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)
In each of the last two games against the Brewers, the Phils have mustered a hefty one run in each game off solo shots. Two days ago, Jayson Werth took a ninth inning pitch long for a homerun to keep the Brewcrew from shutting out the Phillies. Then yesterday, Matt Stairs kept the Phils from getting shutout AND getting no hit, all in one swing, with a shot that went off the foul pole.
The offense has struggled the past two games to manufacture runs and last game, they struggled to even get on base via base hits. Over the past two games the Phils are hitting .164 (10-for-61).
Well, don’t expect much better tonight in Florida as the Phils face up against righthander Josh Johnson. Johnson (2-0) goes for his third win in his fourth start after starting the season dominating his first two starts against Washington and the Mets. His third start, however, wasn’t too impressive when the Nats got a second look at the 2009 Johnson, roughing him up for six runs in six innings.
I’m hoping the Phils can take advantage of a Johnson off a bad start and Johnson, being a righty, may be hit by the lefty-heavy filled Phils lineup. But Johnson, who can strikeout hitters, may take advantage of a free swinging Phils team.
When Cole Hamels went down yesterday off the linedrive back at him from Prince Fielder, I was initially worried. My panic level rose rapidly. Especially when Fielder was the one who hit the ball, one of the hardest hitting hitters in the league. When he swings, he really swings. But last night, I heard that the ball went off the meaty part of his back shoulder and that he may not even miss his next start. I was scared of a DL stint, and apparently, that isn’t going to be happening.
This Marlins series is the Phillies first real test of the season. The Fish, coming off the wrong side of a sweep against the Pirates, are hungry for their first win of the workweek. The Phils, with a struggling offense, look to cut down the Marlins division lead even further.
Here’s my Keys to the Series
-No easy pitches to Phillies hitters
-Take the extra bases
-Look to hit the longball
-Find a way on base
-Continue to play good defense
-Avoid giving up the longball
Tonight Brett Myers takes the ball against Johnson. Tomorrow night, Chan Ho Park starts against young stud righthander Chris Volstad. Then on Sunday, Jamie Moyer will toe the rubber against what was supposed to be Andrew Miller, but now that he’s on the DL, maybe Anibal Sanchez will start.
PHREAKIN’ PHUN WEEKEND
Not only do we have the Phils/Marlins series this weekend, but all four Philadelphia teams are in action this weekend. The Flyers played great last night and Marty Biron had a heck of a game. The Sixers play two at home this weekend against the Magic, coming into the Philly with the series tied–and a nervous Magic team. The Eagles got the draft Saturday, and at pick twenty-one I’m really hoping the Birds get Knowshon Moreno. We got Yanks/Sox this weekend on TV Saturday and Sunday. Tons of playoff basketball and hockey. Not to mention a sick weather weekend, and I’ll be going golfing Saturday morning. Here’s the schedule, not that anyone cares, but I’ll post it anyways:
7pm — Phils at Marlins
8pm — Magic at Sixers
Teeing it up
3pm — Pens at Flyers
4pm — NFL Draft
7pm — Phils at Marlins
12pm — Phils at Marlins
6pm — Magic at Sixers
Well, I’m not sure if that’s said correctly at all, but I’m trying to say Happy Hit Parade, and be corny playing off of Pedro Feliz’s last name. Funny, I know.
But Pedro Feliz did have a nice night, he went 3-for-4 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored and an opposite field homer, his first of the season. It’s nice to see the guys break out the bats, something they’ve been doing well all season thus far. Along with Feliz’s three hits; Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Chris Coste all chipped in two hits a piece. Chase Utley was also on base four times last night.
Jamie Moyer pitched the usual Jamie Moyer way. As I’ve said earlier, expect six innings, three or four runs, and a couple strikeouts and walks when he leaves the game. He did it again, going into the seventh while surrenduring four runs.
Those four runs came off the bat of Ryan Braun, who homered twice off Moyer. Speaking of hit parade, Braun went 5-for-5 with the two homeruns, apparently, he sees Moyer well. He ended up raising his season average to .300. He’s the only Brewer other than Mike Cameron to have that mark on the year thus far. The Brewers, as a team this year, are hitting .231–ouch. Only the Diamondbacks and Reds can say worse in the National League.
If Joe Blanton continues to pitch like he has in the regular season so far, the Brewers will be raising their team average tonight. Blanton has surrendered ten earned runs in two starts so far this season, something he needs to improve on.
The Phils are going up against Braden Looper, who went five and six innings in his first two starts, respectively. He’s holding 3.27 ERA so far. I imagine if he gets into a jam against these hit-happy Phils tonight, the bullpen may enter the game earlier than expected for the Brewers.
Getting into a rythm is the factor here, and I think that once the pitchers start to get on a normal schedule, the starting pitching will improve. Hey, we’re .500 now and technically second place in the NL East after JJ Putz blew up in St. Louis last night.
The keys this early in the season are to keep the bats hot and to get into a rythm.
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 Yankees
Projected MLB Rank: 11th — AL Rank: 4th — AL East Rank: 2nd — Record: (87-75)
American League Wild Card Winners
You think I’m kidding? Well I’m not. I do have the Yankees not ranked in my top ten teams this year.
Again, what you have just read, is correct.
Sure, I think the Yanks will make the playoffs. And of course they have the best rotation in the division, if not the league. But there’s something about the team that isn’t attractive to me.
Let’s start with what is though–that rotation. I actually have them ranked second in the entire league in the starting rotation category. A huge portion of what has them there is the two offseason acquisitions AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia. Sabathia has basically been declared the ace of the staff, recieving the starting job for both opening day in Baltimore and the home opener against the Indians. How can you not call him the ace? He did things last season for the Brewers that really no one even dreamed of. His arm and determination picked up that team and carried them into their short stay in October. Then there’s Burnett. Moving across the division from a team that could have won the division maybe if they were in the Central, to a team that has had the potential to win the division for the past 15 years and counting. AJ is a huge strikeout pitcher and a great compliment to Sabathia as the number two. What could scare Yankees fans is his potential for injury. He gets hurt all the time. He also has been known to pitch his best during contract seasons. My thought of Burnett is, his ERA will probably hover around 4.50 and when he’s fully healthy–then he’ll win you ballgames.
Chien-Ming Wang will also be pitching a full season this time around. Hopefully interleague play doesn’t cause him injuries again. He needs to regain some of the control he lost last season before the injury if he wants to make a big contribution to this team.This spring he has done a nice job thus far posting a 3.24 ERA in 16 innings while walking two and striking out seven. Andy Pettite, who turns 37 this season, should give the Yankees reliability as he returns. The fifth starter looks like it will be Joba Chamberlain (for now). They could make him a reliever by May, then a starter by July, then a reliever again by September, perhaps with some injuries in between. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, they need to settle on a role for this guy and stop messing with his arm.
Mariano Rivera anchors a bullpen that isn’t all too great. I feel like Rivera is never going to change. He’s always going to be this good. Damaso Marte had a nice strikeout rate last season in 65 innings but posted an ERA over 4.00. Edwar Ramirez looks like he will be the set up man. Although he has good stuff, he also has some control problems. Jose Veras also has control problems, but should make the 25 man roster. A highlight other than Rivera is Brian Bruney. In 32 games last season, Bruney posted a 1.83 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP and almost a strikeout per inning. The bullpen certainly has the potential to be effective, a few pitchers just need to establish their control first and cut down on the walks.
Then there’s the lineup. Some love it. Some hate it. Without Alex Rodriguez, I’m one of those haters. It’s getting to the point where Jorge Posada will have to rest more often, and Yankees fans shouldn’t like Jose Molina playing twice a week for their team. Moving on to Robinson Cano. If he’s supposed to be your top of the lineup guy, he should have an OBP higher than .305.
Captain Jeter. Still one of the best at going the other way with the ball but has become one of the worst fielding shortstops in the league and didn’t have a great WBC. Pertaining to bad fielders, let’s talk about Johnny Damon. He can still hit for .300, as he proved last season–but with Hideki Matsui in the DH role, it’s going to be an adventure in left field at New Yankee Stadium. It seems as if the quietest player with a huge bat in this lineup is Xavier Nady. He drove in 97 runs last year, so don’t overlook him. He’s basically won the rightfield spot (as if the .220 hitting Nick Swisher was putting up a legitimate fight). The centerfield job seems to have gone to Brett Gardner (who has Michael Bourn syndrome). He’s fast, but he’ll only get the Yanks the steals once he gets on base. Really though, anything is better than Melky Cabrera.
All hail the Bombers’ Savior, Mark Texeira. Big Tex has switched uniforms the past couple seasons at a good rate and should find some comfort in staying in one place. He’s a sure thing MVP candidate if he can carry this team until Alex Rodriguez returns. Ugh… Alex Rodriguez. Well we’ll see what Cody Ransom’s really got. He’s having a decent spring, leading the Yankees in at bats and hitting .286. He’s not going to come anywhere close to A-Rod production but it’s only for the start of the season.
Until A-Rod comes back, maybe May, the Yanks need to try to go at least .500 in that span. There’s just something about this team that I don’t like. I know I know, “what’s not to like?” Maybe it’s the fact that I grew up watching the dynasty Yankees. And hating them. This just isn’t the same. I say Wild Card champs.
Season Preview: Milwaukee Brewers
Projected MLB Rank: 19th — NL Rank: 12th — NL Central Rank: 4th — Record: (78-84)
Only five months ago, the Brewers were playing October baseball. They suffered a first round exit to the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, but making it that far could have been considered a success. They were lead by pitchers CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets into October. Well this year, Sabathia and Sheets aren’t in the rotation, and despite the great lineup, take a look at their rotation now.
Twenty-three year old Yovani Gallardo is being considered their ace. He is a great young hurler but is still very young. In 21 career starts he is 9-4 with a 3.38 ERA. Righty Dave Bush
is a solid pitcher, but I don’t think he’s a number two. He was 9-10 last season with a 4.18 ERA, but keeps a low WHIP (1.14). Jeff Suppan is a reliable starter (injury wise). At 34 years old, Suppan will get you 10-12 wins with a ERA hovering around 5.00. Braden Looper joins the club this season after going 12-14 with a 4.16 ERA last season for the Cardinals. Twenty-six year old Manny Parra rounds out the staff and made huge strides last season to become a reliable pitcher, especially after his second half.
The bullpen is so-so. Although it is hard to argue with Trevor Hoffman, who at 40 years old last season, recorded 30 saves. I wonder when the offseason acquisition will run out of gas though. Carlos Villanueva seems better as a reliever than a starter. David Riske had a 5.31 ERA in 45 relief appearences last season. Journeyman Jorge Julio joins the Brewcrew this season and brings in a player with closing experience. Seth McClung has potential to join the rotation at the start of the season but had a nice year in the bullpen last year. Lefty Mitch Stetter had a great 2008 coming out of the bullpen as the lefty specialist.
Milwaukee has probably the second best lineup in the division behind the Cubs and one of the top in the league. Rickie Weeks and JJ Hardy start it up at the top of the lineup. Weeks can steal you bases but doesn’t hit for high average. Hardy is a great number two hitter who has some pop (24 homeruns, 74 RBIs). The middle of the lineup is a great young combo in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Both had over 30 homeruns and 100 RBIs last season and should improve on those numbers this year. Corey Hart also chipped in with 91 RBIs.
Mike Cameron hit leadoff in the playoffs last season and provides some power threat if he’s put at the top of the lineup, but like Weeks, didn’t hit for a high average. Jason Kendall and Bill Hall are also in the same low-average boat. Craig Counsell and Mike Lamb provide some nice veteran experience off the bench and can platoon all over the infield if injuries come up or someone starts struggling.
When I look at this lineup, I think playoff contender. Then I take a look at the rotation and it doesn’t look like a bunch of pitchers that can even keep a team in contention. The Brewers had a deadly 1-2 combo last season, and not having them will definately show this season. Finishing over .500 might be a better goal for this team.
RP Chris Perez St. Louis Cardinals
With St. Louis’ failure to sign a veteran closer this offseason (Kerry Wood to the Tribe and Trevor Hoffman to the Brewers) the 23 year old Miami product, Perez, is looking to be the Cards closing pitcher for 2009. Perez was seven for eleven in save chances last season. He went 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA and had 42 strikeouts in just about as many innings in his rookie season. He throws mid-nineties with a slider and the job is still not officially his. In the ninth inning, the ball could go to Jason Motte or wiley veteran Ryan Franklin as well.
He likes the roll though and Tony La Russa claims that he and their other young relievers still aren’t set in stone to even make the roster. La Russa said, “They opened some eyes. They’ll come to Spring Training getting a legitimate look. But they’ll have to beat somebody out.” I assume La Russa said that to make them, and Perez especially, work even harder. I honestly think Perez will end up with the job even though La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan claim that he may even end up back in the minors to start the season.
In the minors, Perez was the closer from A-ball on. With the Swing of Quad Cities he had 12 saves. With the double-A Springfield Cardinals he saved 27 games and with the triple-A Memphis Redbirds he had 19 saves over two season (07/08). He totaled 58 saves over three years in the minors while appearing in 105 games, struck out 147 batters, and held a 2.72 ERA.
Cardinals Closer Competition:
Frontrunner: Chris Perez (3.46 ERA // 7 SV // 9.17 SO/9INN)
Veteran Option: Ryan Franklin (3.55 ERA // 17 SV // 5.87 SO/9INN)
Darkhorse: Jason Motte (0.82 ERA // 1 SV (4 HLD) // 13.09 SO/9INN)
Darkerhorse: Trever Miller (4.15 ERA // 2 SV (11 HLD) // 9.19 SO/9INN with TB)