The Offseason

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring. — Rogers Hornsby

You have no doubt seen this quote before and likely quite recently in light of the 2011 season coming to an end.  I think I have seen it pop up in my Twitter feed at least 5-6 times in the last week.  I use it here because it is so fitting.  Sure, I like football a good bit and my Detroit Lions are actually giving me something to care about, too, but even still I am already looking forward to everything baseball-related that we get in the fall and winter months: Bill James Handbook being released, Hot Stove league of free agency and offseason trading, the Winter Meetings in December, the BaseballHQ.com Forecaster being sent out, MLB Network’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days and even the first appearance of fantasy baseball magazines on the bookshelves at Barnes & Nobles (RIP Borders *single tear*).  Perhaps my favorite offseason event of them all is coming up this week as I head out to Phoenix for the BaseballHQ.com First Pitch Forums and Arizona Fall League conference.

My month-plus hiatus between the regular ending and the World Series was fruitful and enjoyable.  I did log some research work for the offseason content here at Baseball by Paul, but mostly I tried to enjoy the time off and give my fingers a rest.  I followed my Tigers through a pair of thrilling playoff series which included a trip to Dallas to watch games 1 and 2 of ALCS with a couple of great friends.  Even though we lost both games, I don’t regret a single second of the trip.  The Dallas fans were a bit more hostile & rude than I anticipated (please don’t ever judge Texas/southern hospitality on a trip to Dallas), but all in all, it was a great time.  Speaking of the playoffs, that was perhaps one of the best sets of playoffs ever played with 38 of a possible 41 games being played, many of them nailbiters until the end.  Obviously I’d have preferred to see my Tigers in a rematch with the Cardinals for the World Series, but the Rangers/Cardinals matchup didn’t disappoint in the least.

The Hot Stove has already kicked off with some major moves of the front office variety taking place with the Red Sox, Cubs and Padres all getting new general managers while the Red Sox, Marlins and White Sox have already or will soon tab new field managers.  On the player movement front, we are seeing options being picked and declined including the CC Sabathia opt-out saga has already run its course from start to finish with he and Yankees agreeing on a new deal.  The biggest player news thus far has taken place in the AL Central with the trading of Derek Lowe to Cleveland for a minor leaguer and Minnesota acquiring Matt Maloney through waivers.  Lowe joins Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson atop the Indians rotation as they continue to play for the here and now after moving a significant chunk of their top level farm pieces for Jimenez during the summer.

Lowe may end up adding more off the field than on it, though, as he is a groundball-heavy, control artist who may find life difficult in Cleveland with Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis defending up the middle for him.  Lonnie Chisenhall, who plays third base, checked out a bit more favorably with his glove although both he and Kipnis have limited samples which can cause issues with the defensive metrics so we might not have a true idea of their talents until seeing them for at least a full season in the majors.  With Lowe, they will get plenty of chances to prove their worth.

Maloney, with a career walk rate of 1.9 in his 80 innings, seems tailor-made for Minnesota and their “walk-nobody ever or else…” pitching philosophy.  His 6.1 strikeout rate isn’t overly intimidating, but it is better than some of the control-only pitchers they have given large inning totals to in the past (I’m looking at you and your 4.8 K/9, Nick Blackburn).  He will have to battle for a role on the team, but it is an interesting pickup that could bear some fruit.

So that is a quick rundown of what we have seen in the very early stages of the offseason, but there is just so much more to come.  Look for regular posting to return starting next week when I am back from Phoenix including a preliminary Top X starting pitcher list.  I haven’t decided if I want to go 50 or 100 yet, thus it’s top X for now.  Also, I now have a set schedule over at RotoHardball.com that includes an afternoon post on Mondays geared toward AL-Only league topics and a morning piece on Thursdays focused on NL-Only league topics.  In other words, I am not focusing so much on the star levels of the player pool, rather often digging deeper as single leagues generally utilize more of each team’s 25-man roster than a standard mixed league.  Today, I wrote about Bartolo Colon and his outlook for 2012.

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