Tagged: joe mauer

Dog Days Prognostications

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.

clifflee.jpgThe 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.

fowler.jpgWhy 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

One-Two Offensive Punch

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

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Finals Procrastination

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.

Rules:
– 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
schilling02.jpgStarting 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.
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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.
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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).
hamels.jpgOther 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.

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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.
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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!
charlie.jpgThere’s my favorites of my MLB memory.

Fantasy Team

We just had our fantasy draft. There are 16 teams in our league and I had the 11th pick. There are 25 spots on each roster. Before I list my team, here are the categories that we have in our league:

Hitting categories: R, H, HR, RBI, SB, AVG, OPS
Pitching categories: W, CG, SHO, SV, K, HLD, ERA, WHIPiankinsler02.jpg

Round 1: Ian Kinsler 2B – Kinsler does it all and even drives in runs out of the leadoff spot (71 RBIs last season). He hits for a high average and steals bases.

Round 2: Lance Berkman 1B – He’s got a great bat as he can hit over .300 and get you over 100 RBIs and possibly 30 homeruns.

Round 3: Roy Halladay SP – The first starting pitcher I took. All the other studs were gone. I thought getting him was a bargain in the third round due to the fact our league uses complete games and shutouts as a category.

Round 4: Joe Mauer C – Catcher is a thin position. So I went with Mauer. Despite injury potential, you cannot argue with over a .300 batting average.

Round 5: Chris Davis 1B/3B – If you read my blog, you know that I’m all about this kid. He’s a big lefty and can hit and he had a great half a season last year. And especially in this lineup, he will drive in runs.

Round 6: Joakim Soria RP – I seemed to be at the end of the stud closer run and Soria was the last one left. I’m just hoping he can reproduce his 2008 totals.

Round 7: Rich Harden SP

Round 8: Chris Young OF – Young has that rare combo of power and speed.

Round 9: Mike Aviles SS – I’m hoping Aviles can build upon the great rookie campaign he had in Kansas City. (.325/10HR/51RBI)

Round 10: Josh Johnson SP – Did a nice job last season in his 14 starts (7-1).

Round 11: Clayton Kershaw SP – Would this be considered taking a gamble?

dickerson.jpgRound 12: Mike Gonzalez RP

Round 13: Adam Lind OF – This is another one of those players that, if you follow my blog, you know I like them. I assume he will be in the middle of this Blue Jays lineup this year.

Round 14: Joey Devine RP – Now, I’m hoping that Devine wins the closer job. Even if he doesn’t, we get points for holds — so I can’t be too concerned. I was suprised Devine went this late as well. Ziegler was drafted only a few picks before this.

Round 15: Jack Cust OF – I follow up one Oakland A with another. I needed some more power and production (even if Cust doesn’t post the average).

Round 16: Chris Dickerson OF – I’m hoping Dickerson will get at least some starts. He can steal and has been doing well this spring.

Round 17: Chase Headley 3B/OF

Round 18: Matt Thornton RP – He should help in the hold category (although I think the hold is a rediculous statistic — it exists).

Round 19: Casey Kotchman 1B

Round 20: Matt LaPorta 1B/OF – With so many roster spots — why not?

Round 21: Ryan Madson RP – The “bridge to Lidge” should get me some holds.

Round 22: Elvis Andrus SS

Round 23: Mark Teahen 1B/3B/OF – He’s eligible all over. 

Round 24: Seth Smith OF – He probably isn’t drafted in some leagues but I like him.

Round 25: Josh Willingham OF – Finish this team off with “the hammer.”

I feel pretty good about my team considering the fact there are sixteen teams in the league. Last year I won, so let’s see if I can repeat.

Twins to End HHH Stay in 2009

Before given you my Twins preview for the upcoming season, I apologize for not posting too much this week. Being on spring break, I’ve been really busy and it’s been really nice to be home. But I found some time right now, so here’s your Minnesota Twins…

Season Preview: Minnesota Twins
Projected MLB Rank: 22nd — AL Rank: 10th — AL Central Rank: 3rd — Record: (74-88)

When I look at the Twins, I see a pretty good young lineup with some average pitching. I think
twinslogo.gif that this team has the best chance to win the division out of the teams that I have ranked in the bottom ten in the league. The central is probably the weakest division in the league and with the lethal combo of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, you cannot go wrong.

Anchored by Mauer and Morneau, the rest of the lineup has some great young talent. Outfielder Delmon Young, who has been projected to be a great hitter, had a down year last year after driving in 93 runs in Tampa Bay in 2007. The good thing is that he is still 23 and still has time to develop. Speedy centerfielder Carlos Gomez can steal bases but wasn’t the top of the lineup hitter the Twins hoped for last season. He needs to raise his average and OBP if he wants to stay at the top of the lineup. I think that the other corner outfielder, Denard Span, will raise some eyebrows this season. He hit .294 last season with 47 RBIs in 93 games with the big club. He’s also got some speed (18 stolen bases in 08). They will definately get production from the DH spot, whether it’s lefty Jason Kubel or righty Michael Cuddyer.

Veterans Joe Crede and Nick Punto hold down the left side of the infield. Crede has production potential as he drove in 55 runs last season in only 97 games last season for the White Sox but has a career .257 average. Last season the 31-year old Punto raised his average significantly to .284 but he’s really only in the lineup for his glove at short. While watching Venezuela/Italy last night, I heard Punto (who played shortstop for Italia) described as, “one of the those guys you can win with.”

I think the big question last season was about Francisco Liriano, he wasn’t as dominant as he had been previously to his injury. In fact, Scott Baker goes into the season as the projected “ace.”

…and you wonder why I think the Twins pitching is average…

Baker had a great 2008, but he’s not an ace. Hopefully Liriano can regain that status with a nice year in 09. Kevin Slowey is great as the number three. Nick Blackburn is overrated and probably won’t reach 11 wins again this season. The projected fifth starter, southpaw Glen Perkins, had a scary September.

joenathan.jpgJoe Nathan is one of the top five closers in the league and the Twins will definately need him this season. He was 39 for 45 in save opputunities last season with a 1.33 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. The rest of the bullpen, consisting of Jesse Crain, Jose Mijares, and Craig Breslow, will be reliable. But for Luis Ayala, that just makes the ‘pen worse after he was a nightmare alone in New York.

I’ve learned to never doubt Ron Gardenhire and team from the twin cities, so I won’t. I’m projecting them third in the division, and they can easily win it too. I just think that the division overall is weak, and that is why I have ranked them so low overall in the league.

MVPedrioa

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.

pedroiaswing.jpgHere 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 2009dempster.jpg 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.