Tuesday, November 22, 2005

« Master of our domain »

By Suss
Enough of this silly blogspot URL. We've got a real address:
Start usin' it, and spread the word. This blogspot is officially done.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

« Oh, snap! Miami U. commits record 3 safeties »

By Suss
OXFORD, Ohio — After Tuesday night's game against Bowling Green State University, Dave McClain knows what he'll be doing during practice for the next week: throwing the ball between his legs.

McClain, the long snapper for the Miami University Redhawks, misfired on four of the team's seven punt attempts as they sailed over the head of punter Jacob Richardson. Two of those errant snaps went through the end zone for a safety, one was face-high and mishandled by Richardson for another safety, and the fourth bad'un tricked backwards 41 yards.

  • Losses by virtue of high punt snaps: 105 yards, 6 points

  • Net yardage accrued by virtue of successful punts: 95 yards

The three safeties tied an NCAA record for most safeties scored by one team, the other times being:
  • 1996, when Arizona State University (with current Denver Broncos QB Jake Plummer) conquered University of Nebraska (with current Green Bay Packers RB Ahman Green) by a 16-0 score

  • 2003 when University of North Texas defeated University of Louisiana-Lafayette 44-23. But Tuesday night was the first time that three safeties were logged in one half
The first bad snap was most likely a direct result of the harsh weather conditions. The game was delayed more than two hours due to reported lightning strikes and potential tornado weather.

(Oh, by the way Miami lost to BG 42-14.)

Miami quarterback Josh Betts didn't have such a hot day either, finishing the night 17-for-37 with 258 yards and two touchdowns while getting sacked 4 times for 34 yards and throwing a career-worst 5 interceptions.

BG win adds more drama to upcoming rivalry game

The Bowling Green Falcons, now at 5-2 in the MAC East division, is now in first place and can clinch the division and a berth in the MAC Championship with a win over rival Toledo next Tuesday (11/29, ESPN2).

Toledo lost to Northern Illinois Wednesday night 35-17 in their final home game, breaking a 17-game home win streak. Now the UT Rockets need a win in BG next week and NIU to lose to Western Michigan next Wednesday, or else NIU goes to the MAC Championship. (Breathe.)

Basically, this MAC football champ outlook makes this year's MLB Wild Card chase look straightforward.

Monday, November 14, 2005

« No, the contest wasn't rigged »

By Suss
The NFL Elimination contest just wasn't girl-proof.

« Vassallowned! »

By Suss
BG basketball went down to Blacksburg for the NABC Classic (how classic can it be? I never heard of it) and didn't win a single game thanks to their own players.

They did, however, win one thanks to a Va-Tech player. In the second game of the round-robin tourney, Tech's A.D. Vassallo tipped in a missed shot by BG's John Floyd (SJJ HS grad) at the buzzer to give BG two points. Final score? 72-71 BG.

While it may suck to be him, Vassallo is a college athlete getting a free education.

(I could not find a pic of this silly incident.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

« In over my head with that whole MLB recap stuff »

By Suss
Yeah, I admit it. I bit off more than I could chew.

I had this whole plan where I would write about one baseball team's '05 season per day. That's a lot of teams, but fer Chrissakes that's a lot of stats to look up, a lot of obscure stats to track down (I'm not gonna jank them from some Web site) and a bunch of analysis.

There's 30 teams to write about. Thirty. That's gonna take me to December. You NaNoWriMo people sure have grit and persistence. I don't.

I admit complete and utter failure for not even getting a third the way through. Give me credit for setting goals and trying to stick to a schedule, but there's plenty of other sports I want to write about.

The NFL season is in the meat of the schedule. College basketball is starting up. College football is as hilarious as ever. Most notably, it's curling season.

This series may not have finished by Christmas -- instead, I gave up on Veteran's Day.

Besides, MLB.com's Hot Stove Report is way better and pretty much says everything I want to. So go there.

I have other athletic fish to fry.

Matthew T. "Matt" Sussman doesn't care what you think because his mom thought he was the nicest boy in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

« '05 Recap: Padres »

By Suss
The San Diego Padres
Manager: Bruce Bochy (11th year)
2005: 82-80; 1st place, NL West
Lost in 1st round of NLDS
—1st half: 48-41
—2nd half: 34-39
2004: 87-75; 3rd place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Brian Giles (.301)
Home Runs: Ryan Klesko (18)
RBI: Giles (83)
On-base pct: Giles (.423)
Stolen bases: Dave Roberts (23)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Jake Peavy (2.88)
Wins: Peavy (13)
Strikeouts: Peavy (216)
Holds: Scott Linebrink (26)
Saves: Trevor Hoffman (43)

Free agents:
SP Pedro Astacio
C Robert Fick
RF Brian Giles
RP Chris Hammond
C Ramon Hernandez
RP Trevor Hoffman
3B Joe Randa
RP Rudy Seanez
1B Mark Sweeney

► Peavy's 216 strikeouts led the league and was second in the majors only to Johan Santana's 238.

► The last team which won its division with only 82 wins was the '73 Mets.

► The Padres had its best month in franchise history, winning 22 games in May while only losing 6.
The 2005 Padres will be remembered as a little team that, with some success and a series of peaks and valleys, won an injury-laden division and got no respect doing so.

And 82-80 record is not special. Maybe it's the low-IQ kind of special but certainly nothing worth touting them as good as dominant as the other five division winners.

Yeah yeah, San Diego would have finished fourth had they been in the National League East. They would have only beaten .500 teams Washington and/or Milwaukee by a single game had they been in the same division.

But here's the thing -- they weren't in the same division. San Diego won a brutal, albeit weak, division. They didn't even have the best record in their division -- that "feat" belonging to the Diamondbacks. They had the best out-of-division record, including a winning record against NL East teams and specifically the Braves. That was more than enough to seal the division.

Their primary Achilles' heel was consistency on offense. They didn't help their cause by shipping fan favorite Phil Nevin to the Rangers for a pitcher (Chan Ho Park), but they did acquire base-knocker Joe Randa from the Reds to replace a struggling Sean Burroughs. In the end, they finished in the last quartile in the NL in homers, slugging runs scored and dead last in extra-base hits.

Their pitching was very middle-of the road, finishing 7th (out of 16) in ERA (4.13). Their dominant ace was lone All-Star Jake Peavy (13-7, 2.88 ERA), who had arguably the best complete pitching season in Padres history since Padre legend Randy Jones' 1976 Cy Young campaign. While the wins weren't there, he did have the league's most strikeouts (216), fourth in WHIP (1.04), third in complete game shutouts (3rd with 3) and sixth in ERA (2.88).

The bullpen pulled their own weight by accumulating the second best pen ERA (3.49) in the NL. The ageless Trevor Hoffman saved 43 games, jumping two spots to 2nd place all-time with 436. (If he saves 43 more next year, he will surpass Lee Smith as the all-time save leader. Scott Linebrink, Rudy Seanez and Clay Hensley all contributed with sub-3.00 ERAs as relievers.

And every year, the Padres pick up some vagabond veteran player and has a pretty good year. This year, Pedro Astacio, a waiver acquisition, put together a nice 4-2, 3.17 ERA season, joining the ranks of Fernando Valenzuela, Rickey Henderson, Rod Beck and David Wells in the Spanish Dads' "So That's What Happened To Him" hall.

So the little team that could (win a ravaged division) didn't get much postseason glory, but they must now focus on next season as their division foes reload with talent and aim for the bullseye on the Padres' backs.

Monday, November 07, 2005

« '05 Recap: White Sox »

By Suss
The Chicago White Sox
Manager: Ozzie Guillen (2nd year)
2005: 99-63; 1st place, AL Central
World Series Champions
—1st half: 57-29
—2nd half: 42-34
2004: 83-79; 2nd place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Craig Monroe (.290)
Home Runs: Paul Konerko (40)
RBI: Konerko (100)
On-base pct: Konerko (.375)
Stolen bases: Podsednik (59)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Mark Buehrle (3.12)
Wins: Jon Garland (18)
Strikeouts: Jose Contreras (154)
Holds: Cliff Politte (23)
Saves: Dustin Hermanson (34)

Free agents:
1B Paul Konerko
DH Carl Everett
DH Frank Thomas (bought out)
C Raul Casanova
C Chris Widger
3B Geoff Blum

► The White Sox were never below first place all year -- their first wire-to-wire division title.

► Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras each had 20 wild pitches, each breaking the franchise record for wild pitches in a season. You have to go all the way back to 1887 the last time two teammates had at least 20 wild pitches in the same season -- the '87 Chicago White Stockings (who are now the Cubs for some reason) featured the legendary Mark Baldwin and John Clarkson throw 41 and 25 wild ones, respectively.

► Frank Thomas threw more pitches in the playoffs than he had plate appearances. Yes, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Back in March, you all knew the White Sox were a shoe-in to win the World Series, right?

... Right?

You knew that the White Sox would sweep the defending champ Red Sox, tear through the Los Angeles Angels and cap it off by claiming a Mortal Kombatesque flawless victory versus the Astros. Right?

Of course you did.

And, even when they pulled out to a 15-game lead in August and the Indians became the first team to close such a commanding lead that late into the season to a 1 1/2 game-margin, you knew the White Sox would eventually pull away and win it all. You knew that, right?

Did you?

Did you also figure that Shingo "Mr. Zero" Takatsu, the toast of their bullpen last year, would be eventually replaced by journeyman starter Dustin Hermanson for the closer's role, then by 24-year old Double-A prospect Bobby Jenks in the playoffs? I bet you knew that too.

And you knew it was doable despite a league third-worst .262 batting average and fourth-worst .322 on-base percentage.

And it was common knowledge that the big deal of the season would be a deadline deal for Padres' utilityman Geoff Blum, who would wind up smashing a game-winning homerun in Game 3 of the World Series.

Why am I telling you all this? You knew it all along.

Imagine if you didn't know any of this coming into the year. You might be kind of surprised.

You might think that the White Sox was proof that parity is somewhat of a metaproperty of baseball, regardless of economics and markets. You may think that this victory, which broke an 85-year championship dry spell, indicates that the 2000s is a decade of bout-damn-times, as the D-Backs, Angels, Red Sox and White Sox all won their first franchise ring or first one in a while.

But you don't think that, because the White Sox were everyone's pick for the Fall Classic.

Wait ... they weren't?!?

None of ESPN.com's 19 "experts" had them even in the World Series, let alone winning it?

Only one of them - Rob Neyer - had them even making the playoffs?

Wow, that's surprising.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

« '05 Recap: Tigers »

By Suss
Detroit Tigers
Manager: Alan Trammell (3rd year)
2005: 71-91; 4th place, AL Central
—1st half: 42-44
—2nd half: 29-47
2004: 72-90; 4th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Craig Monroe (.277)
Home Runs: Dmitri Young (21)
RBI: Monroe (89)
On-base pct: Brandon Inge (.330)
Stolen bases: Nook Logan (23)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Nate Robertson (4.48)
Wins: Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth (15)
Strikeouts: Bonderman (145)
Holds: Kyle Farnsworth (15)
Saves: Ugueth Urbina, Fernando Rodney (9)

Free agents:
OF Bobby Higginson
OF Rondell White
2B Fernando Vina
RHP Jason Johnson

► The Tigs led all teams in triples, with 45, despite only one person in the top 10 individual triple hitters (Brandon Inge, tenth with 9)

► They were unable to achieve a winning record against an AL rival with a winning record, the closest being the 80-82 Blue Jays (5-4). They did, however, sweep the Padres in interleague play.

► Detroit had the best record in extra inning games, winning 8 and losing three.
This first paragraph is supposed to be the lead where, in the first recap of a team that I rooted for, try and put a positive spin on "how they played hard" because "they have a lot of young guys" and "there's hope for the future." Well, there is, but the numbers show a worse season than last year.

Last year, was the season after a dismal 119-loss campaign, so a 29-win improvement threw Detroit fans' Impress-O-Meter way out of whack.

Jeremy Bonderman (14-11, 4.57 ERA) didn't progress very much, winning three more games and lowering his ERA by all of 22 points. Of course, he's 22 years old so he's "still a young guy."

Mike "Not Gettin' Any Younger" Maroth finally had his first .500 season (14-14, 4.74 ERA) by allowing fewer baserunners, but his ERA still jumped.

As it turns out, their offense didn't get anything done, and their pitching had an off-year. No wonder they were a game worse.

The Tigers did make a few good moves, trading Ugueth Urbina to the contending Phillies for second baseman Placido Polanco. Had Polanco had all his at-bats for the Tigers, his .331 average would have won the batting title. They also dealt the flamethrowing Kyle Farnsworth in exchange for two young pitchers, Roman "Don't call me Ramon" Colon and Zach Miner. While these two may give "hope for the future," Farnsworth's departure led to a -- albeit coincidental, perhaps -- September fallout, going 8-24 after August.

And is there "hope for the future?" Their Triple-A affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, won the International League title decisively, sweeping Pittsburgh's Triple-A team Indianapolis. And two of their most prized pitchers, Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander, will hopefully make it to next year's opening day roster, as will outfielders Marcus Thames and Curtis Granderson.

In summary, they -- er -- played hard, have a lot of young players and have hope for the future.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

« '05 Recap: Nationals »

By Suss
Washington Nationals
Manager: Frank Robinson (4th year)
2005: 81-81; 5th place, NL East
—1st half: 52-36
—2nd half: 29-45
2004: 67-95; 5th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Nick Johnson (.289)
Home Runs: Jose Guillen (24)
RBI: Guillen (76)
On-base pct: Johnson (.408)
Stolen bases: Brad Wilkerson (8)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: John Patterson (3.13)
Wins: Livan Hernandez (15)
Strikeouts: Patterson (185)
Holds: Gary Majewski (24)
Saves: Chad Cordero (47)

Free agents:
RHP Tony Armas, Jr.
3B Carlos Baerga
C Gary Bennett
RHP Hector Carrasco
2B Deivi Cruz
LHP Joey Eischen
RHP Esteban Loaiza
OF Preston Wilson

► At the All-Star break, the Nationals were in first place but had given up more runs than they scored (357 vs. 361).

► Their first-half success was attributed to a 24-10 record in one-run games.

►Everyone knew Livan Hernandez was a big-league workhorse, but he threw a major-league high 4,010 pitches in 2005, 200 more than anyone else.
The Nationals were the feel good story of the first half. They had a 2 1/2 game lead. They had a new home, where they had a 30-13 record in front of a new audience. Ryan Church was going to be the ROY, Livan Hernandez was to be the Cy Young winner, Chad Cordero to break the single-season save mark, Frank Robinson to be MOY, Jose Guillen the MVP.

Dr. Jekyll would have been proud.

But the second half was covered by a thick layer of Hyde.

Meltdowns, poor execution and a fierce division gravitated the Nats back down to Earth, and when the dust settled they improved all of 14 games from last year.

And still, at 81-81, they finished last in that highly-touted National League East.

The final numbers aren't very kind to a .500 team, however.

Last in the NL in batting average (.252). Last in runs scored (3.94/game). Last in homers (117). From those figures, it's amazing they won 81 games.

But the first-half success was chiefly attributed to their phenom closer Chad Cordero (1.82 ERA, 47 saves). In those 52 first-half wins, he closed out 31 of them. Two teams didn't even have 31 wins at the break.

And from that point on, their Major League third-best record fell from grace all the way to mediocrity.

However, the Nats' late season collapse will sadly overshadow their transformation in the nation's capital from a red-headed stepchild to a viable franchise worth rooting for. Baseball renaissance hit Washington and attendance numbers skyrocketed in comparison to the ticket sales in Montreal.

In short, there wasn't much hitting, but more people saw those hits.

Friday, November 04, 2005

« '05 Recap: Devil Rays »

By Suss
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Manager: Lou Piniella (3rd year)
2005: 67-95; 5th place, AL East
—1st half: 28-61
—2nd half: 39-34
2004: 70-91; 4th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Carl Crawford (.301)
Home Runs: Jorge Cantu (28)
RBI: Cantu (117)
On-base pct: Julio Lugo (.362)
Stolen bases: Crawford (46)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Scott Kazmir (3.77)
Wins: Mark Hendrickson (11)
Strikeouts: Francis (174)
Holds: Joe Borowski (19)
Saves: Danys Baez (31)

Free agents:
2B Roberto Alomar (retired)
OF Danny Bautista
3B Alex Gonzalez
1B Travis Lee
1B Eduardo Perez

► Kazmir's 3.77 ERA was only the second time a D-Ray starter went below 4.00 in team history. The other person was Rolando Arrojo in the 1998 expansion season (3.56).

► The Rays combined win-loss record against the division winners (Yankees, White Sox, Angels) are 18-16. They were also 6-4 against the Indians.

► The D-Rays pitched a major-low one complete game, which was a Hendrickson loss in the second to last game of the season.
After their best finish in franchise history (fourth) The Devil Rays returned to their cellar-dwelling ways.

But while the first half of the season was marred by inconsistency, injuries and distractions, the second half produced a respectable end of the summer.

The season didn't start out right at all as Roberto Alomar retired in spring training, Rocco Baldelli missed all year with an ACL tear and Lou Piniella publicly lambasted the front office for not spending money and getting in -- and keeping -- a competitive team.

But to be honest, the team was competitive and at least fun to watch in the second half.

We were introduced to outfielder Jonny Gomes (.282 average, 21 HR, 29 RBI) who can easily be considered one of the league's top rookies.

We met infielder Jorge Cantu (.286, 28, 117) who set a franchise record for RBIs in a season.

We met pitcher Scott Kazmir (10-9, 3.77 ERA), the former Mets prospect, who finished the season as the team's ace.

And we already knew about the speedy Carl Crawford (.301, 15, 81) and Indians castoff Danys Baez (.286, 41 saves)

The team stats are puzzling, because they are third in the AL in team batting average (.274), and eighth in runs scored. But their pitching staff was clearly the Achilles heel, 2nd to last in the majors in ERA (5.39) and third to last in WHIP (1.54). Opponents hit .300 with runners on base, also 2nd worst in the majors.

In September, the team chose not to call up their golden boys Delmon Young and B.J. Upton, who have tore up the minor leagues. The reason was purely financial, because the young, exciting players would have added to the young, exciting mentality and give the Bay Area denizens something to hope for next year.

Their best winning streak was a 6-gamer in July, something seven other teams couldn't do this past year.

So while the team has shown streaks of excitement, that proves the passion is there. The team wants to win. It just doesn't know how. And it needs pitching. There is no question the team has talent, but several prospects have misfired in the major circuit, including their two overall No. 1 picks - Josh Hamilton - a sad story in itself - and Dewon Brazelton (1-8, 7.61 ERA).

The team has gutted its front office, so we'll have to wait and see what unfolds.

« '05 Recap: Rockies »

By Suss
Colorado Rockies
Manager: Clint Hurdle (4th year)
2005: 67-95; 5th place, NL West
—1st half: 31-56
—2nd half: 33-39
2004: 68-94; 4th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Todd Helton (.320)
Home Runs: Helton (20)
RBI: Helton (89)
On-base pct: Helton (.445)
Stolen bases: Matt Holliday (14)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Jamey Wright (5.46)
Wins: Jeff Francis (14)
Strikeouts: Francis (128)
Holds: Mike DeJean (18)
Saves: Brian Fuentes (31)

Free agents:
RHP Mike DeJean
C Todd Greene
RHP Byung-Hyun Kim
RHP Dan Miceli
RHP Jamey Wright

► Todd Helton missed the All-Star game for the first time since 1999. Their lone representative, Brian Fuentes, was only the third Rocky to make it as a pitcher (Shawn Chacon, Mike Hampton) and the first relief pitcher.

► This is the first year the Rockies had only one hitter with at least 20 home runs: Todd Helton, with exactly 20.

► They finished out strong, 30-28 since August. In comparison, the White Sox finished 31-28.
The Rockies have been a team in utter despair for quite some time. In 13 seasons they have one playoff appearance, and that just a cameo back in 1995. They have finished fourth or fifth every year since 1997. Most of this is attributed to pitchers not desiring to sign there as a free agent, since their changeup can be probably be bunted out of the ballpark.

And what iced the cake of shame for this year's team was that Todd Helton (.320 average, 20 HR, 79 RBI) had a sub-par first half, although his second-half surge did make the team look good down the stretch. And even though those numbers look great, keep in mind offensive numbers are rather bloated in a Coors Field setting. Plus, those are his lowest totals -- in all three categories -- since 1999.

Shortstop Clint Barmes (.289, 10, 46) was bound to have a Rookie of the Year season until a freak injury (fell down stairs carrying groceries, breaking his collarbone) put his neck -- and season -- in a cast.

So with all the down years -- not to mention the exodus of Vinny Castilla, Preston Wilson and Jeromy Burnitz, outfielder Matt Holliday emerged as the team's second best offensive player. Holliday (.307, 19, 87) wound up in the top 10 among NL players in batting average, and actually hit cleanup in the most highly infamous one-dimensional lineup.

On the pitching side, there wasn't too much hope to build on from last year. Shawn Chacon, their only established starter, was shipped to the Yankees mid-season. Their All-Star was closer Brian Fuentes, however. But no starter had a great full year with Colorado. Aaron Cook had good numbers in 13 starts (7-2, 3.67 ERA), however.

This team doesn't feel like it has any potential for being a successful team. Obviously that ballpark location is an aberration in the league, but there are other hitters' parks, namely Houston, that has housed a successful team. And we can't blame "the air up there," because Colorado's ERA splits on the road and at home are both above 5.00. Meanwhile, their hitting at home is a slick. 300, but on the road it was a paltry .232.

Even if you took the team leader stats on the road, doubled them (to reproduce a "typical" batter), you don't have a good one. Take:
  1. Luis Gonzalez' .290 batting average
  2. Todd Helton's 7 home runs
  3. Garrett Atkins' 39 RBIs
And double them. You have a .290, 14 homerun, 78 RBI player. Congratulations, you just pieced together one Shea Hillenbrand.

That's why this team struggles. And while the team may have promising offensive players, they need pitching that can pitch on the road. The psyche of a hurler can be damaged by throwing in a bandbox, but again look at the Astros.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

« '05 Recap: Brewers »

By Suss
Milwaukee Brewers
Manager: Ned Yost (3rd year)
2005: 81-81; 3rd place, NL Central
--1st half: 42-46
--2nd half: 39-35
2004: 67-94; 6th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Brady Clark (.306)
Home Runs: Carlos Lee (32)
RBI: Lee (114)
On-base pct: Geoff Jenkins (.375)
Stolen bases: Bill Hall (18)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Doug Davis (3.84)
Wins: Chris Capuano (18)
Strikeouts: Davis (204)
Holds: Julio Santana (11)
Saves: Derrick Turnbow (39)

Free agents:
3B Jeff Cirillo
3B Wes Helms
RHP Rick Helling

Silver Slugger
- Carlos Lee

► The team's .500 mark was the first "non-losing" season since they joined the National League in 1998, and first .500 season overall since 1992 when they won 92 games.

► Chris Capuano led the team with 18 wins, the first time a Brewer pitcher won 18 since 1987.

► The duo of second baseman J.J. Hardy and shortstop Rickie Weeks was the only starting middle infield in the league that were both rookies.
The Brewers were a very, very average team. And, given their past performances, they are very, very happy about that.

Given the previous three seasons they were in the cellar of the largest division in baseball, a third place finish and .500 record is an accomplishment for this young team.

The marquee move the previous year was Carlos Lee, who they acquired from the White Sox in exchange for base-thief Scott Podsednik. What they lost in speed they gained in power, as the man known as El Caballo (.265 avg., 32 HR, 114 RBI) filled a year-old void created by the departure of Richie Sexson. When Sexy left, they weren't gettin' any ... home runs.

One-man doubles factory Lyle Overbay (.267, 19 HR, 72 RBI) was the subject of some light trading rumors, as many teams were scrambling for a quality offensive first baseman. And with Prince Fielder as the heir apparent to that seat, Overbay may be the gatekeeper to more promising talent, although last year's numbers were not nearly as eye-popping as his breakout 2004 year, which included an NL-high 53 doubles.

Geoff Jenkins is becoming the elder statesman in this franchise. The 30-year-old Jenkins (.292, 25, 86) is one of the veteran leaders on this young squad, and any success next year will hinge on his performance.

Ben Sheets left the season early in August and another month in May, so his number (10-9, 3.33 ERA) were not those we are akin to seeing from the former Olympic team gold medalist.

Chris Capuano (18-12, 3.99 ERA) and Doug Davis (11-11, 3.83 ERA) emerged as the two dominant forces in an otherwise good rotation, and Derrick Turnbow (39 saves) helped anchor a modest bullpen. The entire pitching staff put together a respectable team ERA; in fact, they were only one of six NL teams with one under 4.00.

This team shows nothing but promise for 2006. Even if this same team takes the field next year, only one player is older than 33 (catcher Damian Miller). Owner Mark Attanasio shelled out $8.5 million's option for Lee's '06 option and he is not afraid to spend a little more to get the right personnel in to be competitive. With another pitcher, another batter and contributions from Fielder and the blossoming young'uns, this team could push 90 wins.