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Monday, February 28, 2011

A.L. West Preview

Well with the National League complete it's time for the junior circuit preview! I will begin in the West. Last year the A.L. West finished like this.....

Rangers: 90-72 (American League Champions)
Athletics: 81-81
Angels: 80-82
Mariners: 61-101

Let's begin with the Texas Rangers. On a personal note, I am not happy with the organization right now. The Michael Young situation is terrible. Young has been the face of their franchise for years now and has switched positions twice in an effort to do what's best for his team. He dealt with many losing seasons and put up 5 straight 200 hit seasons and is a 6 time all star. After the conclusion of the 2010 season the Rangers went out and signed Adrian Beltre to play third base, Young's most recent position. Again, with the best interest of the team in mind, Young agreed to a third position switch that would make him the full time DH. Shortly after this, the Rangers signed Mike Napoli, a catcher/first baseman. However Napoli was brought in primarily to be a designated hitter leaving Young nowhere to play. Following the Napoli signing Young requested and trade and said he felt manipulated and misled. I think it is very wrong to treat your star player this way. He put up with many losing seasons and once the team became successful, they replace him. Not cool. That said lets get to an unbiased preview! The 2010 Rangers added pitching to a Texas line up that had been able to score runs for many years. Cliff Lee joined the team in the second half and although he didn't pitch his best he helped the team secure a play-off birth and make it to the World Series. C.J. Wilson made a new name for himself as a starter and the rest of the rotation pitched well enough to win 90 games. The Rangers were helped in the regular season by the poorness of the other teams in their division, but they proved in the Play-Offs they had what it takes to beat good teams. The line up is nasty. Vladamir Guerrero was a surprise hitting 29 bombs and driving in over 115 runs. Josh Hamilton leads a long list of great hitters including Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Michael Young. Youngsters like Elvis Andrus (SS) and the new closer Neftali Feliz (CLP), who was the A.L. Rookie of the Year, also made their presence known. The biggest issue that will stand in the way of this team repeating is injuries. Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler, possibly their two best players, can't stay on the field. Furthermore Cliff Lee and Vladamir Guerrero are no longer on the team, both signing with other teams through Free Agency. The additions of Adrian Beltre and Nike Napoli should take care of the gap left by Vlad but the young pitchers in the rotation will need to step it up. The biggest difference this year will be the improvement of other teams in the division, mostly the Oakland Athletics. I think the Rangers will fall just short of the division title and finish a close second, but miss the play-offs.

The Oakland Athletics are going to be good. I think they will win over 90 games in 2011 and capture the division title. The youthful arms in Oakland may even rival the ones across the bay. The difference? Oakland will score runs. The offense wasn't scary last year but with a couple of new bats including Hideki Matsui, David DeJesus, and Josh Willingham, this team should be vastly improved at the plate. The rotation is one most other teams should be envious of. Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez all have huge potential and with Rich Harden on the team, healthy or not, the young guns should grow under his tutelage. The 5th starter will probably be Dallas Braden....I am a Yankee fan, I don't like Braden. I am really hoping that when Oakland comes to New York Braden is pitching and I can go to the game with a big sign that says "Get off OUR mound!". That said, as a 5th starter, he should be very good and with Grant Balfour setting up and Andrew Bailey closing this team should be very good. I think they will win the division.

The Angels are a hard team to preview. They have a lot of ups and downs. Last year they just didn't have the pitching to compete and their best hitter missed most of the season with a broken leg. This year they will have two Gold Glove winning center fielders in the corner outfield positions in Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells. Brandon Wood will be there third baseman and they will hope he has a break out year. Howie Kendrick at second base has always had a lot of potential but never quite reached it. If he can play close to his full upside he will be excellent. Kendry Morales will be coming off the Broken Leg but should be back to his old self driving in runs and hitting ballz over the wallz. I would like to see another left handed bad in this line up but they should score a decent amount of runs. Scott Downs will be their new closer. He has been primarily a set up man in Toronto for the last few seasons but I think he will adapt to the closer role just fine. The rotation is full of ???????. Dan Haren is an ace and I believe he will pitch like an ace along side Jared Weaver, who led the A.L. in strike outs and was the best Angels starter last year. Scott Kazmir was not good last year but he has had success in the past. If he can stay healthy and find his stuff the rotation will have a chance. Joel Piniero and Ervin Santana are both pretty decent so the team will have a chance to compete if everyone is healthy.

Seattle is a beautiful city. The same could not be said about their baseball team's 2010 season. I don't think that Mariners fans have much to look forward to in the 2011 season either. If it was up to me I would package Felix Hernandez and Ichiro for 5 or 6 good young prospects to go along with their new young pride Dustin Ackley and make a deal with a team competing for a spot down the stretch. King Felix is owed 68 million bucks over the next 4 seasons and after the 2011 season his salary goes from 10 mil a year to 18.5 mil. I think one way or another the Ms should trade him and split that money up amongst 3 or 4 good young players. On a happy note Ichiro should set the record for most consecutive 200 hit season when he reaches the mark this year. It is really incredible what Ichiro has been able to do and I know idea or trading must be terrifying so please forgive me for suggesting it, but I believe it would be the right move. The Mariners will finish bottom of the American League losing 100 games once again.

This should be a nice tight division and I think it will end like this....

Athletics: 89-73
Rangers: 87-75
Angels: 85-77
Mariners: 58-104

Saturday, February 26, 2011

N.L. West Preview

This division is loaded with young talent. It will be fun to watch them all try to attain their potential and make the post season. At the end of 2010 the N.L. West looked like this....

Giants: 92-70 (World Series Champions)
Padres: 90-72
Rockies: 83-79
Dodgers: 80-82
Diamondbacks: 65-97

The 2010 San Fransisco Giants were quite a story. They made the play offs by the skin of their teeth and only because of a late collapse by the Padres. They certainly look advantage of that break by securing their first World Series Title since 1954 and their first since they moved to California. In the 2010 post season the Giants really proved that great pitching is the way to win in series style baseball. They beat two teams, in the Braves and Phillies who both had much stronger line ups than the Giants did. With great pitching and clutch hitting, the Giants secured the title. Can they do it again? I think they have the most exciting young staff in baseball. Tim Lincecum headlines a rotation absolutely filled with talent. Although "The Freak" draws most of the attention I believe Matt Cain, who threw 21 scoreless innings in the post season last year, will prove to be the true ace of their staff over the coming seasons. I think Lincecum has already peaked and his slight stature will not be able to maintain his max-effort delivery. Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner are both phenomenal young talents. With a little more experience and control they will round out a rotation that should challenge the Phillies for the best starters in the game. I see no reason why Brian Wilson will not continue to be dominant and so from a pitching perspective this team looks to be one of the best for a long time. Can they score runs? Buster Posey certainly will help create a few. The great young catcher burst upon the scene playing in 108 games in 2010 and batting .305 with 18 bombs and 67 RBI in his limited time with the club. He carries himself like a seasoned veteran and should continue to rake! (I have him as a keeper in fantasy so I really hope I'm right) Andres Torres showed that he can be a great spark at the top of the order and with the amazing weight loss of Pablo Sandoval and his drive to succeed I believe this team will once again claim the division title.

Pitching pitching pitching! That's what the San Diego Padres are all about. They had the best bull pen in baseball in 2010 with set-up men Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson and closer Heath Bell. The starting rotation is full of young guns who will continue to put up great numbers. The line up will be an issue for this team. Their best player over the past few season, Adrian Gonzalez, will now be banging doubles off the Green Monster (I'm upset about that one) and they really don't have much to replace him. Additions include several decent hitters including Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson, and Xavier Nady. Young Cameron Maybin also is due to reach his potential and could be a great lead off hitter. Ryan Ludwick, Chris Denorfia, and Chase Headley, while all good players, are not the makings of a strong middle of the line up. It will be hard for this team to score runs in any yard but especially in their own. Petco Park is a pitchers haven and I don't think they will score enough runs to compete.

Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are the heart of the mile high line up. I really like this team as a whole and I think they are in for a very good year. Todd Helton will continue to save errors over at first and Dexter Fowler will have a break out year. Offensively the only concern I have is the ability of Tulo to stay on the field. Injuries have plagued him but we saw in September what he is capable of. He had half of a season in one month. If he stays healthy for a whole season it could be epic. Cargo, I think, will put up another season like his 2010 campaign and may even improve a little bit. He is a scary young hitter. From the bump they have the pitcher with the nastiest stuff in baseball, Ubaldo Jimenez. Once he gains a little control and stops walking the world, he will be as close to unhittable as it is possible to be. I think Jorge De La Rosa will have a nice year but the back end of the rotation may be in question. The Rockies seem to have the overwhelmingly dominant line up in this division however and may be able to slug their way to a few extra wins. I believe they will finish second.

My boy, Don Mattingly is taking over the reigns! One Yankee great taking over for manager for the Dodgers? Oh well, it could be worse. How will the Dodgers fare this season? Well it's hard to say. The Dodgers continue this division's tradition of young talent with Andrew Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney, Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsly. If all of these players would even approach the pinnacle of their potential this could be the dominant team in National League. What are the hold ups? Well Clayton Kershaw, who led all the world in hits per 9 innings pitched, also walks way too many people. No one can hit him, but he puts runners on, that never ends well. Matt Kemp went from a Gold Glove winner to almost being traded and having his outfield play torn apart by critics. Andrew Ethier began 2010 on a torrid hot streak but after a finger injury never quite got it back. James Loney drives in a LOT of runs but hasn't been able to develop the power stroke and his batting average dropped 14 points from 2009 to 2010. Hopefully he can turn it around. Chad Billingsly has made 30 starts or more each of the last three years and at times is fantastic. If he is able to find some consistency he could be a Cy Young competitor. He also gets hurt a lot and though he makes his start he pitches hurt and that keeps him from being all that he can be. Broxton will look to reclaim his closing job which was given to Hong-Chih Kuo who did a great job with it. I think this team will show signs of brilliance and have a few very hot streaks but I don't think Donny Baseball's first year as MLB Manager will be overly successful, they will miss the play offs.

The Arizona Diamondbacks......well they aren't very good. The offensive core, like all the teams in this division, is quite talented. Chris Young, Justin Upton, Stephen Drew, and Kelly Johnson are all great young talents and will serve as a nice core in the future. However they have virtually no pitching. Daniel Hudson is a nice young prospect but he can't be counted on yet. Joe Saunders came over to front the rotation but he is always hurt. I see this team giving up way too many runs to win any significant amount of games.

This division will finish thus......

Giants: 90-72
Padres: 88-74
Rockies: 88-74
Dodgers: 75-87
Diamondbacks: 63-99

To sum up the Senior Circuit, in the divisional round of play-offs the Phillies will face the Reds and the Giants will face the Brewers. The Phillies will beat the Reds and face the victorious and inspired Brewers in the N.L.C.S. Anyone surprised yet? Well I have to go with the favorite hear. I expect to see the Phillies in the World Series again. Sucks I know. GO BREWERS!


I'M WATCHING THE YANKEES ON A FIELD!!!!! I know its spring training but wow!!! Players on a field!! YES!!! I'm so happy. We have our whole team out there too! It's amazing! I am so happy its hard to express.....GO YANKS!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

N.L. Central Preview

This division is going to be so much fun to watch! I think both central divisions will be amazing this year and we will start with the senior circuit. Last year the teams lined up like this...

Reds: 91-71
Cardinals: 86-76
Brew Crew: 77-85
Astros: 76-86
Cubs: 75-87
Pirates: 57-105 (ouch!)

The Cincinnati Reds, as storied a franchise as any, are fresh of their first taste of October baseball in.....uh.....too long! I was thrilled to see them win the division. I have been to Great American Ball Park and it is a beautiful place to watch the greatest sport in the world. The fans are amazing and deserve their team to be successful. I was so thrilled to see Joey Votto win the N.L. MVP. He is a phenomenal player and very deserving. Everyone can argue for King Albert but Votto was playing in October and Pujols was watching. Go Joey! With the emergence of young star Jay Bruce and the cocky attitude and production of Brandon Phillips that line up will continue to score runs. The rotation may be a little hit and miss. Volquez and Cueto are impressive when they are on but both can be a bit wild and we'll have to see if Volquez can bounce back from his suspension last year. Also since 2008 in which Volquez won 17 games and had an ERA of 3.21, a great season, he has made only 21 starts in 2009 and 2010 combined. Hard to rely on a full season from him. Bronson Arroyo has been solid the last two season having back to back years with an ERA under 4.00 and should be able to do it again. The young arms of Mike Leake and Homer Bailey will look to round out the rotation with break out seasons. At the back of the pen well you have 105 mph.....AROLDIS CHAPMAN! I believe he is being called the Cuban Missile? Seems appropriate to me. I would love to see him in the closer role this season. I think the Reds will compete very hard for the division title looking to continue October Baseball.

All is not well in St. Louis. They were unable to sign Albert Pujols to a contract extension and Adam Wainwright is now done for the season. It could be a long year for the Red Birds. These may be the greatest fans in all of baseball and its hard to see these things happen, but that's how the game goes. Another beautiful ball park, which I have been to also, the fans will come and support their team. Albert Pujols will do what he does, especially since he will most likely be testing free agency, I think we can expect a great year from him. He will be supported by some talent in the form of Colby Rasmus and Matt Holiday. The Cardinal line up should be relatively unchanged and will score runs. Will the pitching be able to give them a chance to win? We will have to wait and see. Chris Carpenter should still have a few good years left and I love the youngster Jaime Garcia but without Wainwright, who, without Roy Halladay coming over, would probably be the best pitcher in the N.L., it will be tough to win enough games to compete with the Reds and new rotation up north. Ryan Franklin will save what games get to him but there won't be enough. I see the Cardinals falling to third this year. Sorry St. Louis.

"The Ax-Factor!" Sorry I've been excited to say that since I decided to do this. The Hoff is out, the Ax is in! John Axford will have the job of finishing off the games in Miller Park (I've been there too, this division has really nice yards). The leads he will be defending will belong the a revamped rotation that may be the best in baseball not from either coast. Hard to argue with the arms in San Fran and Philly but the Boys in will have something to say. Newly led by Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum this rotation along with Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo should pwn! Prince Fielder is probably in his last year as a Brewer and will want to put up numbers that will show him the money so expect big things from him. Ryan Braun and a couple of very underrated players in Corey Hart and Casey McGehee will support Prince and they score an insane amount of runs. This team wants it bad. They will win this division.

The Houston Astros......I just don't know. Wandy Rodriguez is pretty good. Every team has to rebuild. Good luck!

Wrigley Field! If you haven't been! It is a fantastic place to watch a game. I think the team will have a better year than their 2010 campaign but not enough to compete against the Reds or Brewers. If Ryan Dempster stays healthy and Matt Garza can thrive in the N.L. I think they will win some games and Stralin Castro could add a nice spark at the top of the line up but I don't think they have the depth to compete in an improved division.

"If you build it....they will come!" As far as the Pirates are concerned this applies to a good team! Ray Cansella plowed under his corn to build a field your ownership plowed under your team to build a beautiful park. The setting is there, now keep some good young players and win some games! This is another historical franchise that deserves to be good. The talented youth is there you just have to keep it and add some veteran arms! If Andrew McCutchen is still there in two years I will say the team is turning around. It is time for this team to be good again and it can be if the front office will put the fans on top of their priority list. As for right now, they are looking at another bottom of the pile finish.

The final standings will be.....

Brewers: 93-69
Reds: 92-70 (N.L. Wild Card)
Cardinals: 80-82
Cubs: 79-83
Astros: 70-92
Pirates: 60-102

Should be so much fun to watch!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

N.L. East Preview

I will begin in the N.L. East with my previews for this season. It should be fun! At the close of the 2010 season the division looked like this....

Phillies: 97-65
Braves: 91-71
Marlins: 80-82
Mets: 79-83 (I won a bet because of this postion in the standings!)
Nationals: 69-93

I think this season we will be looking at a similar situation. We've all heard about the Philadelphia rotation for this year. It is hard to argue that it is excellent. Roy Halladay is widely considered as the best pitcher in baseball. Cliff Lee has been a post season machine the last two seasons and, although he struggled a bit with the Rangers during the regular season, he will win baseball games. He walked 18 batters in 212 wut? Cole Hammels and "The Other Roy" Mr. Oswalt have both been dominant pitchers and both have struggled as well. It's hard to say just how well they will pitch but I think this is the first rotation to even have a chance at four 20 game winners. If Rollins, Utley, and Howard can produce they way they have in the past, and stay healthy, and Brad Lidge can close the few games they need closed (their staff will have an insane number of complete games and middle relievers will be completely useless), this division is over.

The Atlanta Braves will be fighting to continue a winning tradition with a new skipper at the helm. It's a tough thing to do. Chipper Jones is looking to end his career on a high note and I know he will be playing hard to see that that happens. Whether or not his age will catch up to him is another issue, but he will be trying very hard to make his team a winner. The addition of Dan Uggla should be very helpful as he may be the second best offensive 2nd baseman in the game. Martin Prado had a break out season and if he can repeat and settle into an outfield spot he should score a lot of runs. Jason Heyward, if healthy, looking to avoid a sophmore slump will be key for them. The pitching staff should be fun to watch. Tommy Hansen is a great young starter and along with veteran Tim Hudson will look to anchor that rotation. I'm hoping to see Kimbrel close this year because I love his arm and I think he has the stuff. The Braves also possibly have the best pitching prospect in baseball not named Strasburg in Julio Teheran. I don't know if he'll see The Show this year but I can't wait for his call up. I see the Braves in 2nd place once again in 2011.

The Florida Marlins! 3rd place. All done. Just kidding. You can't talk about the Marlins without mentioning a few key guys. Hanley Ramirez needs to grow up. When he does we may see his full potential which is Mickey Mantle at short stop. He must lead by example. Josh Johnson will do what he does. Can Ricky Nolasco and the other guys in that rotation provide other leads for Leo Nunez to try and protect? It's by no means a sure thing. The young talent down there is hugely promising though. Mike Stanton looks like a greek god with a baseball bat, and the ball jumps of his bat like a lightning bolt thrown by Zues. Gaby Sanchez and Chris Coghlan both look to be good pro ball players.

Next up the New York Mets......I am a Yankee fan so I'm going to try and be gentle.....The Mets are in for a rough season. Opening day they will be tied for first place. Closing day they will be lucky to be in 4th. Rumor has it that Johan Santana will be making it back near the end of June, which is a bright spot on the cloudy horizon. However until then their rotation is a collection of 4 and 5 starters. Their pen is a Who's Who of WHO?! and the line up is David Wright and the admissions list from the local hospital. IF Bay, Beltran, and Reyes can ALL come back and play well, they may score enough runs to play .500 baseball. I think they need to trade Reyes at the break if he's playing well for a few young arms and go for it in 2012.

Optimistically The Nationals may get Strasburg back for September. It will be too late. Ryan Zimmerman and Jason Werth will get their hits and home runs and RBIs but without a serious step up but those young arms they will not compete this year. With my contempt for the Phillies, Mets and Braves I would love to see these young guys step up and shove it to the big fellas but I just don't see that happening yet. If we are lucky, however, this September we may see Bryce Harper in Major League Baseball!

The way I see it, the N.L. East will finish this way,

Phillies: 103-59
Braves: 85-77
Marlins: 83-79
Mets: 72-90
Nationals: 70-92

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Inverted W

And another one bites the dust! Adam Wainwright appears to be headed for some TJ surgery! Another pitcher with a serious inverted W. Following in the footsteps of Mark Prior perhaps? Another piece laid in place for The Brew Crew to step up and win that division! If the cardinals are without Wainy I don't see them competing for the division and then....will they trade King Albert?! Should be a fun season!

It's about time!

Well, it's the best time of year once again! Baseball is here!!!! Some people suffer from winter depression because of the cold and the dark, for me the only winter depression stems from a lack of 9 players on a green and brown field between two white lines throwing a ball around and hitting it with a stick. There is nothing more perfect. The boys have reported. The game begin in a few days. Baseball season is here. The best moment of my year is always when the last second ticks off the superbowl game clock. That is when baseball season begins. The pros are getting ready and at the same time the young men of the future are being placed on Little League teams and beginning their indoor practices. Millions of fans are preparing to laugh, smile, clap, and cry over the fate of their favorite team. Everyone starts in first place. The perennial power houses are ready to repeat, the teams who struggle have made their moves to try and compete. Fantasy teams are being drafted. Prospects are trying to make the team out of camp. Baseball is here. There's nothing better.