Le Baseball Prospectus est arrive! | Bleader

Le Baseball Prospectus est arrive!

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My old college chum Craig Batholomaus calls it "the best day of the year," noting, "Baseball Prospectus has arrived." I have higher hopes for the other 365 days of 2012, but I can't deny that it feels great to finally have a new edition of the one, essential guide to the upcoming baseball season in my hands.

Many have tried to fill the vacuum left behind by Bill James's old Baseball Abstracts of the 80s, but over time only BP has succeeded. It mixes mind-boggling stats-crunching with clever writing and a sassy attitude, and it cuts through the hype of the hot-stove league to determine just how optimistic fans should be about their teams.

On that note, like me, it's a bit more bullish on the White Sox than the Cubs, but not without provisos. The Sox have "the AL's best pitching staff" and "enough talent on hand to put them on the edge of contention should everything break the club's way," yet the uncertain comebacks of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham, and Jake Peavy make for "a lot of wishes, and they're not likely to all come true, meaning things are likely to get worse before they get better."

Yet it points to how both Brent Morel and Dayan Viciedo improved their hitting with better plate discipline (it's no accident that Morel's eight September homers came while drawing 15 walks, after walking just seven times all season before that), meaning that they're likely sustainable and not mirages. Likewise, the departure of Juan Pierre and Carlos Quentin, who along with the sleepwalking Rios helped create "an outfield filled with George Romero film extras," should improve the pitching, even if Viciedo, now slated for left field, "reads fly balls at a Kittle-garden level." (Ouch, not even James was devoted to puns that groan-inducing.)

As for the Cubs, BP suggests if new manager Dale Sveum "finishes anywhere near .500 in his first season in Chicago, there's a fair chance the Vatican will recognize it as a miracle," adding, "Because there are so few stars (or even potential stars) already in place, Cubs fans expecting (Theo) Epstein to repeat the quick success he had in Boston are likely to be disappointed." It also mentions how "it would be difficult to come up with more favorable conditions than what Epstein inherits in Chicago," precisely because the team's lack of star-quality talent mixed with its prodigious off-field resources give him carte blanche to make "the massive changes that appear to be on the horizon."

And as for immediate star quality, BP says to cut shortstop Starlin Castro some slack, reminding fans, "it would take a long memory indeed to recall the last time the Cubs had a position player show anywhere near this level of promise for future greatness."

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