Season Preview: Panda Molesters

By Ryan A. Gold
Wahoo! Sports

Woohoo! Threepete! Yeah, bitches! Threepete! Woohoo! Welcome to my 2010 Panda MoLesters blog!!!! This blog is going to be a kick ass place where you can come all season and get you’re PML updates, keeping you up to date on a sure fire take it to you local S&L lock on yet another championship for the D&B dominators. Check often because Im gong to update this shit like two…three times a day. Except I do kind of have to work a bunch the next couple of weeks. And I have dinner at my Moms on Sunday, so I don’t know about that. Maybe not twice a day, but I am super fired up for this…

Ok, ok, it’s a cheap shot I admit, but as everybody knows the only thing worse than a guy who talks smack is a guy who talks smack and backs it up. Running championships constitute backing it up, and if the two-in-a-row guy says he’s going to win a third, who am I to argue? If memory serves, though, neither year featured a regular season title, and winning the FBB playoffs is a little like getting lucky on the river and handing the other guy a bad beat (first of two poker terms references to be featured).

You might have heard me talk in the past about one of my favorite topics: the difference between strategy and tactics. If you missed it, here’s a review. The best way to think about strategy and tactics is in chess terms. Strategy is high level thinking along the lines of, “I want to get my rooks on open files, I want to attack this defense queenside, I’m concerned about my pawn structure.” Tactics on the other hand go something like this: “If I go there then he goes there then I go there then he goes there” as far out as you brain can handle the permutations. One of the greatest of all chess masters (my dad named our dog after this guy when I was a kid), Emanuel Lasker once said that chess is basically 99% tactics but strategy gets all the ink. I bring this up because Mike has been the tactical genius of our little club here.

Tactics get a bad name in FBB because those not in the know will spin it as the guy who spends too much time on it, or the guy who cares too much. False. The tactical advantage flows from the ability to read opponents, to make adjustments, to exploit opponent weaknesses and to defend against opponent strengths. Mike has shown the ability to do all these things and that’s not about being a geek, it’s about being smart.

Take the beginning of this year for an example. The Providence Sox publicly admit to being on tilt (poker term 2) and Mike spots it, generates a trade proposal that dangles a big name local guy for the Sox (Victor Martinez) and basically acquires multi-category juggernaut Werth plus breakout candidate Matt Wieters as a replacement for Martinez. And if that wasn’t enough he also unloaded Kevin Gregg, who lost his closer’s job before the Jays broke camp, and added a very decent pitcher for a slightly better team in Chad Qualls. Nice work indeed.

The MoLesters are going to be active on the waiver wire all year. How active you ask? Hello Chris Davis, 7:54 EDT opening day. Goodbye Chris Davis exactly 4 hours and 3 minutes later. If anybody is going to beat this team, they’re going to have to pay attention. So let’s see if we can find any vulnerabilities on what appears on the surface to be another deep and talented team.

Sandoval, Wright, Kemp, Lind and Werth are all fantasy powerhouses and they will do the bulk of the work offensively. There is some BA risk here, with Ian Stewart, Elvis Andrus and Jason Werth all potentially dragging the number down. Andrus also made 22 errors last year and though he should improve, Stewart, Sandoval and Wright will kick a few as well. One of the strengths will be the availability of several multi-category box score stuffers, including Werth who hit 36 HRs and stole 20 bags, Kemp 26/34, Wright 10/27 (and sure to improve the HR numbers) and Alex Rios 17/24 and a new park in Chicago for a full season. This team will need those multi-dimensional players as the bench is not deep, with just one bench player on the offensive side. That will be something to watch as the rosters evolve, especially if there are any injuries late in the year when the waivers look like slim pickings.

The pitching staff here is intriguing. I love both Jon Lester and super soph Brett Anderson. I think both will be top 10 Cy Young finishers with Lester an early favorite to win it. Hamels, also picked up in a pre-season trade, has the motivation, the new mentor and the new cutter to put together the season most think he’s capable of. The Duke is my pick for comeback pitcher of the year and, when right, he’s a WHIP monster and a two time all-star. I’m not in love with the pen after Broxton. Gregerson is probably behind Bell and Adams for a team that may only win 70 games. Qualls is unhearlded by far from a lock. Rhodes has the history, but Nick Masset is probably the better pitcher in the Reds pen and Feliz is showing early signs of a major second season jinx. If the Pandas have an Achilles heel, it would have to be here.

This team will be there to the end; they will be a playoff team and a danger throughout. They would be my pick to win the regular season title this year. Luck has a way of evening out, however. I’m not a superstitious man, but somehow calling your shots seems to have a way of boomeranging back on you. As a wise man once said, pride goeth before a fall.

Prediction: The run stops at back to back.

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