Scott Kazmir has been traded to the Los Angeles Angels after a deal reportedly didn’t go down prior to the July 31st trading deadline. Almost a month later, the Angels have bolstered their rotation.
In what has been a tough season (8-7, 5.92 ERA) for the still very young southpaw, the Angels may have been attracted to go get the kid after two solid starts in which he went seven and a third giving up three runs against Texas and going six innings of one-run ball in which he struck out ten against Toronto.
Perhaps the 25-year-old is turning a corner on a terrible season thus far, so the Angels, who look to take the AL West grabbed the strikeout pitcher hoping for some results as September nears.
Their rotation has had a rough year as well. Along with the tragic loss of Nick Adenhart, both Ervin Santana and John Lackey started the year on the disabled list. Here’s how they’ve been in 2009–
John Lackey — 8-7 // 4.16 ERA
Ervin Santana — 7-7 // 5.94 ERA
Joe Saunders — 10-7 // 5.27 ERA
Jered Weaver — 13-5 // 4.03 ERA
Trevor Bell will likely be out which leaves that fifth spot for Kazmir, who’s statistics fit right in with the rest of this struggling rotation. For now, the Angels can get away with the struggling pitching because they hit so well. They do all the little things correctly.
Come playoff time, that may not be the case. The playoffs are about how well your pitchers step up and put your team into a position to win (along with the little things). Kazmir was just there last year and he’s faced the Yanks and Red Sox many, many times before. So if they happen to meet in the playoffs, his knowledge of their hitters will help out the Angels’ staff.
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
After a 11-9 loss last night to the Nationals, the Dodgers now have 49 more games to go without Manny in the lineup. You all know the Manny story by now. He tested positive for a women’s fertility drug. Steroid users take it when they want to end their steroid cycle. And so on…
Here’s Manny’s response:
“Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility. I have been advised not to say anything more for now. I do want to say one other thing; I’ve taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons. I want to apologize to Mr. McCourt, Mrs. McCourt, Mr. Torre, my teammates, the Dodger organization, and to the Dodger fans. LA is a special place to me and I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I’m sorry about this whole situation.”
Well, I don’t know how much to believe in there. But I would like to give Manny the benefit of the doubt. Wait, what am I saying, Manny over anyone doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt. It’s hard to avoid the facts concerning the women’s drug, so unless he was trying to advance fertility, he’s in trouble.
If he would just come out and say it like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite did, then he could possibly get away from all of this. No one ever really talks about them anymore, other than the positive example they set for getting out of the steroid hole. So in the midsts of Manny, A-Rod, Selena, and PEDs, there’s baseball to be played, so lets focus on that.
So the Dodgers lost to the Nationals last night, that’s an awful way to start 50 games without your offensive leader. But will the Dodgers be in trouble? Well anytime a team loses a hitter like Manny, it’s never a good thing, but this team has got some great young hitters and they play in such a weak division. I wouldn’t be suprised if the Dodgers are still in first by July 3rd when Manny returns.
Here was the Dodgers lineup last night.
SS Rafael Furcal
2B Orlando Hudson
RF Andre Ethier
1B James Loney
C Russel Martin
CF Matt Kemp
3B Casey Blake
P Randy Wolf
LF Juan Pierre
Ethier, who is hitting .312 with six homeruns and 27 RBIs, will be asked to pick up the slack, and I think he can. He had those numbers with Manny in front of him, so I don’t think that anything will be a problem.
Another note about the lineup: Having Juan Pierre as the “second leadoff man” down at the bottom is a nice touch by Joe Torre. This provides legitimate speed three batters in a row and will give the middle of the Dodgers lineup a chance to drive home runs.
The only problem I can see here is that the young hitters knew Manny could pick them up if they went down and got out, so their approach at the plate was a little more relaxed with Manny in the lineup. One of two things will happen, they’ll go back to bad approaches at the plate or they’ll rally around not having Manny and win ballgames (assuming the pitching keeps up).
What notable teams will the Dodgers be seeing until July 3rd?
Three games at the Phillies and Marlins.
Home against the Mets and Angels for three.
Four games at the Cubs.
Four at home against the Phils.
Three games at the Rangers, Angels, and White Sox.
Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels
Projected MLB Rank: 5th — AL Rank: 2nd — AL West Rank: 1st — Record: (93-69)
American League West Champions
So where’s the competition out west for the Angels? The A’s could be considered a challenge, but I think they’re too young this year. The Rangers will never win become a playoff threat until they get some pitching. Then the Mariners, well, I have them ranked last in the league.
So that provides the Angels with a bunch of wins even if their number one and two pitchers are out until about May. Those pitchers, John Lackey and Ervin Santana are two of the best pitchers in the AL. While they’re on the DL, there are five others who will need to fill the void for the time being. Jered Weaver should improve on his 4.33 ERA and 11-10 this season, but nothing drastic. Joe Saunders did a great job for the Halos last season winning 17 games. The lefty also posted a 3.41 ERA in 31 starts. Dustin Moseley will probably be the fifth starter once Lackey and Santana return. Moseley does get roughed up once in a while so there are other options. Nick Adenhart is one of those options, he’s still 22 years old and has some good stuff to do well in the majors but he hasn’t had too much success recently. Shane Loux is another option and will probably start the season in the rotation but once everyone is healthy and back–Loux will be back, in the minor leagues.
Don’t be suprised if Brian Fuentes posts over 50 saves this season. The way the Angels play baseball provides the closers with many chances for saves. Fuentes saved 30 games for Colorado last season along with a 2.73 ERA and almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Scot Shields has great stuff and should continue to be effective coming out of the bullpen as he posted a 2.70 ERA last season. Jose Arredondo may be the seventh inning guy. In 52 games last year, the 25 year old compiled a 1.62 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP. Then there’s Darren Oliver who posted a 2.88 ERA last season. Very reliable bullpen.
This lineup is great. Bringing in Bobby Abreu to replace Garrett Anderson was a nice move. The Angels are so outfield heavy now (as Gary Matthews Jr. now has no place to start). Then there’s Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero, Chone Figgins and Juan Rivera. The household names.
The players that fly under the radar out in LA will not go unnoticed this season. Secondbaseman Howie Kendrick is a hitter. If he can stay healthy, expect an average over .300 with stolen bases and great defense. Kendry Morales finally gets the firstbase job all to himself. So he will develop this year getting the chances everyday. Mike Napoli presumes to be the starting catcher. He hit 20 homeruns in 78 games last season. If he played a full season, he could even hit 35 homers and put up 75 or so RBIs. He compiled a .586 slugging percentage with an on base percentage 100 points higher than his batting average. Erick Aybar has had a nice spring training and will be at short for his defense this year, but if he starts to get hot at the plate–he will definately be the starter.
All in all, the Angels have the offense and are in the division that can afford to lose their top two starting pitchers for about a month. There’s really not much to the story here. Division champs.
Season Preview: Texas Rangers
Projected MLB Rank: 20th — AL Rank: 8th — AL West Rank: 3rd — Record: (77-85)
It’s hard to argue with the most runs per game (5.56) and the highest team average (.283) in the league as not the best lineup. So I won’t, because I do believe that this is the best lineup in the league.
Secondbaseman Ian Kinsler is a star in the league and he got things started for this lineup last year. He was sidelined last year for the end of the season and still drove home 71 runs from the leadoff spot. He has the rare combo of power and speed and should bat leadoff again for Texas if rookie phenom Elvis Andrus doesn’t. Andrus hasn’t yet played a game in the majors, but will start the season as the the shortstop for this club. He may not have the average for the leadoff spot, but he definately has the speed. He should have 30 or more steals by season’s end.
Andrus’ welcome to majors included moving regular shortstop, Michael Young, to third base. Last year, Young drove home 82 while posting a .339 OBP. Expect big numbers from Josh Hamilton again. He dropped off after the all star break last year but I expect him to do the same thing he did last year (.304/32/130). Firstbaseman Chris Davis should have a huge year after he hit 17 homeruns and drove in 55 runs in only half a season last year. The big lefty also slugged .549.
I would also expect Nelson Cruz to continue hitting well after he hit .330 last season in a short-term with the club. The other corner outfielder, David Murphy should also continue to produce no matter where he is put in the order. Also, keep an eye on the competition at catcher between youngsters Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden. I expect a platoon between the two going into the season.
If only they could get some pitching help. Kevin Millwood is their ace. Uh oh. He went 9-10 last year with a 5.07 ERA and isn’t exactly getting younger. Same case with the number two starter Vicente Padilla, 14-8 with a 4.74 ERA. Lefty Matt Harrison is a quality starter, but first we need to see how he does for a full season. The injury-happy Brandon McCarthy still has yet to prove himself. Then there’s righty Jason Jennings. I’ll leave it at that.
The bullpen, anchored by closer Frank Francisco, is subpar. CJ Wilson’s ERA last season was over 6.00. Eddie Guardado is 38 years old. Then, there’s Derrick Turnbow, shall I go on?
I am a firm believer in pitching, pitching, pitching. The best offense in the league last year could only muster up 79 wins. So until the pitching decides to show up, expect more of the same from the Rangers.
First I’ll start off by presenting my photo of the day…
How awesome is it to see that swing in Mariner blue again? It reminds me of my early childhood. Watching Ken Griffey Jr. play baseball was like watching someone that you knew was going to become a legend. Even in my single digits I recognized the fact that he was going to become a Hall of Famer one day. He has one of the sweetest swings the game has ever seen and even though he won’t be patrolling center field again in Seattle, I am ecstatic to see Griffey as a Mariner again.
I had recently been presenting my breakout players for this upcoming season so I’ll recap them.
1B Chris Davis (Texas Rangers)
He’s big and he can produce and I think that he will be an all star in this league, even as early as this season. He is in one of the best lineups in the league, if not the best so he will get his chances to drive men home.
OF/DH Adam Lind (Toronto Blue Jays)
Lind quickly became a staple in the Blue Jays offense halfway through the season last year. He has become a great hitter at the plate and will blossom this season in a tough AL East.
RP Chris Perez (St. Louis Cardinals)
He’s leading the pack for the Cardinals closer job. He was the closer for every minor league team he played for and last season he notched seven saves and became the Cards closer as the season neared it’s end. So I would expect him to be the one who enters in the ninth.
SP Chris Volstad (Florida Marlins)
He’s young, he’s got very nice stuff, and he’s placed right in the middle of one of the most underrated rotations in the league. He has the potential to be the Marlins ace eventually, so why not make eventually this season?
Other players who I didn’t cover but have potential to breakout:
OF Seth Smith (Colorado Rockies)
SP Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds)
OF Denard Span (Minnesota Twins)
PREVIEW of what’s to come:
I haven’t posted in a few days because I have been working on my predictions for the upcoming season (and the fact that I’m in college and weekends are busy). So I apologize. But starting Wednesday, in honor of the first day of Spring Training games, I will start to release my 2009 predictions. It will go team-by-team each day starting with who I think will finish last working my way all the way up to who I think will have the best record. It will kind of be like a 30 teams in 30 days type deal but most likely not in 30 days.
At the end of that I will post my playoff and award predictions. I will probably interject other posts about hot topics or random ideas that I have along the way, but my predictions will be done before April 5th when the season opens up at my home — the city of brotherly love.
Alex Rodriguez had his press conference yesterday and it seems as if maybe this whole thing will blow over. Yea, right. Up until mid-April we will be hearing about this everyday. I’m sure yesterday won’t be last time we hear adjectives such as young, naive, stupid, ignorant, and the like come out of his mouth.
Many players such as Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, Francisco Rodriguez, and others have come out and said that A-Rod’s credibility to this point has been diminished and that when substances are bought in other countries, you know if they’re legal or not in the United States. To these statements, A-Rod said,
“I mean, I’m sorry Jamie feels that way, and he’s definitely entitled to his opinion. And the baseball world and all the fans we have, I understand their doubt. I understand their concerns.”
“Well again, I’m sorry Roy feels that way. Look, everyone has their opinions and their beliefs. And I’m sorry he feels that way.”
He claims to have gotten the drug, that he tested positive for while in Texas, in the Dominican Republic through his cousin George. Royals pitcher John Bale asked the question if his cousin even existed. It’s clear that it will be hard to gain back trust from players and fans around the nation and world. He may never even regain that trust. Concerning the drug that he had taken, he stated,
“…I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs. I knew that it was something potentially that perhaps was wrong. I really didn’t get into the investigation, perhaps like I would’ve. I wouldn’t imagine thinking of doing something like that today, obviously. It’s a different world, a different culture.”
It wasn’t the tic-tacs, well obviously. Last time I checked you can’t inject breathmints and then suddenly you will never have bad breath again. Regarding the drug he also said,
“I didn’t think they were steroids at the time. Again, that’s part of being young and stupid. It was over the counter, it was pretty basic and it was really amateur hour. It was two guys, we couldn’t go outside, who couldn’t ask anyone, didn’t want to ask anyone…”
There’s the young and stupid again. Throughout the whole spring training interview and the Peter Gammons interview, he goes without saying that he still thinks that he should be a hall of famer. He was young and stupid. He says going to college may have changed that because he never really grew up–
“I’m here to say that in some ways I wish I went to college and had an opportunity to grow up at my own pace. You know, I guess when you are young and stupid, you are young and stupid. And I’m very guilty of both those.”
It cannot be clearer that he knows he made a mistake and that the drugs are a thing of his past and as he claims, a short part of his past. He said, “foul pole to foul pole” his career has been unbelievable and that his best years have been when he broke into the league (pre-Texas) and 2007. It may be hard for young and stupid to get to Cooperstown but I think that if indeed, he is telling the truth and if he continues to hit at the pace he has been year after year, these apologies that we find so annoying right now, may save him five years after he retires. He may not be forever, stuck in the shadows.