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ARE YOU READY FOR A CHALLENGE???!!!

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Perhaps not surprisingly, reaction to my picks for the players fans secretly wish weren't on their teams, has been fairly muted. Sure there were a couple of Paul Lo Duca defenders from New York assuring me of the merit of all his singles, but other than that, the opposition has been tepid, at best. Except for with the Diamondbacks, for some reason, as I thought the inadequacy of Livan Hernandez was self evident. Apparently not. Take this reaction from a poster at Yardbarker, for instance:

What I think is funny about this article is that half of the pitchers, on this list of players teams wished they didnt have, are head and shoulders over the Colorado Rockies pitching. Example: Livan Hernandez. Dont post an article like that until your team can back it up.

Okay, so this example came from a forum where I wouldn't expect an articulate defense, and obviously there's none forthcoming, only an "I'm rubber your glue..." sort of response. Is it true that I would take Livan Hernandez over Josh Fogg? Absolutely, but that wasn't my point, and in fact, this author validates the point I was trying to make of the blind spots we as fans have to our own rosters' weaknesses.

However, I must say I wasn't expecting this from my much better informed colleague, Jim McClennan, at AZ Snakepit:

Her choice for the D-backs is Hernandez 2.0, saying "the reason D-backs fans like him is one of the most common reasons to overestimate a player's value: performing well in a small sample the year prior (see me with Kaz Matsui)". Maybe, though almost 70 innings is certainly not statistically insignificant (little more got Gagne the Cy Young - a fact which infuriated LA fans when I mentioned it over at True Blue LA!), and it's actually very encouraging. If last year's Opening Day starter on another team is the worst player on your roster, I think we'll be okay.

I should first of all point out that the exercise wasn't to figure out the worst player on each roster, but more to find one who brought his sub-par skills or health into a position on the team where it could do the most damage (a key point to remember for the second part of this post). And that's why Livan Hernandez is going to break more D-backs' fans' hearts this year than somebody like Robby Hammock or Juan Cruz.

And how confident am I in this prediction of the chunks Hernandez 2.0 is going to blow in Arizona this season? I'm so confident that what I'm about to propose will even raise some eyebrows here, but trust me on this. I propose putting up our "last year's Opening Day starter on another team" up against Arizona's:

RODRIGO LOPEZ vs LIVAN HERNANDEZ

Yep. That's right. If Jim is so confident in Livan, then he won't shy away from putting the man who put up a 3.76 ERA for Arizona last year against the one who put up a 5.90 ERA in Baltimore. The D-backs' 13 game winner in 2006 vs the Rockies 18 game loser in 2006. It's a slam dunk, right? Of course he'll be smart enough to know that both PECOTA and ZiPS are siding with me on this one, but he'll also be smart enough to know that Livan doesn't really have any good comparable pitchers (31 similarity score) so PECOTA's got to be a little unsure of the prediction itself.

The stakes? I was going to propose we post pictures of ourselves in the opponents' jersey, but that sounds like a lose-lose scenario from my end ;). So instead, I'll suggest the following: If Livan Hernandez posts a higher VORP, WARP, or Pitching RC (Jim can pick which one he wants) score for the Diamondbacks in 2007 than Rodrigo Lopez does for the Rockies, then the McClennans and all their Snakepit friends get to come over for a "Meet the Diamondbacks" day on Purple Row, where they can tell us exactly how great Stephen Drew is compared to Troy Tulowitzki or Miguel Montero to Chris Iannetta, how many years the D-backs dynasty will last, and so on. If, on the other hand, Rodrigo proves better in 2007, then we get to paint the Snakepit purple for a day again, as we post similar propaganda over there.

What do you say Jim? Is your guy up to it? Do you trust Josh Byrnes on this one? The gauntlet is dropped.

***

Alright. Second challenge, this one more for my own readers. The posts that started this were trying to find the anti-sleepers in the NL, those that hometown fans don't generally recognize as impediments, but are. I'm confident enough of my knowledge of NL rosters to know who to look for, but if I were to continue the series in the DH league, I wouldn't be so brave. So I'm asking for a little help nominating potential candidates for parts 3 and 4.

The criteria I've been following are as follows:

  1. The player has to be bad, or at least bad in context. Corey Koskie's offensive numbers would be okay for a shortstop, but for an injury riddled third baseman, they came up short.
  2. That's the other thing, the player has to be projected to see a lot of playing time in 2007. No sixth starters or bench players, as I'm looking for those that do the most damage to their teams' chances. I could accept closers and possibly primary set-up guys, but not your run of the mill arm out of the pen.
  3. The player will have at least a couple of fan websites or hometown news sources extolling the virtues of their play and expectations will be considerably higher than what would normally be considered reality.
Other than that, I tried to shy away from obvious examples that are panned all over the Internet or in other media markets -especially those that seem to have a significant chunk of hometown fans not drinking the kool-aid- and I also avoided picking young players who still have potential to be the player they're hyped to be, even if their stats aren't showing it yet.

I'm just asking for nominations from AL teams. You don't have to offer explanations if you don't wish; I can look up the players myself to find out why, and don't feel obligated to come up with somebody for all 14 teams. Just if you know of a player on a team that you hear fans rave about but always makes you scratch your own head, point me that direction.