Results tagged ‘ Nationals ’

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.

Q and A With Alex Meyer

Alex Meyer was drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. In his first professional season, Meyer showed off why he’s one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, as he went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA, to go along with 139 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched. A year which George Brett,  Alex Meyerincluded pitching in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City, Missouri, it’s fair to say Meyer had about as good of a first season as you can have.

Going from the Nationals to the Twins in November, in exchange for outfielder, Denard Span, Meyer is up for some new challenges that come with a new organization, but he’s looking forward to being part of the Twins. I fully expect Meyer to have an even better season than he did last year, truly showing off his full potential and finally receiving the recognition that’s due to him. (I feel he’s vastly underrated.)

Though consistency with finding the strike zone has been an issue for Meyer in the past, he did a much better job of it last season, and that alone should enable him to excel in the coming year, if he can continue his progression. Meyer possesses an above average fastball, with a decent slider and changeup, and if things continue to go the way they’re going, barring any major setbacks, Meyer could see time in the majors as soon as the second half of the 2014 season.

Alex Meyer–top pitching prospect in the Twins’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I started playing ball at age 4. I have had a passion for the game ever since my first practice. My dad played a very influential part in getting me started.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching him play. Watching him do everything he did was always exciting.

3.) You were drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an exciting process throughout the whole thing. I was excited when I saw on TV my name come up. It was something I had dreamed about happening for a long time.

4.) After spending a full season in the Nationals’ organization, you were traded to the Twins, in November of 2012. What are you looking forward to most with your new team?

Just the opportunity to keep playing. I enjoy baseball and the fact that the Twins thought highly of me and traded for me makes me even more excited to get to playing.

5.) Talk a little bit about life on the road. What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

I don’t really find anything too difficult about it. I enjoy being with my teammates and getting to check out the different cities. I spend a lot of time listening to music or reading.

6.) You pitched in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City. What did you take away from that experience? What was most memorable about it?

The whole experience is something I’ll never forget. Just being able to be on the field with some of the top players in the minor leagues at a major league venue and a setting like that was truly unexplainable. It’s hard to put how incredible something like that was into words. Being able to call George Brett my manager for a day is pretty cool.

7.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I try not to read into them. I just worry about every 5th day.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What are your goals for 2013?

I feel in 2012 it was good to be able to go out and throw a full professional season. I had a blast and look forward to doing it again with a new organization in 2013.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I loved the 24 series, but now I am a big fan of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘The Walking Dead’. Favorite food would probably be a nice steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Work on getting better every single day, and if you do that, good things will come.

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Big thanks to Alex Meyer for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Meyer17A

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 Rookie of the Year

This is the fourth and final blog post in a series of blogs that I’ve been publishing since Tuesday; all of which have focused 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, AL Cy Young and NL Cy Young, go ahead and check those out now.)

Despite the title, this post isn’t limited to who I feel most deserves the National League Rookie of the Year, as it also includes my pick for the American League portion. I didn’t include AL ROY in the title for two reasons: a) it would’ve make the title too long, and b) there’s really nothing to discuss when it comes to who most deserves the award. It’s Mike Trout, hands down.

The fact that Trout lead all American League rookies in every conceivable category is mind boggling, but what’s really incredible is that Trout was able to produce numbers that no other rookie in the history of the game has been able to. Which is why there’s no debate when it comes to this particular award. The 2012 American League Rookie of the Year will go to Mike Trout.

Moving on to the National League Rookie of the Year; where there’s a bit of a debate as to who should win.

Some say it should be Bryce Harper who wins the award, while others make the case for Todd Frazier. What’s my opinion on who should win? I’m glad you asked. Here are my thoughts on who most deserves the award, starting with Todd Frazier:

Todd Frazier came in as a replacement for the injured Joey Votto, and really impressed me with what he was able to do. Posting a .273 batting average, with 19 home runs and 67 RBI’s, Frazier was able to help out the Cincinnati Reds in a big way during what would have otherwise been a precarious situation without their superstar Votto.

While I’m not calling Frazier a superstar by any means, he was just what the Reds needed to stay alive without Votto. By putting up great stats–and subsequently helping out his team– Frazier definitely deserves to be considered for National League Rookie of the Year.

Now, moving on to Bryce Harper, who’s only been in the big leagues for 5 months, but has been in the media’s eye for what seems like forever. Coming up at the mere age of 19, Harper was on everyone’s Rookie of the Year radar since his first at-bat on April 28th; and the stats Harper was able to produce since, only add to his case.

Hitting for a .270 average, with 22 home runs and 59 RBI’s, Harper put up stats that are almost unheard of for someone of his age. Finishing just 2 home runs shy of the record for most home runs by a teenager–24 being the current record, held by Tony Conigliaro–Harper certainly turned many a head during this his rookie season.

One thing I feel keeps tracing back down to Harper is his age–being one of the main reasons people look at Harper with a twinkle in their eyes that’s not there with Frazier. But I don’t feel age should be a factor when voting for ROY. If Harper was, say, a 21 year old rookie, would people be putting him on such a high pedestal? Probably not.

But that doesn’t change the fact that Harper sent the jaws of onlookers (teamates and fans alike) sailing to the ground everytime he did something impressive during the season–which seemed to be every other night. Which is why he’s got a great chance at winning the National League Rookie of the Year.

Both Harper and Frazier are two great candidates, but neither is my pick for NL ROY. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.) No, I’m going with a guy that flew completely under the radar, and yet, put up better stats than both Harper and Frazier. That player being Wilin Rosario.

Some of you might be thinking to yourselfs, “Wilin who?!”; and that wouldn’t be entirely your fault. Rosario hasn’t received the media attention that Todd Frazier and hyped up phenom Bryce Harper have received–partly due to the fact that both Harper and Frazier played on winning teams, while Rosario did not. (Rosario was stuck on a Colorado Rockies team that finished the year last in their division, with a record of 64-98.)

Now, before you go calling me crazy for saying that Rosario deserves the ROY more than any other player in the league, take a second to look at the stats of Rosario and you’ll see what an incredible rookie season he was able to string together:

The one thing that really jumps out at me is the fact that Wilin Rosario was able to smack 6 more home runs than Bryce Harper–as well as 12 more RBI’s–in 137 fewer at-bats. And taking a look at Todd Frazier, it’s more of the same; as Rosario blasted 9 more home runs and 4 more RBI’s in 28 fewer at-bats. Yet all the media can seem to talk about is Harper; with the occasional mention of Frazier. How about giving Wilin Rosario some air time? He deserves to be mentioned in the conversation.

Wilin Rosario led all National League rookies in home runs, RBI’s and slugging percentage, and nevertheless probably won’t receive the votes needed to win the award. But that doesn’t change the way I feel about Rosario’s incredible season.

Which is why Wilin Rosario is my pick for the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year.

Do you agree or disagree with me?

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

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As stated, this was the final awards related blog entry I plan to post until the winners are announced next month. Here’s a quick recap of my pick for each award:

American League M.V.P.: Mike Trout

National League M.V.P.: Ryan Braun

American League Cy Young: Jered Weaver

National League Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw

American League Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout

National League Rookie of the Year: Wilin Rosario

Even if you don’t agree with any of my picks, I appreciate you taking the time to read what I had to say over the past week. Whether you’re a frequent reader, or just happened to stumble across this post through a Google search, I appreciate you all the same.

Thank you.

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.

Hamels Admits To Plunking Harper Intentionally

I feel I’ve misjudged Bryce Harper. As many of you may know, I haven’t been a fan of his since I first heard of him. I felt he was an arrogant guy who saw himself as better than everyone else just because he happened to be ‘The Chosen One’. Now, seeing how he’s handled himself through his first week in the Major Leagues, I’m not so sure I gave him a fair chance.

My opinion was formed just like most other people, using the limited facts given to me by the media, who tend to spin stories around to make bigger stories more often than not. Just because the media was telling me Harper was a jerk, I figured “well I guess he is”; and that was that.

Now, I feel Harper’s not as bad of a guy as the media made him seem. Yes, he’s arrogant, but as long as that arrogance stops when Harper’s not between the chalked lines, I have no problem with that. There’s a difference between arrogance, and an immense passion for the game of baseball. Harper has shown that he obviously has incredible baseball passion, as he gives ever play his all; playing like every game is his last.

Harper is too good of an athlete for me to not root for. The guy is extremely fun to watch, and while he hasn’t shown off the power yet, he’s impressed me a great deal. His speed is insane; as is his arm. Both are aspects of his game that I was aware were good, but I had no idea they were THAT good. It was truly a shock to me the first time I saw him show off the gun.

With the injury to Nationals’ right fielder Jayson Werth, Harper will be moved to fill Werth’s spot. He certainly has the arm for right field, and is sure to impress the first chance he gets.

Moving onto Sunday night’s game versus the Phillies.

Just when I thought Harper had done all he can do to impress me, he took it another step further in Sunday’s game against the Phillies. In Harper’s first at bat of the game he was hit in the side by a pitch from Cole Hamels. I was fully expecting a few words to be exchanged to say the least, but Harper proceeded to trot down to first base after taking a second to recover.

I feel that Harper has matured in that sense. Instead of making a scene, Harper was able to retaliate against Hamels by stealing home. (The first teenager to do so since 1964.)

It appeared as if Harper glared in the direction of Hamel’s as he headed into the dugout, but I have no problem with that.

Now, here’s where things get interesting. Cole Hamels came out on Monday and made the following statement, regarding his plunking of Harper:

I was trying to hit him. I’m not going to deny it. I’m not trying to injure the guy. They’re probably not going to like me for it, but I’m not going to say I wasn’t trying to do it. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That’s the way, and I respect it. They can say whatever they want.

My response to Hamels coming clean would be, “why?” Why come out and state that you hit him on purpose? Why not say the ball slipped, or whatever? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

Sure, you can say Hamels was just trying to be honest, but it would appear that Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, would agree with me. His response being:

I wish [Hamels had] been a little bit more, what do you call it, not so honest, or dishonest, or discreet, that might be the right word. What I saw was the next time Hamels came up to bat, they definitely retaliated, he got hit on the calf and he could have got hurt. If the guy would have hit him hard on the bone part of his leg, that could have hurt. … I like to think it was dropped right there and the rest of it will be done baseball-wise.

Major League Baseball made the decision to suspend Cole Hamles for five games (or one start) for intentionally hitting Harper. A lot of people feel that’s not long enough. I’m sure one of those people would be Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo, who stated:

I’ve never seen a more classless, gutless [expletive] act in my 30 years in baseball. Cole Hamels says he’s old school? He’s the polar opposite of old school. He’s fake tough. He thinks he’s going to intimidate us after hitting our 19-year-old rookie who’s eight games into the big leagues? He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with.

I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying “he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with”, but I too don’t agree with the intentional plunking of Harper. It’s a sloppy situation all the way around.

No matter which side you’re on, or who you root for, this is an interesting story. This is how rivalries form. This is how you sell tickets, and thus fill ballparks. And to the suspected delight of Harper (who is known to love the spotlight) it can all be traced back to him.

Bryce Harper Makes His MLB Debut

The moment that everyone has been waiting for since Bryce Harper graced the front cover of Sports Illustrated, at age 16, finally occured last night. That’s right, National’s phenom, and 1st overall pick of the 2010 draft, made his MLB debut last night in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

There were high expectations for Harper coming into this game, and to tell you the truth, I thought he did really well given the immense pressure. Anytime a young prospect makes his debut there is pressure involved, but considering the fact that Harper has been in the public eye for the past 4 years, everyone knows who he is, and thus already has their opinion of him. They either love him, or hate him. This was made evident when Harper came up to bat for the first time, in the top of the 2nd inning, to a howl of boos.

Harper failed to get a hit in his first two at bats, but finally connected with one in the top of 7th, sending a laser shot over the head of Matt Kemp, who fielded the ball well, forcing Harper to stop at second base with a double.

As far as Harper’s debut goes, it wasn’t the incredible performance that some were hoping for, but Harper did get some good at bats in, and was a major factor in the game. While he recorded what appeared to be the game winning sac fly at the time, the National’s ended up losing, as Matt Kemp hit a walk off homer in the bottom of the 10th. But that was to be expected.

Harper recorded his first hit, which also happened to be the first extra base hit of his career, as well as his first RBI. The only thing left for Harper to do is hit his first big league jack. To which I pose the following question:

Cast your vote in the poll above, and as always, leave a comment if you wish.

Fastest and Slowest Starts to the 2012 MLB Season

I realize that we’re JUST over a week into the 2012 MLB season, but I just thought I’d post an entry with the teams and players that are off to the best and worst starts in all of baseball. Some of the names on the lists are no surpise, however there a few that really stand out to me. I never expected the year to begin the way it has for certain players, and certain teams.

FASTEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Dodgers: 7-1

2) Nationals: 6-2

3) Rangers: 6-2

4) Diamondbacks: 5-2

5) Mets: 5-2

6) Tigers: 5-2

The Dodgers are a team that is better than advertised. They have a great lineup, including guys like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and speedy Dee Gordon, as well as an underated starting rotation. While it’s well known that Clayton Kershaw is the Dodger’s Ace, other guys are beginning to step it up, none more than Aaron Harang, who struck out 9 in a row (a new Dodgers record) in last night’s game against the Padres.

The only other teams on the list that are a surprise to me are the Nationals and the Mets. While the National’s are a team that I feel is going to be extremely good in a couple of years, I never saw them having this kind of start to the season. As far as the Mets go, they continue to amaze me.

Individual players:

1) Paul Konerko: .435 average

2) Ryan Sweeney: .429 average

3) Matt Kemp: .419 average

4) Josh Willingham: .417 average

5) Miguel Cabrera: .414 average

Paul Konerko is off to an unbelievable start. He’s really swinging the bat well, and while it’s still early, I think he can keep it up. Now I’m not saying he’s going to end the year with a batting average exceeding .400, but I am saying that I think he’ll continue to rack up hits. Ryan Sweeney is another guy who’s really impressed me so far this season. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up, or if it’s a little bit of early luck. Matt Kemp, Josh Willingham and Miguel Cabrera are all guys that I fully expected to do well this season. So there’s no real shock for the number 3 through 5 guys on the list.

SLOWEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Padres: 2-6

2) Red Sox: 2-5

3) Twins: 2-5

4) Angels: 2-5

5) Pirates: 2-5

The San Diego Padres are a team that I was hoping/thinking would have a decent season this year, but so far, they’re proving to be the same team from last year. The thing that gets me with the Padres is that they have a fantastic starting lineup, including guys like Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson and newcomer Yonder Alonso, as well as a decent pitching rotation, but it seems like they can only get one or the other to perform well on any given night. If they can figure out a way to have both their pitching and hitting come through at the same time they can be a really good team.

The Red Sox are another team that I thought would have a better year than they’re having. After starting out 0-6 last year, I thought they’d have a bounce back year, but their current record of 2-5 isn’t living up to expectations, and I don’t see things getting any better for them. Jacoby Ellsbury was injured in yesterday’s game while sliding into second base. He is expected to miss a minimum of 6 weeks. Not good news for Red Sox fans.

Of the remaining teams on the list, the Angels are the only team that surprises me. With the addition of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels were predicted by many to dominate their division. So far the only dominant aspect of their games has been the other team. I look for things to turn around for them, however, once King Albert starts getting hot.

Individual players:

1) Ike Davis: .043

2) Neil Walker: .048

3) Marlon Byrd: .083

4) J.P. Arencibia: .083

5) Ryan Raburn: .091

*Minimum of 20 at bats.

There’s really no one on this list that stands out in my mind. All of them are players that perform differently from year to year. While I don’t see them getting hot and working their average up to the .300 mark any time soon, I also don’t see their streak of bad luck continuing. They’ll all bounce back.

Like I said several times, I realize that it’s still VERY early in the season. Over 150 games still remain, and things will no doubt look a lot different for both the teams and players on the above lists. Teams and players that are off to fast starts now could hit a wall and end up having a terrible year, and just the opposite for those off to a slow start. That’s why they play 162 games.

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.

Bryce Harper Ready For Big Leagues?

Ever since Bryce Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2009, he’s been all people could talk about. From the good, of being the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, to the bad, of blowing a kiss to the opposing pitcher, Bryce Harper has been in the news for quite a while now.

When it comes down to it, love him or hate him, the kid is good; extremely good in fact. But I’m guessing you already knew that, and I don’t want to waste my time, and yours, by writing about the same information that’s been circulated over and over again by the media. So instead of rattling off a bunch of stats, and including a bunch of quotes from Harper himself, I’m just going to write about what’s on my mind, giving you my own opinion of baseball’s ‘The Chosen One’.

If you follow me on twitter then you know I’m not the biggest Harper fan in the world. But not liking Harper has NO influence whatsoever on my opinion of whether or not I feel he’s ready for the majors. Even if I was the biggest Harper fan in the world, and had a tatoo of his face on my arm, my opinion that he’s not quite ready for MLB would be the same. My problem with bringing Harper up for Opening Day is that I feel that the Nationals are rushing him. Harper says he’s ready, but I mean come on; that doesn’t tell you anything. If I was in Harper’s position I’d tell everyone I was ready too. Just to let you know, when I say “ready” I’m not just talking about whether or not his skills are good enough, I’m talking about whether he’s mature enough. After all, he’s just 19 years old, and has only played in 109 professional games, between A and AA ball. If it was up to me I’d start Harper out in AAA and then possibly call him up in June or so depending on how he was doing. No need to rush the guy. Let him get in some more at bats, and mature a little more, before bringing him up to hopefully dominate in the NL East.

According to reports, the fate of Harper rests on how he performs in Spring Training. Apparently if he does well he’ll more than likely be on the Opening Day roster for the Nationals. Obviously having Harper AND Strasburg on your roster is sure to attract attention, which in turn will increase attendance levels. But if the Nat’s are just bringing Harper up to draw more attention to the team I think they’re making a mistake. Harper seems to have this ‘I can’t fail’ mentality, when in fact he’s human, and thus can, and will, fail at some point down the road.

Harper said in an interview with Harold Reynolds that he doesn’t want to get the call up and get sent back down to AAA a month later, and then repeat the process a few more times before becoming a permanent fixture in the nation’s capital. Harper says he wants to get to the majors and stay there, with his ultimate goal being to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. In my opinion he stands a much better chance of doing that if he’s called up a few months down the road. Patience is a virtue.

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