As the current holder of the low number in Gonelong's win prediction thread, I though I'd post a list of things that have happened in the last 10 days or so that are very good things to start the season.
1. Ken Griffey Jr actually in RF. Its been discussed, but seeing it happen in an actual regular season game makes it real. Between this move and improved defense at SS, the entire staff gets better.
2. Dustin Hermanson released. This speaks volumes beyond its impact on the current bullpen. It helps the team now and restores some faith.
3. Adam Dunn batting 2nd. The horror of EdE and Dunn hitting 5th and 6th would have been too much to take. I know Narron likes to tinker, but starting Dunn out in the 2 hole to maximize his ABs, take advantage of his OBP and stretch the pitcher out prior to the middle of the order seems like a good thing from where I'm watching.
4. Jared Burton and Jon Coutlangus. Its good that some young guys got a couple spots in the pen. The team needs some "stuff" and some new blood out there. Many have been complaining (especially me) about the old guys in the pen, but I think some clarification is needed. There is nothing wrong with sprinkling some decent veteran's in and the bullpen usually needs one or two, but when the staff has so many veterans all of whom are bottom of the staff caliber pitchers, then some spots must be set aside for a young guy or two to get a chance to emerge. A pen with Weathers, Cormier and Stanton wouldn't be so bad if they were supporting players behind some solid smoke, but when they are the head of the committee its cause for alarm. Having a couple spots where a young guy or two can emerge could end-up establishing a solid pitcher who can step to the front eventually. Even if no clear choice is available, a spot still needs to be made. If Burton and Coutlangus fail, maybe Salmon does it. If not Salmon, maybe Dumatrait or Pelland or Medlock.... The point is, the team needs to try to find a guy and it appears that they are trying.
5. Matt Belisle in the Rotation. Many have thought all along that he was the best internal option to emerge as the solid number 3 we all want to see. Belisle had pedigree when he was a Braves prospect and has been successful in a limited role. Lohse and Milton are dubious choices who we know are number 5's at best and neither is likely to be around beyond this year. Saarloos, as a starter, has shown the trifecta of ineffectiveness of low Ks, high Walks and lots of HRs allowed, and in GABP was a disaster in the making IMO. Which leads me to...
6. Kirk Saarloos in the pen. As stated above, this guy shows a poor profile to be a successful starter in Cincinnati, but as a bullpen guy he has some things going for him. His K rates seem to be much better as a reliever (doesn't have to pace himself??) and he may be the best choice to come in and get the ground ball when a DP is needed. If used properly he could emerge as a key guy in getting the game from the starter to the closer of the day. I'm very encouraged by this decision and hope it sticks. No matter how bad it gets in the rotation, moving in Saarloos in should not be an alternative IMO. I was very anti-Saarloos when the move was made because I thought he was a poor rotation choice in comparison to most of the internal options (including Milton) but he can have real value in the pen IMO.
I've spent the off-season complaining about the things that have occurred and there are still things that I believe should have been done differently, but it hasn't been a total waste. The team could have shrewdly acquired 2 real long term assets in Hamilton and Burton and the Harang and Arroyo contracts have at least secured some hope for the future. In spite of my prediction for 2007, I'm hoping for 162-0. At worst, lets hope that the season provides some answers to some of the teams questions. The future is very bright IMO.