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MLB Preview Version 2.012

April 4, 2012

So the last time I wrote, I previewed the NFL season and the Packers.  But honestly, who actually writes about regular seasons as they go on?  Seriously, there’s nothing smart about that.

Ok.  You’re right.  It’s actually a very good idea.  And I got completely caught up in real life.  Good excuse?  Not at all, but it’s all I got right now.

But look over there!  What’s that light shining in the distance??? It looks like something beautiful!  Something like real-life, not-being-played-in-Japan Baseball!!!!!

So yeah, let’s just pretend I wrote lots of witty analysis about the football season, complete with an irrational love of the Packers defense, a completely rational love of Aaron Rodgers, plenty of bitterness towards the New York Giants, and everything else you’d expect from me.

So enough with the pointless introductions, let’s talk about Baseball.  In this post, I’ll be looking to preview the Dodgers season, as well as make some division picks, much like I did last year.

The Dodgers:

Last year, the Los Angeles Dodgers finished with a record of 81-80, which makes them a terrible baseball team.  At least according to the media.  But in case you haven’t heard, Magic Johnson Mark Walter bought the team, so now they’ll spend roughly a bajillion dollars and be the first team to finish the regular season with a record of 162-0.  Right?

Wait, you mean that’s not how it works?  Well that’s unfortunate.  Even with Cy Young Winner Clayton Kershaw and MVP Winner Best-Player-In-The-National-League-But-Apparently-Not-The-Most-Valuable-Player Matt Kemp, the Dodgers look to finish with about the same record as they did last year.  That tends to happen when you’re Ned Colletti, and you fill out your roster with a bunch of older players.   Kershaw is a stud, Chad Billingsley can bounce back if he can reverse his strikeout and walk rates, and Ted Lilly should (hopefully) pitch as well as he did last year, but Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano (who will now be referred to as “Capang”) won’t be good enough to carry the team day in and day out, especially in a division that has suddenly become loaded with pitching.  The Bullpen (on paper) looks to be one of the best and deepest in the league, fronted by Kenley Jansen (who struck out only 16 batters/9 innings last year) and Javy Guerra (who showed great stuff and a suddenly decent walk rate), and filled out with guys like Mike MacDougal, Todd Coffey, and Josh Lindblom.  But really, who knows what will happen with the Bullpen.  Last year, they looked to have 4 great relievers in Jonathon Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Vicente Padilla, and Kenley Jansen, and now only one of those remains.  Bullpens, and especially Middle Relievers, are some of the most inconsistent pieces in sports teams.  Always expect the unexpected.

The pitching should be solid, but not quite spectacular.  The hitting on this team wishes it could be that.  Ned decided to bet that Andre Ethier would bounce back (which he will), and he’s also betting that James Loney will continue to hit the ball like the monster that took over for him late last year.  James very well could have (finally) made the adjustments that can lead to him becoming a productive MLB First Baseman, but I’m still skeptical.  Dee Gordon will be the most exciting player in the league as he steals 70 bases, and Kemp will be Kemp.  But that barely fills half a lineup card, and one can easily be skeptical about all 4 of those guys’ ability to produce.  Which brings us the other half of the hitters.  Juan Rivera is a nice platoon piece/bench player.  Not a starting Left Fielder.  A. J. Ellis is a nice catcher who gets on base like it’s nobody’s business, but will he be able to hit when pitchers realize he has no power and just pound the strike zone?  I’m actually a big fan of Ellis, and think he’ll be fine, but there’s reason for doubt.  Which brings us to Mark Ellis and Juan Uribe.  Uribe can’t possibly be as bad as he was last year.  But because he’s Juan Uribe, he’ll probably be worse.  And Mark Ellis is just plain past his prime.  He’s not bad, but he’ll be making a lot of outs in the 2-hole of the lineup.  But hey, a Uribe-Gordon-Ellis-Loney infield will be one of the best defensive infields in the league.  So at least there’s that.

All in all, there isn’t enough hitting on this team to support the pitching, and the pitching on this team isn’t good enough to make up for the hitting.  This team is a superstar bat away from contention, which makes Victor Martinez’ stupid ACL that much more frustrating, as it had looked like Prince Fielder had nowhere to go but LA until Detroit decided to spend all that money.  I’ll say the deep pitching carries the Dodgers to an 82-20 record, as Ethier bounces back and Gordon provides excitement on the basepaths.

As for the rest of the league:

NL West: Diamondbacks – Yeah, they might regress a little bit, but they’ve got tons of pitching depth, and a complete hitting team.  If their bullpen holds up, the Giants won’t be able to keep up.  The Rockies don’t have any pitching, and the Padres don’t have any hitting. The Giants have a lot of question marks after they’re front 3 starters and they’re bullpen, such as “Who can actually hit the ball out of the infield?”

NL Central: Cardinals – Still the best hitting team in the National League, and despite losing Albert Pujols, Berkman, Beltran, Holliday, and Freese will make up for that loss.  Wainwright is back from Tommy John surgery, and people forgot just how good he was in 2010.  The Brewers are good, but Mat Gamel is no Prince Fielder, and neither is Aramis Ramirez.  The Reds are still a good pitcher away from October.  The Pirates and Cubs will be better than their usual standard, while the Astros will remain the Lastros.

NL East: Phillies – This is where the division battle starts to get interesting.  The Phillies have had a stranglehold on the division for 5 straight years, but with their aging and injured hitters, it would appear that another team could step up and seize the crown.  Perhaps after this year, but the Phillies still have the best pitching staff in Baseball, and enough hitting to take the East.  I think people forget that this team won 102 games last year, and they have a full year of Hunter Pence to help the offense.  The Braves are solid up and down, but don’t have the pitching to match the Phillies (Although they could if Mike Minor or Julio Teheran are able to reach anything close to their ceilings).  The Marlins are the biggest wild card here in that they could surpass the Braves (and maybe even Phillies) if everything breaks right, but I don’t think their pitching is deep enough.  The Nationals are generating buzz, but give them another year, when Bryce Harper is an established major league player, and Stephen Strasburg doesn’t have an innings limit.  I’m gonna join the mainstream sports media and just say that the Mets are the Mets, and therefore won’t win, and we’ll leave it at that.

AL West: Rangers – Here’s what appears to be the closest division battle here between the Rangers and the Angels.  The Rangers lineup pretty much doesn’t have a free out, unless it’s Mitch Moreland hitting against a left-hander, while the Angels probably have the 2nd best pitching staff in Baseball, and also this Albert Pujols guy you may have heard of.  The Rangers pitching staff will quietly be quite good this year, with Yu Darvish stepping in for C.J. Wilson, and Derek Holland, Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis consistently delivering good outings.  The Rangers also have a strong bullpen, filled with power-arms.  And while the Angels do have Pujols, they don’t really have any other great hitters besides Howie Kendrick.  Torii Hunter is good, but old.  Vernon Wells will be better, but not great.  Kendrys Morales at the DH spot will be a huge wild card, and Trumbo will hit a bunch of dingers, but do everything except get on base.  The A’s and Mariners are both too far away to make an impact, with the Mariners being much closer.

AL Central: Tigers – While the last two divisions have appeared to be quite close, this one looks to be just the opposite.  The Tigers have by far the best hitting, and by far the best pitching of the division.  The Indians have a deep pitching staff and a few likable hitters, but they’re a Miguel Cabrera or a Prince Fielder short of challenging the Tigers.  The Twins, like the Indians, appear to be a couple players short of a division title.  However, Morneau and Mauer could certainly morph back into the hitting machines they once were.  If they still had Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer, I’d like their chances more.  The Royals have a ton of highly rated prospects, but they need to break into the majors first.  The White Sox are hard to figure out.  If a couple of their hitters bounce back, they could make things interesting, but they’re kind of doing this half-rebuilding, half-contending thing that rarely, if ever, works out.

Al East: Yankees – For a division that ESPN will tell you is the epicenter of baseball itself, the AL East doesn’t look to be incredibly close this year.  The Yankees will score a ton of runs, and try and pitch well enough to win 95+ games, and they probably will.  The Red Sox will try and recover from an epic collapse last September that you’ll probably hear about more than enough.  The Sox, like the Yankees, have more than enough hitting and while they appear to have deeper starting pitching, their bullpen is far shallower (Closer Andrew Bailey is already on the DL).  The Rays have more starting pitching than the rest of the division combined, but appear to be a hitter shy of a division title.  That being said, I’m a fan of the moves they’ve made this offseason, and leave it to Joe Maddon to get the most of his team.  Everyone loves the Blue Jays, but I think they’re a year (and a great pitcher) away from truly challenging for the division.  That being said, the Jays can hit with any team in the league, so they should be fun to watch.  The Orioles on the other hand, can’t do much of anything.  They’re about 5 good starters away from being competitive, and will be looking up at 4 teams all year.

As for the Wild Card(s): I think the Brewers and the Marlins take the spots in the National League, and the Angels and the Rays in the American League, with the Brewers beating the Marlins, and the Angels beating the Rays.

In the NL, the Cardinals and the Phillies will advance to the NLCS, with the Cardinals just edging out the Phillies.  While the AL will see the Tigers and the Yankees fight for the AL Pennant, with the Tigers advancing to the World Series.  In the World Series, both teams will trade blows, but the Tigers will win in 6 games, capturing their first World Series win since 1984.

Lastly, the AL MVP will go to Miguel Cabrera, the AL Cy Young will go to C.C. Sabathia, and the AL Rookie of the Year will be Yu Darvish.  The NL MVP will be Hunter Pence (the best hitter on a dominant Phillies team), the NL Cy Young will be Clayton Kershaw, and the NL Rookie of the Year will be Julio Teheran.

But let’s be real here.  As much as we all love to talk about real baseball, the best part of baseball season is getting excited about your fake baseball team.  Nope?  Just me?  Well alright then.  Enjoy the year everybody!  And may your team exceed expectations and play deep into October (unless your team is the Giants)!

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Is Rafa Done?

September 13, 2011

“There ain’t no back in the day … Ain’t no nostalgia to this … There’s just the street and the game and what happens here today.”

-Melvin ‘Cheese’ Wagstaff

I couldn’t help getting a little sentimental while watching yesterday’s U.S. Open Final. It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that Nadal was still playing under the shadow of Federer’s greatness. Everyone knew he was a great clay-court player, but was he a great player?  Then came the 2008 Wimbledon Final, the greatest tennis match I’ve ever watched. And maybe that isn’t saying a lot, but it’s something I’ll remember for a long time. I might forget the shots and the score, but I can’t forget the feeling that I was watching something significant. It was the first time I ever recognized that a changing of the guard was happening before my eyes. From Federer’s near comeback, to the tears he was trying to hold back after he lost, I was watching something important, and I knew it.

Yesterday’s match was a little a different. Nadal had already lost his no. 1 ranking when Djokovic beat him in Wimbledon earlier this year. Yet the Open Final still carried some of the same meaning, and there was still a sense that Nadal could come back and reestablish the perceived natural order. But that’s not what happened. Despite the few games in the 3rd set when the Nadal I remember finally showed up, Djokovic owned the match. Once Djokovic broke Nadal in the 1st set to go up 3-2, there was no point during the match that I thought Nadal could win. There are times when people will say that a player just can’t lose, but this was a time when a player just couldn’t win. Djokovic didn’t even play all that well (51 unforced errors to Nadal’s 37), but Nadal couldn’t take advantage (32 winners to Djokovic’s 55, and only 52% of first serve points won). Nadal couldn’t beat Djokovic, and it’s the same feeling I had for Federer in the 2009 Australian Final, the first major finals meeting between the two after Nadal’s victory at Wimbledon.

So now what? Pete Sampras was argued the greatest of all time with 14 majors, then Federer was the greatest with 16, and soon many were ready to anoint Nadal the greatest because it seemed almost certain that he would reach Federer. Now Djokovic is at the top, enjoying one of the greatest years any professional tennis player has ever had. If Nadal and Federer can no longer challenge him, and if no younger player can rise up, he is poised for a run of greatness that could very well put him in that same conversation for greatest of all time. He’s not there yet, but its not unreasonable to consider the possibility.

And if that is the case, in a world in which the greatest follows the greatest follows the greatest, where does that leave Nadal? Are we already saying goodbye to someone whose career, even if he never wins another major, still ranks among the all-time greats. I know that this is sports, and that players come and go, but Nadal should be different. It shouldn’t be his time to fade. His run at the top seems too short when compared to Sampras and Federer and now possibly Djokovic.

Of course, Federer has still won majors since losing his no. 1 ranking, and maybe Nadal finally finds a way to beat Djokovic and none of this pondering really matters. I hope this is true, not because I don’t like Djokovic, but because Nadal deserves to be more than just a memory, not yet at least.

The 3 Things I’ve Already Learned about the 2011 NFL Season

September 11, 2011

That’s right: week 1 isn’t even over yet and I’ve learned 3 things about this year’s NFL. I’m just that efficient of a learning machine, I guess.

For those of you who are into the whole brevity thing, I’ll get right to it:

1. Nobody knows anything.

Here are all the things I knew for sure before week 1 started: Cam Newton and the Panthers are horrendous. The Bills aren’t any good either. The Bears will regress. Atlanta will take the next step. The Rams will win the NFC West and could very well upset the over-hyped Eagles in week 1. The Chargers will not only win the AFC  West, but probably the entire AFC since special teams are no longer a factor. And if you’re in a suicide pool, Cleveland over Andy Dalton and the absolutely horrible Bengals was your week 1 lock.

Wait, what’s that? Cam Newton threw for over 400 yards in a near-win? The Bills put up 41? The Bears made Atlanta look silly? The Rams were clearly overmatched by an Eagles team that was inefficient on offense? The Chargers snuck past a bad Vikings team, in part because Percy Harvin brought the first Chargers kickoff of 2011 back for a touchdown?

Huh. That’s weird. Cause that’s not what every sports talking head in the universe has been saying.

The thing is, nobody knows anything before the games are played. Not you. Not me. Not the analysts and experts.

We should all know this by now. We’ve all seen enough predictive whiffs to know better.  It’s a testament to human stupidity that we keep listening anyway. Think about it: the best talent evaluators in the world are general managers, coaches, and scouts, right? These are the guys who make their money on being right about this sort of thing. Their whole job is to figure out which guys are going to be good, then to get them on the field in their team’s uniform.

So how do Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell happen? How does Alex Smith get taken before Aaron Rodgers? How does Tom Brady fall to the 6th round of a draft, thereby getting passed over by every NFL franchise 4, 5, and 6 times? How do lopsided trades and bad free agent signings happen? How do coaches make horrendous on-field personnel decisions?

Aren’t they the professionals?

So when radio show hosts (who get hired because they can talk well), columnists (who get hired because they can write well), and t.v. show hosts (who get hired because they can talk well and because they look good) tell you who is good, who isn’t, and which coach will get fired by week 4, distrust them. Their primary job is to get you to listen, read, and watch. Not to be right.

But hey, at least they nailed that Browns over Bengals suicide pool pick…

2. Special teams is the part of the game most affected by the lockout.

Is this just me, or has this been a crazy special teams week? Somebody has to have a stat about when there was last this much scoring on special teams in one week (I sure don’t know- since, well, I’m one of the ones who doesn’t know anything).

In any case, Randall Cobb, Percy Harvin, Ted Ginn Jr., and Patrick Peterson (et. al.) made opponents look silly, and the only thing I can figure is that in the scramble to get teams together offensively and defensively in the shortened off-season, coaches ignored special teams, perhaps assuming that the new kickoff rule would take care of that.

Well, if that happened, it turned out they were wrong. This is obviously a lot of guesswork, but it’s something to keep an eye on in future weeks.

3. Aaron Rodgers is really, really good.

No, seriously, he really is. Good call on that one, 49ers.

U.S. Open: American Men Fall as Top 4 Set For Semis

September 9, 2011

By the middle of the second set of his quarterfinal match against 4th ranked Andy Murray, John Isner had run out of gas. He was conserving his energy, letting Murray’s drop shots fall without challenge, hoping for his chance to steal a few consecutive points. Having already dropped the 1st set and down 3-4 in the 2nd, Isner finally found his opportunity. A hard shot to the corner had sent Murray scrambling on defense. Murray was able to send a clean shot back over the net, but right at Isner who was charging for the volley. But Isner had lowered his racket, poor form for the play, and instead dropping of an easy winner had shot wide for an unforced error. He would drop the game and eventually the set 4-6.

Isner managed to come back and win the 3rd 6-3, largely due to his play at the net. His powerful serve had kept Murray at the baseline for most of the match, allowing him to win easy volleys, but his inability to control the volley at key moments lost him some crucial points, most notably during the tiebreaker in the 4th, which he lost 3-7 and ended the match.

Things weren’t as close for former U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick, who went down to 2nd seed Rafael Nadal in straight sets, winning only 6 games the entire match.

Murray and Nadal join Roger Feder (3) and Novak Djokovic (1) in a semifinal round featuring all four of the top ranked players. The four men made up the semifinals in the French Open earlier this year. At least three have made the semis in each of this year’s majors, and no male player outside of the four has played in a major singles final this year. If history holds true, expect Nadal to beat Federer in the final. But on the hard courts that offer less of an advantage to Nadal, and with the dominant year Djokovic is having, anything is possible.

Prediction: Djokovic over Nadal in the finals

Holy New Content, Batman!

September 8, 2011
You know what that belt means folks?  It means that Football Season is finally back, and that it’s time for the Green Bay Packers to defend their championship and kick some tail.  In this post, I’m going to predict the Packers season, starting with the game tonight, as well as give a quick take on the NFC North.  So let’s get started.
Tonight, the Packers open their season against last year’s defending champions, the New Orleans Saints.  On paper, this looks to be an excellent matchup, and it should be a fantastic game.  However, I don’t think it will turn into the shootout everyone seems to be expecting.  Sure, it has the strong capability to turn into one, but I just don’t think it will.  For one, both teams have balanced running attacks that they were missing last year (Green Bay will have a healthy Ryan Grant and James Starks, while New Orleans will have a healthy Pierre Thomas, as well as 1st round pick Mark Ingram, and the underrated Darren Sproles), and both coaches will be quick to use their running attacks.  In addition, I think the Packers Secondary is too good to turn this game into a shootout.  Tramon Williams will lock down whoever he is covering, Sam Shields will do a good job on his man, and Charles Woodson will be Charles Woodson.  The Saints also have a good secondary as well, with Malcom Jenkins at Free Safety, and Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter at the Corner spots.  All three of whom are very good at what they do.  And while the Packers (on paper) can rush the passer better than the Saints with Clay Matthews, B.J. Raji, and Woodson, don’t count out the Saints rush just yet.  Gregg Williams is kind of a genius.  Essentially, while this game will feature two Super Bowl MVP’s at QB and loaded offenses, look for both coaches to try and stick to their running games, and look for both QB’s to have a bit of trouble with the strong Secondary’s that both teams feature.  Given that I’m a Packers fan, I think the Packers have an overall stronger offense, and will be better at creating turnovers on defense.  Final score: 31-24.  It’ll absolutely be a fantastic game.
As for the season, I think the Packers will finish 13-3.  I think they could realistically go 14-2 or even 15-1, but you just never know with injuries and the fact that you can lose against any team.  I think they lose to any combination of @Falcons, @Chargers, @Bears, @Lions, and maybe even tonight.  Pick three of those games as losses and there you go.  I do think they make it to the Super Bowl again though, and win a close game against the Patriots.
As for the rest of the NFC North, here’s a quick rundown:

The Chicago Bears: This team got very very lucky last year.  With a schedule that’s more difficult than last years, as well as a still questionable offensive line, it’s easy for me to sit here and say that this team will not win as many games as they did last year.  But, they still have that great defense and special teams, and they still have good players at the skill positions on the offense.  It’s all going to come down to how well their offensive line plays.  If they can keep Jay Cutler upright and not let him get sacked 50+ times again (Not even exaggerating there like I normally do), then I see them as a 10-11 win team, which would be good enough for a Wild Card spot.

The Detroit Lions: Everyone and their mother is excited about this team, and I can see why.  They have an explosive offense (with a questionable-at-best running game, but that’s easily overlooked) a massive defensive line (with awful linebackers and an average at best secondary, but that’s easily overlooked), a healthy Matthew Stafford (who’s still only played in like, 4 total games and hasn’t been great in all of them, but that’s easily overlooked), Calvin Johnson (who has the unfortunately dumb nickname of Megatron, but that’s easily overlooked), Ndamukong Suh (who will be targeted by officials all James Harrison style, and also has a name that’s really hard to spell, but that’s easily overlooked) and the hope of all the poor Detroit Sports Fans who haven’t had anything to cheer for in the past millennium (The Tigers are going to the playoffs and have the best pitcher in the AL, if not MLB in Justin Verlander, but that’s easily overlooked).  Yeah, I think they’re going 19-0 too.
The Minnesota Vikings: It’s really hard not to laugh at the Vikings.  After all, they had an epic collapse last year.  But if I’m just a bit objective, I can find some positives with this team.  The Skill positions on the offense are at least good (I think Donovan McNabb will bounce back personally), the defensive line is still ridiculous, even though Jared Allen is overrated.  The Linebackers aren’t too bad, and the Secondary is no worse than the Lions secondary.  The offense, even with a questionable line, should still be able to put up points with Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe as targets for McNabb.  Minnesota needs a franchise QB, but there wasn’t much they could do about it, besides overpay for Kevin Kolb.  Given that situation, I think they did what they could, and are hoping that their veteran team can pull together and have a good season.  While that’s not usually the best way to build a winning team, it almost worked for them two years ago.  I see the Vikings as an 8 win team, and they could be better if all the pieces fall in the right place.  They’re not in the complete state of disarray and collapse that some might have you believe they’re in.
Overall, I think the NFC North produces two playoff teams in the Packers and Bears, while the Lions win 9 games, and the Vikings take 8.  The North is a strong division, and should be tough games on everyone’s schedule.  I’ll offer my overall predictions before Sunday’s games.  For now, enjoy the season opener!!!

TLSBOE Hands Out Awards: Rookie of the Year (Part 2)

June 2, 2011

Over the next couple of days, I’m going to go through some candidates (as well as my personal picks) for various Baseball Awards such as Rookie of the Year, Cy Young Award, MVP, etc.  These are the two-month versions, so they are obviously going to change by the end of the year, but posts like this are always fun to read and write.

For today, we’ll be looking at Rookie of the Year.  For each league, I’ll look at three guys who have strong cases, and then choose one of them and tell you why I think they’re more valuable/deserving of the award.

American League:

– Jeremy Hellickson – Hellickson is a hard throwing Right-Hander for the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Rays kind of ridiculous when it comes to their ability to draft and develop good major-league starting pitching, and Hellickson is the newest product of Andrew Friedman’s abilities.  Hellickson has a 2.80/3.82/4.35 ERA/FIP/X-FIP line.  While the ERA is a nice 2.80, FIP and X-FIP suggest his ERA should regress quite a bit.  This is because his strikeout rate has dropped quite a bit since his major-league cup of coffee last year, and his numbers in the minor leagues.  Before this year, his Strikeout/9 innings ratio was 8 or higher.  This year, his ratio is 6.44/9.  His Walk rate has also jumped, from 2.75/9 or lower to 3.78/9.  His BABIP is just a tad lower than his career average, so his ERA will rise a little bit if/when his BABIP rises, but that’s not the big contributor.  The higher FIP comes down to strikeouts and walks (because FIP calculates it’s number with Strikeouts, Walks, and Home Runs only) but I think his numbers will rise to about a 3.50ish ERA.  He’s got a good defense behind him, and he’s shown that he can make that K/BB ratio better.

– Mark Trumbo – Simply put, Trumbo is a monster.  He’s a huge First Baseman for the Los Angeles Angels.  He’s a big man who can swing a bat pretty well for a rookie.  His Batting Line is .255/.305/.467 (Batting Average/OBP/Slugging Percentage) which doesn’t look like it’ll change much during the rest of the year.  He’s got 10 Home Runs and 28 RBI’s, and even has 5 Stolen Bases (You know you play for Mike Scioscia when you’re 6-4, 220 pound 1B has 5 Stolen Bases).  At first, it looked like he’d simply be keeping the First Base Bag warm for Kendy Morales, but now, with Morales out, it looks like Trumbo will be playing all year.  He’s been producing well so far, and as I said, his batting line will probably remain similar for the rest of the year, because his BABIP is very similar to his career average.  His OBP is a bit low, but the Angels have guys in front of him who can get on base consistently enough, and Trumbo has shown the ability to drive them in.  Overall, a pretty solid 1B, who could get better as the year goes on.

– Michael Pineda – Pineda is a hurler for the Seattle Mariners, who, along with Justin Smoak, has given the Mariners a reason not to consider trading King Felix Hernandez just yet.  Pineda has even been good enough to be crowned Prince, alongside King Felix.  Pineda throws absolute gas, with his fastball consistently sitting in the very high 90’s.  He’s got a 2.30/2.68/3.18 line, with a high strikeout rate of 9.34 Strikeouts/9 Innings, and a very low walk rate of 2.56 Walks/9 innings.  He dominates hitters with his high velocity fastball, and his viscous slider and changeup.  The only concern so far looks to be his workload, as he’s never thrown more than 140 professional innings, and he’s already thrown 70 this year.  But assuming he’s not overworked (and unless Seattle somehow stays in the playoff race, I don’t see the Mariners allowing for Pineda to be overworked) he should remain a very good pitcher for years to come.

My pick for the AL Rookie of the Year: Michael Pineda.  While I do value position players much more than pitchers, Pineda has been something else this year.  He’s outclassed Jeremy Hellickson in all but one way, and that’s quality of opposition (Hellickson pitches in the AL East, Pineda does not.)  But that difference doesn’t justify Hellickson’s lower numbers.  Hellickson is a good pitcher, but he hasn’t dominated opposing hitters the way that Pineda has.  Trumbo hasn’t hit well enough to deserve this award either.  Neither league really has any complete Rookie Hitters, but the AL especially is lacking in that regard.  Trumbo and Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia have been pretty good, but neither come close enough to matching Pineda’s dominance.  Compared to the NL award, this was a very easy choice.

Two months into the season, your Rookies of the Year are Washington’s Danny Espinosa, and Seattle’s Michael Pineda.  Espinosa (so far) is the complete package, doing everything well enough to help Washington become a young, solid team.  Pineda on the other hand, has thoroughly dominated the hitters he has faced so far, and looks to help speed up Seattle’s rebuilding process.  Next, we’ll look at Cy Young Award Winners.

Did I miss anyone in the AL?  Tell me who and why with a comment!

Review and Preview Number 11

June 2, 2011

Yesterday, the Dodgers lost by a score of 3-0 to the Colorado Rockies.  I had predicted yesterday that the Dodger bats would remain hot, and that Ubaldo would have one more bad game.  So naturally, Jimenez looked like the Jimenez of last year.  Well, not quite that good, but he was still great.  He pitched a complete game shutout, striking out 7, walking none, and allowing only 4 hits.  Jon Garland pitched well enough for the Dodgers.  He threw 6 innings, allowing 3 runs, 5 hits with 2 strikeouts and 1 walk.  He pitched well enough to keep his team in the game, but the Dodgers just couldn’t square up on anything Ubaldo was throwing.  The dominance was shown most at the very end, with 2 outs left in the bottom of the 9th.  Matt Kemp was fouling off and taking pitches, trying to get a good pitch to hit and drive in Furcal, who was on 2nd Base.  Ubaldo reared back, and blew a high fastball right by Kemp to end the game.

As I said before, Garland pitched well enough.  He just got tagged with some unfortunate Extra Base Hits that he couldn’t prevent from being cashed in.  In the 2nd inning, Ty Wiggington led off with a line drive that Matt Kemp dove for and just missed, so Wiggington was credited with a triple.  To be honest, it may have been the fastest I’ve seen a big slow guy run since Prince Fielder’s Inside the Park Home Run.  The next batter then got Wiggington home with a sacrifice fly.  Next inning, Seth Smith hit a double to right field, and scored after the next two batters sacrificed to advanced him.  The next inning, Todd Helton hit a Home Run to Right Field.  Besides those extra base hits, Garland was effective for most of the night.

In the 7th inning, Rookie Josh Lindblom made his Major-League Debut.  He gave up a couple hits, but then got an out via sacrifice bunt, a throw home on a fielder’s choice ground ball, and another ground ball that James Loney made a nice play at first to stop.  Lindblom didn’t look great, but when Hawksworth gets back from the DL, hopefully he takes Troncoso’s spot on the roster, and Lindblom can simply pitch in low-leverage situations.  He was called up from AA, continuing the streak of relievers called up from AA and not AAA, that started with (technically) Kenley Jansen, then Javy Guerra, continued with Rubby De La Rosa, and continues now with Josh Lindblom.  Scott Elbert came in during the next inning, and wasn’t great either.  He took care of Carlos Gonzalez, gave up a double to Troy Tulowitzki (which is nothing to feel bad about), and got Helton out.  Mattingly elected to intentionally walk Wiggington, and Jamey Carroll bobbled an easy ground ball that let Jose Morales reach base.  Mattingly brought in Guerrier, who got the last out and pitched a scoreless 9th.  If the Dodgers are getting a quality start of their fifth starter during most games, I’ll absolutely take that every 5 days.  Especially with the offense still looking like it can round into form.

And against a guy like Jimenez, you’re going to have games where you simply can’t score.  It’s an annoying trend that pitchers with “0’s in the win column can come to Dodger stadium and pitch at least 8 2/3 innings (I’m looking at you, Madison Bumgarner!)  but good pitchers are good pitchers, and they find ways to come out of slumps.  Sometimes, that “way’ just happens to be the Dodger offense.  Jimenez didn’t have the swing-and-miss stuff that he had last year.  He’s still not quite at that level.  But his fastball still has heat, and his off-speed pitches still have nasty bites to them.  We as Baseball fans will know that he’s back when he’s able to blow by hitters the way he blew past Matt Kemp at the end of yesterday’s game, but so far, it’s a good start for him.  Rockies fans have to be encouraged too, especially after losing Jorge De La Rosa for the year.  One start doesn’t change everything, but it’s clear to me at least that I gave up on him far too fast.

Today, the Dodgers don’t play, but tomorrow they will start a 3 game series with Cincinatti.  Tomorrow will feature Hiroki Kuroda pitching against Bronson Arroyo.  This will be a tough test for Kuroda, as the Reds have last year’s MVP in Joey Votto, the NL’s version of Jose Bautista in Jay Bruce, and one of the most underrated players in Baseball in Drew Stubbs.  Their whole team can hit and hit well, so Kuroda will have to be on top of his game.  Arroyo is a decent #3/#4 starter, but he hasn’t been too good yet this year.  Mostly because his Home Run/9 innings rate is at an absurdly high 2.01/9 innings rate.  That should come down, but hopefully not tomorrow.  I’ll say both pitchers go 7 innings and give up 4 runs.  This should be a fun series to watch though, as any team can have offense in Cincinatti’s ballpark.