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Pujols, Howard History Says Brewers’ Fielder Has a Shot to Win MVP

The year was 2006 and Ryan Howard had just been awarded the National League Most Valuable Player Award.  His unbelievable breakout season made him a household name for baseball fans and he has been tearing up the league ever since.

He also watched the playoffs from his couch.

The season in which Howard crushed an astonishing 58 home runs and drove in 142 runners, the Phillies won 85 games but missed out on baseball’s second season.  They finished in second place in the National League East by 12 games and missed the Wildcard by just three games.  Despite all this, Howard still finished first in the MVP voting and took home the award.

Finishing in second place, and not too happy about it, was Albert Pujols.  The Cardinals won just 83 games during the regular season, but it was enough to bring home the National League Central Division Championship.  The Cardinals would go on to win the World Series that year, but Pujols was left without the other piece of hardware he felt he deserved.

Last season, Pujols won the National League MVP despite his team finishing in fourth place in the division with a record of 86-76.  Pujols hit .357 on the year with 37 home runs and 116 RBI’s, while Ryan Howard finished as the runner-up with 48 home runs and 146 RBI’s.  Howard’s Phillies would win 92 games during the regular season and end up winning the World Series.

Prince Fielder's outstanding and powerful year has gone somewhat unnoticed.

Prince Fielder's outstanding and powerful year has gone somewhat unnoticed.

Fast forward to this year and there seems to be another question as to who will take home the MVP trophy this season.  Without question, Albert Pujols is the front-runner for the award as he has smashed 39 home runs already and has drawn 91 walks compared to just 50 strike outs.  His .318 batting average and .441 on-base percentage are excellent and many of his numbers match his outstanding 2006 season.

Trailing him in most hitting categories but closing fast, is Prince Fielder.  With his home run in last night’s contest, he now has six long balls in his last eight contests.  In that span, Fielder is 10-31 with nine RBI’s.

It seems to be perfect timing for Fielder, who is poised to make a run at the MVP if he can finish August strong and make it through a tough September.  The Brewers are fading fast in the standings, and if it weren’t for Fielder it would be going even faster.

However, if the Brewers can get back within shouting distance of the Cardinals for the Central Division and enter relevancy (say, five or six games back), then Fielder talks might begin to heat up.  Looking back to 2006 this far into the season, Fielder is having a better season this year than Howard was then in all categories but homers (42 compared to 33) and slugging percentage.

Pujols has posted very similar numbers up to this point in the season as he did in 2006, and if Fielder continues this tear he could give the Cardinals first baseman a run for his money.  Right now, no one can stop Fielder and he is doing all he can to help get the Brewers back to where they need to be.

Pujols has Matt Holliday waiting in the on-deck circle when he bats, meaning teams are now being forced to pitch to him instead of pitching around him.  For Fielder, a mix of Casey McGehee, Mike Cameron, and Corey Hart has been the answer in the five spot, meaning teams are more reluctant to give Fielder good pitches to hit.

While it will be no easy task to pass Pujols in the MVP standings, the Milwaukee slugger’s recent surge at the plate has made it a competition.  Combine that with Pujols’ average second half (.280, seven home runs), and Fielder could make some noise in the race if the Brewers can string together a few wins.

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August 22, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, St. Louis Cardinals | , , , | Leave a comment

If the Chicago Cubs Make the Playoffs, It’ll Be a Short Stay

As of last night’s games, the Chicago Cubs stand in a percentage points lead for first place in the National League Central, and subsequently two games out of the Wild Card race.

Based on head-to-head schedules, as well as remaining schedules for both the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, it is my prediction that the Cardinals will come out on top of the division victorious.

Despite the two teams being stuck together in the standings, the Cardinals’ sailing has been much smoother on their way to a 59-51 record. They have been consistent all year in a division that has not seen any team take advantage of the other’s struggles.  Their longest winning streak and longest losing streak on the year is five in both categories, and they have not had many negative headlines.

One question mark that arose for the Cardinals early in the year was the question of who would protect slugger Albert Pujols in the batting order. Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel have not been up to the task of doing so in trying to repeat their breakout performances of last year.

To ignite the offense and protect the best hitter in baseball, the Cardinals added a couple of veteran pieces that are sure to help mightily during the stretch run.  First, Mark DeRosa was acquired for a couple of mid-level prospects, and he has done a solid job batting in the two spot.

After starting his Cardinals career out 0-for-15, DeRosa has batted .242 since with seven homers, 12 runs batted in and an .891 OPS. He has batted all over the lineup, anywhere from the two spot to the seven spot, and he has shown his versatility by playing first, second, and third base in the field while still having the capability to play outfield.

For as average as DeRosa has been since coming to the Cards, Matt Holliday has picked him up and then some. Since putting on a Cardinals jersey, Holliday has batted a blistering .477 with three home runs, 11 runs batted in, and an on-base percentage of .549 in just 11 games.

Along with the new and improved offense, the Cardinals’ starters have been outstanding this year, and the defense has been superb. The Cards’ starters rank tied for second with the Cubs in the National League in ERA at 3.67, and they have walked just 192 batters, which is good for third in the majors.

Ryan Franklin has been about as shut-down of a closer as there is possible, and the bullpen, while having an average season statistically, has thrown the second-least amount of innings this year, which is always important for a stretch run in September.

But enough about that. It’s time to focus on the North Siders.

That team with the “C” on the helmet that has been tricking you and deceiving you for the past 106 games. Oh, don’t worry Cubbie fans. You will probably make it to the postseason this year for reasons that we will go over in just a second.

The Chicago Cubs have been good this year, but they are not true contenders.

The Chicago Cubs have been good this year, but they are not true contenders.

But once you are there, it’ll be the third year in a row that you don’t even sniff the “W” column during the second season.

In case you haven’t heard, the National League Central is one of the the worst divisions in all of baseball.  As a division, it has a .485 winning percentage and is the only division in baseball to have four teams at .500 or below.

It has the lowly Pirates, who are setting up to look really good in 2014. It has the Reds, who seemingly fell off the map without anyone noticing.

It has the God-awful starting pitching of the Milwaukee Brewers and the ever-fading Houston Astros.

Yes, for the Chicago Cubs, it’s almost too much fun to be in the National League Central and get to feast on some of the worst teams in the league this year. And feast they have, as we get to the first reason why the Cubs’ record and production is tainted.

They have played 55 games against the National League Central this year and will wind up playing a total of 80 against the worst division in the NL. In those 55 games, they have gone a solid 32-23, and the 32 wins are the most by any team against their own division in all of baseball.

Sounds pretty good, right?

But realize that the Cubs are 11-12 against the other top two teams in the division, Milwaukee and St. Louis, as opposed to the 21-11 record they sport against the cellar dwellers of the Central in Houston, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

Even better, they still have nine games left against Pittsburgh and a combined six against the other two teams at the bottom. Tell me those numbers won’t end up looking good on a playoff resume. I hope the Cubs can pull the Pirates or Reds in the NLDS.

Meanwhile, over on the West Coast, the San Francisco Giants and Colorado Rockies are slaving away as they battle in the deepest division not named the AL East. With three teams as legitimate contenders to make the playoffs, including the best team in all of baseball in the Los Angeles Dodgers, times are not easy over there.

Thus far, the Rockies and Giants have had the 16th- and 17th-toughest schedules in the majors, while the Cubs have relaxed with the 24th-easiest in all of baseball.

If you think that kind of stuff always evens out at the end of the year, think again.

To end the year, the Cubs will play 38 games against teams with losing records and just 19 games against teams with winning records.

To put that in comparison, the Giants will play 28 games against teams with losing records and 26 games against .500 or better teams.

The Rockies have it even worse, playing 27 games against teams with losing records and 30 against teams with winning records.

Simply put, there is a very good chance that the Cubs get into the playoffs while the Giants and Rockies beat each other up. San Francisco and Colorado will play each other 10 times before the end of the year in what will either decide the Wild Card race or let a Central team in.

The Giants must be jealous that the Cubs get to play the Pirates 15 times this year.

The Giants must be jealous that the Cubs get to play the Pirates 15 times this year.

Let’s say, for a moment, that the Chicago Cubs make the playoffs as the National Leauge Wild Card representative. Let’s say that the easy schedule was just easy enough and that the Giants and Rockies could never pull away from each other. In all honesty, there’s a good chance it happens.

San Francisco will get the Dodgers nine times before season’s end, and the Rockies get to face them six times.

Now the real question: Would the Cubs stand any kind of chance in the playoffs against, more than likely, the Los Angeles Dodgers?

The simple answer to this question is no, but because it’d be a lame ending to this article, I’ll explain why.

This season, the Cubs have played 18 different ballclubs. They have played every team in the National League other than the Mets (14) and have played four American League teams as well.

The Cubs have played 27 games against the top six teams on their schedule and have won just 10 of those games. The middle six of their schedule has seen the Cubs go 24-21. And right on cue, the Cubs are 22-13 against the worst six teams on their schedule this season.

Against teams with winning records this season, the Cubs are a dismal 19-29, which is good for a .395 winning percentage. Compare that record against other clubs’ results against .500 or better teams such as the Cardinals (.545 win percentage), the Giants (.528), the Rockies (.490), and the Dodgers (.566), and you see a huge disparity.

The numbers don’t lie, and what they show is that the Cubs do not fare well against good teams but do very well against the lower-tier teams. Because they are in one of the worst divisions in baseball, that trait is magnified, and it makes the Cubs look better than they really are.

The Giants are 16-11 against teams in the Central, and the Rockies are 17-8 against those same ballclubs.

In reverse effect, the Cubs are just 8-9 against the National League West this year. This clearly shows how much easier it is to play in the National League Central and indicates that the Giants and Rockies have outperformed the Cubs this year by more than the two games the standings say.

Other indicators that spell doom for the Cubs if they make it to the playoffs are the bullpen woes. The Cubs have the fourth-most blown saves in the National League with 16, and their bullpen has walked more batters than any other team in the NL. Walks might fly against the Astros and Diamondbacks, but when it comes time to play against the big boys, you’d better not give up any free passes.

When thinking about teams in the National League getting ready to make their stretch runs, the word “aggressive” came to mind this year. The Phillies went out and got Cliff Lee, the reigning Cy Young award winner and new ace for the next two years.

The Giants obtained Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko to add some good solid bats to help support the best pitching staff in the league.

The Dodgers helped their shaky bullpen out by getting one of the best, if not the best, lefty specialists in the game in George Sherill.

The Cardinals traded their top prospect and other first-round draft picks in order to get their hands on a guy that could drive in Albert Pujols instead of stranding him on second.

With the Cubs and their acquisitions of John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny, you didn’t get the sense that they were making that “push” to reach the pennant or beat out the Cardinals. They got what they needed in another lefty arm, but it didn’t put them over the edge.

The sale of the team hurt them, as Jim Hendry was advised not to increase payroll, but something a little more spicy would have been nice. Grabow is an average arm in the bullpen, and Gorzelanny does not give the Cubs anything that Kevin Hart was not already giving them.

With the best record in the National League, it’s all but set that the Los Angeles Dodgers are going to obtain the top seed in the National League playoffs this year. It will be an award well-deserved, and there is no doubt they will honor that title and back it up as best as can.

Standing in their way, if they get there, will probably be the Chicago Cubs.

Yikes.

If the Cubs win the National League Central and the Wild Card comes from the National League West, or if the Cubs win the Wild Card, they will visit Chavez Ravine to start the playoffs.

Not only do the Cubs struggle mightily on the road with a record of 24-30, but the Dodgers are a National League-best 35-19 when playing in “Mannywood.”

Clayton Kershaw has a 2.06 ERA at home this year, Jonathon Broxton has allowed just one earned run all year there, and a ridiculous eight Dodgers are batting over .265 when at home.

When looking at the schedules of all contenders in the National League, the Cubs have a very good shot at contending with other squads in the Wild Card race. As easy as their schedule is, the Cardinals have an even easier schedule, as St. Louis will play the Padres seven times, the Pirates six times, and the Reds six times.

However, the Cubs’ inconsistent and struggling play against the good teams this year is that will be their downfall in the playoffs. It’s no secret that whoever comes out of the Central will have a tough time competing, but that statement applies even moreso to the Cubs.

August 6, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Chicago Cubs, MLB, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals | , , , , | 3 Comments

At Year’s End Giants Will Be In; Rocks, Cubs Will Be Out

Heading into tonight’s action in the National Leauge, it has become apparent that just six teams are left in the league that have a shot at competing for the playoffs, and ultimately the NL pennant.

The Pirates, Reds, Brewers, and Astros really have no shot at winning the Central this year.  The Astros and Brewers are within reaching distance but trends say they are out of it.

In the East, the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves are both inside seven games of the Philadelphia Phillies, but with the acquisition of Cliff Lee to the pitching staff, I will go ahead and say the Phillies are rolling to the playoffs.

In the West, the Diamondbacks are too far out of it and the Padres have officially begun to rebuild and stand no chance in what is easily the toughest division in the National League.

With those ten teams all but out of any race heading into the stretch run of the season, six teams remain that include the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Philadelphia Phillies, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cubs, the San Francisco Giants, and the Colorado Rockies.

To get the easy stuff out of the way that really does not even need to be broken down, the Dodgers will win the division because they are the deepest team in the league and have one of the best managers in the game.

Joe Torre has his team absolutely rolling on all cylinders and the team is taking care of both the weak competition and the tough.  What’s amazing about the Dodgers best record in baseball is that they also have had the toughest schedule to date in the National League, with an opponent’s win percentage of .510.

Against teams with a winning record, the Dodgers are are an NL-leading 34-26 in those games.  They have scored the second most runs in the NL, behind just the Phillies, and have the second best team ERA in all of baseball.  The bullpen has been shaky and is the one question mark that the team has, but the trade deadline acquisition of George Sherill looks to be huge for them.

They showed no signs of slowing down even when Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games and his presence back on the team has brought them together even more.  He has struggled as of late but the young stars in James Loney, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier have picked up the slack.

The other ballclub that has won their division by default (at least in this article) is the Philadelphia Phillies.  They have won 20 of their last 28 games and have opened up a safe cushion on both the Braves and Marlins.  Even more importantly, they made the trade of the year in acquiring starting pitcher and reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee from the Indians.

They gave up a decent amount of minor league prospects but this year’s team was left completley alone.  He joins what now looks to be the best starting rotation in all of baseball that is poised for another run deep into the playoffs.

The Phillies have a pretty average looking schedule the rest of the way compared to the other contenders, with 25 games left against teams with winning records and 32 left against losing records.

The Phillies rank fifth in runs and sixth in slugging percentage this year, which is always a good thing when playing in the ballpark they play in.  Combined with a now excellent pitching staff and the potential of Pedro Martinez, and the Phillies have great pitching that will get plenty of run support every time one of them takes the mound.

The one division that has not been decided and likely will not be decided until the last week of the year is the National League Central.  Going into tonight’s play, the Cardinals and Cubs were tied for the best record in the division.  Based on percentage points, the Cubs held a slight advantage over St. Louis.

Looking at the stretch run for both teams, the schedule seems to favor the Cardinals moreso than the Cubbies.  Both teams will play 38 games against teams with losing records, but the Cubs will play four more games (19 compared to 15 for the Cards) against teams with a winning record.

Making it even more difficult for the Cubs, 15 of those games against teams with winning records will come away from Wrigley Field, where the Cubs are 24-29.  The Cardinals will play nine games at home against +.500 teams and just six on the road.

My money is on the Cards taking the division, and no it has nothing to do with my staunch Brewers homerism.  The Cardinals have added their pieces in Mark Derosa and Matt Holliday, and Albert Pujols is more than capable of taking them to the top.  They have an easier stretch than the Cubs and overall play better ball.

The Cubs will have a tough time competing just because of their struggles on the road.  The stat of having 15 of 19 road games against winning-record teams is a huge disadvantage, but what’s worse is that they play almost half of their remaining games on the road (28 of 57).

As of right now, the National League Wildcard seems as if it will be a three team race, with the San Francisco Giants leading the way, followed by the Colorado Rockies and the loser of the National League Central.

Numbers point to the Giants being the front-runners for a few reasons, with the main one being their unbelievable pitching.  They have the best team ERA in the Majors and have two bonafide aces in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  They are pretty much guarenteed two quality starts every five days.

The Giants finish their season with 28 games against teams with winning records and 26 games against teams with losing records.  The majority (16) of their winning-record opponents will have to come to San Francisco to play them.

With the addition of Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko to a less than stellar lineup, the Giants look to be in good position to take home the Wildcard.

What will be important is not getting into a slugfest with the Colorado Rockies so that the Cubs or Cardinals sneak right in and both are left out.  The Rockies and Giants will meet ten more times before the year is over, and the odds are that whoever comes out on top in that span of games will also meet up with the Phillies in the first round.

The races in the National League, while not featuring the best teams in the world, will be exciting and should come down to the final games of the year.

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals | , , , | Leave a comment

Recapping The Major League Baseball Trade Deadline Deals

The always interesting Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. central time today as some big names were added to contenders and stellar prospects will now call someplace else home.  Since the Matt Holliday trade between the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics, there have been ___ trades.  While some of these deals can not fully be evaluated until it is seen how prospects pan out, we’ll go ahead and try to do it anyways.

Trade: (July 27th) Cleveland Indians trade Ryan Garko to the San Francisco Giants for Scott Barnes

Who Wins: The Indians officially began their firesale by shipping away their starting first baseman to the Giants who were in much need of a replacement for Travis Ishikawa.  Garko gives the Giants a solid fifth hitter in the lineup as they make a run at the NL Wildcard this season.  His contract is up at the end of the year but the Giants are expected to at least make an offer to him.

Barnes was 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA for Class A San Jose and was ranked by Baseball America as the Giants’ ninth best prospect in 2009.  The lefty has an excellent changeup and projects to be a number three starter in the big leagues.

If Garko re-signs with the Giants it would be a great deal for the them but I believe Barnes can be something special.  Still, the Giants got what they needed and take this deal by a small margin.  WINNER: GIANTS

Trade: (July 28th) Boston Red Sox trade Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox for Brian Anderson

Who Wins: It was clear that Brian Anderson’s time in Chicago was up as he had been optioned to Triple A and was not in the plans for the future of the White Sox.

He demanded a trade and was given his wish by trading places with the veteran Kotsay.  Clearly the Red Sox felt as though they had enough outfield depth on the team and could spare Kotsay to pick up a potential player in Anderson.

Kotsay will be great off the bench for the White Sox as they make a run at the AL Central this year.  WINNER: WHITE SOX

Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade Wladimir Balentein to the Cincinnati Reds for Robert Manuel

Who Wins: Neither of these players project as much in the big leagues but give both teams some added depth at a few spots.  Balentein has more Major League experience and has a better shot at contributing in the near future.  WINNER: REDS

Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade shortstop Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Ben Prebanic, Brett Lorin, and Nathan Adcock to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell

Who Wins: This is a very interesting trade for both squads because the Pirates were in a no-win situation with the two players they gave away.  Wilson had already denied a contract extension with the team and Snell was very unhappy with his situation in Pittsburgh.

What they got in return was about as much as they could have asked for, including slugger Jeff Clement.

Cedeno was thrown in the deal because the Pirates will need to fill a void at shortstop but is hardly the long-term solution.  Clement has a great bat but does not have a true position, seeing time at catcher and first base.  He projected as a designated hitter but now will not have that chance in the National League.  Pitcher Nathan Adcock sports a great curveball and could be a starter in the future.

Seattle is buying for the future and got one of the best defensive gloves in the game in Wilson, as well as a pitcher with a ton of skill in Snell.  While the results have not been there, Snell has potential if he can stay focused and work on his problems.

It’s tough to say that the Pirates could have won this deal because they were dealing with two disgruntled players, so I’ll give this one to the M’s.  WINNER: MARINERS

Trade: (July 29th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Freddy Sanchez to the San Francisco Giants for Tim Alderson

Who Wins: Sanchez adds another much needed bat to the lineup and puts the Giants in great shape to find a spot in the National League playoffs.  Along with Garko, Sanchez improves the offense with a .300+ batting average and some power to go around.

However, Alderson is showing a ton of potential and could be an outstanding pitcher in the near future.  In three seasons of professional ball, he is 20-6 with an ERA just over three.  He sports an excellent curveball and was projected to be a back-end starter in the outstanding Giants’ rotation that includes Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and number one prospect Madison Bumgarner.

Sanchez is a great hitter and an average fielder that puts the Giants in contention.  The Pirates were in a no-win situation with Sanchez who, like Wilson, refused to sign a contract extension.  What they got is a 20-year-old starter with a ton of potential.  WINNER: PIRATES

Trade: (July 29th) Cleveland Indians trade Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson

Who Wins: The Indians are clearly in selling mode and traded away their second straight Cy Young Award winner to the Philadelphia Phillies who are all of a sudden huge contenders in the National League.

What they got in exchange was a ton of young and talented players that are sure to make a splash in The Bigs in the future.

For the Phillies, they filled up their starting rotation by adding Lee, who is 9-7 this year with an even 3.00 ERA.  He will go to a staff that was desparately looking for good pitching and becomes the ace.

They did not have to give up their two best pitching prospects in Kyle Drabek and J.A. Happ, which they would have if they had gone after Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay.

For the Indians, they get two very solid pitchers in Knapp and Corrasco as well as good position players in Donald and Marson.  Baseball America ranked the Indians’ return players as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 10th best players in the Phillies’ farm system.

Still, the Phillies become legitimate contenders with this move and win the deal as well.  WINNER: PHILLIES

Trade: (July 30th) Baltimore Orioles trade George Sherill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Josh Bell and Steve Johnson

Who Wins: The one knock on the team with the best record in baseball was that the bullpen was extremely shaky.  Outside of Jonathon Broxton, no one really had the makings up someone you’d like to rely on late in games.  Enter George Sherill and that is no longer the case.

Sherill gives the Dodgers a great 1-2 punch in the bullpen and they did not have to give up much to get it.  Bell is a solid prospect at third base and projects to be a starter in the big leagues one day, but the Dodgers are completely in win-now mode and were going to do anything possible to pick up a reliever.  WINNER: DODGERS

Trade: (July 30th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Chicago Cubs for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison

Who Wins: This trade was probably one of the fairest deals of the deadline and it is hard to pick a winner.

For the Cubs’ sake, they received a much needed lefty arm out of the bullpen in Grabow.  Gorzelanny had a great 2007 but has not showed much since and is pretty comparable to Hart.

The Pirates free up more cap room and get a decent young pitcher in Kevin Hart.  Time is against him as he is already 26 years old, but if he can keep up his solid numbers he will be a steal.

Ascanio still has a lot to prove and Harrison was stuck behind Josh Vitters at third base in the minors so it isn’t a huge loss for the Cubs.

I’ll give the Cubs the win on the trade because it helps them right now (Grabow) and potentially in the future (Gorzelanny) but both sides come out on top here.  WINNER: CUBS

Trade: (July 30th) Detroit Tigers trade Josh Anderson to the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations.

Who Wins: No, cash considerations is not a player on the Royals.  This trade occurred to shore up a little bit of money before trading for pitcher Jarrod Washburn, so the Tigers make out well here.

The Royals get an average prospect in the outfield that has seen some at bats in the big leagues.  For a team to not get a player in a trade makes it hard for them to win the trade, so the Royals get the nod here.  WINNER: ROYALS

Trade: (July 31st) Seattle Mariners trade Jarrod Washburn to the Detroit Tigers for Luke French and Mauricio Robles

Who Wins: Both of the prospects that the Mariners received in return have pretty low ceilings and do not project as much in the future.

French is 23 years old and has not produced much, with a 35-43 record as a pro.  Robles has more upside than French but is still a pretty big project as he is just in Single A.

Many Tigers fans seemed to be upset to have to part way with Robles, especially with Washburn being a three month rental.  Washburn’s contract is up after this season so the Tigers are clearly making their run at the division right now.

If Robles becomes something big, the Mariners will have the advantage but for now it looks as though the Tigers came out on top.  WINNER: TIGERS

Trade: (July 31st) Oakland Athletics trade Orlando Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins for Tyler Ladendorf

Who Wins: The Twins must feel that they are contenders in the AL Central by trading for a rental at shortstop in Cabrera.  Batting .280 and playing solid defense, Cabrera will help the Twins fight for the top spot.

They gave up very little in Ladendorf who has potential but is struggling in Low A ball.  I have always thought that Cabrera was underrated and believe the Twins come out big winners here, especially if they can pull off the upset of winning the Central.  WINNER: TWINS

Trade: (July 31st) Milwaukee Brewers trade Vinny Rottino to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Claudio Vargas

Who Wins: Vargas was seeing very little action with the Dodgers but will now be thrown into a Brewers starting rotation that is badly looking for starters who can throw a lot of innings.

His second stint with the Brewers will hopefully see him throw those much-needed innings and keep the Brewers in contention in the NL Central.

Rottino was the starting catcher on Italy’s team in the World Baseball Classic, but at 29 years old was stuck in Double A.  With Angel Solome considered to be the future of the Brewers behind the plate, Rottino was expendable.

Both teams made out well on this trade but it will definitely help the Brewers more.  WINNER: BREWERS

Trade: Boston Red Sox trade Justin Masterson to the Cleveland Indians for Justin Masterson, Bryan Price, and Nick Hagadone

Who Wins: Martinez is a huge addition to the already powerful Red Sox and probably put them as the front-runners to win it all.  He will play first base and enter a very dangerous lineup.

Martinez is signed for this year and has a club option for next year that will most surely be picked up.  After that, the Red Sox will obviously have enough money to re-sign him and he should be the first baseman of the future.

He did not come cheap, however.  Masterson is already Major League-ready and the other two prospects have a ton of upside.

Hagadone, when healthy, has great stuff and should see the Majors sometime soon.  The one question mark is that he is coming off of Tommy John surgery and, as is always the case, he might not stay healthy.

Price is further away in terms of progress but is also younger.

Martinez was sad to leave Cleveland but all the wins he will soon rack up in Boston should put a smile back on his face.  Huge win for the Bo Sox.  WINNER: RED SOX

Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Jerry Hairston Jr. to the New York Yankees for Chase Weems

Who Wins: I researched Weems and he does not seem to be a huge talent and Hairston Jr. will provide some good outfield depth and is a good bat off the bench.

He has never been much in the field but has a little bit of pop in his bat.  For the Reds, they get rid of some cap room and have a young catcher in the minors potentially for the future.  WINNER: YANKEES

Trade: (July 31st) Boston Red Sox trade Adam LaRoche to the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman

Who Wins: I am having trouble figuring out why the Braves would want any piece of this deal.  Kotchman is four years younger than LaRoche and has a ton more upside.  Past that, he is playing better baseball at this point and is the better player.

The Red Sox somehow dumped a player and got better.  For the Braves, they get LaRoche for the second time and now have a decent glove and a power bat to compliment Chipper Jones.

In the end, Kotchman has a ton of upside and is only getting better.  WINNER: RED SOX

Trade: (July 31st) Washington Nationals Joe Beimel to the Colorado Rockies for Ryan Matheus and Robinson Fabian

Who Wins: Beimel will help the bullpen out for a Rockies team that feels as though they have a legitimate shot at winning the wild card this season.

For the Nats, it’s more prospects that are more than likely going to fade out.  Neither have a ton of upside and do not project as big leaguers.  WINNER: ROCKIES

Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to the Toronto Blue Jays for Scott Rolen

Who Wins: I am a little confused by this deal as Encarnacion is really coming into his own as a big leaguer right now.  His stats do not really tell the story, but he is batting .276 in July after coming back from injury.

The Reds are not contenders for anything this year and would have been wise to keep Encarnacion around for a while.

Rolen is having a pretty good year both with the bat and, as always, in the field.

The two prospects that the Reds gave up are both big league material, so this trade is a tad bit confusing.  WINNER: BLUE JAYS

Trade: (July 31st) San Diego Padres trade Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter

Who Wins: Poreda and Richard are two very highly-rated prospects and Richard has already burst on to the scene.  Both are young and talented and should be in the Padres’ rotation for quite some time.

Russell and Carter also have some upside, so it was a lot to give up for the White Sox.

However, if they truly believe that they received one of the best five pitchers in the game today (which I do), then it was the right trade to make.

Peavy will be making boatloads of money over the next five years but the White Sox have a lot of money to spend.  He will anchor the rotation and move Mark Buehrle back to the number two spot, with Gavin Floyd going third.

Kenny Williams always seems to be making deals, and this one is a huge one, but I believe he made out good on this deal.  Peavy had been stuck with a terrible offense for so long but will now get the chance to truly shine.

Poreda and Richard have superstar potential, but any time a talent like Peavy is being dangled in front of you, it’s hard to pass up on it.  WINNER: WHITE SOX

August 1, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals | , , , | Leave a comment

Matt Holliday to the Cardinals: A’s Win the Deal

Friday, All-Star left fielder Matt Holliday was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for three minor-league prospects. It was a huge addition for the first place Cardinals, who are trying to win the tight National League Central division.

In his first two games for the Cards, Holliday has connected on four and two hits and added RBIs in each of the games.

The short-term results of the trade show that the Cardinals came out on top in the deal, receiving a No. 4 hitter who will bat behind Albert Pujols and make their lineup all that more dangerous. Along with Mark DeRosa, the Red Birds have traded themselves into a situation that makes them the sure-fire favorites to come out on top in the division.

However, the Athletics wil be the team to come out in the end, receiving three players all capable of reaching The Show in the near future.

The main part of the deal was third baseman Brett Wallace, ranked as one of the Cardinals’ top prospects this year. In 62 games this year with Triple A Memphis, Wallace is batting .293 with six home runs and 19 RBI and a .346 on-base percentage.

Matt Holliday makes the Cards front runners in the division, but are they contenders?

Matt Holliday makes the Cards front runners in the division, but are they contenders?

Drafted 13th overall in the 2008 Draft, Wallace has shot up the ranks and is expected to reach the Majors by the end of next year.

His body and conditioning are somewhat in question and some believe he will not be able to stay at the hot corner his whole career. Scouts say his athleticism is better than his body would suggest, but the video I have seen of him makes me believe otherwise.

Hitting from the left side of the plate makes him even more valuable and his work ethic seems to be all there. After trading starting third baseman Jack Hannahan earlier this year, Wallace should find himself in the starting lineup next year for the A’s.

Eric Chavez’s back will probably prevent him from ever being the same type of player he once was, so Wallace looks to be a very solid addition.

In addition to Wallace, the Athletics also picked up right fielder Shane Peterson and right handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen.

Peterson, 21, was the Cardinals’ second-round pick in the same 2008 Draft that Wallace was selected in. Recently promoted to Double A, Peterson has also done well for himself (.284 batting average and .33 on-base percentage) and has great potential.

The pitcher traded in the deal, Mortensen, is 24 years old and is the only player that has seen time in the Majors. As a supplemental pick in the 2007 Draft, he was 7-6 in Triple A this year with a 4.37 ERA and a 2.41 K/BB ratio. Both those numbers are down from last year, and if there is any team that loves young pitching, it’s Billy Beane and the A’s.

What the Cardinals receive in the trade is more than likely a rental for a half a year as Holliday is eligible to become a free agent next year. Whether or not he stays with the Cards after this year, they still receive an excellent hitter that will make the Cards’ lineup a force.

Slugger Albert Pujols leads the league in walks and has had little help after he gets on base.

In a division that has been mediocre at best, the Cardinals hold a half-game lead on the Cubs, but two other teams (the Brewers and Astros) are within two-and-a-half games. With a solid starting rotation and a bullpen that has gotten the job done, the Cardinals have now filled their last major void in a bat behind Pujols.

While anything can happen once a team makes it to the playoffs, the general consensus is that the winner of the National League Central will play the Dodgers in the first round and have little shot at advancing in the second season.

The A’s, currently 17 games back of the first place Angels, are in re-building mode after failing to compete in what was supposed to be a very winnable division. The trade for Holliday last season was made by Beane and the A’s to boost their lineup, but the stars never aligned for either party.

Instead of getting two draft picks in losing Holliday to free agency next year, the A’s basically received the same compensation a half a year early, plus Mortensen. Known for sporting the best young players in the game, the A’s get three very good players that are projected to hit the majors in a ballpark near you very soon.

Unless the Cards have plans to re-sign Holliday and make him a Cardinal for a long while, this trade makes little sense. Wallace is going to make one heck of a third baseman, something that the Cardinals have but could use an upgrade on.

If they shift Mark DeRosa to second base or right field and put Skip Schumaker in the other spot, third base opens up right away.

Troy Glaus will become a free agent after this year and is still recovering from shoulder surgery that has caused him to miss the whole year.

As I have said the whole year, if a team in the NL Central believes they have a shot to win the pennant, then go ahead and make a move to put yourself in a better situation to win. However, it is my opinion that no team in the Central is in “win now” mode and needs to stay put at the deadline.

What the Cardinals have now done is put themselves in a very tough spot if they do not win this year. It is true they have a solid core of young talent in Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, Brendan Ryan, and Colby Rasmus, among others, to go along with Pujols and DeRosa.

But if the Holliday trade backfires and he continues to play just average baseball and proves that his stats in Colorado were somewhat inflated, they are in a very tough situation and have lost out on two, maybe three prospects.

While they will receive the two draft picks for Holliday being a Type A free agent, Wallace and Peterson were already proven picks.

Time will tell whether or not the Cardinals made the right move and while they are now the front-runners in the NL Central, that does not say all that much. On the other hand, the A’s have made good on their trade for Holliday from last year and picked up a darn good third baseman in the process.

July 25, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, MLB, St. Louis Cardinals | , , | Leave a comment

The Stretch Run Is Now for the Milwaukee Brewers

While today’s date of July 21st means that there are over ten weeks left in baseball’s regular season and that division races will not heat up for about another two months, the Milwaukee Brewers’ most important stretch of the summer is starting right now.  Over the course of the next five weeks, the Brewers will face the Pirates nine times, the Nationals eight times, the Braves three times, the Padres six times, the Astros six times, the Reds three times, and the Dodgers three times.

Do you know what the similarity between all those teams is, outside of the Dodgers?

As of last night, none of them had a record over .500.

It’s an outstanding chance for the Brewers, who have the easiest schedule of any National League team, to gain ground on the rest of the division and have a solid cushion come September.

Over this span of a month and a week, the Brewers’ lackluster pitching staff will have a chance to dominate against some of the worst offenses in the National League.  The best offense they will face is the Atlanta Braves, who rank just seventh in the National League in runs scored.

The Brewers’ offense will need to come around and give the pitching staff extra run support if they want to succeed in this stretch.  In that span, they will face four pitching staffs in the top ten in ERA in the National League, but also face the Padres (15th) and the Nationals (16th).  Let’s take a look at each of the matchups the Brewers will be taking on and how they can fare.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 41-51

The Brewers lost last night’s game to the Pirates, which ended a drought of over a year that the Bucs had not come out on top.  In the remaining eight games, five will be played at PNC Park and the other three will be at Miller Park.  I believe the Brewers should be able to take three of five on the road from the struggling Pirates and should be able to sweep one of the worst road teams in baseball at Miller Park.  Six out of eight wins is easily doable for a Brewers team that has had the Pirates’ number for quite some time.

Washington Nationals: 26-66

The Brewers will play a pair of four-game series against the worst team in baseball in this span and I do not think it is a stretch to say the Brewers can take seven of these games.  There is nothing positive going for this ballclub right now and they do not do anything well.  The Brewers will send their top four in the rotation at the Nationals when the two teams meet at Miller Park.  Washington has been swept an unbelievable ten times this year and has won a series just six times all year.  Seven out of eight wins might sound crazy for the Brewers right now, but it could happen pretty easily.

Atlanta Braves: 47-46

The Braves are playing very well right now and are trying to catch up to the red-hot Phillies in the NL East.  Unfortuantely for the Brewers, the Braves will send their three best pitchers to the hill in Miller Park next week in Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe, and Javier Vazquez..   Atlanta has been decent on the road this year and they are a team the Brewers have had trouble with this year.  I’d like to see two wins here but think the Brewers will come out with just one.

San Diego Padres: 37-56

Had it not been for the Nationals’ historically bad season, the San Diego Padres would be the laughing stock of the National League.  They currently sit 22 games out of first place and, despite playing average baseball at home, can not do anything on the road.  For the three games at Miller Park, look for the Brewers to come out playing great baseball against one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball.  Four of six games going to the Brewers looks to be a good estimate against a pretty bad Padres team.

Houston Astros: 47-46

The Astros are playing very good baseball right now and are tied with the Brewers in third place as it stands right now.  After taking four out of six games in Houston, the Brewers will play the Astros three times at Miller Park and go back to Minute Maid Park again for three.  With the ‘Stros playing good ball right now, I could see a split coming in the six games these two teams will play.  Houston pitching has been picking it up lately and will keep them in close games.

Cincinnati Reds: 44-48

The three games the Brewers play against the Reds in this span will all come at home, which should bode well for the hometown Brewers.  Milwaukee was 4-2 against the Reds at Miller Park and should be able to take two of three from the Reds when they come to town.

Assuming the Brewers are able to take one game from the Dodgers in their three game set, I can see the Brewers going 24-13 in this span, give or take a game.  Just because the talent level is down does not mean the Brewers will be able to sit back and relax.  They are playing terrible baseball at the moment and will need to pick things up if they want to have a chance.  However, when they play their brand of baseball and are on, runs like these are more than capable of happening.  24 wins over this five week span would put the Brewers at 71-59 and likely in first place.

The Cubs will play the Phillies six times, the Dodgers four times, the Rockies four times, and the (hopefully healthy) Mets three times before September.  The Cardinals will play the Phillies three times and the Dodgers seven times in that span as well.

The race should be tight because it seems like none of the three teams wants to gain any ground on the other.  But the Brewers need to strike now while the competition is not hot because in September, things heat up quickly.  In the season’s last month, Milwaukee will play 29 of their last 32 games against teams with a record currently over .500.

If the Brewers are not up at least two games by the end of August, there will be no point in watching in September.

July 21, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals | , , , | 2 Comments

Each Team’s Flaws in the National League Central

As of today, the National League Central is the closest division in all of baseball as all six teams are within four and a half games of first place. Leading the way are the Milwaukee Brewers with a 35-29 record followed by the Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Pirates, and finally the Astros. As we are about a third of the way into the season, each team in the division has a flaw that will need to be fixed if they are to have a shot at winning the division.

Milwaukee Brewers, 35-29, First Place

Flaw: Starting Pitching

What’s Wrong: Yovani Gallardo has pitched very well this year and has picked up the slack that the rest of the rotation has failed to do. With a 6-3 record, the 24-year-old has the best record on the staff and has been dubbed the team’s ace.

However, after Gallardo things become extremely foggy as to who will step up for the Brewers. The rest of the rotation (including the recently demoted Manny Parra) has a 16-18 record with a 5.42 ERA. As a whole, the rotation ranks 22nd in innings pitched and 23rd in ERA. While some of the blame for the fluctuated stats can be blamed on Parra, the starters have not been good at all as of late.

Dave Bush started the year off very well and looked like a number two pitcher the Brewers could rely on, but recently has struggled mightily and not given the innings expected of him.

The Brewers’ bullpen ranks third in ERA and if it were not for their lights out performance this year, the Brewers would be a .500 team at best. Also, their offense continues to be led by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, who leads the National League in RBI.

How To Fix It: The Brewers sent Parra to AAA Nashville last week and, with two off days in the near future, will not need a fifth starter until June 27th. It is not clear whether or not he will rejoin the team when his turn in the rotation comes around, but he is just the beginning of the problem.

Trade rumors have been swirling all over the place involving J.J. Hardy or Corey Hart going to the American League for pitching, but that is more than likely not going to be the case. As for the starters on the team, they need to start throwing strikes and pitching longer. Their starters rank fourth in the league in walks allowed and, as said above, are not pitching late into ballgames.

Jeff Suppan will be key for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch.

Jeff Suppan will be key for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch.

Jeff Suppan has settled down after a rough start and Braden Looper is slowly becoming more consistent. It is almost a matter of time before the bullpen can not keep covering up the below-average starting pitching.

Seth McClung might be asked to move to the rotation when a fifth starter is needed, and last year he fared decently in his new role. With no option in the minors (other than Parra), it will be very interesting to see which route general manager Doug Melvin takes to fixing the fifth spot in the rotation.

Can It Be Fixed?: Fortunately, the woes of the starting rotation look like they can be fixed. Gallardo continues to impress and give the Brewers a great chance of winning every five days.

The rest of the rotation will need to continue to throw strikes and not give up free passes, something that every starter (OK, maybe not Parra) is capable of doing. If a trade were to occur, it would almost certainly fix the problems for the rotation, but Milwaukee’s top offense might suffer.

St. Louis Cardinals, 34-30, Second Place

Flaw: Offense outside of Albert Pujols

What’s Wrong: For as many years as slugger Albert Pujols has been in the majors, he has been one of the top hitters in the game. Many argue he is the best and I would be one in his corner on that argument. This year has been no different, as the 29-year-old has a .324 batting average, 22 home runs, 57 RBI, 50 runs scored, and an OPS of 1.131, all leading the team.

Manager Tony LaRussa has never had to worry about the third spot in his lineup, but the rest of the order has been an issue this year. As a team, the Cardinals rank 22nd in batting average with a .254 mark. Not counting Pujols, they have one everyday player hitting over .280 and just two players that have hit more than four home runs.

Even with Pujols in the lineup, the Cardinals’ offense has been average at best this year.

How To Fix It: From an offensive standpoint, no team in the league has been hit harder with injury than the Cardinals. Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel, two of St. Louis’ best hitters, have both missed significant time with injuries and the offense has clearly struggled because of it. Both have since returned to action but still do not seem fully comfortable in the lineup just yet.

In other spots, Troy Glaus has yet to play this year recovering from shoulder surgery and Khalil Greene has done nothing while battling anxiety-related problems. The Cardinals need to fix this problem by getting and staying healthy because, as good as their rookies have been filling in, the offense (and no offense for that matter) can not survive with all these injuries.

Pujols will continue to hit like he always has but the rest of the lineup will need to step up. This also means being more selective at the plate, as the Cardinals rank 22nd in walks and 21st in on-base percentage.

Can It Be Fixed?: Last year’s Cardinals team was pretty much the same and ranked 12th in runs scored, so the ability to score runs is there. Ankiel and Ludwick need to start hitting and get the Cardinals back to last year’s form.

As good as the Cards’ pitching has been, the lack of support from the offense has kept them from pulling away in the division. Glaus, who hit 27 home runs and drove in 99 runs last year, could be the X-factor in the lineup when he eventually comes back.

Cincinnati Reds, 31-31, Third Place

Flaw: Hitting for average

What’s Wrong: On paper, the Reds have a very good ballclub and were the darkhorse to contend for the NL Central this year. However, very little of that potential has carried over and the Reds stand at .500, a place that they should be very happy to be at. Their pitching has been outstanding this year as they hold a 3.89 team ERA, but the offense has struggled mightily.

As a rookie, Jay Bruce enjoyed a fantastic season hitting 21 home runs and driving in 52 in just 108 games last year. This year, the story has been much different as Bruce is batting just .213 with an on-base percentage of .298. While he has 15 home runs already, the Reds were expecting him to be more than an Adam Dunn replica (Bruce has 49 strikeouts in 60 games).

Paul Janish and Ryan Hanigan are the only position players batting above .275, but neither have an on-base percentage over .400. If the pitching falters even just a hair in games, the Reds have a tough time staying in ballgames.

How To Fix It: The main problem for the Reds has been the loss of second-year first baseman Joey Votto. On the year, Votto is hitting .357 with 45 hits in just 32 games. However, he has missed the last 15 games for the Reds while he battles stress-related problems.

Because of the seriousness of his condition, there is no timetable for his return and the Reds have moved on without him for now. At the time of his injury, he led the National League in hitting and was a huge key to the Reds’ success. Without him, their offense has struggled mightily and will continue to do so until he comes back.

The Reds have to hope that Jay Bruce can turn things around and that leadoff man Willy Taveras, who is mired in an 0-32 slump, can begin to hit again and help a pitching staff that has carried the team thus far.

Once Votto comes back, the lineup should be manageable and the number in the hit column should increase.

Can It Be Fixed?: Unlike the first two teams, it doesn’t seem like the Reds are ever going to hit for average. They place in a big-time hitter’s ballpark, so power numbers will always be up.

Unfortunately, for a team batting .243 on the year, it doesn’t matter how many home runs they hit. If the pitching continues to be stellar, they might be able to stay in the NL Central race, but I am not counting on it.

Chicago Cubs, 30-30, Fourth Place

Flaw: Offense

What’s Wrong: Heading into the year, the Cubs were the sure-fire frontrunners to win the NL Central. Not only did they score more runs than anyone in the National League, but they were also bringing in a big bat in Milton Bradley that was only going to add to the offense.

The North Siders are wondering where Alfonso Soriano's bat has gone.

The North Siders are wondering where Alfonso Soriano's bat has gone.

Fast forward two and a half months and the Cubs’ hitting coach has been fired, the Cubs rank 26th in batting average, 28th in runs scored, 21st in slugging, and 8th in strikeouts. Not exactly what fans pictured entering the year to say the least. The Cubs’ starting pitching has been as good as anyone’s over the last month but the offense has failed to give them any help.

The Cubs have a 2.08 team ERA in the month of June and their record is 5-6…something is wrong with that. No starter on the Cubs has a batting average over .285 and Derrek Lee leads the team with 27 RBI.

To put that in perspective, Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder had 31 RBI in the month of May. Simply put, the team is not hitting and until they do, they will struggle as a team.

How To Fix It: Like Cincinnati, the Cubs are also missing their best hitter in Aramis Ramirez. When he was injured May 8th against the Brewers, he had a team-high .364 batting average with four home runs and 16 RBI’s in 18 games. He is expected to miss time up until the All-Star Break and a week or two after that, but the Cubs desperately need him back.

Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano has seen his batting average drop to .229, Kosuke Fukudome’s is down to .266, and Geovany Soto, last year’s Rookie of the Year, is batting just .223.

There really is no remedy or something that the Cubs can be doing to improve their hitting other than putting the ball in play. Soriano will come around soon enough and Lee has heated up in a big way to keep the offense alive.

Fukudome should see his numbers stay around where they are right now and as for Soto, the sophomore slump has hit him extremely hard.

The Cubs proved that they are not deep enough to survive an injury like Ramirez’s and until he comes back, the offense will struggle. When he comes back, hopefully the protection he gives to hitters in front of him will pay off.

Can They Fix It?: The Cubs offense is not getting any younger and it seems like their offense’s window of opportunity is closing faster than general manager Jim Hendry expected it to. Slumps will happen over the course of a 162 game season but there might be reason to worry in Chicago if this constant struggle continues.

A re-evaluation will be necessary when Ramirez comes back, because the offense is completely different with him in it.

Pittsburgh Pirates, 30-33, Fifth Place

Flaw: Batting for Power

What’s Wrong: Most of the time, a team that whose main problem is hitting for power would not seem like a huge deal. However, with the Pirates it is a definite problem and one that needs to be addressed.

On the year, the Pirates have hit just 36 home runs as a team and are slugging .392 as a team. They actually rank 15th in the league in extra-base hits, but power is still an issue. Adam LaRoche leads the team with eight home runs and only one other player, Freddy Sanchez, has hit more than five homers.

The Pirates also recently traded away their best power hitter in Nate McLouth who has nine home runs on the year. While it seems that the Pirates are below average in just about every category, their inability to hit the long ball makes it very hard for them to come back in games when they trail.

They rank 11th in the majors in batting average but just 18th in runs scored.

How To Fix It: For a team that is having trouble hitting for power, trading away your team leader in home runs was an interesting start. As always, the Pittsburgh front office explained how they were trying to build a championship team and not a .500 team.

Nate McLouth was the Pirates' best option for power.

Nate McLouth was the Pirates' best option for power.

After a while, fans get tired of hearing this because nothing ever pans out for the Pirates. A way to fix this power outage would be to make a trade at the deadline that would provide a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but it seems like there is no way that happens.

It’s hard to think of the last time the Pirates were buyers, not sellers, at the trade deadline.

Can They Fix It?: Pittsburgh ranked 21st in home runs last year with 153 round trippers, but that was also including McClouth’s 26 homers.

Last year’s rank does indicate that there is room to believe this team can start hitting for more power, but the question is whether or not that will be enough to compete in the NL Central. There are more flaws here than just power that also need to addressed.

Houston Astros, 29-32, Sixth Place

Flaw: Age

What’s Wrong: The Houston Astros, at 30.4 years old, have the oldest team in the major league. While it might be confusing to see this as a flaw, it’s more of a problem than a flaw.

Year in and year out, the Astros have a great team on paper with a lineup that includes Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, and Hunter Pence. Even Michael Bourn has done an excellent job this year and stepped up into a lineup that should produce. In the rotation, Roy Oswalt is always a reliable starter and Wandy Rodriguez has finally broken through as a top lefty in the game.

However, the pitching staff ranks 23rd in innings pitched and, outside of Michael Bourn, they have stolen just 21 bases.

How Do They Fix It: It’s impossible to fix being the oldest team in the league without trading for younger players, but that is what the Astros have been rumored to be doing. Tejada has been rumored to a few teams including the Cardinals, who have some of the best young players with a ton of potential.

The ‘Stros need some youth and rejuvenation to their team that they clearly are not getting with their current lineup. Until they do that, they will always be in the mix but run out of gas at the end of the year.

An old team will do that to you and that is exactly where the Astros stand.

Can They Fix It?: The Astros realize that, despite being just 4.5 games out of first place, they probably are not contenders in the NL Central this year.

Because of that, they are looking to get younger by putting Tejada on the trading block in return for some youngsters. If they can hit on a few draft picks and develop some young pitchers, the outlook is bright for them.

As for this year, Tejada has been their best hitter so getting younger will come with a price in that sense. Still, depending on who they get back it might give them that energy that they need to make a push.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals | , , , | Leave a comment

MLB Power Rankings: Sunday June 14th

Just feeling a quick blog tonight after coming out of my state of shock that Trevor Hoffman is indeed human.  Here’s my current power rankings for the MLB as of tonight with a sentence on each squad.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (42-22): Unbelievably, this team has not missed a step after losing slugger Manny Ramirez and is easily the best team in baseball right now.

2. Boston Red Sox (38-25): Their dominance over the Yankees has pushed them into first place in the AL East and David Ortiz is slowly coming around.

3. New York Yankees (36-27): Mark Tiexiera and C.C. Sabathia are finally making good on the huge contracts they signed last off-season.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (36-25): Raul Ibanez has been fantastic and their 23-9 record away from home is unbelievable.

5. Texas Rangers (35-27): Nelson Cruz has been fantastic this year and the Rangers are more than staying alive without Josh Hamilton…so far.

6. Detroit Tigers (34-29): Edwin Jackson looks like the real deal and the Tigers are atop the competitive AL Central.

7. St. Louis Cardinals (34-30): When their rotation is pitching well, they are the best team in the NL Central.

8. Milwaukee Brewers (34-29): Their current rotation is not going to do enough damage to win the division and the bullpen is starting to come back down to earth.

9. San Francisco Giants (34-28): If it weren’t for the Dodgers, we would be talking about the Giants much more.

10. Tampa Bay Rays (34-31): Evan Longoria is keeping the Rays alive but they need to start playing better in close games.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Final MLB Mock Draft 1.0

1. Washington Nationals: Steven Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State

Pretty much a consensus here as the pressure is now on Strasburg to become the next big thing and not the next big Mark Prior.

2. Seattle Mariners: Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, North Carolina

Rumor is Ackley isn’t a sure thing here because of his signability issues, but it would be hard for the Mariners to pass on him here.

3. San Diego Padres: Donovan Tate, CF, Cartersville H.S. (GA)

Tate is the sure thing in terms of signing but RHP Aaron Crow is a potential option here, with signability again being a factor.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Aaron Crow, RHP, Fort Worth Cats (MO)

Crow was the ninth overall pick in the Rule Four Draft for the Nationals last year but decided not to sign.  If he asks for more than he did last year, he will be very hard to sign but is worth it if a deal can get done.

5. Baltimore Orioles: Zach Wheeler, RHP, East Paulding H.S. (GA)

The Orioles have been high on Wheeler for a while now and will most likely be the pick here.  He has a few pitches above average and probably has the best “stuff” of all high school pitchers.

6. San Francisco Giants: Tyler Matzak, LHP, Capistrano Valley H.S. (CA)

Matzak is probably my favorite pitcher in the draft and has a chance to be very good in the pros.  He already has a four pitch repitoire and has all the mechanics that big league ballclubs are looking for.

Don't be surprised if Tyler Matzek is the next big thing.

Don't be surprised if Tyler Matzek is the next big thing.

7. Atlanta Braves: Alex White, RHP, North Carolina

White has been linked to the Braves on multiple occasions and is a safe bet to go here.  White relies on his off-speed pitch too often and will have to have more confidence in his fastball as he progresses.

8. Cincinnati Reds: Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Fresno State

Sheppers is the biggest red flag in the draft as injury concerns linger with the 6’4″ righty.  However, if the Reds take him and he avoids injury he could be the steal of the draft.

9. Detroit Tigers: Jacob Turner, RHP, Westminster Christian Academy

Like White to the Braves, Turner has been linked with the Tigers for a while.  They are also looking at Sheppers, but he is gone in this mock draft.  Turner probably has the best fastball in the draft.

10. Washington Nationals: Mike Minor, LHP, Vanderbilt

Minor is the next biggest major-league ready pitcher after Strasburg, and the Nats have to be happy to leave the top ten with two pitchers that can be ready to go in probably a year.

11. Colorado Rockies: Matt Hobgood, RHP, Norco H.S. (CA)

This might be a little early for Hobgood, but Colorado is looking at pitching and likes Hobgood here.  He is one of the biggest pitchers in the draft and has powering stuff for a high school kid.

12. Kansas City Royals: Tony Sanchez, C, Boston College

The Royals are looking at a bunch of names so this pick is really up in the air, but Sanchez is the best catcher this year and is a position that they need to upgrade.

13. Oakland Athletics: Grant Green, SS, Southern California

Some think that Green will move to third base and this would make sense for the Athletics as he could be the future there.  Even so, he is a great bat anywhere that he plays and makes sense for the Athletics here.

14. Texas Rangers: Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State

Leake is a value pick here for the Rangers who are looking at a bunch of players.  It has been reported that if Crow or Sheppers fall due to the concerns, Texas could be a landing spot for either of the two.

15. Cleveland Indians: Eric Arnett, RHP, Indiana

Arnett is a long pitcher that used to be a basketball player for the Hoosiers.  His name has been linked in Cleveland and is not too far away from the majors.  Cleveland will definitely look at a pitcher here.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Bobby Borchering, 3B/OF,Bishop Verot H.S. (FL)

Borchering has been linked to the D-Backs for a while and gives them a good bat at the hot corner.  With back-to-back picks in the first round here, they can get a couple of quality players.

17. Arizona Diamondbacks: Tyler Skaggs, RHP, Santa Monica H.S. (CA)

Skaggs is an interesting that has a lot of upside for the D-Backs if they choose to take him here.  They are also looking at a lot of other players with this pick, so it is a mystery who will be taken.

18. Florida Marlins: Chad James, LHP, Yukon H.S. (OK)

James has been linked to the Marlins but there is a rumor that he will demand a large signing bonus that could scare off teams.  There are a couple of lefties still available that the Marlins could take a look at if James isn’t their guy.

19. St. Louis Cardinals: Rex Brothers, LHP, Lipscomb

It is well known that the Cards are looking for a lefty pitcher in the draft, and Brothers has as much upside as any pitcher.  He throws a mid 90’s fastball with a very good slider that he can get over the plate.

USC shortstop Grant Green might be moved to third base in the big leagues.

USC shortstop Grant Green might be moved to third base in the big leagues.

20. Toronto Blue Jays: Kyle Heckathorn, RHP, Kennesaw State

Toronto will more than likely go for a value pick here and I think Heckathorn is the best pitcher left in the draft.  He needs to work on command and control but has the body to be a workhorse and already throws two good pitches.

21. Houston Astros: Chad Jenkins, RHP, Kennesaw State

Teammates go off the board back-to-back here as the Astros go with Jenkins.  He has been taken earlier in other mocks but I think right here fits him well.  The ‘Stros have not been linked to any players and might go with a position player if a value pitcher is not there.

22. Minnesota Twins: Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri

If Gibson’s medicals clear, Gibson will be a steal here for the the Twins.  They have selected a high school outfielder two years running so look for them to go with a pitcher this year in the first round.

23. Chicago White Sox: Everett Williams, CF, McCallum H.S. (TX)

Williams is small but has a lot of upside to him that the Sox will take a good hard look at.  They might go with a college arm but the better bet is that they take the potential pick with Williams.

24. Los Angeles Angels: Drew Storen, RHP, Stanford

Storen might be able to become a starter despite being a reliever for the Cardinal, and with back-to-back picks in the first round, the Angels will likely take a pitcher.

25. Los Angeles Angels: Reymond Fuentes, OF, Fernando Callego H.S. (PR)

Fuentes is going to be a boom or bust pick but has all the upside in the world.  Despite his small frame, the nephew of Carlos Beltran has a chance to be something special if he gets a little bigger and hits for some power.

Reymond Fuentes, the nephew of Carlos Beltran, could be a special ballplayer one day.

Reymond Fuentes, the nephew of Carlos Beltran, could be a special ballplayer one day.

26. Milwaukee Brewers: Mike Trout, CF, Millville H.S. (NJ)

The Brewers would really like to get some pitching here, but there is a bit of a dropoff at this point in the draft.  Trout is very good value here for the Brewers who will look to build their farm system.  He excels at the plate and is good enough for now in the field.

27. Seattle Mariners: A.J. Pollock, CF, Notre Dame

Just like the Brew Crew, the Mariners are looking for a college pitcher ready to go but there are no good fits here.  Pollock is a good pick here that gives good value and a polished position player as the second first round pick for them.

28. Boston Red Sox: Max Stassi, C, Yuba City H.S. (CA)

The Red Sox ultimately would like to get some help in the outfield, but the crop of college talent will more than likely be gone at this point, leaving the Bo Sox to take the next best option, which is Stassi.

29. New York Yankees: Slade Heathcott, CF, Texas H.S. (TX)

Heathcott has been scouted by the Yankees very hard and is a likely bet to come off the board here.  He has great tools but off the field concerns might scare some teams away.

30. Tampa Bay Rays: Jiovanni Miller, SS, Bonita H.S. (CA)

Like the Red Sox, they hope an outfielder is available but will go with the next best option as well.  Miller could go earlier in the draft but if he makes it to the Rays, there is a shot they swipe him up.

31. Chicago Cubs: Brett Jackson, OF, California

Of the players the Cubs are interested in, Jackson is only possibility to be left when the Cubs pick at 31.  Jackson has shown flashes of potential and with some coaching could be a good pick here for the Cubbies.

32. Colorado Rockies: Randal Grichuk, OF, Lamar Consolidation H.S. (TX)

After taking a pitcher with their first selection, the Rockies go ahead and take a position player with some good upside in Grichuk.  He has been having good workouts for teams and could find his name slip into the first round if he is lucky.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, MLB Draft, St. Louis Cardinals | , , | Leave a comment

National League Power Rankings: Top Five

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 1st Place, 30-14

The Good: The Dodgers pitching staff has been unbelievable top to bottom this year and the results have showed.  Their starters have lost just seven games compared to winning 14 and their ERA is 3.57.

Chad Billingsley has been dominant this year and is an early candidate for the Cy Young.

Chad Billingsley has been dominant this year and is an early candidate for the Cy Young.

Chad Billingsley (6-1, 2.51 ERA, 63 K) is an early Cy Young candidate and has cemented himself as a top five pitcher in the National League.  As good as their pitching has been, the offense has been just as good.

They lead the National League with a .286 batting average and have driven in an NL-high 225 runs.  Juan Pierre has stepped in very nicely for Manny Ramirez, batting .378 in the month of May.  A quarter of the way into the season, they look like the team to beat in the National League.

The Bad: Obviously the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez will hurt the Dodgers while he is out, but the baggage he now carries the rest of the way may affect them as well.

Rafael Furcal has struggled mightily this year from the leadoff spot but there is hope he will find his swing.  On the other side of the ball, the record wouldn’t show it but the Dodgers have blown a league high 11 saves this year.

Jonathon Broxton has filled in nicely in the bullpen, saving 11 of 13 chances with a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, though.  Even the bad is good with the Dodgers.

2. Milwaukee Brewers: 1st Place, 26-17

The Good: The bullpen has been nearly untouchable this year, and in the month of May has led the league in all major categories.  Trevor Hoffman has been a savior to the bullpen (just ask Charlie Villanueva how easy closing is) and Mark DiFelice has given great innings.

Yovani Gallardo has become the ace for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Yovani Gallardo has become the ace for the Milwaukee Brewers.

On the offensive side, Prince Fielder is second in the NL with 40 RBI’s and Ryan Braun is quietly putting up outstanding numbers.  Yovani Gallardo has been a bright spot to the pitching staff and is an ace in the making.

The Bad: The Brew Crew have not hit well for average this year (.255) and have only stolen 11 bases.  Losing leadoff man Rickie Weeks has hurt the Brewers but are making do without him.

The other big question mark is whether or not the starting pitching can continue their solid work.  They have a 4.42 ERA which ranks 11th in the National League and have hit a league high 17 batters.  They do rank second in quality starts but they have been quite inconsistent this year.

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 2nd Place, 26-18

The Good: Albert Pujols. Last year’s NL MVP has picked up right where he left off with 14 home runs and 38 RBI’s already to go along with a .331 batting average.

Top to bottom, the lineup hits for good average and finds ways to get runs in like Tony LaRussa likes to do.  Their starters have been at the middle of the pack to start the year and, despite injuries to Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, Chris Carpenter and Troy Glaus, their hot start has kept them afloat in the NL Central race.

Their bullpen sports a 3.88 ERA, good for third in the National League and has been key in close games.  Ryan Franklin has led the way with a 1.53 ERA in 18 appearances.

The Bad: With the injuries, the Cardinals’ offense has been average at best.  Their pitching has been outstanding as of late, but if the offense can not score runs, the pitching performances will mean very little.

If they can not stay healthy, the results will be the same and they will struggle to make the playoffs.  Pujols can do a lot, but not everything.

4. Philadelphia Phillies: 1st Place, 23-18

The Good: Raul Ibanez has made everyone in Philadelphia forget about Pat Burrell.  League leading 17 home runs and 43 RBI’s will do that to a fanbase.  Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have been doing their thing as well, with 11 and 10 homers each.

The top of the order has been great and a main reason why the Phillies are atop the East.  They also have the best fielding percentage in the majors and have committed just 12 errors all year.

The Bad: Unfortuantely there are more question marks than bright spots for the Phillies.  Jimmy Rollins is batting just .233 on the year and has just three home runs on the year.

The Phillies starters have the worst ERA in the National League at 6.12 and Brad Lidge has been terrible.  They are just 8-12 at home and will need Cole Hamels to regain his ace form if the Phillies do not want to be caught by the Mets.

Johan Santana has been nearly untouchable this year.

Johan Santana has been nearly untouchable this year.

5. New York Mets: 2nd Place, 23-19

The Good: David Wright and Carlos Beltran have led the way for the Mets on offense, but the real story has been the dominance of Johan Santana.  The Mets’ ace is 6-2 with a 1.50 ERA and 75 strikeouts so far this year.

Here’s a crazy stat for you: Johan Santana has given up zero earned runs combined in his two losses this year!  Closer Francisco Rodriguez is now back and he has continued to dominate this year as he leads the best bullpen in baseball.

The Bad: Jose Reyes has been just average this year but has seen his May numbers improve in most categories.

Carlos Delgado is expected to miss all of June and some of July after his hip surgery and leaves a big hole in the Mets’ lineup.  Daniel Murphy has had an OK year but has still failed to live up to his high expectations.

Fielding has also been a concern this year as the Mets have committed 35 errors on the year.

May 24, 2009 Posted by | Baseball, Milwaukee Brewers, MLB, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals | , , , | 2 Comments