Results tagged ‘ Padres ’

National League Predicitions for 2014

For the third season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I picked the Red Sox to finish last in 2013 and they won the World Series), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I posted my predictions for the American League a few days ago, and today I’m going to give my predictions for the National League (along with my reasoning), starting with the National League East:

EAST

1. Braves

2. Nationals

3. Phillies

4. Marlins

5. Mets

I predicted that the Braves would win their division last season, but I didn’t see them doing so in such massive fashion. This season, I have them finishing first again, but not by nearly as much. They lost their All-Star catcher, Brian McCann, but top prospect, Christian Bethancourt, should do a good job of filling that role once he arrives at some point this season. Admittedly, they have several players — Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton, etc. — who need to bounce back this year, but having finished so high in 2013 even with those players doing poorly, if those players can be healthy, the Braves should be really good; with Andrelton Simmons and Freddie Freeman being better than ever. Their bullpen, topped of by one of the best closers in the game, Craig Kimbrel, is good, as is their starting pitching, with Mike Minor and Julio Teheran. Everything put together, they should win the NL east.

The Nationals are the only team in the division that I see as having a legitimate shot at beating out the Braves for the division title, but I just don’t think it will happen. Despite the addition of Doug Fister this past offseason to an already fantastic starting rotation of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, making their pitching staff one of the best in the division, to go along with a good bullpen, their overall lineup isn’t really that great. The Nationals have a good leadoff hitter in Denard Span, as well as showstoppers Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman, who are predicted to have great seasons, but I simply don’t feel they will be consistent enough as a whole to get the job done night after night. If their offense can produce on a regular basis, they could, potentially, win the NL East, but I still have them coming in second.

As far as the Phillies go, they’ll be a much better team than they were last season, but I just can’t envision them beating out the Nationals or the Braves for either the first or second spot. Although they should have Ryan Howard back to his old self, after a couple of injury plagued seasons, as well as their All-Star second baseman, Chase Utley, those players alone won’t get the job done. They lost Roy Halladay to retirement, and that will definitely impact their starting rotation depth, however, the pickup of A.J. Burnett will do a good job of filling that hole in the starting staff. The Phillies are a relatively old team, with a lot of veterans, but they also have some young talent that will help them out this season. If young stars Ben Revere, Darin Ruf and Cody Asche can have good seasons, the Phillies should be competitive again this year, coming up just short of the postseason.

The Marlins are another team that will be better this season than the previous year, however, they aren’t even close to having all the pieces they need to make a run at the top of the NL East division. They have a fantastic pitching ace, Jose Fernandez, a great power hitting slugger, Giancarlo Stanton, as well as an underrated closer, Steve Cishek, but their team doesn’t really extend beyond that. The acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia from the Red Sox will be an improvement for them behind the plate, but the Marlins didn’t do much more than that to improve their team this offseason. Their future lies with all of the young talent they currently have at the big league level — Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, etc. — and the talent they have on the way over the course of the next few seasons from the minor leagues. Until then, the Marlins will have to settle for fourth.

Despite the few good winning streaks that the Mets had last season, I expect them to fall back down a bit in 2014. One of the biggest reasons for their success in 2013 was Matt Harvey, who they’ll be without for the entire season. Although they have a decent starting rotation regardless, in Zach Wheeler, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon, who they picked up from the Athletics this offseason, it still won’t be enough to finish any better than last, in my opinion. By far, their biggest addition of the winter was Curtis Granderson from the Yankees, as he should provide the Mets with some much needed power. Combined with the always consistent David Wright, Chris Young and Eric Young Jr., the Mets could very well go on some runs again this season. But with a lot of their players being question marks for how they’ll perform, last place will be where the Mets wind up.

CENTRAL

1. Cardinals

2. Reds

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Cubs

After making it to the World Series in 2013, losing to the Red Sox, I look for the Cardinals to have another fantastic season, winning the NL Central division for the second straight year. They have a great rotation of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Shelby Miller, among others, as well as a power throwing closer, Trevor Rosenthal. The Cardinals’ lineup is just as excellent, ranging from a great defensive and hitting catcher, Yadier Molina, who’s a great leader of their pitching staff, to an infield of Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, and newly signed Jhonny Peralta. Although they lost their above average third baseman, David Freese, Matt Carpenter should do a great job in his place, as he had a breakout season last year. Keeping with the theme, the Cards also have a great outfield which contributes both with their bats and their gloves. There are truly no weak spot for the entire team.

Competition for the second place spot in the division will be between the Reds and the Pirates, but I think the Reds will have the overall better team and will be able to overtake the Pirates. They have a great lineup of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier, among many others, with the speedy Billy Hamilton being their biggest make or break piece this season. With the loss of Shin-Soo Choo, the Reds need Hamilton to produce from the leadoff spot. He can be a major difference maker in a ballgame, but there’s still concern with how often he’ll be able to get on base. As far as their pitching goes, it’s arguably the second best rotation after the Cardinals in the entire division. With Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Tony Cingrani, to go along with a strong bullpen and missle throwing closer, Aroldis Chapman, the Reds should have a really good team.

Making the playoffs for the first time in 20 years, the Pirates brought a ton of attention to themselves last season. And therefore, I’m sure many people are placing them better than third, but I can’t bring myself to. Both the Reds and Cardinals have a better starting rotation, though the Pirates still have a good one, with Gerrit Cole, Jeff Locke, and Francisco Liriano, who broke out last season. Their bullpen is more of the same, being good but not great, although they did have some good relief appearances in 2013. What it will come down to is how well the Pirates’ offense does, and how consistent each player on the team will be. As always, it’s a given that Andrew McCutchen will be fantastic, as will Pedro Alvarez. But Neil Walker, Russell Martin and Starling Marte will each have to have a breakout year for the Pirates to place any better than where I have them.

The Brewers are an interesting club, as they had a playoff contending team just a few years ago, but now don’t really have all that many star players remaining. Ryan Braun is by far their best player, and coming of a PED suspension to end last season, you have to figure he’ll produce a great season again, having something to prove to many people around the baseball world. Besides Braun, the Brewers have veteran Aramis Ramirez, who can be somewhat of an impact player, as well as Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez, who both had breakout seasons in 2013. But the Brewers’ pitching isn’t all that great, with Yovani Gallardo needing to have a good year, as well as Matt Garza and their entire bullpen being average at best. Meaning, despite any record breaking runs or major breakout seasons, the Brewers are destined to finish next to last, at best.

As with the Astros of the American League, the Cubs are a team that’s accustomed to bad seasons, not having won a World Series title in 106 years. The Cubs have an average pitching staff, with Travis Wood, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson being the strong points. For their lineup, Anthony Rizzo is their best player, with Starling Castro, Brett Jackson and Michael Olt all having star potential, but they need to prove their abilities in the coming season. With a last place season likely on the way, all the Cubs can do is look down the road, when they have numerous prospects coming that will have a major impact on their team. Kris Bryant, who has absurd power, Albert Almora, C.J. Edwards and Jorge Soler will all be arriving to the big leagues over the next few seasons, and once they arrive, the Cubs could begin making some noise in the division.

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Diamondbacks

3. Giants

4. Padres

5. Rockies

The Dodgers have a team similar to the one the Tigers have in the American League. If they don’t win their division, then something went horribly wrong. With one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, made up of a 1-2-3 of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers should be a lot better than any other team in their division. Their great pitching continues into the bullpen, where they have some great relief options, including the always entertaining Brian Wilson as their closer. When it comes to the Dodgers’ lineup, it’s also one of the best. With a great defensive infield of Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez, Dee Gordon and Adrian Gonzalez, combined with a great defensive outfield of Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, with Matt Kemp coming along at some point later in the season, the Dodgers have no weak spots on their team.

After making a lot of key moves this offseason, the Diamondbacks look to be a very good team heading into the season; possibly being the only team that could, potentially, put some pressure on the Dodgers. They picked up a veteran starting pitcher, Bronson Arroyo, to add to their already good rotation of Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, etc., with the possibility that Archie Bradley plays some sort of role this season. With a decent bullpen to go along with their rotation, including newly acquired closer, Addison Russell, who will be an impact player, the D-backs have their pitching in pretty good shape. And their lineup isn’t all that bad either. Although they’re not terribly strong at some positions, they have their All-Star first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, who is sure to post stellar numbers, as well as new pickup, Mark Trumbo. The D-backs should have a decent season.

While the Giants likely won’t place any better than third, with teams such as the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the division, they should still be a really good team regardless. They have the best starting rotation in the division behind the Dodgers, with players such as Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, newcomer Tommy Hanson, and Tim Lincecum, who needs to turn things around this year after a couple of poor seasons. Their bullpen, however, isn’t all that fantastic, with their closer, Sergio Romo, being the only standout. But they have a fairly good lineup, especially with the pickup of Michael Morse, who will provide them some power. Their catcher, Buster Posey, will be amazing as usual, and with an infield of Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt, among others, the Giants have a shot at taking on the D-backs if they struggle. But I see them having a middle of the pack finish.

The Padres went on a good run last season, and I feel they will have a fairly decent run this year, but it won’t be enough to get them very far in the standings. Though the pickup of Josh Johnson will help out their starting rotation a bit, adding him to an already decent rotation that includes Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy, as well as a good closer in Huston Street, it won’t be quite good enough to overcome the lack of run support the Padres hitters will be providing on a consistent basis. Playing in one of the worst hitters ballparks in all of baseball, the Padres always seem to have a tough time scoring runs, despite the big dimensions aiding their pitchers. The Padres have some decent players, such as Chase Headley, Jed Gyorko and Yonder Alonso, who will certainly contribute their fair share, but it won’t be enough to place any better than fourth.

As with a lot of teams throughout baseball, the Rockies did several great things this offseason to improve their ball club, but they’ll still likely finish in last place, yet again. They have a couple of pitchers, in Rex Brothers and Juan Nicasio, who broke out in 2013, but there’s no guarantee that they can repeat that success, and the remainder of their pitching isn’t too good. That includes the Rockies’ bullpen, where there aren’t a lot of bright spots to speak of. But their lineup isn’t all that terrible. They have a great power hitting catcher in Wilin Rosario, a decent outfield with standout Carlos Gonzalez, as well as an all around great infield of Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Morneau, who are all great both offensively and defensively. All of that will make the Rockies a team worth watching, but with pretty much no pitching, the Rockies will find themselves at the bottom.

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

2014 Final MLB Standings Predictions

We’re quickly approaching the opening-series of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, down in Australia on March 22nd, and so begins the predictions of where each team will finish in the coming year. Most of the time there’s a team or two that comes along and completely throws off your predictions, but that’s what makes it fun.

I’m going to be doing a separate couple of blog posts on my predictions for how I feel each team will fare this season sometime in the next week or two, but for now, I want to hear what you all think. Cast your vote below for which team you feel is most likely to win each division in 2014:

Voting ends on March 22nd.

Pitchers & Catchers Report; 2014 Autograph Requests

Due to the Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ opening-series that’s set to take place on March 22nd and 23rd in Australia, Spring Training action is beginning a bit earlier than usual this year. The Diamondbacks have their pitchers and catchers reporting today, with the UntitledDodgers’ pitchers and catchers reporting on Saturday. Therefore, for the first time since the Red Sox won the 2013 World Series over three months ago, baseball is finally back.

But while the Dodgers and Diamondbacks are getting started this week, the remainder of the teams won’t begin reporting until next week, anywhere from the 11th to the 17th: The Indians report date is set for Tuesday; the Cardinals and Mariners will begin on Wednesday; the Braves, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Nationals, Angels and Padres report Thursday; the Tigers, Yankees, Rays, Cubs, Reds, Royals and Athletics arrive on Friday; the Red Sox, Astros, Mets, White Sox, Rockies, Brewers and Giants on Saturday; the Marlins, Twins and Rangers report on Sunday; and the Blue Jays begin on Monday. (The rest of the players for all the teams will report anywhere from 3 to 7 days after their respective pitchers and catchers.)

Once all of the pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training on February 17th, there will be a mere 33 days until the 2014 Major League Baseball season gets underway in Australia. I, for one, can’t wait.

But I’m not quite ready to jump ahead to the start of the regular season just yet, as I still have a lot I want to talk about in the coming weeks. Therefore, for the time being, I’d like to take a minute to discuss something I love to do this time of year (besides watch Spring Training games on TV.) Every Spring Training, for the past two or three years, I’ve sent out a handful of through the mail (TTM) autograph requests to different players around the league. This year, I’m going to be sending out a dozen, or so, TTM’s, with the best player being Clayton Kershaw.

201303271540564290038-p2While that might seem like a long shot — and it very well may be — Kershaw, surprisingly, has been known to sign through the mail over the past few years; the only downside being that it takes over a year for him to return it to you.

Though his recent record breaking contract, and second Cy Young award, may lead to him getting even more fan mail, causing a subsequent stop of him signing for fans that write to him, Kershaw is good enough for me to take a chance on. Even if I don’t get anything back, at least I tried.

Other MLB players I’m sending to include Taijuan Walker (who made his MLB debut in 2013), David Robertson, Kolten Wong, Cody Asche, Mike Napoli and Jake Marisnick. All of these players have been known to be decent TTM signers, with Walker and Robertson being nearly automatic over the past couple years. Asche told me that he tries to sign everything that gets sent his way, so I’m fairly confident I’ll get that one back at least.

I’m also sending to several Minor League players who were invited to Major League Spring Training this year — some for the first time ever. Those players include Archie Bradley, Kyle Zimmer, Mark Appel, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora. All five of these players will be in the majors at some point over the next few years, with Bradley likely making his big league debut this season. Bradley, Zimmer and Appel have all told me that they sign TTM, so I feel like I’ll get those back. Almora has been hit and miss recently, and I doubt Bryant will, but I’m sending to both of them anyway, because you never know.

Last year I sent off eleven autograph requests to Spring Training and received back six of them, from Jason Motte, Danny Hultzen, Stephen Romero, Sonny Gray, Tyler Skaggs and Casey Kelly. That’s pretty good as far as TTM’s go. If I get back five or six of the dozen I’m sending off this year — which is what I expect to receive — I’ll be happy.

I’m planning to post a blog entry every time I receive back a couple autographs from the players I’m sending TTM requests to during Spring Training, just as I did last year. Hopefully it won’t be all that terribly long before I start getting them back (maybe a few weeks?). So be sure to check back for that over the course of the next couple months.

My Vote for AL and NL Rookie of the Year

I decided to combine my vote for American League and National League Rookie of the Year (R.O.Y.) into one post, because as hard as I tried to think of a case for several American League players for the award, I couldn’t. Though Jose Iglesias and a few other players had decent rookie seasons, I could only manage to make a strong case for the one player that truly deserves the award and will likely win it with Wil+Myers+Tampa+Bay+Rays+v+Boston+Red+Sox+LdbzEh53jV1loverwhelming support: Wil Myers.

The season Myers was able to put together is truly remarkable. While Myers didn’t lead all AL rookies in every category, as Mike Trout did last year, — several other players this season beat out Myers in average and home runs — when you combine it all together, no one else has the stats for the award.

Batting .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI’s in 88 games played, Myers is certainly off to a fast start to his Major League career. A start that should see him receiving the first major award of his career — the Rookie of the Year award.

In the running for National League Rookie of the Year it’s a far different story than the American League portion.

Matt Adams, Evan Gattis, Jedd Gyorko, Yasiel Puig, Julio Teheran, Hyu-Jin Ryu, Shelby Miller and Jose Fernandez are all in the mix for NL Rookie of the Year, in my opinion, but in the end, only a few of them made my final cut. Those players being Shelby Miller, Yasiel Puig and Jose Fernandez. (It’s somewhat difficult to compare two pitchers to a hitter, but I’ll try my best with each case.)

Shelby Miller had a great first season, going 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA. Although he had a decent rookie year, with all of the great candidates for NL Rookie of the Year, Miller didn’t quite do enough to receive the award. But while he won’t win the R.O.Y, Miller is very jose-fernandezlikely to win a Cy Young or two at some point down the road in his career.

Yasiel Puig came up in early June and helped turn around an awful Dodgers team. But while Puig was a big reason for their successful second half of the season, he began to slow down towards the end of the year. Therefore, despite batting .319 with 19 homers and 42 RBI’s this season, Puig will come up just short of winning the award, in my mind.

Jose Fernandez is the only person standing in the way of a relatively easy win for Yasiel Puig. Able to dominate for the Marlins this season, Fernandez posted a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA and opponent batting average of .182 — going 9-0 with a 1.19 ERA in home starts this year.

Fernandez isn’t the unanimous pick to win the award by everyone around the baseball world, but his overall dominance at such a young age (21) is enough for me to make him my vote for the National League Rookie of the Year.

Story Lines Worth Watching In the Final Month

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

American League Home Run Race

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

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

Candidates for Rookie of the Year Award

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

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

National League Central Division

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

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

Max Scherzer’s Cy Young Quest

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

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

Houston Astros’ Loss Record

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fastest & Slowest Starts to the 2013 MLB Season

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

FASTEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Braves (6-1)

2) Diamondbacks (5-2)

3) Rockies (5-2)

4) Red Sox (5-2)

5) Athletics (5-2)

6) Rangers (5-2)

7) Reds (5-2)

8) Mets (5-2)

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

Players:

1) Adam Jones (.500)

2) Jed Lowrie (.500)

3) Carlos Santana (.500)

4) Michael Cuddyer (.478)

5) Carl Crawford (.450)

6) Jean Segura (.450)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

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

SLOWEST STARTS TO THE SEASON

Teams:

1) Astros (1-6)

2) Marlins (1-6)

3) Padres (1-5)

4) Pirates (2-5)

5) Brewers (2-5)

6) Phillies (2-5)

7) Cubs (2-5)

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

Players:

1) Jeff Keppinger (.048)

2) Ryan Hanigan (.050)

3) Aaron Hicks (.067)

4) Pedro Alvarez (.080)

5) Neil Walker (.083)

*Minimum of 20 AB’s

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

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

National League Predictions for 2013

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

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

EAST

1. Braves

2. Nationals

3. Phillies

4. Marlins

5. Mets

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

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

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

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

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

CENTRAL

1. Reds

2. Cardinals

3. Pirates

4. Brewers

5. Cubs

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

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

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

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

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

WEST

1. Dodgers

2. Giants

3. Padres

4. Diamondbacks

5. Rockies

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Electronic Autograph

If you’re one of the millions of people around the world who falls under the category of “baseball fan”, odds are that you’ve found yourself seeking the autograph of your favorite player at one time or another. Even if you wouldn’t classify as an autograph collector, surely even the slightest of fan would jump at the chance to acquire their idols’ signature.

But getting an autograph from your favorite major leaguer isn’t always as simple as heading out to the ballpark after dinner. If you find yourself residing in one of the many states that lacks a Major League Baseball team, getting autographs in person can be a difficult and costly task.

Of course, there’s always the option of mailing an autograph request to the ballpark, but you can’t always guarantee that the player you admire will be able to take the time, during their hectic 162-game season, to sign your enclosed item; especially if they happen to be everyone’s favorite player, and receive hundreds of letters every month.

Too many times have I sent off one of my most cherished baseball cards, to one of my favorite players, only to be disappointed in the end when daily trips to the mailbox resulted in the same outcome: No autograph.

Until recently, the only other option remaining for a person looking to obtain an authentic signature they so greatly desired was to scour the internet for the most economically priced example they could find; usually still costing a couple hundred dollars. And even then, nothing connects you to the player personally. It’s just one of the thousands of autographs the player has signed over the years. Nothing all that tremendously special.

That’s why I was so intrigued the first time I heard of the latest in sports memorabilia technology: The electronic autograph; Egraph, for short. Costing anywhere from 25-115 dollars, depending on the player, an Egraph is an electronic autograph, produced by the player of your choice on their own personal iPad. The best part being that it’s guaranteed to be returned, in 2-3 weeks, and in addition, comes along with an audio message, recorded by the player themselves, just for you.

You can’t get much more of a fan-to-player interaction than that.

HOW IT WORKS

The first step in creating your Egraph is to select which player you’d like to receive an Egraph from. With roughly 200 players (current and former greats) and managers–with more being added all the time–it’s not an easy choice. Undoubtedly making this the most difficult portion of the entire process.

After deciding on a specific player, and choosing which background photo you’d like the autograph to appear over, the only thing left to do is to make the decision of what you would like inscribed on your photo.

You have the choice of typing exactly what you want the player to write, or you can choose for them to create their own response. As is the case with the entire Egraph process, it’s up to you. But in the end, no matter what you decide, you really can’t go wrong.

As stated earlier, no two Egraphs are alike. They’re made by the player specifically for you. Take for example my own personal Egraph, created by Mets’ third basemen, David Wright:
Screenshot (2)

CLICK HERE to listen to David Wright’s audio message.

Wright could make a thousand more Egraphs and would never again make one exactly like the one you see above. That’s what makes Egraphs such an ingenious idea. It allows you to connect with the games’ greats in a personal way that hasn’t been possible up until now; and I can only see it taking off in popularity from here.

If you’d like to purchase an Egraph, head to Egraphs.com, or simply click the Egraph ad on the right sidebar to be taken to the site.

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.

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