Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Where do you keep your Buccaneers?

Pittsburgh.
"Wow this guy is really developing well, we better trade him before he wants money." I have a feeling this is said more in Pittsburgh than any other baseball town in the US.

The Pirates haven't been good since Bonds left, and Lloyd McClendon played on the team. They won't be good this year either. The Wilsons, Jason Bay and Mackowiak are good young players, but Jason Kendall was the key to that offense. He was their best player and now he's gone. Benito Santiago could be Jose Castillo's dad, so I wouldn't count on him to produce liek Kendall. Matt Lawton is not the answer either. But I would still say that they have a mediocre offense, which is a complement. If Oliver Perez can pitch 1000 innings this year, the Cardinals will need to look out for the Pirates, otherwise they should be fine. The rest of their pitchers struggled last year, and they lost Kris Benson at the deadline. Jose Mesa had a good 2004 after a horrible 2003, but I don't know any of their middle relievers, so I will assume that they aren't good.

If there were a division made up of only my last place teams, the Pirates might win it (actually Seattle would, but Pittsburgh would be a solid second.) But in the NL Central they have little to no chance. Prediction: 70-92

Monday, February 21, 2005

NL Central

Here it is, what you've all been waiting for, the NL Central predications. Obviously the Cardinals are number one, since our boys were the best regular season team in the league last year. You could argue that the Cards are worse than last year, and I would tell you that you are wrong. Since the NL Central is the basis of my blog, I am going to have a separate post for each team over the next few weeks, probably working from the bottom up to build the suspense. But here is the order.

1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee Brewers (Yes, really)
4. Houston Astros
5. Cincinnati Reds
6. Pittsburgh Pirates


Also the answer to my last trivia question: Which St. Louis manager has the best name EVER?
Answer: When the current St. Louis Cardinals were the St. Louis Browns in 1892 (not the franchise that went to Baltimore, the franchise that is now the Cardinals) they had a manager named Cub Striker, how awesome is that. He also played second base.

AL Central

If baseball were basketball the AL Central would be the Atlantic Division. Clearly it is the worst division in baseball. If you call the AL East or NL Central "Top Heavy" then you could only call the AL Central over the last few years ba-dunka-a-dunk. While the Twins have won the division for the last three years, the most impressive number in the standings is usually the losses by the fifth place team. This year the Tigers and Indians have made moves to distance themselves from the cellar and the Royals should run away with it. My Picks:

1: Twinkies
2: Native Americans
3: The South Siders
4: La Tigre
5: The Royales with Cheese

The Twins are roughly the same good team they have been for a while. The kept Santana, which is huge. Joe Mauer will be back and healthy, ready to show that he deserved to be taken ahead of Prior (yeah, right). That Morneau guy is back, he played well last year after Mentkievaoiwetrack left. They lost Coskie and Guzman, which hurts, but the rumors about the guys coming up to replace them sound good. They still have the fast, powerful outfield and a solid top three starters. So they may have lost half a step, but they are still the class of the division.

The Indians came on half way through last year and nearly finished 500. They have a solid young team. They lost Omar Vizquel who was their worst batter last year and have some rookie replacing him. They still have a strong infield. They got Kevin Millwood who was disappointing as an ace, but will work well behind Sabathia. With Jake Westbrook as the number three guy, they have a descent rotation. Plus Coco Crisp and CC Sabathia have cool names, and they wear their hats all cock-eyed, so that should get them at least 2 or 3 wins.

The White Sox made a lot of changes this year, and most of them were bad. Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednick????? Seriously, what were they thinking. They have a rotation full of question marks, but that is better that a rotation full of nobodies. We will see if stockpiling Cuban defectors leads to wins, or a communist revolution. If Big Frank starts on the bench, they have no heart of the order. Aaron Rowand will not carry the team on his shoulders.

The Tigers are no longer pathetic, this may be the year that they go over five hundred. If Mags can play that would be a huge lift to the offense and defense. With Mags, Pudge, and Carlos Guillen in the middle of the order they should put up some runs. They still don't have a starter with a sub-four ERA, so I can't put them higher that fourth.

Is there anyone on the Royals? Sweeney, Berroa, Lima, that's about all I got. Oh, our old buddy Eli Marrero, I would if he is starting? ESPN.com gave them worst team in the league honors. I think the Nationals will edge them out, but it should be ugly.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

A pretty picture

Mark Mulder doing his thing with the birds on bat across his chest. That's what we call an Ace, boys and girls. I just wanted to post it since it made me happy inside.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

AL East

Boston v. New York, if you watch enough ESPN you can start to believe that major league baseball is only Boston v. New York (and steroids). This year the Yankees are spending about 200 million and the Red Sox are spending about 140. While both of those numbers are huge, the Red Sox are still 60 million short, which is about a Texas Rangers worth of difference (or two Devil Rays). I know Red Sox fans will tell you that Theo Epstein gets better value than Brian Cashman/Steinbrenner, and that the Yankees are giving over 15 million to Giambi. And over a seven game series it does not matter what a teams payroll is. But, I believe that over a 162 game season the 60 million dollar difference is going to matter, so I will predict the Yankees to take the division again. Of course, that didn't stop the Red Sox form winning the championship last year.

AL East
1: Yankees
2: Red Sox
3: Baltimore
4: Tampa
5: Toronto
---- Just Like Last Year-------

I will not rant too mush like I have on previous prediction posts, because there are a few other people out there covering the AL East. I will make a small list of Jim-Rome-like statements. A-Rod will be his MVP self again, Giambi will ride the pine. Randy Johnson is better than Curt Schilling, Wade Miller could be better than Jaret Wright. Matt Clement is better than Carl Pavano. Man-Ram is ridicky-donk. The Orioles don't have a chance even with Tejada Mora Sosa Lopez Palmeiro and that is sort of upsetting. Tampa and Toronto deserve pity.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Skeletor

My buddy Mike over at OldStyleCubs likes to compare Julian Tavarez to Skeletor, and talk about how he is much crazier than Carlos Zambrano. So, I collected some air tight evidence. Who looks more like Skeletor, Tavarez or Zambrano?

I rest my case.

Don't mess with me Mike, I used to think that I was He-Man.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Steroid Stuff

I have been trying to avoid posting about this Canseco steroid stuff. I thought I could hold out until spring training really got going. But with all the McGwire and La Russa action I figured I should get in my two cents.

As far as McGwire goes, maybe he did steroids, maybe just Andro. Why does it matter? He is still going to the Hall-of-Fame. He doesn't have the home run record anymore. There is never going to be an asterisks after his or Bonds name, because they can't test them for what they took 4 or 7 years ago and they won't base an asterisks or what a teammate or mistress said. He is done playing so there is no reason to go after him. A lot of people like Joe Mcewing have come out in his defense praising his work effort and saying that he did not take the juice. So I am going to continue to not care.

For La Russa, I think it was an interesting move for him to come out and admit that he knew Canseco was juicing it up. It's a stand up move for him to tell the truth, and it's doubtful there will be any punishment. However, at the time why didn't he do anything? He didn't report it, try to stop it, instead he stuck Canseco's name in the lineup everyday.

Cardinals Trivia:
Which St. Louis manager had the greatest name EVER for a St. Louis manager. (Hint, you've never heard of him, and there is a reason I said St. Louis instead of Cardinals)

AL West

Here is a test, name ten starting pitchers in the AL west. That's just half of them, but it's not easy. The west is all about the hitting, especially since the pitcher exodus in Oakland this year. Last year the Angels beat out Oakland for the division down the stretch. It is hard for anyone to say that Oakland got any better. So, the real choice is between Texas and Anaheim and I am going to have to pick Anaheim to win it again this year. I am choosing the Angels again.

1. Anaheim
2. Texas
3. Oakland
4. Seattle

With that line-up healthy Anaheim is a tough team to beat on any day, regardless of who is the starting pitcher. I wouldn't be surprised in Bartolo Colon bounces back to have a decent year. The number 2, 3, and 4 guys are respectable and Paul Byrd who spent last year injured with the Braves will give them a number five guy better than Aaron Sele. They lost Troy Percival, but with Rodriguez they can cope. Orlando Cabrera is a slight upgrade over the Cards new guy Eckstein.

Texas came out of nowhere last year to lead the division for the first half of the season. They have a great infield, probably the best in the game now that Edgar left us. Richard Hidalgo is replacing Gary Mathews Jr. which is a small upgrade. If Chan Ho Park can stay healthy all year he could play like he did 5 years ago before he started Griffey Jr syndrome. The weakest spot in Texas is still the bullpen where they have Frank "I taught Artest everything he knows" Fransisco and some other no names. The hitting is good enough to win a division, but the number 3-5 starters and the bullpen should keep the Rangers from beating out the Angels this year.

If baseball bloggers have one thing in common it is that they believe that someone out there for some reason cares what they think. If there is a second thing it is that Billy Beane is a genius that can win a division with 25 dollars and an Excel spreadsheet. While I would agree that Beane is easily the best Gm of the last five years, I would also point out that the A's have had three of the best 15 pitchers in the league for the last five years. Now we will see if the yearly success is due more to Beane's brilliance or his triple aces. They picked up Jason Kendall which should be a huge upgrade over Damien Miller. But as a whole they are too young to be consistent over an entire season. Zito and Harden are the only pitchers who have spent a whole year at the big league level. Everyone reading this knows about Danny Haren and that he is ready for his chance. But he would be better off in the fifth spot where is he struggles he can someone else can take his spot. In Oakland he is the number three guy and there is a lot more pressure on him.

Seattle is a big question. They spent a truckload of money this winter on Sexson and Beltre. Ichiro, Winn, Beltre, Sexson, Ibanez is a good top half of a lineup but, like the rest of the division, the pitching in Seattle is weak. Bret Boone sucked last year as did Scott Spiezio. I may be wrong, Seattle may compete for the division, but I think they will finish a little below 500 which will be the worst in the AL West.

Monday, February 07, 2005

NL West

The NL west was the only exciting division in the NL last year with the Dodgers and Giants battling it out the last couple games and the Padres staying in the race until the last week.

So this year the choice is obviously between those three teams. As much as I would love to see the Padres take the division, I don't think they improved themselves at all this winter. And I believe that the Dodgers have also made themselves worse since last years trade deadline. So by default, in 2005, the Giants will continue their domination of the 21st century AL West. Here is how I have it:

1: Giants
2: Padres
3: Dodgers
4: D-Backs
5: Rockies

The Giants got a lot older and a lot more expensive with Alou, Matheny, and Benitez all joining on big contracts. Now their youngest everyday player is 31 year old Edgardo Alfonzo. Alou is the best batter they have had hitting behind Bonds since Jeff Kent. And while he is getting older, having someone on base every time he comes up will be a big boost to his numbers. Also, looking at the playoff teams from last year they are all very old, except the Twins. So, maybe it is a good thing for the Giants that they are getting older.

The Giants did not make many changes to the starting rotation, which last year struggled outside of Jason Schmidt. But all of us St. Louis fans can tell you that adding Matheny helps your pitchers remarkably. So the guys after Schmidt should step it up. I have always consider Rueter to be the real deal ever since he shut down the Cards in the 2001 NLCS. Our old Buddy Bret Tomko is the number three guy now after having a decent year out there. They have those two young guys starting again, Lowry and Williams, and if they pitch well the Giants can almost be assured to win the division. Felipe Alou remains the only Alou that has never won a World Series, now little Moises is going to try to help him out.

The Padres lost Wells but got the Cards boy Woody Williams, that was about their only deal this offseason. A small aside here, first the Cards trade Ray Lankford for Woody. Woody gets good and starts an All-Star game. Lankford meanwhile gets real bad and is cut. Eventually Ray-Ray comes backs to the Cards to play a couple months of decent baseball and fade away. Then Woody goes back to the Padres where I can only assume he will play decent baseball and fade away. Good deal for the Cards, five brownie points for Jocketty. Anyway... after Woody and Peavy the Padres have no real scary guys in their rotation. They have some great hitters, but most of them are power guys, and in Petco the guys who hit for average have more success as long as they have more Kleskos than Loretta's they are going to have issues at home. Loretta (GO NORTHWESTERN) had a great year last year and no one noticed. He should do well for them again this year. Nevin, Khalil Greene, Burroughs, and Brian Giles make a nice lineup with Ramon good-for-a-catcher Hernandez. The relief pitchers pitched well last year, but, like for the Cards, that doesn't mean they will again this year. Most of the team is young, so another year should help them gain needed experience.

The 2004 NL west winners may have lost a step. They have major issues at third base and catcher. I can not predict good things for a team that is planning on starting Paul Bako. They got that Navarro guy from the Yankees system, but he apparently isn't ready, so Mr. Bako is the guy. The Dodgers, lead by Moneyball hero Paul DePodesta, are hoping Drew and Kent can make up for the loss of Beltre and Green. That will be important because Hee Seop Choi and Jose Valentin are not going to cut it. Milton Bradley should stick to board games. If Brad Penny can throw a baseball and Derek Lowe is the guy that made me very angry five months ago instead if the guy who made Boston angry 10 months ago the Dodger should put up a good fight, but ultimately lose the division.

The D-Backs made me look foolish last year, I predicted them to come in second in the division, and they sucked hard. This year I will not make the same mistake. They spent all the money they had on all the wrong people. Vazquez might be good, but Ortiz will suck. They got no catcher, no fifth starter, and no rightfielder/firstbaseman, whatever Green doesn't play.

The Rockies are really BAD. Read this paragraph from MLB.com:
"Right-hander Jason Jennings has survived ups and downs over three-plus years in Colorado and is the recognized leader -- with the two-year, $6.9 million contract to prove it. Lefty Joe Kennedy faced down Coors Field like no one before. Right-hander Shawn Chacon is back in the rotation, righty Jamey Wright and lefty Darren Oliver are back in Rockies uniforms, and all are better for their struggles." I play fantasy baseball and if any of my guys were going into Coor's against any of those guys, I would say "Ooo, ooo, ooo, goody goody"

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Early Predictions

I am going to start some early predictions, one division at a time. I will probably revise these before the season starts.

Starting with the NL East:
Every year for the last three or four years the Braves have been picked to lose the division, and every year they keep the streak going. So this year I think that people, in general, are going to give in to Bobby Cox's wizardry and pick the Braves to win it. Once again, he will prove them wrong. As much as I want to pick the Braves to take the division, I have to go with the Marlins.

The Marlins have a hell of a line up. Pierre, Castillo, Lowell, Delgado, Cabrera, Lo Duca, and to a lesser extent Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez. The pitching staff took a hit, but still looks good with Beckett, Burnett, Willis, Leiter, up front and new guy Ismael Valdez. The bullpen took a hit with Florida throwing a pile of money at Benitez. But the leagues best set-up man Guillermo Mota is ready for a chance to close. I think the Marlins got hot at the right time in 2003, but that does not mean they were a fluke, they just had a bad year last in 2003. The New England Patriots got hot at the right time in 2001 and people said it was a fluke, and then they had a bad year in 2002 before they became a dynasty. So, it is possible for the Marlins to rebound in 2005.

Rounding out the division:
1: Marlins
2: Braves
3: Mets
4: Phillies
5: Nationals

The Braves, of course, changed all their pitching around. The lost the most overrated starter in the NL and gained the most overrated closer. Now Smoltz has to remember how to last 7 innings again. One reason I am doubting them again this year is the new corner outfielders. Brian Jordan and Raul Mondesi, are you serious? It's no J.D. Drew and it's certainly not Gary Sheffield.

While there is no NHL, the strategies of two hockey teams seem to have crossed the city to their respective baseball teams. Here I am talking about the Tigers and the Mets. I will talk about my disdain for Mike Ilitch when I do the AL Central, for right now I will focus on the Mets. They have taken the New York Rangers approach of trying to spend the most on big name washed up players and inevitably will fail to make the playoffs. More than Beltran, I mean Pedro. Pedro can hardly pitch over 6 innings anymore, and although he beat up the Cards pretty well in the Series, he is not the Cy Young caliber pitcher of old. We will call Pedro the Eric Lindros deal for now. They also spent a couple of dollars on Carlos Beltran, which will be called the Alexei Kovalez deal. After only a brief period of greatness, and a 270 season average the Mets decided Beltran was worth one of the biggest contracts EVER. And we won't even talk about Kris Benson who started this whole mess of an offseason.

The Phillies were a huge dissapointment last year, Jon Lieber is not the answer, more dissapointment on the way. Losing Larry Bowa may help them out, but not too much. I should probably put them ahead of the Mets, maybe in my final predicitons.

I for one, will be treating the Nationals like an expansion team. New city, new name, new infielders, if they win 70 games its a moral victory.