Tuesday, April 7, 2009

14 comments Is It Baseball Season Yet?

I actually really hate it when I am right. I knew last night's NCAA Championship would not be a good game and I turned the game off before the 16 minute mark in the first half because I had seen enough at that point. It's always fun to see a team come out for a big game hyped up and then come out on the floor and just roll over and play dead. Actually it is not fun, it is quite pathetic. Thank God that is all over and I only received a few messages from UNC fans reminding me of what was happening in case I had hit my head repeatedly against a glass table and had forgotten (which seemed like a good idea this morning). I am in the process of getting extremely jealous of some my friends who seem to have an abundance of joy to celebrate as of late. I have one friend who is a UNC, Phillies, and Steelers fan. I am not kidding...If he wasn't one of my two friends in the world, I would go to his house and hold his family hostage until I get one championship from one of my favorite teams. Everyone in the house would probably die of old age...

Ok, enough Sylvia Plath writing. There is not a whole lot out there today to make fun of so I thought I would briefly cover some bad articles that are just awful and then look ahead to baseball season. The good news there is that my favorite team is probably not good enough to play like shit in the playoffs (or are they), so that will be a welcome change for me.

There are two articles I read this week that I thought were very absurd.

Jon Heyman on CNNSI.com wrote a column about possible breakout candidates this year.

I wonder which select group of players he thinks will breakout?

I see breakout seasons everywhere. Thirty of them, to be exact.

30 breakout seasons? This is the journalism equivalent of throwing everything against the wall just to see what sticks and bragging about how right you were at the end of the year. Seriously, how can he name 30 candidates? That is more than an entire roster and is more than 3% of the league that Heyman thinks will breakout. Why not just name every player in the major leagues? Does that take too many words?

2. Corey Hart

He made the All Star Game last year. It's not the end-all-be-all to determine how good a player is, but I think he broke out already last year.

10. Rick Ankiel

Ditto. .264 and .843 OPS with 25 HR and 71 RBI only 4 years after being a pitcher counts as a breakout season in my book (which you can buy at Amazon.com, look under "My Book: Here Is What I Consider a Breakout Season")

17. Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs first baseman: Maybe it's just me, but this guy's an unstoppable force whenever I see him. Unfortunately for him, he's blocked at first by Derrek Lee.

Kind of tough to have a breakout season if you don't play. I thought this was a list of "breakout seasons" not a list of "players who would be good if they played consistently." If we made a list of guys who could play well if they were not blocked by another good player, then it may (just may) be longer than Jon Heyman's list of 30 players who are going to breakout.

28. Javier Vazquez, Braves pitcher: Switch back to National League may prove big for this innings-eater.

Ok, this guy has broken out, then broken back in, then broken back out...Considering he has been on 4 teams and played 11 seasons in the major leagues, I would say he has broken out already.

29. Brett Gardner, Yankees center fielder: Speedy and cocky, he beat odds just by getting a chance to win the job to man that hallowed ground. One caveat: Any sign of a slump, and the Yankees are always a threat to go out and acquire someone to replace him.

He will break out this year...and then lose his job. Thanks for the great information Jon.

I look forward to the breakout season from Felix Hernandez and Brandon Webb this year as well. I am sure with this list you have guaranteed you will be right about at least 2 or 3 of these players.

Scoop Jackson does a bracket just in time for the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately it is about ice cream flavors.

If anyone can tell me what the hell ice cream flavors have to do with sports or have to do with anything in the world sports related, please tell me. I would love to know. Just because his name is "Scoop" does not mean he can write about ice cream. Woody Paige shouldn't do a bracket about the best types of lumber or the worst side effects of erectile dysfunction.

An ice cream bracket. What a non-fanfuckingtastic idea.

I know Scoop talks about Chicago and basketball a lot and felt the need to branch out...but to ice cream flavors?

What began as a joke became a labor of intense research on the subject of organic frozen flavored dairy. From popularity to production. All of a sudden, it got serious.

Oh no Scoop, it's still a joke. It makes you look like a joke too.

Even when certain flavors could not be tasted, comments were made that told the stories of survival and advancement. For instance, in the battle between A&W Root Beer Float vs. Vanilla Bean. Vanilla Bean won because: "You can always buy some root beer and pour it over the Vanilla Bean and call it a day."

I love how even in ranking ice cream flavors at Page 2 columnist at ESPN can not help but rank the flavors because on hyperbolic stories and not the actual merits (like taste) of the ice cream. It's like they HAVE to have a story that can not be disproven to rank them instead of just picking the most popular or best tasting flavor.

I am very excited for baseball season, and not just because that is when a lot of bad statistical columns come out, but because I really love the sport. Not a great reason but that is still my reasoning. Just remember, only 2 and a half months until the first column complaining about the All Star voting process comes out.

I have put a lot of thought into what the readers of this here blog don't really care about. So, I thought I would make a few predictions for the upcoming year, grouped by division. I have done very little in-depth research (like studying each team's roster and statistics from last year and seeing how the new team members affect their chances) into each team, other than the fact I feel like I have a decent grasp on each team's chances, and I am going to base my predictions on how my gut feeling thinks each team will do this year. I did not have time to do that. So basically, like the experts, I am guessing...except I think I will be more accurate because most of the experts are idiots and I thought this through before I wrote.

AL East

Boston: 98-64- I think this team made some smart moves in free agency (Penny, Smoltz, Saito) and don't see any reason why their pitching won't allow them to carry this division.

Tampa Bay: 94-68- I don't know which way to go with this team honestly. I would love to have them winning the division but I think 94 wins is their ceiling. So I pick their ceiling.

New York: 91-71- They still have not figured it all out. They keep spending and spending money but refuse to figure it all out. Sabathia and Tex were the latest ones to be lured by money to New York. I don't think Sabathia is a big city pitcher and Tex is the game's best second best hitter on a team. He can't and won't carry the team with A-Rod out.

Toronto: 79-83- Too many starters out at the beginning of this year. They had a chance maybe two years ago to make a move on the Yankees and Red Sox but that window is closed. They have Eckstein though!

Baltimore: 75-87- I love the outfield they have, I love Matt Wieters, but I hate they have no pitching. They can't outslug everyone.

AL Central

Chicago: 91-71- This is the hardest division for me to get a grip on, partly because there are reasons I would pick four teams as first in the division. I am assuming Danks and Floyd keep pitching well and the bullpen holds up.

Minnesota: 90-72- I feel risky putting them up this high, especially with the injuries they have had, but I am not gutsy enough to pick against them. They are going to be a good team again...that's all I think really.

Detroit: 84-78- I am on record with loyal reader A.J. as saying I thought Detroit could surprise some people this year because I thought the starting pitching was going to get back on track. I want to take that back, though I don't think they will have the fire sale some people are predicting.

Cleveland: 78-84- I don't like this team this year. I think Cliff Lee had one good year and it was an anomaly and I have no idea who is going to be a reliable enough 3-5 starter to make this a good team. On offense they have Martinez and Sizemore, but I still don't think they will have a lead enough in the 9th inning to make Kerry Wood worth the money he was paid.

Kansas City: 77-85- I want to like them so much but I thought Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Mark Teahan were supposed to be good baseball players by now? I think they are a year away from moving their way up in this division...but I think it will happen...just not this year.

AL West

Los Angeles: 93-69- It's more a reflection on this division than it is a reflection of how good the Angels are going to be. I realize they have pitching injury problems right now but I think they will hold off the A's.

Oakland: 90-72- The difference will be whether Eric Chavez will be able to play a full season and I don't think he will be able to. I would also feel better about their chances if they had at least one pitcher who has been proven over more than 2 seasons. Those young guys are so hard to predict.

Seattle: 83-79- I think they will be better than expected but I also think the outfield looks like a semi-mess right now, especially if Griffey is going to be getting a lot of playing time. They are still counting on Carlos Silva, which can't be good.

Texas: 70-92- They can't outscore everyone and they currently have no pitching ready at the major league level. In two years, maybe it will be different, but not this year.

NL East

New York: 96-66- Good starting pitching depth, including the best LH pitcher in the NL, and a great bullpen means they won't blow late leads.

Atlanta: 92-70- Call me a homer, I don't care. I am really feeling like this could be a good year for this team. That being said, they need someone in the outfield to hit the ball and also need Tom Glavine to get injured so they can use the other 2 options they have that are better than he is. I could also see them losing 92 games...

Philadelphia: 90-72- I think they are a good team, but I also think the starting pitching is weak behind Cole Hamels. Lidge will blow at least one game this year and they have no power from the right side in the lineup. Basically I think this year is going to go down the tubes a little bit for them.

Florida: 81-81- They are a popular pick this year to come in 3rd in the division but I don't see it happening. They can hit the ball, when they are not striking out, but I don't see the starting pitching being as strong as others believe.

Washington: 69-93- Welcome to Washington Adam Dunn! It looks a lot like Cincinnati, but with a whole lot less pitching.

NL Central

Chicago: 100-62- I love their starting pitching (though Dempster having the same year as last year is doubtful in my opinion), I love their bullpen and I also love the fact they added Milton Bradley in the off season. This feels like the year this team gets it done.

St. Louis: 85-77- I think they get second in the division by default because I don't like any of the other teams in this division. This prediction is also the Cardinals ceiling.

Milwaukee: 84-78- I feel like Sabathia carried them last year...and they still could not get it done. They lack the pitching to get by in the division. I think they should look into trading Fielder for a pitcher. They have Matt Gamel and they need a pitcher to win the Wild Card.

Cincinnati: 80-82- Other than the fact Johnny Cueto and Volquez are not two pitchers that I would want Dusty Baker handling, I think Cincinnati could be higher in the division if I trusted an offense built around two second year players and Brandon Phillips.

Pittsburgh: 65-97- I am almost embarrassed to include them as a MLB team. Only a team this stupid would trade for Andy LaRoche last year when they have a prospect, Pedro Alvarez, ready to take over the position soon.

NL West

Arizona: 87-75- Webb and Haren.

Los Angeles: 85-77- They had only an above average August and September with Manny Ramirez last year and this year they have less proven pitching and are planning on starting Casey Blake at 3B for a good portion of the year. I actually think 85 wins may be a stretch.

San Francisco: 78-84- They say good pitching can carry a team. It can't carry a team with an offense this bad though.

Colorado: 72-90- I don't know what people are expecting from this team but I am not expecting much at all. Just two years ago it looked like they were on the verge of owning this division for a few years. I am assuming Francis is out for the year.

San Diego: 63-99- Just trade Jake Peavy and Brian Giles. Start over. Instead the Padres are holding out for higher trade offers. You don't do that with Peavy coming off the first major-ish injury of his career and then expect his trade value will increase with a shitty team behind him. The Padres are not going to be good this year.

AL Playoffs (I originally had two teams from the same division playing each other here, but MLB Wild Card rules, as pointed out by The Casey, say this can not happen. I have adjusted this accordingly. This is what happens when you google the last couple Wild Card series competitors and not the actual rule)

Boston 3-1 over Chicago
Los Angeles 3-2 over Tampa Bay

Boston 4-1 over Los Angeles

NL Playoffs

Chicago 3-1 over Atlanta
New York 3-1 over Arizona

Chicago 4-3 over New York

World Series

Boston 4-2 over Chicago

Everyone feel free to use statistics and curse words telling me how dumb I am if you would like. Sorry I did not use stats but I would have posted this earlier Wednesday morning if I had.


The Casey said...

Nit-picking time! Although I'm probably wrong on this one, I'm just too lazy to use the internet to research. It's like I write for Page Two!

I don't think that a division winner can play a wild card team from the same division in the first round, unless they've recently changed that. I don't think it really changes anything in the NL, but it might in the AL.

I hope you're right about the Braves.

Bengoodfella said...

I actually googled the last couple of years and the playoff matchups that happened. I did not see proof of this but i just googled it and you are right. I am going to edit this right now.

I have a feeling about the Braves, I could be wrong.

Martin said...

I think the AL Central is so messed up that nobody has a clue who is going to win. I think folks think that 2007 is the more typical year for the Indians, where as recent history tells me it was the aberation, to my little baseball viewing eyes anyway. My guess is that the White Sox have the fewest weak spots. Decent offense, good starting pitching, deeper then the Twins. Detroit could be the team if it's pitching comes around. Iv'e never seen a rotation fall apart so completely so fast.

Bengoodfella said...

The AL Central was the hardest one for me to predict. I wanted to pick the Tigers so badly but then I looked at them and just did not think I could count on that rotation coming through. I agree with you, I have never seen a team's rotation fall apart so quickly. I thought they were going to hold down the Central for a few years with Robertson, Bonderman, Verlander, and then they drafted Porchello (spelling?). I really, really wanted to pick them but just could not do it.

I don't see anything of what everyone else sees in the Indians. I see a team with an inconsistent offense and a pitching rotation that I don't trust at all. Granted, they have a decent bullpen, but it does you no good if you can't get there with a lead.

It's not that I like the White Sox as much as, like you said and I guess how I picked, they seem to have the fewest holes. That being said, I can see this team getting old all at the same time. Which means Konerko, Dye and Thome stop hitting/get injured and Mark Buerhle starts getting knocked all over the place. I have them as the winner of the division by default.

The Twins are interesting but I think the injuries they have and the fact I believe the White Sox will have a better rotation this year, cause me to knock choose them to win the division.

I thought about your thoughts on the Angels and I did not disregard them but I do think the Angels will win the division. They may not have as good of a record as I predicted though.

Anonymous said...

BGF...Any chance you tallied up how many Boras clients are on Heyman's list? Did G. Maddux make the list? What about ARod?

The fact that you like ATL is worrying all of us NYM fans. You're always doing the Chicken LIttle with your teams. I think the NL East must be in trouble despite your picking the NYM.

I can deal with anyone else winning the NL East but Philly.

Bengoodfella said...

I did not tally how many Boras clients were on the list...but I do hear Greg Maddux is going to have a breakout year this year. Along with David Wright.

I do the Chicken Little with my teams but I prefer to see it as being realistic about their chances. I've never been a good homer. There are so many people who beat the drum for their team, it just annoys me...unless it is true of course and then it annoys me because it is right.

I actually feel really good about the Braves team this year. I did not want them to trade for Peavy, sign Burnett or Griffey, so I am glad those fell through. Now why they gave Glavine $2 million and let Smoltz go is beyond me. That complaint is for a different blog though. I don't want you to worry too much because I did pick the NYM to win the division and make the NLCS. Not to mention I am wrong a lot...or at least I feel like I am. I think the Mets are the class of the East still.

I can't deal with the Marlins winning the East. I never have liked them at all. I don't know why. I am not a huge Phillies fan either.

Martin said...

Oh I think the Angel's will win the AL West also, but the odds for the other teams to win were just too good considering the starting pitching injuries that the Angels have. 10-1 being the next worst choice just seems to good to pass up. :) Course, like you, not living in Vegas makes gambling a moot point for me.

The Mets should win, I think the bullpen really helps them this year.

Chris W said...

BGF: I look at the Phil's and see the best team in baseball.

That's a solid rotation, a great bullpen, and the best lineup in baseball, IMO, bar none

AJ said...

Well after watching the first two Tigers games, they are already in last seasons mid-year form. If last night was a preview to come, the Tigers are in for a longggg season yet again. I know it's only been two games, so at least that can be said (of course we said that last year after they started 0-7). To me Leyland just isn't a good enough manager. I'm sure no one watched the game but me, clearly, but you cant leave a pitcher in that gives up a 3 run HR in the bottom of the 8th to blow a 3-1 lead and then comes back out and pitches the 9th and proceeds to blow that as well.

Whats the point of having a guy that can throw 102 MPH in your bullpen if you aren't going to use him when the game matters?

Jackson looks good though, I will say that. I don't think they have the depth in the rotation to win this division though. And Verlander looked awful (but so did a lot of #1 pitchers around the league). And the defense, which was suppose to be improved, blew that game for them in the 8th.

I dont see Clevland being any good either, so I would say any of the 5 teams can win this divison.

My picks:
AL East - Boston
AL Cent - Chicago
AL West - LA
Wildcard - NYY

NL East - Mets
NL Cent - Cubs
NL West - Arizona
Wildcard - Atlanta

Boston over Chicago
NYY over LA
NYY over Boston

Mets over Arizona
Cubs over Atlanta
Cubs over Mets

NYY over Cubs

Bengoodfella said...

Martin, those do seem like really good odds to pass up that the Angels will win the West. I would like to put my faith and hope in Seattle in the West because they have Felix and Bedard at the top of the rotation...but I can't do it.

The Phillies do look pretty good on paper and the bullpen should be pretty good as well. It's not that the Phillies are going to be much worse than last year, they won 92 games last year and this year I put them at 90. I just think other teams in the division have improved more than they have. I could see them winning the division again but I obviously did not predict it.

AJ, I would not worry too much about the Tigers yet...though everyone did say that last year as well. I did not see the game and haven't really thought about Leyland that much as a game manager. From what you described it sounds like he should have made the choice not to let the same reliever in for the 9th inning. I am surprised at how many managers tend to mismanage their bullpen.

Edwin Jackson could very well be a good pitcher for them but I do worry about their depth and that is why I have backed off my positivity for them so much. I thought Willis was going to get back on track but it seems like that is not happening. I would not worry about Verlander either, it is still early. I don't see how they win the division without either Bonderman or Robertson pitching extremely well this year.

Yankees fans will be happy to see you think they will win the World Series. They have been starved without one for a whole 8-9 years now. I am going to just laugh when the Indians make the World Series, since no one here thinks they will be good.

AJ said...

Well Robertson is not starting, he's in the bullpen. I really believe he shouldnt even be on the team.

Bondermen is hurt again, and who knows if he will ever be able to stay healthy for a whole season.

What gets me about managers is the only real job they have is to manage who to bring in to pitch and when to take someone out...thats about it. And yet, they still screw that up. You have 8 guys in your pen, if the guy on the mound just isnt pitching good, change them up. This is not a hard concept.

I just feel like if the Yankees can make the playoffs that they will be hard to beat because of their starting pitching.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Rangers made a push for the playoffs this year, they have a very good offensive and defensive team. Of course, you could almost always say that about them. Its their pitchers that are the problem, but I think if they can just keep them in games they will be a pretty good team this year...one that can compete for the West title. I see them like the Brewers last year; if they are still in it at the trade deadline I think they will get a big time pitcher for a push.

Bengoodfella said...

I did not know Robertson was in the bullpen. That shows how much I really know...I thought he had the 5th starter position?

I am sure managing is more difficult than you and I give it credit for being, because they have to look at matchups and things like that, but it does seem pretty simple from the outside doesn't it?

I am not as sold on the Yankees this year. I don't trust Burnett to be healthy all year but they do look pretty formidable. I also don't think Texas has what it takes to win that division when it comes to pitching. Sure the great prospects they got in the Tex trade will help, but I think Feliz and Harrison are a year away from contributing a lot. They need to trade one of the three great young catchers they have for a starter...but they would make too much sense.

If they are in contention, which I am not sure of, I could see them getting Peavy. He would work well there and the Rangers have the prospects to do it.

Martin said...

The Phils offense is very good, their bullpen good, but I'm not sold on their starting rotation. Hamels is great, but Moyer, Blanton and Myers don't give me any confidence. They look like .500 pitchers who just kinda get by. If Myers turns in the kind of sustained year that his talent says he could, then that would be a big help. I just haven't ever seen that he's got it upstairs. If he had Moyers pitching IQ, or Moyer had Myers talent, that would be a hell of a pitcher.

Bengoodfella said...

Don't mess with Brett Myers and talk about how he doesn't have it "up there." Remember, he ain't afraid to smack a bitch to set you straight.

I feel silly worrying about the Phillies pitching behind Hamels but it does look like they have a bunch of guys who are average or above average. That's my concern for them. If Moyer wasn't really, really old, I think they could count on him for another 16 win season. I just want to know who the #2 starter is and I don't see one.