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 just saw a segment on Baseball Tonight about the best one-two offensive punches in baseball. So here’s my top ten in order without explanation…
1. Joe Mauer / Justin Morneau MIN
2. Carlos Pena / Evan Longoria TB
3. Chase Utley / Ryan Howard PHI
4. Mark Teixiera / Alex Rodriguez NYY
5. Ryan Zimmerman / Adam Dunn WAS
6. Adam Jones / Nick Markakis BAL
7. Kevin Youkilis / Jason Bay BOS
8. Carlos Beltran / David Wright NYM
9. Michael Young / Josh Hamilton TEX
10. Ryan Braun / Prince Fielder MIL
Wild Card: Todd Helton / Brad Hawpe COL
Oh central Pennsylvania. It’s currently sunny outside and snowing. The weather here never ceases to amaze me. I cannot wait to go home to Philly for good where the weather doesn’t go haywire. I’m taking time out of a hectic few school days (a couple exams and a paper) to write this post because I can’t stay away from baseball, come on, it’s opening week. My professors will understand, I hope.
So as I watched the Orioles/Yankees game yesterday, I wasn’t suprised that CC Sabathia was all over the place. I don’t think Yankees fans should be concerned though. I saw a statistic yesterday that last year he started the season with some awful stats (I forget what they were, it was like one win and a skyscraper ERA through five or so starts). Then he turned into a savior in Milwaukee and put up unbelievable numbers there. As much as I want him to do poorly in New York because he’s playing for money there, he’ll definately turn it around.
Speaking of playing for money, did anyone hear Mark Teixiera get booed as if he flipped the bird to every Orioles fan in the park. Well, they weren’t pleased that the “hometown boy” turned down the Orioles offer this offseason to go play in the Bronx. Well Big Tex ended 0-for-4 and left five men on base. O’s fans were certainly pleased. As was I.
How about that Orioles offense? Brian Roberts, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis combined to go 8-for-11, scored seven runs, and drove home four. Every Orioles starter had at least one hit except Luke Scott, who worked two walks and had an RBI. This lineup will produce runs this year with a nice combination of young stars and veteran players, if only they had some pitching to go along with their potent offense.
“ALL HAIL THE PUTZ/K-ROD COMBO”
I’m one of few people who doesn’t believe this combo will be as lights out as everyone else thinks it will be. Sure they’re great and all. But it was what, 30 degrees in Cincinnati yesterday? It’s definately going to be hard to get around on a either one of Putz or Rodriguez’s pitches.
Johan looked good for the most part. His slider wasn’t too effective yesterday and he walked four, but I guess you can’t argue with seven strikeouts and one earned run in almost six innings. His counterpart, Aaron Harang threw a lot of pitches in just five innings of work and looked pretty good despite working deep into the count in what felt like every batter.
The two runs yesterday by the Mets were produced by not Wright, not Reyes, not Beltran, not Delgado–but Daniel Murphy. He hit a homerun and then later drove home Luis Castillo. This kid is pretty good, so look out for him this year.
Those were really the only games I sat down and watched yesterday. I caught some of the Cubs/Astros, Rangers/Indians, A’s/Angels, and Pirates/Cardinals but just a few innings here and there. I got a lot of studying to do and a paper to write.
Best matchups of the night:
Ubaldo Jimenez and Dan Haren try to cool the bats of eachothers’ teams after the D-backs and Rockies combined for seventeen runs and eight homers yesterday.
Scott Olsen faces off against his old team and Josh Johnson as the Marlins look to continue to roll after they posted a 12-spot on the scoreboard yesterday.
The Phils look to rebound from their opening night loss as they send Jamie Moyer to the mound against the Braves and Jair Jurrjens who was 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA in four starts last year against the Phils.
Season Preview: New York Mets
Projected MLB Rank: 6th — NL Rank: 4th — NL East Rank: 2nd — Record: (91-71)
National League Wild Card Winners
There is potential in the New York Mets this season. Potential to have great success. Potential to fail and fall flat on their faces. I’m sure if the bullpen backfires, Omar Minaya will be gone. And will never even return to within 100 miles of the new Citi Field. But this year will the be they blow it again or succeed and finally make it to October?
Minaya went out this past offseason and, we’ve heard it all before, turned a weakness into a strength. He signed closer Francisco Rodriguez to a huge deal and traded for closer JJ Putz to come in and be the setup man. Putz last season posted a 3.88 ERA and saved 15 games for the Mariners with a nice strikeout rate but I think he has the potential to start blowing saves. At times, he didn’t look too confident in the WBC and that may continue into the season. As for K-Rod, we all know what he did last season, saving a record 62 games while posting a 2.24 ERA with over ten strikeouts per nine innings. His WHIP has been gradually rising the past few seasons and at the end of last season he lost some velocity on the fastball and was mainly throwing his biting curve. I can see both pitchers succeeding in their roles on the Mets, or failing.
We all know about the rest of the Mets bullpen
The rotation on the other hand has it’s high points, then there’s some low points as well. Southpaw perennial Cy Young candidate Johan Santana leads the way as he went 16-7 last season with a 2.53 ERA and he topped 200 strikeouts for the fifth season in a row. Number two starter Mike Pelfrey solidified himself at the end of last summer as a consistent starter after he was so shaky in the beginning of the year. He posted a 3.72 ERA and we’ll find out what he’s really made of this season.
Another lefty, Oliver Perez, seems to not really pitch well against anyone–except the Phillies. Well he’s back and I expect him to go 1-8 with a 5.22 ERA against the Nats, Marlins, and Braves but go 2-0 with a 1.79 ERA against the Fightins. Righthander John Maine, who seemed a couple years ago to be a front of the rotation guy, has seemed to go backwards. Before injury last season, he posted a 4.18 ERA in 25 starts. Then there’s Livan Hernandez, I don’t know what to expect from him. Last season, he had a 6.05 ERA with a WHIP that reached a mile high. But he’s not one to get injured, so you could call him reliable.
The lineup looks really legitimate, until you get past the fifth hitter. Ryan Church, Luis Castillo, and Brian Schneider aren’t guys that I believe will help the Mets get to the playoffs. If anything, they hurt the team because none are the players that they once were. Someone unexpected who may help though, is leftfielder Daniel Murphy. The 25 year old hit .313 last season in 49 games and ripped the ball apart in the spring as he hit .363 with 15 RBIs, 6 doubles, and two stolen bases.
Then there’s the rest of the Mets, the household names. The perennial chokers. Jose Reyes, who is one of the best base-stealers and leadoff men in the league. Carlos Delgado, who carried the team at one point last season and tallied MVP caliber numbers, but he’s getting older. Carlos Beltran, who can flat out hit, hasn’t brought the Mets a World Series championship to the Mets. Then there’s David Wright. The attention grabber. The guy that FOX likes to take, and place on top of the world, and treat him like a lowercase god. It’s not that I hate David Wright as a person, I hate the fact that he gets the amount of attention he does while not leading his team to greatness yet. When it comes down to it though, he is a great hitter and I would still take him at the hot corner any day on the Phils.
Overall, the Mets still haven’t proven anything, to anyone. I could even see this team missing the playoffs, after what I’ve seen the past two years. Until proven else, the Phillies are the “team to beat” in this division, and will continue to be just that. Because of the upgrades made in the bullpen, how could I leave them out of the playoffs? But, I could totally see this team missing October for the third year in a row. As much as I wish Cole Hamels would just write down what he wants to say, so we wouldn’t hear his voice, he’s right when he calls the Muts “choke-artists.”
The World Baseball Classic rosters are set. The United States roster looks more promising than last time. The US is in Pool C with Canada, Venezula, and Italy and opens up the tournament playing in Toronto.
The tournament runs from March 5th-23rd in anywhere from Tokyo to San Juan and ending in Los Angeles. (http://mlb.mlb.com/wbc/2009/schedule/brackets.jsp) You can find the official WBC bracket there.
The US roster consists of players from 21 different MLB teams and is one of only two rosters that are made up of all MLB players. Here is how I think the lineup should be:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Grady Sizemore
LF Ryan Braun
DH Chipper Jones
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF Brad Hawpe
3B David Wright
C Brian McCann
2B Dustin Pedrioa
However, I am not Davey Johnson and I’m almost positive that Derek Jeter will start at shortstop. Curtis Granderson would be the first pinch runner most likely and Mark DeRosa looks like he will be the infield utility guy. Chris Iannetta backs up McCann behind the dish. The starting pitchers featured on the roster are Jeremy Guthrie, Ted Lilly, Roy Oswalt, and Jake Peavy. The rotation may shape up to look something along the lines of Peavy, Oswalt, Lilly, then Guthrie.
The bullpen is probably one of the strongest in the whole classic. The US boasts established closers like Brian Fuentes, Joe Nathan, JJ Putz, and BJ Ryan. The bullpen features emerging closers like Jonathan Broxton, Matt Lindstrom, and Brad Ziegler. It also contains guys like JP Howell, Scot Shields, and Matt Thornton. In the ninth I would hand the ball to Fuentes to face lefthanded hitters and Nathan to face righties.
I am most excited to watch the US play and to see how Brad Hawpe plays among all stars and how Johnson utilizes the extremely talented bullpen he has.
In other notes, how great is it to see mlb.com with the games of the day on the left side bar again? I am so relieved to hear that everyday we are getting closer to the season. The first spring training games start tomorrow with most of them at 1pm or 3pm. However at 7pm the Twins take on the Red Sox as Tim Wakefield takes the mound.
In honor of the first spring training games, I will start to release my projections for this season (as I mentioned in the previous post). I will start from who I think will finish last in the league working my way up to the best record previewing the teams’ seasons along the way. Tomorrow I’ll release who I think will be at the bottom of the barrel and here’s a clue, it’s one of these four teams…
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