Get Out the Leather and Lumber

There’s nothing better than the baseball season. The glorious game’s 2010 season is set to start this week as pitchers and catchers report to camp. Finally, the wait for the game that America loves so dearly is set to begin. It means warm sun, barbeques, summer storms, and much more is on its way in a couple months.

It is time for the players to work out their kinks and recover from offseason injuries and rehab to get back in time for Opening Day. It is time for players to change their stances and time for Cole Hamels to develop another pitch. Time for team bonding and hard work. Time for Florida and Arizona. Time for more bad looking batting practice uniforms. Time for autographs and time for bullpen sessions. Time for buckets of baseballs and buckets of sunflower seeds.

Its ’bout time for baseball.
hobbs.jpg

Don’t get me wrong though, I love all the other sports and enjoy them while baseball is not with us but the aura of baseball is unbeatable. The freshly cut grass. The smoke that sits in front of the warehouse at Camden Yards. The Roy Hobbs homerun that lights up the sky. The ivy that lines the Wrigley Field walls. The dirty dugouts. The dim Iowa cornfields that surround an illustrious diamond at night. The 3-2 knee buckling breaking ball to end the inning. And I could go on.

All this is about to be back with the great USofA in a couple days. As usual, there are questions that surround the upcoming season. If you are one of my few readers, then you might remember the team-by-team preview I did on this blog last year. Because of my slow internet this year at school, that won’t be happening again. Heck, I’m only writing now because my class was cancelled and I wanted to stay on campus until my next one. I’ll throw out some questions and do my best to answer them with some bold predictions.


 How much of a threat do the Mariners pose to the Angels in 2010?

Well last year the M’s finished over .500 and they got a lot better with huge offseason acquisitions in Chone Figgins and Cliff Lee. The problem out West is that the Rangers got better too and even the Athletics got a bit better. I think that the Mariners are a bigger threat to the Angels than last year now that the Halos have lost John Lackey. But the Angels still have a solid rotation from the top to the bottom where the Mariners have some questions. I think the the Angels’ wins go down this season but they remain division champs with Seattle and Texas close behind.

figgins.jpgWill anyone for the Mets hit over twelve homeruns?

As if it couldn’t get any worse after the way 2007 and 2008 ended, it did (and I love it). The Mets opened their new spacious ballpark and then couldn’t hit in it or stay healthy. To answer the question though, yes. Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, and David Wright will definately have over that number while Jeff Francoer and David Murphy should get into the high teens too. Last year was a freak year for the Mets, and I expect them to be contenders once again in 2010.

Who do the Pirates trade first this year?

Sorry Pittsburgh fans, you know someone’s leaving. No one’s ever safe in Pittsburgh but I’m pretty sure Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones are safe. I’ll say Brendan Donnelly gets dealt at the deadline to a team that needs a veteran arm in their bullpen. Octavio Dotel and Joel Harahan are also potential trade pieces as well.

Who will have the best spring training record?

Texas Rangers. No reasoning.

More questions to come.

Advertisements

Quick Thoughts

I haven’t posted in a while. I’m coming to the end of my winter break and the Eagles game doesnt come on until tonight, so I’ll throw in my two cents on a couple different topics.


halladaypressconf.jpgHappy Halladays
.
Yes, it’s been that long since I’ve done anything on here. When I initially heard about this deal happening from a Ken Rosenthal report, I wasn’t excited. Cliff Lee had done so much for this club in the few months he was in Philly and I just didn’t understand the reasoning behind the deal, especially surrendering Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor… until I read further.

First of all, Roy Halladay is a righty, which definately helps this lefty-heavy rotation. If we had kept Lee and if Jamie Moyer been named the fifth starter, we would have had four lefties and a righty (Joe Blanton). So this gives the rotation the look of:

RHP Halladay
LHP Cole Hamels
RHP Blanton
LHP JA Happ
LHP Moyer or RHP Kyle Kendrick or Free Agent signing

They also got back what they lost in a sense, when they traded Lee to Seattle. Phillipe Aumont and Tyson Gillies are both very talented prospects. I’ll elaborate on them eventually in another post.

Then, what really pulled me to understand the deal was that Halladay wanted to sign an extension and give the Phils a discount on his contract whereas Lee had said he wanted market value (somewhere a bit south of CC Sabathia money). The Phils wouldn’t have been able to keep Lee and sign all the key players whose contracts are coming up in a year or two. Lee also wanted about seven to eight years which is something the team doesn’t offer to pitchers, and it’s smart.

And there’s the reasoning that Halladay is just better. He and Johan Santana are, to me, the two best pitchers in the game with Tim Lincecum close behind. Nothing against Cliff, but his first five or so starts with the Phillies were quite dominant but then he started to stumble a bit and his next few were shaky before he found his stride again. Halladay doesn’t go through slumps and he can give you nine strong innings each time he goes out there.

Rob-bed Alomar
alomar.jpg12 time All Star.
10 time Gold Glove winner.
4 time Silver Slugger Award winner.
2 time World Series champion.

I could see all of that on a plaque in Cooperstown. Apparently, some others couldn’t. Robby Alomar fell about eight votes short of getting into Cooperstown on his first ballot. When I think of Hall of Famer, I think of greatness. So, I know you’ve heard it before, if you don’t say Hall of Famer right away then they’re not in. You shouldn’t have to think about it. The Hall isn’t for the maybes, it’s for the greats.

I never had the chance to watch Andre Dawson in his prime but I’ve heard that he was one of the more dominant hitters of his era. It did take him nine ballots to get in which seems to be a bit much but you can’t change the system now. Congrats to The Hawk.

and GO BIRDS!

Microblogging? Oh, Twitter.

I had signed up for Twitter back in April and I initially wasn’t a fan of it. I was confused while using it and not many of my friends are on it so I had left it and hadn’t come back until recently. ESPN uses it for many of its shows and I figured that it would be good to be on Twitter while baseball insiders are reporting offseason news. Jayson Stark, Todd Zolecki, Buster Olney, and many more reporters and beat writers are on tweeting as well.

So if you’re on Twitter, get at me — @danbergvall. Just comment right here on my blog and let me know if you are trying to “follow” me because my Twitter is private and if I don’t recognize names I deny requests.

Tough Choices for ROTY

The Rookie of the Year race this year was as close as can be in both leagues. In the National League it could have gone four ways and in the American League I think it was totally up for grabs. Marlins’ outfielder, Chris Coglan, took the award in the NL and in the AL, it was A’s closer Andrew Bailey bringing home the award.

Let’s begin with the AL and here is how my ballot would have gone:

First place vote: Andrew Bailey
Second: Rick Porcello
Third: Elvis Andrus

porcello.jpgWhen I initially thought AL ROTY, my first instinct was Porcello, who was solid for most of the season. Although by the end of the year, he only had the fourth best ERA in his starting rotation (behind Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Jarrod Washburn) and it was 3.96. His strikeout numbers weren’t that great and he had a bad June and July. He is a groundball pitcher who will have success in this league but he won’t overpower anybody. This isn’t a knock on him, but expect a Derek Lowe type career from him.

And I see better things coming for both Elvis Andrus and Andrew Bailey. The reason I have Andrus third is because, with a .267 average, I’m not sure how much love you’re going to get. However he does have a solid glove and huge upside, the kid is only 21.

But Bailey flew under the radar all throughout the season and even at the end of the season, the casual fan still probably couldn’t tell you he was tearing it up in Oakland. The A’s weren’t all too great this year and they played in the western time zone so it makes a little sense if you didn’t know who the kid was. But the kid is electric. To go along with his 1.84 ERA, he struck out 91 batters in 83.1 innings. He was 26 for 30 in save oppurtunities and he didn’t get his first two saves until May and didn’t blow any saves after June 16.  Talk about finding his place. It wasn’t that long ago that another A’s closer won ROTY as well, when Huston Street did it in 2005.

For the NL, it was a tough one and it really could have gone either way but here’s what I would have put down:

First: JA Happ
Second: Chris Coghlan
Third: Tommy Hanson

It was so close that I think I may have needed some hometown bias in this one. But really, Happ lead the Phillies starters in ERA, on a staff that includes a few All Star caliber pitchers. He threw two complete game shutouts, as a rookie, in the National League. He was the most reliable Phillies starter this season and always kept the team in the game. He knows how to pitch and he disguises his pitches well and he sure has a rotation spot locked up for next season.

 But Coghlan won the award, who was equally as impressive this year, he barely beat out happ by 11 votes. He really came into his own in the second half this year after being called up mid-season. He is a true leadoff hitter as he was mentioned in many sentences this season with Hall of Famers and All Stars today regarding his hit totals. He drives the ball to all fields and takes a decent approach at the plate. He’s the tablesetter that Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu needed. Congrats to him for winning the award.
coghlan.jpgAlthought however, Tommy Hanson and Andrew McCutchen fell farther back than I thought they would. I thought that this race was going to be a lot closer. Tommy Hanson has some dirty stuff and if he can avoid injury will post huge strikeout numbers in his career. The Braves are sure to have one of the best rotations in the league next year and Hanson will be a big part of that. Then there’s McCutchen who is a five tool player that, at the rate the Pirates are at now, will trade him for more three decent-but-nothing-special Double-A players sometime in the next few years. Kidding of course. The Buccos know they need to hang on to this kid if they ever want to be good in the next twenty years.

I’m expecting all four of these guys to have great careers.

The AL Cy Young announcement is tomorrow, I’m expecting it to be Zack Greinke. No one else is really too close. Then the Manager of the Year announcement is on Wednesday. Jim Tracy is going to run away with the NL while Mike Scioscia and Ron Gardenhire are my co-winners in the AL.

Rollin’ in Gold

rollins02.jpg
The Gold Glove Awards have been announced over the past two days and Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino have won their third and second, respectively. In my last post I stated who I should get the award in each league. Four of my nine American League guesses were right (Erick Aybar was robbed though) and I missed on two of the nine National League spots. I was debating on whether or not to put Freddy Sanchez or Orlando Hudson at second and I chose Sanchez because Hudson lost his job at the end of the season.

But, nice work Vic and Jimmy. These two guys do a really nice job in the field and come up with some spectacular plays here and there but their biggest strength in the field is that neither make mistakes. Victorino was tied for the league lead in least centerfield errors with only one and Rollins lead all National League shortstops in fielding percentage.

And each everyday Phillies starter has a decent glove which is one of the best parts about watching this team. Ryan Howard, perhaps the weakest glove, really stepped it up this season and didn’t commit as many errors (and I think he had the most “web gem” points for a first basemen too). But when you go around the field and look at each guy, there’s really no mystery out there as to whether or not they’ll make a play.

Carlos Ruiz is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. I think he may have had only one passed ball all year long and if it weren’t for the likes of Yadier Molina in the NL, Carlos might be winning these Rawlings awards. Chase Utley is also one of the best at fielding his position and he is one of the most heads up fielders in the league as well. Pedro Feliz has one of the more solid gloves and stronger arms in the league from the hot corner (and I’d like him to be back next year in some ways, just for his glove). Raul Ibanez has a decent arm out in left and if it weren’t for injuries this past season, his range could have been better. Then I think Jayson Werth has one of the most underrated arms in the league and well as good range with those long strides.

Congrats again to all the Gold Glove winners.

AND this is my 100th entry. I’ve been off and on writing on this over the past year and at times I forget that I have this thing. So thanks to the few that may read this junk.

Gloves of Gold

Today the American League Gold Glove Awards will be announced, here are my picks for the AL and National League.

American League
C: Gerald Lairdadamjones.jpg
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Placido Polanco
3B: Melvin Mora
SS: Erick Aybar
OF: Carl Crawford
OF: Torii Hunter
OF: Adam Jones
P: Kevin Millwood

National League
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
2B: Freddy Sanchez
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
SS: Jimmy Rollins
OF: Matt Kemp
OF: Shane Victorino
OF: Jeff Francoeur
P: Adam Wainwright

Cool Cole and Cool Weather? October’s on the Way

colehamels02.jpgAs the calender turns to September, the weather turns as well (although this year seems cooler than normal). Along with the cool air comes a cooler and more poised Cole Hamels on the mound.

As I rewatch the Phillies game on my recently acquired MLBtv (which is frustrating at times, but when it does work, I love it), Cole seems very relaxed on the mound and had great control of his fastball last night. When he has good fastball control, then his changeup conpliments it. When he can control both pitches, he’s as good as anyone on the mound, as we saw last night and last October.

Hamels went the distance last night allowing only two hits, a double in the second inning to Ryan Garko and ninth inning single. He only walked one, and it was in the ninth inning, to a pinch-hitting Pablo Sandoval.

Nothing against Cliff Lee and the fantastic pitcher he is, but when Cole is on like he was last night, he is the true ace of this staff. The constant for when Cole pitches is that the Phils don’t score runs. It has been the case his whole career, especially when he pitches well.

But the way this offense can put up runs, I’m not too concerned for the stretch run.

Speaking of the stretch run, with it being September, here’s who I think will be playing past October 4th…

AL East: Yankees
At 6.5 games up with a little over a month to go, it’s really theirs to lose. They are on too much of a roll and have way too much offense for that to happen though. The Red Sox would have to go on an 2007 Rockies kind of roll in order to overtake this division. Yankees win the division by seven games.

AL Central: Twins
This team doesn’t give up and they play hard until the end. Even with a depleted pitching rotation, I’ll choose Minnesota at 3.5 games back of the Tigers. They get seven more games against Detroit. The final year at the HHH will be seeing playoff baseball as the Twins win the division by two games.

AL West: Angels
With a 4.5 game lead over Texas, the Angels play the game offensively too well to not win this division. However they do have a losing record against their own division (who they face a majority of September) and they play the Red Sox and Yankees this month leads me to think that this division is going to be a close race. Angels win the division by two games.

clay.jpgAL Wildcard: Red Sox
They seem to be hitting their stride at 8-2 in their last ten games and currently riding a four game win streak. Clay Buchholz is really coming through as the pitcher they hoped he would and I’m not concerned about Josh Beckett’s recent struggles. Sox grab the wildcard by three games.

NL East: Phillies
I’ve already mentioned Cole earlier and the Phils have a top-ranked ERA since the All-Star break. Mix in the offense and the Phillies take it by seven games.

NL Central: Cardinals
Too much pitching and this offense picks eachother up. They seem to be the most complete team in the NL, if not the entire league. Cards win the division by thirteen games.

NL West: Dodgers
At 5.5 games up on the Rockies, even if they keep playing bad baseball, they’ll just let the rest of the west beat up on eachother as they win the division by four games.

NL Wildcard: Rockies
They’re “sick” and when their offense returns, which it will, they’ll win the wildcard. For once the Rockies have great pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez has developed into an ace and Jason Marquis is a winner. With the Giants pitching, it will be close. I got the Rockies by a game over Giants.