Results tagged ‘ Brewers ’

New MLB Rule Attempts to Rid Home Plate Collisions

You’ve seen it a hundred times: A player rounds third, heading for home; a strong throw from the outfield beats him to the plate; and the runner finds himself confronted with a catcher blocking his path, leaving him with no other choice but to plow over the catcher in hopes of dislodging the ball and subsequently being called safe. But due to a new rule (rule 7.13) instituted by Major League Baseball on Monday, you may never see that again.

Ray Fosse On Ground, Pete Rose Standing

An agreement to form some kind of rule to prevent home plate collisions was formed back in December at the Winter Meetings, however, it wasn’t until Monday that an official rule was released highlighting what will be allowed and what will not in 2014 (and beyond if the rule is successful).

The official rule is as follows:

A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball). In such circumstances, the umpire shall call the ball dead, and all other base runners shall return to the last base touched at the time of the collision.

Rule 7.13 comment: The failure by the runner to make an effort to touch the plate, the runner’s lowering of the shoulder, or the runner’s pushing through with his hands, elbows or arms, would support a determination that the runner deviated from the pathway in order to initiate contact with the catcher in violation of Rule 7.13. If the runner slides into the plate in an appropriate manner, he shall not be adjudged to have violated Rule 7.13. A slide shall be deemed appropriate, in the case of a feet first slide, if the runner’s buttocks and legs should hit the ground before contact with the catcher. In the case of a head first slide, a runner shall be deemed to have slid appropriately if his body should hit the ground before contact with the catcher.

Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the umpire, the catcher without possession of the ball blocks the pathway of the runner, the umpire shall call or signal the runner safe. Notwithstanding the above, it shall not be considered a violation of this Rule 7.13 if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner and that contact with the runner was unavoidable.

While the rule will take some time to get used to, for both the players and the umpires, for the most part, it’s being accepted around the baseball world. Nearly everyone agrees that the major injury to Buster Posey back in 2011 likely began the discussion for a rule of this buster-posey3nature to be put into place, and Posey’s manager, Bruce Bochy, has been one of the biggest advocators. Not wanting to lose a player of Posey’s magnitude in such a way again, Bochy made the statement in response to the new rule that he’s “all for it”.

However, some people aren’t completely on board, including Brewers’ catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, saying, “I’m a conservative-type guy. I like keeping things the way they are, although I do understand where they’re coming from . . . I understand the importance of [avoiding] concussions. I get it. It’s just really hard to break old habits.”

But the executive director of the MLB Players’ Association, Tony Clark, stands by the new rule. “We believe the new experimental rule allows for the play at the plate to retain its place as one of the most exciting plays in the game while providing an increased level of protection to both the runner and the catcher,” said Clark on Monday. “We will monitor the rule closely this season before discussing with the Commissioner’s Office whether the rule should become permanent.”

For me, I’m not fully for or against the rule. Collision plays at the plate can be extremely exciting, especially when it’s the potential game winning run, but I also don’t like seeing anyone get injured on an avoidable play. Although I feel that catchers have done a fantastic job in the last few years of making an attempt to move out of the base runners path and instead use a swipe tag for the out, this new rule will go a long way in ensuring that a rogue player with an altercation to settle doesn’t get away with going out of their way to knock over a catcher. I’m certainly all for that.

Cabrera & Fielder Bound for Opposite Years from 2013

Prince Fielder is one of the most underrated players in all of Major League Baseball. Sure, he receives a lot of praise, and is respected in terms of how much he can affect any team he’s on, but as far as the overall value he brings, he isn’t viewed as the absurdly impactful player that he should be seen as — and that includes the impact he has on his teammates.Miguel+Cabrera+Prince+Fielder+New+York+Yankees+aX_ZhggquWAl

Going back to 2011 when Ryan Braun won the National League Most Valuable Player award — bringing controversy, as many felt Matt Kemp’s 39 home runs and 126 RBI’s deserved the honor more than Braun’s 33 homers and 111 RBI’s — Prince Fielder acted as protection for Braun in the Brewers’ lineup, batting behind him in the cleanup spot. And even so, Fielder was able to put together 38 home runs and 120 RBI’s of his own — truly amazing.

Then, in the 2012 season, after going to the Tigers, Fielder aided to Miguel Cabrera’s stats, taking him from a 30 homer, 105 RBI star the season before, to a 44 home run, 139 RBI mega superstar in 2012 — good enough to earn Cabrera the first Triple Crown award in 45 years. And once again, Fielder posted solid numbers, tallying 30 home runs and 108 RBI’s — remarkable.

Although Fielder had a somewhat down year by his standards last season, posting 25 home runs and 106 RBI’s, he still gave Cabrera added help by making pitchers pitch to him, given Fielder’s well known track record. That led to another fantastic year for Cabrera, where — if not for Chris Davis’ breakout 53 home run season — he nearly won a second straight Triple Crown award, knocking 44 home runs for the second straight year and driving in 137 runs.

That’s the incredible personal, and team, impact that Prince Fielder brings on a daily basis.

But with Fielder moving to the Rangers in the offseason, as part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, Cabrera could very well see his stats tumble a bit, with Fielder having a bounce back year to become more like his normal self. While Cabrera isn’t going to 3308797_Glose his stardom, and will post an amazing stat line this season, it likely won’t be the 40+ homers, 130+ RBI’s that he’s been able to amass over the past two season, as Victor Martinez will be his protection in the lineup. Not quite as threatening as Fielder.

While Ryan Braun in 2012, after Fielder’s departure, was able to post even better stats without him than he did the previous season in which he won the MVP, I don’t see Cabrera keeping up the same numbers, as Miller Park is more of a hitter friendly ballpark than Comerica Park.

Realistically, I see Cabrera having more of a 30 homer, 110 RBI season. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many players aim for that year after year. But Cabrera has simply set the bar so high in recent years that without Fielder, I don’t see him keeping up his monster stats for three years in a row. Hopefully he’ll prove me wrong.

Just the opposite of Cabrera, I could easily see Fielder having a breakout season in 2014.

For the first time in Fielder’s career, he won’t be providing protection to someone else. Instead, he’ll be provided protection by Adrian Beltre, who is reportedly going to be batting in the cleanup spot behind Fielder, after he had so much success there in 2013. With that ballpark being a left-handed-hitting-paradise, combined with the protection of Beltre, I feel that Fielder will have a 40+ homer, 130+ RBI year, especially with newly acquired Shin-Soo Choo getting on base in front of him. Though that’s not a career year for him — Fielder hit 50 homers in 2007 and had 141 RBI’s in 2009 — it’s a major improvement from his past few seasons.

Everything combined together, the Rangers could once again have enough to beat out the Athletics in 2014, who have won the division the past two seasons. If every player plays to the best of their ability and are able to stay healthy — that shouldn’t be an issue with Fielder, who has played in 157 or more games every full season of his career — it’s very possible, although their starting pitching is a bit of a question heading into the season. It comes down to which team has the most go right.

Prince Fielder heading to the Rangers does two things: It helps the Rangers and himself, and it hurts the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera. While the Tigers and Rangers will both be competitive teams in their divisions this season, it will clearly be seen how big of an impact player Fielder is to any team he’s on.

That’s truly something to look forward to — unless you’re Miguel Cabrera.

Pay Increase, Stat Decrease for Some In 2014

Money talks. That was proven time and time again this offseason.

As usually happens, nine times out of ten, the team that offers a player the most amount of money will acquire the prized player; no matter if that team won the World Series the previous year or finished dead last. Offer a player more than any other team and you’ll likely have him on your squad for the next year, and even beyond in some cases.

There’s no better example of that from this offseason than the Mariners landing Robinson Cano on a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract, increasing his pay from the 15 million he earned with the Yankees in 2013 all the way up to 24 million for t131212_cano_signs_lghe next 10 seasons. While the Mariners undoubtedly overpaid for Cano, no other team offered him as much, and therefore he will play 81 games (assuming he doesn’t get injured) up in Seattle in 2014.

But that could mean a noticeable statistic drop for Cano this season.

Safeco Field is known for not being a home run friendly park. Cano goes from Yankee Stadium, with a short right field porch great for lefties like himself, where he blasted 25 or more home runs each of the past five seasons (given, not all of those were at Yankee Stadium), to Safeco field, where many are predicting that his numbers will fall. While I’m not saying that Cano is going to be a flop in Seattle — he’s far too good for that — I do believe that 2014 could be a slightly down year by his standards.

Curtis Granderson is another example of a player whose stats could tumble in 2014.

Although he was injured a lot this past season, Granderson launched over 40 home runs the previous two years, and while he usually doesn’t post a high batting average, he can be a big part of any team. But I’m not sure he can amass the same type of numbers at Citi Field, where he will spend the next 4 years in which he’ll take in 60 million dollars, as he did at Yankee Stadium. Like Cano, Granderson is losing the home run hitting paradise for a lefty at Yankee Stadium and is entering a pitcher’s ballpark. Moving across town, Granderson could have a good, but not amazing (like previous seasons), 2014.

Jhonny Peralta could also wind up being a disappointment.

Peralta’s drop in production won’t likely come from a ballpark change, but rather the fact that players coming of a performance enhancing drug suspension, such as the one Peralta served in 2013, don’t historically do all that well; such as Melky Cabrera in 2013. Getting an increased pay of over 9 million dollars for next year, there is a lot of controversy surrounding Peralta this coming season, as many people feel he didn’t deserve that kind of contract after he was found to have used PED’s. Nonetheless, Peralta will spend 2014 with the Cardinals, where it will be interesting to see if he performs as hoped.

But the whole increased pay leading to decreased stats doesn’t hold true for every player.

Some players could actually benefit greatly from a change in venue — Jacoby Ellsbury more than possibly anyone else.

Ellsbury will be part of the Yankees for the next 7 seasons, after signing a 153 million dollar contract this offseason. That comes out to an increase in pay from 9 million in 2013 to 21 million this season, and I believe, although the Yankees overpaid for him, Ellsbury will go a long way in helping the team in 2014 and beyond. I don’t think Ellsbury will have a season such as the one he put together in 2011, with 32 homers and 105 RBI’s, however, I do think he’ll improve from the 9 home runs and 53 RBI’s last season, with the aid of the short porch in right field. If he can merely stay healthy — that being a problem for him over his career — Ellsbury could really amass some great stats and have a big impact on the Yankees’ season.

jacoby-ellsbury-brian-mccannBrian McCann, being a lefty like Ellsbury, could also have a breakout season.

After somewhat of a down year in 2013 — though, he still hit 20 home runs, for the sixth straight season — McCann should be able to put together a great season; and that’s exactly what the Yankees need him to do. Having received a five million dollar pay raise from last season, McCann’s stats should go up a bit in 2014, and therefore he could easily turn out to be one of the top five most valuable Yankees this season. Though you never know how a player will perform, I’d say it’s a safe bet to say that McCann’s presence will be felt all throughout 2014.

Last on my list is Shin-Soo Choo, but he’s definitely not least.

Choo put together a fantastic 2013 season, and he was awarded for his efforts during the offseason, getting a 7-year, 130 million dollar contract, nearly doubling his salary from what he received last season. Choo isn’t a guy that’s going to hit you 30 or more home runs, knock in 100 runs, or steal 40 bases, but he is a natural at getting on base. Walking 112 times last season, Choo posted a .423 on base percentage in 2013, and that makes him extremely valuable to any club. Choo should once again post the same type of numbers, if not better, in 2014.

Which of these players will have to better year? Leave a comment below.

First Non-Losing Record for Pirates Since 1992

With a win on Tuesday night, against the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pittsburg Pirates secured a non-losing record for the first time since 1992.

Letting that sink in for a minute — their first .500 or above season in 21 years — this is a big deal. Not only for the Pirates and their fans, but for fans of all teams around the baseball world. Anytime a teams goes on such a bad skid for so long, you find yourself rooting for them to succeed. And that’s just what everyone has been doing as of late.

img23466604But now isn’t the time to celebrate, according to many. While the Pirates have accomplished something great, by their recent standards, they still need to keep their focus on winning; which they will assuredly do. Although they will undoubtedly make the playoffs, they still determine their own fate, in terms of whether their playoff appearance will be via a division title, or a Wild Card spot — the title, obviously, being their goal.

Many, however, don’t see the Pirates as having a good enough team to hold off the Cardinals and Reds for first place in the National League Central, but I have to disagree. While the Reds and Cardinals are both excellent teams, the Pirates are a completely different team than they have been in years past. A team that I could see making a deep playoff push.

The Pirates have a decent pitching staff — in veterans A.J. Burnett and Jason Grilli (their closer), as well as rookie Gerritt Cole — and while they haven’t been anywhere near dominant for the majority of the year, they’ve found a way to come through in big games–the same holding true for the rest of the team. Andrew McCutchen has had a great season, and newly acquired players, Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd, are sure to help out in the final stretch.

With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, where anything can happen, it’s game on in the National League Central. The Pirates, Cardinals and Reds are likely to exchange places a few times in the standings before all is said and done, but in the end, I feel that the Pirates’ magic they’ve had all season long will continue into the post season.

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.

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.

My 2012 MLB Predictions

After watching several Spring Training games to try to get a feel for how teams will perform this season, I finally feel I can post my MLB predictions blog entry that I’ve had on hold for the past month. I’ve never attempted to make predictions for an entire year of Major League Baseball, but I’m going to give it a shot. I’ll probably be way off, but who knows, I might get lucky.

I’m going to start off by giving my predictions for each division, starting with the AL East:

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

1- New York Yankees

2- Tampa Bay Rays

3- Boston Red Sox

4- Toronto Blue Jays

5- Baltimore Orioles

Reasoning: I have the Yankees just edging out the Rays for the number one spot in the American League East. Both are going to be great teams this year but I think the Yankees have a slightly better team than the Rays. As far as the Red Sox go, I don’t see them having a repeat year from last. They’re bound to do much better this season. I don’t see them doing better than the Rays however, who are really getting their team together. I’ve got the Blue Jays finishing fourth in the AL East. While they have a decent pitching staff and power slugger Jose Bautista, as well as several young stars, I don’t think their team is quite there yet. Give them a few more years, and I think they’ll be a real threat in the division. As far as the Orioles go, I don’t see them doing any better than last year. They didn’t make any drastic changes to their team to warrant a belief that they’ll move up even one spot.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL 

1- Detroit Tigers

2- Cleveland Indians

3- Kansas City Royals

4- Minnesota Twins

5- Chicago White Sox

Reasoning: If you had asked me back when the 2011 season ended if I thought there was a team that could beat out the Detroit Tigers for the number one spot in the AL Central, my answer would’ve been yes. Now that the Tigers have Prince Fielder, and the transition for Miguel Cabrera from first to third base seems to have gone smoothly, I’d say there’s no chance of any team coming close to the Tigers. With their Ace Justin Verlander leading the way, I could easily see the Tigers winning 100 or more games this year. I have the Cleveland Indians finishing second in the division. I feel that they’re a good team, but not good enough for the number one spot. The number three spot goes to the Kansas City Royals. I feel that it’s just a matter of time before this team really starts to leave its mark. They have a great team, as well as several great prospects still in the minors. I think the Royals will be good enough for the number two spot in a couple years. I would’ve placed the Twins higher on the list had it not been for the great ammount of uncertainty. The Twins have a decent team, however their star players Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau didn’t have their best stuff last season due to injury. I’m not sure they can beat out the Royals for numbethird in the AL Central. As far as the White Sox go, they’re good engough for dead last on my list.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST 

1- Texas Rangers

2- Los Angeles Angels

3- Seattle Mariners

4- Oakland Athletics

Reasoning: It was very difficult for me to decide between the Rangers and Angels for that number one spot in the AL West. Both have great pitching staffs, as well as great players in their line ups, but in the end I felt that the Rangers and Yu Darvish would just beat out the Angels by one or two games. I have the Mariners taking that number three spot. Although the Athletics signed cuban phenom Yoenis Cespedes, as well as Manny Ramirez, I feel the Mariners are a better team when it comes down to it.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST 

1- Philadelphia Phillies

2- Atlanta Braves

3- Miami Marlins

4- Washington Nationals

5- New York Mets

Reasoning: Choosing between the Phillies and Braves for the number one spot was difficult. They both have injured players going into the season, however both have a good team even with the injuries. The only reason I picked the Phillies for first is their pitching rotation. The Braves have a good one as well, but I don’t think it’s as developed as the Phillies, who have their Ace Roy Halladay. The Marlins I have coming in third. While I feel they’ll deffinitely do better than last season–with the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano–I don’t think they can compete with the Braves or Phillies in the very tough NL East division. Another team that I feel is going to do a lot better this season than last is the Washington Nationals. If Bryce Harper performs well once called up, and Stephen Strasburg can stay healthy, I think the Nationals stand a chance of beating out the Marlins for third in the division. For now, however, I’m still sticking with my prediction of fourth for the Nat’s, but give them a year or so and they’ll be a really good team. The Mets are last on my list, as I don’t feel they’ll do any better than last year, even with a healthy Johan Santana.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1- St. Louis Cardinals

2- Milwaukee Brewers

3- Cincinnati Reds

4- Pittsburgh Pirates

5- Chicago Cubs

6- Houston Astros

Reasoning: Depending on how healthy their star players can stay throughout the season, and how well the teams as a whole perform, I could see the Cardinals, Brewers or Reds placing first in the NL Central. They all have decent pitching rotations, as well as decent lineups. Since I couldn’t pick all three to put in the top spot however, I decided to go with the Cardinals after much debate. I’m not only choosing the Cardinals because they were 2011 World Champions, but also because I feel that even with the loss of their superstar Albert Pujols, they’re a good enough team to win the division. The second place team on my list, the Brewers, took a similar hit as the Cardinals, loosing their star player Prince Fielder. Without the loss of Fielder, the Brewers would run away with the  division, but I feel it’s pretty even between the top three teams the way it stands. The Reds are a team that’s good enough for the top spot, but I have them finishing third in the NL Central just for the fact that I don’t think they’ll put everything together to finish any better; but they might just surprise me. The Pirates, who I have finishing fourth, are a team similar to the Nationals. They’re getting better everyday, and have a bunch of star prospects still in the minors, including top prospect pitcher Gerrit Cole, but it’ll be a few more years before they’re good enough for third place or higher. They’re deffinitely a team to keep a close eye on in the future though. I have the Cubs finishing next to last just ahead of the Astros. Nothing stands out to me that makes me think they have a shot at cracking the 103 year World Series drought, none the less finishing any better than fifth. The good news for the Astros is that I think they’ll be no worse than last season. The bad news is they were terrible last season. But that’s nothing new. They’re good enough for last place.

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

1- San Francisco Giants

2- Arizona Diamondbacks

3- Los Angeles Dodgers

4- San Diego Padres

5- Colorado Rockies

Reasoning: After winning the World Series in 2010 the Giants had a terrible season last year. They were plagued with injuries to many of their stars, including Brian Wilson and Buster Posey, and while not injured, their Ace Tim Lincecum didn’t perform all that well. I look for the Giants to really dominate this coming season. I think Lincecum will have another stellar year, and I look for Buster Posey to have a bounce back year after being injured in 2011. Combine that with Wilson coming in to close things out, and I think you’ve got a team that’s good enough for first place in the division. The Diamondbacks, who won the division last season, are sure to have another fantastic season however I don’t think they’ll be quite good enough for the top spot. Matt Kemp and the Dodgers are sure to make a push at the number two spot. Kemp–who ended one home run shy of a 40/40 last season (40 home runs, 40 stolen bases)–made the bold prediction that he’ll record a 50/50 this year. While that seems a little far fetched, I still look for Kemp to help his team win a ton of games this year, and possibly end up winning the NL MVP, which he should’ve received after his 2011 performance. The Padres are another of my teams that I feel you should keep a close eye on. They’re not quite talented enough yet to finish any better than fourth (a step up from last season) but I feel that they’re really getting their act together. They made several great trades during the offseason, and their pitching staff is going to get better in the next couple of years. The Rockies in my opinion will finish last in the division. While they’re a good team, who also made some good trades during the off season, I feel that the Padres are going to be the slightly better team this year.

That’s my predictions for how the standings will look at the end of the 2012 Regular season. You may agree with me, or you might think I’m insane for some of my picks, but that’s just how I see it ending.

Here’s a quick review of the teams I have winning their divisions:

AL East: New York Yankees

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals

AL West: Texas Rangers

NL West: San Francisco Giants

Those are the teams that I have winning their divisions and moving onto the 2012 playoffs. Now moving onto my Wild Card Predictions. These are the teams I have recieving those:

AL Wild Card: Los Angeles Angels

NL Wild Card: Arizona Diamondbacks

Those are the teams I feel aren’t quite good enough to win their divisions, but will make it to the playoffs via a Wild Card slot. As you know, MLB is adding an extra Wild Card this season. So here are my picks for those:

Extra AL Wild Card Team: Tampa Bay Rays

Extra NL Wild Card Team: Atlanta Braves

If it comes out the way I predict, the Rays and Angels, and the Diamondbacks and Braves will have a one-game play off to see which will move on, and which one’s season will come to a dramatic end. It’s sure to be exciting.

I had originally planned on predicting all the way down to the World Series, but to be honest, there’s too much that can, and will, happen to have any success in doing that. I mean, when the Cardinals were 10 games back of the Braves for the Wild Card last year, who would’ve predicted that they’d go onto win the World Series? I will say this: I like the Tigers and Rangers chances.

So there you go. Those are my predictions for the division winners as well as the Wild Card, and extra Wild Card recipients. Only time will tell if they play out as I foresee.

Ryan Braun Tests Positive for PED’s

Well I didn’t see this coming. After having the best season of his career (we now know why) Ryan Braun has reportedly tested positive for Performance-enhancing Drugs; or PED’s. Braun’s 2011 season consisted of him recording 33 home runs, off of 187 hits–good enough to earn him the title of MVP in the National League, as well as lead “his” Brewers to their first division title in three decades. This comes as a shock, not only to me, but to baseball fans everywhere, as well as the players, and staff, of Major League Baseball. Acording to reports, Braun was notified of the test results a month before he was named NL MVP, but when asked his thoughts on the subject, he replied: ” It’s B.S.” Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. But I’ll tell you one thing. If it is indeed true–that Braun knew of his testing positive for PED’s–then the awarding of MVP to Braun is “B.S.” How do you knowingly award such an important award to a guy who didn’t achieve his stats legally? In short, he cheated. Braun cheated. He’s no better than A-rod, McGwire, or anyone else who has used steroids in the history of Major League Baseball.

Braun is appealing the steroids charge, however if it the initial finding is upheld, Braun will be required to serve a 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season. This would mean the first game Braun would be eligible to play in wouldn’t be until June 5th, at home against the Chicago Cubs. A major blow to the Brewers, especially if Prince Fielder signs somewhere other than Milwaukee during the offseason.

Back in 2009, when Alex Rodriguez was accused to have used steroids, Braun made the following statement in response to whether he’d ever been tempted to use PED’s :

It’s never something that I sought. I would never do it because if I took steroids, I would hit 60 or 70 home runs.

“60 or 70 home runs” Braun? Really? According to the statistics, you only hit 33 this season. What gives? Perhaps a better way to sum up how shocking this news is, here’s a 2009 statement from Bud Selig, after Mark McGwire’s coming clean:

The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst today’s players has greatly subsided and is virtually nonexistent, as our testing results have shown. The so-called steroid era — a reference that is resented by the many players who played in that era and never touched the substances — is clearly a thing of the past, and Mark’s admission today is another step in the right direction.

I would have to agree. The used of steroids has diminished throughout the past decade. (Or at least as far as we know.) However I’d have to agree with Bob Costas who, as usual, made an extremely accurate statement in response to Bud Selig, saying, “…there will always be rogue chemists that want to help players cheat.” I suppose Ryan Braun knows one of those “chemists.”

Pujols and Wilson To the Angels

The Winter Meetings, in Dallas, Texas, are now over, but man were they exciting. And although the Angels and Marlins were the only two teams that didn’t seem to be exploring the hotel the entire week, there were still some big name players that found new homes.

Let me start off talking a little bit about Albert Pujols. He was the main story throughout the week. Reports had the Cubs, Cardinals, Angels, and Marlins all presenting offers to Pujols, but when it came down to it, the Cubs couldn’t compete in the money game. The Cardinals offered Pujols a reported 220 Million over 10 years. Not bad, but if Albert Pujols was going to “go where the money was” they would have to raise their offer by a substantial amount; which didn’t happen. The Angles and Marlins really fought it out for Pujols. The Marlins offered Pujols a reported 275 Million over 10 years, while the Angels offered a 254 Million dollar 10-year deal. If it was about the money–which according to Pujols, it wasn’t–then it should’ve been an easy decision. No team offered anywhere near what the Marlins offered, so that’s where he’ll go right? Nope. Pujols took the 10-year 254 Million dollar offer from the Angels. (The second highest contract in MLB history.) So it wasn’t about the money, it was about the no-trade clause. The Angels offered him one, while the Marlins refused to. So in the end, Pujols took 21 Million less to secure a no-trade clause. But here’s my question. If the top offer from the Cardinals was 220 Million over 10 years, why not just stay in St. Louis? He’s a legend there, as it’s the only team he’s ever known. They love him there. It just doesn’t make sense. He’s only going to make just over 2 million more a year out in Anaheim. Is 22 million a year not enough to stay in a city that praises you? I don’t know. If it was me, I wouldn’t have made the decision he did. But whatever. My last name isn’t Pujols.

So now if you’re the Angels you’re thinking: “Okay. We’ve got one of the best hitters (if not the best) in all of Major League Baseball. Now we need an Ace pitcher to go along with him.” Thus you sign the best pitcher on the free-agent market, CJ Wilson. Wilson–who signed a 5-year contract worth 75 Millon–will join Weaver and Santana in the Angels killer pitching rotation. With the addition of Pujols and Wilson, the Angels will be difficult to beat in 2012. Whether they’ll make the playoffs and sweep every team that gets in their way to win the World Series like everyone is foreseeing is yet to be seen. I for one, don’t think they will. It’s kind of like the LeBron “decision” last year. Everyone thought the Heat would be unbeatable with James, Wade, and Bosh, but unless it’s invisible, I don’t see a Championship ring on the finger of LeBron. Just saying.

No New Blog Entry Until Monday

I’m going on vacation tomorrow, and although I’ll have Internet access I don’t plan on blogging again until I get home. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely shutting out baseball from my weekend. As a matter of fact, I don’t plan on missing a single pitch from any of tomorrow and Saturday’s games. Just no blogging about it.

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