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Tanaka, Ellsbury Proving Me Wrong So Far In 2014

I have to admit it. I’m impressed.

When I published a post a few months ago about why the Yankees shouldn’t sign Masahiro Tanaka, I didn’t expect him to adjust to Major League Baseball so quickly. Given, the main point I was trying to make was that the money spent on Tanaka would be better used to sign other, cheaper free agents, I didn’t necessarily buy into the dominant pitcher that Tanaka was being hyped as. masahiro-tanaka

Even after going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season, I wasn’t convinced with everything that supposedly came along with Tanaka, and fully expected him, wherever he wound up, to struggle a little bit, having never pitched a game at the big league level.

But that hasn’t happened.

If anything, though he’s had his struggles at times, Tanaka has been better than his previous seasons in Japan, currently sitting in the top five among American League pitchers in the strikeout category, with 51 through 42.2 innings pitched. Only recording more strikeouts than innings pitched once in his seven year career in Japan, Tanaka is off to as good of a start as anyone — Yankees fans most of all — could’ve hoped for.

Moving to 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA after Saturday’s win against the Rays, Tanaka looks to continue stretching his winning streak without a single loss out as the season goes on. Although it’s very unlikely that Tanaka will remain perfect for the entire length of a second straight season, his performance each and every start will be a key factor in what kind of season the Yankees have.

However, even with the great pitching outings, Tanaka isn’t winning games on his own. The Yankees have been good, for the most part, up and down the lineup, with several players getting big hits in big spots to provide some run support. And that includes Jacoby Ellsbury just as much as anyone, who has been tremendous as their leadoff hitter.

As with Tanaka, however, I was quick to judge the Yankees’ offseason signing of Ellsbury.

Though Ellsbury can be a big impact player when healthy, that’s the issue — he hasn’t succeeded in staying healthy very often. While most of mlb_g_ellsbury_b1_400x600his injuries in the past have been freak injuries, Ellsbury comes along with a certain form of caution, and that lead to concern from myself to just what type of player the Yankees were getting. But with the way he’s been performing for the Yankees so far this season, Ellsbury could very well lose the injury prone tag that has stuck with him for years.

Currently batting .356 on the year to go along with ten stolen bases, and hitting his first home run of the season on Saturday, Ellsbury has been a key piece to the Yankees’ team, and one of the reasons they’ve been able to get off to such a good start, currently sitting atop the American League East division standings.

The bottom line: Masahiro Tanaka is good, Jacoby Ellsbury is good, and the Yankees apparently know what they’re doing. Though I’m sure I’ll find myself doubting certain trades and signings next offseason, the performances of Tanaka and Ellsbury, along with many others, proves that you never truly know whether a move is a good one or a bad one until the season starts. Until then, there’s always the chance that you can be proven wrong.

This particular time, it appears to have happened to me twice.

Latest MLB Leaders (March 22nd – April 30th)

With the first month of the 2014 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting, as well as disappointing — depending on how you look at it, and who you’re rooting for.

But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’ve done this for the past two seasons and it was well received, so I wanted to continue to do it for this season as well.

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played – Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill (31).

Most At-Bats – Paul Goldschmidt (124)

Most Hits – Melky Cabrera (41)

Highest Average – Charlie Blackmon (.374)

Highest OBP – Troy Tulowitzki (.477)

Highest SLG – Troy Tulowitzki (.727)

Most Runs – Brian Dozier (25)

Most Doubles – Paul Goldschmidt (12)

Most Triples – Adeiny Hechavarria and Andrelton Simmons (3).

Most Home Runs - Jose Abreu (10)

Most RBI’s - Jose Abreu (32)

Most Base On Balls - Jose Bautista (30)

Most Strikeouts - Abraham Almonte (39)

Most Stolen Bases - Dee Gordon (13)

Most Caught Stealing - Billy Hamilton (5)

Most Intentional Base On Balls - Prince Fielder (9)

Most Hit By Pitch - Jason Castro and Brandon Moss (5).

Most Sacrifice Flies - Matt Joyce (5)

Most Total Bases – Jose Abreu (71)

Most Extra Base Hits - Jose Abreu (19)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays - Carlos Santana (7)

Most Ground Outs - Elvis Andrus (53)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced - Mike Trout (570)

Most Plate Appearances – Paul Goldschmidt (138)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins – Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright (5).

Most Losses - Four players tied for most (5).

Best ERA – Johnny Cueto (1.15)

Most Games Started - Wade Miley and Hyun-Jin Ryu (7).

Most Games Pitched – Kenley Jansen (17)

Most Saves – Francisco Rodriguez (13)

Most Innings Pitched – Johnny Cueto (47)

Most Hits Allowed – Cliff Lee (52)

Most Runs Allowed – Brandon McCarthy and Wade Miley (27).

Most Earned Runs Allowed – Wade Miley (25)

Most Home Runs Allowed – Eight players tied for most (7).

Most Strikeouts – Jose Fernandez (55)

Most Walks – Shelby Miller (21)

Most Complete Games – Johnny Cueto and Martin Perez (2).

Most Shutouts – Martin Perez (2)

Best Opponent Avg. – Johnny Cueto (.136)

Most Games Finished – Francisco Rodriguez (16)

Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (12)

Most Wild Pitches – Wade Miley (6)

Most Balks – Samuel Deduno and Franklin Morales (2).

Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Trevor Cahill, Drew Hutchinson and Tyson Ross (7)

Most Pickoffs – Four players tied for most (2).

Most Batters Faced – Johnny Cueto and Wade Miley (177).

Most Pitches Thrown – C.J. Wilson (689)

Dee Gordon, the Overlooked Billy Hamilton

When Billy Hamilton stole over 100 bases in 2011, he caught the attention of numerous people. When Hamilton broke the all-time minor league single-season stolen base record in 2012 by swiping 155 bags, he earned the respect of baseball fans across the country. And now that Hamilton has reached the major league level, with sky high expectations, he has the entire baseball world watching his every at-bat. Dee_Gordon_MLB_debut

However, while Hamilton has the potential to be a star, he hasn’t been able to get things going so far this season, batting .231 with 9 stolen bases. Nonetheless, there are still a ton of people who feel Hamilton will eventually become one of the all-time best base stealers, even with the slow start.

But there’s a player very similar to Hamilton who isn’t getting the same recognition.

Dee Gordon is on the verge of a breakout season, with him batting in the mid 300’s, including 12 stolen bases, and the speed he possesses rivals that of Billy Hamilton. From turning a ground ball into a double, to legging out a triple on what would be a double for most other players, Gordon seems to do something exciting each and every night that makes you shake your head in disbelief.

Despite never stealing more than 73 bases in the minors, Gordon can certainly run with the best of them, even if he never broke any big time records like Hamilton, and thus doesn’t get the major headlines.

The one thing that Gordon has shown the capability of doing better than Hamilton on the major league level is getting on base consistently, whether it be via a hit or a walk. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much speed you have, if you can’t put the ball in play it does you no good. (As they say, you can’t steal first.) But that isn’t a problem for Gordon, as he has shown that he can hit for a high average in addition to displaying a little pop every now and then.

So, while you should definitely watch Billy Hamilton to see if he can go on a hot streak and begin to rack up incredible numbers, be sure to keep an eye on Dee Gordon as well. While he likely will cool down a bit as the season goes on, if his first few games are any indication, this could be a very special year for the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter.

Ballot Released for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

On Friday, the ballot for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game, set to take place up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Target Field on July, 15th, was released, giving baseball fans all across the country the ability to pick which players they’d like to see in the starting lineups of Untitledthe midsummer classic.

With more and more attention being given to the All-Star game as years pass (a record 40.2 million ballots were cast in 2012), and with there being so many top quality candidates to choose from, the voting has become extremely intriguing.

To cast your vote, you can head down to your local ballpark and pick up a ballot, or, the easiest of ways, just head to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You have up to 25 votes (35 if you’re a registered member with MLB.com) that you can use.

Voting doesn’t end until July 3rd, but I’m not waiting (at least not completely).

I went ahead and cast half of my eligible 35 votes today for the players who I feel would deserve to make the All-Star team if it were being played tomorrow, with a plan for my remaining picks to be cast much closer to time. A lot of things can change, and therefore, my picks will subsequently change as well. However, for the sole purpose of this blog post, I figured I’d reveal the players I voted for, with the reasoning behind my picks:

FIRST BASE: Albert Pujols (AL), Paul Goldschmidt (NL)

With the great start he’s had so far this season, picking Albert Pujols was an easy choice. Though there are several other great candidates, including Miguel Cabrera, who just recently moved back over to first, and rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, who’s off to a fast start to his major league career, it was Pujols who had the overall package, posting a solid campaign for comeback player of the year.

For the National League side of the vote, it was a bit more difficult, with even more great candidates. From Brandon Belt’s fantastic, breakout start, to the always consistent Freddie Freeman, it was hard to settle with the decision I came to of picking Paul Goldschmidt. However, after the breakout season he had in 2013, and the fact that he isn’t letting up, he’s done enough to earn him my vote.

SECOND BASE: Robinson Cano (AL), Neil Walker (NL)

Though his power numbers have yet to show up so far this season, as many predicted with his move to the Mariners, I voted for Robinson Cano to start at second for the All-Star game. He’s still been fairly consistent at the plate this season, and his defensive skills are always fun to watch. While both Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia were considered, Cano, in my mind, is the best choice at the moment.

I never thought I’d cast a vote for Neil Walker over the walking web gem that is Brandon Phillips, but that’s exactly what I did. Walker is off to a fantastic start to the year, and while Phillips hasn’t slowed down with his glove handiwork, he’s been a bit slow at the plate thus far. If he can pick it up offensively, he’ll likely earn the fan’s vote, but for now, I’m sticking with the Pirates’ Walker.

SHORTSTOP: Derek Jeter (AL), Troy Tulowitzki (NL)

Statistically, Alexei Ramirez probably deserves the starting shortstop role more than Derek Jeter, having one of the fastest starts of anyone in baseball, and the best kickoff to his career. However, with this being his final season (and Jeter being my favorite player), I had to vote for Jeter. The model of consistency, Jeter in all likelihood will be making his final All-Star start come July.

Troy Tulowitzki has always had the potential to be one of the top players in all of baseball, however, health has played a big role in hindering that caliber player from showing up. But with Tulo fully healthy, he’s begun to show signs of his full potential, and has been doing fantastic so far for the Rockies. While Andrelton Simmons and Hanley Ramirez would be great picks, mine goes to Tulowitzki.

THIRD BASE: Evan Longoria (AL), David Wright (NL)

In voting for the American League third baseman, though Josh Donaldson has, arguably, gotten off to the best start of any third baseman in baseball, I went with Evan Longoria. While Donaldson could definitely earn the All-Star spot should he continue his great play, Longoria has always been able to be consistent for the Rays. He should be able to do enough to earn the honor yet again.

Pedro Alvarez and Nolan Arenado have both begun the 2014 season on a high note, however, with David Wright having a good year as well so far, and factoring in his track record, my ballot saw Wright as the pick for third base. Wright always seems to have the numbers to warrant an All-Star selection, and I feel he’ll likely make the cut this time around as well.

CATCHER: Matt Wieters (AL), Yadier Molina (NL)

With Brian McCann heading from the NL to the AL this offseason, many felt he would be an immense impact as he has been over the years. But while he certainly has been great, he hasn’t had the fastest start to the season among catchers. Matt Wieters has had a career season so far, really producing well for the Orioles, and if he can keep it up, he very well could overtake McCann in the voting.

When it comes to picking the National League catcher, it truly is a tough choice. There are several great ones to pick from, many of which have been All-Stars before, and the great seasons so far by those players makes it nearly impossible to say which one player stands above the rest. With that said, however, I went with Yadier Molina, who does nearly everything well on the field, and deserves another selection.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Being just an American League category, there weren’t too many players to pick from, so it came down to David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz for me. While David Ortiz is usually the obvious choice, Cruz is having a career season so far, and he might receive the All-Star votes needed if he can keep up his hot start. However, don’t count out Ortiz, as he could heat up as July continues to approach.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down 90 players to just six (three for each league), especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista (AL)

All three of these players are off to tremendous starts to the season, with all three standing a good shot at making the All-Star team this year. Mike Trout is, arguably, the best player in the game today, constantly making great plays and showing off his power at the plate, with Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista possessing some of the best power baseball has to offer. Everything together, they all deserve consideration.

Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (NL)

As with most categories, the National League has more players overall that have an argument each season to be an All-Star. For this season, I voted for Ryan Braun (unfortunately), Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, as while I’m against Braun for his PED use, he’s still a good player. But with that said, I felt a lot better about choosing Stanton and McCutchen than I did Braun.

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Leave a comment below.

Should A Bat Flip Warrant A Flip Out?

Carlos Gomez is in the news once again, and once again it’s not on a high note.

If you recall back to September 25th of last season, Gomez, after blasting a homer against the Braves and admiring it as it soared into the seats, had a few choice words for Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson as he rounded the bases. Brian McCann, the Braves’ catcher at the time, didn’t approve of Gomez’s actions and blocked his path to home plate, causing both Gomez and McCann to flare up and both benches to clear.

On Sunday afternoon, it was deja vu for Gomez.

While it involved the Pirates this time instead of the Braves, Gomez launched what he thought was a home run and proceeded to flip his bat before jogging down towards first. The ball didn’t have as much behind it as originally thought, however, causing it to hit off the top of the wall and roll away from the centerfielder, Andrew McCutchen. With his speed, Gomez still wound up at third base, where pitcher Gerrit Cole, who was backing up the base, let his feelings be known regarding Gomez’s jog.

Gomez didn’t like what was said by Cole, causing him to flip out, having to be withheld by the umpire from charging Cole. While Cole’s exact words aren’t known (if they were, I’m certain I couldn’t publish them here), he claims to have said nothing more than “if you’re going to hit a home run, you can watch it. If you’re going to hit a fly ball to center field, don’t watch it.” That, however, was apparently enough to create an all-out brawl:

Due to their involvement in the altercation, Martin Maldonado (arguably the player who had the most involvement, punching Travis Snider square in the face) received a five game suspension, with Gomez getting three, Travis Snider having two sit out two, and Russell Martin being forced to be benched for a game. (All received undisclosed fines.)

As happens with most fights on the field, one side has their own opinion to what happened and who was at fault, with the other side having just the opposite to say. Gomez remains adamant that he did nothing wrong, saying, “I’m not apologizing for nothing I did. This is my job; I’ve been doing it for eight years like that. They know I play like that. It’s not to disrespect nobody.” But not everyone agrees with that.

What it comes down to is your definition of what “showing up” the opposing team means.

In this particular instance with Gomez, I feel this is in fact the way he plays, and therefore it shouldn’t have caused such a big fuss. Gomez is well known for his playing style, and the bat flip should’ve been expected from him. However, with that said, Gomez is, in my mind, the one to blame for the fight. Sure, if Cole hadn’t said anything to Gomez, all would’ve been well. But Cole was just letting his thoughts be known. He has the same right to show emotion as Gomez does.

Carlos Gomez is a great player, and like some players, it takes a mentality such as his to succeed at the big league level, and therefore I’m not saying he’s a bad guy or that he needs to tone down his antics. I enjoy his “celebrations”, as some have coined them, and don’t really want them to stop, as that’s who he is. However, he needs to realize that with his bat flips and slow trots comes trash talk from the opposing team, and he can’t let that get the better of him.

It’s all just part of the game.

Kyle Gibson Outstanding In Coldest Ever Twins Game

Kyle Gibson was at one time ranked as one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. However, after Tommy John surgery left him sidelined for a good deal of time, and a short 2013 major league stint left more to be desired (going 2-4 with a 6.53 ERA), the hope that Gibson would develop into the future front man for the Twins’ pitching staff began to fade away.20140411__140412GIBSON_300

But so far this season, Gibson has been proving people wrong. Nothing seems to be able to stop his great pitching — not even the coldest game-time temperature in Twins’ baseball history of a bone-chilling 31 degrees.

While cold days arguably lead to a disadvantage for hitters, with the ball not carrying as well as it usually does, cool temperatures also typically lead to poorer pitching performances. But on this day, Kyle Gibson was terrific, despite the cold weather that usually plays havoc on a pitcher’s effectiveness.

Controlling all his pitches on both sides of the plate, Gibson was able to keep the opposing hitters off balance the entire game. No one was able to figure him out throughout his eight inning shutout, earning him win number three on the year to go along with an impressive 0.93 ERA.

Things didn’t go as smoothly for Blue Jays’ starter R.A. Dickey, however.

Throwing a knuckleball the majority of the time, as he always does, Dickey didn’t have much break on any of his pitches throughout the game. Giving up five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning before being removed from the game, Dickey was far from his former Cy Young self, as has been the case for much of this season. Hopefully he can turn things around, as he can be fun to watch when things are going well.

With their pitchers beginning to click behind Kyle Gibson, and their offense running fairly efficiently, the Twins are beginning to slowly make the turn towards becoming a better team. While it will likely be another year or two before they’re making a ton of noise, with more top prospects yet to come, in Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer, among others, things are looking up for the Twins as an organization.

Ervin Santana Yet to Disappoint With the Braves

For the second straight year, the Nationals are the favorites to win the National League East division, and for the second straight year, the Braves are looking to surprise many, despite being the overall weaker team on paper, by winning the division. While it’s still early, the Braves are off to a good start.ervin-santana-mlb-new-york-mets-atlanta-braves

But it didn’t appear that it would turn out that way.

When the Braves announced last month the loss of two of their big name starters, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, for the entire season due to Tommy John surgery, many people felt that it was a crushing blow to the team, and would keep the Braves from doing much of anything this year.

However, despite a few poor games, the Braves currently stand at the top of the division, having had great pitching and an explosive offense leading the way as of late.

A lot of the great pitching is coming from guys you wouldn’t necessarily expect to dominate. With Medlen and Beachy out for the season, and Mike Minor out for a little while longer, the Braves don’t have any front line starters beyond Julio Teheran. But their offseason additions of Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana are proving to be well worth it, as they are pitching like top notch pitchers so far.

For Santana, though it took all offseason for him to find a team, it’s looking like the one-year, 14.1 million dollar deal he agreed to could be a bargain for the Braves. Having so few pitching options heading into the season, the Braves picked up Santana merely because they were weak in starting pitching and needed a boost. Coming off a decent season of a 9-10 record with a 3.24 ERA for the Royals in 2013, Santana certainly had the ability to provide the upgrade.

However, I’m not sure anyone predicted Santana to be so good so soon. In his first start of the season against the Mets, Santana threw eight scoreless innings, earning the win as well as the respect of a lot of people around the baseball world. Going into his second start on Monday night, all eyes were on Santana again, and he was even better, overall. Striking out eleven batters in six one-run innings, Santana dominated, yet again, but had to settle for a no decision, due to poor relief pitching by the Braves’ bullpen.

While there are still a lot of critics who feel that the Braves will fall down behind the Nationals in the division standings as the season goes on, if their pitching can continue to be consistent along with their offense, they could surprise people, with Ervin Santana being a big reason for their success.

Top Prospects Ready to Make MLB Impact

There are numerous top prospects set to make an impact in the major leagues this season, as I wrote about a few months ago, but for this particular post, I’m only focusing on the players who are ready right now to get a callup to the big leagues, but are yet to for one reason or another. Keep in mind as you’re reading, the players (in no particular order) I’ve included are yet to play a single game in the majors:13067210

Archie Bradley is the first player on my list, as he nearly made the Diamondback’s rotation out of Spring Training. Going 14-5, with a 1.84 ERA last season, Bradley is one of those players who is sure to make an immediate impact upon his first callup to the majors. Though it could be awhile longer before Bradley gets his first big league start, he’s ready now, nonetheless, to show off his stuff on the highest level.

Another player who nearly made the majors out of Spring Training, and likely should have, is George Springer. Blasting the second-most home runs of any player in the minors last season, with a total of 37, Springer is sure to be one of the key pieces for the Astros moving forward, whenever his callup takes place. With the Astros’ outfield struggling, besides Dexter Fowler, bringing up Springer would be a smart thing to do.

Gregory Polanco could end up being as big of a difference maker for the Pirates as Andrew McCutchen. Though he’s yet to prove his ability on the major league level, there are a lot of people who feel Polanco is experienced enough to make the jump. Currently in Triple-A, it will likely be a bit of time before Polanco is called up, however, his combination of speed, power, and ability to hit for average should help him stick.

Joc Pederson is more than ready to make his major league debut, but there’s a big problem he faces: he’s an outfielder in the Dodgers’ organization. With a current outfield of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, Pederson simply has nowhere to go. While it could be a good bit of time before the Dodgers’ figure out a solution to the situation they have with Pederson, he should be up before too long.

Currently battling an injury, Addison Russell can’t technically be called up to the major leagues until he fully recovers, which likely means more minor league time, however, he is nearly ready. Russell is coined to be the next great all around shortstop, and many people feel he has the potential to win multiple Gold Glove awards. With the Athletics’ contract to their current shortstop, Jed Lowrie, almost up, Russell will be up fairly soon.

Some honorable mentions, of player who are getting close to being major league ready but aren’t quite, include Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez, Noah Syndergaard, Alex Meyer, Eddie Butler, Jonathan Singleton, Garin Cecchini and Stephen Piscotty.

All are showing tons of major league potential, and the majority of those players should see time in the major leagues at some point in the second half of this season. The remaining few will get their first glimpse of the majors in the early part of 2015.

Surprising Starts for Teams A Week Into the Season

It’s been just over a week since Opening Day launched the 2014 Major League Baseball season back on March 31st, and there have already been a lot of ups and downs for teams all around baseball, some of which were anticipated, but some that have come as a shock to many. Though we’re less than ten games into the long 162-game season, and many things can and will happen over the next several months, it’s interesting to take a look at how teams are beginning their season.

The most surprising good starts to the year, in my opinion, have to be the Mariners, Brewers, Marlins, and Rockies, as each have gotten off to an unpredicted great start.

While the Mariners picked up Robinson Cano this offseason, and made a couple of other great additions to their team as well, I’m not sure anyone predicted them to pitch and produce runs the way they’ve been able to do thus far. Everyone up and down their lineup is clickingYovani Gallardo for the most part, and their pitching has been really good. It should be interesting to see if they can keep up their 4-2 start.

The Brewers don’t really have all that much above average talent past Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo, who can be hit and miss, but they’ve been able to put together a great start to the season. Going 4-2 so far this year, the Brewers, while still not predicted to do much, have shown that they have the potential to cause some problems with the rest of the teams in the National League Central division.

Down in Miami, it takes a lot to get fans excited about the Marlins, ranking year after year towards the bottom in overall attendance, however, the start to the season the Marlins have produced is more than anyone could’ve asked for. Jose Fernandez has been fantastic in his two starts, and Giancarlo Stanton seems to have found his groove earlier than usual. Looking to build on their 5-2 start, the Marlins are worth watching.

One of the great things about baseball is that you never know what may happen, and that holds true with the Rockies, who have gotten off to a .500 start of 4-4 to begin the season. Though they’re still expected to finish near the bottom of the division, with Carlos Gonzalez clicking as usual and Troy Tulowitzki finally healthy, in addition to a good start for their pitchers, they could surprise a lot of people.

But those are just the surprising good starts to the year.

On the other side of the spectrum, the most surprising bad starts to the year, in my opinion, are the Rangers, Diamondbacks, Reds and Orioles, who haven’t been able to put much together yet.

The worst start to the 2014 season in all of baseball goes to Diamondbacks, who currently stand at 2-7. That comes as a big surprise, as they made several good moves this offseason, including acquiring power bat Mark Trumbo, who is currently one of the only bright spots on the team, MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Redsbesides Paul Goldschmidt, who is always consistent. The D-backs certainly need to turn things around, but they have plenty of time to do so.

Cincinnati is one of those teams that can be good or bad, however, I thought they’d begin the year better than they have. With a 2-5 record, they sit at the bottom of their division, and with several players struggling (mainly Billy Hamilton) or injured, it could be awhile before they begin to rebound. Though, they’re still too good of an overall team to keep doing this poorly as the season goes on, in my mind.

Like the Reds, the Orioles can be good or bad depending on several factors, but what it really comes down to is their pitching. Their offense is one of the best in baseball, with strong points up and down the lineup, but they need their newly added starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez to return to form for the Orioles to make a run in the division. Sitting at 2-5, it will be fun to watch the O’s in the difficult American League East.

Picking up Prince Fielder this offseason, many people (myself included) predicted the Rangers to have a great year, possibly winning the division. However, due to a ton of pitching injuries, among other things, they haven’t been able to perform to their potential, currently sitting at the bottom of the division with a 3-4 record. But despite the poor start, the Rangers should be just fine.

As stated, there is still a ton of season remaining where anything could happen. The teams that are off to a fantastic start could end up taking a tumble as the year goes on, while other teams that are struggling at the moment could very well take off on a major run. You never know what will happen throughout a given MLB season, and that’s what makes baseball so much fun.

My First Game of 2014; Big Autograph Expectations

After nearly seven months, I’m finally attending another baseball game.

Later today, I’m heading out to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), in Durham, North Carolina, where the visiting Gwinnett Braves are set to take on the defending International League Champion Bulls in game three of a four-game series. With the teams having split the series so far through two games, it’s sure to be an exciting game. Untitled

The thing I’m most excited about, besides the game itself, is seeing the DBAP for the first time since it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation this past offseason, which involved putting in new lights, new seats, a new playing surface, in addition to changing just about everything you can think of. Anything that helps make the fan experience better I always approve of.

Now, if you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know the DBAP is one of the two local minor league ballparks — Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats, being the other — that I frequent throughout each baseball season. Though I always enjoy a good baseball game, generally, I only go out to see a game when a good amount of prospects are set to be there, or if an MLB player is playing in a rehab game. Otherwise, I’m content to merely reading the box score each night.

As many of you are aware, within the past couple of seasons, I’ve developed a big passion for going out to games and getting autographs from the games’ most promising young players who are on their way up, and that’s the main reason I’m heading over to the ballpark tonight. Not living near any MLB teams, it’s truly my only chance to get autographs from what will likely be future MLB stars down the road, and Gwinnett certainly has plenty of them, with Christian Bethancourt, Tommy La Stella and Cody Martin, among others.

However, they’re not alone.

The Bulls definitely hold their own when it comes to roster construction. While this year’s roster doesn’t compare to the one they had last season, which saw Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as part of the Opening Day roster, their lineup and pitching for this year is set to be good yet again. From Enny Romero to Nathan Karns, and many inbetween, the Bulls stand a good chance of repeating as Champions, and as such, there are numerous players I want to snag an autograph from at some point this year.

But the Braves are the team I’m going for tonight. I’m not going to be trying for any autographs from the Bulls players this time around due to the fact that I can always get them in a few weeks, as opposed to a team that may not return with the same players next time. I learned that lesson last year with Wil Myers. In taking three games to finally get Myers, I missed my chance to get the top opposing teams’ players. I won’t let that happen this time around.

The way I’m viewing the schedules right now, it’s likely that I’ll be going out to Durham often this first month, with possibly no trips to see the Mudcats until May.  The Mudcats simply aren’t that great of a team, and the teams that are going to be visiting aren’t that fantastic either. But it’s just the opposite All-Star-Game-Final-2014for the Bulls, as every team they’re playing against throughout April has some really good players on it that I hope to get autos from. Though, it’s likely that I won’t be blogging about any of it, unless things happen to change.

But that’s just the very beginning of what looks to be a great autographing season.

From May through the end of the season, both the Mudcats and Bulls are taking on loaded teams, making it difficult to decide when I want to head out to the ballpark and see certain players in person, though that’s a good problem to have.

More significant than that, however, the DBAP is hosting the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in mid July, which will bring in numerous top prospects from the Pacific Coast League which usually never comes closer than Memphis. I truly can’t wait until then, as it’s a can’t miss experience that I’ll absolutely be blogging about.

From the exciting Bulls games to kick off the season, to the remaining strong schedules between both the Mudcats and the Bulls, and the All-Star events thrown in there as well, everything combined altogether, it’s sure to be an unforgettable season.

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