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.
It certainly is a long season, but that’s one of the many reasons why I love the game. The Phils know that after their 4-1 loss to the Braves tonight on national television as defending World Champions. I certainly am a little angry that the bats looked awful against Derek Lowe and I’m a little embarrassed, but there’s 161 more games (162 more games for the Mets to blow the half-game lead they have right now). But regardless, here’s some thoughts on tonight’s game:
I didn’t get to see the opening ceremonies but I saw the replay of it and I’ll probably end up watching it again and it seems like they planned it out really well. I love the fact that Charlie was raising the championship banner.
The bullpen had a nice night. Newcomer Jack Taschner, Scott Eyre, Chad Durbin, and Brad Lidge combined for three innings, a strikeout each, and no hits or walks surrendered. I was nervous about Taschner because I’ve heard that he can be wild at times but he looked alright tonight.
Let’s start with Brett Myers. I listened to the first four innings or so on the radio so I didn’t see pitch locations and such (I had to drive back to school today). But when they replayed the homeruns he gave up, it’s clear that he missed his spots in each of the pitches. He got the ball way up in the zone to Brian McCann and put the other two pitches right in the wheelhouse of Jeff Francoer and Jordan Schafer (Schafer did look completely silly against Lidge in the ninth). When I started watching Myers for the two innings I saw him, he was keeping the ball down and hitting his spots. That’s what he will need to do in order to be successful this season. He toughed it out for six innings and struck out six and only walked one. Take away those three bad pitches and that’s a solid outing for this early in the year. So maybe this isn’t a dark spot (grey spot?).
We got to find a way to get on base. Usually it’s not a problem. Driving in RISP is the usual problem. I know it’s the first game and all, but until the ninth, the Phils mustered two hits off Lowe.
These players have got to want to be in that position in the ninth inning with the game on the line. Ryan Howard looked nervous and you could tell he didn’t want to be in that situation tonight. He swung at junk from Mike Gonzalez (who looked awful tonight) and then took a fastball right down the pike. Raul Ibanez worked Gonzalez nicely but he did swing at ball four but since he’s the new guy in town, I’ll let him slide for tonight.
On the ball that went off of Myers glove where Utley had to shift directions quickly, he looked like he wasn’t ready to do that quite yet. However he did look pretty good charging some grounders. But it worries me that maybe he’s not 100% yet.
All in all, I think Joe Morgan may have said it best at the end of the game, I don’t remember his exact words but they were along the lines of saying that the Phillies know that this is just the first game and that the Phils will fight to the end and that’s why he truly believes that this team has the chance to do something special and repeat this year. And Joe would know. Well, I hope he’s right.
Team Preview: Atlanta Braves
Projected MLB Rank: 14th (t) — NL Rank: 9th (t) — NL East Rank: 3rd (t) — Record: (82-80)
Two pitchers remain from last year’s Atlanta rotation that are expected to make this year’s rotation. The pitching staff as a whole compiled a team ERA of 4.47 last season which was below the league average. With a team that has had a recent tradition of good pitching, a change needed to be made.
Enter Derek Lowe. He will probably become the ace in this rotation. Despite his age, he will continue to have success as long as he keeps his ball down. Last year for the Dodgers, Lowe went 14-11 with a 3.24 ERA throwing for nearly 200 innings in six of his last seven seasons.
Reliability continues with their next offseason acquisition. Javier Vazquez has thrown for nearly 200 innings since 2000 where he’s started at least 30 games every year since then. Vazquez is a strikeout pitcher who can let his ERA get up a little but should do a nice job now being in the National League.
The mystery starter is Japanese free agent signee Kenshin Kawakami. His better days may have passed but he pitches for a low ERA and from what I hear, recorded a career 3.22 ERA in Japan. The returning starters from last season add up to 44 starts for the Braves in 2008. Tom Glavine will be the fifth starter, and may have lost some touch, but he should keep the Braves in games. He only started 13 games last season for Atlanta compiling a 2-4 record with a 5.54 ERA. Jair Jurrjens was in the race for the NL Rookie of the Year as he went 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA last season. Expect more of the same from Jurrjens this season.
Their bullpen could be better. Closer Mike Gonzalez should have a solid season playing a full year in 2009. Expect him to lower his 4.28 ERA. Manny Acosta had a decent season out of the bullpen with a 3.57 ERA in 53 innings as did Jeff Bennett with a 3.70 ERA in about 97 innings. Righty Blaine Boyer (5.88 ERA) and offseason acquisition Boone Logan (5.95 ERA) need to pitch better out of the bullpen for the Braves this season.
The Braves lineup has the potential to do some damage. I think the deciding factor on the success of the offense is on rightfielder Jeff Francoer. Last year, the 25 year old, hit a pitiful .239 with 11 homeruns (yes, he did play a full season). If he can’t find his swing again, the Braves probably won’t be finding October again.
The addition of Garrett Anderson does help but he may end up platooning with Matt Diaz in left. Apart from Chipper Jones and Brian McCann, there’s really nothing too special left in this lineup. Casey Kotchman and Kelly Johnson will give you production and 70-80 RBIs. Yunel Escobar probably won’t improve on his numbers. It’s exciting to watch Josh Anderson as he can steal bases and find his way on base but may end up sharing time in centerfield with Gregor Blanco.
They definately improved their rotation this offseason but in this division, their pitching is still considered average. Their lineup is average but if they all get rolling at the same time, they will make some noise, but in this division, I don’t think October will be where the Braves end up.