Results tagged ‘ Braves ’

Final Games of the 2013 MLB Regular Season

Every new season brings new hope among all thirty teams around Major League Baseball. No matter how badly you did the year before, there’s always a chance that any given season could be your year. However, the yearly aspiration of postseason baseball ended for nineteen teams on Sunday afternoon — leaving just the Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Indians, Rays, Rangers, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Reds with shots at winning it all.

But it’s not going to be an easy road for any of them.

The Rays and Rangers face arguably the most difficult path, as they ended the season tied for the second American League Wild Card spot, and therefore will have to play in a one-game tiebreaker game Monday night in Arlington — game 163 of the season. It’s do or die for both teams, as a win could mean playoff glory, with a loss meaning the end of the season.

It’s sure to be an incredibly great game.

While eleven teams are still battling it out for a shot at becoming World Series Champions, the remainder of the teams are done for the year. But some players on those teams are finished forever, as they announced their retirement earlier in the season.

7Mariano Rivera and Todd Helton are two of the biggest names of the retirees, and both have good cases for the Hall of Fame, once their first year of eligibility rolls around in 2019.

Rivera — the greatest closer in MLB history — is the definition of greatness, both on and off the field. Rivera will go down as one of the best players and people the game has ever seen, and will undoubtedly be missed by everyone around the baseball world.

Another player of equal caliber is Todd Helton, who made a name for himself as arguably the best player in Rockies history, as well as a player who is well respected all around the game.

It will be interesting to see how both the Yankees and Rockies — teams that had subpar years — will do next year without their long-time star players.

In the end, no matter what next year brings, it’s extremely sad to see them go.

But Sunday wasn’t completely full of sadness.

Henderson Alvarez, of the Miami Marlins, threw the fifth no hitter in franchise history, however, it wasn’t done in the most conventional way; part of what makes it so intriguing. Alvarez recorded the twenty-seventh out of the game in the ninth, without having allowed any hits, but it wasn’t officially a no-no just yet. The Marlins gave Alvarez absolutely no run support, and it took a bases loaded, wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure both the Marlins win and, more importantly, Alvarez’s no hitter.

Truly a remarkable way to end the year.

If the 2013 postseason winds up providing anywhere close to the level of excitement the last day of the 2013 regular season brought, it’s sure to be an amazing month of October.

My final latest leaders blog post, which I was planning to post tomorrow, will have to be moved to Tuesday, as game 163 of the year is being played tomorrow night between the Rangers and Rays, with the stats counting towards the regular season stats. After that, my postseason predictions will be posted on Thursday as scheduled. Be sure to check back to see who I have making it to the World Series. (My World Series predictions will come after the two teams have been decided a few weeks down the road.)

Recapping My 2013 MiLB & MLB Baseball Season

Now that the 2013 Minor League Baseball season is over, and with no shot at attending any more MLB games this year, I can finally post a blog entry recapping my season out at the ballpark.

I managed to make it to 16 baseball games this season. Two of those were major league games — one up in Baltimore and one in Seattle — with the remaining fourteen being minor league games. In those minor league games, I saw numerous top prospects, as well as future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones, on August 20th, at his number retirement ceremony in Durham. It was a great season, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:

April 5th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash

I went into this game looking forward to seeing Indians’ top prospect, Francisco Lindor, and White Sox’ top prospect, Courtney Hawkins. Both are sure to be future MLB stars, and both are exciting players to keep an eye on. I didn’t get an autograph from Lindor at this particular game, but I did receive the bat that Hawkins cracked during his second at-bat of the game, in which he got a bloop-single:

DSCN5713(The bat is signed, but the auto is around the other side. It was done very hastily.)

April 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves

Having one of the best opening day Bulls lineups ever — including Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, and Hak-Ju Lee — I was excited to attend this game. I didn’t get Myers, but I ended up with an autograph from both Lee and Brandon Guyer….:

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….as well as a game home run ball hit by the Braves’ Ernesto Mejia:

DSCN5554(This was my first ever home run ball.)

April 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

I was hoping to get an autograph from Wil Myers at this game, since I was unsuccessful the last time, but I failed, once again. I did, however, get an auto from Mike Fontenot….:

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….as well as a game homer from Tigers’ number one prospect, Nick Castellanos:

DSCN5602(Castellanos was a September call-up by the Tigers.)

May 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Syracuse Chiefs

Not much to say about this game. Just that I finally got Wil Myers to sign for me; once on a program, and once on a card:

DSCN5845(Myers is a top candidate for 2013 American League Rookie of the Year.)

May 14th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Salem Red Sox

I didn’t have the chance to get an autograph from Indians’ top prospects, Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, as I was too busy getting autos from all the Red Sox’ top prospects. Salem was loaded with great players when I saw them in May, and I ended up getting an auto from Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart and Brandon Jacobs:

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Then, after the game, I picked up a game used, unbroken bat from Deven Marrero:

DSCN5719(Great guy — actually took the time to sign nicely, unlike Hawkins.)

May 30th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

I was able to get an autograph from Cheslor Cuthbert, however, due to a mistake on my part, I missed out on Royals’ top prospect, Kyle Zimmer. Although, I did manage to finally get an autograph from Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin after the game — both are super-nice guys. I was happy to finally get those:

DSCN5847(Lindor would go on to take part in the 2013 Futures game, up in New York City.)

June 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

I was really hoping to get an autograph from Chien-Ming Wang, but I never saw him in the dugout before the game, so I figured he wasn’t there. But after the game, I ended up running into him on my way out of the ballpark. Turns out, Wang had been in the stands, charting the game. So I was thankfully able to get him:

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I also got a game home run ball hit by Ronnier Mustelier:

BL2j594CIAI5CH_(Chasing down home run balls never gets old.)

June 15th – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians

With the great year he was having, I was looking to get an autograph from Vince Belnome, since I had finally gotten his card. Not only did I get Belnome, but I also got Jake Odorizzi; as well as Wil Myers, for the third time:

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(Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d ever see Myers with the Bulls, as he was called up the next day.)

June 17th – Durham Bulls Vs. Louisville Bats

I had been planning on attending this game since before the season even started. The record holder for most stolen bases in a single season, with 155, Billy Hamilton, was set to be there, and I was looking to get his autograph. I was able to get it, as well as an auto from Reds’ prospect Henry Rodriguez:

DSCN5850(Two things: Hamilton is now in the majors, and Rodriguez needs to work on his auto.)

June 25th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys

I didn’t think I’d be going to this game, but I got an offer from Orioles’ prospect, Nick Delmonico, for free tickets, and I couldn’t pass it up. I was able to thank him in person, as well as get him to sign a card, making it a great time:

DSCN5851(Delmonico is now part of the Brewers’ organization.)

June 29th – Baltimore Orioles Vs. New York Yankees

Didn’t get any autographs, but had a great time.

Check out my recap HERE.

July 26th – Seattle Mariners Vs. Minnesota Twins

As with the Baltimore game, nothing too exciting.

Check out my recap HERE.

August 20th – Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

Third straight game without an auto, but Chipper Jones was there, so it was fun anyway.

Check out my recap HERE.

August 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Norfolk Tides

This game turned out to be the most successful game of the season; as I got four out of the five guys I wanted an autograph from to sign for me. Those players include Orioles’ top prospects, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop, as well as Alex Liddi and Eric Thames. All were extremely nice about it, and I was surprised with the number of autos I got:

DSCN6936(As with Rodriguez, some of these autographs need work.)

September 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians

As if this game wasn’t exciting enough, being a playoff game, I was able to get autos from Pirates’ number one and two prospects, Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco:

DSCN6938(Both are expected to do big things in the majors as soon as next season.)

September 10th – Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

Didn’t get any autographs or home run balls — bad way to end the season.

But what a season it was.

I can’t wait for next year; when the auto collecting, home run chasing, and prospect scouting can start all over again.

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By the Numbers

Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2013 MiLB & MLB season:

Games attended: 16

Win-loss record for the home team: 12-4

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 102-44

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 16

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 8

Total autographs: 26

Game used gear: 2 bats (Courtney Hawkins & Deven Marrero — both signed.)

Game homers: 3 (Ernesto Mejia, Nick Castellanos & Ronnier Mustelier)

Total miles traveled to & from games: 7,740 (Including Baltimore & Seattle)

Story Lines Worth Watching In the Final Month

It’s hard to believe but the 2013 MLB regular season is almost over. (Today marks exactly one month until the final games of the season, on September 29th.) Teams are making their final push for the post season, and every player is doing their best to finish out the season strong. With all of this going on, I thought I’d post an entry on the five main story lines I plan to keep an eye on throughout the final stretch.

American League Home Run Race

Davis_Cabrera_6jrfjauv_n0whcjqfIt’s a two-man race, between the Orioles’ Chris Davis and the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, for who will receive the title of 2013 home run champion. But more importantly for Cabrera, he’s not just chasing down Davis for that title alone; Cabrera is trying to do what no one in the history of the game has ever been able to do: Win back-to-back Triple Crowns.

Davis currently holds a four home run lead over Cabrera (who is day-to-day, after suffering an injury in Thursday’s game) — Cabrera leads all of baseball in batting average and RBI’s — and with a mere month left of the season, it’s going to take a real display of power for Cabrera to overtake Davis. But if anyone can do it, Miguel Cabrera can.

Candidates for Rookie of the Year Award

puig_original_original_crop_exactThe Rookie of the Year award is going to be a difficult award to decide, for both the American League and National League. Both leagues have several players that have strong cases, so it’s going to be interesting to see which player will have a great final month to move themselves above the rest.

Currently, top candidates from the American League, for the R.O.Y. award, include Wil Myers, Chris Archer and David Lough, while the National League has quite a few more top candidates, in Yasiel Puig, Matt Adams, Nolan Arenado, Jedd Gyorko, Evan Gattis, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Jose Fernandez and Shelby Miller, among others. Making this a story line well worth watching.

National League Central Division

imagesCAQNTVO6The National League Central is currently the closest of all the divisions in Major League Baseball. Less than four games separate the top three teams, being the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds. (This is the first season in 21 years that the Pirates will finish with a winning record.) With the Diamondback’s slowly falling out of the race to catch up — though there’s still a slight chance they could — it would appear to be between these three teams for who will win the division.

No matter which team is able to hold on in the final month of the season, to win the division, all three are likely to make the post season, with the extra Wild Card spot, that was added last season.

Max Scherzer’s Cy Young Quest

untitledOf all of the great pitchers in the American League none have been as dominant throughout the entire season as Max Scherzer. Having gone 19-1 — only the third pitcher to ever start a season winning 19 out of their first 20 decisions — with a 2.90 ERA, Scherzer is well on his way to winning the Cy Young award, if he can keep up the great performance.

Though I think Yu Darvish will get a lot of consideration for the award — rightfully so, currently sitting at 12-5, with a 2.68 ERA, leading all of baseball in strikeouts — the award is currently Scherzer’s to lose, in the minds of many around the baseball world.

Houston Astros’ Loss Record

afbe15b4-c329-4994-8d21-cec9680d2991news_ap_org_r620x349With 30 games left to play, the Houston Astros hold a win-loss record of 44-88 — the worst record in all of baseball. They currently sit 33.5 games out of first place in their division, and look to have a losing record for the fifth straight season. Having lost 107 games in 2012, and 106 in 2011, it will be interesting to see if the Astros can finish with fewer than 100 losses this season.

They’ll have to go 19-11, in their final 30 games, which isn’t impossible, but with it being the Astros, it’s not all that likely. It should be interesting to see if the Astros can at least finish out the year on a high note, after yet another disappointing season.

What’re you looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

8/20/13 Bulls Game: Chipper Jones Number Retirement

I wasn’t originally planning to attend this game, as I had already gotten most of the Bulls players autographs that I wanted, and the opposing team, the Charlotte Knights, didn’t really have any players that were worth a trip out to the ballpark. But when it was announced back in June that the Bulls were going to retire Chipper Jones’ uniform number in August, and that Chipper himself was going to be there, of course I had to go.

As with any game I go to, I showed up (along with my dad) to the ballpark around thirty minutes before the gates were set to open. With the large crowd expected, due to Jones being there, the gates opened up an extra thirty minutes earlier than usual, which was nice, as when I headed down to my normal spot beside the Bulls dugout, I was able to witness batting practice for the first time at the DBAP:

DSCN6894Taking in batting practice at this particular ballpark is something I’ve always wanted to do — it’s usually over by the time the gates open — ,however, after seeing it, I can honestly say that it wasn’t any grander than any other BP I’ve seen at major league parks. (I guess that makes sense; I don’t know what I was expecting, really.)

But getting back to Chipper Jones; I stuck around by the dugout for nearly an hour, at which point the ushers cleared out the aisles. I made my way to an empty nearby seat, and shortly thereafter, Chipper entered the ballpark, in a Porsche (as to be expected), to make a “parade lap” around the warning track:

DSCN6901It was great to see Chipper again, for what will likely be the last time. The crowd was electric upon his entrance, and it truly was an amazing moment to be apart of.

After making his way around the park, and back to the infield, Jones headed up onto the stage that had been set up for the ceremony, where he was given a piece of the old ‘Hit Bull, Win Steak’ sign…:

DSCN6912….shown a brief highlight video of his career….:

DSCN6914….and presented his number 10 retirement plaque….:

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….before taking to the podium, for his speech:

DSCN6921Jones didn’t speak terribly long, but he didn’t have to. People know what he did here, and what he went on to do. A no doubt Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones is one of those few players that comes along and just does everything right, both on and off the field. Calling Durham “the greatest place to play Minor League Baseball in the country”, the fans still, and always will, admire Jones as one of the best to ever come through Durham, on the way to a successful Major League career.

After throwing out the first pitch of the game, Chipper quickly exited the ballpark. Although I didn’t get an autograph like I was hoping, it was still one of the greatest times I’ve ever had out at a Minor League Baseball game. It was an incredible night.

But the night didn’t end when Chipper Jones left. There was still a game to be played.

Bulls’ starting pitcher, Mike Montgomery, started off the night great, as he didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. After the one hit, however, the wheels fell off. Giving up three runs in the fourth, the Bulls quickly found themselves down 3-1. But they didn’t waste any time answering back, posting three runs of their own in the bottom half of the same inning.

Both teams would score a run in the fifth, putting the score at 5-4, Bulls. And that’s how things would end. (An appropriate ending to the night, in my book.)

I stopped by the Bulls’ retired numbers wall on the way out of the ballpark, where Jones’ number had already been added:

DSCN6935I have no doubt I’ll stop to glance at the wall every time I head out to the ballpark from now on; recalling the night of August 20, 2013 — one of the most special nights I’ve ever experienced at the DBAP.

Durham Bulls to Retire Chipper Jones’ Number

Twenty-one years since playing for the Bulls, Chipper Jones is returning to Durham.

Jones is set to join Crash Davis, Joe Morgan and Bill Evers as the only players to ever have their number retired by the Bulls, in a chipper28retirement ceremony on Tuesday. Morgan currently holds the distinction of being the only Bull to go on to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but that’s likely to change, once Chipper becomes eligible a few years down the road.

Jones played with the Bulls for a total of 70 games during the 1992 season, in which he batted .277 with four home runs and 31 RBIs. This coming back when the Bulls were the Class-A affiliate of the Braves, Jones would go on to become an eight-time All-Star, playing for the Braves his entire career.

Jones’ career MLB stats of 468 home runs and 1,623 RBI’s, coming over 2,726 hits, will go down as one of the best careers of anyone to ever don a Bulls uniform.

The uniform number retirement ceremony for Chipper Jones is set to take place at around 7:00, before tomorrow night’s Bulls game. And I’m planning to be there.

Gates are set to open at 5:30, and I’m hoping to be one of the first inside. This will more than likely be my last time seeing Chipper, and I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to get his autograph. (I’m going to try to get it on a 2012 All-Star baseball, that I won last year in a Twitter contest.) But no matter what happens, it’s sure to be an exciting night, and I’ll be sure to blog about it all on Wednesday.

But as if that’s not enough baseball excitement for one week, I’m also planning to attend Saturday’s Bulls game, versus the Norfolk Tides (AAA affiliate of the Orioles).

The Tides are loaded with great players and prospects, with the most notable being Orioles number one and number five prospects, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop, who have both been having great seasons. I’m hoping to pick up an autograph from both. (Eric Thames, Zach Britton, Danny Valencia and Freddy Garcia being the other players I’m after for an auto.)

I haven’t yet decided whether or not I’ll be blogging about Saturday’s game, but you never know. It really depends on if anything out of the ordinary occurs, and how much else is going on around the rest of the baseball world. So, stay tuned….

4/9/13 Bulls Vs. Braves–My First Ever Home Run Snag

When it was made official a few weeks ago that Rays’ top prospect, and number four overall prospect in all of baseball, Wil Myers, was going to start the season in Triple-A Durham, I knew I’d be attending one of the first home games of the season. Though I would rather have gone to Opening Day, it wasn’t possible, so the next game would have to do.

My main goal for this game was (obviously) to get an autograph from phenom, Wil Myers. I had seen on the Durham Bulls’ twitter page that Myers had signed autographs the night before, so I was keeping a positive mindset, hoping he would sign, once again. But it wasn’t meant to be, as although I was the first person to arrive down by the dugout, before the game, when Myers came up from the clubhouse, he didn’t even look over in my direction. He ended up signing for a few people down the line, but I wasn’t able to get him to come over.

This day would turn out to be a horrible one, if you’re a person like myself who loves collecting autographs. The only player on the entire Bulls team, of the players I wanted autos from, that signed for nearly everyone, was Rays’ number five prospect, Hak-Ju Lee. Lee was extremely nice about it, and I was happy to get his autograph, even if it was the only one I got before the game.

After failing to get any more autographs, I made the trek up to my ticketed seat:

DSCN5528Wil Myers, who was serving as the Bulls’ designated hitter for the night, was chilling at the top of the dugout for most of the game:

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As for the game itself, it was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen in person. After Bulls’ starting pitcher, Alex Torres, struck out the side, in the top of the first, the Bulls proceeded to go on a tear, causing Gwinnett’s starting pitcher, Daniel Rodriguez, to be pulled from the game after only a third of an inning pitched, in which he allowed eight runs:

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The Bulls would end up plating two more, for a grand total of TEN runs in the bottom of the first. Five of those runs came from the bat of Brandon Guyer, who blasted two home runs–a two run, and a three run–in the first inning. (The first International League player to do so since 2005.)

Seeing that the ball was flying out of the ballpark, on this particular night, and with the outfield seats being so empty….:

DSCN5546….I decided, as I’ve done in the past, to move to the outfield seats, after the conclusion of the first inning.

It was during my walk to the outfield that one of the most unusual things to ever happen to me at a baseball game occurred.

As I was making my way through the concourse, a guy, who I had seen earlier taking photos with an old-fashion-looking camera, stopped me and asked if I had been getting autographs down by the dugout before the game. I told him yes, and he went on to tell me that he was a photographer from Minnesota that had been hired (or picked?) by the Bulls (I think?) to take photographs of people at the ballpark for an art gallery (or museum?), and wanted to know if I’d be willing to be photographed. As you can tell, I didn’t fully understand it all, but I agreed to it, nonetheless.

We both made our way out to where his camera was, which happened to be where I was headed anyway. It probably took 10 minutes for him to get the photo he was looking for, but I had nothing else to do, and was happy to do it. Here’s a picture of the camera….:

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….with him and his friend standing just below it, looking at the field. So if you happen to see me on a wall somewhere, now you know why; let me know if you do.

Moving back to the game, and to the reason I moved to the outfield, with there still being five innings left in the game after I finished having my picture taken, I was optimistic that someone (I didn’t care who) would hit a home run in my direction. The seats continued to empty more and more as the game went on, and I was getting more and more anxious.

When it got to be the sixth inning, and no balls had even come close to me, I began to feel it was unlikely that a home run would be hit my way, but just as the thought crossed my mind, Gwinnetts’ Ernesto Mejia blasted a moon shot (the 114th HR of his MiLB career), which barely cleared the center field wall. I wanted to just run out there and get it, but I recalled the Triple-A National Championship game, when a guy ran out onto the grass after a home run ball, and the umpires stopped the game. I didn’t want to be “THAT guy”.

So I waited patiently, hoping no one would make a run for it. A few people came over and had a glance, but they didn’t try to retrieve it, which made it extremely easy for me to jump the short fence and run over to grab it as soon as three outs had been recorded.

Here’s the ball:

DSCN5554This was the first home run ball I had ever gotten, and with the rush I got from running over and picking it up, I highly doubt it will be my last.

I stayed in the outfield for one more of Wil Myers’ at-bats, but after he failed to hit a home run, I made my way back to where I had begun the game.

The Braves would make things interesting, scoring two runs in the seventh and three in the eighth, to make it a 12-8 ball game, but that would end up being the final score. As soon as the final out had been recorded, I quickly headed down to the dugout, with a dozen others, to try for an autograph from Myers, but once again, he didn’t even look up.

I did succeed in getting an autograph from the star of the game, Brandon Guyer, afterwards, and he was extremely nice about it. He seems like a really great guy in general, as before the game he went out of his way to ask how everyone was doing, when he came up from the clubhouse. It’s guys like that, that you want to see do well, and I wish him the best moving forward.

I’m not sure when my next MiLB game will be, or whether it will be a Mudcats or Bulls game, but if it’s half as great as this one was, it’s sure to be a fun time.

Fastest & Slowest Starts to the 2013 MLB Season

We’re just over a week into the 2013 MLB regular season, and I wanted to post a blog, just like last year, on the fastest and slowest starts to the season for both entire teams and individual players. While it’s a small sample size, the list gives you an idea of what’s been taking place so far this season. Some of the players and teams are performing nearly as well as expected, but others are putting on performances that I never would’ve predicted them to begin the season with.

FASTEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Braves (6-1)

2) Diamondbacks (5-2)

3) Rockies (5-2)

4) Red Sox (5-2)

5) Athletics (5-2)

6) Rangers (5-2)

7) Reds (5-2)

8) Mets (5-2)

The Braves currently lead all of baseball with a win percentage of .857. Justin Upton has been making a major impact, hitting six home runs in the first seven games, and I fully expected the Braves to have a season long performance like the one they’re currently starting out with. The Diamondbacks, Rockies, Red Sox and Mets are all surprising me, so far, as I expected them to all have poor seasons, and while it’s still very early, at the moment, they’re making things interesting. As far as the Athletics, Rangers and Reds go, it’s not a shock that they’re doing so well. Though I thought the Rangers would have a bit of a struggle this season, without Josh Hamilton, they seem to be doing just fine. It should be interesting to see if they can keep it up.

Players:

1) Adam Jones (.500)

2) Jed Lowrie (.500)

3) Carlos Santana (.500)

4) Michael Cuddyer (.478)

5) Carl Crawford (.450)

6) Jean Segura (.450)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

Adam Jones is the only player on the list of fastest start players that I’m not surprised with. Having recorded a 32 homer, 82 RBI season, in 2012, Jones is in the prime of his career, and is set to have another fantastic season. For Jed Lowrie, Carlos Santana, Michael Cuddyer, Carl Crawford and Jean Segura, they better enjoy the hot start while it lasts, because I don’t see any of them having an all that spectacular year. But as with anything in baseball, there’s always the chance for me to be proven wrong.

SLOWEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Astros (1-6)

2) Marlins (1-6)

3) Padres (1-5)

4) Pirates (2-5)

5) Brewers (2-5)

6) Phillies (2-5)

7) Cubs (2-5)

After beating the Rangers, 8-2, on Opening Night, the Astros have done nothing but go down hill, ever since. With 155 games left to play, and just 94 losses away from 100, it’s likely the Astros’ season will end with yet another year of 100+ losses. The Marlins, Padres and Pirates are all teams that have the potential to win now, but it’s likely to be a year or two before they start to become big time contenders in their divisions. The Brewers and Phillies are the only teams that surprise me, somewhat, on this list, but they just haven’t performed well so far this year. And as for the Cubs, they’re just being themselves; destined to make it 105 seasons without a World Series title.

Players:

1) Jeff Keppinger (.048)

2) Ryan Hanigan (.050)

3) Aaron Hicks (.067)

4) Pedro Alvarez (.080)

5) Neil Walker (.083)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

No one on this list surprises me, other than Neil Walker. Walker is arguably the best player on the list, but he hasn’t been able to find his groove so far this season. I look for him to get things going, however, and record another season like he has the past few years–10-15 homers and 65-80 RBI’s, with a high 200’s batting average. For Jeff Keppinger, Ryan Hanigan, Aaron Hicks and Pedro Alvarez, it will be interesting to see if they get their acts together, or if this is a sign of things to come for them this season, as things can certainly only go up.

Keep in mind, while those are the players and teams with the fastest and slowest starts to the season, there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, and anything can happen. Only time will tell if the current trends will last; that’s why they play 162 games.

Top 10 Story Lines I’m Planning to Watch In 2013

We’re just over 48 hours away from the start of the 2013 MLB regular season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Baseball fans everywhere are making final predictions as to how they feel things will play out, as players are making their final preparations for the long 162 game season. As my last blog post until the season begins, I wanted to do a brief overview of the top story lines I’m planning to keep an eye on in 2013. They may differ slightly from yours, but I feel I covered nearly all of the major topics:

1. How the Astros will fare in the American League:

Having lost 107 games in the National League in 2012, I’m watching the Astros, not for how good they’ll do, but for how bad they’ll do. Sorry to any Astros fans reading this post, but there’s no denying that the odds are against the Astros going into the 2013 season. Playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with the newly revamped Angels, they’re likely to have just as bad of a season as last year, if not slightly worse. I’d say it would be considered a good year for the Astros if they finish with less than 100 losses.

2. If Bryce Harper and Mike Trout can keep up their 2012 R.O.Y. seasons:103057-768-0

Posting some incredible stats, leading to one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, I’m going to keep a closer eye on Mike Trout than I am Bryce Harper, but I’m planning to watch Harper nonetheless. Both won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, for their respective leagues, and it should be interesting to see if their amazing rookie years will transfer into the 2013 season. I’m predicting Trout will once again have a 30/30 season, with Harper possibly recording the first 30 home run season of his career.

3. Who will hit the most home runs in 2013:

The 2012 home run leaders consisted of Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, as the 1-2-3 guys, and if it wasn’t for an injured Granderson, I could see all three being near the top of the rankings again in 2013. However, with Granderson out with an injury for the first portion of the year–while I see Cabrera once again leading all players in homers, with Hamilton coming in a close second–it will likely be a new face who will round out the top three. Maybe it’ll be a guy like Adam Dunn, who’s a free-swinger? Or maybe a guy no one saw coming, who will have a breakout season? It will certainly be fun to keep track of.

4. If A-Rod comes back healthy, if at all:

While it’s 100 percent certain that Alex Rodriguez won’t return to the Yankees’ lineup until late July, there is the slight chance that he could miss the entire season. However, if A-Rod is able to work his way back this season, after having hip surgery in January, it should be very interesting to see if he can become a decent player once again. While Rodriguez will never be the great player he once was, if healthy, he has the ability to make an impact for the Yankees. Although I’m not the biggest fan of A-Rod, I still hope he comes back healthy. But I find it very unlikely that he will ever again play at a competitive level.

5. How the rookies, such as Wil Myers, will impact their teams in 2013:

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Photo DayI discussed this a couple months ago, in my blog post on the Top 100 prospects going into the 2013 season, but this time around I’m only focusing my attention on a handful of rookies who I feel will have the biggest impact for their team this season. Wil Myers is the number one guy on my radar, with Shelby Miller, Jurickson Profar and Billy Hamilton being the other three main rookies I plan on keeping track of. Myers was the minor league player of the year, in 2012, and I fully see him posting more of the same stats, as he begins the the year with AAA Durham. Of the four, Miller is the only player that is starting in the majors to begin the year, but they should all make it to the big leagues at some point this season, and are sure to each play a key role in their teams’ success.

6. How the Upton bro’s do for the Atlanta Braves:

You could argue that, with the addition of both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton to roam the outfield with Jason Heyward, the Braves have the best all-around outfield in all of baseball. All three players have great range, giving them the ability to make plays on balls that other outfielders couldn’t get to, but furthermore, they all have the talent to impact their team offensively as well. Both Upton’s, as well as Heyward, have the ability to blast 25+ home runs and 85+ RBI’s, as well as steal a good amount of bases. If they can perform to their potential this season, combined with the great lineup and pitching rotation they already had, the Braves could be an outstanding team.

7. What kind of a year players who ended 2012 injured will have in 2013:

The reason A-Rod had his own category, and wasn’t included in this one, is merely because his return is uncertain. All of the players in this category didn’t play at all after their injury in 2012, and will make a guaranteed comeback, within at least the first few weeks of the season. With that said, the most impactful players to end last season with an injury, that I’ll be watching in 2013, include Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki and Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, while Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in October, with neither playing any more games for the remainder of the year. Rivera is expected to be ready to go Opening Day, though a slight setback for Jeter will force him onto the disable list to begin the year. In my opinion, the 2013 performances of both Jeter and Rivera will be the deciding factor for what kind of season the Yankees have. If Jeter can return quickly, and Rivera can post his usual stellar numbers, I see the Yankees being just fine.

Troy Tulowitzki injured his groin in May of last season, and although it appeared he would return towards the end of the year, he remained sidelined for the remainder of the season. A healthy Tulowitzki can impact the Rockies more than nearly any other player in all of baseball, though he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the majority of his career. While I can’t see the Rockies finishing any better than last in their division, I’m planning to watch “Tulo” nonetheless, to see if he can finally have a successful, fully healthy season.

8. How the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels perform with their new additions:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Josh HamiltonThe Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels made the biggest splashes of nearly every other team in all of baseball this past offseason; at least of the teams that stand a chance of competing. Many have the Blue Jays going the distance, and winning it all, with the key additions of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, to name a few, though I don’t see it happening. I find myself siding more with the opinions of those who are betting on the Dodgers and Angels to have a great season.

The Angels’ major addition of the offseason was undoubtedly Josh Hamilton, who, with the help of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, has the ability to transform the Angels into an extremely competitive team. Hamilton might end up being the piece the Angels were missing last season, that will help them make the playoffs in 2013.

The number one addition of the offseason for the Dodgers was Zack Greinke, though they also acquired Hyun-Jin Ryu, the highly praised LHP from Korea. Adding them both, to go along with their already deep pitching rotation, could end up making the Dodgers a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

9. Whether or not the Nationals make it to the World Series:

Last season, Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, made the bold statement that he should be fired if the Nat’s didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. Luckily for Johnson, they did, for the first time since 1933. This season, however, it’s “World Series or bust” for the Nationals, and although I was a bit skeptical last year, I’m not putting it past them to make it all the way to the World Series this season, for what would be the first time in Nationals’ franchise history. With a fantastic lineup, as well as one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, they should go far in the coming season, though they’ll have to make it past the favorited Braves, who many (myself included) have winning the division.

10. Which team(s) will have an unexpected breakout season:

Every season, it seems, there is a team or two that unexpectedly takes the baseball world by storm. On paper, they shouldn’t be winning, but yet they come together as a team and are able to do amazing things. The 2012 example would be the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, as the majority of baseball fans, going into the 2012 season, didn’t see the O’s and A’s exploding the way they did. Truly showing that baseball is extremely unpredictable. Any team has the chance to defy the odds, which is part of what makes baseball so great. Anything can happen.

Which story line from above are you most looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

National League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. I did my American League predictions on Thursday (if you’d like to check them out, CLICK HERE), so today, as the title states, I’m giving my 2013 National League standings predictions, starting with the NL East:

EAST

1. Braves

2. Nationals

3. Phillies

4. Marlins

5. Mets

With all of the offseason additions, including both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, the Braves have a really good chance to win their division, in the minds of many baseball fans, myself included. Their starting rotation is somewhat of a question mark, being good, but not great, however, I think the lineup they currently possess will be more than enough to get the job done. This will be the first season in more than a decade in which Chipper Jones isn’t in the dugout, but I think it’s going to be an exciting year for Braves fans nonetheless.

The Nationals had a breakout season last year, bringing playoff baseball back to Washington D.C. for the first time since 1933, and all signs point to them having another great season. The only reason I have them finishing behind the Braves is that their lineup isn’t quite as lethal, although their pitching staff can compete with nearly any team in baseball. Stephen Strasburg isn’t going to be on an innings limit, as he was last season, and the loss of that stress should allow for him to thrive. I fully see the Nat’s making the playoffs yet again in 2013.

For the Phillies, I’m still yet to be convinced that they’re going to do much of anything this year. Unlike last year, the Phillies should have a healthy Ryan Howard for the entire season, who will undoubtedly improve their lineup, but with Roy Halladay struggling a bit in spring training–given it’s just spring training–and the remainder of the rotation being merely decent, I can’t see them finishing any higher than third; being that the Braves and Nationals are in the division. But the Phillies certainly have the potential to prove me wrong.

Adding tons of big name players to their roster in the offseason of 2011, everyone thought it would help the Marlins win a few more games than they did the previous year. But things didn’t go as planned for the Marlins, as they finished 2012 with even fewer wins than in 2011, and in a questionable move, decided to redo nearly the entire team during this past offseason. With the loss of so many players, combined with the way the remainder of the team–with the exception of Giancarlo Stanton–played last season, they aren’t predicted to do much in the coming year.

The only team I’m predicting to do worse than the Marlins are the Mets. Although they resigned their superstar third baseman, David Wright, for the next seven years, they traded away their 2012 Cy Young award winner, in R.A. Dickey. While that move alone isn’t going to be the make or break point for the Mets, I don’t see them winning an awful lot of games this year. I do, however, like their chances down the road, as some of their key prospects are knocking on the door. As soon as next season, I can see the Mets making some noise in the NL East.

CENTRAL

1. Reds

2. Cardinals

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Cubs

After an extremely successful 2012 season, in which the Reds finished first in their division on 97 games won, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have an equally impressive, if not slightly better, 2013. They have the same basic roster, which includes one of the best closers in all of baseball, however, the one major difference is a healthy Joey Votto, which is why I see the Reds having an even better season this year. If they acquire the speedy Billy Hamilton, who stole 155 bases in the minors last year, towards the end of the season, I could see them going very deep into the playoffs, as well.

The Cardinals are a team that’s good enough to give the Reds a run for their money, but I’m not predicting for them to win the division. The Card’s have an extremely good pitching staff, when it comes to both starters and the bullpen–though their stellar closer, Jason Motte, is expected to begin the year on the disabled list–,however, their lineup isn’t quite as good as the Reds. It’s certainly going to be fun to watch to see how it all plays out, but regardless, I don’t see them being good enough to earn even the second wild card spot, as I feel the Nat’s and Giants are going to have better seasons.

This is going to finally be the year for the Pirates, in my mind. They started off incredibly last season, with their All-Star, Andrew McCutchen, leading the way with a batting average in the high .300’s, however, when McCutchen began to struggle following the midsummer classic, the rest of the team followed suit. If the entire team can rally together and play to their full potential, for the entire season, while I don’t see them making the playoffs, I could easily see them finishing with a winning record for the first time since 1992.

If it wasn’t for Ryan Braun, the Brewers arguably wouldn’t have won nearly as many games last season, which is why I feel they’re bound to flip spots with the Pirates in the coming year. Their pitching staff isn’t what you would expect out of an above .500 ball club, but it gets the job done, nonetheless. Even so, their lineup is missing a few key components–some of which just aren’t there, and some players that are injured–for the Brewers to have any sort of a chance at a playoff run, as far as I can foresee.

All signs point to the Cubs’ streak of 104 seasons without a World Series title continuing yet another season, with there not being much chance for a successful season in 2013. They have some good, young prospects working their way up the ranks, but until they make it to Wrigley field, a few years down the road, all the Cubs can do is make it through another subpar 162 game season.

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Padres

4. Diamondbacks

5. Rockies

It’s pretty much going to be either the Dodgers or Giants winning the NL West division, and if the Dodgers can play to their fullest potential, I have a good feeling they’re going to win their division. They have one of the best rotations in all of baseball, which includes former Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, along with Zack Greinke and newcomer Hyun-Jin Ryu, from Korea, and that, combined with one of the best lineups in baseball, should be enough to prevail them past the 2012 World Champion Giants, in the NL West division.

With the Dodgers winning the division, I have the Giants coming in a close second. Coming off their second World Series title in three years, the Giants are one of those teams that doesn’t have an incredible team, but make the very most of what they have. Last season, Tim Lincecum really struggled to find his groove, posting a career worse 5.18 ERA, but I see Lincecum having a bounce-back 2013 season. While a healthy Lincecum will help keep the Giants in the running for the division title, I still predict them coming up just short.

The Padres made some noise towards the end of last season, and I look for them to play more of the same type of intensity baseball for the entire 2013 season. They don’t get a lot of recognition, just because of who they are, not having made the playoffs since 2006, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t possibly be the shockers of the 2013 season. While I don’t see them finishing higher than third, with the Dodgers and Giants in the division, I’m predicting they’re going to be a lot better than most people are expecting.

Having finished with a record of 81-81, exactly .500, in 2012, I don’t see the Diamondbacks improving at all in the coming season, especially with the offseason trade of Justin Upton to the Braves, as well as promising young pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer, to the Indians. By losing a couple of players who would’ve likely made a noticeable impact for the D-back’s in the coming season, I see them finishing next to last in the division. Both their pitching staff and lineup are decent, but I just can’t bring myself to place them any higher in the standings for my predictions.

Playing in one of the best hitters ballparks in all of baseball, with the high altitude, doesn’t help out the Rockies when their pitching rotation is one of the weakest in all of baseball. Although they’ll have their star short stop, Troy Tulowitzki, back healthy–Tulowitzki only played in 47 games last year–along with veteran, Todd Helton, the Rockies’ lineup isn’t nearly strong enough to overcome their below average pithing staff. Therefore, I’m predicting a second straight last place season, in the NL West division, for the Rockies.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Justin Upton To Join Brother B.J. Upton In Atlanta

Ever since B.J. Upton signed with the Atlanta Braves, back in November of 2012, the question on everyone’s mind has been whether or not Justin Upton, who has been at the center of trade rumors for quite awhile, could possibly end up joining his brother down in Atlanta, with the Braves.

After months of speculation, the baseball world finally got its answer, as it was announced early Thursday that Justin Upton had been traded, and would in fact be heading down to play for the Atlanta Braves, starting this coming season.

Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Tampa+Bay+Rays+pF-7pXyaqUhl

In return for trading Justin Upton (along with Chris Johnson) to the Braves, the Arizona Diamondbacks received Randall Delgado, Martin Prado, Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill.

I, for one, like the trade; for the most part.

I feel the Upton’s will bring out the best in each other, and although a lot of Braves fans seem to be upset with the loss of Martin Prado, at third, the Braves received back what I view as an adequate replacement, in Chris Johnson, who had slightly better stats than Prado in 2012. While Prado had a higher batting average than Johnson (.301 compared to .281), Johnson slugged 5 more homers as well as 17 more RBI’s. Not drastically better, but better nonetheless.

Now, while I feel the trade will benefit both sides somewhat, comparing the Diamondbacks’ side of the trade to the Braves’ portion, I’m not so sure the D-back’s received a fair deal. Sure, trading two players away and acquiring five players in return is always a plus, but the players the D-back’s received, with the exception of Prado and Delgado, are all prospects. And while Randall Delgado isn’t considered a prospect anymore–as 102594869_display_imagehe’s had some MLB experience–I still don’t see him making a big impact for the D-back’s in 2013, as he went 4-9 with a 4.37 ERA with the Braves in 2012.

The way I see it, the Braves received a couple of major league proven players, while the D-back’s received just one, in Martin Prado. That doesn’t seem all that even, to me.

The three prospects the Diamondback’s received back, in return for Justin Upton and Chris Johnson, are Nick Ahmed, Brandon Drury and Zeke Spruill; all of which are (at least) a couple of seasons away from being MLB ready. That’s one of the main things I feel weighs down the D-back’s side of the trade.

Ahmed spent all of 2012 with A+ Lynchburg, batting .269 with 6 HR’s and 49 RBI’s. While he’ll still be fairly young (age 23) at the start of the 2013 season, it’ll take at least a few more seasons for Ahmed to even be close to major league ready, and unless he improves in the years to come, considering how much farther he has to go before the major league level, it may never happen at all.

Spruill is also one of those players who I’m not sure will ever make a big impact at the major league level. Spruill, as with Ahmed, is only 23 years old, however, going 9-11, with a 3.67 ERA in 2012, at AA Mississippi, it’ll take a real turn around for him to develop into anything all that valuable, as 2013 will be Spruill’s sixth season in the minors, and he’s yet to have played above the AA level.

The only player I like in the D-back’s receiving portion of the trade, besides Martin Prado, is Brandon Drury. Batting .229, with 6 HR’s and 51 RBI’s in 2012, at A Rome, he’s no superstar, however, he’s the youngest of the group, at age 20, and has plenty of time to develop into the great player he’s capable of becoming.

Overall, I’d say the Braves were on the better end of the Justin Upton trade. I feel the Braves, in addition to getting a great outfielder, may have possibly received the missing piece they’ve been lacking for the past few seasons, to allow them to make a true playoff run.

In addition to making it deep into the playoffs, with Jason Heyward and the Upton brothers in the outfield, combined with an infield of Johnson, Simmons, Uggla, Freeman and McCann, behind the plate, the Braves have a real shot, I feel, of doing what they’ve been unable to do since the 2005 season: Win their division.

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