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.
The 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.
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.”
Season Preview: Kansas City Royals
Projected MLB Rank: 24th — AL Rank: 11th — AL Central Rank: 4th — Record (72-90)
It seems like DM Dayton Moore was a very busy man this offseason. They brought some new faces to their starting lineup by acquiring Mike Jacobs and Coco Crisp through trades. They also signed Willie Bloomquist, Horacio Ramirez, and Kyle Farnsworth through free agency to be wearing the Royal blue this season.
At catcher, Miguel Olivo should be the starter as the season starts. He hit 12 homeruns and drove in 41 last season in 84 games and should start over John Buck who hit .224 last season. Olivo has some pop but absolutely no patience but will continue to be the starter if Buck continues to hit for the average he has.
The Royals are overcrowded at the first base position which makes Moore’s move to bring in Mike Jacobs look idiotic. Jacobs hits for power and will give you over 30 homeruns but doesnt hit for a high average. Waiting behind Jacobs are Ryan Shealy and top prospect Kila Ka’aihue. Both hit for power and a better average than Jacobs. Ka’aihue looks to be the Royals eventual firstbaseman and may even start this year in the minors due to the fact that Jacobs was brought in.
The rest of the lineup is headed by youngsters Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles. Aviles had a great rookie campaign and should even improve on his .325 average. He also has a little power and can steal bases. Look for Jose Guillen should drop in the RBI category this season. The other corner outfielder David DeJesus should contribute well to the Royals again this season after he hit for a .307 average, 12 homers, and 73 RBI last year. Coco Crisp is a nice addtion to Kauffman Stadium’s outfield as he now has the centerfield starting job all to himself.
I think that the rotation could suprise this year. Gil Meche had a great second half last season striking out almost nine per nine innings and lowering his ERA. Zack Greinke just
signed a long term contract in the offseason and had a good season in 2008 with a 3.47 ERA and 183 strikeouts. Brian Bannister should improve on his bad year last season. Also, look for 25 year olds, Kyle Davies and Luke Hochevar, to become more reliable at the back of the rotation.
Now to the most underrated bullpen in the entire league. Scratch that. It might have been considered that before Moore traded away a couple pitchers and brought in a washed up Farnsworth. Beyond Juan Cruz and Ron Mahay, this bullpen needs some help. But the heartland’s prized possession is closer, Joakim Soria. Soria broke out last season with a 1.60 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 42 saves in 45 chances. In my opinion, the 25 year old out of Mexico, is a better closer than Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Valverde, Francisco Cordero, and many others out there.
Overall, I think the Royals are a solid team that could be much better down the line, and even this year if they hadn’t made the Jacobs trade. However, I think they will be an alright team this year and if I were feeling more generous towards dumb GM’s I would have ranked the Royals higher. They do have a possibility to suprise this season in a weak division (for some reason, this is the team that I think of when I think of the Rays last season) but the chances aren’t likely.
Alex Rodriguez had his press conference yesterday and it seems as if maybe this whole thing will blow over. Yea, right. Up until mid-April we will be hearing about this everyday. I’m sure yesterday won’t be last time we hear adjectives such as young, naive, stupid, ignorant, and the like come out of his mouth.
Many players such as Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, Francisco Rodriguez, and others have come out and said that A-Rod’s credibility to this point has been diminished and that when substances are bought in other countries, you know if they’re legal or not in the United States. To these statements, A-Rod said,
“I mean, I’m sorry Jamie feels that way, and he’s definitely entitled to his opinion. And the baseball world and all the fans we have, I understand their doubt. I understand their concerns.”
“Well again, I’m sorry Roy feels that way. Look, everyone has their opinions and their beliefs. And I’m sorry he feels that way.”
He claims to have gotten the drug, that he tested positive for while in Texas, in the Dominican Republic through his cousin George. Royals pitcher John Bale asked the question if his cousin even existed. It’s clear that it will be hard to gain back trust from players and fans around the nation and world. He may never even regain that trust. Concerning the drug that he had taken, he stated,
“…I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs. I knew that it was something potentially that perhaps was wrong. I really didn’t get into the investigation, perhaps like I would’ve. I wouldn’t imagine thinking of doing something like that today, obviously. It’s a different world, a different culture.”
It wasn’t the tic-tacs, well obviously. Last time I checked you can’t inject breathmints and then suddenly you will never have bad breath again. Regarding the drug he also said,
“I didn’t think they were steroids at the time. Again, that’s part of being young and stupid. It was over the counter, it was pretty basic and it was really amateur hour. It was two guys, we couldn’t go outside, who couldn’t ask anyone, didn’t want to ask anyone…”
There’s the young and stupid again. Throughout the whole spring training interview and the Peter Gammons interview, he goes without saying that he still thinks that he should be a hall of famer. He was young and stupid. He says going to college may have changed that because he never really grew up–
“I’m here to say that in some ways I wish I went to college and had an opportunity to grow up at my own pace. You know, I guess when you are young and stupid, you are young and stupid. And I’m very guilty of both those.”
It cannot be clearer that he knows he made a mistake and that the drugs are a thing of his past and as he claims, a short part of his past. He said, “foul pole to foul pole” his career has been unbelievable and that his best years have been when he broke into the league (pre-Texas) and 2007. It may be hard for young and stupid to get to Cooperstown but I think that if indeed, he is telling the truth and if he continues to hit at the pace he has been year after year, these apologies that we find so annoying right now, may save him five years after he retires. He may not be forever, stuck in the shadows.
Congratulations to Dustin Pedrioa, he’s the MVP, all five foot nine inches of him. He would have been my choice. He hit .326 and became the main producer while David Ortiz was hurt and Manny was just being Manny. In August and September, Pedrioa was third in the Majors in hits and was tied in second in runs scored. In 2008 he had the second highest batting average in th AL, two points behind Joe Mauer. He was tied with Ichiro for the league league in hits. He lead the AL in runs scored and was second in the majors behind Hanley Ramirez. He had the fourth most at-bats in all the majors, threw up 83 RBI, and stole 20 bases. His fielding was spectacular. His .992 fielding percentage was tops among major league second-basemen that started atleast 115 games. He turned 101 double plays and made only 6 errors in 733 total chances. That was the deciding factor in my choice of Pedrioa.
Here is how I would have cast my ballot–
First: Dustin Pedrioa (BOS)
Second: Justin Morneau (MIN)
Third: Carlos Quentin (CHW)
4th: Francisco Rodriguez (LAA)
5th: Joe Mauer (MIN)
6th: Josh Hamilton (TEX)
7th: Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
8th: Carlos Pena (TB)
9th: Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
10th: Evan Longoria (TB)
It looks as if Ryan Dempster is going to resign with the Cubs. The 31-year-old went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA. He wanted to stay in with the Cubs and it seems as if for roughly four years and 52 million dollars (with an option for a fifth year) he will keep calling Wrigley home. He comes back and joins a rotation that looks similar to the 2008 squad. I imagine it will go as follows…
Early Projection for Cubs 2009 Rotation:
1. Ryan Dempster (17-6/2.96/187 in 33 starts)
2. Ted Lilly (17-9/4.09/184 in 34 starts)
3. Carlos Zambrano (14-6/3.91/130 in 30 starts)
4. Rich Harden (10-2/2.07/181 in 25 starts (12 with CHC))
5. Jason Marquis (11-9/4.53/91 in 28 starts (1 relief appearance))
Jeff Samardzija is a wild card to join the rotation as well after he came up and did a nice job out of the bullpen. He had a 2.28 ERA in 26 appearances. Although it seems as if he may stay in a relief role now that they’ve traded away promising minor leaguer Jose Ceda. They do gain Kevin Gregg but my guess is that Samardzija stays in the bullpen unless there is an injury to the rotation, etc.
The Cubs could place Zambrano, Dempster, and Harden anywhere they wanted to within the 1, 3, and 4 slots. Lou Piniella tagged Dempster the starter in game one of the NLDS so that makes me think that as of right now, he has the most confidence in Dempster. The rotation will shape up after the spring.