Results tagged ‘ Pitching ’

Have the Blue Jays Become the Division Favorites?

The Toronto Blue Jays are red hot.

Extending their winning streak to eight straight games after Tuesday night’s win against the Rays, in which Mark Buehrle was good yet again, picking up his league-leading ninth win, the Jays currently sit atop the American League East division standings. Having now won thirteen of their last fifteen games played, the Jays are seemingly on their way to a somewhat surprising great season.Mark+Buehrle+Toronto+Blue+Jays+v+Kansas+City+Uec8440KSDQl

And therefore, while very few people predicted the Blue Jays to do much of anything in 2014, a lot of people are now beginning to rethink their original projections. Despite the fact that there are still over 100 games remaining in the season, people are starting to believe in the Jays.

But should they? Are the Blue Jays truly the favorites in the division, or are they simply on a hot streak?

Going back to last season when they were chosen by the majority of the baseball world to win the East after the numerous offseason moves they made, the Jays went on an 11-game winning stretch, much like the one they are currently on, only to wind up finishing out the year dead last. Though their overall offense is stronger this year (they are one of only four teams in baseball with thirty or more wins) and they appear to be swinging the bats more as a whole than they did in 2013 (they were 9.5 games back on this date in 2013), with the down spiral that occurred last year, it’s certainly interesting to think about.

While I placed the Blue Jays to finish last this year in my predictions, and still don’t believe that they’ll be able to maintain this amazing pace, they have definitely been impressive to this point. From Mark Buehrle dominating in all but one of his starts — becoming the first Jay since Roy Halladay in 2009 to win nine of their first ten decisions (he appears to be a front runner to start the All-Star game) — to veteran pitcher R.A. Dickey, and the entire Jays lineup clicking, including Jose Bautsista, Edwin Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera, they could surprise some people.

As far as their offense goes, as stated, it’s definitely one of the best in baseball. The Jays lead all of the American League in team home runs by a wide margin — fourteen of which have come from Edwin Encarnacion this month alone (tying a franchise record for a month) — and they are finding a way to beat even the best starting pitchers the game has to offer. Picking up the series win over their past five series (something they hadn’t done since 2010) the Jays are setting all types of record that lead one to believe they mean business.

But even so, it’s very unlikely that things will last. As the past has shown, for the most part, you can only ride a stretch so far, and the streak they’re currently on is going to be very difficult to continue. Though it’s not impossible, it’s fairly improbable with the rotation they currently possess. While Buehrle and Dickey have been good, and should continue to be, their other pieces are average at best. A lot of people are in agreement that the Jays need one more pitching piece to truly stand a good shot at being relevant at the end of the season, and if they can pick up even one more pitcher, with the way their offense is firing on all cylinders, it could make all the difference.

The major name being discussed at the moment is the possible acquisition of Jeff Samardzija from the Cubs. Though it’s a long shot, and would likely mean giving up a top prospect such as Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman which the Jays have shown they don’t want to do, it would definitely be a breath of fresh air for Samardzija who is a member of the struggling, last place Cubs. Being beneficial for both Samardzija and the Blue Jays, the trade would be a good one, but it’s one that would appear not likely at the moment.

And thus, while the Blue Jays are looking good for the time being, and very well could run away with things as time goes on, there’s still a lot of season left in which they have to maintain this level of play to stay in first place. Anything can happen, and with a somewhat weaker American League East division compared to year’s past, nearly any team stands a shot at placing first at the end of the season, Blue Jays included.

Previewing the 2014 Major League Baseball Draft

The 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft is now less than two weeks away.

Set to air live on MLB Network on June 5th, and continuing through June 7th on MLB.com, the draft has become a bigger focus each and every year as time has gone by. With teams now counting on their first few picks to make it to the big leagues within a couple of years and have an immediate impact, choosing the right player for your organization has become a huge deal. 2014-Draft

While none of last year’s first round draft picks have made the major leagues as of yet, currently, four of the 2012 first round picks have made the majors for at least a brief period of time, being Kevin Gausman and Marcus Stroman, in addition to Mike Zunino and Michael Wacha who have made the biggest impacts.

With this year’s draft being pitcher heavy, a lot of teams are going to be picking up a possible future ace of their rotation as their first pick. Though there are some good position players in the mix as well, overall, pitchers are the dominant presence, making up seven of the top ten ranked draft prospects who will go quickly come draft day.

As I did last year, I’m planning to blog about the results of the draft, along with a few of my thoughts, the day after the first round takes place. With the first five picks going to the Astros, Marlins, White Sox, Cubs and Twins, it should be interesting to see how teams play things, depending on their overall biggest needs that they need to fill for the future.

Though I’m not going to give any predictions for the order in which the players are chosen (I’m by no means a draft expert) I do want to talk a bit about the “experts'” picks for who will likely be some of the first off the board.

For the number one overall pick, no one can seem to agree who it will be, however, nearly everyone is predicting that it will be one of two left-handed pitchers: Brady Aiken or Carlos Rodon. Untitled

Aiken is one of four high school players ranked in the top ten draft prospects, and is expected to go in the top two, if not number one overall. Possessing some of the best stuff seen out of a high school pitcher in quite a while — set to be the first high school lefty to go in the top five since 2002 — Aiken is one of the younger players in the draft, currently age 17, but he could possibly be one of the most talented.

With a good fastball, as well as a great curveball and changeup, it will be up to the Astros if they want to take a chance on the young pitcher.

Or they could go with Rodon, who began the year as the clear cut first overall pick, but due to a somewhat down year by his standards — he still managed to post a 2.01 ERA despite poor run support leading to a 6-7 record — his stock has fallen a bit.

But with that said, he still has everything you want and expect to see in the number one pick. With a good, hard fastball, a really good slider, and a work in progress change up, Rodon may not be the highest ranked draft prospect, but he may have the most upside.

On the position player side of things, high school catcher Alex Jackson appears to be the favorite to be the first non-pitcher off the board. While not too many of the game’s top catchers produce big time stats at the big league level, many people feel that Jackson has the ability to do just that.

With a cannon for an arm behind the plate, as well as a real power swing that should yield a good deal of power in addition to hitting for average, Jackson will likely become one of the brightest catching prospects in baseball after June 5th.

And therefore, with so much fantastic talent, from pitchers to position players, the 2014 draft could turn out to be one of the best in years.

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.

The Tommy John Epidemic Not Letting Up

First it was Corey Luebke. Then it was Luke Hochevar. Following soon after was Kris Medlen, along with Brandon Beachy, Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin, Bruce Rondon, David Hernandez, Peter Moylan, Erik Davis, Cory Gearrin, Bobby Parnell, Matt Moore, Josh Johnson, Ivan Nova, Pedro Figueroa and A.J. Griffin.Jose Fernandez

And now, reportedly, it’s Jose Fernandez.

Though it’s officially being classified as just an elbow strain, Fernandez would become the 18th major league pitcher to be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery (assuming the reports are true, and he has to have the surgery) since February 18th of this year. Meaning, Fernandez’s quest to win the 2014 National League Cy Young award, after placing third in 2013, would come to an end, as would his season.

While you don’t want a season ending injury to occur to any pitcher, you especially feel for Fernandez. Regardless of the fact that he has come across wrong in the past to a few, select players, he has a ton of fun out there on the mound and is an extremely humble guy. You don’t find both qualities all too often nowadays in major league players.

Coming off a career worst start in San Diego on Friday, in which Fernandez went just five innings, giving up five runs and raising his ERA from 1.74 to 2.44, the poor outing was the first indication that there was something wrong with Fernandez. Normally topping out at around 98 miles per hour on his fastball, Fernandez was throwing at around 91 when he was pulled from Friday’s game, and that drew a ton of attention his way as to what might be wrong. Now we know that there indeed was an issue.

If Fernandez has to undergo Tommy John surgery, it would be the first time in around a year that the Marlins have had to experience games without him toeing the rubber every fifth day. Without Fernandez for an extended period of time, it should be interesting to see how the Marlins fare. They’re off to a great start to the season, and if the pitching performances of Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi and Tom Koehler can continue, as well as the hot bats of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, the Marlins should be able to hang in there.

But even so, the loss of Fernandez isn’t something you want to brush off too lightly, because, as stated, he’s not the only pitcher who has been lost from their team for the season. In addition to the 18 major league pitchers previously listed who have fallen victim to Tommy John surgery, 16 minor league pitchers have been faced with the crushing news as well — all since February 18th, which averages out to a new pitcher having to have Tommy John once every 2.5 days.

Something is obviously wrong, and something needs to be done.

The most Tommy John surgeries in a single year since it was first performed on Tommy John himself back in 1974 was 46 in 2012. Sitting just 12 away for 2014, with several months left to go in the season, it’s likely that the number 46 could be surpassed, and that should be enough to tommy-johnmake people pay attention.

With there having only been 31 pitchers to have the surgery from it’s debut in 1974 all the way up until 1997, there have been more pitchers so far (33) in 2014 to have the surgery than there were in that 23-year span. That’s a definite problem.

Though the cause for the need of the surgery has been debated, from a pitcher’s mechanics having an impact, to the number of pitches thrown in an outing, or the innings pitched in a season playing a role, more and more people are beginning to look into the stress put on a pitcher’s arm in their youth.

The theory is that with young pitchers, in Little League and such, throwing too hard, too often, and adding in breaking balls too early in their playing years, their arms can’t handle the stress, and they begin to break down long before they reach the majors and have a season ending injury. With year round leagues becoming more popular, as well as multiple leagues for some pitchers, everything combines together for something bad to happen, and that is appearing to be the case.

One solution being pointed out by a lot of people (other than telling kids to lighten up with their velocity and number of games pitched) is for young pitchers to pitch off a flat mound instead of one that’s the same height as a major league pitcher. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci put it, “[it] makes no sense that 13-year-old kids are pitching off the same size mound as major league pitchers. Little Leaguers should be throwing off flat ground”. I have to agree with Verducci, and if that would help minimize injuries, then I’m all for it.

While Tommy John surgery is now becoming a routine surgery, and one that many pitchers have successfully come back from (a study showed that 97 percent of pitchers make it back to the minors, with 83 percent getting back to the majors, including Tommy John who pitched 14 more years and won 164 more games after his surgery), if it can be avoided altogether, obviously, that’s the more appealing alternative.

Whatever it takes, things need to change.

If you need to lower the mound for Little Leaguers, and perhaps even the major leagues down the road — lower the mound. If you need to issue a plan for young kids with what they’re allowed to do before a certain age — issue a plan. Do something that turns around this increasing Tommy John epidemic. There are far too many of the game’s greatest pitchers having to sit out a season in their prime, and that’s beginning to get very tiresome for the fans, and, I imagine, the players themselves.

Tanaka, Ellsbury Proving Me Wrong So Far In 2014

I have to admit it. I’m impressed.

When I published a post a few months ago about why the Yankees shouldn’t sign Masahiro Tanaka, I didn’t expect him to adjust to Major League Baseball so quickly. Given, the main point I was trying to make was that the money spent on Tanaka would be better used to sign other, cheaper free agents, I didn’t necessarily buy into the dominant pitcher that Tanaka was being hyped as. masahiro-tanaka

Even after going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan last season, I wasn’t convinced with everything that supposedly came along with Tanaka, and fully expected him, wherever he wound up, to struggle a little bit, having never pitched a game at the big league level.

But that hasn’t happened.

If anything, though he’s had his struggles at times, Tanaka has been better than his previous seasons in Japan, currently sitting in the top five among American League pitchers in the strikeout category, with 51 through 42.2 innings pitched. Only recording more strikeouts than innings pitched once in his seven year career in Japan, Tanaka is off to as good of a start as anyone — Yankees fans most of all — could’ve hoped for.

Moving to 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA after Saturday’s win against the Rays, Tanaka looks to continue stretching his winning streak without a single loss out as the season goes on. Although it’s very unlikely that Tanaka will remain perfect for the entire length of a second straight season, his performance each and every start will be a key factor in what kind of season the Yankees have.

However, even with the great pitching outings, Tanaka isn’t winning games on his own. The Yankees have been good, for the most part, up and down the lineup, with several players getting big hits in big spots to provide some run support. And that includes Jacoby Ellsbury just as much as anyone, who has been tremendous as their leadoff hitter.

As with Tanaka, however, I was quick to judge the Yankees’ offseason signing of Ellsbury.

Though Ellsbury can be a big impact player when healthy, that’s the issue — he hasn’t succeeded in staying healthy very often. While most of mlb_g_ellsbury_b1_400x600his injuries in the past have been freak injuries, Ellsbury comes along with a certain form of caution, and that lead to concern from myself to just what type of player the Yankees were getting. But with the way he’s been performing for the Yankees so far this season, Ellsbury could very well lose the injury prone tag that has stuck with him for years.

Currently batting .356 on the year to go along with ten stolen bases, and hitting his first home run of the season on Saturday, Ellsbury has been a key piece to the Yankees’ team, and one of the reasons they’ve been able to get off to such a good start, currently sitting atop the American League East division standings.

The bottom line: Masahiro Tanaka is good, Jacoby Ellsbury is good, and the Yankees apparently know what they’re doing. Though I’m sure I’ll find myself doubting certain trades and signings next offseason, the performances of Tanaka and Ellsbury, along with many others, proves that you never truly know whether a move is a good one or a bad one until the season starts. Until then, there’s always the chance that you can be proven wrong.

This particular time, it appears to have happened to me twice.

Latest MLB Leaders (March 22nd – April 30th)

With the first month of the 2014 MLB season in the books, I thought I’d take the first day of the new month to recap the season thus far. It’s been exciting, as well as disappointing — depending on how you look at it, and who you’re rooting for.

But instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that leads that particular category. I’ve done this for the past two seasons and it was well received, so I wanted to continue to do it for this season as well.

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but not AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – HITTING

Most Games Played – Paul Goldschmidt and Aaron Hill (31).

Most At-Bats – Paul Goldschmidt (124)

Most Hits – Melky Cabrera (41)

Highest Average – Charlie Blackmon (.374)

Highest OBP – Troy Tulowitzki (.477)

Highest SLG – Troy Tulowitzki (.727)

Most Runs – Brian Dozier (25)

Most Doubles – Paul Goldschmidt (12)

Most Triples – Adeiny Hechavarria and Andrelton Simmons (3).

Most Home Runs - Jose Abreu (10)

Most RBI’s - Jose Abreu (32)

Most Base On Balls - Jose Bautista (30)

Most Strikeouts - Abraham Almonte (39)

Most Stolen Bases - Dee Gordon (13)

Most Caught Stealing - Billy Hamilton (5)

Most Intentional Base On Balls - Prince Fielder (9)

Most Hit By Pitch - Jason Castro and Brandon Moss (5).

Most Sacrifice Flies - Matt Joyce (5)

Most Total Bases – Jose Abreu (71)

Most Extra Base Hits - Jose Abreu (19)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays - Carlos Santana (7)

Most Ground Outs - Elvis Andrus (53)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced - Mike Trout (570)

Most Plate Appearances – Paul Goldschmidt (138)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL) – PITCHING

Most Wins – Zack Greinke and Adam Wainwright (5).

Most Losses - Four players tied for most (5).

Best ERA – Johnny Cueto (1.15)

Most Games Started - Wade Miley and Hyun-Jin Ryu (7).

Most Games Pitched – Kenley Jansen (17)

Most Saves – Francisco Rodriguez (13)

Most Innings Pitched – Johnny Cueto (47)

Most Hits Allowed – Cliff Lee (52)

Most Runs Allowed – Brandon McCarthy and Wade Miley (27).

Most Earned Runs Allowed – Wade Miley (25)

Most Home Runs Allowed – Eight players tied for most (7).

Most Strikeouts – Jose Fernandez (55)

Most Walks – Shelby Miller (21)

Most Complete Games – Johnny Cueto and Martin Perez (2).

Most Shutouts – Martin Perez (2)

Best Opponent Avg. – Johnny Cueto (.136)

Most Games Finished – Francisco Rodriguez (16)

Most Double Plays Achieved – Martin Perez (12)

Most Wild Pitches – Wade Miley (6)

Most Balks – Samuel Deduno and Franklin Morales (2).

Most Stolen Bases Allowed – Trevor Cahill, Drew Hutchinson and Tyson Ross (7)

Most Pickoffs – Four players tied for most (2).

Most Batters Faced – Johnny Cueto and Wade Miley (177).

Most Pitches Thrown – C.J. Wilson (689)

Ervin Santana Yet to Disappoint With the Braves

For the second straight year, the Nationals are the favorites to win the National League East division, and for the second straight year, the Braves are looking to surprise many, despite being the overall weaker team on paper, by winning the division. While it’s still early, the Braves are off to a good start.ervin-santana-mlb-new-york-mets-atlanta-braves

But it didn’t appear that it would turn out that way.

When the Braves announced last month the loss of two of their big name starters, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, for the entire season due to Tommy John surgery, many people felt that it was a crushing blow to the team, and would keep the Braves from doing much of anything this year.

However, despite a few poor games, the Braves currently stand at the top of the division, having had great pitching and an explosive offense leading the way as of late.

A lot of the great pitching is coming from guys you wouldn’t necessarily expect to dominate. With Medlen and Beachy out for the season, and Mike Minor out for a little while longer, the Braves don’t have any front line starters beyond Julio Teheran. But their offseason additions of Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana are proving to be well worth it, as they are pitching like top notch pitchers so far.

For Santana, though it took all offseason for him to find a team, it’s looking like the one-year, 14.1 million dollar deal he agreed to could be a bargain for the Braves. Having so few pitching options heading into the season, the Braves picked up Santana merely because they were weak in starting pitching and needed a boost. Coming off a decent season of a 9-10 record with a 3.24 ERA for the Royals in 2013, Santana certainly had the ability to provide the upgrade.

However, I’m not sure anyone predicted Santana to be so good so soon. In his first start of the season against the Mets, Santana threw eight scoreless innings, earning the win as well as the respect of a lot of people around the baseball world. Going into his second start on Monday night, all eyes were on Santana again, and he was even better, overall. Striking out eleven batters in six one-run innings, Santana dominated, yet again, but had to settle for a no decision, due to poor relief pitching by the Braves’ bullpen.

While there are still a lot of critics who feel that the Braves will fall down behind the Nationals in the division standings as the season goes on, if their pitching can continue to be consistent along with their offense, they could surprise people, with Ervin Santana being a big reason for their success.

Top Prospects Ready to Make MLB Impact

There are numerous top prospects set to make an impact in the major leagues this season, as I wrote about a few months ago, but for this particular post, I’m only focusing on the players who are ready right now to get a callup to the big leagues, but are yet to for one reason or another. Keep in mind as you’re reading, the players (in no particular order) I’ve included are yet to play a single game in the majors:13067210

Archie Bradley is the first player on my list, as he nearly made the Diamondback’s rotation out of Spring Training. Going 14-5, with a 1.84 ERA last season, Bradley is one of those players who is sure to make an immediate impact upon his first callup to the majors. Though it could be awhile longer before Bradley gets his first big league start, he’s ready now, nonetheless, to show off his stuff on the highest level.

Another player who nearly made the majors out of Spring Training, and likely should have, is George Springer. Blasting the second-most home runs of any player in the minors last season, with a total of 37, Springer is sure to be one of the key pieces for the Astros moving forward, whenever his callup takes place. With the Astros’ outfield struggling, besides Dexter Fowler, bringing up Springer would be a smart thing to do.

Gregory Polanco could end up being as big of a difference maker for the Pirates as Andrew McCutchen. Though he’s yet to prove his ability on the major league level, there are a lot of people who feel Polanco is experienced enough to make the jump. Currently in Triple-A, it will likely be a bit of time before Polanco is called up, however, his combination of speed, power, and ability to hit for average should help him stick.

Joc Pederson is more than ready to make his major league debut, but there’s a big problem he faces: he’s an outfielder in the Dodgers’ organization. With a current outfield of Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, Pederson simply has nowhere to go. While it could be a good bit of time before the Dodgers’ figure out a solution to the situation they have with Pederson, he should be up before too long.

Currently battling an injury, Addison Russell can’t technically be called up to the major leagues until he fully recovers, which likely means more minor league time, however, he is nearly ready. Russell is coined to be the next great all around shortstop, and many people feel he has the potential to win multiple Gold Glove awards. With the Athletics’ contract to their current shortstop, Jed Lowrie, almost up, Russell will be up fairly soon.

Some honorable mentions, of player who are getting close to being major league ready but aren’t quite, include Oscar Taveras, Javier Baez, Noah Syndergaard, Alex Meyer, Eddie Butler, Jonathan Singleton, Garin Cecchini and Stephen Piscotty.

All are showing tons of major league potential, and the majority of those players should see time in the major leagues at some point in the second half of this season. The remaining few will get their first glimpse of the majors in the early part of 2015.

My First Game of 2014; Big Autograph Expectations

After nearly seven months, I’m finally attending another baseball game.

Later today, I’m heading out to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (DBAP), in Durham, North Carolina, where the visiting Gwinnett Braves are set to take on the defending International League Champion Bulls in game three of a four-game series. With the teams having split the series so far through two games, it’s sure to be an exciting game. Untitled

The thing I’m most excited about, besides the game itself, is seeing the DBAP for the first time since it underwent a multimillion dollar renovation this past offseason, which involved putting in new lights, new seats, a new playing surface, in addition to changing just about everything you can think of. Anything that helps make the fan experience better I always approve of.

Now, if you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you know the DBAP is one of the two local minor league ballparks — Five County Stadium, home of the Carolina Mudcats, being the other — that I frequent throughout each baseball season. Though I always enjoy a good baseball game, generally, I only go out to see a game when a good amount of prospects are set to be there, or if an MLB player is playing in a rehab game. Otherwise, I’m content to merely reading the box score each night.

As many of you are aware, within the past couple of seasons, I’ve developed a big passion for going out to games and getting autographs from the games’ most promising young players who are on their way up, and that’s the main reason I’m heading over to the ballpark tonight. Not living near any MLB teams, it’s truly my only chance to get autographs from what will likely be future MLB stars down the road, and Gwinnett certainly has plenty of them, with Christian Bethancourt, Tommy La Stella and Cody Martin, among others.

However, they’re not alone.

The Bulls definitely hold their own when it comes to roster construction. While this year’s roster doesn’t compare to the one they had last season, which saw Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer as part of the Opening Day roster, their lineup and pitching for this year is set to be good yet again. From Enny Romero to Nathan Karns, and many inbetween, the Bulls stand a good chance of repeating as Champions, and as such, there are numerous players I want to snag an autograph from at some point this year.

But the Braves are the team I’m going for tonight. I’m not going to be trying for any autographs from the Bulls players this time around due to the fact that I can always get them in a few weeks, as opposed to a team that may not return with the same players next time. I learned that lesson last year with Wil Myers. In taking three games to finally get Myers, I missed my chance to get the top opposing teams’ players. I won’t let that happen this time around.

The way I’m viewing the schedules right now, it’s likely that I’ll be going out to Durham often this first month, with possibly no trips to see the Mudcats until May.  The Mudcats simply aren’t that great of a team, and the teams that are going to be visiting aren’t that fantastic either. But it’s just the opposite All-Star-Game-Final-2014for the Bulls, as every team they’re playing against throughout April has some really good players on it that I hope to get autos from. Though, it’s likely that I won’t be blogging about any of it, unless things happen to change.

But that’s just the very beginning of what looks to be a great autographing season.

From May through the end of the season, both the Mudcats and Bulls are taking on loaded teams, making it difficult to decide when I want to head out to the ballpark and see certain players in person, though that’s a good problem to have.

More significant than that, however, the DBAP is hosting the 2014 Triple-A Home Run Derby and All-Star game in mid July, which will bring in numerous top prospects from the Pacific Coast League which usually never comes closer than Memphis. I truly can’t wait until then, as it’s a can’t miss experience that I’ll absolutely be blogging about.

From the exciting Bulls games to kick off the season, to the remaining strong schedules between both the Mudcats and the Bulls, and the All-Star events thrown in there as well, everything combined altogether, it’s sure to be an unforgettable season.

2014 Season Kicks off With Opening Series In Australia

Unless you’re an early riser, you probably missed the start of the 2014 baseball season.

For the first time in the history of Major League Baseball, a baseball game (airing live at 4 a.m. on MLB Network), between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, was played in the Southern Hemisphere, at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.mlb-in-australia (This marks the earliest (March 22nd) a regular season has ever begun, taking place over a week before Opening Day.)

But this isn’t the first time major league teams have squared off in another country to begin a season. Fifteen years ago, the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres launched the start of the 1999 season in Mexico. Since then, the regular season has started in both Japan (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012) as well as Puerto Rico (2001) over the years, with this being the first ever matchup in Australia. While these games aren’t played in the United States, they still matter, as they count towards the overall standings.

Game one of the two-game series in Australia saw Clayton Kershaw on the mound for the Dodgers, taking on Wade Miley, who was pitching for the Diamondbacks. Originally, Patrick Corbin was set to make the start for the D-backs, but an injury — one that could keep him out a good portion of this season — kept him from making the start.

As usual, Kershaw was great, going 6.2 innings, allowing a single run on 5 hits and striking out seven. While Miley struck out more than Kershaw, tallying a total of 8, he also gave up more runs, allowing 3 in his outing; including a two-run homer to Scott Van Slyke.

When all was said and done, that was the final score — the Dodgers winning 3-1.

Game two is set to air live, once again, on MLB Network, at 10 p.m. tonight, with Hyun-Jin Ryu taking on Trevor Cahill. With that matchup, and the talent the Dodgers have, it seems very likely that the Dodgers will return to the United States having won both games of the series, but you never know what could happen and what the rest of the season will hold.

The Dodgers will play another game on March 30th against the Padres, as part of Opening Night on ESPN. Opening Day officially kicks off the regular season for the majority of teams on March 31st.

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