Results tagged ‘ Cardinals ’

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.

2013 Futures Game: Players You’ll See This Season

The rosters for the 2013 Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game were announced yesterday, with 50 of the minor leagues’ best players receiving the honor. The players are split into a U.S. and a World team, with the two teams set to square off against one another on July 14th, up at Citi Field in New York City. With the rosters posted, I wanted to do a post on the players worth paying attention to that will more than likely make it to the big leagues this season, and that will make a big impact for their team.

U.S. Team Roster

PITCHERS

Jesse Biddle PHI AA L L 6-4 225 10/22/1991
Archie Bradley ARI AA R R 6-4 225 08/10/1992
Eddie Butler COL A+ S R 6-2 180 03/13/1991
Kyle Crick SF A+ L R 6-4 220 11/30/1992
Taylor Guerrieri TB A R R 6-3 195 12/01/1992
Taylor Jordan WSH AA R R 6-3 190 01/17/1989
Jimmy Nelson MIL AAA R R 6-6 245 06/05/1989
Anthony Ranaudo BOS AA R R 6-7 230 09/09/1989
Noah Syndergaard NYM AA R R 6-6 240 08/29/1992
Taijuan Walker SEA AAA R R 6-4 210 08/13/1992

CATCHERS

Austin Hedges SD A+ R R 6-1 190 08/18/1992
Josh Phegley CWS AAA R R 5-10 220 02/12/1988

INFIELDERS

CJ Cron LAA AA R R 6-4 235 01/05/1990
Delino DeShields HOU A+ R R 5-9 205 08/16/1992
Matt Davidson ARI AAA R R 6-2 225 03/26/1991
Joey Gallo TEX A L R 6-5 205 11/19/1993
Brad Miller SEA AAA L R 6-2 185 10/18/1989
Addison Russell OAK A+ R R 6-0 195 01/23/1994
Joey Terdoslavich ATL AAA S R 6-0 200 09/09/1988
Kolten Wong STL AAA L R 5-9 185 10/10/1990

OUTFIELDERS

Byron Buxton MIN A+ R R 6-2 189 12/18/1993
Billy Hamilton CIN AAA S R 6-0 160 09/09/1990
Joc Pederson LAD AA L L 6-1 185 04/21/1992
George Springer HOU AA R R 6-3 200 09/19/1989
Christian Yelich MIA AA L R 6-4 195 12/05/1991

Taijuan Walker was just recently promoted from AA to AAA, however, with the level of talent he possesses, I could easily see Walker receiving a callup to the Mariners late in the season. Though only 5-7 on the season, Walker has an ERA of just 2.30, with 100 strikeouts in 90 innings pitched. He may not have a lot of time to make an impact, but on a team that isn’t likely to make the playoffs, I feel the Mariners should give him a shot.

Matt Davidson is another player that has the ability to make an impact for his team towards the end of the season. Batting .301, with 10 home runs and 46 RBI’s so far this season at AAA, Davidson should get a callup to the Diamondbacks towards the end of this year. Though the D-back’s are currently in first place, and wouldn’t necessarily need him, Davidson could be a nice addition to put them over the top once the playoffs roll around.

After setting the record for most stolen bases in a single season, with 155, in 2012, Billy Hamilton is well on his way to another 100 stolen base season, as he has swiped 49 bases so far this season. Though his bat is yet to take off, batting just .247, with 5 homers and 28 RBI’s, Hamilton needs to improve his offense, but nonetheless, he should receive a brief callup to the Reds this season. His speed alone is enough to impact any given game.

George Springer has the advantage–or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it–of playing in the poor Houston Astros organization, as they’re once again in last place, and should give Springer a little bit of time at the major league level towards the end of the year. Springer is batting .297, with 19 home runs and 55 RBI’s this year, and will likely receive his first big league experience sometime this season with the Astros.

World Team Roster

PITCHERS

Miguel Almonte KC A R R 6-2 180 04/04/1993
Carlos Contreras CIN A+ R R 5-11 205 01/08/1991
Rafael De Paula NYY A+ R R 6-2 212 03/24/1991
C.C. Lee CLE AAA R R 5-11 190 10/21/1986
Rafael Montero NYM AAA R R 6-0 170 10/17/1990
Andre Rienzo CWS AAA R R 6-3 190 06/05/1988
Eduardo Rodriguez BAL A+ L L 6-2 200 04/07/1993
Enny Romero TB AA L L 6-3 165 01/24/1991
Yordano Ventura KC AAA R R 5-11 180 06/03/1991
Michael Ynoa OAK A R R 6-7 210 09/24/1991

CATCHERS

Jorge Alfaro TEX A R R 6-2 185 06/11/1993
Christian Bethancourt ATL AA R R 6-2 215 09/02/1991
AJ Jimenez TOR AA R R 6-0 210 05/01/1990

INFIELDERS

Arismendy Alcantara CHC AA S R 5-10 160 10/29/1991
Xander Bogaerts BOS AAA R R 6-3 175 10/01/1992
Maikel Franco PHI AA R R 6-1 180 08/26/1992
Dilson Herrera PIT A R R 5-10 150 03/03/1994
Jordan Lennerton DET AAA L L 6-2 217 02/16/1986
Francisco Lindor CLE A+ S R 5-11 175 11/14/1993
Miguel Sano MIN AA R R 6-3 195 05/11/1993

OUTFIELDERS

Yeison Asencio SD AA R R 6-1 225 11/14/1989
Gregory Polanco PIT AA L L 6-4 170 09/14/1991
Jorge Soler CHC A+ R R 6-4 215 02/25/1992
Oscar Taveras STL AAA L L 6-2 180 06/19/1992
Henry Urrutia BAL AA L R 6-5 200 02/13/1987

Xander Bogaerts has just over a dozen AAA games under his belt, however, I could easily see Bogaerts making it to the big leagues this season. Batting .296, with 10 home runs and 43 RBI’s, between AA and AAA, so far this season, Bogaerts has the ability to make an impact for the Red Sox; if not this season, definitely the majority of next year. At just 20 years old, he will stand as the Sox short stop for many years to come.

Oscar Taveras isn’t quite on the same pace as he was on last season at this time, but he’s still having a great year. Batting .306, with 5 home runs and 32 RBI’s, at AAA, Taveras is sure to become a star at the major league level at some point. The only thing that could stop Taveras from reaching the majors this season would be an already overcrowded Cardinals lineup, however, he should still get a shot, just to see what he can do.

Leave a comment below with which player you’re most looking forward to seeing participate in this year’s Futures game.

Clayton Kershaw 1,000 K’s; A.J. Burnett 2,000 K’s

In the second inning of Wednesday night’s game against the Padres, Dodgers’ Ace, Clayton Kershaw, struck out Yonder Alonso to notch the 1,000th strikeout of his MLB career.

Clayton Kershaw becomes just the thirteenth Dodger to ever reach 1,000 K’s in their career, and the second fastest Dodger to reach the mark–beating out numerous Dodger greats, including four Hall of Famers, in Sandy Koufax, Don Sutton, Don Drysdale and Dazzy Vance–at just 15.2 more innings pitched than Hideo Nomo.

Kershaw would go on to lose the game, allowing three runs, on three solo shots, increasing his season statistics to 2-2, with a 1.88 ERA. The 2012 National League Cy Young winner currently sits just five strikeouts back of the 2013 strikeout leader, A.J. Burnett, with thirty strikeouts so far this season.

Speaking of A.J. Burnett, he was stellar in his Wednesday night start against the Cardinals, carrying a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, before Carlos Beltran broke it up with a double. Beltran’s hit would turn out to be the only hit Burnett would allow, as he struck out eight, over seven innings pitched. The second of those strikeouts being the 2,000th of his career, making him one of just four active MLB pitchers with 2,000 or more career strikeouts.

Burnett moves to 1-2 on the year, with a 2.63 ERA, but more impressively, 35 strikeouts in just 24 innings pitched.

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 Vote for National League Cy Young

This is the third in a series of four blog posts that I plan to type up between now and Friday; all of which will focus on who I feel should win the three major awards of Most Valuable Player (MVP), Cy Young and Rookie of the Year (ROY). (If you haven’t read my posts on who I think should win the AL MVP, NL MVP and AL Cy Young, go ahead and check those out now.)

If you’ll remember back to my post on American League Cy Young, I tend to rely purely on stats when making a pick for which player most deserves the Cy Young award. In fact, there were SO many good candidates for National League Cy Young that I ended up letting the stats make the decision for me.

I took the National League starting pitchers with ERA’s below 3.00 (seven pitchers in all) and compared them from 20 different statistical angles. (I chose to use so many different stats to compare them because I felt that using Wins, ERA and strikeouts alone didn’t tell the whole story of how good a particular pitcher was.)

My method works as follows: The pitcher with the best numbers in a given category receives 1 point; with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc., place pitchers receiving the corresponding point amount. (The occurence of a tie in a particular category results in the tied players receiving the same point amount.) In the end, the pitcher with the lowest combined total would be my pick for the Cy Young award.

It took me awhile to crunch all of the numbers, but once I finally finished, this was the result:

(I realize it’s a bit blurry. You can click it for a clearer look.)

For those of you that still can’t read the chart (even after clicking on it) here are the results of the comparison:

Clayton Kershaw: 1st place-with a total of 61.

R.A. Dickey: 2nd place-with a total of 69.

Matt Cain: 3rd place-with a total of 72.

Gio Gonzalez: 4th place-with a total of 77.

Kyle Lohse: 5th place-with a total of 82.

Johnny Cueto: 6th place-with at total of 84.

Jordan Zimmermann: 7th place-with a total of 91.

As you can see, Clayton Kershaw came out on top, thus making him the statistical winner (and my pick) for the 2012 National League Cy Young award. (This would make his second straight Cy Young; as he won it in 2011.)

Though Kershaw’s record of 14-9 would argue against it, he had an outstanding year; leading all of MLB starting pitchers in ERA. While we’re on the subject of the win-loss record: I feel it can be a bit misleading.

Though 15 other National League pitchers had more wins than Kershaw (with Gio Gonzalez recording 21) the win-loss record is one of those stats that’s out of the pitcher’s hands for the most part. As the pitcher, you can go out there and throw a gem of a game–giving up only a couple runs–but if the lineup isn’t clicking on that particular day, you’re not going to get the win.

So, while it would appear at first glance that Kershaw didn’t have a Cy Young worthy year, if you take the time to look closely you can clearly see that Kershaw was the NL’s best all-around pitcher of the season; and as such, is my pick for 2012 National League Cy Young.

Do you agree or disagree with me?

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

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.

Topps to Feature Rookie Card of A Squirrel?!

Yes, that’s right. The famous “rally squirrel” that first appeared in Game 4 of the NLDS last October, is pretty much getting a baseball card all to itself. Card number 93 of the 2012 Topps Series 1 set, is technically the card of Cardinals’ second basemen Skip Schumaker, but for the first time in the history of the Topps’ card company, the card doesn’t feature the face of the player on the card. As a matter of fact, Schumaker is barely visible–with only the lower part of his leg being shown:

If I was Skip Schumaker, I’d be very upset at the Topp’s card company. It’d be one thing if they made a card for the rally squirrel–they’ve done cards for mascots in the past–but to actually have it be the card of Schumaker? I mean come on. I would think the Topps’ company would be a little more professional than this. (Although to their credit, the card is being made a short-print.)

On a brighter side, the 2012 Topps Series 1 baseball set is also going to include the first cards of Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols in their new uniforms–given they are photoshoped. These cards (like the Schumaker card) are due to be short-prints, thus making them must have cards for collectors.

Want one of the Skip Schumaker short-print cards? Well, you have a two options:

Option 1: Go to your local card shop and buy pack after pack, until you hopefully get lucky and pull one of the cards.

Option 2: Buy the card off eBay. One of the first sold on eBay for $600!

I think I’ll go with option 1.

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.

Where Will Pujols Go?

There’s been talk for awhile that Albert Pujols will pull a LeBron, and “take his talents to South Beach.” Well, I honestly don’t think so. I feel that he will stay with the St. Louis Cardinals, just for the fact that the Marlins aren’t offering that much more, and the Cards are the only team Pujols has ever known. However, if the Marlins offer a MAJOR ammount of money to Pujols, and the Cardinals don’t offer anywhere near it, then Pujols would be stupid not to take it.

This is all just my opinion. What do you think?

If you voted for other, please leave a comment below with which team you think he’ll end up with.

UPDATE

Pujols has signed with the Angels.

My Blogging Plans for the Off Season

Now that the 2011 MLB season is over, all of its players are either taking vacations to foreign countries, or are going to play in other leagues for the Fall and/or Winter months. They might be going somewhere, but I’m not. No, I plan on blogging the entire offseason, with at least 2-3 blog entries a week. It’ll be a challenge, but it’ll also be fun.

With this being my first entry of the off season, I thought I’d use it to let you know what to expect the entries on this blog to be like during the off season:

  • I currently have 12 Q and A’s that I haven’t posted yet, and one other Q and A with Brad Penny, that I’m in the process of completing. I hope to post a Q and A entry once a week for the entire off season, but for that to happen, I’ll have to get a few more players to agree to answer some questions. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
  • I also have around 8 or so ideas for blog entries during the offseason, that have to do with random baseball topics, that I feel you–the reader–will enjoy.
  • Other than that, I’ll post entries as the breaking news topics occur. With all of the free agents this offseason, it shouldn’t be hard to find something to write about.

I hope I helped you to better understand what to expect from this blog during the off season. With all of that said, I hope to have you follow/read along.

TONY LARUSSA RETIRES

I decided to not post an entire entry about this, but I felt that it was newsworthy enough to put at the bottom of this entry. As you more than likely have already heard, Tony LaRussa decided that the 2011 MLB season, was his last.

Wheter you like him or not, you can’t argue that he’s had a Hall Of Fame career. Here’s some of the things LaRussa accomplished in his 33 season managerial career:

  • One of only two managers in the history of MLB to win a World Series title in both the NL and AL. (Sparky Anderson being the other.)
  • Ninth manager in the history of MLB to win three or more World Series titles. (LaRussa won three.)
  • An overall record of 2728-2365, between his seasons with the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals. (.544 winning percentage.)
  • Third all-time in managerial wins. (Behind Connie Mack and John McGraw. Both Hall of Famer’s.)
  • Six pennants won, over his 33 season career.
  • 14 playoff appearances made.

LaRussa made this statement in a news conference earlier today:

There isn’t one (factor) that dominates (my decision). They all just come together telling you your time is over. We went through the season and I felt that this just feels like it’s  time to end it and I think it’s going to be great for the Cardinals to  refresh what’s going on here. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead. I’m ready to do something different … Other than some of personal attachments, I feel good. I feel good that this is the right decision. I think this just feels like it’s time to end it.

I guess it’s better to go out on top–three days after winning the 2011 World Series–then to go out on your way down.

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