Tagged: cliff lee

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!

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.

Back to School

I’m back at school and today was the first day of classes. More importantly though, Cliff Lee continues to run the NL. His ERA since being traded to the Phils is a miniscule 0.68, after the two runs he gave up in today’s 6-2 win over the Mets, were unearned.

Utley kind of threw the ball around after dropping a routine popup. But he did sit yesterday and he always wants to be out there competing, I wasn’t providing a scapegoat for him there although it kind of sounded like it. There’s no excuses for that.

How about Eric Bruntlett? Due to the fact that the Phils are playing thirteen straight days, Charlie Manuel is looking for spots to give guys rest. Bruntlett who filled in for Utley yesterday went 3-for-5 while turning an unassisted triple play to end the game (he also made two errors earlier that inning, so he better have gotten all three outs there). Today he was the starter at short while Jimmy Rollins got a break. In today’s game, he was 1-for-4. So over the past two days he went 4-for-9 which isn’t bad for a guy hitting under the mendoza line.

bruntlett.jpgThe main reason he is still on this team is because he plays a million positions. They’re just looking for his bat to start coming around for the hopeful postseason.

Usually the Mets are leading the division right around now and then September rolls around, and then that’s when they implode as a team. Nope, not this year. Apart from K-Rod, every star player they have has gotten hurt (now that Johan may need season ending surgery).

I don’t feel bad, not one bit. The “Melts” always fail.

Short post, I know.

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

Slammin’ Debut

sizemoreslamyankee.jpgThe Yankees debut of the New Yankee Stadium was filled everything you can imagine a $1.5 billion stadium could provide, but apparently you cant buy the tally in the “W” column. Grady Sizemore and the Tribe had a different idea for the christening of New Yankee.

FIRST PITCH: Fastball misses outside from CC Sabathia to Grady Sizemore
*May have set a tone for the rest of Sabathia’s 5.2 innings–he walked five before he was lifted
FIRST STRIKEOUT: CC Sabathia gets Victor Martinez on a 2-2 fastball in the top of the first
FIRST HIT: Johnny Damon on a Cliff Lee slider in the bottom of the first
FIRST EXTRA BASEHIT: Ben Francisco double in the top second
FIRST RUN: Ben Francisco crosses the plate on a Kelly Shoppach double in the top fourth
FIRST HOMER: Jorge Posada launches one over the centerfield wall  in the bottom fifth
FIRST GRANDSLAM: Grady Sizemore in the heart of a nine-run seventh
FIRST WIN: Cliff Lee has returned

Wow, does Alex Rodriguez need to return to this lineup or what? Cody Ransom is now hitting .100 on the young season and left nine men on base today. Not saying that A-Rod is Mr. Clutch but he wouldn’t be posting those numbers.

 

NATIONALS WIN ONE

The Nationals got their first win of the season this year. Jack Taschner got tagged for four earned runs in eighth to take any thoughts of a ninth inning rally and forget about it. I don’t want to talk about that game. Except for…

Lou Marson
He singled and doubled today to start off his 2009 season. Going 2-for-3 with a run scored hitting in the eight spot. He had Shairon Martis previously in the minors though, and hit him pretty well down there, so good move by Charlie placing Marson into the starting lineup today.

Postseason Predictions

So now that I’m completely done my team previews and you have all seen how I predict it will pan out, here’s the playoff and award predictions.

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

Divisional Round

Cubs over Mets
I feel like everyone jumped on me having the Cubs finish with the best record. Well I got them going a step further. A playoff rotation like there’s shouldn’t have failed last season. Some of their offensive guys are getting older, but they recognize this may be their last hurrah as they are all probably near the end of the primes of their careers. As for the Mets, their bullpen is nice, but you don’t get to them unless you have the lead.

Red Sox over Indians
The Red Sox are just a playoff team. They’re built with the intangibles and I’m big on that. A deep rotation with an unbelievable bullpen gets the easy nod over Cleveland here.

Yankees over Angels
Come on, a playoff rotation that could potentially be CC, AJ, Wang, then Pettite or Joba. You have to at least win the first series. The Angels counter with a solid rotation but I think the close series goes to the Yanks.

Dodgers over Phillies
As much as it hurts me to say this, I think the Dodgers get the best of the Phils this time. Manny is a force and the rest of the offense can hit. They have some good young arms and a solid bullpen. Close series, but no cigar for my Fightins.

Championship Round

Dodgers over Cubs
I’m all about the Dodgers this year, they have a heck of an offense. This is where the Cubs magic ends this season. In the rematch of last year’s NLDS, this result is the same.

Red Sox over Yankees
Of course, I love this rivalry and I think they meet once again in the ALCS. Sox move on simply because I hate the Yankees. Just kidding. Well Sox do move on, but my reasoning isn’t because I hate the Yankees. Intangibles move them on.

World Series
Red Sox over Dodgers
With Josh Beckett in October, you can’t go wrong. Sox win their third in six years.
_____________________________________________________________________________

AWARD PREDICTIONSsizemore.jpg

American League MVP
Grady Sizemore
He’ll be the most valuable player for his team this season as I expect him to have a higher batting average than last year. He does it all; steals, scores, drives home runs, hits homeruns, and plays a great centerfield.
Other Possibilities: Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedrioa
Wild Card: Evan Longoria

National League MVP
Ryan Howard
He was robbed last year. Lead the entire league in homeruns and RBIs and he struggled. It’s scary to think that he can do better, and then when you look at the fact that he could increase his average, he can definately increase his 146 RBIs.
Other Possibilities: Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirezhalladay02.jpg
Wild Card: Pablo Sandoval

American League Cy Young
Roy Halladay
He throws complete games like it’s his job. If he has a year like his last, he’s bound to win this award.
Other Possibilities: Cliff Lee, Ervin Santana (my pick prior to injury), Jon Lester
Wild Card: John Danks

National League Cy Young
Chad Billingsley
I think this kid is bound to break out. I think this is the year Billingsley steps up and becomes the Dodgers ace. He definately has potential for 20 wins, 200+ strikeouts, and a sub-3.00 ERA.
Other Possibilities: Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum
Wild Card: Ricky Nolasco

American League ROTY
Travis Snider
The reason I like him for this award is because he has a definate job. He will definately get his chances to move up in this lineup as well. I got two Jays winning awards.
Other Possibilities: Matt Wieters, Either Athletics 21-year-old
Wild Card: Elvis Andrus

National League ROTY
Cameron Maybin
He has so much potential and he had an awesome performance when called up in September last year.
Other Possibilities: Colby Rasmus, Tommy Hanson
Wild Card: Jason Donald

Now that that’s over with, let the Phils raise the championship banner and play ball. Brett Myers, you may now throw the first pitch of the 2009 MLB season.