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.
The 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.
Why 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
After 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?
Three games at the Phillies and Marlins.
Home against the Mets and Angels for three.
Four games at the Cubs.
Four at home against the Phils.
Three games at the Rangers, Angels, and White Sox.
It’s finals week here and I find myself studying a bunch, but currently I’m procrastinating. Took the first final early this morning and now I have three more to go. I cannot wait to get back home for the summer. I have tickets to one of the Dodgers/Phils games at The Park next week. I’ll get to see Manny come to town along with that solid Dodgers team. But anyways…
While I’m on my study “break” (I call it a break because I plan on doing this post, and then watching the Sox/Yanks game tonight, so really it’s a four or so hour break), I’ll give you the team of my favorite players that I’ve watched during my lifetime. I’m in the team forming mode so here it goes.
– Team consists of a player at each position, five starting pitchers, and two relievers, and a manager
– Each player is my favorite at that position
– Each player will have played since 1990 (my year of birth) but I don’t remember the early 90’s so most likely a little later than that
– No DH (since the Phils are in the NL and pitchers should hit anyways)
– And other rules that I can’t think of right now
THE “MY FAVORITE PLAYERS” TEAM
Catcher Joe Mauer
This guy can catch and hit for average? Sign him up. A career .319 hitter, Mauer has a great approach at the plate and a career OBP over .400 and he’s back from injury now (which is good, he’s on my fantasy team). He beat out Mike Lieberthal and Charles Johnson here.
Firstbase Jim Thome
In an era where all the players reaching the 500 homerun club are accused of performance-enhancers, we have the players like Thome who are just pure power. My dad was a fan of Thome when he was still with the Tribe, so I followed his liking and then he ended up coming to Philly for three or so years. He’s slugged 545 total homers in his career and keeps on going with the White Sox today. The runner up here is Todd Helton.
Secondbase Chase Utley
When there are so many great secondbasemen in the game today, Utley is called by many, the best of them all, and I agree. He’s been all the hype since he came up to the big leagues with the Phils in 2003 and hasn’t dissapointed. With the quick swing and a great approach to the plate, I’ll have Utley over any secondbaseman on my team. Luis Castillo and Brian Roberts were also considered–but it was really no contest.
Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra
He was my second ever “most favorite player” while playing short for the Sox. I’ve followed him as far back as I can remember. With the Red Sox, he hit .323 and was the batting champion twice. He’s the reason my favorite number is five. From ’96 Rookie of the Year to today, Nomar’s the man.
Thirdbase Cal Ripken Jr.
The only current Hall of Famer on this team, is Ripken. I know he was a shortstop for most of his career, but as far as I can remember, he’s a thirdbaseman. One of my most favorite baseball moments ever is when he hit a homerun in his last All Star Game in 2001. Mike Lowell is the runner-up here.
Leftfield Jeff Conine
He was my very first “favorite player.” As far as I know, I’ve been a Conine fan since I’ve been a baseball fan. Supposively when I was five or six, my dad took me to a Marlins/Phils game at The Vet and Jeff Conine hit a homerun that game and I decided he was my favorite player. It is only fitting that he was with the Marlins both times they won the World Series. There was no way Pat Burrell would top Conine here, but he’s also up there.
Centerfield Shane Victorino
I’ll say it over and over and over again, Victorino is a winner. I love the way he plays the outfield. He gets one of the best jumps on the ball in the entire league. He’s also always coming up big when we need him most, he’s clutch. Juan Pierre was also in contention in center.
Rightfield Brad Hawpe
This former pitcher-turned-outfielder has a cannon from right field. He can hit the ball real well too, its not just the thin air in Denver that carries the ball because he hits just as well on the road as he does at home. Hawpe’s a hitter.
Starting Pitcher Josh Beckett
My current “favorite major leaguer” is Beckett. He played a huge role in the 2003 Championship in Florida and everytime he was on the mound, I knew the Marlins were going to win. When healthy, he has some of the nastiest stuff in the league and isn’t afraid to knock anyone back with a fastball.
Starting Pitcher Curt Schilling
Pitched a while for Phils and I got his autograph at a Commerce Bank opening. Then we traded him to Arizona where he went on to win a World Series with the Dbacks. Then he went on to Boston where he was a clutch pitcher in the playoffs, season, bloody sock, bogged by injuries, and so on. He’s a Hall of Famer to me.
Starting Pitcher Roy Halladay
This guy is one of my favorite pitchers in baseball. In an age where complete games are far a few between, Halladay goes the distance like its in his contract. I wish I could have been alive during the days where pitchers were expected to throw complete games, because I feel like that’s the way it was supposed to be. I respect Halladay because he pitches the right way.
Starting Pitcher Randy Wolf
How can you not love Randy Wolf and the Wolf Pack? A Phillie for most of his career, Wolf has become one of those players that I like to always check up on and find out how he’s doing.
Starting Pitcher Cole Hamels
Young King Cole and his dirty changeup lead the Phils through the playoffs last season. He has great tempo on the mound and has solid mechanics. This year, he has just been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball. I’m looking for him to have a great career (knock on wood).
Other Starters that were up there are Greg Maddux, Brett Myers, and Josh Johnson.
Relief Pitcher Brad Lidge
After what he did last season, how could he not be my most favorite reliever in the entire game. He was perfect, echoing the Phillies perfect season. When he fell to his knees after striking out Eric Hinske to end the World Series, it instantly became my favorite baseball moment, ever.
Relief Pitcher Jonathan Papelbon
This guy is such a character. He has the perfect mentality for the closer role. He’s crazy. Sometimes you have to be to be a closer. Papelbonfire.
Manager Charlie Manuel
Come to me before last postseason and I would have told you Jack McKeon. But Charlie proved to Philly and all its fans that he cares about and loves the fans. He knows a heck of a lot about hitting. Charlie brought a Championship back to the city. Lets do it again!
There’s my favorites of my MLB memory.
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.
I haven’t written in a little while, my apologies. I really need to kick it into high gear if I want to finish my team previews before the season starts. So I’ll type up this one as I watch Japan play the USA.
Team Preview: Chicago White Sox
Projected MLB Rank: 17th — AL Rank: 6th — AL Central Rank: 2nd — Record: (80-82)
The White Sox have a great mix of veteran stars and young talent. Most homes in America know of Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski, and Jermaine Dye. I guess we’ll see how youngsters Josh Fields and Chris Getz pan out in the infield. But here are some of last year’s contributors to one of the best offenses in the AL, that may have flown under to the average fan.
Carlos Quentin had an unbelievable year and would have probably won the AL MVP award had he not gotten injured at the end of the season. He drove in 100 runs while crushing 37 homeruns and batting .288. He may not put up the same numbers as he did last season, but he will definately be a middle of the lineup contributor for the White Sox.
Alexei Ramirez is a five tool player who was born in Cuba. He had a great rookie campaign hitting over 20 homers and driving in over 70 runs. He should only blossom this season and improve upon those numbers. Outfielder Dewayne Wise should have the starting centerfield spot this season after he filled in nicely when Quentin went down last season. He has a good combo of power and speed but really hasn’t found his average in the MLB.
The rotation is lead by southpaw veteran Mark Buerhle who has become a staple at the top of the White Sox rotation. He is followed by young arms Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Floyd was awarded for his great 2008 when he scored a big contract extension today. We will see if he can match his 3.84 ERA and 17 wins in 2009. Danks is a great young lefty who kept a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts last season. They are followed by aging injury-ridden righties Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras. They are 35 and 37 respectively and may not start the season in the rotation but will get their shot to work their way in when they become fully healthy.
Bobby Jenks and Matt Thornton are the highlights of the southside’s bullpen. Jenks had 30 saves last season with a ERA under 3.00 and has become a very good closer in this league. Thornton, a team USA member, had a great 2008 with an ERA around Jenks in over 70 appearences. Octavio Dotel, who is 35 years old, assumes the setup role as he is a big time strikeout pitcher. Scott Linebrink also had a nice year last season with a 3.69 ERA in 50 games.
This division is weak and I seriously think that any team can win it. I’m projecting the White Sox second behind (use the process of elimination and you’ll see who I think will win it). Some of the players on this team are getting older and if the younger ones don’t pick up the slack, the White Sox may not repeat as division champions.
Before given you my Twins preview for the upcoming season, I apologize for not posting too much this week. Being on spring break, I’ve been really busy and it’s been really nice to be home. But I found some time right now, so here’s your Minnesota Twins…
Season Preview: Minnesota Twins
Projected MLB Rank: 22nd — AL Rank: 10th — AL Central Rank: 3rd — Record: (74-88)
When I look at the Twins, I see a pretty good young lineup with some average pitching. I think
that this team has the best chance to win the division out of the teams that I have ranked in the bottom ten in the league. The central is probably the weakest division in the league and with the lethal combo of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, you cannot go wrong.
Anchored by Mauer and Morneau, the rest of the lineup has some great young talent. Outfielder Delmon Young, who has been projected to be a great hitter, had a down year last year after driving in 93 runs in Tampa Bay in 2007. The good thing is that he is still 23 and still has time to develop. Speedy centerfielder Carlos Gomez can steal bases but wasn’t the top of the lineup hitter the Twins hoped for last season. He needs to raise his average and OBP if he wants to stay at the top of the lineup. I think that the other corner outfielder, Denard Span, will raise some eyebrows this season. He hit .294 last season with 47 RBIs in 93 games with the big club. He’s also got some speed (18 stolen bases in 08). They will definately get production from the DH spot, whether it’s lefty Jason Kubel or righty Michael Cuddyer.
Veterans Joe Crede and Nick Punto hold down the left side of the infield. Crede has production potential as he drove in 55 runs last season in only 97 games last season for the White Sox but has a career .257 average. Last season the 31-year old Punto raised his average significantly to .284 but he’s really only in the lineup for his glove at short. While watching Venezuela/Italy last night, I heard Punto (who played shortstop for Italia) described as, “one of the those guys you can win with.”
I think the big question last season was about Francisco Liriano, he wasn’t as dominant as he had been previously to his injury. In fact, Scott Baker goes into the season as the projected “ace.”
…and you wonder why I think the Twins pitching is average…
Baker had a great 2008, but he’s not an ace. Hopefully Liriano can regain that status with a nice year in 09. Kevin Slowey is great as the number three. Nick Blackburn is overrated and probably won’t reach 11 wins again this season. The projected fifth starter, southpaw Glen Perkins, had a scary September.
Joe Nathan is one of the top five closers in the league and the Twins will definately need him this season. He was 39 for 45 in save opputunities last season with a 1.33 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. The rest of the bullpen, consisting of Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, and Craig Breslow, will be reliable. But for Luis Ayala, that just makes the ‘pen worse after he was a nightmare alone in New York.
I’ve learned to never doubt Ron Gardenhire and team from the twin cities, so I won’t. I’m projecting them third in the division, and they can easily win it too. I just think that the division overall is weak, and that is why I have ranked them so low overall in the league.
I am going to try to make this my last post about A-Rod, steroids, etc, etc. But I got thinking who is next in line to capture the homerun record as their own fully clean, as far as we know. Rodriguez was supposed to be our savoir from Barry, Balco, Big Mac, and Juiced but, well, you all know the story forwards and backwards now (at least we think we do). So who could potentially top Bonds and take Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s record from him and not have an asterisk surrounding his name?
In his eight year career, Pujols has slugged 319 homeruns averaging almost 40 homeruns a season. He is one of the best right-handed hitters in the game right now, if not the best. He is 29 years old and if he can average 37 homeruns over the next twelve seasons, he will have 763 homeruns, one more than Bonds. By that time he will be 41 years old. Bonds was 42 when he broke* Aaron’s record of 755. Pujols’ career high came in 2006 when he hit 49 dingers (and he only played in 143 games that year).
POSSIBILITY: MOST LIKELY
Ken Griffey Jr.
The closest among all active clean players with 611 homeruns (are Bonds and Sammy Sosa even active anymore?). Junior’s back in the Emerald City where he hit his first 398 homeruns. Since then, the new millenium hasn’t treated Griffey well as he has been plagued by injuries and years of not contending (until his trade to the White Sox last year). Since 2000, he’s topped out at 40 homeruns (2000) and is 151 homeruns away at 39 years old. He would need to play five more seasons and average just over 30 homeruns over that span to break take the top spot from Barry.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Over four years into his career he has connected for 177 homeruns. His 162-game average in homeruns is 50 per year. He has 586 homeruns to go if he wants to take away the title from Bonds he will need to average 46 homeruns over the next 13 seasons. However, he goes into slumps like it’s in his contract. But when his bat is hot, the lumber is on fire. Another problem is that he didn’t come up to the big leagues and stay up until he was 25 and he didn’t play his first full season until he was 26. He is 29 this season and if he only plays until he is 40 he will need to muster over 53 homeruns per season. Becoming a member of the 500 homerun club should be his first priority.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Dunn has raw power and has hit 278 homeruns over his eight year career averaging just under 35 per season. He is also 29 this season and needs 485 homeruns to break the record. He would need to average 45 homeruns over the next 11 seasons to conquer that feat and has only hit over 40 homeruns once (46 in 2004). I would say that he have the same priority as Howard, join the 500 homerun club first and then see where he’s at.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Let’s let him find a team first. But he needs 236 more homeruns and he is 36 years old. He would need to average just over 47 homeruns in the next five seasons and about 34 homeruns if he were to play seven more seasons.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Others who would need a prayer to break it:
Jim Thome, Vlad Guerrero
Too early to tell:
Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Prince Fielder