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November and December, 2009

It's the end of the decade. Time to evaluate the best players of the past ten years and to prognosticate who the best players of the next ten years will be. Asher and Keith have collaborated to provide lists, rankings, stats, and commentary for the All-Decade Team.

Amidst a blockbuster deal with so many moving parts, it's difficult to get a firm grasp on who came out ahead. The Mariners have clearly positioned themselves as 2010 contenders, but did they pay too hefty a price for one roll of the dice? The Blue Jays have declared themselves to be in full-blown rebuilding mode, but how long before they can again field a competitive team?

Of course, the Phillies' side is most baffling of all. They swapped one group of prospects for another and one ace pitcher for another. It might take a health care bill-sized article to cover all of the nuances of this trade, so Keith just takes a stab at one: Cliff Lee versus Roy Halladay.

Coming off an injury that sidelined him for all of 2008, Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins (/Reds/Red Sox) uncharacteristically improved as the season went along. A shift to Fenway Park aided him as well. Several other players went the opposite route in 2009, behaving more like Gonzalez did in his heyday. Here, then, are the players that fell the furthest off the face of the earth in 2009.

You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold'em, know when to walk away, and when not to bite on an aging player coming off a career year. Here are five winners and five losers from the winter meetings in Indianapolis, according to Keith's winter meetings roundup. reports that the Atlanta Braves have signed Billy Wagner as their new closer for 2010 with a vesting option for 2011, replacing the inconsistent tandem of Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez.

Wagner is second among relievers with over 150 career saves in ERA+ (182), but sixth on the all-time saves list, tenth in raw Linear Saves, and eighth in Linear Saves only counting seasons with 10 or more saves. In 2008, Wagner's most recent season as a closer, he had -1.5 Linear Saves despite an ERA of 2.30 and an ERA+ of 183.

Coming off his second Tommy John Surgery last year, the 38-year old was used as a setup man and managed a 1.72 ERA, 237 ERA+, and 15 strikeouts per nine innings pitching primarily in his AL debut in the unfriendly confines of Fenway Park. It may be time to face the facts - Wagner is better suited to the setup role than he is to being a closer, particularly at this stage of his career.

Of course, Wagner would never have signed with a team that had an established closer in the fold and most teams would not want to commit $7 million to a setup man. Perhaps Bobby Cox can get Wagner to be more successful in save situations in the final season of his Hall of Fame managerial career.

In all honesty, our 2009 Linear Saves data isn't as exciting as our 2008 data. There was no perfect save season, no new single-season saves leader, and no one passed Lee Smith in career Linear Saves. Still, there are some interesting nuggets, including Mariano Rivera passing another milestone, Brad Lidge staking his claim as the least consistent reliever of all time, and someone with an ERA of 4.40 nearly leading baseball in Linear Saves.

Many people considered the Colorado Rockies to be the biggest surprise team of 2009 and the Chicago Cubs among the biggest disappointments.  Both teams did about what Keith had expected them to do.  He missed Colorado's win total by five victories, but had them winning the NL West, a division he had underestimated as a whole.  He also correctly predicted the Cubs would miss the postseason, overshooting their overall winning percentage by just 15 points.

This isn't to say that his predictions were immaculate.  Keith missed three teams' actual win totals by more than 15 games, the worst of which was a 27-win differential.  That's pretty embarrassing, so Keith sat down to examine why he was so wrong about each club.

It's that time of year to renew the annual debate over individual postseason honors. Richard has narrowed the National League Cy Young race down to five candidates, although it is really just a pair of Cards that stand between Tim Lincecum and his second straight Cy Young Award.