The Month in Review: April
Every April, year after year, there are the big suprises (teams or players) that get off to hot starts and there are also the disappointments of the month. One thing for sure is that, the MLB season is a lengthy one. Teams are given 162 chances and then the playoffs to prove that they are the best and the best teams will win the divisions and the worst teams will finish last. That’s what makes the game so great, the fact that there are so many chances to prove that you are the best. According to descriptive statistics, Major League Baseball is the sport that gives the best chances at seeing the true best team in the league (descriptive statistics involve the collection of data).
April provides the suprises by underdogs and by the unexpected players. It involves dissapoint from the supposive “good” teams and slow starts by perennial all stars. Here are my thoughts on the month that was.
American League: Mike Lowell
The power behind the big Boston win streak, Lowell is third in the league with 23 RBIs. He is also hitting .310 and has four homeruns in the first month. He seems to have recovered from his injury just fine and do the Red Sox ever need him to be hitting like this or what.
National League: Adrian Gonzalez
He has nine homeruns and twenty RBIs for the 11-11 Padres. A great hitter with a great approach at the plate leads the National League in homers. He’s also slugging .704 with an OBP of .438.
April Cy Youngs
American League: Zack Greinke
Well, I talk about him later here but he is 5-0 with 44 strikeouts and leads the league with a 0.50 ERA.
National League: Johan Santana
Maybe if the Mets bullpen could hold together for him, he would have another win. He is 3-1 with the best ERA in the National League (1.10) and is tied with Greinke for the most strikeouts in the league.
Team that suprised: Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are the one team in the AL East that I did not expect. I thought their offense was too unproductive (although I do think Adam Lind and Travis Snider are going to be great) and I thought the loss of Burnett killed them. Well, they have had different ideas throught the first month of the season as the offense is the best in the American League thus far and the pitching has certianly stepped up as pitchers with injuries have gone down.
Team that disappointed: New York Mets
This offense was supposed to produce runs and keep them in games as the back end of their rotation is shaky. But they are less than average and have a 9-12 record so far. The Mets with their revamped ‘pen are also 4-5 in one-run affairs which doesn’t give me much confidence that they’ll win close ballgames.
Best story: Zack Greinke
Right now, he poses a threat for the pitching triple crown. The first MLB pitcher to reach the five win mark also leads the league in ERA and is tied for the lead league in strikeouts with Johan Santana. His 0.50 ERA was all zeros going into his fifth start as well. He’s the leader of a great rotation in Kansas City that consists of Gil Meche, Kyle Davies, Sidney Ponson, and Horacio Ramirez. Okay, so maybe Ponson and Ramirez need to work on a few things, but if Davies can keep up what he’s done thus far, those Royals lead by Greinke, will be in the October hunt because pitching wins. Perhaps the best part of this story is that Greinke overcame depression and anxiety disorder to get to where he’s been today.
Best moment: Ellsbury steals home
In the final game of a heck of a series last weekend, Jacoby Ellsbury took off on a straight steal of home against veteran Andy Pettite. In a rivalry series, on primetime television, in a tie game, only making it a walkoff steal would have made it better, but hey, you can’t have everything. As I said in my most recent Monday Ten post, I didn’t even see it live but I had to watch the steal over and over online once I heard about it. The steal of home just capped off a great series for the Sox against the Bombers as they swept them right out of Boston.
Questions to Consider:
Feel free to answer these questions as comments as well, I want to know what you all think.
1. Will the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to lead the entire league in ERA?
No, the ERA has risen over the past week as the Buccos are on a three-game skid. Expect some more of those.
2. Will Wandy Rodriguez keep up his performance thus far?
Well a 1.69 ERA is good, but the 2-2 record basically explains how good the team is. I’ll answer this by saying the Astros need him to keep it up.
3. Over/Under Nats wins: 50
4. Over/Under Mariners ERA after May: 3.50
5. Who will be leading the AL Central at the All Star break?
Still too early to tell, but I’ll say the White Sox.
6. When will the Rays start to turn it around?
Right now, did you see Matt Garza last night.
7. Who/what will give up more homeruns, the Phillies at home or Yankee Stadium?
8. When will the Cubbies listen to Alfonso Soriano and get back to 2008 form?
Mid-May. They’re too good for this.
It is said that April showers bring May flowers. If you consider this past April showers, then these flowers are going to be some good ones.
So now that I’m completely done my team previews and you have all seen how I predict it will pan out, here’s the playoff and award predictions.
Cubs over Mets
I feel like everyone jumped on me having the Cubs finish with the best record. Well I got them going a step further. A playoff rotation like there’s shouldn’t have failed last season. Some of their offensive guys are getting older, but they recognize this may be their last hurrah as they are all probably near the end of the primes of their careers. As for the Mets, their bullpen is nice, but you don’t get to them unless you have the lead.
Red Sox over Indians
The Red Sox are just a playoff team. They’re built with the intangibles and I’m big on that. A deep rotation with an unbelievable bullpen gets the easy nod over Cleveland here.
Yankees over Angels
Come on, a playoff rotation that could potentially be CC, AJ, Wang, then Pettite or Joba. You have to at least win the first series. The Angels counter with a solid rotation but I think the close series goes to the Yanks.
Dodgers over Phillies
As much as it hurts me to say this, I think the Dodgers get the best of the Phils this time. Manny is a force and the rest of the offense can hit. They have some good young arms and a solid bullpen. Close series, but no cigar for my Fightins.
Dodgers over Cubs
I’m all about the Dodgers this year, they have a heck of an offense. This is where the Cubs magic ends this season. In the rematch of last year’s NLDS, this result is the same.
Red Sox over Yankees
Of course, I love this rivalry and I think they meet once again in the ALCS. Sox move on simply because I hate the Yankees. Just kidding. Well Sox do move on, but my reasoning isn’t because I hate the Yankees. Intangibles move them on.
Red Sox over Dodgers
With Josh Beckett in October, you can’t go wrong. Sox win their third in six years.
American League MVP
He’ll be the most valuable player for his team this season as I expect him to have a higher batting average than last year. He does it all; steals, scores, drives home runs, hits homeruns, and plays a great centerfield.
Other Possibilities: Mark Teixeira, Dustin Pedrioa
Wild Card: Evan Longoria
National League MVP
He was robbed last year. Lead the entire league in homeruns and RBIs and he struggled. It’s scary to think that he can do better, and then when you look at the fact that he could increase his average, he can definately increase his 146 RBIs.
Other Possibilities: Albert Pujols, Manny Ramirez
Wild Card: Pablo Sandoval
American League Cy Young
He throws complete games like it’s his job. If he has a year like his last, he’s bound to win this award.
Other Possibilities: Cliff Lee,
Ervin Santana (my pick prior to injury), Jon Lester
Wild Card: John Danks
National League Cy Young
I think this kid is bound to break out. I think this is the year Billingsley steps up and becomes the Dodgers ace. He definately has potential for 20 wins, 200+ strikeouts, and a sub-3.00 ERA.
Other Possibilities: Brandon Webb, Tim Lincecum
Wild Card: Ricky Nolasco
American League ROTY
The reason I like him for this award is because he has a definate job. He will definately get his chances to move up in this lineup as well. I got two Jays winning awards.
Other Possibilities: Matt Wieters, Either Athletics 21-year-old
Wild Card: Elvis Andrus
National League ROTY
He has so much potential and he had an awesome performance when called up in September last year.
Other Possibilities: Colby Rasmus, Tommy Hanson
Wild Card: Jason Donald
Now that that’s over with, let the Phils raise the championship banner and play ball. Brett Myers, you may now throw the first pitch of the 2009 MLB season.
Season Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
Projected MLB Rank: 21st — AL Rank: 9th — AL East Rank: 4th — Record: (75-87)
Maybe letting AJ go, may burn[ett] down the road. Get it? Sorry, I know it’s corny but I had to. For a team that won 86 games last season, I feel weird ranking them so poorly but then when I really take a look at the lineup, and the rotation without the arm of Burnett, then I can kind of see why I have them here, kind of.
Beginning with the rotation, Roy Halladay may be the most true pitcher in the American League. He actually pitches complete games. I’m a huge fan of that. Despite the fact that I didn’t grow up in the days where pitchers were expected to pitch until the 8th or so–that’s what I love to see. So Roy Halladay is my kind of pitcher. The number two pitcher, AJ Burnett–
–oh yea, that 1-2 knockout punch is now just the 1 punch. Burnett went for the dough and signed with the Yankees. So how does new projected number two starter Jesse Litsch stack up against Burnett’s numbers:
AJ Burnett: 18-10 — 4.07 ERA — 231 SO — .249 BAA — 9.4 SO/9INN
Jesse Litsch: 13-9 — 3.58 ERA — 99 SO — .261 BAA — 5.06 SO/9INN
I would expect Litsch’s ERA to raise a little too (c’mon it’s the AL). No matter what way you look at it, it’s a definate drop off. Taking nothing away from Litsch, who is a good pitcher, but it is hard to come by the AJ Burnett’s in this world. The rest of the rotation includes David Purcey, Scott Richmond, and Casey Janssen, Matt Clement, or Brett Cecil. Purcey has first round pick potential but has yet to find at the major league level, and the minor league level too. Richmond and all who are competing for the fifth starter spot are questionable (with the exception of the youngster Cecil).
The bullpen is, dare I say it, the best in the division. You may not know them so let’s take a look at some of these guys and their 2008 stats.
Scott Downs: 66 APP — 1.78 ERA — 57 SO — 70.2 INN
Brandon League: 31 APP — 2.18 ERA — 23 SO — 33 INN
Jesse Carlson: 69 APP — 2.25 ERA — 55 SO — 60 INN
Brian Tallet: 51 APP — 2.88 ERA — 47 SO — 56.1 INN
Brian Wolfe: 20 APP — 2.45 ERA — 14 SO — 22 INN
Also don’t forget about the reliable arms of Jason Frasor, Jeremy Accardo, and Shawn Camp. The back end of the bullpen includes BJ Ryan. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he still racked up 32 saves last season with a 2.95 ERA and about nine strikeouts per nine innings.
Anchoring the lineup is veteran outfielder, Vernon Wells. Not playing a full season last year, Wells still cranked out 20 homeruns and 78 RBIs and hit for .300. Rightfielder, Alex Rios, mirrored those numbers but played all year long. Rod Barajas and Scott Rolen are aging and that may show this season but they can still be relatively reliable.
There are questions surrounding the Jays middle infield. Whether it’s going to be Marco Scutaro, John McDonald, Aaron Hill, or Joe Inglett. Where questions don’t surround are youngsters Adam Lind and Travis Snider. Look for manager Cito Gaston to use them very nicely and not rush them into anything too big too quickly (although it seems as if Lind is becoming the middle of the lineup hitter they’re hoping him to be). They will produce and they will be stars in this league, eventually.
The loss of Burnett, the questionable middle infield, and the shaky back of the rotation make me raise questions about the Blue Jays in 2009. Especially due to the division they are in.
So Miggy admitted that he lied, the A-Rod saga doesn’t take up half of sportscenter anymore, Brett Favre has “retired” (no more drama please), and its sixty degrees today in central PA. We can now move on to spring training (less than 24 hours until the first pitchers and catchers report) and I’ll continue with my breakout players.
OF Adam Lind Toronto Blue Jays
This 25-year-old outfielder/DH broke into the league in September of 2006 and has compiled 22 homeruns, 94 RBIs, and a .271 average. Last season with the triple-A Syracuse Chiefs he played in 51 games and drove in 50 with a .328 average before getting called up. He played in 88 games with the big club and hit .282 with nine homeruns and 40 RBIs. Which was a huge step up from his .238 batting average as a rookie.
Lind takes a good approach to the plate and even hit in the cleanup spot last year for Toronto. He will eventually become a consistent middle of the lineup hitter and will get big production numbers in that spot. He is not being rushed in being asked to be that kind of player but I think that this will be the year he becomes a hitter to keep an eye on.
Last year he started 71 games in left field and lead the team in that position and slowly crept up the lineup and went on several hot streaks. I imagine he will either start in left field or be the Jays main DH at the start of 2009 and be right in the middle of the order.
Projected 2009 Blue Jays Lineup
1. 2B Aaron Hill
2. SS Marco Scutaro
3. RF Alex Rios
4. CF Vernon Wells
5. DH Adam Lind
6. 3B Scott Rolen (or 7)
7. 1B Lyle Overbay (or 6)
8. C Rod Barajas (or 9)
9. LF Travis Snider (could slowly creep up the lineup as season progresses (I imagine him as one of my breakout players in 2010))