Tagged: chicago cubs

Dog Days Prognostications

I’m here on my family vacation in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. And I had some downtime so I figured rather than sleep or look at the clouds that are eye level outside our mountain house, I would blog.

And okay, caught me, I said I wouldn’t be posting again until I got back to school, but.. I am. I figured I would post some of my predictions for the rest of the season. Note: These are my predictions as of August 5th, I reserve the right to change my mind as the season progresses, after all–it is my blog.

clifflee.jpgThe NL West goes to the Dodgers, that was hard.

The Phillies are in quite a slump. They’re not hitting, not pitching all too well, and making an error here and there. The greeting card sitting at Cliff Lee‘s locker when he arrived at CBP Tuesday might have read: “Welcome to town, Mr. Lee! We’ll continue to win once every fifth day when you’re out on the mound and maybe not even win then, if our offense doesn’t get going!” Lets hope that Lee didn’t bring the funk that the whole Cleveland Indians team is going through to Philly. I’m just playing around, teams go through valleys and reach mountain peaks throughout the season and I’m hoping the Phils are just in a small valley. My guess is that the Phils don’t suffer from Tribe Syndrome, turn it around in the coming week, and win the NL East.

If the Rangers had more than Dustin Nippert and Kevin Millwood then I would seriously consider them in the West over the Angels. But since they don’t, I got the Halos.

One of the best races to watch may be that AL Central. It is going to come down to what pitching staff steps up and holds off each opponent because the Tigers, White Sox, and Twins all scrap until the end to win baseball games. I love the punches Buerhle, Danks, and Floyd but the combination of Mauer and Morneau is lethal as well. So lets knock off who leads the division right now, the Detroit Tigers. They’re near the back of the AL in a bunch of categories and in the long haul, that won’t get you to the playoffs. So if its White Sox vs. Twins, advantage: Twins. They are 7-5 against the ChiSox this year.

The case for the Colorado Rockies (in a few sentences):
They have the pitching finally as their rotation has really come together this season even when Jeff Francis went down before the season started. Seth Smith and Dexter Fowler are maturing in the majors. They’ve always had the middle-of-the-lineup bats to drive in the guys that get on base before them. Todd Helton is healthy. They have more home games left than any other NL contender. They’re my NL wild card pick.

fowler.jpgWhy not the Giants?
This makes me feel like a HUGE hypocrite. I usually am all about pitching. Pitching wins, pitching wins, pitching wins. That’s what I lay my baseball foundation on. The Giants have one of  the best staffs in the National League. AND they just upgraded their awful offense AND they’re now scoring runs. They do have some great young players but I’m not sure that I can see this team playing in October. Maybe because I’ve never seen Freddy Sanchez there. Haha. Speaking of which…

Poor Pirates fans. But only the Pirates fans because Pittsburgh’s won two other championships this year. Jerry Crasnick, of ESPN.com, wrote a great article about the dismantling of this team here: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=crasnick_jerry&id=4373943.

Lets get to the touchy subject, the AL East. The Red Sox own the Yankees this year, but the Rays own the Red Sox, but the Yankees lead the division. Huh? Yea, this is a tough division to choose. The Yankees score 0.29 more runs per game than the Red Sox and 0.32 more than the Rays. The Sox ERA is 0.06 better than the Rays and 0.39 better than the Yanks. My guess is that the Yanks lose their game and a half lead to the Red Sox.

Then since the Yankees play in a park where an everyday flyout to right is homerun, I say they win the wild card. Followed closely by Tampa Bay who put themselves in too big of a hole to start to season. My same reasoning for why the Rangers don’t win the West is the same reasoning I’m using here for the wild card.

This may be preaching to the choir, but the Cardinals really bolstered their lineup at the deadline. It is a top tier NL lineup now. As long as the pitching keeps the Cards in games I see the additions of Mark DeRosa, Julio Lugo, and Matt Holliday paying off and getting the Cards into October. Sorry Cubbies.

So as of now, my playoff pairings guess goes:
Twins at Red Sox
Rockies at Phillies
Yankees at Angels
Cardinals at Dodgers

Mannywould

mannywood.jpgAfter a 11-9 loss last night to the Nationals, the Dodgers now have 49 more games to go without Manny in the lineup. You all know the Manny story by now. He tested positive for a women’s fertility drug. Steroid users take it when they want to end their steroid cycle. And so on…

Here’s Manny’s response:

Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”

Well, I don’t know how much to believe in there. But I would like to give Manny the benefit of the doubt. Wait, what am I saying, Manny over anyone doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to avoid the facts concerning the women’s drug, so unless he was trying to advance fertility, he’s in trouble.

If he would just come out and say it like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite did, then he could possibly get away from all of this. No one ever really talks about them anymore, other than the positive example they set for getting out of the steroid hole. So in the midsts of Manny, A-Rod, Selena, and PEDs, there’s baseball to be played, so lets focus on that.

So the Dodgers lost to the Nationals last night, that’s an awful way to start 50 games without your offensive leader. But will the Dodgers be in trouble? Well anytime a team loses a hitter like Manny, it’s never a good thing, but this team has got some great young hitters and they play in such a weak division. I wouldn’t be suprised if the Dodgers are still in first by July 3rd when Manny returns.

Here was the Dodgers lineup last night.

SS Rafael Furcal
2B Orlando Hudson
RF Andre Ethier
1B James Loney
C Russel Martin
CF Matt Kemp
3B Casey Blake
P Randy Wolf
LF Juan Pierre

Ethier, who is hitting .312 with six homeruns and 27 RBIs, will be asked to pick up the slack, and I think he can. He had those numbers with Manny in front of him, so I don’t think that anything will be a problem.

Another note about the lineup: Having Juan Pierre as the “second leadoff man” down at the bottom is a nice touch by Joe Torre. This provides legitimate speed three batters in a row and will give the middle of the Dodgers lineup a chance to drive home runs.

The only problem I can see here is that the young hitters knew Manny could pick them up if they went down and got out, so their approach at the plate was a little more relaxed with Manny in the lineup. One of two things will happen, they’ll go back to bad approaches at the plate or they’ll rally around not having Manny and win ballgames (assuming the pitching keeps up).

What notable teams will the Dodgers be seeing until July 3rd?

May:
Three games at the Phillies and Marlins.
Home against the Mets and Angels for three.
Four games at the Cubs.

June:
Four at home against the Phils.
Three games at the Rangers, Angels, and White Sox.

Monday Ten

 This week’s power rankings.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (17-8) (2)
Apart from the Pirates, the Cards have the league’s lowest ERA at 3.57 and continue to win ballgames.

2. Toronto Blue Jays (18-9) (1)
They’re still in first place in the AL East. They’re 7-2 in one run affairs and have the highest batting average in the majors thus far.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (18-8) (4)
Chad Billingsley is leading a pitching that was supposed to be a question mark. The Dodgers also boast a 3.93 team ERA.

4. Boston Red Sox (15-10) (3)
Kevin Youkilis is now hitting .407 even though the team just had a rough series in Tampa.

5. Kansas City Royals (14-11) (7)
Zack Greinke is being dubbed “the best pitcher in baseball” and the bullpen is really coming together. I think its up for grabs in this division. Keep up the success and pitching and its theirs for the taking.

6. Seattle Mariners (15-10) (5)
They won yesterday in the millionth inning, and did it by coming back. Once John Lackey and Ervin Santana are back in the Halos rotation, I don’t expect the Mariners to stay at the top.

7. Chicago Cubs (13-11) (8)
Hoping to get going like they should, they are coming off three straight wins against the Marlins but Big Z going down (after he bunted for a hit?) will definately hurt the rotation.


bigzinjury.jpg8. Florida Marlins (14-11) (10)
As I said, they’re currently on a three game skid and look to turn it around this week against the Reds, Braves, and Rockies.

9. Philadelphia Phillies (12-10) (Pushing)
Split against the Mets this weekend but still need to get that pitching down. Someone also needs to put the Cole Hamels voodoo doll down.

10. New York Yankees (13-11) (NR)
Mark Teixiera’s hitting around .200 and the Yanks are still scoring the most runs per game, imagine what will happen when he starts to raise that average.

Pushing the Ten: Milwaukee Brewers (13-12)

Dropped out:
Detroit Tigers (13-11)
Pittsburgh Pirates (12-12)

Suprises and Demises are Usual April Story


greinke.jpgThe 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.

April MVPs
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
Over.

4. Over/Under Mariners ERA after May: 3.50
Over

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?
New Yankee.

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.

Monday Ten

jacoby.jpg Team’s true colors may be starting show now, so here’s this weeks power rankings:

1. Toronto Blue Jays (14-6) (3)
They’re scoring the most runs in the league per game and they’re third in the AL in ERA. All with half their rotation on the DL. As long as they keep scoring runs and Roy Halladay is their ace, expect ongoing success.

2. St. Louis Cardinals (13-6) (4)
They’ve played a lot of games at home so far (10-3 at Busch) but their pitching staff has been solid thus far and Albert Pujols continues to be well, be Albert Pujols.

3. Boston Red Sox (12-6) (10)
Jacoby Ellsbury
stealing home became an instant classic moment of the 2009 season. I didn’t even see it live, but I watched the replay over and over because it was so great. Terry Francona loved, Boston loved it, I loved it, and I love the way the Red Sox are playing right now.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (13-6) (1)
Clayton Kershaw got roughed up yesterday and there were some miscues, but teams have those games. The Dodgers still  lead the entire league in WHIP and are second in the NL in batting average.

5. Seattle Mariners (12-7) (5)
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Second in the AL in ERA.

6. Detoit Tigers (10-8) (9)
Offense is coming through as Miguel Cabrera continues to tear.

7. Kansas City Royals (9-9) (7)
This staff is doing a real nice job thus far this season. If only they could start scoring some runs. They lead the American League in ERA and WHIP and last time I checked Zack Greinke still hasn’t let up an earned run.

8. Chicago Cubs (9-8) (8)
They’re still striking out batters at an alarming rate but a few key offensive players are struggling and/or hurting.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates (11-7) (NR)
Wow, who would have thought. The Buccos lead the entire league in ERA (2.97) but I’m hesistant to put them any higher.

10. Florida Marlins (11-7) (2)
I’ll put it this way, they haven’t won a game since last week’s Monday Ten. All the team’s suprises have kind of fallen back to earth. Emilio Bonifacio had a rough week and you all saw that bullpen against the Phils.

Speaking of those Phillies–
Pushing the Ten: Philadelphia Phillies (9-8)

Dropped out:
San Diego Padres (10-8)

Monday Ten

heathbell.jpgThe MLB scene changes a lot in a week during its beginnings and with it, changes my “Monday Ten.” Here’s this week’s power rankings.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (10-3) (last week: 4)
Only team with an average over .300, they’ve won eight straight, and now Manny’s hit a few out.

2. Florida Marlins (11-1) (2)
They just win ballgames and the bullpen’s been unreal thus far. But, six of those wins have come against the Nats, who have won just once. That’s the only thing kept them from the one spot.

3. Toronto Blue Jays (10-4) (5)
The starting pitching is doing a great job so far this year, something unexpected. The Jays are also scoring runs too, something else unexpected. They also boast the highest batting average in the AL.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (8-5) (1)
Carpenter going down for a while will certainly hurt this squad. But the offense is doing a great job manufacturing runs.

5. Seattle Mariners (8-5) (3)
Lead the entire league in team ERA. King Felix and Bedard are a nasty combo.

6. San Diego Padres (8-5) (NR)
I didn’t include them last week because I still thought they were terrible but after watching them play hard against the Phillies all weekend, this team can play small ball and win close games. Once teams figure out their young guys, things may start to go downhill. But for now, Heath Bell is a monster.

7. Kansas City Royals (7-5) (Pushing)
Kyle Davies is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts with 21 strikeouts in about 18 innings. He’s the x-factor here.

8. Chicago Cubs (7-4) (6)
As a team, they’re striking out more than a batter per inning.

9. Detroit Tigers (7-5) (NR)
Miguel Cabrera is a monster and if Armando Galarraga can pick up this staff and lead it this season, they could turn out alright.

10. Boston Red Sox (6-6) (NR)
A four game winning streak and a dominating start by Jon Lester only leads me to believe that the best is yet to come. This team is on the up.

Pushing the Ten: Cincinnati Reds (6-5) 

Dropped out:
Colorado Rockies (4-7)
Los Angeles Angels (4-8)
Atlanta Braves (6-6)
New York Yankees (7-6)

Still to early (hence all the teams that dropped out), but I’ll continue to do this.

Monday Ten

mondayten001.jpgHere 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.