Category:MLB
Posted on: April 12, 2011 12:06 am
 

BP's Power Rankings: First Impressions Week 1

Here are my power rankings through the first week of the season. Note that all stats and records mentioned are as of this morning before any games were played. The rankings will also be retroactive to this morning as well....


1. Texas Rangers (8-1)
Wow. The Rangers are off to one of their best starts in club history. Mike Napoli is looking to be a steal of a pickup as he has already belted three home runs in just 14 at bats. The most surprising part about the Rangers start to the season has to be their pitching staff. The injury to Tommy Hunter just before the season might have been a blessing in disguise as Alexi Ogando looks like a force to be reckoned with.


2. Philadelphia Phillies (7-2)
While the Phillies lost Jayson Werth in the off-season and had Chase Utley on the disabled list to start the season, the team answered many critics throughout the first week of the season by posting some of the best offensive numbers in the National League. Roy Halladay (1-0, 0.69 era) has looked downright nasty as he looks to repeat his Cy Young performance of 2010.


3. Colorado Rockies (6-2)
Carlos Gonzalez has yet to homer this season, Troy Tulowitzki is batting just .214, and Ubaldo Jiminez has and era of 7.50. Despite all of this, the Rockies stand 6-2 and in first place in the National League West. The Reason? The rest of the starting pitching...The Rockies #2 through #5 starters have era's of 3 or less. I've said it all along. If they keep this up, nothing will be stopping them.


4. Toronto Blue Jays (5-4)
The Blue Jays should have a record better than 5-4 right now. The Blue Jays +14 run differential is 4th best in the American League. Young starters Kyle Drabek and Ricky Romero are living up to every bit of the hype. Yunel Escobar is looking like a completely different ballplayer than the one that was in Bobby Cox 's doghouse last year.


5. Cleveland Indians (7-2)
Talk about a turnaround. After giving up 23 runs in their first two games of the year, the Indians have now won 7 in a row sweeping both the Red Sox and Mariners. Surprisingly enough, most of the offense has been triggered by Jack Hannahan, Orlando Cabrera, and Asrubal Cabrera. It'll be interesting to see how long the Indians run will last. Grady Sizemore comes off the DL soon to rejoin the team as well.


6. Cincinnati Reds (6-3)
Joey Votto (.455 ba, 2 HR) is looking like every bit of the MVP player he was a season ago. The Reds won 5 of 6 at home before losing 2 of 3 on the road to the Arizona Diamondbacks. The starting pitching has been awful so far, but it doesn't mean much when the team has the most runs scored in the National League. Rookie Aroldis Chapman has looked good so far in 4 games of relief.


7. New York Yankees (5-4)
The Bronx Bombers started the season out well taking 2 of 3 at home against the Tigers and Twins. Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, and Russell Martin seem to be carrying this team offensively so far as many of the starters have gotten off to extremely slow starts. Mark Teixiera found power in April, but seems to have developed Giambi-itus as the short porch in right taunts him.


8. San Diego Padres (4-4)
Who said the Padres couldn't win without Adrian Gonzalez ?....Well...I think I did. However, aside from that, let us not forget how good this pitching staff (both starters and bullpen) can be. The Padres have allowed the fewest runs in the National League so far and have just now activated ace Mat Latos off the disabled list. Chase Headley and Cameron Maybin may finally be realizing their offensive potential as well.


9. San Francisco Giants (4-5)
The champs have simply been unlucky so far with games decided by poor defense rather than pitching and hitting. Pablo Sandoval (.400 ba, 1 HR) is looking very much like the player that almost won the batting title for the Giants 2 years ago. Tim Lincecum (1-1, 0.64 era) has completely dominated opposing hitters so far this year as well. Brandon Belt is looking like he might need another trip to the minors though.


10. Chicago White Sox (6-3)
The White Sox offense has been on a tear to start the season scoring the most runs in the American League. Gordon Beckham (.333 ba, 2 HR) is off to a hot start after completely dissappointing in 2010. Edwin Jackson (2-0, 1.93) has looked unstoppable since joining the team late last season. In 13 career starts with the Sox, Jackson has a 3.03 era and 97 strikeouts in 89 innings.


11. Milwaukee Brewers (5-5)
If not for the bullpen, the Brewers would probably be at least 7-3 right now. There is no hotter 3-4 hitters right now than Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. Fielder (.400 ba, 2 HR) looks like he is playing for a 20+ million a year contract next year while Braun already has 4 homers in 10 games. Chris Narveson has been quite the surprise while the team waits for Zach Greinke to return from the DL.


12. Atlanta Braves (4-6)
Braves pitching has only given up 35 runs while facing some of the hottest offensive teams in the National League. If only their offense could do the same. Sophomore Jason Heyward (.988 OPS) is carrying this team offensively while new addition Dan Uggla (.158 ba) has struggled out of the gate. Derek Lowe has 2 losses this season in 3 starts despite a 1.45 era. Brutal.


13. Baltimore Orioles (6-3)
Baltimore has officially become bizzaro world. Many, including myself, expected the Orioles offense to be much improved, but felt the pitching would hold them back. So far through 9 games, it's been the complete opposite. Anchored by Jeremy Guthrie (1-1, 0.64 era) and Zach Britton (2-0, 0.66 era), the O's pitching has been one of the best in the league while the offense has completely struggled.


14. Kansas City Royals (6-3)
Is 2011 the year that Alex Gordon finally breaks out? Gordon is off to a hot start this season batting .357 through 9 games. Coupled with Billy Butler , the Royals offense has led them to solid start to the season taking 3 of 4 from the Angels, splitting two with the White Sox, and taking 2 of 3 from the Tigers on the road. Jeff Francis (0-0, 1.98 era) is looking like the ace he once was with the Rockies a few years back.


15. Oakland Athletics (4-5)
You know the A's starting pitching is solid when the worst pitcher in the rotation threw a perfect game a season ago. Despite the strong starting pitching, the A's have been plagued by bad defense and a lack of offense. Kevin Kouzmanoff and Daric Barton each had 3 errors in the first 4 games of the season. The A's are smart to be locking Trevor Cahill up to a new 5 year deal though.


16. Los Angeles Dodgers (5-4)
Despite their 5-4 record, the Dodgers have been anemic offensively scoring the second fewest amount of runs in the National League. Matt Kemp (.438 ba) and Andre Ethier (.353 ba) have carried the team thus far, but the team will have to get more production from the rest of the lineup if they are to continue winning games. They set out to San Francisco this week for a rematch with the Giants.


17. Los Angeles Angels (5-4)
Dan Haren (2-0, 1.15 era) and Jered Weaver (3-0, 0.87 era) are as solid as they come. The two pitchers account for all the Halos victories so far with dominating performances each night out. The Angels still have major problems with the offense and bullpen though. Fernando Rodney has been extremely shake at the back of the pen. Meanwhile, Vernon Wells has just 4 hits in 40 at bats (.100 ba).


18. St. Louis Cardinals (3-6)
The offense has been non-existent so far without Matt Holliday . Albert Pujols has had no protection in the lineup with Lance Berkman struggling behind him. The starting pitching has been surprisingly better than expected without Adam Wainwright , who had to get Tommy John Surgery this spring. The Cards finish up their west coast road trip against the D-Backs and Dodgers this week.


19. Arizona Diamondbacks (4-4)
The Diamondbacks have one of the hardest schedules in the month of April for a National League team. After starting 4-4 against the Rockies, Cubs, and Reds, the D-Backs next 5 series consist of the Cards, Giants, Reds, Mets, and Phillies. If they can get through that, things will get a little easier down the road. Ian Kennedy (1-0, 2.57 era) seems to have found his groove he could never find while with the Yanks.


20. Pittsburgh Pirates (5-5)
One of the most surprising teams out of the gate has to be the Pirates. Compared to how this team was playing a year ago, .500 is exceptional. Neil Walker (.300 ba, 2 HR) is the real deal at second base while Jose Tabata (.342 ba, 2 HR) and Andrew McCutchen (.257 ba, 2 HR) are developing nicely as well. We may also see a breakout year from Kevin Correia (2-0, 1.29 era). Stay Tuned.


21. Chicago Cubs (4-5)
In almost a reverse of 2010, The Cubs offense has started hitting the ball well while the pitching has lagged behind thus far. Starlin Castro (.333 ba, 7 r) is looking like he will be the catalyst of the teams offense all year. The Cubs schedule has been relatively weak thus far and they will need to start pitching better so they can heat up by the time they face better competition.


22. Florida Marlins (5-4)
It's hard to give the Marlins more credit when their first three series have been against the Mets, Nationals, and Astros. They'll get a much bigger test this week vs. the Braves and Phillies. Logan Morrison (.333 ba, 2 HR) is hitting the ball extremely well and he is 2nd in the NL with 9 walks. Mike Stanton missed a few games with an hamstring injury and the Marlins will need him to hit in order to win this week.


23. Minnesota Twins (3-6)
It's hard to tell whether the Twins offense is really this bad, or they've just faced a slew of good pitchers. After all, they did face the top 3 pitchers from both Oakland and Toronto and faced the Yankees top 2 as well. Regardless, no one on this team other than Denard Span (.286 ba, 1 HR) is hitting the ball and the starting pitching has been awful up to this point. The good news is the schedule gets much easier.


24. Boston Red Sox (2-7)
Wow. I should have known better than to pick the best lineup on paper to win the division. The Red Sox remind me of the Tigers back when they first acquired Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis . The lineup hasn't been hitting and the pitching has been downright terrible. Just about the only consolation the Sox have going for them is the series win against the Yankees last weekend.


25. Washington Nationals (4-5)
The Nationals threw big money at Jayson Werth in the off-season and he's off to a terrible start (.200 ba, 1 HR). It was a good gesture to fans that the owners want to compete, but it just wasn't smart. The bright spot for the Nats has to be Jordan Zimmerman (1-1, 3.18). Two years ago, I predicted Zimmerman to be the rookie of the year before he fell victim to Tommy John Surgery. He's looked good so far.


26. New York Mets (4-5)
Both R.A. Dickey (1-1, 2.45 era) and Chris Young (1-0, 1.46) are making GM Sandy Alderson look good so far this season for signing them both to contracts. Meanwhile, Ike Davis (.364 ba, 10 RBI) is tearing the cover off the ball and providing the team with most of their offense. For the Mets to stand a chance, they'll need Jason Bay back from injury and better performances from Mike Pelfrey (0-1, 15.53 era).


27. Detroit Tigers (3-6)
Justin Verlander (1-0, 3.86 era) is the only starting pitcher on the team with an era below 5.70. The Tigers have struggled out of the gate both offensively and defensively. Miguel Cabrera (.355 ba, 4 HR) and Alex Avila (.280 3 HR) are supplying a lot of offensive firepower so far, but have gotten no help from others. Manager Jim Leyland may be on the hot seat if the Tigers can't get going early on in this season.


28. Seattle Mariners (2-7)
After taking the first 2 games of the year from Oakland, the M's have dropped 7 straight. Chone Figgins (.135 ba, 1 HR) has not improved on his miserable numbers that he posted a year ago. The team batting average is just .215 as a whole. Once again, the pitching is left without any sort of run support. Doug Fister (0-2, 2.31 era) and Felix Hernandez (1-1, 2.25 era) deserve much better.


29. Houston Astros (2-7)
The 'stros had an extremely difficult schedule to start the season as they faced both the Phillies and Reds on the road and that may play a factor into why the team has had the worst pitching staff in the league so far. At least Brett Myers (0-0, 2.03) has avoided a beating. Carlos Lee (.200 ba, 1 HR) still looks like the same player that struggled for much of last season.


30. Tampa Bay Rays (1-8) Coming into today, the Rays only scored more than three runs in a game only once. With Evan Longoria sidelined and Manny Ramirez calling it quits, this team is in big trouble. Just about the only bright spot for the team has been B.J. Upton (.290 ba, 2 HR). Is this the year Upton finally breaks through and returns to his 2007 form? The Rays can only hope he does...

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 26, 2011 9:18 pm
 

Lock 'Em In: BP's 2011 Season Predictions

AMERICAN LEAGUE

EAST

1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees*
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

* - Denotes wild card winner

The Boston Red Sox had the best off-season of any team in the division by acquiring both Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez has a chance to do big things this year for the Sox. He put up monster numbers for the San Diego Padres without even being protected in the lineup. Now, Gonzalez enters a lineup full of All-Stars in a park that is very friendly to hitters. The Red Sox rotation is the most battle tested in their division with Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz coming off of spectacular 2010 campaigns. Josh Beckett, Jon Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka will look to improve on the sub-par numbers they had a year ago. The Red Sox also have the most depth in the division and their bench should be the best in the American League with Jed Lowrie, Mike Cameron, and Jason Varitek. Because of all these factors, the Red Sox are my pick to win the East in 2011 and be the third different division winner in the past three seasons.

The New York Yankees had a disappointing off-season having failed to land starter Cliff Lee and also having veteran left hander Andy Pettitte retire. However, this team still has the core together that helped them win 95 games last season. The addition of Rafael Soriano to the bullpen gives the Yankees some of the best late inning options in the league. However, questions still remain about the Yankees starters. While C.C. Sabathia remains the anchor of the rotation, A.J. Burnett is coming off of his worst season as a pro and Phil Hughes is coming off a season in which he pitched a career high in innings. Rookie Ivan Nova and Freddie Garcia give the team unproven options in the back end of the pen. Regardless, the Yankees still have an excellent offense and even average performances by their pitchers will likely result in wins. As such, the Yankees are my pick to win the American League Wild Card in 2011.

Looking at the 2010 division champs, much has changed in St. Petersburg. Not many teams could survive losing their first basemen, shortstop, left fielder, top tier starting pitcher, closer, and the rest of their bullpen and still expect to have a winning record. However, the Rays have a team that is consistently produces quality prospects from the farm. While I don't expect the Rays to win the division again in 2011, the could certainly be back some time soon. Jeremy Hellickson will be a fun prospect to watch, as will Desmond Jennings. It will be interesting to see how well Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon do in their return to the AL East.

The Baltimore Orioles have a much improved lineup this season after acquiring J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee, and Vladimir Guerrero in the off-season. The Orioles will also be hoping to get a full season out of their franchise second basemen, Brian Roberts. While the teams offense is likely to be among the top in the league, they still play in the hardest division in baseball. Many of the Orioles young starters, such as Brian Matusz, Jake Arietta, and Chris Tillman, show promise, but time will tell whether or not they will develop into capable starters in this league.

Toronto did good to shed themselves of Vernon Wells' contract in the off-season. However, they weren't able to replace his bat in the lineup. The Jays lost Wells, John Buck, and Lyle Overbay this off-season to various transactions and will be relying on Adam Lind and Aaron Hill to have bounce back seasons in order to succeed. The Jays also have to hope that Jose Bautista's breakout 2010 season wasn't a fluke. The Jays rotation has some promise at the front of the rotation with Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, and Kyle Drabek. However, neither Morrow or Cecil have established themselves as an ace and expecting much from Drabek in his first full season in the league would be foolish. The team's #4 and 5 starters, Jo-Jo Reyes and Jesse Litsch, are also a cause for concern. Meanwhile, the closing duties are still a bit up in the air as Frank Francisco recovers from injury.


CENTRAL

1. Detroit Tigers
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Minnesota Twins
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals

The Detroit Tigers are the most balanced team in the American League Central. The addition of Victor Martinez in the off-season gives the Tigers the best 3-4-5 hitters in the division with Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, and Magglio Ordonez. Austin Jackson, one of four players the Tigers acquired for trading Curtis Granderson prior to 2010, should continue to progress next season after finishing second in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2010. The Tigers are the only team in the Central that has a true ace in their rotation. In his first five seasons in the league, Justin Verlander has won 17 games in all but one season. Combined with Max Scherzer at the front of the rotation, the Tigers may very well have the best 1-2 punch in the division. The bullpen of the Tigers is okay. The team is hoping recent addition Joaquin Benoit can be as succesful as he was with the Rays and provide a decent set up man in front of closer Jose Valverde.

The Chicago White Sox were my early off-season pick to win the division after they acquired slugger Adam Dunn in the off-season. However, that rationale was based upon reports that Jake Peavy was healthy and would be ready for the regular season. With Peavy experiencing set backs, the White Sox are left without an ace. While Mark Buehrle and John Danks are as consistent as pitchers come, neither strikes fear in the faces of opposing pitchers. The White Sox have a few interesting things to watch in 2011. Rookie Brent Morel has taken over the starting job at third base while many other eyes will also be on rookie Chris Sale and where his impact to the team will come. Meanwhile, Gordon Beckham is hoping to rebound from a poor sophomore season. I also feel that Lastings Milledge could prove to be one of GM Ken Williams best signings this year.

In regards to the Twins, Justin Morneau will return to the teams lineup after missing half of the season last year. Morneau was on pace for his best season as a pro before he was concussed. Morneau and Joe Mauer will always keep the Twins competitive, but the concern here is on their starting pitching. Francisco Liriano is coming off a season in which he recorded a career high in innings pitched and it's anyone's guess as to whether or not Carl Pavano can reproduce the solid year that he had a season ago. Meanwhile, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey aren't exactly the dominating type. Brian Duensing did a great job towards the end of the year last year, but the jury is still out as to whether or not he can replicate that success over the course of the season. The bullpen will be interesting to watch as Duensing becomes a starter, Jon Rauch left for Toronto, Matt Guerrier left for the Southern California, and Jesse Crain left to the White Sox. At least Joe Nathan is coming back this season. We better hope he's healthy.

The Cleveland Indians might surprise some this year, but that's only if everything goes right. Grady Sizemore should be back with the team by mid-April and he'll be looking to regain the form that made him one of the games most dangerous hitters a few years ago. Meanwhile, I still maintain that Shin-Soo Choo is the most underrated player in the game today. It's a shame he hasn't been to an All-Star game yet. Carlos Santana should develop into one of the American League's best catchers. In addition, once service time fails to become an issue, it should be fun to watch Lonnie Chisenhall get called up to man the hot corner. The Indians have a lot of promise, but just aren't there yet.

This season could get pretty bad for the Kansas City Royals as they traded away their top pitcher and hitter during the off-season. Even though Zach Greinke and David DeJesus are no longer with the team, the Royals will still be fun to watch as they call up all their new prospects. Mike Moustakas will probably be called up at some point in the year and I want to see how well he accumulates to big league pitching. 2011 might also prove to be a make or break type year for Alex Gordon, who has consistently struggled since his initial callup. 

WEST

1. Oakland Athletics
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners

The American League West may be the hardest division in baseball to predict as each of the divisions top three teams have major flaws. The Oakland Athletics are a team built around pitching and defense. In 2010, the A's had the best pitching staff in the American League and were the best in the league in terms of defensive effeciency. However, the A's lacked offense which held them back from having a season better than .500. Over the off-season, the A's marginally improved their offense by adding Josh Willingham, David DeJesus, and Hideki Matsui to their lineup in seperate deals. The A's hope it will be enough to push them over the top. It will be interesting to see if the A's give top prospect Chris Carter a chance to develop at some point this season. The A's are going for the AL West title or bust this season. 5 of the teams 9 players on their opening day lineup will be free agents following the 2011 season.
The Angels serious flaw is in regards to their bullpen. Interim closer Fernando Rodney only converted 14 of 21 save attempts last year. If that continues in 2011, the Angels will be in trouble. The Angels added Scott Downs to their pen, but it still isn't what it once was when rubber arms Scot Shields, Brendan Donnelly, and Darren Oliver were dominating in it a few years back. The Angels offense is hard to predict. Kendrys Morales is still expected to be out to start the regular season which means, Mark Trumbo, who hit 36 home runs last season at AAA Salt Lake City, will get his chance to shine. Adding Vernon Wells was a nice addition, but its tough to say the Angels offense got better after losing Hideki Matsui, Juan Rivera, and Mike Napoli as well. The starting rotation should be much better this season as Dan Haren gets a full season in with the team. Haren and Jered Weaver make a tough 1-2 combination at the front of the rotation.

The Texas Rangers made a big splash this off-season signing third basemen Adrian Beltre to a 5 year deal. Beltre returns to the American League West where he is very familiar with after spending five seasons in Seattle from 2005-2009. The Rangers may have improved their defense with this signing, but the offense remains about the same as the Rangers couldn't keep Vladimir Guerrero. Meanwhile, the team alienated long-time captain and ultimat team player Michael Young with the signing. The Rangers rotation is still very much untested and is this teams one large flaw. After C.J. Wilson, there are questions as to whether or not Colby Lewis can repeat the same success he had a season ago. Meanwhile, Tommy Hunter lacks an out pitch and Derek Holland and Matt Harrison combined for only 16 starts a year ago.

Looking at the Mariners, they will once again likely finish in last place in the American League West. However, the M's rotation could surprise a few few people. After King Felix, Erik Bedard has looked like his old self this spring and Michael Pineda is my pick for the 2011 American League Rookie of the Year. Offensively speaking, I'm still waiting for Justin Smoak to breakout. Also, Dustin Ackley should be one of the top rookies in the league once he is finally called up. I firmly believe the Mariners will win at least 70 games next season as this teams pitching and defense alone should do that for them.

AWARDS:

MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
CY YOUNG: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
ROOKIE: Michael Pineda, Seattle Mariners
COMEBACK: Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians
MANAGER: Bob Geren, Oakland Athletics



NATIONAL LEAGUE

EAST

1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Atlanta Braves*
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals

* - Denotes Wild Card Winner

For the first time ever, I am picking a team to have at least 100 wins. Yes, I think the Philadelphia Phillies, with how dominant their rotation can be will have 101 wins in the 2011 season.  The Phillies had 97 wins in 2010 despite only having Roy Oswalt for half of the season. This year, with Oswalt around for the long haul and Cliff Lee returning, the Phillies are the team to beat in the National League. The offense had inconsistencies last year, but still remains strong. Ryan Howard is one of the best sluggers in the National League. Jimmie Rollins will look to bounce back from two sub-par seasons in a row. Even though the Phillies will be without Chase Utley to start the season, they might not need to score as many runs with the quality of pitching they will be getting from their starters.

The Atlanta Braves upgraded a lot offensively when they added Dan Uggla to their lineup this offseason. With Uggla and Brian McCann leading this offense, the Braves should be poised for another playoff run in 2011. It will be interesting to see what Freddie Freeman can do in his first full season in the big leagues. Meanwhile, anything the Braves get from Chipper Jones will be a plus. The Braves rotation is pretty underrated with Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, and Jair Jurrjens leading the way. Jurrjens had a down season in 2011, but given his track record, I'm expecting him to bounce back.

As for the Florida Marlins, I feel it was a mistake for the team to trade away Dan Uggla for nothing. The team probably could have gotten more had they waited until the trade deadline. Regardless, a full season of Mike Stanton should help make up for the hole in the lineup that was created when Uggla left. In order for the Marlins to be succesful, they will need Chris Coghlan to have a bounce back year. The bullpen should be fine with the addition of the arms they got from San Diego in the Cameron Maybin deal. Meanwhile, the Marlins have one of the most underrated starting rotations in the game. Josh Johnson had an amazing season last year. Meanwhile, Javier Vasquez is back in the National League East, where he dominated for so many years with the Montreal Expos and the Atlanta Braves.

The New York Mets are currently a disaster right now, but that doesn't mean that new GM Sandy Alderson isn't making the right moves. The 2011 season will consist of a little house cleaning for the Mets. The team has already cut Omar Minaya cast-offs Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. Carlos Beltran is probably next as he will be a free agent in the off-season. The Mets will need Mike Pelfrey to step up and be the staff ace that many expected him to develop into when he was a young prospect with the team. I don't understand why the Mets wouldn't be forced to firesale at a point like right now. Borrowing from Major League Baseball is not a viable solution for the club and will ultimately end in the team being sold.

The National might have made a splash this off-season signing Jayson Werth to a long term deal, but it won't do anything in terms of bumping them up in the standings. While the team acquired Werth and Adam LaRoche this off-season, they also lost Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham to the White Sox and A's. Regardless, it's good to see that the ownership group is willing to spend and cares about the ballclub. That can't be said for every team in Major League Baseball. The Nats will be interesting to watch again in 2012 when Stephen Strasburg returns from injury and Bryce Harper makes his major league debut.

CENTRAL

1. Cininnati Reds
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reds are poised to win back to back National League Central titles. I don't get a chance to watch too many Reds games, but when I do, Joey Votto seems like an absolute beast. Votto deservedly won the National League MVP last season and I think he'll do it again in 2011. Votto, Jay Bruce, and Drew Stubbs may be one of the best young nucleus' of any team in the league. The Reds young pitchers seemed to finally come through last year. Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo were very good, while Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, and Travis Wood made effective transitions to the big leagues. Edinson Volquez will also be back in 2011 giving the Reds a ton of depth in their rotation.

In regards to the Brewers, they've always been a good offensive team. The one year that they actually had pitching (with C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets anchoring the rotation), they made the postseason. This year the Brewers hope to do the same as they added both Shaun Marcum and Zach Greinke to their rotation. Combined with Yovanni Gallardo and Randy Wolf, it makes for a formidable rotation in what is expected to be a tough National League Central. This may be the Brewers best shot as star first basemen Prince Fielder enters free agency next off-season and is expected to command a lot.

Looking to the Cardinals, their chances of returning to the top of the National League Central took a hit when Adam Wainwright went down with Tommy John Surgery this spring. However, you can never count out a team that has Colby Rasmus, Albert Pujols, and Matt Holliday at the top of the order. The Cardinals got a solid year in 2010 from Jaime Garcia and it will be fun to watch to see if he can duplicate that success in 2011. Lance Berkman returns to the outfield in the National League and while Berkman can hit, we'll see what the effect is on the Cardinals defense. Meanwhile, my guess is that most of the media will be focusing on the teams ability to resign Albert Pujols all year long.

The Cubs made a couple attempts to get better over the off-season by signing first basemen Carlos Pena and trading for starting pitcher Matt Garza over the off-season. However, much of the Cubs success will hinge on the performance of Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez had a poor 2010 season and was injured throughout the 2009 season. It's no coincidence that the last time Ramirez was fully healthy, the Cubs won the National League Central. Mike Quade will have quite the task turning the Cubs back around. We'll see if he's capable...

The Houston Astros enter 2011 having not done much over the off-season. The Astros will need Carlos Lee to rebound off of his terrible 2010 season. Meanwhile, this season will be the first in a long while that Roy Oswalt isn't with the team on opening day. The pitching staff behind Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, and J.A. Happ will be tested. Brett Wallace will also need to prove that he deserves to be a mainstay with the organization. Wallace is on his fourth team in just two seasons after the Cardinals, A's, and Blue Jays passed up on him.

The Pirates have a lot of talented hitters, but I can't say the same for the pitching staff. Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker will get a full season of work in the Pirates infield and Andrew McCutchen is probably one of the most talented up and coming outfielders in baseball. If this team could just get some starting pitching it could compete. The Pirates made 24.6 Million in operating income last season. It's too bad they couldn't use that toward acquiring a pitcher to lead this young offense.

WEST

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Colorado Rockies
4. San Diego Padres
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

The 2010 World Champs remain likely to repeat as NL West division champs in 2011. After the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, the National League West got much weaker. The Giants still have the best pitching staff in their division and it rivals that of the Phillies for best in the league. This season, however, the 2011 Giants will get full seasons from both youngsters Madison Bumgarner and NL Rookie of the Year Buster Posey. Pablo Sandoval has also looked outsanding in camp so far losing 40 pounds, hitting triples, and stealing bases. We'll see if it can translate into the regular season as Sandoval almost won the batting title just two years ago. In addition, Brandon Belt is my pick for Rookie of the Year in the NL.  Belt is a monster that batted .352 with 23 home runs and 112 RBI's combined through three levels of the minor leagues last season. So far in camp, he's hit .293 with 2 homers and is looking to force his way on to the Giants roster.

The only team in the division that I feel will truly challenge the Giants will be the Dodgers. The Dodgers have a strong 1-2 punch in their rotation with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. In addition, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier will provide much of the offense in the lineup. The Dodgers are finally going back to their farm, thanks to an injury to Casey Blake. I really want to see what Ivan DeJesus Jr. does while starting the season at second base. The Dodgers bullpen remains strong. The team added Matt Guerrier, who alongside All-Star Hong-Chi Kuo will provide to solid set-up men for closer Jonathan Broxton.

The Rockies didn't acquire to many new players this off-season, but did lock up franchise players to long term deals. The Rockies gave both Troy Tulowitski and Carlos Gonzalez long term deals assuring the team will be competitive for years to come. However, the Rockies need to find some way to win on the road. CarGo's numbers didn't translate well out of Coors and he is going to have to start hitting better on the road for this team to be a contender. Ubaldo Jiminez is a strong ace at the front of the rotation, but I'm not convinced the other starters can get the job done. At least the bullpen got stronger will Matt Lindstrom now setting up a healthy Huston Street.

In regards to the Padres, the Friars still feature one of the best pitching staffs in the game. As always with the Padres, the question comes down to whether or not they can score runs. Without Adrian Gonzalez in their lineup, I don't think that is possible. The Padres ownership group shouldn't even be allowed in baseball. The Padres made 37.4 million in operating income last season, yet still let their star player go. The team features a brand new ballpark in downtown San Diego, draws over 2 million fans every year, and claims they are a small market team that can't compete. Give me a break. San Diego is one of the largest cities in the country and the fans will pay to watch a contender. I fell very bad for Padre fans at the moment.

The Diamondbacks gave up on winning the minute they traded Dan Haren to the Angels last off-season. It was remarkable to see the Diamondbacks get so little back in return considering they gave up Carlos Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, and A's top prospect Chris Carter to acquire Haren in the first place. Rumors were swirling all off-season that the team was considering trading Justin Upton. Thank god it diddn't happen as that would have been a huge mistake. Without Adam LaRoche and Mark Reynolds in the lineup, the Diamondbacks are a good bet to lose over 100 this season. However, I do like what I've seen from Barry Enright and Daniel Hudson so far. Hudson may have been a huge steal as they acquired him from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson last season.

AWARDS:


MVP: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
CY YOUNG: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
ROOKIE: Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants
COMEBACK: Jimmie Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
MANAGER: Freddie Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves

WORLD SERIES:

PHILLIES OVER RED SOX (4-2)
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 22, 2011 1:55 am
 

Revenue Sharing Solution: Baseball in Brooklyn

If there is one certainty in this great sport, it is that baseball belongs in Brooklyn.

Returning baseball to Brooklyn would be creating the Field of Dreams of the modern era. It would reunite the present fans with one of the most historical baseball areas of the past. For 54 years now, the Brooklyn borough of New York has been without a major league baseball team as the Brooklyn Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles.

That needs to change soon.

Moving a team back to a historical area like Brooklyn would draw more attractiveness to the game. In addition, it could solve some of Major League Baseball's more pressing problems such as revenue sharing. Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner recently expressed his discord with the current revenue sharing system in baseball and is calling for it to be fixed.

"We've got to do a little something about that and I know Bud (Selig) wants to correct it in some way," Steinbrenner said. "There's a way. Obviously we're very much allied with the Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers and Cubs in that area. At some point if you don't want to worry about teams in minor markets, don't put teams in minor markets or don't leave teams in minor markets. Socialism, communism - whatever you want to call it - is never the answer."

Red Sox owner John Henry was also fined by the commissioner's office for criticizing the current revenue sharing program as well.

Well, if the solution is to stop putting teams in minor markets, then that leaves only one conclusion for Major League Baseball. Move some of the small market teams to larger markets. Brooklyn, after all, is the largest of New York's five boroughs consisting of roughly 2.5 million people. If Brooklyn were its own city, it would be one of the largest in the nation. Not counting any fans that might travel from outside of New York City, the population size of Brooklyn is much larger than many of the territories some of the small market teams are given.

With the Oakland A's and Tampa Bay Rays searching for new stadium deals, the time couldn't be more right for a team to move.

The Oakland Athletics have been searching for a stadium for over a decade now with no success. Even under new ownership, the A's have not been able to reach a stadium deal. The team currently plays in the Oakland Coliseum, which was first built in 1966. It is the fourth oldest stadium in Major League Baseball behind Dodger Stadum (1962), Wrigley Field (1914) and Fenway Park (1912).  The team has all but ruled out building a new stadium in Oakland and an attempt to build a field in nearby Fremont fell threw. The A's one last chance effort to keep the team in California is a proposal to move the team to San Jose, but talks of such a move have been slow to proceed. With the A's stadium lease to expire following the 2013 season, the team is running out of time to consider staying in California.

Meanwhile, in Florida, despite a World Series appearance in 2008 and an American League East title in 2010, the Tampa Bay Rays have failed to draw fans to their ballpark. If the Rays are to remain in St. Petersburg, the only way they can succeed is with a new stadium. The teams current facility, Tropicana Field, is baseball's version of a cheap, outdated, warehouse in which the Rays play their home games. Tropicana Field originally broke ground in 1986 with the hope of attracting a Major League Team. However, after Major League Baseball owners vetoed the Giants proposed move to the area in 1992, Tampa Bay was left without a team in the stadium until 1998, 12 years after the stadium was originally constructed.

Moving either of these teams to Brooklyn would result in large market teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, and Phillies paying less in revenue sharing as it would mean one less team receiving a revenue sharing paycheck.

There is nothing to suggest that a team could not thrive in a baseball area like Brooklyn.

Despite the presence of both the Yankees and the Red Sox, the Brooklyn Dodgers were extremely succesful at drawing fans to the gate. During the teams last five seasons in the league from 1953-1957, the Dodgers had one of the highest attendances in baseball averaging just over a million fans per season. One of the main reasons the team left Ebbets Field for the City of Angels was that they wanted to build a new stadium that would allow for more fans to attend their ballgames. Had New York City Building Commissioner Robert Moses not opposed the idea of a new ballpark in Brooklyn, the Dodgers may very well still be there today.

In 2001, the New York Mets moved their class A short season team to Brooklyn and they were rechristened the Brooklyn Cyclones. Since then, the Cyclones have had much success in the area. With a stadium capacity of just 7,500 (though rather large for a short season A ball team), the Cyclones have sold out every year since.

The major issue facing Major League Baseball today about whether or not a team should move to Brooklyn is the territorial rights of both the New York Yankees and the New York Mets. Each team, more than likely, would be opposed to such move in fear of a third New York team eating into the teams profits. Major League Baseball's Commissioner, Bud Selig (left), would also likely never endorse such a move. Selig, after all, was quoted as saying that he considered territorial rights to be "sacred".

But why should the Mets and Yankees have a problem with it? And why are territorial rights "sacred" at all?

After all, it was Hank Steinbrenner who suggested MLB stop putting teams in minor markets. Why is it, that just because one team is in an area, they should own the rights to those fans? If an area can support more teams, and they wish to have a team come to their city, nothing should stop them.

In the early part of the 20th century, their existed multiple teams in the New England area. Boston had both the Red Sox and the Braves while New York consisted of the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants. Meanwhile, Chicago currently has the Cubs and the White Sox occupying that territory rather succesfully as well.

When did this idea of territory rights become so important?

Ironically, it dates back to the 1960's. Territory rights were originally adopted by Major League Baseball to form an agreement between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels. Under the newly established Major League Baseball rule, a team may only move into a new territory such that 3/4 of the owners consent to the move, the stadiums are more than 5 miles apart (unless the two owners agree otherwise), the new team pays the existing club $100,000, and there be no more than two teams allowed in the territory.

The last part of the rule seems ludacris, considering an area like New York City, with 8.4 million people, could easily support 3 teams.

Getting 3/4 of the owners to approve a move is one difficulty, but getting them to alter a major league baseball rule is one that may be the breaking point for any team hoping to make a move to an area like Brooklyn. As such, it's a shame as baseball would benefit as a whole if New York had a third team, just as it did half a century ago. Brooklyn is a prime location for baseball. With its rich history and high population density of passionate fans, baseball belongs in Brooklyn.

The commissioner's office just doesn't realize it yet.

Category: MLB
Posted on: March 19, 2011 12:15 am
 

The Ranking of the Greatest New York Athletes

According to a Sienna College Institute Sports Poll that was released on Wednesday, Derek Jeter was named the greatest New York Athlete of all-time. Jeter accounted for 14 percent of the vote while Babe Ruth had 11 percent. Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle tied for third while Joe Namath finished 5th. In addition, according to the report, 30 percent of those polled said that the Yankees were their favorite team.

As good as Jeter has been throughout his career, it's hard to believe that the majority of people out there consider him the greatest New  York Athlete of all-time. Part of the reason may have something to do with not being able to watch others play. While Ruth's name is legend, the majority of the people living in the world today never saw the Sultan of Swing play in person. The same holds true for Joe DiMaggio.

As far as Mantle is concerned, that is another story. In Mantle's 18 seasons in Major League Baseball, he led the Yankees to 12 World Series appearances and 7 World Series Rings. Mantle also had 3 MVP Awards to go along with 16 all-star appearances. There really shouldn't be any question as to who the better player is.

Looking to Broadway Joe, the only non-baseball player mentioned, Namath was the heart and soul of New York football. It doesn't get any better than Namath guaranteeing victory before Super Bowl III and launching the AFL and the New York Jets into legitimacy.

Any other New York player, for any sport, didn't receive enough recognition to be noted in the report which is surprising. Certainly you would think Lou Gherig's name would pop into the conversation somewhere. 

However, even if we had to rank the five mentioned here, would Jeter be your pick as the greatest New York Athlete ever? He certainly wouldn't be mine.....

1. Babe Ruth, New York Yankees


Just as hard as it would be to imagine basketball without Michael Jordan, or boxing without Muhammad Ali, it would be just as hard to imagine baseball without "the Babe". Ruth was a legend in every sense of the word. He was one of the first five players ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ruth helped the Yankees to seven world series, in which they won four of them. His career 714 home runs stood a record for 39 years and his career .342 batting average is 10th best all time.  Even to this day, it seems as if as soon as a kid learns what baseball is, they know everything there is to know about the great Bambino regardless of where they live. 


2. Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees

Joe Dimaggio is considered one of the best all-around players of all-time. A 3 time MVP and 13 time All-Star, DiMaggio was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. The "Yankee Clipper" is the only player in baseball history to be elected to the All-Star game in every single season he played. DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak in 1941 is one of the baseball records that is likely to never be broken, not even by the Yankees all-time hit leader Derek Jeter.




3. Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees


Mickey Mantle was one of the most feared hitters to ever play the game. He might be the best switch hitting player to ever play the game and certainly the one with the most power. He led the Yankees to 12 world series in his 14 years, something that simply cannot be taken lightly. With that, Mantle still to this day owns the record for the most HR, RBI, Base on Balls, and strikeouts in World Series play. Mantle is also one of the few players in history to win the triple crown, as he did during his 1956 season. While we've seen some fantastic plays from Derek Jeter in his career, there really hasn't been an MVP like season that stood out.



4. Joe Namath, New York Jets

When it comes to New York football, there is no bigger name than Joe Namath. "Broadway Joe" is the reason that the AFL survived contraction and was able to merge. While there have been several other good football players play on New York teams, the spotlight in football has, and will always fall on the quarterback. Especially the one's that guarantee victory. While it might be unfair to compare players of different sports, it can at least be said that Namath was one of the most transformational figures in his league. For that reason alone, his greatest rises above Jeter.






5. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

This post wasn't made to discredit what Jeter has accomplished throughout his career. Simply put, Jeter is a great baseball player in every sense of the word. However, to call him the greatest New York athlete ever is a HUGE stretch, especially considering the many greats that have put on a Yankee uniform. Throughout his career, Jeter has led the Yankees to 7 world series appearances (5 victories) and has been an 11 time All-Star. He is one of the very few players around in the modern era that has played for the same team throughout his career and it will be fun watching Jeter this season as he pursues his 3,000th career hit. But let's not glorify the great moments today without remembering those of our past. For it is because Jeter is the most relevant player today that he is considered the greatest and the report doesn't seem to be very objective.
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 15, 2011 8:10 pm
 

NL Comeback Player of the Year Candidates

A brief look at some potential candidates for the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award......
1. Jimmy Rollins - SS - Philadelphia Phillies

For the third consecutive season following his 2007 MVP campaign, Jimmy Rollins numbers have dropped. Gone is the player that once would consistently hit .280, hit 20+ home runs, and steal 40+ bases. Rollins used to be the ultimate threat in baseball. He has three gold gloves, three all-star appearances, a silver slugger, and an MVP award under his belt and is still relatively young at age 32. Rollins was the best shortstop in the National League a few years ago, but some feel his MVP season in 2007 may have gotten to him as Rollins hasn't been the same type of player since. After hitting 25 and 30 home runs in the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Rollins power dropped considerably in the seasons that followed. Not only were his home run totals down, but Rollins could no longer hit as many extra base hits as he used to. His batting average has decreased every season as well as Rollins hit a measily .243 last year. Compounding to the problems at the plate, Rollins has had multiple injuries that have held him back. Last season alone, Rollins missed 74 games with injuries to his calf, a bruised left foot, and a right hamstring. While the Phillies picked up Rollins 8.5 Million Dollar option for 2011, Rollins remains without a contract for next season. If his play doesn't improve, there are serious questions as to whether or not the Phillies should invest to keep him around long term. Rollins has the potential to turn his career around. He has the right skillset and considering the lineup and ballpark he plays in, he should be capable of putting up big numbers. Considering Rollins is in a contract year and is coming off the worst season of his professional career, "J-Roll" is and excellent candidate for the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

2. Carlos Lee - LF - Houston Astros

Much of the Houston Astros lack of success last season can be attributed to the team not getting much production from star outfielder Carlos Lee. While Lee still managed to hit 24 home runs and drive in 89 runs, those are his lowest totals since his 2001 season with the Chicago White Sox. Compounding to problem was Lee's lifeless bat. Even in seasons where Lee has shown less power than usual, he still has always been a very good contact hitter. In the 11 seasons prior to last year, Lee averaged a .291 batting average. Last season, that was Lee's on base percentage as he only managed a .246 average and 37 walks in 605 at bats. "El Caballo" is getting paid 18.5 Million dollars next season to be the Astros star player. Because Lee has never shown any signs of declining before last season, he could very easily bounce back to form and become the National League Comeback Player of the Year.

3. Aramis Ramirez - 3B - Chicago Cubs

The success of the Chicago Cubs season is highly correlated with both the health and the play of third basemen Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs have disappointed over the past two years in large part because Ramirez was either injured or inneffective at the plate. In 2009, Ramirez missed 80 games with injuries to his back, calf, and a dislocated left shoulder. Last season Ramirez missed 38 games due to an injury to his thumb and quadriceps. Meanwhile, Ramirez's production at the plate completely dropped off. Ramirez, a career .282 hitter, hit just .241 and had an on base percentage of just .294. So far this spring, Ramirez has looked good, hitting for a .286 average. Ramirez has a 16 Million dollar for next season that won't be picked up unless he has a big season. Considering Ramirez looks to be fully healthy and will want to be playing for a contract next season, he stands as a good candidate to win the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

4. Carlos Beltran - RF - New York Mets

Carlos Beltran was once a player that had the complete package of athleticism, skill, and natural baseball instincts. His ability to hit from both sides of the plate for considerable power, combined with his speed on the basepaths made him one of the games most dangerous. That's at least what the Mets thought he would be when he signed a 7 year, 119 Million dollar contract back in 2005. Beltran lived up to the contract for the first 4 seasons, but has fallen off due to injuries in both 2009 and 2010. The former five time all-star and 1999 Rookie of the Year missed 98 games last season with a knee injury. Due to the injury, Beltran has lost some mobility and will be moved to right field for the first time in his career as a regular. In Spring Training so far, Beltran was shut down due to tendinitus in the injured knee, but has since been cleared to play. If Beltran can resemble the player he once was prior to inury, this award may be his for the taking.

5. Pablo Sandoval - 3B - San Francisco Giants


After having a breakout season in 2009, Pablo Sandoval struggled mightily at the plate in 2010. Sandoval almost won the National League batting title in 2009, but couldn't manage to hit left handed pitching last season batting just .227 against southpaws. In addition, Sandoval did not show a commitment to improving his conditioning and was considerably overweight. Sandoval's range at the hot corner was one of the worst in the league. After losing his starting job late last season, Sandoval is out to prove that he deserves to be a starter in this league. So far in spring training, Sandoval has shown such commitment losing 38 pounds and dropping is body fat by 11%. With the weight loss, Kung Fu Panda has shown improved range at third and is hitting the ball well. He already has 3 home runs this spring and he remains a great candidate to bounce back in 2011.

Honorable Mentions:
Category: MLB
Posted on: March 12, 2011 8:06 am
 

AL Comeback Player of the Year Candidates

A brief look at some potential candidates for the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award......



1. Grady Sizemore - CF - Cleveland Indians

Just three seasons ago Grady Sizemore was an all-star, silver slugger, gold glover, and an MVP candidate. At age 25, Sizemore hit a career high 33 home runs and 90 RBI to go along with 38 stolen bases....Oh how things have changed. Sizemore is a rare athlete. He is what many in baseball would call a five tool player. He is capable of playing solid defense with an accurate arm, hitting for power, maintaining a decent batting average, and can cause opposing teams nightmares on the bases. However, we haven't been able to see Grady at his finest in a long while. 2011 could be the year that Sizemore return to form. Grady has been a frequent visitor of the disabled list over the past two seasons. In 2009, he missed half the season with an elbow injury and last season he sat out 137 games due to a knee injury. It's unclear whether the injury will have any affect on Sizemore's 2011 season. However, Sizemore was running at full speed at spring training and while there is some speculation as to whether or not he'll be ready for opening day, the latest he'd be on the roster is by mid-April. At age 28, Sizemore should have been entering the prime of his career. His young age and previous talent make him a perfect candidate to bounce back in 2011 and a likely contender for the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award.

2. Joe Nathan - CL - Minnesota Twins

Before falling victim to Tommy John Surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right elbow, Joe Nathan was arguably the best closer in the game. Now that he's back, Nathan is looking even stronger than ever. Nathan has yet to give up a run in spring training so far in 4 innings of work and seems to have his stuff back. His command has been excellent so far this spring and his velocity has been clocked in the low 90's as he builds his arm strength back. The four time American League all-star has a 1.87 career era for the Twins to go along with 246 saves. He is entering the final year of his contract and will likely be looking to cash in on a payday come next off-season. Because of these factors, Nathan has an excellent chance of bouncing back during the 2011 season and it wouldn't surprise anyone to see the him awarded the comeback honors. 

3. Kendrys Morales - 1B - Los Angeles Angels

Aside from several of the no-hitters that were pitched a year ago, one of the biggest news during the season last year came when Angels star first basemen, Kendrys Morales, was injured after hitting a walk off grand slam against the Seattle Mariners last May. Morales had a 34 home runs and 108 RBI in 2009 and was on pace to match those numbers in 2010. His absence from the Angels linuep is one of the main reasons the Halos had their first losing season since 2003. Morales has just been cleared to start drills and should get into late spring training games. Morales is feeling healthy and is actually more concerned about the mispelling of his name than his health. If Morales can return to form, not only will he have a good chance at becoming the American League Comeback Player of the Year, but he will certainly push the Angels into playoff contenders.

4. Adam Lind - 1B - Toronto Blue Jays

Adam Lind spent the entire 2010 season with a hole in his bat. At least, that is the assumption after Lind hit just .237 with 23 home runs and a lousy .287 on base percentage. It was quite a dropoff from his 2009 season that saw Lind hit a career high .305 with 35 home runs and 114 RBI on his way to a silver slugger award for designated hitters in the American League. Luckily for the Blue Jays, they had one of the best offenses in all of baseball last season. However, with the departure of Vernon Wells and the uncertainty of production the team can expect from Jose Bautista, they will need Lind to return to form. So far in spring training, Lind has rebounded to hitting a little better than his career averages. He is hoping to continue to do so into the season. If Lind resembles his form of 2 seasons ago, he may very well be the comeback player in the AL.

5. Jake Peavy - SP - Chicago White Sox

From 2004 to 2008, there wasn't a better pitcher in the National League than Jake Peavy. In that time frame, Peavy averaged a 2.95 era and 1.13 WHIP over those 5 seasons playing in San Diego. However, injuries have caught up to the heavily taxed arm of Peavy. He wasn't as effective in his 2009 season due to a right ankle injury. Meanwhile, last season, the White Sox were expecting to get a healthy Jake Peavy back, but Peavy missed the final 80 games of the season due to a right shoulder injury. Peavy is back in camp ahead of schedule and has looked decent in his outings so far this spring. Peavy is known for being a dominant control pitcher and many experts predict that if Peavy returns to form for the White Sox in 2011, they will easily win the AL Central. In that case, Peavy may very well be the comeback player of the year.


Honorable Mentions:


Category: MLB
Posted on: November 19, 2010 12:28 am
 

MLB Should Expand # of Teams, Not Playoff Format


I have been tired of hearing Bud Selig talk about expanding the playoffs to five or six teams as the format of the playoffs wouldn't make sense whatsoever. It seems to me that Major League Baseball is only considering that option to make more money in ticket sales throughout the course of the year. The idea of a 1 game or even a 3 game series among wild-card teams seems ridiculous to me as you still have to consider tie break scenarios as well. Not to mention, the World Series already ended in November this past year to cater to the television companies.

Anyway, if Major League Baseball wants to make more money, they should just follow in the NFL's footsteps. Expand the league to 32 teams and have divisional realignment to where there are four teams. Under this format, MLB would go back to the way it used to be. The wild card would be abolished and the only way a team would make the playoffs would be by winning their division outright. With the American League already having two fewer teams than the National League, it only makes sense to even things out by adding two more teams to the American League. It would also make sense for interleague play and help balance the schedule when that happens as each division could evenly match up against a division from the other league (currently impossible with NL Central at 6 teams and AL West at 4).

I'm proposing expanding to Portland, Oregon and Charlotte, North Carolina as both areas make sense and would not be encroaching on another teams territory. By making each division with only four teams, rivalries for each division title would be very competitive. It would be a new idea to make major league baseball more money by having more games, more ticket sales, more television contracts, and more competitive division races.

This makes much more sense (to me at least) than a best of one (or three) playoff series to expand the wild card to five and delay the playoffs even longer (possibly into Thanksgiving). Here is the new format I would propose:



AMERICAN LEAGUE


AL EAST

The American League East would remain the same for the most part with the exception of the Rays departing the American League South. The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry would remain intact. As it is now, it would still remain tough for the Orioles and Jays to compete, but each team would have a better chance at the post season with the Rays removed from the picture. I see no reason for them not to be in favor of this. Not to mention, as an incentive to both the Orioles and Blue Jays, more games agains the Yankees and Red Sox will add up to more revenue as those games usually feature higher attendance.


AL NORTH

The American League North would feature the same teams as the old American League Central with the exception of the Kansas City Royals . The Royals have remained out of contention for quite some time now, so their departure would probably just make this divisoin all the more competitive. Many of the same rivalries would stay intact here.


AL SOUTH

  • Kansas City Royals
  • Texas Rangers
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Charlotte
This is where things would get interesting as this division would be formed from teams previously in the American League West (Rangers), Central (Royals), and East (Rays). In addition, the new expansion in Charlotte would also be introduced. For the teams involved, I still feel it would be highly competitive. The Rangers and Rays would be the early favorites in this division if expansion happened in the upcoming years. And yes, I do understand the Royals aren't technically in the South, but it makes sense as far as every other team goes and where else would you put them? However, the formation of the American League South would give the Royals a new life away from the same American League Central teams that they had struggled against previously. Meanwhile, Charlotte would be an ideal city for a new MLB franchise to get started at. It's strength lies in its market size. The average income in the Charlotte area is around $45,000 a year, which is plenty to support an MLB franchise. It also wouldn't be stepping on a current franchise's toes as the closest MLB city to Charlotte is 224 miles away and in the National League (Atlanta). The city has 12 fortune 1000 companies that can be major sponsors to the franchise. Not to mention, the area already supports an NFL and NBA franchise.


AL WEST
The American League West would stay the same for the most part with the Angels, Athletics, and Mariners all returning. The AL West previously only had four teams, but for the realignment to make sense, a new upstart franchise in Portland should be placed in this division with the Rangers (located in the middle of the country) moving to the American League South. Portland would be an excellent city to have a new MLB team at as the nearest MLB market is 200 miles away in Seattle. The average income in Portland is around $40,000 per year which again is enough to support an MLB franchise. Portland is home to five fortune 1000 companies making sponsorship possible. Speaking of which, both Nike and Adidas have their North American headquarters in Portland making a sponsorship rivalry likely if naming rights were up for sale on a stadium. The A's and Angels have always had a rivalry for the past decade going on and with Portland being somewhat close to Seattle a new regional rivalry could be established over time.



NATIONAL LEAGUE

As the National League already has 16 teams, only realignment to support 4 divisions would be necessary.


NL EAST
In order to make geographical sense, both the Braves and the Marlins would depart the National League East for the South and the Pirates would enter from the Central. It might get rid of rivalries for the Phillies and Mets with the Braves, but new ones would be established as another team from Pennsylvania would enter the division. The Nationals and Pirates historically haven't had a history of winning, but such alignment would give them a better chance at reaching the postseason than they currently have. As things stand now with the current format, the Pirates already have to fight off 5 other teams to have a chance at winning the National League central. Meanwhile, the departure of the Braves and Marlins would mean one less team the Nationals would have to get past in order to win the division.


NL NORTH
Talk about a division full of rivalries. The National League North would feature four teams from the old National League Central division as both the Astros and Pirates would be transported to different divisions. The Brewers, Cubs, Reds, and Cardinals would make for one heck of a divisional fight all the way down to the end.


NL SOUTH
  • Atlanta Braves
  • Florida Marlins
  • Houston Astros
  • Colorado Rockies
Both the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins would be transplanted from the National League East to join the Houston Astros and the Colorado Rockies to form the National League South. I understand the Diamondbacks are more south than Colorado, but they are also more west. The Braves and Marlins already have a history playing against each other and I imagine new rivalries could be established. If I recall correctly, both Colorado and Florida were introduced as expansion teams during the same year so there could be a rivalry established there. Houston, meanwhile, could match up competively with the rest of the division and the departure from the old NL Central would be an interesting one. 


NL WEST

The National League West would remain the same, except the Rockies would leave to join the NL South. The rivalries between the Giants and Dodgers would remain intact and a regional rivalry between the Diamondbacks and Padres could also form. This division would remain as competitive as ever as the National League West has always had a great deal of parity. It seems as if a new team rises to the top of that division each year and is always in the hunt at the end of the season.
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 10, 2010 4:17 am
 

Winter Rankings

Every January, I post winter rankings on these boards for fun. Here are this years rankings. And yes...I do realize the offseason is not over, which is why they get updated on my blog when new signings occur.



1. New York Yankees
As long as Alex Rodriguez is in the lineup, the Yankees will win ballgames. The team was 90-44 last year during the regular season after Rodriguez returned from injury and went on to win their 27th World Series title. The addition of Javier Vasquez gives this team a much needed 4th starter that will eat innings. Vasquez is coming off of a career season with the Braves and has made at least 32 starts in 11 of the past 12 seasons. The Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson acquisitions help with the loss of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. However, going forward, the team desperately needs to acquire a right handed bat.

2. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies may have confused everyone when they traded Cliff Lee and two top prospects for Roy Halladay, but the move was made with one thing on GM Ruben Amaro's mind. Dynasty. Combine Halladay and Hamels with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmie Rollins for years to come and it wouldn't surprise me one bit if the Phillies won their third NL Pennant in a row this season. The team still needs to acquire a 5th starter and some bullpen help (in case Brad Lidge implodes again) this offseason. However, this team is built to win for the next several seasons.

3. St. Louis Cardinals
The Matt Holliday resigning was huge for the Cardinals. Not only did the team get Holliday back, but they got him for about 40 million less than they thought they would be paying. With 3 time NL MVP, Albert Pujols, hitting behind him and a rotation featuring Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals should be poised for another NL Central division title. The Cardinals still need to find solutions at the back end of the rotation and at 3rd base, but there are still plenty of good players on the open market that the team can bring in.

4. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have been busy this offseason bringing in the likes of John Lackey, Adrian Beltre, Mike Cameron, and Marco Scutaro. With the Yankees success, the Red Sox's moves are being downplayed, but the team now has what I feel is the strongest pitching rotation in all of baseball. Meanwhile, they feature the leagues best defense and should still have a potent offense despite waving goodbye to outfielder Jason Bay. They should be the early season favorites to win the American League Wild Card once again. However, they still have their eye on the division.

5. Texas Rangers
Even after winning 87 games a year ago, the Rangers were disappointed as they faltered in September causing them to miss the postseason. However, they have been busy this offseason getting back on track. Armed with the best minor league system in the game and the free agent signings of Vladimir Guerrero, Rich Harden, and Darren Oliver, the Rangers are poised to win the West in 2010. With Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland continuing to develop in the rotation and the young first basemen Justin Smoak also on the way next year, the Rangers will be an exciting team to watch.

6. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox should easily be the favorite to win the American League central next season. The only major additions the team made this offseason were acquiring Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, and Mark Teahen in different deals. However, a rotation of Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks should easily be the best in the division. A full season of Gordon Beckham should also give the White Sox much more offensive firepower.


7. Atlanta Braves
Who ever heard of a team having too much pitching? Well...The Braves have and they weren't about to pay for it all. That's why they traded away their best starter and saw their top two relievers leave this offseason and got virtually nothing in return for them. However, after signing Tim Hudson to a below market deal, the Braves still should have a solid rotation. The Billy Wagner signing is a questionmark to me, but it's not the Braves main problem. The team needs to score more runs and in order to do so, Chipper Jones needs to revert to his old self. Can't really expect it from a player that will be 38 next season though.

8. Tampa Bay Rays
2010 may be the Rays last chance at winning for a while. It's sad as they have team to watch. However, after this season, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Pat Burrell hit the open market and are going to be looking for big deals. Even with a stocked farm, the Rays still have plenty of questionmarks that need to be answered. Will B.J. Upton ever break out? Who is the ace of the pitching staff? Was Ben Zobrist's season last year a fluke? What about Jason Bartlett? If the Rays aren't in it by the all-star break, they could start selling and rebuilding.

9. Chicago Cubs
As well as the Cubs starting pitching pitched for them last season, it's hard to believe they only won 83 games. However, that's what happens when you lose your best offensive player for half the season, have terrible offensive production from your highest paid player, and count on Milton Bradley to be a clubhouse leader. Well, Bradley is now gone, as is Rich Harden, but the Cubs should be able to put together a good season if players return to their career averages. The team could still use a 2nd basemen. Orlando Hudson seems like a perfect fit to me, but it's unkown whether or not they've have any interest.

10. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels have lost much of their firepower this offseason and it's anyone's guess as to whether or not they'll remain at the top of the AL West again this season. While the Angels are known for developing a strong farm to replace their players, not many teams could lose Mark Teixeira, Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey, and Chone Figgins over the past two offseasons and still be fine. The Angels window of opportunity is closing quickly. Signing over the hill players like Matsui and Abreu means the team is just one injury away from their season ending early.

11. Seattle Mariners
After an offseason which netted them Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, and Milton Bradley, most people are penciling in the Mariners as the 2010 AL West champs. I'm not one of those people. King Felix and Cliff Lee are undoubtedly the best 1-2 punch in the American League, but the team still needs to find more power from somewhere. Not to mention, will a full season of Lee really have that much impact after losing Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn? Also, will Chone Figgins put up better offensive numbers than Adrian Beltre? I'm not too convinced they will. The Mariners got better, but I'm not fully on the bandwagon yet. 

12. Los Angeles Dodgers
Yes. I know fully well that the Dodgers still need a second basemen and number 4 and 5 pitchers in their rotation. However, no other team in the division can match up with this team......yet. The improvements of Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp last season show me that the Dodgers offense will be good, with or without Manny. It's hard to believe that Clayton Kershaw will be only 22 years old next season, but him and Billingsley should post solid numbers.


13. San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum must be high on life (literally) after winning his second Cy Young Award in a row and he anchors a Giants pitching staff that is the best in the National League West. The team needed an impact hitter this offseason and has only answered that with the signing of Mark DeRosa. I liked the teams decision to resign Juan Uribe as well...until GM Brian Sabean said Uribe would be their starting third basemen. If this team won 88 games without a true cleanup hitter last season, they can do it again. I still can't believe that they wouldn't trade Jonathan Sanchez or Madison Bumgarner away for a hitter though.

14. Detroit Tigers
Why on earth didn't Dave Dombrowski cut Magglio Ordonez last season so his option wouldn't kick in? I get keeping him if he's performing, but he wasn't doing anything close to it. Now, the Tigers were forced to trade away Curtis Granderson and let Placido Polanco, Brandon Lyon, and Fernando Rodney walk. The Tigers have plenty of questions, but if they add another starting pitcher, presumably an innings eater like Jon Garland, they can remain competitive in a weak AL Central. Scott Sizemore should be the early season favorite for Rookie of the Year in the American League.

15. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have the reigning AL MVP on their team, but it doesn't neccesarily mean that they will repeat again in the central. The starting pitching is still weak, with no clear cut ace in the picture. However, the new outdoor stadium (presumably) will help keep balls in the park. Once again, the offense is expected to be centered around Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but the Twins will need to expect the same contributions from players like Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel to remain in the hunt. In additoin, until the Twins are able to lock up Mauer long term, expect it to remain a distraction all year.

16. New York Mets
2009 was a disaster for the New York Mets as they finished 70-92 and in 4th place in their division. However, despite the record, the Mets aren't in as bad of shape as people may have thought. The addition of Jason Bay and the return of Jose Reyes to the lineup gives the Mets a well rounded lineup. They have their ace at the top of the rotation in Santana and a solid closer in Francisco Rodriguez. If they can find a way to land one or two more capable starters heading into next season, the Mets could contend for a postseason spot. It doesn't help though that they play in the toughest division in the National League.

17. Florida Marlins
Once again, the Marlins found themselves retooling this offseason by trading Jeremy Hermida to Boston and sending Matt Lindstrom to the Astros. They are also expected to lose Kiko Calero, who had a 1.95 era for them in 60 innings out of the the bullpen. The Marlins have 7 players heading into arbitration and it will be interesting to see who is still around after that process takes place. Dan Uggla has been rumored to be on the block for quite some time. The team has the potential to be very good, but only if they were able to keep their players. Waiting for the new stadium to be built to sign players may be too late.

18. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles got better this offseason when they acquired Kevin Millwood from the Rangers, locked up Mike Gonzalez to a two year deal, and signed Garett Atkins to an incentive laden contract. The team is still said to be interested in bringing back Erik Bedard, which would be the icing on the cake for the Mariners in the initial deal. Bedard would help the team win games, but the Orioles really need their young pitchers to come through for them in 2010. Perhaps use the season as a learning curve for the team to compete in 2011.

19. Milwaukee Brewers
I don't know how the Brewers expect to remain competitive without any pitching. Yovanni Gallardo is good and Randy Wold will help, but the rest of the rotation is junk. The signing of LaTroy Hawkins was okay, but the money would have been better invested in another starting pitcher. The Brewers would be ranked a lot lower if Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder weren't in the middle of this lineup. Still, losing Mike Cameron and replacing him with Carlos Gomez is going to hurt....a lot.


20. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies proved last season what I expected all along. It doesn't matter who they have in their lineup, they are going to score runs no matter what in that ballpark. The problem is...the other team will too. Both Jason Marquis and Jorge de la Rose had solid years last season and combined for 31 wins. I don't think that is likely to repeat. The key for the Rockies success in 2010, I believe, will be Jeff Francis. If he can return to being the ace he was when he helped the Rockies reach the World Series in 2007, then they will be fine. Regardless, the NL West is wide open due to no team spending money.

21. Toronto Blue Jays
The funny thing about all the Blue Jays moves this offseason is that had the Phillies offered Drabek and Taylor a year ago for Halladay, J.P. Ricciardi might still be the GM in Toronto. Regardless, the Blue Jays got a great return back for Halladay and their trade for Brandon Morrow is very underrated. If they are able to land Aroldis Chapman, the Blue Jays might not be as bad as people might think. Remember, this team also has a lot of good pitchers coming back from injury as well.


22. Arizona Diamondbacks
In 2009, Dan Haren was unstoppable, Justin Upton realized his potential, and Mark Reynolds jacked ou 44 runs. So why weren't they that good? Nobody else on the team could hit. The team needs Conor Jackson to come back fully healthy and for Chris Young to be more consistent. Stephen Drew wasn't bad, but I'm not going to say he was good either. The Diamondback starting pitchers weren't that bad last season. They just got zero run support. It will be interesting to see if Brandon Webb comes back as his dominant self and also to see what Ian Kennedy does when given an opportunity outside of New York.

23. San Diego Padres
The Padres have done absolutely nothing this offseason, but are looking to be patient and rebuild their team. New GM Jed Hoyer has opted to keep their star first basemen, Adrian Gonzalez, in San Diego....for now at least. The Padres are probably hoping to see what this young group of players can do. After all, the team finished September strong going 17-9 during the last month of the season. In fact, the Padres had a record of .500 or above for 2/3 of last season. If it wasn't for a horrible June and July, they would be back in contention in a weak division.

24. Cincinatti Reds
Every season, I get my hopes up that the Reds players may start to fully realize their potential and by the end of the year, I wonder if they ever even had it to begin with. Jay Bruce and Chris Dickerson need to start hitting the ball and supplying this team with some runs. Their offense is mediocre at best right now. The pitching staff is set to struggle with Edinson Volquez out for much of the year with Tommy John Surgery, so it will be up to Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey to improve upon last year numbers. Reds fans can only hope the youngsters start putting things together.

25. Oakland Athletics
Note to self: When Billy Beane says one thing, he does the exact opposite. I think that's his way of tricking people. Beane said he was going to let his young players play and not crowd them with veteran and that Brett Wallace would be given a chance to play everyday at third. A Coco Crisp, Jack Cust signing, and Brett Wallace trade later and it makes no sense. The A's have hope for the future with their young pitching staff and arguably the best bullpen in the American League, but if they don't get players up from the minors hitting the ball, this team could lose 100 this season.

26. Houston Astros
Pedro Feliz, Brandon Lyon, and Brett Myers to the rescue? Just when you think Ed Wade couldn't make any stupider moves than he's already done, he completely surprises you. Outside of Roy Oswalt, who is coming off of the worst season of his career, who in Houston is going to pitch? The offense is nowhere to be found as well. Outside of Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence, who is going to hit? Carlos Lee has been a huge disappointment. There a too many problems with too few solutions.

27. Cleveland Indians
Time to rebuild. The Indians could have gone into the 2010 season with both Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez still on the roster. However, GM Mark Shapiro, knowing that both would leave the minute they hit free agency traded them both. The Indians remind me a lot of the Oakland Athletics back in the day. In 2007, this franchise was one game away from the World Series. Now they can't afford to keep their superstars and what could have been a great dynasty for several years is cut short because they are forced to live as a small market team.

28. Kansas City Royals
The good news? Zack Greinke won the Cy Young Award last season. The bad news? It doesn't matter cause nobody on this team can hit. Alex Gordon is a bust. Mike Jacobs couldn't hit a softball if it were being thrown at him. All the while, the team is still paying Jose Guillen 12 million a season to do absolutely nothing. The Royals fielded a payroll of 70 million last season, the highest it's been in a decade and GM Dayton Moore puts a 97 game loser on the field. Remind me....why is he a good GM again?

29. Pittsburgh Pirates
GM Neal Huntington did the right thing when he decided to firesale the entire team. It's going to be a while before the Pirates put a winning product on the field, but the quickest way for them to turn it around was to get prospects from other teams farm systems. Bobby Crosby is getting one more chance at a starting shortstop spot in this league and Akinori Iwamura should give the team a stable veteran at the top of the order. It's make or break time for Andy LaRoche as Pedro Alvarez is waiting for his opportunity.

30. Washington Nationals
Stephen Stasburgh can't fix this. Jason Marquis can't fix this either. I thought moving to Washington D.C. was supposed to help this franchise. What a big lie that was. At least the Nationals managed to put together some kind of bullpen this time around. They are going to need it with their starting pitching. The Ivan Rodriguez signing was just plain dumb as well. I have nothing good to say here. Another 100 losses coming right up.
Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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