Monday, March 24, 2008

Top 10 & Bottom 5

First the TOP 10

1. Oakland A's - At 45-20 they have the best record throughout. The youth has been injected (only 2 players north of age 30) and so far the results justify the transition. Whether they can hold up down the stretch and hold off the Angels & Mariners in a stacked AL West is the only question. A playoff spot seems likely, unless the injury bug wipes out the young A's team.

2. Atlanta Braves - Currently their record sits at 41-25. They jumped out of the gate and were extremely hot to begin the season. Have cooled off just a touch, yet they still lead the NL (if you take out Colorado) in runs scored. They aren't just a 1 trick pony however, as their 283 Runs Allowed is good for 4th in the NL. Whats even scarier is that their expected winning %(.658) is even higher then their actual winning %(.621), meaning they have room for improvement. This could be the year Atlanta finally goes deep in the playoffs.

3. Chicago Cubs - Don't let the 42-24 record fool you, this is not the Cubs teams of year 1 or 2. The team is showing signs of age, and the bullpen is an absolute mess besides Monte DeJean, who started out on fire(0 Runs in 18 ip to start the season) but has been merely average of late. The rest of the bullpen can't be trusted at anytime. Still they've survived the loss of NL MVP Julio Chavez and SP Pedro Torres. The return of former Cy Young Octavio Bolivar has been a boost, but is now where near his former self. If the Cubs are to have any chance they'll need their bats clicking and for Cesar Gil to revert back to his Cy Young form. Expect a return engagement to the playoffs, but with another early exit. The L4 certainly has management concerned.

4. Anaheim Angels - The Angels have the misfortune of being in the AL West and stuck behind the A's. Their 40-25 record would put them in 1st in any other AL Division. They are out to prove that last year's fall to 4th was just an aberration and that they will make the playoffs again. They will be returning, the only question is will it be as a division leader(and 1st round bye) or not.

5. San Diego Padres - Currently 3rd in the NL in runs allowed(276) which is the benefit of playing your home games at Petco. Is 5th in runs scored, so they can also get after it. Still with Colorado nipping at their heels and the way they score runs the West will be competitive till the end.

6. Toronto Blue Jays - Record sits at 40-26, the Jays were an early season surprise after last year's 4th place finish. They aren't surprising anyone anymore and have stumbled as of late (5-5 in the last 10).

7. Boston Red Sox - The defending champs got out of the gate slow, but have really started to crank it up lately. They are 9-1 in their last 10, with a current 5 game winnig streak to put their record at 35-30.

8. Minnesota Twins - Not sure how they have such a bad record (36-30) with all that pitching (Nen, Jang, Kirk). I'm sure it has something to do with all the roids that Carmine McGee has taken over the years and thus making him break down. They'll need the offense to pick back up to make the playoffs, although they are on the right track. For evidence see 8-2 in the last 10 and current W4 streak.

9. Texas Ranger - 33-33 currently, with a 7-3 record in the last 10, they are suprisingly much better on the road then at home in Arlington. Still leading their division despite playing .500 ball. Still the playoffs are anything but a given since 3 games seperate them from 4th place.

10. New York Mets - 7-3 in their last 10 has allowed them to climb into the division lead(tied with the Pirates). Their 14-9 record in 1 run games and 3-1 run record in extra innings suggest a good bullpen, methinks its lack of offense that puts them in those positions. Still they're expected to be in the fight for the division crown all year.

28. San Francisco Giants - 31-34 overall, 3-7 in their last 10, current L2.

29. Detroit Tigers - 28-38 Overall, 3-7 in their last 10. They are a Jekyll and Hyde type team. Can't play very well at home (9-21) but when they get out on the road they become much better (19-17).

30. Houston Astros - 3-7 in their last 10, and 24-42 overall, yet some of those wins have come against St Louis. They did show enough to sweep the Cubs in Chicago so their are signs of life. We expect more in that division however.

31. New York Yankees - Current management was saddled with many bad contracts, and they've done an admirable job attempting to clean house. Still with an L9 on the board currently they belong down here.

32. St Louis Cardinals - With a record of 11-55 they have a strangle hold on the 1st pick in next years draft(that would make 2 years in a row). Better kick them this year though because with all that talent that is being horded, they won't be down forever.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Another Injury in Wrigley-ville

Chicago - Good morning Cub fans! While the Cubs won the 3/21 am game, it did not come without a price. Starting pitcher Pedro Torres
Pedro Torres
Age: 28B/T: R/R
Born: San Francisco De Macoris, DO
Position(s): P (P)
View Hardball Dynasty Profile
was lost for the season with nerve irritation in his forearm. Torres won 18 games last year for the Cubs, and his record this year was 5-2. The veteran righty, only 2 seasons removed from a perfect game, has plenty of big game experience (see his playoff stats for proof 2-0 in 3 starts, 22 IP, 1.64 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and will be missed in the rotation.

Torres' injury comes on the heels of reigning NL MVP Julio Chavez 's current stint on the DL for a torn ligament in his ankle. While Chavez was leading the team in HR's and RBI's, his loss is softened by the platoon of Harold McMurtry , Endy Brooks , & Al Johnson, with McMurtry getting the biggest increase in AB's and producing 12 HR's and a .573 slugging percentage.

The good news on the injury front is that Octavio Bolivar (Season 1 Cy Young & Rookie of the Year) had recently returned from last years elbow surgery. While he has yet to approach his previous Cy Young standards, he has provided a nice boost to the rotation, which is even more needed now that Torres has gone down for the year. Called up from AAA to take Torres' place is Torii Baker who earlier in the year had been reported to be shopped around in hope of upgrading the bullpen. Lucky for Chicago GM Donald Key that he held on to him. Although expect some struggles with Baker, in time he should be fine. They decided to leave Jacob Bland in the battered bullpen instead of being sent back to the rotation. Bland had been a starter until this year when he was the 6th man in a 5 man rotation. He has pitched well enough, but Cubs management decided that it was better to call up Baker and put him in the rotation then to put Bland back in.

Only time will tell if they made the right moves!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Twins seek to build on momentum, return to playoffs.

Everyone has become accustomed to winning in Minnesota. Following back-to-back division titles and an improbable run in the Season 1 playoffs, fans have come to expect the Minnesota Twins to succeed. So far this season, it had been anything but business as usual, as the Twins struggled out of the gate. An unfortunate injury, however, may have been just the catalyst that the team needed to right the ship and turn its season around.

Following the temporary loss of potential comeback-player-of-the-year Carmine McGee to a ligament sprain in his rib cage, the players and management of the Minnesota Twins held an organizational meeting late yesterday afternoon. The mood was grim, coming off back-to-back extra-inning home losses to the Texas Rangers. After finally putting together a stretch of decent baseball to climb above .500 on the season, those 2 losses had dropped the Twins back to the .500 mark, behind the (now) 31-19 Toronto Blue Jays in the AL North.

At the meeting, the two soft-spoken leaders of the team challenged everyone to rededicate themselves to the tough mindset that had served the team so well in the past. Herbert Lieberthal, 2-time runner-up in the AL MVP race, took partial responsibility for the team's struggles, as his numbers have dipped from all-World to merely excellent.

"Part of it is obviously on me, but without Carmine, and for the rest of the season once he returns, we've all got to increase our contributions if we want to make it back into the post-season," Lieberthal said. "You younger guys have to begin to prepare for the time when you will become the leaders of this team, and you've got to show the fans in Minnesota that you have the heart to make a commitment to them when times are tough. If you do that, they'll love and support you through anything."

All-World, and all-time great, pitcher Chris Y. (CY) Nen addressed the staff. Nen said, "I look around this clubhouse and I see as much talent as anyone has in the league. Jimmy [Kirk] and John [Jang], you guys are staff aces in your own right, and Clay [Bellhorn], you've got the potential to be as good as anyone. Things are still being sorted out in the pen, losing [injured closer] Dario [West] hurt a lot, but the talent is there too. And Dario will be back in a month or so. If we all can add just a little bit extra, just a touch more consistency, then we can really turn this into a great season."

Behind a strong start (5.0 IP, 1 hit, 0 Runs) from Jang, the Twins came out motivated in the final game against Texas last night, seeking to avoid a sweep that would push them back below .500. In the 6th inning, however, the wheels seemed to come off, as it took 4 twins relief pitchers to escape the inning, and they were unable to do so until after the Twins' 8-0 lead had been wiped out. Disheartened, Twins fans watched as their team went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning, leaving the Rangers with a 9-8 lead.

Whether it was Lieberthal's speech of just the internal fire that drives every competitive athlete at this level, the Twins refused to go down without a fight. In the 7th they pushed across 3 runs on a clutch 2-out RBI single by defensive wiz SS Anthony Haney and a 2-run HR by CF Joey Justice. The 11-9 lead would hold, thanks in large part to Matt Crespo, who came on with 1 out and 2 on in the 9th to strike out the two Rangers he faced.

Hoping to capitalize the momentum from this big win and the day off before the next series, Chris Nen asked to be moved up in the rotation to face the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox. In a career that has seen him win 2 Cy Young awards and numerous pitcher-of-the-week award, Nen has thrown many great games, but on Thursday, March 19 in the PM game he made Twins history by throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history, winning a great pitchers' duel 1-0.

After the game, Nen praised his entire defense, singling out rookie 2B Jesus Morales, whose ++ "great play" in the 4th inning kept the no-hitter alive, though at the time no one knew just how important that play would be. "I've always heard people say that 'Jesus Saves,'" Nen remarked, "but I never thought they meant it literally until today." Nen was completely on his game, walking only one batter and inducing 18 ground ball outs - 6 to Morales and 5 to 3B Sidney White. It was also White who drove home the winning (and only) run in the game in the bottom of the 4th by drawing a walk, scoring leadoff man (for one game at least) Don Brock.

The Twins know that they still have their work cut out for them to catch the streaking Blue Jays, winners of 4 straight, but with their newfound momentum and a long season left the 5.0 game deficit doesn't seem quite as daunting.