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
Season Preview: Cleveland Indians
Projected MLB Rank: 7th — AL Rank: 3rd — AL Central Rank: 1st — Record: (90-72)
AL Central Champions
They needed a thirdbaseman. Check. They needed a closer. Check. They need their middle of the lineup players healthy. Check and Check. So why not the Indians in 2009? They are good. Especially in such a weak division, they should take advantage of the oppurtunity. They turned it around last season. At the all star break they were 40-52. They ended the season at .500 going 41-29 in the second half and saving Eric Wedge his job.
Pertaining to injuries, Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez are both back from injuries. Last year neither played a full season, and the games they did play–they played hurt. Expect the production there that they didn’t get last year which changes the whole complexion of their season.
Martinez is expected to start at first to keep him healthy which opens up the catcher position for Kelly Shoppach. Last year he hit .261 with 21 homeruns. He should put up the same kind of power numbers this season from behind the plate. He also slugged .517 last season. Where in this mix will Ryan Garko fit? He drove in 90 runs in this lineup last season and hit over .300 in the second half but with Martinez at first and not being able to catch, Garko has no where except maybe the outfield. If Ben Francisco doesn’t do what’s expected of him (steal bases) maybe Garko will work his way into the lineup.
The rest of the outfield is rounded out by Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. Choo had a monster second half and in 94 total games last season he hit .309 and slugged .549 with 14 homers and 28 doubles. Sizemore is just, Sizemore. He makes nightly appearences on web gems and can flat out hit. I don’t expect him to hit .268 again and his 33 homeruns and 90 RBIs have potential to increase, he’s still 26.
The middle of the infield is manned by Jhonny Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera found ways to get on base last season and hopefully will continue that this season. Peralta set a few career highs last year and hopefully will keep up the solid production numbers (23 homeruns / 83 RBIs). The trade for Mark DeRosa brings in a solid veteran option at third base. His career year last year included a .285 average, 21 dingers, and 87 RBIs.
Cliff Lee displayed unbelievable command last season and in reward he gets to display a Cy Young award on his mantlepiece. There’s no reason to believe he doesn’t have the same season again posting a 2.54 ERA with a 1.11 WHIP while going 22-3. I’m hearing good things about Fausto Carmona this offseason, to the extent that he’s regained his 2007 form in which he won 19 games and posted 3.06 ERA.
I think Carl Pavano can turn around his career here in Cleveland. After having a career year with the Marlins (like 5 years ago?) he scored huge with a nice contract in the Bronx, which didn’t really pan out. Pavano got shelled, and not by bats, by injuries. Now he has a new setting in the AL Central. Scott Lewis, who’s 25, had four solid starts with Cleveland last season posting a 2.63 ERA along with 1.08 WHIP. The lefty has nice control and should stick aorund in the Indians rotation. Fifth starter Anthony Reyes is coming back from injury. Prior to the injury last season, he was doing a nice job for Cleveland. In his six starts with the Indians, he went 2-1 with a 1.84 ERA.
Kerry Wood comes in to Progressive Field(?), I hate the name so I’ll continue to call it Jacobs Field, and he’s the closer. Last year in Chicago he tacked up 34 saves with a 3.26 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis, and Rafael Perez do a nice job out of the bullpen. But Rafael Betancourt and Masa Kobayashi need to lower their ERAs and WHIPs for the Tribe coming out of the bullpen.
I am all about this Indians team this year in the weak division they’re in. My MVP and Cy Young candidates are each on this team along with a lot of underrated bats and arms. I think that if Lewis and Reyes can have solid years in the rotation, the Indians will be the AL Central champions.
And a side note: GO PSU in the NIT
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…