolific as we enter deeper into the information age. Teams want to spend money on closers, figuring that, the position deserves the attention to detail that fans feel it deserves.

Many teams shy away from these types of players, preferring to stay away from youngsters they believe don't have a high chance of remaining as starters, yet these are many of the same teams that spend oodles of cash in Free Agency on relievers. It just doesn't add up. The Detroit Tigers have historically been one of these teams, signing both Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit to high-priced deals in recent offseason, and may have learnt their lesson as a no-name grabbed off the scrap heap, Al Alburquerque (sic) had one of the American League's best relief seasons to no expectations whatsoever.

These no-name arms with relief upside are all over the place, with the Tampa Bay Rays having mastered the art of finding them. By signing Kyle Farnsworth, Joel Peralta, Juan Cruz, and others, the Rays overcame great adversity after losing many of their 2010 bullpen cogs to other teams. 

Even drafting pure relievers is a fairly cost-efficient strategy. Drew Storen of the Nationals and Chris Sale of the White Sox have proven that they can be extremely effective relievers to a fraction of the cost of Free Agent options. Sure, drafting a guy like Storen costs a draft pick, but he's likely to pitch just as effectively as Jonathan Papelbon over the next half-decade, and to markedly less than his counterpart.

That teams will pay tens of millions of dollars without considering the eventual source of these relievers is incredible. Simply by understanding how the full system works can save a team tens of millions a year on their bullpen, and even improve the effectiveness of their 'pen.

Please leave a comment!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Should Value Be Measured Monetarily?

Slapping dollar values on a particular player's performance is generally done by multiplying his WAR for the season by about $5M, the current market value teams pay for a single win above replacement.

Yet, an overwhelming amount of Major Leaguers are not operating on contracts obtained through Free Agency. Using the aforementioned methodology certainly has its uses: Without getting into salary inflation, and his decline into the latter years of a long-term deal, Prince Fielder can be expected to be a 5-win player for 2012 and therefore worth $25M.

Just as WAR can't be used in all situations (Even statheads will admit that MVP races shouldn't be entirely defined by WAR, neither should Hall of Fame balloting), and of course, WAR is far from perfect (defensive metrics need a ton of work in general, and are very poor in small samples), neither should this way to calculate a dollar value to a player.

My point is that, the Major Leagues spent $2,786,161,291 on 2011 Opening Day salaries, and used that money to generate a total of 1163.6 WAR (Fangraphs version), or $2,394,432.19 per single win above replacement. I believe this number should be referenced when describing a player's value to a team in dollars, while Free Agent contracts should be evaluated based on the market figure of $5M.

Jose Bautista was therefore worth $19,873,787.18 in 2011, in his last year of arbitration eligibility. This is roughly half of Fangraphs' calculated value of $37.4M, yet represents the true value Bautista would have had to any team.

If you think evaluating players based on this principle is a fair point (or otherwise), please leave a comment!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bleachers to the North is Back! And Rebranded!

Bleachers to the North could no longer support multiple sports, and had been largely driven by myself anyway, a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan with a nose for statistical analysis.

So I thought, why not just re-brand as purely a baseball blog, providing content on the Blue Jays and the rest of MLB, with a focus on sabermetrics? And thus, an idea was born, albeit not a very unique one, and hence I will work towards producing articles with a different edge to them than that of the dozens (hundreds?) of other blogs out there.

As before, commentary on my ideas/analysis is much appreciated, as sports are intended to be discussed to no end.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reaction To ESPN's Franchise Player Draft; BTTN's Own Franchise Player Draft

Longoria's contract, bat, and sparkling defense
make him a player any team would covet
Yesterday, ESPN had 30 of its baseball employees take part in a one-round and as frustrating as the criteria were (Keith Law, selecting Longoria, clearly believes contracts should factor into the drafting, while Joe Mauer-love Jim Caple clearly does not), some of the selections were much more boggling.

I mean, it is ridiculous to think that Neftali Feliz, Wilson Ramos, and Buster Posey were actually drafted. Feliz could very well turn into a plus-starter, and Ramos could be a 4 WAR catcher, but none of them come close to Andrew McCutchen, Jay Bruce, or even Josh Hamilton

It is unthinkable that Jay Bruce was nowhere to be seen. David Shoenfield was quoted as saying 

"Bruce is good, but let's not get carried because he just had the best month of his career. He's been great for one month ... he may be great for many more months, but he hasn't proven that yet." But Jay Bruce was Baseball America's top prospect (yes, #1 overall) in 2008, and has had some solid major league seasons since. The second he shows elite production, Jay Bruce should be vaulted to the top of franchise player rankings the world over.

Among other clear gaffes (decisions that are practically undefendable) are Amy K. Nelson's selection of Tim Lincecum at 5th overall, and Justin Upton falling to 29th. Lincecum's arm is, of course, going to fall off one of these years, perhaps after his changeup becomes ineffective due to his rapidly declining fastball velocity. Whine about Upton all you want, but the kid's a stud, and is well on his way to a 5 WAR season in 2011. I don't care about how much hype a prospect gets, you really can't be disappointed in a 4.8 WAR season at age 21, and a 5 WAR season at age 23. 

Thus, we at BTTN elected to carry out our own draft of any player in baseball, contracts (and any other real-life variables) considered. Team identities will follow the order of the 4th-50th rounds of the 2011 MLB draft, which would also be the first few rounds if compensatory selections were not awarded.

1. Pittsburgh Pirates: Evan Longoria, 3B
Longoria has easily the most favourable team contract in baseball, if not all pro sports, in addition to already being an elite performer at third base with room for a bit more growth.
2. Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez, SP
Why not? King Felix is a great fit for their ballpark, has a favourable contract, and is already one of the best pitchers in the game. A natural and easy selection.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks: Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Colorado's rival Arizona ends up selecting the franchise shortstop. Tulo has a lengthy contract that, let's face it, could turn into an albatross if Tulowitzki injuries keep piling up, but he's the best all-around shortstop in baseball at the moment for good reason. 
4. Baltimore Orioles: Jason Heyward, OF
Playing in the AL East, Baltimore needs a bona-fide superstar and boy, is Heyward that type of player. Displaying all five tools as well as the most-important trait that isn't one, patience, Heyward should provide the framework to the Orioles team for years to come.
5. Kansas City Royals: Justin Verlander, SP  
Verlander is your classic workhorse. He may not have a history of sub-3.00 ERA seasons, but he's the real deal. 
6. Washington Nationals: Jay Bruce, SP
Jay Bruce is ready to have a 40-homer season right now. Former #1 prospect in the game by Baseball America, he's ready to take that next step and become MLB's next superstar.
7. Cleveland Indians: Joey Votto, 1B
Nothing team-specific to point out here, Votto is the type of bat that can drive an entire team, and is a plus defender at first.
8. Chicago Cubs: Bryce Harper, OF
The Cubs will need to put together some serious talent to break their 100+ year streak, and Harper is the way to go.
9. Houston Astros: Robinson Cano, 2B
Second base is becoming one of those position where elite talent is hard to find. The Astros, like the Nationals, have the cash to pay Cano his favourable contract that runs through 2013.
10. Milwaukee Brewers: Mike Stanton, OF
Mike Stanton has probably the most raw power of any player in the Majors currently. With a bit more seasoning, he's likely to be good for 40+ home runs annually while not killing you in average or on-base.
11. New York Mets: David Price, SP
David Price is a franchise pitcher and being mechanically sound is fit to warrant this early selection, avoiding the notion that due to health concerns, position players are eternally more valuable than pitchers.
12. Florida Marlins: Mike Trout, OF
Mike Trout is a perfect fit for the Marlins. A great player development team, the Marlins won't be fazed by Trout's relative inexperience.
13. Los Angeles Dodgers: Hanley Ramirez, SS
Hanley may be having a sub-par 2011 (a pitiful 72 wRC+) but it's hard to overlook his fantastic past success.
14. Los Angels Angels: Justin Upton, OF
The Angels have trouble developing power in their prospects as Upton naturally falls to them.
15. Oakland Athletics: Jon Lester, SP
Lester is a great fit for the A's ideals, ballpark, and cost considerations. 

Stay tuned for the second half of the first round, to be released on BTTN in a few days!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Brett Lawrie Hysterics In Full Force

As you probably already know, Brett Lawrie has been rumoured to be earning the call this Friday (via signs from both team employees and armchair conspiracy theorists alike) for the Blue Jays first game against the Baltimore Orioles.

The only doubt at this point is whether or not his recent hand-mashing against Tucson will push back his Major League debut a few days. Incidentally, in the game, fellow 51s took the blow to Lawrie as seriously as most diehard fans such as myself, as Lawrie's top prosect counterpart Anthony Rizzo was blasted by a heater during his very next plate appearance and left the game as well. 

Let's hope this chain of events will lead Major League Baseball to assign San Diego as the Blue Jays interleague 'rival', instead of the perennial powerhouse Phillies, starting in 2012.

Nonethless, what could Brett Lawrie do for Toronto this year? Will he have a Ryan Braun-like impact or take a few years to adjust to Major League breaking balls? Rookie of the Year or Bust of the 2008 Draft (interestingly enough, only Kyle Skipworth and Ethan Martin are among players drafted ahead of Lawrie's 16 that can be assigned as likely busts).

There's certainly no stead-fast way to tell; This instance of seeing how minor leaguers adjust to the majors can't definitively be predicted statistically. With his fast-improving approach and smart baserunning skills, I think he has the tools to make adjustments as necessary. But we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fast Track To Contention - Blue Jays Best-Case Scenario Through 2012

Brett Lawrie represents a huge part of the Blue Jays future,
but what could that future potentially hold?
Now that the first month-plus of the 2011 Major League Baseball season is in the books, Blue Jays fans have grown to realize that, while this year's team could certainly win 85 games again, they probably won't be competing for a playoff spot. Blue Jays management is likely more focused on player development this season than contention in the standings.

We all know the Blue Jays are in for a serious roster re-working in the not-so-distant future, but what exactly does that entail, and what will happen in everything goes as planned? In this post, I will outline the ideal scenario for the Blue Jays in 2011 and beyond.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Programming Notice

BTTN apologize for infrequent posting over the past couple weeks and wish to inform you that over the next few months, Bleachers to the North will almost exclusively cover baseball. This will include well-thought out posts as well rumblings that follow significant on-field events.

Soon to be released is a best-case scenario post about the Blue Jays future, including 2011 and beyond.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blue Jays Notes: Jays Playing Great Despite .500 Record, Positive Signs Emerge

JP Arencibia has had a lot to smile about in 2011
Complain all you want about Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, but hey, it is a small sample size, and well, the rest of the team has been playing so well that we should focus on the positives.

I've always though of J.P. Arencibia as more of short-term filler until D'Arnaud and Perez reach the majors, but he's really impressed in every opportunity he's gotten this season and has a shot at Rookie of the Year if he gets enough work. And he should certainly get more work, I understand that Jose Molina is some sort of gamecalling savant but really, if 2011 truly is about 2012 and beyond, Arencibia should be playing five days a week at least.

The pitching staff has also vastly impressed me, as the Jays currently are 7th in the majors in ERA and at 3.07 are easily better than one would expect the end-of-season #1 team to finish with. Top to bottom, the rotation has been great, so who will vacate a position when Brandon Morrow comes back?

To me, it all depends on everyone's next start. If Brett Cecil gets rocked tonight against Boston (game currently scoreless), he may be called down until he velocity eclipses 90. Meanwhile, if Jo-Jo Reyes pitches poorly in his next start, he will almost certainly be waived/traded.

While the bullpen has pitched well statistically, they haven't done well in clutch situations, which will almost certainly even out over a larger sample.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Could Kyle Drabek Win AL Rookie of the Year?

Kyle Drabek has a lot of things going for him in the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year race.

Firstly, he obviously has the talent to put up a sub-3.80 ERA with a respectable amount of strikeouts. Secondly, he's going to pitch the whole season, the Blue Jays will not be limiting his innings unless he really pushes the envelope and hits 210 in mid-September.

To date, his detractors have said that he's not 'ace'-caliber and while he could very well end up as a dependable workhorse over the next decade, he's never going to strike out guys at elite level or put up a sub-3.00. 

Yet, after adding a lethal cutter (small sample size, but according to Fangraphs, the cutter has earned 2.7 wCT in his two starts, making it the second-best cutter in baseball so far), I think he's in for a serious re-evaluation. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Raptors Report Week 22: Jose Calderon on the Way Out?

This article is by Sachin Arora, who also is the main contributor of, a new Raptors fan-blog.
Mike Cassese/REUTERS
The Raptors finally snapped their losing streak against the Orlando Magic, and Jarryd Bayless was one of the main reasons why.
Once again, Bayless has sparked a point guard controversy. For some reason, the young point guard only seems to play well when Jose Calderon is out of the line-up and Bayless is in the starting line-up.
The reason for this is probably because Bayless is very potent, but when he’s coming off the bench he feels urged to force his offense because he needs to earn his minutes. When he’s starting he plays much more relaxed, and is in much more control.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

MLB Season Opens: 2011 BTTN Predictions For Everything Important

We love Francisco Liriano for 2011, enough
to finish 2nd in AL Cy Young voting
Yes, the weather may not show it in Toronto and some northern US cities, but baseball has started, and all 30 teams will have kicked off their season by late-night tomorrow.

The Jays of course are playing the Twins in a Fri-Sat-Sun series (7:07 pm Friday) that starts their season, while 12 teams are in action today.

Without further ado, here are BTTN's 2011 MLB Predictions:

American League

AL East
1. Red Sox 96-66
2. Yankees 88-74*
3. Rays 86-76
4. Blue Jays 85-77
5. Orioles 79-83

Comments: This year's AL East is one of the strongest single-season divisions in recent history. I have faith in projecting four teams to finish over-.500 and perhaps five if Baltimore can continue to play well under Buck Showalter. I think the Yankees pitching staff is mildly underrated, AJ Burnett should bounce-back with at least a 4.40 ERA, and Ivan Nova should be good enough to be at least a league-average starter.

The Red Sox are clearly baseball's best team, with a deep staff and great lineup.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Raptors Report Week 21: Andrea Bargnani on the Trading Block?

Julian Wright was fantastic in college, but needs
to realize he's not 'the guy' for the Raptors.

This was arguably the worst week of the season for the Raptors, and many problems were risen in the locker room.
Julian Wright complained to Jay Triano when he was given playing time in the garbage minutes, and refused to enter the game. After the game Wright, or “Ju-Ju” as Reggie Evans would say, apologized and realized that his actions were wrong. The chemistry in the locker room still appears strong as the season comes to the end, and this will be a key to the teams success next season.
There has also been a report that the Raptors are now willing to trade Andrea Bargnani, and are looking to build the team around DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis. 
Bargnani apparently has very large market value, and if the Raptors can get a nice piece for him and pick of a true center, it could be time to part ways with Bargnani in the offseason.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs Keep Pace in the Eastern Conference, Remain Five Points Out

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
"Optimus Reim" is the primary reason that the Leafs are still in the hunt
The Toronto Maple Leafs, after a win in Minnesota last night, still find themselves five points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and while time is growing short with only eight games left for the team in the regular season, they aren't out of it yet.

The New Jersey Devils and Atlanta Thrashers are doing their part to help the Leafs. It appears, however, that the Sabres and Hurricanes simply refuse to lose.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 Blue Jays Preview: Will Aaron Hill and Adam Lind Bounce-Back?

REUTERS/Mike Cassese
To a degree.

Hill and Lind both had seasons in 2010 that were as strange as they were putrid. Aaron Hill managed a historic .196 BABIP, while Adam Lind countered with the most futile left-handed split in recent memory (.117/.159/.182, .341 OPS).

Some think we can just write off those seasons, as the statistics don't make any sense, and expect Lind and Hill to fully return to 2009 numbers. Hill's BB and K numbers were normal and Adam Lind's peripherals were close to his career norms after all, right?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs Colby Armstrong Out for Season, Giguere to Start

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

James Reimer had an off night, to say the least, against the Lightning. After being arguably the biggest reason that the Toronto Maple Leafs are in a playoff race at all for the better part of two months, "Optimus Reim" has every right to be tired.
Just don't tell him that.
When asked if his fatigue was an issue while giving up five goals in just 29 shots, Reimer said that although he could use fatigue as an excuse, he won't. "Even if that was the case," Reimer said, "I'm a professional athlete and you have to find ways to stay focused and keep your head in the game and keep your body at a competitive level.''

Saturday, March 12, 2011

2011 Blue Jays Preview: Will Brandon Morrow Ascend to 'Ace' Status in 2011?

This article is the first in a series of individual player outlooks for the 2011 MLB season.

After losing Vernon Wells and Shaun Marcum, Blue Jays fans aplenty began writing off Toronto's 2011 season. Add in the fact that Jose Bautista is due for some sort of decline... and suddenly it's difficult to imagine the Blue Jays winning more than 83 or 84 games.

Yet I believe the team will better their 2010 record. Not only will Adam Lind and Aaron Hill surely improve to closer to their career norms, (I mean, they were both among the unluckiest players in the Majors last year) but the rotation is likely to overcome the loss of Shaun Marcum as Ricky Romero and Brett Cecil look to keep getting better, and of course, Brandon Morrow could have the ace-like season everyone expects of him. Brandon Morrow looks to be the unheralded key to the Blue Jays 2011 campaign.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blue Jays Sign Francisco Tejada Out of Dominican; My Take on Upcoming CBA Talking Points

Today, the Blue Jays announced they have signed 17-year old oufielder Francisco Tejada for $150K out of the Dominican Republic. Nobody knows anything about him, other than that he supposedly possesses a high ceiling.

Which is great. And it reminds me that these international signings may not be possible just a year from now.

There are a lot of pressing issues that surround talks about the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, and none more than the idea of a worldwide draft (and please refrain from referring to it as an 'international' draft, we already have one of those).

On the surface, it looks like a dandy plan. All of the inhumane practices currently done by MLB teams to heavily recruit Latin America, and the chaotic structure would be abolished. All teams would have a fair shake at the top latin prospects, not just the teams with enough money to build enormous academies and pay their toolsy students mounds of dough.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Toronto Raptors Report Week 18: The Raps Pull a Dud on National TV

In perhaps one of the most anticipated games of the season, the Raptors couldn't pull out a win in London, England vs. the New Jersey Nets in the only two games nationally broadcasted for the Raptors.
Will Andrea Bargnani ever improve his rebound rate
to become a dependable 20-10 player?

This certainly won't help the American stereotype of the Raptors as a crappy, bottom feeding team who is in the same boat as the Cleveland Cavaliers. 
Another point I will bring up is Andrea Bargnani's rebounding issues. Bargnani was recently interviewed by an Italian television station and was asked about his rebounding woes. Guess what he said.

"I play basketball, not rebound-ball."

Wow. Great attitude, Andrea. That's certainly the way to improve your rebounding. Bargnani also went on about how he's sometimes lazy and focuses more on offense.

This isn't news to us as Raptor fans, but it's of even more significance now that the matter is coming from the horse's mouth.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs Looking Like Playoff Contenders Down the Stretch

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

The Toronto Maple Leafs climbed to within three points of the eighth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes and within one point of the ninth-seeded Buffalo Sabres with an impressive win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Philadelphia last night.
A lot is being said of the Leafs' current success that has seen them go a combined 16-8-5 since the turn of the year and a run of 6-1-3 in their last 10 games.

One of the biggest secrets to the team's success as of late has to be the emergence of Phil Kessel. The Leafs forward has exhibited a great deal of "truculence" in regard to his style of play than he has at almost any time in his career to date.

He's even throwing the odd check.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs in the Eye of a 'Hurricane' As They Host Pittsburgh Penguins

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.

After a flurry of moves in the past couple weeks, do
the Maple Leafs have the firepower to keep winning?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL since the All-Star break, and while they aren't in the New Jersey category in the last 10 games of nine wins and one loss, going 5-1-4 is pretty good too.
All of the negativity surrounding the Leafs seems to have evaporated. No one thinks Phil Kessel is a bum, the calls for Ron Wilson's head are little more than a distant memory and Brian Burke is once again firmly ensconced in the upper echelon of NHL general managers and appears to have known what he was doing all along.
It's true—winning cures everything.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Grapefruit League Action Begins! What To Look for In Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training

Sure, it has been a week or so since most of the Blue Jays players first arrived for workouts in Florida, but today is the first day of their Grapefruit League schedule.
Can Jesse Litsch re-find the success he enjoyed in 2008?

The Jays are busy taking on the Detroit Tigers in Dunedin (started at 1:05 pm), and there are certainly tons of storylines to look out for. I believe most of the games are only available on the Fan590, so break out and tune your radios (games not available streamed online, but there are various ways to get around that).

Here are five things to look out for in Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke Is Done Selling, Looking for Defense?

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
According to an article yesterday by Globe columnist James Mirtle, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is done selling, but that doesn't mean he's done dealing.

The Leafs GM is looking for help on the blue line.

Just days after dealing long-time Leaf defenseman Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins for their first-round pick in this year's draft, a prospect and a conditional second rounder, Brian Burke has stated publicly that he is looking for a defenseman.


Monday, February 21, 2011

NBA All Star Weekend: DeMar DeRozan Robbed Once Again of Dunk Contest Title

DeMar DeRozan tweeted "No more dunk contests for me unless it's in Toronto!" after last nights affairs and rightfully so. If I were DeMar and they asked me to dunk next year, I would hastily tell them off.
The dunk contest has become a popularity contest, and it served no justice for the raw talent of dunks that DeRozan performed at the Staples Center.
Blake Griffin and Javale McGee edged Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan in the first round, and Griffin ended up beating McGee in the finals as you could have guessed.

Now, there are a few things I would like to address. For starters, there was no way Griffin deserved to be in that final. Now hey, I'm not jumping to any conclusions that the judges were bias or anything, but the fact that Griffin edged DeRozan by a mere one point puzzles me.
Now I won't lie, Griffin's first dunk was impressive and got the score that it deserved.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

BTTN 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy Guide

If you have the #1 pick you're taking Albert Pujols.
But in an auction draft spending $40 on a guy that plays
an obscenely deep position isn't good use of your cash. 
Yes baseball fans, it's that time of year again. Spring Training workouts have already begun and later this month both Cactus and Grapefruit League action will commence. Similarly, baseball fanatics spend Spring Training (some traditionalists even draft a week after Opening Day) studying up for the fantasy season.

To guide you through your fantasy draft, we at BTTN have assembled our 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Strategy Guide. On Wednesday, our Top 200 player rankings were released, which can be found here.

Type of Draft
Does your league just draft players out of a pre-determined order, or is it an auction? I'd recommend the auction-format, it's way more fun and frankly, more just. Every owner has a chance at every player. It's basic supply & demand fundamentals. That said, most of these strategies/things to look out apply for any type of draft.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nikolai Kulemin: The Complete Leaf

Nikolai Kulemin has flown under-the-radar in becoming
a key player for Toronto this season

This article is by Eric Warren. Eric is also a frequent contributer to Bleacher Report.
The Toronto Maple Leafs Nikolai Kulemin may in fact be one of the most complete players currently slapping a stick across any NHL ice surface.
There are a number of other players in the NHL who play a complete game. Players who score, set up their team mates, don't take mindless penalties and are responsible for the most part defensively.
Players like Sidney Crosby, Henrik Zetterberg, Rick Nash, Jeff Carter and Ray Whitney just to name a few, have all earned the respect of their peers and the adoration of their fans as being great all around type players.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Breaking News: Bautista, Blue Jays, Close to 5-Year, $65MM Extension

Enrique Rojas (ESPN Deportes baseball newsbreaker extraordinaire) has reported that Jose Bautista and the Toronto Blue Jays are closing in on a 5-year, $65 million extension that will keep the MLB home run champ in Toronto through 2015.

It's more than worth it.

As I posted almost a month ago, even if Bautista undergoes a Brady Anderson-like decline, he'd still be worth $13MM a season.

People know Jose Bautista broke out big-time in 2010, but the full-extent of his gargantuan season sometimes gets lost: he was a 6.9 WAR player. That's worth $27.8MM according to Fangraphs. It wasn't just a historic season as far as breakouts go, it was a historic batting season period and Bautista's .357 Isolated Power can attest to that. 

A 167 wRC+ and .422 wOBA... incredible statistics for any player in era.

Even if Bautista continues his world-beating, home run-smashing ways for just three season and then falls off the face of the Earth, this contract will be more than justified. 

Weigh-In Wednesday: Podsednik, Versteeg, Bautista, Armstrong

Every Wednesday from today onward, BTTN will publish 'Weigh-In Wednesday', which will feature links to other interesting sports articles from across the blogosphere.

- Getting Blanked and Bluebird Banter both break down the Jays recent signing of  Scott Podsednik and wonder if he's even an upgrade over Corey Patterson.

- I was happy after the recent Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia trade that the Maple Leafs made recently, but Bitter Leaf Fan argues that it heavily favoured the Flyers.

- Paul Swydan proves on Fangraphs that it's impossible to find comparables to Jose Bautista, which adds to the intrigue of his looming arbitration case/extension announcement.

- The Slapshot wonders if Colby Amstrong will be the next Maple Leaf traded and provides fantastic insight while doing so.

2011 BTTN Fantasy Baseball Player Rankings – Top 200

These rankings are based on a scoring system of either 4x4, 5x5, or an H2H scoring system that uses roto categories. On Friday (Feb. 18, '11), BTTN will release our fantasy strategy and draft guide, which in tandem with these rankings make up the 2011 BTTN Fantasy Baseball Preview.

Players in italics are our super-sleepers for 2011 (meaning they have big breakout potential), while underlined names are players we feel have a big enough bust factor that we discourage you from drafting them.

1.     Albert Pujols, 1B (St. Louis Cardinals)
Yes, First base is incredibly deep, but it’s hard to argue for anyone else at No. 1. Expect him to have a huge year in an attempt to land his proposed $300MM contract.
2.     Hanley Ramirez, SS (Florida Marlins)
Had a down year in 2010, but is still the best shortstop in the game and position scarcity at the position warrants him this ranking.
3.     Miguel Cabrera, 1B (Detroit Tigers)
Four category superstar, there’s no reason to expect him not to continue raking in 2011.
4.     Evan Longoria, 3B (Tampa Bay Rays)
Longoria’s regression in 2010 has been largely overlooked, but I sense a rebound… who wouldn’t when that kind of talent is on the table?
5.     Troy Tulowitzki, SS (Colorado Rockies)
Yes, there’s the injury-risk, but if Tulowitzki plays 150 games, watch out for a .310/30/100 season, with 100 runs and 20 stolen base potential. Scary.