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.
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.
Will 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.
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.
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:
LHP Cole Hamels
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.
12 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!
As 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.
AL 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.
Just as things were starting to look down for the Phils, I took a look at the team calender and I saw four games against the Nats on deck. Now, of course, initially I said we need to sweep the Nats and then realized that four game sweeps are rare, even against the worst team in Major League Baseball.
After the Phils lost a heartbreaker to the Dodgers last Thursday (the game I happened to be at), they found themselves back at .500 and finishing up the homestand at 2-6. Ouch. That’s awful. They needed a rebound and the Nationals couldn’t have come at a better point. They are the type of team that the Phils need to take care of. They did.
But break out the brooms. Four games in three days were no problem for the Fightins who took care of business this weekend against Washington. Apparently the heavy load was no problem for Raul Ibanez either.
Here’s Raul’s series:
Friday: 4-6, 2 RBI, 3 R
Saturday (Game 1): 3-5, 4 RBI, 3 R, 2 HR
Saturday (Game 2): 2-3, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 HR
Sunday: Okay, lets not include today’s game (0-4)
But through the first three games of the series Ibanez was 9-for-14 with nine RBIs, seven runs scored, and three homers. He can flat out hit and he’s an instant hit here in Philly.
I want to touch on two other things.
1) New look lineup?
2) Rotation changes
First, the lineup. With a struggling Shane Victorino, Charlie’s slid him down to the six spot and has put Raul in the three spot. Here’s how the lineup has looked over the past couple of games:
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
LF Raul Ibanez
1B Ryan Howard
RF Jayson Werth
CF Shane Victorino
3B Pedro Feliz
C Carlos Ruiz
The bolded players are the ones who have been moved around. With the doubleheader and certain players getting some breaks, I have to wonder if this lineup is here to stay for now. Raul is undoubtedly our best hitter right now, which merits the three spot (although I do like Utley in the three spot). Victorino never seems like he’s a two hitter but he certainly has the speed for the top of the lineup. I’m fine with him at six as well though. I like the change, for now.
Pertaining to the rotation, I thought Chan Ho Park really showed us that he’s supposed to be in this rotation in his last two starts (I think 12 IP with 2 ER). But today he gave me another reason to want him out of the rotation. He went an inning and a third surrendering five earned runs while walking four Nats.
Enough of this, I want JA Happ in this rotation. I think that Park will fit our bullpen nicely as he did in LA’s ‘pen last season. A good long relief man not named Jack Taschner (no offense Trashner, the ERA under four is nice, but I’m a nervous wreck everytime you’re in). Here’s how I think the rotation should shape up:
Tuesday at Cincinnati — Jamie Moyer
Wednesday at Cincinnati — Joe Blanton
Thursday at Cincinnati — Cole Hamels
Friday at the Yanks — Brett Myers
Saturday at the Yanks — JA Happ
This is a tough situation because this has Cole Hamels pitching a week after he last pitched but nothings perfect.
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.
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.
8. 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)
Detroit Tigers (13-11)
Pittsburgh Pirates (12-12)
In each of the last two games against the Brewers, the Phils have mustered a hefty one run in each game off solo shots. Two days ago, Jayson Werth took a ninth inning pitch long for a homerun to keep the Brewcrew from shutting out the Phillies. Then yesterday, Matt Stairs kept the Phils from getting shutout AND getting no hit, all in one swing, with a shot that went off the foul pole.
The offense has struggled the past two games to manufacture runs and last game, they struggled to even get on base via base hits. Over the past two games the Phils are hitting .164 (10-for-61).
Well, don’t expect much better tonight in Florida as the Phils face up against righthander Josh Johnson. Johnson (2-0) goes for his third win in his fourth start after starting the season dominating his first two starts against Washington and the Mets. His third start, however, wasn’t too impressive when the Nats got a second look at the 2009 Johnson, roughing him up for six runs in six innings.
I’m hoping the Phils can take advantage of a Johnson off a bad start and Johnson, being a righty, may be hit by the lefty-heavy filled Phils lineup. But Johnson, who can strikeout hitters, may take advantage of a free swinging Phils team.
When Cole Hamels went down yesterday off the linedrive back at him from Prince Fielder, I was initially worried. My panic level rose rapidly. Especially when Fielder was the one who hit the ball, one of the hardest hitting hitters in the league. When he swings, he really swings. But last night, I heard that the ball went off the meaty part of his back shoulder and that he may not even miss his next start. I was scared of a DL stint, and apparently, that isn’t going to be happening.
This Marlins series is the Phillies first real test of the season. The Fish, coming off the wrong side of a sweep against the Pirates, are hungry for their first win of the workweek. The Phils, with a struggling offense, look to cut down the Marlins division lead even further.
Here’s my Keys to the Series
-No easy pitches to Phillies hitters
-Take the extra bases
-Look to hit the longball
-Find a way on base
-Continue to play good defense
-Avoid giving up the longball
Tonight Brett Myers takes the ball against Johnson. Tomorrow night, Chan Ho Park starts against young stud righthander Chris Volstad. Then on Sunday, Jamie Moyer will toe the rubber against what was supposed to be Andrew Miller, but now that he’s on the DL, maybe Anibal Sanchez will start.
PHREAKIN’ PHUN WEEKEND
Not only do we have the Phils/Marlins series this weekend, but all four Philadelphia teams are in action this weekend. The Flyers played great last night and Marty Biron had a heck of a game. The Sixers play two at home this weekend against the Magic, coming into the Philly with the series tied–and a nervous Magic team. The Eagles got the draft Saturday, and at pick twenty-one I’m really hoping the Birds get Knowshon Moreno. We got Yanks/Sox this weekend on TV Saturday and Sunday. Tons of playoff basketball and hockey. Not to mention a sick weather weekend, and I’ll be going golfing Saturday morning. Here’s the schedule, not that anyone cares, but I’ll post it anyways:
7pm — Phils at Marlins
8pm — Magic at Sixers
Teeing it up
3pm — Pens at Flyers
4pm — NFL Draft
7pm — Phils at Marlins
12pm — Phils at Marlins
6pm — Magic at Sixers