Random Observations and Various Rants

Posts Tagged ‘Baseball’

National League Central Preview

Posted by Andrew on February 10, 2009

As was the case last season, the Chicago Cubs start spring training as the division favorites. Chicago may have failed to acquire former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy from San Diego, but they still have the best pitching staff and offense in the division. Their rivals from St. Louis did little to improve their team as did Cincinnati and their other rival Milwaukee actually took a giant leap backwards. The Milwaukee Brewers lost ace CC Sabathia to the Yankees and their other ace Olympic hero Ben Sheets is currently a free agent who is going to have elbow surgery to fix a torn flexor tendon. Rounding out the division is the dreadful PittsburghR Pirates and the Houston Astros.

Chicago‘s lovable losers are ready to break their 101 year championship drought and once again start the season as the favorites to win the division and possibly the pennant. Chicago’s pitching led by Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ryan Dempster have the ability to shut down any offense in the league and their hitting is also top notch. Alfonso Soriano is an explosive offensive player who can easily put knock out 30 to 40 home runs and steal an equal number of bases, while new Cub, Milton Bradley led the American League last year in batting average (.323) and on-base percentage (.443) The Cubs are a pretty balanced team, but they are not perfect. Rich Harden is always an injury risk and Ryan Dempster may have overachieved last season. Their bullpen also suffered a huge loss when Kerry Wood left as a free agent to join the Cleveland Indians. Even with those question marks, the Cubs are still an elite team.

St. Louis missed the playoffs the last two years, but they still have a legitimate shot at upsetting Chicago thanks to Albert Pujols. Pujols, who won the MVP last season, puts the fear of God into Chicago. Last season Pujols batted .429 with an OPS of 1.357 against ace Carlos Zambrano. His numbers against Rich Harden and Ryan Dempster are also amazing. Against Harden, he batted .333 with an OPS of 1.000 and Dempster he only had an OPS of .917. Against the Cubs as a team, he batted .327 with an OPS of 1.043. In baseball an OPS of .900 or higher and any batting average over .300 is considered upper echelon in baseball. In addition to Pujols, St. Louis has 2008 All-Star, Ryan Ludwick and power hitter Rick Ankiel. Their pitching staff is the team’s weak link as 2005 Cy Young winner, Chris Carpenter may be forced to pitch out of their bullpen due to injuries. Overall, this team is too one dimensional to really be a threat to Chicago.

Cincinnati is a very intriguing team. The Reds have three amazing young pitchers in Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey. They also have talented hitters in Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Joey Vatto. Cincinnati has all the talent in the world, but they lack experience. Cincinnati has a chance to be this year’s Tampa Bay Rays, and make a run to the World Series, but most likely they need another year to really put everything together and make a run to the playoffs.

Last year, the Milwaukee Brewers won the Wild Card and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 1982, and then got beat by Philadelphia in the first round. The Brewers have had an off-season so bad; horrible doesn’t begin to describe it. They lost ace CC Sabathia to the Yankees and Ben Sheets to free agency. Their closer Solomon Torres is also gone and their best minor league prospect was traded to Cleveland last year to acquire Sabathia. The Brewers have major holes in their pitching and they have been unable to acquire Kerry Woods, Brian Fuentes or any other free agent pitcher to help bolster their club. At least the Brewers still have a ton of offense. Prince Fielder was the youngest player to hit 50 home runs in a season. He is also a consistent player that will give you 30 plus homers and at least 100 rbis. They also have All-Star Ryan Braun and a very good offense, which plays in one of the best hitting parks in the league. They don’t have enough pitching to go very far, but they have enough hitting to annoy the other teams in the league.

Rounding out the division are Pittsburgh and Houston. The Pittsburgh Pirates are dreadful as usual and Houston is underwhelming. Houston has some talent in Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Hunter Pence, but the rest of the team is so awful that it doesn’t matter. Speaking of awful, the Pirates are just that. The once proud franchise has fallen on tough times with the departure of Barry Bonds in the 90s and they have not stood up yet. They traded away their best player last year to Boston, and they have nobody worth rooting for this year. Its going to be another tough year for Pittsburgh, as Chicago cruises along and wins the division for a 3rd straight year.

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National League East Preview

Posted by Andrew on February 5, 2009

Jose Reyes safely steals second base.

Jose Reyes safely steals second base.

We are less than two weeks away from pitchers and catchers’ reporting to spring training and Philadelphia is looking to defend its crown as World Series Champions. The National League East looks like it will be the toughest division in the league once again as New York fixed its major weakness from last season and Florida has a young team filled with powerful hitters and good pitching. Atlanta has also improved their starting pitching with the acquisition of Javier Vasquez as well as Derek Lowe and they will be a better team than they were last year. Add in the defending champion, Phillies and you will be hard pressed to find a tougher division.

Since 2006, the senior circuit has run through Shea Stadium in Corona, New York. In 06 the Mets were one nightmarish pitch away from the World Series, (won by St. Louis who defeated the Mets in the NLCS.) In 07 and 08, it took monumental collapses by the bullpen to keep NY from the playoffs and both times Philadelphia managed to win the division. Last year Philly got hot at the right time and defeated Tampa Bay to win their first World Series since 1980. This year, the Mets improved their main weakness from last year and their starting rotation is still led by Johan Santana. The Mets offense has some question marks but their talented core of Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran all had MVP worthy seasons last year and in the case of Reyes and Wright are just entering their primes. The front of the rotation is strong with Johan Santana and Mike Pelfrey and the backend was solidified with the resigning of Oliver Perez and the additions of Tim Redding and Freddy Garcia.

Philadelphia is flying high right now, and as the champions, they are the favorites to the win the N.L. again, but they have question marks bigger than the ones plaguing the Mets. Their talented core of Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins is broken up for the moment. Utley has undergone off-season hip surgery which may impact his preformace this season. Ryan Howard is still a premier offensive player, but his strike out numbers look to increase this season and his batting average last year was horrid. Their pitching staff has all world pitcher Cole Hamels, and after that is surrounded by age and uncertainly. Can 46 year old Jamie Moyer repeat last seasons performance or will his age finally catch up to him? Brett Myers was the team’s opening day starter last year, but was sent down to the minor leagues to work out some issues. He returned and pitched extremely well in the second half, but in 09 will he be the Myers that 3-9 with a 5.84 ERA in the first half of the year or the Myers that went 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA in the second half.

Rounding out the division is the talented Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves and dreadful Washington Nationals. Florida and Atlanta will fight for third place this year while Washington will likely fight to avoid having the worst record in the league. Atlanta did improve their rotation by signing Derek Lowe and trading for Javier Vasquez, but their offense is bad to say the least. They were fourth in the division in runs scored, RBIs, SLG, and OPS and they really have not addressed their offensive problems during the off-season. Moving down I-95 South, Florida has the second best player on the planet in Hanley Ramirez and has surrounded him with a bunch of young talented hitters who can easily out hit and outrun any team in the majors. Their pitching is young and has talent and if everything goes right during the season this team can defeat Philadelphia and New York. Chances are that they will struggle against the two top teams and end up in third place again this year. As for Washington, while they have a couple of good players, they are years away from competing. They will not be much of a factor and may end up having the worst record in the majors for a second straight year.

This division will feature a dog fight at the top between N.Y. and Philly with Florida jumping in and knocking heads but in the end, I predict that N.Y. will win the division. They have the best pitching staff and their offense has 3 potential MVPs. They also turned last year’s weakness into an area of strength with the addition of Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz. Philly has a great offense, and their bullpen is top notch, but their starting rotation has too many question marks. They will have a tough time in April and May if Chase Utley starts out slow due to his off-season surgery or if Ryan Howard starts out slow. N.Y. is far from perfect but they have had a great off-season thus far and improved their holes. Their offense after Wright, Reyes and Beltran contains a bunch of question marks but their improved pitching should lead them back to October baseball.

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