The Month in Review: April
Every April, year after year, there are the big suprises (teams or players) that get off to hot starts and there are also the disappointments of the month. One thing for sure is that, the MLB season is a lengthy one. Teams are given 162 chances and then the playoffs to prove that they are the best and the best teams will win the divisions and the worst teams will finish last. That’s what makes the game so great, the fact that there are so many chances to prove that you are the best. According to descriptive statistics, Major League Baseball is the sport that gives the best chances at seeing the true best team in the league (descriptive statistics involve the collection of data).
April provides the suprises by underdogs and by the unexpected players. It involves dissapoint from the supposive “good” teams and slow starts by perennial all stars. Here are my thoughts on the month that was.
American League: Mike Lowell
The power behind the big Boston win streak, Lowell is third in the league with 23 RBIs. He is also hitting .310 and has four homeruns in the first month. He seems to have recovered from his injury just fine and do the Red Sox ever need him to be hitting like this or what.
National League: Adrian Gonzalez
He has nine homeruns and twenty RBIs for the 11-11 Padres. A great hitter with a great approach at the plate leads the National League in homers. He’s also slugging .704 with an OBP of .438.
April Cy Youngs
American League: Zack Greinke
Well, I talk about him later here but he is 5-0 with 44 strikeouts and leads the league with a 0.50 ERA.
National League: Johan Santana
Maybe if the Mets bullpen could hold together for him, he would have another win. He is 3-1 with the best ERA in the National League (1.10) and is tied with Greinke for the most strikeouts in the league.
Team that suprised: Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are the one team in the AL East that I did not expect. I thought their offense was too unproductive (although I do think Adam Lind and Travis Snider are going to be great) and I thought the loss of Burnett killed them. Well, they have had different ideas throught the first month of the season as the offense is the best in the American League thus far and the pitching has certianly stepped up as pitchers with injuries have gone down.
Team that disappointed: New York Mets
This offense was supposed to produce runs and keep them in games as the back end of their rotation is shaky. But they are less than average and have a 9-12 record so far. The Mets with their revamped ‘pen are also 4-5 in one-run affairs which doesn’t give me much confidence that they’ll win close ballgames.
Best story: Zack Greinke
Right now, he poses a threat for the pitching triple crown. The first MLB pitcher to reach the five win mark also leads the league in ERA and is tied for the lead league in strikeouts with Johan Santana. His 0.50 ERA was all zeros going into his fifth start as well. He’s the leader of a great rotation in Kansas City that consists of Gil Meche, Kyle Davies, Sidney Ponson, and Horacio Ramirez. Okay, so maybe Ponson and Ramirez need to work on a few things, but if Davies can keep up what he’s done thus far, those Royals lead by Greinke, will be in the October hunt because pitching wins. Perhaps the best part of this story is that Greinke overcame depression and anxiety disorder to get to where he’s been today.
Best moment: Ellsbury steals home
In the final game of a heck of a series last weekend, Jacoby Ellsbury took off on a straight steal of home against veteran Andy Pettite. In a rivalry series, on primetime television, in a tie game, only making it a walkoff steal would have made it better, but hey, you can’t have everything. As I said in my most recent Monday Ten post, I didn’t even see it live but I had to watch the steal over and over online once I heard about it. The steal of home just capped off a great series for the Sox against the Bombers as they swept them right out of Boston.
Questions to Consider:
Feel free to answer these questions as comments as well, I want to know what you all think.
1. Will the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to lead the entire league in ERA?
No, the ERA has risen over the past week as the Buccos are on a three-game skid. Expect some more of those.
2. Will Wandy Rodriguez keep up his performance thus far?
Well a 1.69 ERA is good, but the 2-2 record basically explains how good the team is. I’ll answer this by saying the Astros need him to keep it up.
3. Over/Under Nats wins: 50
4. Over/Under Mariners ERA after May: 3.50
5. Who will be leading the AL Central at the All Star break?
Still too early to tell, but I’ll say the White Sox.
6. When will the Rays start to turn it around?
Right now, did you see Matt Garza last night.
7. Who/what will give up more homeruns, the Phillies at home or Yankee Stadium?
8. When will the Cubbies listen to Alfonso Soriano and get back to 2008 form?
Mid-May. They’re too good for this.
It is said that April showers bring May flowers. If you consider this past April showers, then these flowers are going to be some good ones.
Here are my power rankings after week one. I’ll try to give my “Monday Ten” every Monday weekly. So here they are:
1. St. Louis Cardinals (5-2)
Lead by strong pitching and some nice offensive production thus far, the Cards have jumped out to lead the Central. It appears that Chris Carpenter is back.
2. Florida Marlins (5-1)
How exciting is this young team. Josh Johnson is the true ace of this staff and he’s showed it so far. Bullpen is still suspect.
3. Seattle Mariners (5-2)
They’re winning close ballgames and they have the lowest ERA in the AL through seven games. I’ve mentioned before, I love seen Junior in the uni again.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (4-3)
Lowest WHIP in the NL but Manny may start stirring up some problems.
5. Toronto Blue Jays (5-2)
Scoring the most runs per game this year and how about Adam Lind? Called it.
6. Chicago Cubs (4-3)
Soriano has gotten off to a good start for once.
7. Colorado Rockies (3-3)
Offense is looking really good. Whether or not they can keep carrying this production–time will tell.
8. Los Angeles Angels (3-3)
The Angels, with the death of a fellow teammate on their hearts, are playing hard baseball. The cleared benches may have sparked something as well.
9. Atlanta Barves (5-1)
Took advantage of the Phils starters not locating pitches and then the played the Nationals? The bullpen absolutely imploded in Philly though.
10. New York Yankees (3-3)
Not sure where they would be after two road series to start the season. But now we know CC does have his stuff.
Pushing the Ten: Kansas City Royals (3-3)
It’s still the first week though, so take all of this lightly.
We just had our fantasy draft. There are 16 teams in our league and I had the 11th pick. There are 25 spots on each roster. Before I list my team, here are the categories that we have in our league:
Hitting categories: R, H, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OPS
Pitching categories: W, CG, SHO, SV, K, HLD, ERA, WHIP
Round 1: Ian Kinsler 2B – Kinsler does it all and even drives in runs out of the leadoff spot (71 RBIs last season). He hits for a high average and steals bases.
Round 2: Lance Berkman 1B – He’s got a great bat as he can hit over .300 and get you over 100 RBIs and possibly 30 homeruns.
Round 3: Roy Halladay SP – The first starting pitcher I took. All the other studs were gone. I thought getting him was a bargain in the third round due to the fact our league uses complete games and shutouts as a category.
Round 4: Joe Mauer C – Catcher is a thin position. So I went with Mauer. Despite injury potential, you cannot argue with over a .300 batting average.
Round 5: Chris Davis 1B/3B – If you read my blog, you know that I’m all about this kid. He’s a big lefty and can hit and he had a great half a season last year. And especially in this lineup, he will drive in runs.
Round 6: Joakim Soria RP – I seemed to be at the end of the stud closer run and Soria was the last one left. I’m just hoping he can reproduce his 2008 totals.
Round 7: Rich Harden SP
Round 8: Chris Young OF – Young has that rare combo of power and speed.
Round 9: Mike Aviles SS – I’m hoping Aviles can build upon the great rookie campaign he had in Kansas City. (.325/10HR/51RBI)
Round 10: Josh Johnson SP – Did a nice job last season in his 14 starts (7-1).
Round 11: Clayton Kershaw SP – Would this be considered taking a gamble?
Round 12: Mike Gonzalez RP
Round 13: Adam Lind OF – This is another one of those players that, if you follow my blog, you know I like them. I assume he will be in the middle of this Blue Jays lineup this year.
Round 14: Joey Devine RP – Now, I’m hoping that Devine wins the closer job. Even if he doesn’t, we get points for holds — so I can’t be too concerned. I was suprised Devine went this late as well. Ziegler was drafted only a few picks before this.
Round 15: Jack Cust OF – I follow up one Oakland A with another. I needed some more power and production (even if Cust doesn’t post the average).
Round 16: Chris Dickerson OF – I’m hoping Dickerson will get at least some starts. He can steal and has been doing well this spring.
Round 17: Chase Headley 3B/OF
Round 18: Matt Thornton RP – He should help in the hold category (although I think the hold is a rediculous statistic — it exists).
Round 19: Casey Kotchman 1B
Round 20: Matt LaPorta 1B/OF – With so many roster spots — why not?
Round 21: Ryan Madson RP – The “bridge to Lidge” should get me some holds.
Round 22: Elvis Andrus SS
Round 23: Mark Teahen 1B/3B/OF – He’s eligible all over.
Round 24: Seth Smith OF – He probably isn’t drafted in some leagues but I like him.
Round 25: Josh Willingham OF – Finish this team off with “the hammer.”
I feel pretty good about my team considering the fact there are sixteen teams in the league. Last year I won, so let’s see if I can repeat.
Season Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
Projected MLB Rank: 21st — AL Rank: 9th — AL East Rank: 4th — Record: (75-87)
Maybe letting AJ go, may burn[ett] down the road. Get it? Sorry, I know it’s corny but I had to. For a team that won 86 games last season, I feel weird ranking them so poorly but then when I really take a look at the lineup, and the rotation without the arm of Burnett, then I can kind of see why I have them here, kind of.
Beginning with the rotation, Roy Halladay may be the most true pitcher in the American League. He actually pitches complete games. I’m a huge fan of that. Despite the fact that I didn’t grow up in the days where pitchers were expected to pitch until the 8th or so–that’s what I love to see. So Roy Halladay is my kind of pitcher. The number two pitcher, AJ Burnett–
–oh yea, that 1-2 knockout punch is now just the 1 punch. Burnett went for the dough and signed with the Yankees. So how does new projected number two starter Jesse Litsch stack up against Burnett’s numbers:
AJ Burnett: 18-10 — 4.07 ERA — 231 SO — .249 BAA — 9.4 SO/9INN
Jesse Litsch: 13-9 — 3.58 ERA — 99 SO — .261 BAA — 5.06 SO/9INN
I would expect Litsch’s ERA to raise a little too (c’mon it’s the AL). No matter what way you look at it, it’s a definate drop off. Taking nothing away from Litsch, who is a good pitcher, but it is hard to come by the AJ Burnett’s in this world. The rest of the rotation includes David Purcey, Scott Richmond, and Casey Janssen, Matt Clement, or Brett Cecil. Purcey has first round pick potential but has yet to find at the major league level, and the minor league level too. Richmond and all who are competing for the fifth starter spot are questionable (with the exception of the youngster Cecil).
The bullpen is, dare I say it, the best in the division. You may not know them so let’s take a look at some of these guys and their 2008 stats.
Scott Downs: 66 APP — 1.78 ERA — 57 SO — 70.2 INN
Brandon League: 31 APP — 2.18 ERA — 23 SO — 33 INN
Jesse Carlson: 69 APP — 2.25 ERA — 55 SO — 60 INN
Brian Tallet: 51 APP — 2.88 ERA — 47 SO — 56.1 INN
Brian Wolfe: 20 APP — 2.45 ERA — 14 SO — 22 INN
Also don’t forget about the reliable arms of Jason Frasor, Jeremy Accardo, and Shawn Camp. The back end of the bullpen includes BJ Ryan. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he still racked up 32 saves last season with a 2.95 ERA and about nine strikeouts per nine innings.
Anchoring the lineup is veteran outfielder, Vernon Wells. Not playing a full season last year, Wells still cranked out 20 homeruns and 78 RBIs and hit for .300. Rightfielder, Alex Rios, mirrored those numbers but played all year long. Rod Barajas and Scott Rolen are aging and that may show this season but they can still be relatively reliable.
There are questions surrounding the Jays middle infield. Whether it’s going to be Marco Scutaro, John McDonald, Aaron Hill, or Joe Inglett. Where questions don’t surround are youngsters Adam Lind and Travis Snider. Look for manager Cito Gaston to use them very nicely and not rush them into anything too big too quickly (although it seems as if Lind is becoming the middle of the lineup hitter they’re hoping him to be). They will produce and they will be stars in this league, eventually.
The loss of Burnett, the questionable middle infield, and the shaky back of the rotation make me raise questions about the Blue Jays in 2009. Especially due to the division they are in.
First I’ll start off by presenting my photo of the day…
How awesome is it to see that swing in Mariner blue again? It reminds me of my early childhood. Watching Ken Griffey Jr. play baseball was like watching someone that you knew was going to become a legend. Even in my single digits I recognized the fact that he was going to become a Hall of Famer one day. He has one of the sweetest swings the game has ever seen and even though he won’t be patrolling center field again in Seattle, I am ecstatic to see Griffey as a Mariner again.
I had recently been presenting my breakout players for this upcoming season so I’ll recap them.
1B Chris Davis (Texas Rangers)
He’s big and he can produce and I think that he will be an all star in this league, even as early as this season. He is in one of the best lineups in the league, if not the best so he will get his chances to drive men home.
OF/DH Adam Lind (Toronto Blue Jays)
Lind quickly became a staple in the Blue Jays offense halfway through the season last year. He has become a great hitter at the plate and will blossom this season in a tough AL East.
RP Chris Perez (St. Louis Cardinals)
He’s leading the pack for the Cardinals closer job. He was the closer for every minor league team he played for and last season he notched seven saves and became the Cards closer as the season neared it’s end. So I would expect him to be the one who enters in the ninth.
SP Chris Volstad (Florida Marlins)
He’s young, he’s got very nice stuff, and he’s placed right in the middle of one of the most underrated rotations in the league. He has the potential to be the Marlins ace eventually, so why not make eventually this season?
Other players who I didn’t cover but have potential to breakout:
OF Seth Smith (Colorado Rockies)
SP Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds)
OF Denard Span (Minnesota Twins)
PREVIEW of what’s to come:
I haven’t posted in a few days because I have been working on my predictions for the upcoming season (and the fact that I’m in college and weekends are busy). So I apologize. But starting Wednesday, in honor of the first day of Spring Training games, I will start to release my 2009 predictions. It will go team-by-team each day starting with who I think will finish last working my way all the way up to who I think will have the best record. It will kind of be like a 30 teams in 30 days type deal but most likely not in 30 days.
At the end of that I will post my playoff and award predictions. I will probably interject other posts about hot topics or random ideas that I have along the way, but my predictions will be done before April 5th when the season opens up at my home — the city of brotherly love.
So Miggy admitted that he lied, the A-Rod saga doesn’t take up half of sportscenter anymore, Brett Favre has “retired” (no more drama please), and its sixty degrees today in central PA. We can now move on to spring training (less than 24 hours until the first pitchers and catchers report) and I’ll continue with my breakout players.
OF Adam Lind Toronto Blue Jays
This 25-year-old outfielder/DH broke into the league in September of 2006 and has compiled 22 homeruns, 94 RBIs, and a .271 average. Last season with the triple-A Syracuse Chiefs he played in 51 games and drove in 50 with a .328 average before getting called up. He played in 88 games with the big club and hit .282 with nine homeruns and 40 RBIs. Which was a huge step up from his .238 batting average as a rookie.
Lind takes a good approach to the plate and even hit in the cleanup spot last year for Toronto. He will eventually become a consistent middle of the lineup hitter and will get big production numbers in that spot. He is not being rushed in being asked to be that kind of player but I think that this will be the year he becomes a hitter to keep an eye on.
Last year he started 71 games in left field and lead the team in that position and slowly crept up the lineup and went on several hot streaks. I imagine he will either start in left field or be the Jays main DH at the start of 2009 and be right in the middle of the order.
Projected 2009 Blue Jays Lineup
1. 2B Aaron Hill
2. SS Marco Scutaro
3. RF Alex Rios
4. CF Vernon Wells
5. DH Adam Lind
6. 3B Scott Rolen (or 7)
7. 1B Lyle Overbay (or 6)
8. C Rod Barajas (or 9)
9. LF Travis Snider (could slowly creep up the lineup as season progresses (I imagine him as one of my breakout players in 2010))