Tag Archives: San Francisco giants

Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia

It's all smiles for Hunter Pence and the phans in Philly.

You know how much I hate the city of Boston as a New York fan. You know about the rivalries of the Bruins-Ranger, Yankees-Red Sox, Knicks-Celtics and the Pats-Jets, Giants conundrum. There is no Boston gear of any kind allowed in my house, if I see a Boston hat in my sight I might start a ruckus over it.

There is no other city that I hate more when it comes to athletic competition than Boston…

…that was until yesterday.

Ladies and gentlemen, the city of Philadelphia is about to eclipse my hatred of Boston. To say that Philadelphia made a splash in both baseball and football yesterday is an understatement. The Eagles and Phillies respectively got the best players available during NFL free agency and the MLB trade deadline.

The Phillies won the Hunter Pence sweepstakes by trading their top pitching and hitting prospects plus two other for Pence who the Phillies desperately needed in their lineup.

The Phillies are hitting .235 against lefties thanks to a lefty heavy lineup that isn’t producing many runs. Pence is hitting .295 against lefties and adds some right-handed pop to a lineup that except for Ryan Howard hasn’t had much power at all for this entire season.

Add that to the fact that Pence is only 28 years old and in each of the last four years his batting average, hits, and RBI have increased while his strikeouts have decreased. With Dominic Brown improving and Shane Victorino staying steady offensively and defensively the Phillies have set their outfield for the next few years and could get back to those high offensive numbers from a few years ago.

The move was in response to the San Francisco Giants acquisition of Carlos Beltran, which got rave reviews. However, the Pence deal is a better deal because Pence is younger, isn’t injury prone like Beltran and Pence is ascending in his career while Beltran is on the decline.

When you put that together with the fact that the Phillies rotation has been better than advertised (even without Roy Oswalt) and you would assume that the Phillies are now the team to beat.

Nmandi Asomugha can smile now, he's out of Oakland.

If Pence can revive that lineup by hitting behind Howard in the 5 hole in a hitters ballpark then the Phillies should win the NL East easily and have enough muscle to get by San Francisco in the NLCS and deal with any AL team in the World Series.

The Eagles acquisition was out of left field as well… no seriously it was out of nowhere.

Nmandi Asomugha was thought to be heading to the New York Jets to team with Darrelle Revis and form the most despicable secondary in the league. The Dallas Cowboys were also in the mix as were the Houston Texans. Notice not one mention of the Eagles.

Friday night the Eagles seemed to swoop in (pun intended) and steal Asomugha when the Jets offer fell through at the last second. Asomugha’s deal was the latest in a week of deals that made have made the Eagles the team to beat in not only the NFC, but maybe the NFL.

Asomugha joins Jason Babin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Vince Young in Philadelphia as the Eagles have made it obvious that they are gunning for a Super Bowl and nothing less.

With Asomugha, DRC and Asante Samuel the Eagles have a secondary that will make any QB feel uneasy throwing the ball into during the season. They have to be the early front-runners to win the NFC East as the Giants, Redskins, and Cowboys have made no moves to even attempt to counteract with the Eagles moves, and also who in the NFC in general can match the level of talent that the Eagles currently possess.

How good is it to be a Philly fan right now?

Your baseball team is tops in the MLB with the best rotation in the league and you just got a young, speedy and effective bat in Pence who should be a big piece for your franchise going towards the future.

Your football team just got one of the league’s best defensive backs who fits in perfectly with a revamped defense that along with Mike Vick and an explosive offense has everyone around the league talking Super Bowl.

Imagine if rumors from the offseason were true that the Flyers were interested in obtaining Steven Stamkos from the Lightning.

Philadelphia has had a hot summer and it looks like it’s going to continue to stay warm well into the fall in October and maybe even February.

It makes me mad just to even think about it. Who knows, it’s probably making the people of Boston mad as well.


Introducing Your First Place Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks are the biggest surprise this year in the majors.

They have one of the best bullpens in baseball and their closer has 16 saves in 16 chances.

In the last 17 games their starters are 12-2 with a 2.85 ERA.

Their offense has led the league in runs in the last 3 weeks; consider that statistic after they dealt their best power hitter in the offseason.

They’ve jumped from worst to first in their division with a blazing hot May.

Nope these aren’t the Boston Red Sox that I’m talking about, it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks.

After another slow start the D’Backs have come alive by stringing together a 19-9 month, which includes a 15-2 stretch in the last 17 games featuring a 2 game sweep of the Atlanta Braves and taking 3 out of 4 from the one-time division leading Colorado Rockies.

They’ve done it with ridiculous performances from their young starting rotation. 24 year-old Daniel Hudson has a  5-1 record with a 3.22 ERA this month, 25 year-old Josh Collmenter has allowed a total of 4 earned runs in spot start duty and 26 year-old Ian Kennedy has been lights out going 5-0 in his last 8 starts and lowering his ERA from 6.88 to 3.01. When you couple that with Putz and the bullpen and the D’Backs haven’t allowed much on the scoreboard at all this month.

What has been an even bigger surprise is their performance at the plate. Even after trading big hacker Mark Reynolds to the Orioles the D’Backs are still 4thin the NL in strikeouts (although they’ve cut their average by 2 K’s a game), however they have a higher on base percentage as opposed to last season and lead the league in home runs and are third in total bases and RBI. Even with a slow May new third baseman Ryan Roberts has provided some much needed patience at the plate and is hitting .280 with a .388 OBP and is projected to hit 20+ home runs and only strikeout 81 times. Mark Reynolds would’ve had 81 by the end of this month.

Ian Kennedy and the rest of Arizona's staff have been lights out thus far.

(Funny stat: Mark Reynolds numbers in Baltimore: .198/7/24/.310/.384, Roberts’s stats in AZ as his replacement:  .288/7/22/.388/.476 and he has half of the strikeouts. Oh and the reliever that the D’Backs got for Reynolds named David Hernandez? He has a 1.85 ERA, 7 holds and a 1.40 WHIP as Putz’s setup man. That’s right Baltimore, you just got robbed. Thank you and please come again.)

With all of this youth taking charge and leading Arizona, it should have Kirk Gibson in the heat of the NL manager of the year race by season’s end. Gibson has turned around this team with a steady hand and lots of patience with his players at the plate.

Chris Young and Justin Upton still have very little discipline as you can tell by their high strikeout numbers and middle of the road averages. However, with those two and Stephen Drew in the 3, 4, 5 hole (not to mention a very stable Miguel Montero in the 6th hole) they do drive in a lot of runs. They also mash out lots of home runs as well (except Drew who only has 3) as they have 5 players with six or more including Upton who has 10.

If you’re wondering if these kids in the desert can keep this hot streak going consider their schedule. Their toughest opponents in the next month are the Cleveland Indians and they get them at home at the end of June. They play six with the Marlins and have three with Divisional rival San Francisco; the rest of their schedule is easy when you look at win percentages as they don’t play a team above third place except the Indians in the entire month of June.

What is currently a ½ game lead in the west over San Fran could be even larger as the Giants face St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Colorado all in the next month with all of those teams in early pennant races. Things are lining up nicely in Arizona as we speak.

I must admit that it was weird to look up at the standings and see Arizona on top of a division that features the defending champs, three possible Cy Young candidates and two MVP contenders. However, what Arizona is doing is just plain old impressive.

They’re pitching better than anyone else and with the heat of summer turning up, Upton, Young and the rest of their free swinging lineup should do just fine in making those leads stand up.  Something tells me that it’s going to be hotter than usual in the desert this summer.


Baseball Preview Day 7: The Season Preview

The Giants begin their title defense.

The human arm was never meant to throw any object over 70 mph… it certainly wasn’t meant to do it over, and over, and over again 30-80 times a year for 10+ years.

Unfortunately for that theory grown men have been doing it for over 100 years in this little game we like to call baseball. And without pitching your chances of doing anything remotely impressive during the season will be as slim as Tim Lincecum.

Pitching is the most important part of the game of baseball. Teams with good pitching do better than teams without it. Sure you could score a lot of runs, win some games and it could be a bunch of fun. However, more than likely if you don’t have a decent two or three starters or a semi-decent bullpen then your season is over by the time the NFL heads into training camp (assuming of course that we have an NFL season this year.).

The old adage that good pitching beats good hitting is as solid as defense wins championships. Look at last year’s World Series for example; the Rangers for 11 years have been a team predicated on mashing the ball out of the yard and they do so at a great rate with Josh Hamilton and company. Yet after getting by Tampa Bay and the Yankees they had the pleasure of facing the best young staff in the Majors and they got smoked. Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner shut them down and brought home San Fran’s first baseball title and first pro sports title since Steve Young and the 95 49ers.

Before that the threesome of C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettite and A.J. Burnett limited the Philadelphia Phillies potent offense in 2009, and the Phillies did it to Tampa before that.

The Rangers, Phillies and Rays were all teams that scored a lot of runs and did it at a great rate. However, once Cole Hamels, C.C. and Lincecum started to locate, their runs were over.

How important is pitching? Teams trade away the farm for it and stockpile it as if a nuclear strike were happening and the only supplies you could use were toilet paper, water and a left-handed flame thrower.

Without C.C. Sabathia they Yankees dont win the 2009 World Series

The Angels were so desperate to make a run at the AL West last year that they traded a young gun in Joe Saunders for a proven ace in Dan Haren. The Red Sox shelled out 80 million dollars for John Lackey who is at best a number 3 starter. The Mets gave up 4 major leaguers and cash for Johan Santana. The Yankees wouldn’t get Santana because it would’ve meant parting with Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. The pitching market is like the drug market, its risky and more times than not you’ll get burned, but you got something good you feel on top of the world.

Pitching means everything. If St. Louis would’ve lost Colby Rasmus for the season you figure that Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols could step up. But losing Adam Wainwright knocks you out of the race for NL Central because he’s an ace on most teams but he’s your number 2 guy.

How have the Giants been able to overcome their offensive deficiencies and Barry Zito’s horrendous 7 year/$126 million dollar signing? Because, their front four have been spectacular and their bullpen was just as good.

Why didn’t the Padres win the NL West last year? Because they rode Mat Latos and had no other pitchers to back him up (that and their offense was terrible but Latos and the pen covered their tails until the last month of the year.).

It’s all due to pitching. As great as Albert Pujols is, Carpenter and Wainwright won that title in 2006. Ryan Howard is a stud, but the 08 Series belonged to Hamels. You can go back to the 90’s and the Twins, Jays and Marlins. Do they win those titles without Jack Morris, Dave Stewart and Livan Hernandez pitching lights out? Nope.

Which brings us to 2011 of course. The perennial favorites to win this year’s title are the Phillies. Why? Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels (and Joe Blanton.). That front four might be the best looking rotation in the history of the game on paper. 3 Cy Young’s, 2 rings and a lot of heat.

Philly’s acquisition of Lee made them the favorites for this year even as the Giants were still getting their names etched into their World Series trophy. Never mind that Chase Utley is banged up, and Ryan Howard has no protection in the lineup, if they score 2-3 runs a game then they’re fine.

Same for San Francisco, Atlanta and Oakland, yes the Oakland A’s have one of baseball’s best staffs with Dallas

That's Trevor Cahill, he's an A, get to know him.

Braden, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson at the top of the rotation. Combine them with a bullpen featuring Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes and the A’s could make a series run at the Rangers for the top spot out west.

So who really has the best staff in baseball this year and could go for it all in October? Well as always you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, so…

30. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (last year pitching rank 30th)

ROTATION: Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, James McDonald

James McDonald has a lot of hype and rightfully so after a pretty impressive second half last year. Unfortunately he and the Pirates are staring at another year in the NL Central basement.

29. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (LY: 29th)

ROTATION: Luke Hochevar, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen

They traded away Zach Greinke and only have a 4-man rotation to start with. They have a boatload of talent in the minor leagues and they may be getting a lot of playing time this year.

28. CLEVELAND INDIANS (LY: 23RD)

ROTATION: Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, Mitch Talbot

Carmona rebounded from a rough 2009 with a decent 2010. However he’s going to need to do a lot more with this young and very raw rotation.

27. BALTIMORE ORIOLES (LY: 27TH)

If this is your ace, then your pitching needs work.

ROTATION: Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman.

The Orioles added Vladimir Guerrero and Mark Reynolds to their lineup, which means we’ll be seeing lots of 6,7 run games for the O’s. the downside is that they won’t be wins with a bad pen and an iffy rotation.

(side note: can we all be in agreement that Guthrie is not a number one starter? The O’s have been trotting him out there as such but he’s never won more than 11 games and has never finished over .500. just hand the reigns over to Brian Matusz and call it a day.

26. NEW YORK METS (LY: 7TH)

ROTATION: Mike Pelfrey, Jonathan Niese, R.A. Dickey, Chris Young, Chris Capuano

So, who here thinks Pelfrey and Dickey can replicate there seasons from last year, Niese can become a decent two before Santana returns and that Chris Young is finally healthy? Yeah me neither.

25. SAN DIEGO PADRES (2ND)

ROTATION: Mat Latos (DL), Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Aaron Harang, Dustin Moseley.

Who steps up in this rotation in Latos’s absence. Matter of fact who steps up when he’s back? While you like Richard as a number two after a pretty good campaign last year you have to be concerned that Stauffer and Moseley started 11 games total last year and that Harang has always been an up and down pitcher.

24. TORONTO BLUE JAYS (LY: 23RD)

ROTATION: Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek, Jesse Litsch.

Youth, youth, youth. Drabek has been a hot commodity since he was first mentioned in the Halladay talks in 2009. Brett Cecil was a beast going 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA and Morrow and Romero have amazing stuff. If they can put it all together they’ll be really good, but an questionable bullpen with Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch leaves room for improvement.

23. WASHINGTON NATIONALS (LY:19TH)

ROTATION: LIVAN HERNANDEZ, JOHN LANNAN, JASON MARQUIS, JORDAN ZIMMERMAN, TOM GORZELANNY

I really like the arms in Washington even without Stephen Strasburg until next year. Zimmerman could be a stud and a viable number two and Livan is a consistent, innings eater who will fill in nicely as the ace of the staff until Strasburg heals from Tommy John surgery.

Also in case you haven’t noticed, the Nats have done some nice retooling in their lineup by adding Jayson Werth and I think this is the year that Ian Desmond breaks through at the top of the order. The Nats wont be in the playoff mix but they’ll be intriguing to watch.

22. HOUSTON ASTROS (LY:17TH)

ROTATION: Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, Nelson Figueroa

What I like: the front 3 of Myers, Rodriguez and Happ will give teams fits. I always liked Happ when he was a Phillie and he has a chance to be a top of the rotation guy in Houston.

What I don’t like: everything else. Figueroa as a starter? Norris who only relies on one pitch? And don’t get me started on Carlos Lee… lets just move on.

Hopefully the Cubs knew what they were doing.

21. CHICAGO CUBS (LY:21)

ROTATION: Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner

Garza and Zambrano, two head cases in the same rotation… 103 and counting.

20. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (LY:5TH)

ROTATION: Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Kyle McClellan

With Wainwright this is a top 10 rotation, without him they fall out of the NL Central race. Sad to say but unless Westbrook has a career year this is a wait til next year scenario.

(also, who would’ve thought that with all of the Pujols banter this offseason that Wainwright’s injury would be the ultimate doom to their year? Internally Pujols has to love this, because lets say he goes .340/45/140 and the Cardinals make the playoffs with a shoddy pitching staff. How does he not get his 30 mil a year deal?)

19. ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (28TH)

ROTATION: Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, Daniel Hudson, Barry Enright, Armando Gallaraga

Have you noticed that in the last year the D’Backs have fleeced the Yankees for Kennedy, the Angels for Saunders, the White Sox for Hudson who all looked better in ‘Zona than they did in their previous locations, and were able to suck the Orioles into Mark Reynolds? If Gallaraga goes 14-9 with a sub 4 ERA the Tigers will be kicking themselves in the teeth.

18. DETROIT TIGERS (LY:25TH)

ROTATION: Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Brad Penny, Phil Coke

The “Yeah, but…” rotation of the decade. Scherzer and Porcello are young arms with experience, but can they be top of the rotation guys? Brad Penny has shown flashes, but his struggles in the last two years have outshined those flashes. Phil Coke… look he’s an ex-Yankee and I like him, but a starter… no.

17. NEW YORK YANKEES (LY:15TH)

ROTATION: Sabathia, Burnett, Phil Hughes, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova

Burnett's our number 2... lord help us.

You didn’t misread that, I have my Yankees at the bottom half of the Majors for pitching and overall this year.

You may think I’m crazy, nuts, going overboard even. The fact is that this team aint making the playoffs. Starting rotation, too many questions. Jeter leading off… not gonna work. Mark Teixeira trying to have a fast start, not gonna happen.

There are too many grey areas with this team to have faith in them. Will they win close to 90 games? Sure, why not? But contend? No way. For the first time in 15 Yankees fans will have to settle for wait til next year.

(and you can erase that top paragraph if Nova pitches as well as I think he will and this Manny Banuelos kid comes up and starts lighting it up in June. I’m realistic about this team, but I have lots of hope.)

16. TEXAS RANGERS (LY: 10TH)

ROTATION: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando

Their best starter is also their best reliever. Their biggest mistake for this season is not starting Neftali Perez out of the gate. If Holland can figure it out finally and Lewis and Wilson recapture that postseason magic then they’ll be fine. However, it’s going to be hard when you’re not sneaking up on anyone and you’re no longer the underdog.

15. FLORIDA MARLINS (LY: 16TH)

ROTATION: Josh Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Volstad, Anibal Sanchez

I’ve wanted to pick the Marlins to win this division for years. And right when they unload Uggla who hindered them defensively, pick up Vazquez who is a remarkably better National League pitcher than he is an American Leaguer, and have and awesome rotation that’s finally healthy, the Phillies get Lee and the Braves staff returns to its mid-90’s form. Good grief.

14. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (LY: 13TH)

ROTATION: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilli, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland

Five innings eaters with good stuff takes you a long way. Except when Jonathan Broxton is your closer. If Broxton were Heath Bell then the Dodgers would be in the top 10 and contending for the World Series. But that’s not the case.

(by the way, this maybe Matt Kemp’s last season to get his head out of his rear and become the player he should become. Mr. Hollywood should be a .320/30/100 guy right now and should be the face of this team, but his bouts with laziness and love of the limelight are hindering him. One more year of this and its bye-bye la-la land for Kemp.)

13. SEATTLE MARINERS (LY: 9TH)

ROTATION: Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard, Michael Pineda

King Felix meet Michael Pineda. Take him under your wing and lead him into good habits and guide him to his American League rookie of the year award. Then say bye to him when you’re traded after this season.

12. COLORADO ROCKIES (LY: 20TH)

If the Rockies want to contend, this guy has to step up.

ROTATION: Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel, Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers

Troy Tulowitzky could win MVP, Carlos Gonzalez could win the Triple Crown, the Rockies could make the World Series… and none of this will happen unless Jimenez slaps some consistency into De La Rosa and he becomes a reliable number two.

11. ANAHEIM ANGELS (LY: 14TH)

ROTATION: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir, Joel Piniero (DL)

I couldn’t tell you why, but I am not particularly thrilled with this Angels team. They have a great rotation, decent closer and a lineup that can produce 800 runs. But I just feel that this team is missing a piece. Maybe a speedster, a great reliever, something. Stay tuned.

10. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (LY: 26TH)

ROTATION: Yovani Gallardo, Zach Greinke (DL), Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson

As long as Greinke stays away from a basketball court this team will be dangerous. Prince Fielder in a contract year with Ryan Braun and Corey Hart will score a ton of runs, and Gallardo is the happiest man in baseball that he finally has some help in the rotation.

9. MINNESOTA TWINS (LY: 11TH)

ROTATION: Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Brian Duensing, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker

More important for the Twins is that Joe Nathan returns after Tommy John surgery. More importantly Justin Morneau returns from a season ending concussion. As long as they don’t play the Yankees late in the year then they’re a AL contender.

(did you know the Yankees were taking a look at reacquiring Pavano this off-season? I want to know who smacked Cashman first after hearing that possibility a Steinbrenner or Jeter?)

8. CINCINNATI REDS (LY: 12TH)

ROTATION: Edinson Volquez, Jonny Cueto (DL) Bronson Arroyo, Travis Wood, Mike Leake

Was last year a fluke? Hardly. They get Volquez at 100% and Aroldis Chapman for a whole year. Not to mention Joey Votto and Jay Bruce leading a highly potent offense. Only one question, who’s arm will Dusty blow out first? (I joke, I joke.)

7. BOSTON RED SOX (LY: 22ND)

If Beckett and Lackey don't return to form, you guys are going to be more than winded.

ROTATION: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matzsuzaka

The Red Sox can win the World Series if:

  • Josh Beckett’s back holds up
  • John Lackey proves he’s worth 80 million
  • Clay Buchholz proves last year was a glimpse into a promising future
  • They find someone to take Dice-K’s dead weight
  • Adrian Gonzalez is the real deal
  • Carl Crawford doesn’t descend into an oblivion
  • And if Daniel Bard becomes their closer and Jonathan Papelbon becomes Kansas City’s closer

Got it?

6. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (LY: 18TH)

ROTATION: Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jake Peavy (DL), Edwin Jackson

I’m risking my sanity again on betting that the ChiSox wont blow up into a gelatinous mess and that Peavy regains his mojo along with Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko bopping home runs at will. I give it 3 months.

5. OAKLAND A’S (LY: 5TH)

ROTATION: Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy

I’d like to call this one the pick that will drive my buddy Scully up a wall. I’m putting a lot of faith into a team that will score like the Nashville Predators and is relying on Josh Willingham to do the offense’s heavy lifting.

But this rotation is a dream. Cahill was a dark horse Cy Young candidate last year, Braden is coming into his own after pitching a perfect game last year and Anderson is an innings eater with great stuff. It’s a less fragile version of the staff that they had in the early 90’s and one that can carry them to the ALCS. I really believe that.

4. TAMPA BAY RAYS (LY: 8TH)

ROTATION: David Price, James Shields, Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson, Jeff Niemann

Risky pick that will drive Scully mad number two. But really, who’s going to hit that rotation? The Rays have more pitching than North Korea has nukes. One problem, their closer is Kyle Farnsworth…

And with that I’ll lead into this, I like the pickups of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Why? Because this team needed plate discipline and guys that could take pitches. This team strikes out so much that it’s mind-boggling. For all of their talent none of these guys can practice any patience. Now with Damon and Ramirez they get guys that can work counts, draw walks and extend at bats that will wear down pitchers.

3. ATLANTA BRAVES (LY: 3RD)

ROTATION: Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, Brandon Beachy

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Braves are back to their stellar pitching ways with Hudson, Lowe and Hanson who might be a dark horse for the Cy Young.

What’s different is the guy in the dugout. For the first time since the 80’s Bobby Cox is not managing the Braves. Fredi Gonzalez takes over for one of the game’s winningest managers and the Braves most memorable personality.

What he leaves behind is a team that could be a World Series contender if things fall into place. Besides the starters the lineup gets a huge boost with the acquisition of Dan Uggla and Jason Heyward looks to improve on an impressive rookie season.

But the key is the rotation and bullpen, Jurrjens and Hanson are improving everyday and Hudson, though not an ace, is a quality start every time he goes out. However, if Lowe cant pitch consistently the Braves wont make it to September. Lowe is this staff’s most important cog because of his experience and ability to make enough pitches to extend his starts into the sixth and seventh innings. If he can’t do that then the bullpen will have a hard time closing games out even with Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill bringing the heat.

As Lowe goes, this team goes.

2. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (LY: 1ST)

Sick of us yet?

ROTATION: Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Zito

Best staff and bullpen in the game period. You cant, and wont score runs on them. Even with Brian Wilson on the shelf for a month Sergio Romo will be able to hold it down until he returns.

The concern is can they stand the heat being the defending champs? They have to deal with every team’s best shot all year long and have to consistently score runs, which is something that they struggled with last year.

However, the offense has more pop this year with Buster Posey playing a full season and Pablo Sandoval dropping 40 pounds. (plus Brandon Belt coming up sooner than later, write that down.).

Plus, this is the freaking Giants. They’re the most loose, free spirited team in the league. They got this.

1. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (LY: 6TH)

ROTATION: Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, Blanton

No Utley, no Lidge, no problem. The scariest rotation since the mid-90’s Braves. Have fun National League.

So with Philly as the number one pitching staff in the league then you’re thinking that I’m picking them to win the World Series… well not exactly.

They’ll make the Series, but Boston will win it. Why? Even with all of those concerns you feel like Boston will put it together. Beckett will be healthy, Buchholz will have a great follow up season and Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford will be spectacular. They tried the whole defense and pitching thing last year but decided to make their line up manlier and it will pay off.

The have enough pitching and their guys can pitch when it counts. I like the Phillies but I wonder if Hamels is all the way back mentally and how will Halladay pitch in big game situations because against the Giants last year it wasn’t well.

The Sox have those type of guys and they’re on a mission. After an abysmal 2010 the Sox are going for broke and don’t be surprised if they come up all roses.

Wow, I picked the Red Sox to win it all, I feel dirty.

You’re probably wondering, “wait a minute, if they don’t have the best pitchers how can they have the best team after your argument.” Because sometime it’s not how much pitching you have, but the right pitching. That’s baseball for ya.

AL EAST- RED SOX

AL CENTRAL- WHITE SOX

AL WEST- A’S

AL WILDCARD- RAYS

NL EAST- PHILLIES

NL CENTRAL- BREWERS

NL WEST- GIANTS

NL WILDCARD- BRAVES

ALCS- RED SOX- A’S

NLCS- PHILLIES- GIANTS

WORLD SERIES- RED SOX- PHILLIES

NL MVP- PRINCE FIELDER

NL CY YOUNG- ROY HALLADAY

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- BRANDON BELT

NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- RON ROENICKE

AL MVP- EVAN LONGORIA

AL CY YOUNG- JON LESTER

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- MICHAEL PINEDA

AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- BOB GEREN


Baseball Preview Day 6: The Philly Phab Phour

Everything is sunny in Philadelphia.

We in sports have become obsessed with cliques, crews, Big 3’s and things like that. We marveled at how Miami was able to bring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together, we salivated over the possibility of Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson catching passes from Carson Palmer, and we marveled at how the Celtics brought Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce together.

 

This past winter, the Philadelphia Phillies trumped them all.

 

When Cliff Lee announced that he was signing with Philly Monday December 12th it sent shockwaves throughout baseball.

 

Lee was the coveted prize of the free agent market and the two teams that had the inside track on him were the Yankees (of course), and the team that traded for him the Texas Rangers. But when it flashed across most TV screen that he was going back to Philly (who traded him to get Roy Halladay) people began placing their bets for the 2011 season.

 

It was clear that at that point the Philadelphia Phillies were the favorites to win the World Series in 2011.

 

Pitching wins championships, and if that’s the case then why not hand them the trophy right now. The Phillies rotation is a who’s who of the best in the game on the mound in any situation.

 

Roy Halladay is the ace. A two-time CY Young winner with amazing control who is coming off of his best season ever going 21-10 with a 2.19 ERA and two no-hitters. Following him is Lee, arguably the best lefty in the game with a penchant for coming up big in big situations (ask the Yankees about that). Following him is Roy Oswalt who was trapped in Houston letting his powerful fastball and pinpoint consistency be overshadowed by the team’s recent downturn before the Phillies added him before last year’s trade deadline. Lastly there sits Cole Hamels. Hamels was once thought to be the future ace of the Phillies and proved it with a 2008 postseason to remember when he led Philly to its first World Series title since 1980. Hamels was the World Series MVP and was primed to start a gigantic run as one of baseball’s best lefties before a lackluster 09 kept him down. Last year saw Hamels get back on track with a sub 3 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP, not bad for your fourth starter. Oh yeah and there’s Joe Blanton… he’s got a ring too as the number 5 starter… no biggie.

In case you were wondering Joe Blanton is also in the Phillies rotation.

When looking at that rotation on paper its no wonder that everyone from the media, to the bloggers, to the casual fans began fawning over them even before pitchers and catchers reported.

 

This staff brings back memories of the mid-90’s Atlanta Braves with John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Steve Avery taking the hill and straight owning opponents.

 

However, its time to rain on Philly’s parade just a little.

 

As impressive as this staff is they might not even be the best staff in the National League, let alone baseball. Out west the San Francisco the Giants are the defending world champs with 4 of the best young arms in the game (and Barry Zito) and, oh by the way, they beat this same Philly team last October.

 

Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner are just as good and just a talented as Philly’s Phab Phour and they’ve proven it. The Giants are lying very low as possible title contenders and they have as much claim to throne as anyone.

 

Also Philly might want to take a look in its own division for some competition. The Atlanta Braves have their most potent staff in years with Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens and Brandon Beachy. With that rotation and the addition of Dan Uggla to the lineup Philadelphia wont just run away with the division like everyone expects.

For the first time in years the Phillies wont need to rely on Ryan Howard and the offense to do the heavy lifting.

Speaking of offense, can Philly score enough runs to win ball games? I know, I know, that sentence sounds foolish when talking about the Phillies because over the last few years they’ve been one of baseball’s best run producing machines.

 

However, Chase Utley is still banged up, without him in the lineup or Jayson Werth for that matter, Ryan Howard might put up career low numbers and Jimmy Rollins is coming off of back-to-back poor seasons. It sounds weird to say but what may hold Philadelphia back is their inability to produce enough runs to get victories for Halladay and company.

 

Taking all of this into consideration, Philly is still the team to beat. I’m sorry but there is nothing scarier than seeing Philly on your schedule and seeing a former World Series MVP, two former CY Young winners and one of baseball’s best power righties coming at you at any point during a series. It’s a murderers row of arms that if healthy can with 100+ games without breaking a sweat.

 

Let me ask you this; going into a series if you’re Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Fran or anyone, do you really think you can go to Philly, play games 1 & 2 against Halladay and Lee and get a split before coming home and facing Hamels and Oswalt? If you said yes then you’re a liar.

 

This staff was put together to intimidate and to win. One look at them and you walk into a clubhouse thinking please God let us get one hit. No other staff does that; no other team is like that.

 

Ever since Philly won the title in 2008, Ruben Amaro has made it a priority to stay on top and get back as much as possible. With the Lee acquisition to coincide with Halladay, Hamels and Oswalt, Amaro may have out done himself.

 

No matter the questions about the offense or the concern of the health of Brad Lidge, the Philadelphia Phillies are the World Series favorite backed by the baddest rotation in baseball. Miami might’ve gotten a lot of attention with their Big 3 but they got nothing on the Philly Phab Phour.


Baseball Preview Day 1: San Fran’s Rebirth

Yep... those are your World Series Champs.

Four years ago the San Francisco Giants were Barry Bonds team.

At age 43 he was the aging, controversial face of the franchise that was on the verge of breaking sports greatest record all with the cloud of steroids hanging over his head.

He was mercurial, powerful, flawed, eye-popping and everything in between. He was also San Fran’s biggest hindrance as much as he was its main attraction. Even though he smacked balls over outfield fences with Herculean ease and it drew millions of fans and thousands of media personnel, his involvement in the steroid era is what drove the Giants over the edge.

Bonds and his life became bigger than the Giants. No one cared about the individuals that surrounded him, that coached him, or that hit behind him… it was all about him. The homeruns, the walks, the flaxseed oil, the cream, the clear, it was all about Barry Bonds all of the time. It didn’t matter that J.T. Snow was still playing three years after he should’ve retired, or that their rotation wasn’t good enough to contend in the Pac-10 it was the Bonds show 24/7-365.

When Bonds finally did break Hank Aaron’s homerun record in 2007 you could see a shift in the organization almost immediately. In plain view the organization praised Bonds, celebrated him, honored him, behind the scenes however, they were planning on how to move forward.

You see as much as Bonds dragged the Giants through the mud with his pursuit of Aaron and evasion of the feds, the Giants went along with it because of the financial gains that came with such a chase. After the chase was finished the Giants were eager to start anew and it showed.

At the end of the season Bonds was not resigned. All of the murals, signs and everything that had to do with Bonds were quickly removed. The mission was simple, the Giants wanted to get as far away from Bonds as possible and recreate their identity.

The Bonds era was a gift and a curse for the Giants.

They had young guys that they were dying to trot out on to the field, able bodied young men who could bring the heat on the mound and the wood at the plate. Guys like Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain and eventually Buster Posey and Travis Ishikawa. These were there building blocks for the future, the guys that would make the Giants relevant again as a team.

Let’s just say the Brian Sabean was right in his methods.

4 years later there isn’t a quirkier, weirder, more fun group of players on one team the there are with the San Francisco Giants.

One look at the roster and you would think that this couldn’t possibly be a serious Major League contender for a title. Lincecum looks like he belongs in an emo band, Cain looks like a Judd Apatow comedy character, third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s nickname is Kung Fu Panda and his weight last year could’ve verified that and Brian Wilson is… well… Brian Wilson.

The team is more like the Goonies than a professional ball club. The personalities make for fun fodder in the media and on television; however the product on the field more than outshines the 30 million quotables we might hear from these guys this year.

For all of the talk about the Phillies Fab 4 of Halladay, Oswalt, Hamels and Lee, the Giants have a case for the best rotation in the league. Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young winner and at age 26 who might be the best power pitcher in the league at 5-11 165. Cain might be more talented than Lincecum and began coming into his own last fall with 21 1/3 innings of stellar pitching where he only allowed one earned run. Sanchez has a no-hitter under his belt and even though he has spells of inconsistency he can be a sub 3 ERA, sub 1.2 WHIP guy. Finally how about Madison Bumgarner? The brightest star of the World Series last year will get his first full season of pitching under his belt after watching his 8 inning shutout of a gem in Game 4 at Arlington last October. When you think about it Barry Zito was brought in to be their ace 4 years ago at 19 million a season over 7 seasons, now he’s the fifth starter and had no impact on their title run last year at all. If he can finally break .500 and go 5-6 innings consistently then how can this rotation not be considered the best in the bigs?

The lineup is more of a crap shoot, but they have guys that can get the job done when asked. Veteran Aubrey Huff was a perfect fit at first base and had one of his best years statistically last year and with Sandoval in better shape those numbers could go up. The star of the group is Posey though. Posey was a mate may call-up that fit in right away and was a stud at and behind the plate. He led the team with a .305 average and 18 homeruns in the last four months of the season. He became the bat the Giants craved for years and he also matched the hype that came attached to his name coming out of Florida State.

Meet Buster Posey a.k.a. baseballs next great catcher, and the face of the Giants.

His work behind the plate was amazing as well. Even though Lincecum struggled at times last year the Giants led the National League in ERA (3.36), strikeouts (1331) and batting average allowed (.236).

He’s arguably the face of the franchise and is well on his way to be the best catcher in the league.

The best of all of these guys has to be Brian Wilson. His antics are great for TV with his “tanned” beard, his “gimp” looking buddy the machine walking around and his penchant for the ridiculous. His pitching is decent too.

Wilson has established himself as the game’s best closer leading the league in saves last year with 48 and a fastball reaching 100 on the gun. He is this generation’s Mariano Rivera, because once he’s in the game its lights out for the competition.

Watching this group come together last year was a fun experience and a reminder of how quickly an organization can change.

4 years ago they were club Bonds with limited membership. This year it’s a gang of misfits who enter 2011 as World Series champions and have a great shot at repeating. It’s a great turn around a great team to follow.

With the way that they are built they should be good to follow for a long time.


They Might Be Giants

Your 2010 Champs.

In the early part of September the San Diego Padres had the division sewed up. They were seven and a half games up in the NL West with Colorado beginning to make their customary postseason push behind the monster months of Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitski.

Ahead of them in the Wildcard were the NL East powers of Philadelphia who were fueled by the big three of Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, and Atlanta who were trying to send Bobby Cox off to retirement with one last World Series run.

Then there was the story of Cincinnati who was finally in a pennant race after fifteen years behind another masterful rebuilding job by Dusty Baker and the emergence of Joey Votto as an NL MVP candidate.

So where the hell did the San Francisco Giants come from to win the World Series?

How did a team of castoffs, misfits, rookies and beards go from a frat pack to the most polarizing team of the postseason?

How did Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and Josh Hamilton all wilt under the bright lights of the postseason while Cody Ross, Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria came through time and time again?

I don’t know. How does Brian Wilson “tan” his beard?

While we marveled at Cliff Lee’s precision, the Yankees legacy, the Phillies pitching and the Rays youth
the Giants were sitting back growing their beards wondering who was going to start in left field let alone get to the World Series. Tim Lincecum was trying to regain the form that made him a two-time Cy Young winer. Pablo Sandoval was in the midst of a season long power slump. Their cleanup hitter was Aubrey Huff who was thrown by the waist side by the Detroit Tigers.

To say that their championship run is a surprise is an understatement… but should we really be surprised?

Cody Ross was one of the many misfits that fit in perfectly with the Giants.

Think about it. As much as Lincecum struggled in August as well as postseason castoff Barry Zito the Giants were still deep in the rotation thanks to their other three young studs Jonathan Sanchez, who pitched a no hitter last year, Matt Cain, whose ERA was a ridiculous 0.00 in the postseason and Madison Bumgarner who became the youngest lefty to throw eight shutout innings in the world series at age 21. As great as Lee, Halladay and others were, the Giants just had too much pitching for any lineup to deal with.

Speaking of lineups… Um this one ain’t that scary on paper, but boy did it provide nightmares for everyone. Cody Ross’s NLCS performance is the stuff legends are made of as he just always seemed to come through in clutch situations. Ross was a Marlins castoff who only made the postseason roster thanks to a Jose Guillen neck injury. Ross certainly took advantage of the opportunity and helped put the Phillies run in the NL to rest.

The most important bat might have been 23 year old Buster Posey. Posey was called up after the Giants needed a boost behind home plate that they werent receiving from Bengie Molina who they shipped to Texas. Posey did more than just deliver timely hits like his home run in game four off of Darren O’Day but the way he called games behind the plate made you wonder if he really was a rookie. Cain, Lincecum and company shined with Posey calling the shots as no lineup seemed too intimidating for the former shortstop.

I could go on and on about this team and they deserve it. The Giants have suffered heartbreak after heartbreak since their last title in 1954 when Willie Mays roamed center and the Giants played at the Polo Grounds in New York.

The heartbreak of the initial move to San Francisco, the earthquake in 1989 with that great team with Will Clark and Kevin Mitchell to the agony of being 6 outs away of a title before the Anaheim Angels stormed back to claim the series in 2002 and the entire Bonds era of constant headaches was more torture than one franchise should deserve.

Fortunately for us the Giant faithful basked in it holding up signs claiming how torture never felt so good. Nightly at one of baseball most beautiful venues the orange and black maniacs wore fake beards to glorify Brian Wilson and the gangs grizzly new look. The cheered loudly for Uribe’s home runs, Lincecum’s strikeouts and Freddy Sanchez’s wizardry at second. It was the perfect team to stand behind as far as they were concerned, a bunch of players no one wanted on a team that was of no concern when compared to their southern rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now they all share the glory together. A team that no one saw coming amongst a slew of postseason monsters that grabbed the headlines. A fan base that had it’s share of pain spanning close to 60 years. The Freak, the beard and the guys no one wanted plus a bunch of young guys that no one paid any attention to now stand as the center of our attention.

It couldn’t happen to a better more unique group of guys. Guess you don’t need glamour to win a World Series, just a group if characters who don’t know better. Now do us all a favor… SHAVE! Except you Wilson you’re a special case, fact.