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
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.
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.
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…
First of all, congratulations to Albert Pujols, although I don’t agree with the decision, great year.
But I know you’ve heard it all before, Ryan Howard propelled his team in September (the most important month). He batted .352 in September with 11 homeruns and 32 RBI. He accounted for a quarter of the Phils RBI in the month and almost twenty percent of their RBI total for the entire season. In September, fellow lefty Chase Utley had one homerun, Jayson Werth hit .242 with one homerun, and Pat Burrell wasn’t at his best. Pujols accounted for only about fifteen percent of the Cards RBI total for the season. Fellow teammate of Pujols Ryan Ludwick mirrored Pujols production numbers and also accounted for about fifteen percent of the Cards RBI. Trot Glaus also had 17 homeruns and 99 RBI. The next closest Phillie other than Utley in RBI count was Pat Burrell with 86. I don’t like to lean on homeruns either but Howard did have 11 more along with 5 more runs scored.
Where did the Cardinals finish in the NL Central? Fourth. Where would they have finished without Pujols? Probably fifth if not stay at fourth. Where is the value in that? There is no chance the Phillies would have won the division without Ryan Howard.
The MVP is very opinion-based because everyone has their
own definition about what the MVP should be. In my mind, I think that unless there is a player who had a majestic, record-breaking season–it should go to a player that had the largest contribution of getting his team into the playoffs. That ballplayer is Ryan Howard.
Here is how I would have voted..
First: Ryan Howard (PHI)
Second: Manny Ramirez (LAD)
Third: Albert Pujols (STL)
4th: Ryan Braun (MIL)
5th: Lance Berkman (HOU)
6th: Brad Lidge (PHI)
7th: Chipper Jones (ATL)
8th: CC Sabathia (MIL)
9th: Aramis Ramirez (CHC)
10th: Carlos Delgado (NYM)