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.
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
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)
Team’s true colors may be starting show now, so here’s this weeks power rankings:
1. Toronto Blue Jays (14-6) (3)
They’re scoring the most runs in the league per game and they’re third in the AL in ERA. All with half their rotation on the DL. As long as they keep scoring runs and Roy Halladay is their ace, expect ongoing success.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (13-6) (4)
They’ve played a lot of games at home so far (10-3 at Busch) but their pitching staff has been solid thus far and Albert Pujols continues to be well, be Albert Pujols.
3. Boston Red Sox (12-6) (10)
Jacoby Ellsbury stealing home became an instant classic moment of the 2009 season. I didn’t even see it live, but I watched the replay over and over because it was so great. Terry Francona loved, Boston loved it, I loved it, and I love the way the Red Sox are playing right now.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (13-6) (1)
Clayton Kershaw got roughed up yesterday and there were some miscues, but teams have those games. The Dodgers still lead the entire league in WHIP and are second in the NL in batting average.
5. Seattle Mariners (12-7) (5)
Pitching, pitching, pitching. Second in the AL in ERA.
6. Detoit Tigers (10-8) (9)
Offense is coming through as Miguel Cabrera continues to tear.
7. Kansas City Royals (9-9) (7)
This staff is doing a real nice job thus far this season. If only they could start scoring some runs. They lead the American League in ERA and WHIP and last time I checked Zack Greinke still hasn’t let up an earned run.
8. Chicago Cubs (9-8) (8)
They’re still striking out batters at an alarming rate but a few key offensive players are struggling and/or hurting.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (11-7) (NR)
Wow, who would have thought. The Buccos lead the entire league in ERA (2.97) but I’m hesistant to put them any higher.
10. Florida Marlins (11-7) (2)
I’ll put it this way, they haven’t won a game since last week’s Monday Ten. All the team’s suprises have kind of fallen back to earth. Emilio Bonifacio had a rough week and you all saw that bullpen against the Phils.
Speaking of those Phillies–
Pushing the Ten: Philadelphia Phillies (9-8)
San Diego Padres (10-8)
The MLB scene changes a lot in a week during its beginnings and with it, changes my “Monday Ten.” Here’s this week’s power rankings.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (10-3) (last week: 4)
Only team with an average over .300, they’ve won eight straight, and now Manny’s hit a few out.
2. Florida Marlins (11-1) (2)
They just win ballgames and the bullpen’s been unreal thus far. But, six of those wins have come against the Nats, who have won just once. That’s the only thing kept them from the one spot.
3. Toronto Blue Jays (10-4) (5)
The starting pitching is doing a great job so far this year, something unexpected. The Jays are also scoring runs too, something else unexpected. They also boast the highest batting average in the AL.
4. St. Louis Cardinals (8-5) (1)
Carpenter going down for a while will certainly hurt this squad. But the offense is doing a great job manufacturing runs.
5. Seattle Mariners (8-5) (3)
Lead the entire league in team ERA. King Felix and Bedard are a nasty combo.
6. San Diego Padres (8-5) (NR)
I didn’t include them last week because I still thought they were terrible but after watching them play hard against the Phillies all weekend, this team can play small ball and win close games. Once teams figure out their young guys, things may start to go downhill. But for now, Heath Bell is a monster.
7. Kansas City Royals (7-5) (Pushing)
Kyle Davies is 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in three starts with 21 strikeouts in about 18 innings. He’s the x-factor here.
8. Chicago Cubs (7-4) (6)
As a team, they’re striking out more than a batter per inning.
9. Detroit Tigers (7-5) (NR)
Miguel Cabrera is a monster and if Armando Galarraga can pick up this staff and lead it this season, they could turn out alright.
10. Boston Red Sox (6-6) (NR)
A four game winning streak and a dominating start by Jon Lester only leads me to believe that the best is yet to come. This team is on the up.
Pushing the Ten: Cincinnati Reds (6-5)
Colorado Rockies (4-7)
Los Angeles Angels (4-8)
Atlanta Braves (6-6)
New York Yankees (7-6)
Still to early (hence all the teams that dropped out), but I’ll continue to do this.
Today the Tigers released Gary Sheffield due to the fact that they would like more versatility out of the DH spot. Sheffield didn’t see it coming, and according Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, Sheffield can still hit but he just wasn’t the right fit for Detroit this coming season. So where is the right fit for Gary?
The Current Option
As soon as Sheffield was let go by the Tigers, Geoff Jenkins was cut by the Phils and GM Ruben Amaro reached out to Sheff because the Phils have been looking for a righthanded bat off the bench all offseason. Whether Sheffield is willing to come off the bench is the question. Personally, I don’t want him. He was one of my favorite players while with the Marlins but I just don’t want him on the Phils. They have a good clubhouse chemistry right now and Sheffield has been known to cause a stir in a clubhouse here and there. Considering the fact he wouldn’t be starting, he would probably be cause a problem. I don’t like or want him on the Phillies.
Ray of Sunshine Option
Tampa Bay Rays
Gabe Gross doesn’t exactly turn heads but they did bring in Matt Joyce this offseason as well. I don’t think Sheffield goes here either but there is potential. Tampa Bay seems to be an “end of the career” stop for many future Hall of Famers.
The Unrealistic Option
How cool would it be to see him back in teal to hit his 500th homerun. He hit 122 homeruns while with the Marlins from 1993 to 1998. He just doesn’t really fit there either. The corner outfield spots seem to belong to Cody Ross and Jeremy Hermida. I just think it would be cool to go off as a Marlin, and maybe go into the Hall of Fame a Marlin (he did win a World Series there).
Basically, I don’t see him fitting in anywhere. I’d like to see him in Florida, but we all know that’s not going to happen. He’ll find a team if he doesn’t demand at bats and is willing to come off the bench but whether he faces that fact and finds a team before the season starts is beyond me.
THANKS GEOFF JENKINS
As I mentioned earlier, Jenkins was released by the Phillies today. They owed him 8 million dollars on his contract. As much of a let down he was in Philly (.246 average / 9 homeruns / 29 RBIs), I would still like to thank him for the good attitude he held throughout the season while not starting and for his game five heroics in the World Series.
Jenkins was always on the fence of the dugout cheering on his teammates and was always congratulating guys coming into the dugout. Whenever you look at a picture of the Phillies winning a series in the playoffs, he was on the field celebrating with the regulars before everyone else on the bench (heck I even think he beat Rollins to the mound for the celebration once).
Also, he got the first at-bat in part two of game five in the World Series and crashed a double off the wall to get things going. It was one of the best moments of the playoffs for me because he had struggled all season and lost his platoon job when Werth became the everyday starter. Then he got up to the plate and took full advantage of the situation (I thought it was gone initially).
So honestly Jenkins, Thanks and I wish you luck elsewhere.
CHAN HO EARNS FIFTH STARTER SPOT
Chan Ho Park remains the last one standing. He beat out Carlos Carrasco, Kyle Kendrick, and lastly JA Happ to the fifth spot in the rotation to start the season. Their spring totals:
Park: 2-0 — 2.53 ERA — 25 SO — 2 BB — 21.1 INN
Happ: 0-0 — 3.15 ERA — 14 SO — 6 BB — 20 INN
It was awful close and personally, I wanted Happ to be our fifth starter because he is the future and he showed flashes of reliability last season in eight games. But it’s also hard to argue with 25 strikeouts in about 21 innings and only two walks. Keep up the good work Chan Ho, because in this town, there’s a short leash.
Season Preview: Detroit Tigers
Projected MLB Rank: 27th — AL Rank: 12th — AL Central Rank: 5th — Record: (68-94)
The city of Detroit just doesn’t have the luck these days. The American auto industry,
centered in Detroit, is falling apart. The Lions, well, they went defeated and didn’t win a game. The Pistons are free falling in the eastern conference. And for the 2009 Tigers, don’t expect much.
Before the 2008 season, the Tigers had won 88 games the previous season and had just made a huge trade with the Marlins, acquiring Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera. For a team with much recent success and some young talented arms, they were picked in 2008 by many to even get to the World Series. The Tigers ended up falling apart in ’08 and had the third worst record in the AL.
This season, I don’t expect much to change. They weren’t all too busy this offseason and who they did sign, aren’t going to take them to the playoffs, and most likely not even over .500.
Gary Sheffield is 40 and hit last season with 19 HR and 57 RBI. I think the fact that his name is out and paired with steroids affects his play. Adam Everett is a definite step down from Edgar Renteria, who isn’t the player he used to be, which definately says something about Everett. Brandon Inge will be playing everyday and taking his .205 average out to third base with him.
The bright spots in the lineup come from now first baseman Miguel Cabrera. This kid is still 25 years old. Last season he hit .292 with 37 dingers and 127 RBIs. Placido Polanco will hit .300 and is one of the best fielding second baseman in the league. Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez will get their production numbers as well but are 33 and 34, respectively. Curtis Granderson gives the Tigers pop at the top of the order.
Pertaining to the pitching, Detroit had a team 4.91 ERA last year and let up 5.29 runs per game (3rd to last in the AL). After so much promise from the young arms the two previous seasons, they fell apart last season. Here’s some comparisons:
2007: 18-6 / 3.66 ERA / 183 SO
2008: 11-17 / 4.84 ERA / 163 SO
2007: 11-9 / 5.01 ERA / 145 SO
2008: 3-4 / 4.29 ERA / 44 SO (12 games)
2007: 9-13 / 4.56 ERA / 119 SO
2008: 7-11 / 4.44 ERA / 108 SO
2007: 10-15 / 5.17 ERA / 136 SO (w/ FLA)
2008: 0-2 / 9.38 ERA / 18 SO (8 games)
Only Bonderman and Verlander are expected to be in the rotation this season. They brought in Edwin Jackson, and Zach Miner and Armando Galarraga should develop. But I just can’t see these pitchers getting this team anywhere.
The bullpen is questionable. Brandon Lyon saved 26 games for the Diamondbacks last season yet had a 4.70 ERA. Fernando Rodney, Clay Rapada, and Bobby Seay each had ERA’s over 4.00 and Joel Zumaya was injured last season. Freddy Dolsi was the brightest spot in the bullpen last season that returns this year and still had an ERA of 3.97.
The fact that they have a good mix of veteran and young talent could help them this season but then I look at the pitching, especially the bullpen, and realize that they cannot compete given these young arms that have seemed to tired early.