Results tagged ‘ Orioles ’

My 2014 Postseason Predictions

For the third straight season I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the third straight season I was extremely far off. For one reason or another, I’m not very good at making division predictions before a given season begins. However, with that said, last year when I did playoff predictions for the very first time I correctly predicted the World Series matchup of the Cardinals taking on the Red Sox. Unfortunately, I picked the Cardinals to come out victorious, which ultimately didn’t happen, but I was still thrilled that I successfully picked the final two teams.

This year, though, I hope to take it one step further and get the World Series winner correct as well. While I’ll likely be off, either by a little or a lot, it’s always fun to make predictions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a perfect prediction of how the postseason will play out. You never can tell what may happen in October.

WILD CARD GAMES (AL September 30th & NL October 1st)

American League: Royals Vs. Athletics

Winner: Royals

Both the Royals and Athletics have had their share of ups and downs throughout the 2014 season. Neither one has a group of players that makes them definitively better than the other, and that makes it hard to predict the winner of the one game, win or go home matchup. Even so, I’m picking the Royals to pull out the win over the visiting A’s. While their offense has struggled at times, their bullpen is one of the best in baseball. If the Royals can go into the late innings with a lead, it’s as close to a sure thing as you can get.

National League: Pirates Vs. Giants

Winner: Giants

The Pirates made it to the postseason in 2013 for the fist time since 1992, winning the Wild Card game against the Reds and moving on to the division series only to be beaten out by the Cardinals. This time around, however, I don’t even have them making it that far. The Giants are looking to come into town and pick up the win that will ensure a five game series against the Nationals, and I feel that their pitching, as well as their overall offense, outranks the Pirates’ team in a one game situation.

AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 2nd)

Angels Vs. Royals

Winner: Angels

Although I have the Royals winning the Wild Card game against the Athletics, I don’t see their first playoff run since 1985 lasting past the division series. Going up against a really good offensive Angels team, the Royals will certainly be in for a challenge if they want to prove me wrong. The only question mark for the Angels that would give the Royals a true chance is their starting pitching. With no true ace that you can count on, you never know how the Angels will fare. But I think they will hit just enough to win the series.

Orioles Vs. Tigers

Winner: Tigers

This is going to be a very good series matchup, and I can’t really say for sure who will win. But I’m going with my gut that the Tigers will find a way to get the job done, despite their flaws. While the Orioles have one of the best hitting clubs in baseball, with major threats up and down the lineup, their pitching isn’t nearly as deep as the Tigers. If they want to make things hard on the Tigers, they’ll have to post some great pitching performances. But although that could happen, I see the Tigers moving on to the championship series.

NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 3rd)

Nationals Vs. Giants

Winner: Nationals

The Nationals taking on the Giants would be a good series, but I don’t think it will be too difficult for the Nationals to move on. Taking nothing away from the Giants, who are certainly a good team of players, I don’t feel they stack up against the Nationals very well at all. The Nationals have very few holes from top to bottom in both their offense and pitching. With five good starters that can go out and win big games when you need them to, it would take nothing short of a disaster for the Nats to get beaten out by the Giants.

Dodgers Vs. Cardinals

Winner: Dodgers

Pairing two of the best teams in the National League against one another, this is by far the best guaranteed-to-happen matchup of the postseason, in my mind. While the other games are sure to be exciting, this series could easily come down to a game five, with either team taking the division series title. With the Cardinals and Dodgers both having amazing teams, it’s basically a coin flip for which one will move on. But I have to give a slight edge to the Dodgers — however slight an edge it may be.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 10th)

Angels Vs. Tigers

Winner: Angels

As good as the Tigers pitching staff can be, and as bad as the Angels staff can be, it was difficult for me to select the Angels as the winners of the series. But I feel the Angels have a good enough team to beat out the Tigers, should they have any sort of issues scoring runs or pitching well, which I envision them having. Though many people are picking the Tigers to make it to the World Series, with some going as bold with their predictions as to giving them the World Series title, I have that spot reserved for the Angels.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 11th)

Nationals Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Dodgers

Another sure to be great series against two great teams, this is yet again a nearly impossible matchup to predict (as many of them are). If the Nationals end up taking on the Dodgers in the National League Championship series as I’m predicting, the baseball world could be in for some extremely thrilling games. Both teams have good pitching staffs and offenses that can seemingly score at will at times. What it will come down to is which of the teams is hot at the right time. For me, I’m putting my money on the Dodgers.

WORLD SERIES (Begins October 21st)

Angels Vs. Dodgers

Winner: Angels

A World Series matchup between the Angels and Dodgers would be incredible for baseball fans everywhere around the country. Not only are the two ballparks a mere thirty miles apart, but this would also be a Fall Classic matchup of two of the best teams in their given divisions. With both the Dodgers and Angels having good lineups, this could be a back and forth series. But regardless of their pitching being an issue, I feel the Angels will find a way to go the distance, coming out on top over the Dodgers.

Leave a comment with who you have winning the World Series. I’d love to hear your picks.

Derek Jeter Shines In Final Home Game of Career

The Yankees officially fell out of playoff contention on Wednesday, making it just the first time since the 1992-1993 seasons that they have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years. But at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, no one cared. There was a far more important reason that 48,613 fans (the most at any game this season) spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to jam pack the ballpark.

The reason was Derek Jeter.

Playing in his first home game in which the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs, Jeter went into this game knowing it would be his finalUntitled game in New York of his career.

Even with that on his mind, the .313 career hitter at Yankee stadium was still able to block out his emotions for the most part (something he’s been able to do extremely well over his career) and focus on the one thing he’s been concerned about for years — winning.

But things didn’t start off as planned, as the first two batters of the game went deep to give the Orioles a quick two-run lead. Taking the fans from an electric crowd to a somewhat stunned crowd, you still figured this was far from where things would end. Not in Jeter’s final game in the Bronx.

As has happened from stadium to stadium throughout this season, due to his preseason announcement that 2014 would be his final year, Jeter received a standing ovation when he made his way to the plate for his first at-bat of the night. The fans knew this would be one of their final opportunities to thank Jeter for the memories, and they took full advantage of it. But the memory making wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

After working the count a bit, Jeter drove a 3-1 fastball from Kevin Gausman deep to left center, and although everyone immediately thought it was a home run, the ball hit off the wall, allowing Jeter to coast into second with an RBI double — the 544th double, 3,462nd hit and 1,308th RBI of his career. You got the feeling that this was going to be a magical night.

However, the second and third at-bats of the night weren’t much to write home about for Jeter. A weak ground ball which resulted in a a fielder’s choice and a swinging strikeout, respectively, Jeter appeared to be headed for a memorable but fairly uneventful evening as the game rolled on.

But things would quickly change for The Captain.

Coming up with the bases loaded in a 2-2 ballgame for his fourth time at the plate, Jeter grounded to fellow short stop, J.J. Hardy, who made a wide throw to second base, allowing two runs to score on the throwing error. The score became 4-2, Yankees, with Jeter being responsible for two of the Yankees’ four runs. A sacrifice fly by Brian McCann then took the score up to 5-2, which is where things stood when the game moved into the ninth inning.

Before the game even began, many people speculated as to when Derek Jeter would be removed from the game. Many felt it would be with one or two outs in the top of the ninth, but the chance to replace him never occurred. Yankees’ closer, David Robertson, came on and gave up a two-run home run to Adam Jones, followed by a solo shot by Steve Pearce, and just like that the game was tied.

But no one seemed to panic as they normally would.

One look at the lineup card showed that Jeter was due up third in the bottom half.

After a single by Jose Pirela to lead off the bottom of the ninth (Pirela was promptly replaced by a pinch runner), Brett Gardner bunted the runner to second, bringing up Derek Jeter in a tie ballgame with one out.

Wasting no time, Jeter took the first pitch of the at-bat the opposite way into right field, bringing around the game winning run — the first walk off hit for Jeter since June of 2007. With everything having to go exactly right, there’s absolutely no better way the game could’ve ended for Derek FarewellJeter.

He’s a legend — simple as that.

Going down as one of the best short stops in history — right up there with Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., etc. — Derek Jeter will be remembered forever.

Not only as one of the greatest to ever play his position, not only as one of the greatest Yankees to play the game, but also as one of the greatest human beings to play the sport. Putting together a near spotless career on and off the field, few will argue that you will never see a player quite like Derek Jeter ever again.

And the fans let Jeter know it when he walked back onto the field after getting the game winning hit. Joined by fellow Yankees legends, Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, among others, Jeter took the time to thank the fans for their support, tipping his cap before taking off down the dugout steps and through the tunnel for the final time of his career.

Playing his entire twenty year career for the Yankees, the first ballot Hall of Famer didn’t have a whole lot to say after the game. As has been the case over his career, Jeter never says more than he wants to say. But he did let his emotions show through a bit, tearing up a bit at times. When asked what he would miss most, Jeter responded, “Everything. But most importantly, I’m going to miss the fans. They’re what made this special”.

The 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, fourteen time All-Star, five time World Series champion, and sixth place player on the all-time hit list accomplished nearly everything he ever dreamed of doing on a baseball field. Growing up, all Jeter ever dreamed of was being the short stop for the Yankees, and he was able to do just that. Dreams really do come true.

With that being his ultimate goal, Jeter made it official after the game that he will never again play short stop, saying he’s going to play in the final three games of the year up in Boston out of respect for the fans, but merely as the designated hitter.

As such, Jeter will undoubtedly get a standing ovation each and every time he steps to the plate up at Fenway park until his final at-bat occurs on Sunday. For a New York Yankee to get that type of respect from rival Red Sox fans, you know he had a truly remarkable career. As he always does, Derek Jeter put it best on Thursday night, simply stating, “I’ve lived the dream.”

Yankees Blow Win & Chances of Making the Playoffs

Any shot the New York Yankees had of making the playoffs this season — however small a shot it may have been — was all but officially eliminated on Sunday night at Camden Yards. A blown save by their recently “overused” closer, David Robertson, resulted in a walk off hit by former Yankee, Kelly Johnson, trimming the Orioles’ magic number to win the division down to three, and the Yankees’ elimination number down to a mere two.

usatsi7944843While the Yankees are technically still in the race, with their Wild Card elimination number standing at ten games, it’s going to take an unprecedented run like baseball has never seen before for the Yankees to pull off the near miracle of making the postseason.

Just 2.5 games back of the second Wild Card as recently as August 27th, things have simply gone downhill for them ever since.

Now five games back of the second Wild Card, which the Royals currently hold, the Yankees surely aren’t going to have an easy finish to the season that would allow for a possible push at the Wild Card, especially with the struggling team they possess.

Playing all American League east teams for their remaining fourteen games — Rays for three, Blue Jays for four, Orioles for four, and Red Sox for three — it’s still going to be fun to watch how they finish out 2014.

It certainly would have been nice for Derek Jeter to be able to play in one final playoff run, having won five career World Championships, but it’s unfortunately not the way his career will end. With the Yankees losing three of four games in their recent series against the Orioles, the Bronx Bombers currently hold just over a one percent chance of making the playoffs, according to MLB.com; further securing the fact that Jeter’s amazing career will come to an end September 28th at Fenway Park, and not sometime in October as was once hoped.

But while the Yankees aren’t seemingly playoff bound, and although they’re somewhat of an overall disaster, and overlooking the subpar numbers that Derek Jeter has been posting this season, make sure you take the time to watch a Yankees game or two before the end of the season rolls around. The Yankees will be back in 2015, likely stronger than ever, with some offseason additions that will once again make them competitive in the division. But the one thing they’re guaranteed not to have is Derek Jeter.

That’s one element of the Yankees that you need to enjoy right now.

There’s not much more time left to do so.

Bautista & Tulowitzki Select Their Derby Teammates

The players who are planning to blast long balls in the 2014 home run derby were fully announced on Thursday, and, for the most part, I’m not extremely shocked with any of them. My original picks only included three of the selected players I wanted to see in the derby, but the new format for the home run derby (ten players instead of eight) threw me off when it came to making my selections.

My initial list included eight players, being Nelson Cruz, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes (Jose Bautista hadn’t yet been announced as the captain) for the American League, with Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Gattis, Carlos Gomez and Yasiel Puig (Troy Tulowitzki hadn’t yet been announced as the captain) for the National League.

In the end, American League captain, Bautista, selected Brian Dozier, Adam Jones, Josh Donaldson, and defending derby champion, Yoenis Cespedes. On the National League side of things, their captain, Tulowitzki, added Yasiel Puig, Todd Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton and Justin Morneau to the mix.

All in all, a very solid group of players; though I would’ve liked to have seen rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, compete (he expressed that he wasn’t interested in participating).

As stated, the home run derby is set to see a major change in rules for the first time since match play was first introduced back in 2000. Therefore, I wanted to give a brief overview for those of you who may not have heard about the changes. The new rules are as follows:

Round 1: Five players from the American League and five players from National League compete to see who can hit the most home runs, receiving seven outs instead of the previous ten (they receive the same number of outs in every following round). The top slugging player from each individual league receives a bye, jumping automatically ahead to the third round, and subsequently giving them added rest that they’ve never been rewarded with before. The second and third place hitters in the round from each league will then move onto round two, with the bottom two pairs of players being eliminated (four total).

Round 2: With the top home run hitter from the American League and the top player from the National League in the first round skipping round two, this round sees two American League hitters and two National League hitters (the second and third place finishers from round one) squaring off. The two winners will subsequently move on to round three to take on the round one winners.

Round 3: The sole winner from the American League and National League in round two of the derby is set to take on their respective league’s winner from the first round. The player from the AL who hits the most home runs in this round will move on to the final round where they will compete against the round winner from the NL.

Round 4: For the first time ever, there is going to be a round four added to the mix. This round will see the winners from round three (one from the AL and one from the NL) going head-to-head for the title of 2014 MLB Home Run Derby champion. With the number of great power hitters that are always in the mix at this point in every derby, it’s sure to be an entertaining round.

Overall, I like the changes to the derby format. Allowing the winners from the first round to skip the following round finally gives them an advantage and motivation to try and put on a show. In the past, a lot of players have hit their stride in a round (Josh Hamilton slugged a record 28 home runs in the first round back in 2008 only to tire out and lose the derby) that ended up costing them the derby due to fatigue. A break to give them a chance to regain their energy should make things more entertaining for the players and the fans.

With the field for the home run derby set with its full slate of ten players, and with the new format for this year’s derby fully explained, I wanted to take a second to give my thoughts on how I feel the derby will go.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Round one is going to be a very interesting round. Basically being unpredictable, just about any of the players on the American League side of things has the ability to get hot and win the round. With that said, however, I feel that it’s most likely going to be Jose Bautista. Though he doesn’t have the most power of the group, he has a good combination of an ability to hit for power and total homers to do well. Coming in second and third I see it being Yoenis Cespedes and Adam Jones, meaning Josh Donaldson and Brian Dozier would be eliminated.

With Jose Bautista having won round one in my mind, this round would have Yoenis Cespedes going up against Adam Jones. Though Adam Jones can hit with the best of them, I’m sticking with last year’s winner, Yoenis Cespedes. Next to Giancarlo Stanton in the National League, Cespedes has arguably the best power in the derby, and should be able to make it to round three, with Jones getting knocked out.

The final round for the American League portion of the derby would then see Yoenis Cespedes hitting off against round one winner Jose Bautista. Though somewhat difficult to predict, between these two, I’d have to move Cespedes to the championship round, just beating out Bautista.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Likely to be the more impressive round one show between the two leagues is the National League. With Giancarlo Stanton in the mix, I truly don’t see anyone as having a chance at beating him out in this round. That leaves Troy Tulowitzki, Yasiel Puig, Todd Frazier and Justin Morneau, and I feel that of those, Tulowitzki and Frazier stand the best shot at advancing, even with the always entertaining Yasiel Puig in the running. That would leave Puig and Morneau as the players to be out hit in the first round.

With there a good chance that Giancarlo Stanton will have destroyed the completion in the initial round, the second round would include NL captain, Troy Tulowitzki, taking on Todd Frazier. Though Frazier has hit his share of tape measure home runs over the course of his career, I don’t think he will have enough to overtake Tulo. And thus, it’s likely that Tulowitzki will move on to face Stanton in the next round.

After skipping the second round, Giancarlo Stanton would be taking on the previous round’s winner, Troy Tulowitzki. While anything can happen in a home run derby, and certainly has in the past numerous years, I don’t think Stanton will stumble in his quest for the championship round.

Final Round

If the final, championship round of this year’s home run derby is in fact Yoenis Cespedes and Giancarlo Stanton squaring off, it’s sure to be one of the best final rounds ever. Both Cespedes and Stanton have unbelievable power, and both have the strength and ability to put on long, amazing displays of power. Honestly, the final round could easily go either way, but to stick with my gut, your 2014 Major League Baseball home run derby champion will be Giancarlo Stanton, as many are already predicting.

Who I’d Like to See In the 2014 Home Run Derby

Due to the fact that the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star ballots are asking fans to once again vote for who they’d like to see participate in the home run derby (unfortunately, the votes are only a poll, and don’t actually count towards anything), it hasn’t yet been announced who the derby captains will be, as it had been by now each of the past several years. And therefore, not knowing when it will be revealed, I didn’t want to wait until then to give my take on who I’d most like to see in the derby, along with my reasoning for each pick.

While there are some players that I left off, for one reason or another, I feel the players I selected would make for a great 2014 home run derby, as they all have to ability to hit a good amount of home runs as well as doing so for big power. With the 2014 home run derby now around three weeks away, here are the players I’d most enjoy seeing take part:

American League

Nelson Cruz: One of the game’s most underrated power hitters, Nelson Cruz would be a fantastic pick for the home run derby next month. Currently leading all of Major League Baseball in home runs, Cruz would likely make it deep into the derby, possibly even reaching the final round. His ability to hit home runs seemingly at will and the overall power he possesses would make things very interesting in the derby.

Edwin Encarnacion: After breaking out back in 2012, hitting 42 home runs that season, Edwin Encarnacion has been in a groove ever since. Going on an absolute tear in May, Encarnacion has cooled down a bit as of late, but he would definitely thrive in a home run derby atmosphere. Though Target Field isn’t necessarily a hitter’s park, Encarnacion could easily make it one.

Jose Abreu: Although Jose Abreu is a rookie, he’s already done more than enough to prove that he belongs at the big league level. Coming over from Cuba to the White Sox, Abreu set a rookie record for home runs in his first month, and despite a minor setback due to an injury, Abreu hasn’t let up. If Abreu is in the derby, along with his phenom status and incredible power, he will be someone to watch closely.

Yoenis Cespedes: Winning the home run derby last season, Yoenis Cespedes is somewhat overlooked, playing for the Athletics, but he’s truly a major power threat every time he steps to the plate. Although I don’t feel he will win two years in a row, especially if the other players on my list are going up against him, Cespedes could very well surprise me, as he did in 2013.

National League

Giancarlo Stanton: If Giancarlo Stanton is one of the sluggers in the 2014 derby, I truly don’t think any other hitter stands even a slight chance. The guy is simply amazing, with arguably the most power in all of baseball. When Stanton hits a home run — which is often for him — you immediately know it’s gone. Stanton would put on an unbelievable show in the derby in a few weeks.

Evan Gattis: The true definition of a natural power hitter, Evan Gattis has raw power and can absolutely crush a ball when he squares it up. Although he likely wouldn’t make it terribly deep, with the immense talent that’s in the derby each year, he would hit his share of amazing blasts. Gattis isn’t necessarily a top pick for the derby, but I’d love to see him participate, just to see what he can do.

Carlos Gomez: While some of Carlos Gomez’s on field antics have rubbed people the wrong way, it’s a fact that he’s super-talented. Gomez isn’t a guy who hits an extremely high amount of home runs each year, but put in an environment where the only goal is to hit a homer, I think Gomez would do well. Given the underlying power that he has, Gomez might actually make it deep into the derby.

Yasiel Puig: As with Carlos Gomez, not everyone appreciates the flair that Yasiel Puig shows on a daily basis, but he’s undeniably one of the most exciting young players on the big league level today. Coming up as a rookie from Cuba in 2013, Puig helped to turn around a struggling Dodgers team, and I feel he’d put on a show in the derby (as long as he doesn’t do a bat flip after every home run).

So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2014 home run derby, up at Target Field, on July 14th. Odds are that not all of them will be selected, but I truly hoped the majority of them are in the derby. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who would you like to see participate? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Jeff Samardzija Winless In 2014 Despite Sub-Two ERA

The Cubs are a bad team; nearly everyone around the baseball world knows it. Jeff Samardzija, one of the best pitchers in baseball so far in 2014, has seen that first hand more than any other player currently on the Cubs, as regardless of his terrific outings, Samardzija is yet to win a single game.Jeff Samardzija

Sitting 0-4 on the year — part a winless streak that stretches back to August 24th of last season — Samardzija’s overall performance on the year could be missed if you were to look solely at his win-loss record. But possessing an ERA of 1.46 over 10 games pitched, Samardzija has been setting himself up for success all season long, however, the Cubs simply haven’t provided any run support in his starts — the fourth worst for any pitcher in baseball — going 1-9 in Samardzija’s starts this season.

In Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Yankees at Wrigley Field, Samardzija was outstanding yet again, going seven innings and not allowing a single run. But, as has been the case so often this season, it wasn’t enough, with the Yankees coming back to tie things up in the ninth, and going on to win the game, 4-2, in the thirteenth inning. Certainly a blow to Samardzija, who appeared to have his first win of 2014 secured upon his departure.

If Samardzija played for nearly any other team in Major League Baseball, such as the Yankees, there’s a chance that he could be 10-0 on the season. Given, that’s purely speculative, and a few of those games would likely have been losses or no decisions, the basic point being made is that a pitcher can only do so much. It also takes good performances by your teammates to win ballgames.

And therefore, the question many people are asking: What value does a win truly carry?

As far as the answer goes, I’m halfway in between. On one hand, a win can say a lot about a pitcher and how well he’s pitched over the course of his outings. When you pitch extremely well, the majority of the time (unless you play for the Cubs) you’ll pick up the win. But on the other hand, as has been proven with Samardzija, you can’t just look at a win-loss record and declare who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Right now, arguably, that accolade would go to Samardzija, even though he’s yet to pick up a win.

Some people go as far as to say that the win statistic is useless and should be taken out of the game all together. Although I agree that the win isn’t as useful as some of the other stats a pitcher can post — ERA, batting average against, strikeouts per nine innings, etc. — I still think it’s a big part of the game. While it might have meant more numerous years ago when a pitcher that was pitching well would stay in the entire length of a game, there’s something special about a pitcher hitting the 20-win plateau, or only loosing a few of their numerous games pitched in a season.

Though you now have relief pitchers racking up wins that, had their team performed better, the starting pitcher would’ve notched, in addition to pitchers with bad outings still receiving the win due to a ton of run support — Chris Tillman gave up 7 runs back on April 23rd and won the game — it’s still a fun statistic to keep an eye on.

But while the win isn’t everything, and Samardzija is very unlikely to go the full length of the season without a single win with the way he’s been pitching, it doesn’t help the Cubs’ cause in terms of influencing Samardzija to stick around for the long haul. When you do your job but still lose due to being apart of a team that is among the worst in baseball, I imagine you can get frustrated very easily. As one person put it in on Twitter, “Samardzija is one of the biggest wastes of talent in the game today”. It’s truly a shame.

In the end, whether or not you agree with the win being an important stat for pitchers, you have to agree that Samardzija is putting together an amazing 2014 season. Even though he’s winless, Samardzija seems to have figured things out over the past couple of seasons, and is one of the only bright spots on the Cubs. However, for the majority of the Cubs, if they can’t figure things out for themselves as a whole fairly quickly, they may face a situation without Samardzija at some point down the road.

Ballot Released for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

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

OUTFIELD

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

Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista (AL)

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

Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (NL)

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

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

Surprising Starts for Teams A Week Into the Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the Major Offseason Pickups Did On Opening Day

Opening Day is the most exciting day of the year as far as baseball fans are concerned. With it comes lofty expectations, of both individual players and teams, as well as predictions for how every team will fare. But the best part of Opening Day is that, being the first game of the year, it gives every team — no matter how good or bad they may turn out to be — the opportunity to have a great deal of optimism for the coming season.

While the hopes and dreams of certain teams and fans alike will dwindle as a given season goes on, game one of the long season provides fans their first look at the key pickups their team made during the offseason, with the hopes that the moves they made will lead them to a World Series title. Whether it be by a trade or a free agent signing, each and every team always does something in the offseason to attempt to improve their team for the following year.

With that in mind, I thought I’d go over how the major (non-pitching) offseason additions performed in their first game with their new team, and give my thoughts on each player. While not every name is listed, pretty much all of the major players are:Jose Abreu

Jose Abreu: 2-4, with an RBI single

Yet another predicted future phenom to make his way over from Cuba, Jose Abreu impressed many people throughout Spring Training, and he continued to do so on Opening Day. Going 2-4, with one of his two hits scoring a run, Abreu didn’t show off the power in his first big league game, however, the natural pop he has in his bat was evident. With the White Sox being somewhat of a question mark for the coming season, Abreu, if nothing else, will go a long way in bringing attention to the team.

Marlon Byrd: 2-6, with a solo homer

Part of a long list of player who’ve tested positive for performance enhancing drugs over the years, with his suspension coming in 2012 , Marlon Byrd is coming off a breakout season spent between the Mets and Pirates last year, and is looking to prove that he can continue to be that type of player moving forward. Hitting a career high 24 home runs last season, Byrd is well on his way to reaching the lofty total yet again, going 2-6 with a home run in his first game in a Phillies uniform since 2005.

Jhonny Peralta: 0-4

Moving from the Tigers to the Cardinals this past offseason, Jhonny Peralta can be an impact player on any club. Despite a performance enhancing drug suspension last season, Peralta was signed by the Cards to man the shortstop position for the coming season, and while he went hitless in his first game of the year (he looked solid defensively), many are looking for Peralta to have a great season. With an already fantastic team from top to bottom, Peralta could find himself apart of a very special season.

Nelson Cruz: 1-2, with a solo homer

Yet another player who served a suspension last season due to performance enhancing drug use, Nelson Cruz is a major power threat, nonetheless, and was a great pickup by the Orioles. He proved that threat first hand on Opening Day, blasting a solo home run in one of his two official at-bats of the game. With a lineup of several power sources already — Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado, once he returns — Cruz combines together to make for a very formidable Orioles lineup.

Michael Morse: 1-3, with a strikeout

Though he isn’t the best power hitter in baseball, Michael Morse has the potential to go on hot streaks in which he can rack up a good amount of home runs in no time. Bouncing around between teams over the past few seasons, Morse wound up with the Giants this past offseason, and is sure to be a key part of their lineup moving forward. Going 1-3 on Opening Day, Morse is part of a very good Giants team, and if he can perform to his potential throughout the year, they could do very well.

Grady Sizemore: 2-4, with a solo homer

One of the best stories of the year, Grady Sizemore joined the Red Sox in January, after not having played in a major league game since 2011 due to a multitude of injuries. He was subsequently put up against promising prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. during Spring Training, having to prove himself worthy of the Opening Day center field spot. Sizemore wound up having a fantastic Spring, winning the job, and had a great 4ufdt_St_58return game in Baltimore, going 2-4, including a towering home run to right field.

Prince Fielder: 1-5

Part of a trade between the Tigers and Rangers, which sent Prince Fielder to the Rangers in return for Ian Kinsler, the Rangers definitely have a much better lineup than they did last season. While Fielder went just 1-5 on Opening Day, on a mere single, he possesses one of the biggest power bats in all of baseball. He should get things going and come close to, if not exceeding, his previous averages of over 30 homers and 100 RBI’s a season. For the Rangers to beat out the Athletics in the division, they need Fielder to get hot.

Shin-Soo Choo: 0-4

Known for getting on base better than pretty much anyone all of last season, putting together a .423 on base percentage, the Rangers signed Shin-Soo Choo to a major deal this offseason, looking for him to continue to be the same type of player. But he didn’t start his year off all that well, going 0-4 in game one, though he did reach first on a walk. Despite his poor debut with the Rangers, Choo should be fine. He’s not going to hit you a ton of home runs, but if he can get on base, the rest of the lineup will take care of the runs.

Ian Kinsler: 0-4

The piece that the Tigers got in return for sending Prince Fielder to the Rangers, Ian Kinsler can contribute both offensively and defensively. Though the Tigers lost a major run producer in Fielder, and they will undoubtedly miss his presence throughout the long season (with Miguel Cabrera having to carry the Tigers more than ever), Kinsler, although he went hitless in his first game in a Tigers uniform, should make an impact for the Tigers, who are predicted by many to run away with the division.

Mark Trumbo: 3-5, with two RBI’s

Coming over to the Diamondbacks from the Angels this offseason, Mark Trumbo can launch a baseball like very few others can. With that power threat comes a major impact player, as Trumbo played a big role in the Angles lineup and will undoubtedly be a big piece of the D-backs’ lineup. Going 3-5, with a pair of RBI’s, in his first game of the season, Trumbo certainly didn’t disappoint in what could turn out to be a big year for him if he can get everything going from here on out.

Curtis Granderson: 0-5, with three strikeouts

Moving across town this past offseason, Curtis Granderson surprised many when he exchanged his Yankees pinstripes for those of the Mets. But although Granderson is supposed to be one of the top power threats in the Mets lineup — hitting over fourty home runs in both the 2011 and 2012 seasons — he disappointed in his Opening Day start. Striking out three times in a hitless five at-bats, Granderson certainly didn’t show much of anything, but he should still get up around the thirty homer range when all is said and done.Untitled

Robinson Cano: 2-4

The top free agent of the offseason, many felt that Robinson Cano would remain a New York Yankee for the entire length of his career. But instead, Cano signed a mega deal with the Mariners keeping him in Seattle for the next ten seasons. In his first game with his new club, Cano went 2-4, including a double late in the game. Though many people are predicting a fall in Cano’s power numbers, with him playing home games at Safeco Field, Cano proved that his consistency will likely remain.

David Freese: 0-4, with two strikeouts

With the loss of David Freese to the Angels in exchange for Peter Bourjos, the Cardinals are a slightly weaker team than they were last year. However, Matt Carpenter, previously their second baseman, took over Freese’s spot at the hot corner, and is expected to do a great job. On the Angles end of the trade, they picked up what should be a decent upgrade at third. Freese didn’t do much in his Angels debut, going hitless in four at-bats, but he looked good defensively, and his bat will surely come around to give the Angels a great overall lineup.

Justin Morneau: 1-4, with a strikeout

Having been moved from the Twins to the Pirates in the second half of last season, Justin Morneau found himself joining the Colorado Rockies this offseason, giving them some much needed pop in their lineup. While Morneau can be an impact player, the Rockies simply don’t have a good enough team to put together all that great of a season. Therefore, even though Morneau went a mere 1-4 in his Rockies debut, he should continue to be consistent, with the Rockies’ poor performance as a whole staying consistent as well.

The Injury Bug: Numerous Players To Miss Time

Another day, another injury. It seems that’s been the common theme as of late, with Michael Bourn, Yu Darvish, Aroldis Chapman and Jurickson Profar being the most recent players to fall victim to what’s become somewhat of an injury epidemic around Major League Baseball.

While every year brings injuries throughout both the offseason and the regular season, this year seems to be above average in that department, Kris Medlenand the season hasn’t even begun yet. Including names such as Patrick Corbin, Manny Machado, Matt Kemp, and Jarrod Parker, among many others, the list of players set to miss Opening Day — the entire season for some players — due to injury continues to grow larger. Although some players aren’t that big of a loss overall, some will have a drastic impact on their team’s success.

None more so than the loss of Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the Braves. Both are set to miss the entire season due to the second Tommy John surgeries of their careers, and losing these key pieces to the Braves’ starting rotation will likely have a profound impact on how they perform as a whole. I had the Braves winning the National League East division in 2014, as they did last season, however, the subtraction of these players from the roster could cause them to fall down in the rankings a bit.

But the Braves aren’t the only team that could fall down a bit due to an injured player.

Patrick Corbin being out for what could be the entire season will have an effect on the Diamondback’s performance this season. Corbin really broke out last year, and was set to lead their starting rotation throughout the coming season. But without him, while the D-backs should still be a good team, they won’t be able to give the Dodgers a run for the division title like they previously would’ve possibly been able to do.

However, the team that will likely see the second biggest drop, behind the Braves, from their predicted finish will be the Athletics, who will beUntitled without A.J. Griffin for a good bit of time, but more importantly won’t have Jarrod Parker for the entire season. He, like many pitchers I’ve discussed, is undergoing Tommy John surgery that will keep him out until 2015. With Parker out, the A’s will have a difficult time overtaking the Rangers in the American League West division as they’ve done the past two seasons.

Not all of these injuries have occurred recently, though. A few players that won’t be ready for Opening Day had their injuries happen much earlier than this offseason or Spring Training.

Manny Machado, Jose Iglesias, Matt Kemp, and Matt Harvey are all missing a good deal of time due to nagging injuries from 2013, with Matt Harvey (and possibly Jose Iglesias as well) out for the full length of the season. When healthy, all have extreme impacts on their respective teams, so, obviously, not having them being their productive selves is a big loss.

But despite all of the injuries that seem to grow in number everyday, these are the types of things teams just have to play through. You have to compete with what you have. And therefore, it’s sure to be an interesting and exciting 2014 season, with there now being just six days until Opening Day.

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