Category Archives: Sports

yankees

mid-April view of the New York Yankees

AL BEast Notebook – April 15

For all the doom and gloom of the preseason and then Opening Week, things have turned pretty well for New York lately. The Yankees have won five of their last six to sit at 6-5, much of the pitching is going well and the offense is finding pleasant surprises. Basically, the good has been great and the bad has been dreadful.

There was cause for concern when CC Sabathia looked lifeless on Opening Day and then Hiroki Kuroda’s hand was struck by a line drive in the second game, but since then the top of the rotation has been all that you could ask for. Kuroda pitched an absolute gem on Sunday night, going the full nine innings and didn’t even allow a runner to reach second base until two outs in the ninth (thanks to an error and fielders choice). After a dreadful second inning against the Red Sox, Sabathia has responded with just one earned run in his last 18 innings. Andy Pettitte has been stellar on the mound, allowing just one run in each of his two starts.

The lineup picked up last week, led by Robinson Cano who hit .500 with three homers, four doubles and eight RBI. Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and even Francisco Cervelli have been quite productive. In fact, even after looking entirely anemic against the Red Sox and Tigers, Yankees have the highest OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) in the American League. Cervelli has been the biggest surprise, as the catcher is 3 for 3 with runners in scoring position and two outs. He has also worked seven walks in nine games and holds a .500 on base percentage, and has not allowed a stolen base.

Injuries and depth, of course, continue to be the primary concern with the Yankees. Derek Jeter is nowhere near returning. His replacement, Eduardo Nunez has been hit by a pitch a couple times, causing him to miss multiple games on two different occasions already. The only backup infielder is Jayson Nix, and he is pretty much an automatic out. Girardi pinch hit for Nix on Saturday and had to use Cervelli at second base and move Cano to shortstop.

Pettitte missed a start due to back spasms (he is old) and was pushed back a couple times. He is expected to pitch on Friday, ten days after his last game. Another seasoned vet Ichiro looks awful out there (.176, no stolen base attempts).

Back of the rotation is definitely a sore spot. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova are combined 0-3 with an 8.75 ERA. Fortunately, the Yankees could skip Nova’s start last week thanks to rain in Cleveland. He starts Tuesday against the 8-4 Diamondbacks. David Phelps is ready to take his place should he struggle, although Phelps has been very effective in long relief.

Back of the bullpen (Rivera and Robertson) has been fine, but the rest of the pen has pitched poorly to the tune of a 5.19 ERA and 1.67 WHIP overall. It hasn’t affected the outcome of any games as starting pitchers have picked up every decision.

Overall, the games have really been dictated early on. New York is 5-0 when the score first, and 1-5 when first scored upon. There hasn’t been much drama; every game has been decided by two or more runs.

Due up: D-Backs, @Blue Jays, @Rays, Blue Jays

mitchell boggs

stats n’ facts Week 2: can I get some relief!

(April 15)

There are precious few things I hate more than bad relief pitching. Specifically guys who come in and can’t throw strikes. We sure saw a lot of that this week.

- In fifth inning on Thursday, Cubs’ Scott Feldman was relieved by Hideki Takahashi with a one run lead. Takahashi walked thepitcher with the bases loaded, Cubs lost by one run, and Feldman was charged with the loss.

- With a two-run Reds lead in the eighth inning on Sunday, Jonathan Broxton walked the first batter, and the next batter hit a home run to tie the game. After the next batter grounded out, Broxton again walked a batter immediately followed by another home run to break the tie. The Pirates then pinch-hit with apitcher (Jonathan Sanchez) and Broxton walked him! Sanchez also scored in the inning.

- Speaking of those Reds, they took advantage of some awful relief pitching earlier in the week. On Monday in a tie game in the ninth, St Louis reliever Mitchell Boggs walked four of the first six batters he faced. The Reds scored nine runs in the ninth inning (and Chris Heisey had the distinction of making the first and second outs).

- Dodgers were down 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth on Friday. Clayton Kershaw gets pulled with the bases loaded, and he “relief” walks home two runs.

- In the fifth on Wednesday, Mark Buehrle intentionally walked Prince Fielder to load the bases, and then was lifted for a reliever. The new pitcher walked the next two batters, followed by a single. All three runs were charged to Buehrle.

Then in the seventh of the same game with a two-run lead, a one out single caused Jim Leyland to make a call to the pen. The reliever threw a wild pitch and then went on to walk three batters in a row. (That terrible pitcher was lifted, and the next guy immediately gave up a double to clear the bases).

So twice in one game, three batters were walked consecutively.

- In his first three appearances in mop-up time, Yankees’ Joba Chamberlain recorded eight outs and walked six batters.

- Tigers’ relievers have walked 24 batters in 37 innings.

Other relief pitching notes:

- Phillies’ Chad Durbin has made four relief appearances, and allowed all seven runners on base to score.

- Astros pitcher Erik Bedard was pulled from a game Tuesday after four shutout innings with his team up 13-0. Reliever Paul Clemens also pitched four innings and allowed five runs. Naturally, the win was credited to Clemens.

- Cardinals relievers have blown 5 of 7 save opportunities this season. So you can appreciate Jake Westbrook and Adam Wainwright each throwing complete games this week.

Craziest Fact of the Week

- Mother Nature struck hard on Wednesday, causing four delays (in Detroit, Texas, Philadelphia and Boston), and two postponements (in Cleveland and Chicago). But that wasn’t the only delay that day, as the Nationals and White Sox players and fans had to wait to start because the umpires got caught in a traffic jam! If you have driven in Washington D.C., you could understand.

Lest you think I only remember the Bad, here are some noteworthy performances:

- Newcomer John Buck homered in four straight games this week. His six homers is more than all the Mets catchers had combined last season, and his 19 RBI after two weeks is just two less than 2012 starter Josh Thole had all season.

- Another (relatively) new Met, Matt Harvey from nearby New London CT, is now 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 22 innings. He won both games this week on the road, including taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning.

- After a sluggish first week, the Tigers hitters are really slugging. Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Johnny Peralta (batters 1-5) hit .416 with 32 runs scored in six games.

- On a chilly Thursday afternoon in Detroit, the Tigers won big buthow they did was the real story.
With two outs in the first, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder both walked. Then, seeing that nobody was holding him on at second or covering third, Cabrera stole third base without a pitch being thrown or a play at the base! He then scored on a soft single.

In the second inning after a couple singles, Alex Avila tagged up to second on a fly ball to left field. Austin Jackson singled next, and Avila was able to score from second. The throw came to the plate, and Jackson advanced to second base. Torii Hunter then singled, and Jackson scored from second base. Cabrera came up again and the speed merchant legged out a triple as Rajai Davis slid into the center field wall, and scored on another soft single to center. The Tigers built a 6-1 lead on a lot of heads up base running and just being smarter and more aggressive than the Blue Jays.

- Braves are the hottest team in the league, winning nine in a row and 11-1 overall. And the most amazing aspect of that is that they are winning despite no production from Jason Heyward (.103), BJ Upton (.163) or Dan Uggla (.171).

- Oakland A’s started an impressive 9-2 and have scored the most runs in the league. Seth Smith, Jed Lowrie and Coco Crisp combined to hit 17 doubles in those first 11 games.

- Indians pitcher Justin Masterson is pitching like ace he is supposed to be, now 3-0, allowing just one run in 22 innings. He pitched a complete game shutout on Friday, which he had to do because the Indians scored the only run of the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Players of the Week
For the second week in a row it’s a slugger from the AL and a starting pitcher from the NL.

prince fielder

 AL: Prince Fielder went 12 for 19 with 9 walks for a ridiculous .733 on base percentage with 11 RBI.

 NL: Adam Wainwright threw a complete game shutout, allowing just 4 hits while striking out 12 with no walks. With the bat he went 3 for 3 with 2 RBI and a run scored.

baseball’s Catch-22

(April 12)

Felix Hernandez hits Alex Rodriguez with a pitch, breaks his wrist, A-Rod misses over two months.

J.A. Happ hits Curtis Granderson with a pitch, breaks his arm, Granderson misses two months.

A couple years ago, Alfredo Aceves hit Marlon Byrd in the face with a pitch, Byrd misses six weeks.

Zach Greinke hits Carlos Quentin with a pitch, Quentin charges the mound and breaks Greinke’s collarbone, Greinke to miss two or three months.

No one wants to see players get injured. Baseball is centered on pitchers’ ability to throw accurately. When pitchers throw 90 miles an hour, there is serious risk of significant injuries to the batter. There are times when it is obvious that a pitcher intentionally hits a batter, and I have no problem when batters charge the mound in those situations.

But on a 3-2 pitch leading off the sixth inning in a one run game, Greinke’s throw on Quentin was not intentional.

I believe that pitchers should be held responsible when they cause batters to miss time with an injury from a HBP. When a batter charges the mound and injures the pitcher, I believe the batter should be held responsible.

Is this just part of the game that teams, fans and players have to deal with? Is there a better way to legislate/enforce?

Should Happ and King Felix sit out while the batters are out? Should Quentin sit while Greinke is out?

greinke quentin

Greinke breaks collarbone on a bogus move by Quentin

(April 12)

In last night’s Dodgers vs. Padres game, Carlos Quentin charged the mound after getting hit in the shoulder by a Zach Greinke pitch, and the skirmish left Greinke with a broken collarbone.

Normally I would go to the defense of the batter on these situations but this one was totally crazy. The situation was 2-1 Dodgers, Quentin leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, a 3-2 pitch. Along with that, after the pitch, Greinke went off the mound shaking his head and rolling his eyes, looking up into the first base bleachers. An intentional beaning is typically followed by staring the batter down, coming off the mound spitting, looking at the ground or just looking tough. Greinke wants to earn a win. There is no way that Greinke was going after Quentin.

The interesting thing about the situation was during the at-bat, Dodgers announcer Vin Scully went over Quentin’s bio. He went to college at Stanford where he was an “honor roll student.” He played football in high school where he was on a championship team, and made a big play on football forcing a fumble on defense and then on offense winning the game with a run. Quentin is big, strong guy. And he’s supposed to be a smart guy, too.

This wasn’t just a fluke injury. Greinke is a 190 pound beanpole. Quentin is a 240 pound former football player. Quentin charged the mound, bull-rushing Greinke, who lowered his shoulder into a charging Quentin. Greinke obviously took the brunt of that, and that was immediately followed by Quentin tackling him. Then two dozen players jumped on top.

The Dodgers signed Zach Greinke to a $147 million, 6 year contract in the offseason, the largest ever (at the time) deal for a right handed pitcher. They opened up the checkbook for lots of players in a mad effort to put together a star-studded roster that can win the World Series this year. Greinke was the brightest star of the free agent class, making $21 million this year. Carlos Quentin is getting $9 million a year playing for the last place San Diego Padres.

Greinke will likely be out at least two, could be three months.

It was a real wild pitch, but Quentin needs to use a little better discretion. It was a cheap shot by a large strong man on a bad team against a great but scrawny player on a great team. It was a completely unnecessary injury that significantly impacts a team and player.

Some people will say that Quentin should be suspended until Greinke returns. He will likely get benched for a week or less. But one thing is for sure: Padres manager Bud Black better not include Carlos Quentin in the lineup in the 16 remaining games against the Dodgers or he will add to his 108+ career times hit by pitch.

clayton kershaw

interesting Stats n’ Facts from Opening Week

- Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer walked the first four Rays batters on Saturday, forcing in a run. That was all Tampa Bay needed as Cleveland didn’t score a run the whole game.

- Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game Saturday with a double. The next Red Sox hit came with two outs in the ninth inning.

- Marlins starting pitching ERA is 2.48. Their relievers’ ERA is 8.10.

- Nationals pitchers allowed just one run in the entire series against the Marlins. Naturally, they gave up six homers and 15 runs in the next game against the Reds.

- There were three shutouts on Sunday, but the losing pitchers in those games were Justin Verlander, David Price and R.A. Dickey.

- Dickey allowed 5 first inning runs on Sunday against the Red Sox. That number matched his total runs allowed from all 33 first innings he pitched in 2012.

- Hanley Ramirez was injured in the WBC championship game. His replacement for the Dodgers, Luis Cruz, is 0 for 17.

- Rockies are hitting an amazing .333 as a team while their pitchers have tallied an impressive 5 quality starts.

- As a team, the Pirates are batting .119 and have scored just 8 runs in six games.

- How is this for irony: in the sixth inning with two outs, Phillies’ starter Kyle Kendrick was “relieved” by Jeremy Horst, who promptly gave up a bases-clearing triple. Kendrick was charged with all three runs while Horst, who got the next Royal to fly out, looked scot-free (one hit in a scoreless third of an inning). However, in the following inning Horst allowed the first three batters to all get on base and he was replaced. His “relief” also gave up a bases-clearing triple and three runs were all charged to Horst. So it all worked out. Needless to say, it was not a good day for the Phillies’ bullpen.

- On Wednesday, Fernando Rodney came in the ninth to save a one run lead. A walk and run-scoring double blew the save. But the leadoff man in the bottom of the ninth homered, and Rodney was credited with a win. You can call that a BS Win.

- Coaching Malfunction #1: With a one run lead in the seventh on Wednesday and the #8 and 9 batters up, O’s Buck Showalter called for an infield shift. The first batter bunted down the third baseline where nobody was for an easy single. The next batter grounded the ball to where the shortstop should have been but into a wide open hole in the shift. Both runners scored and Baltimore lost by one.

- Coaching Malfunction #2: On Friday with a 5-4 lead and runners on second and third, Twins’ Ron Gardenhire elected to intentionally walk Nick Markakis to load the bases. Consequently, Adam Jones hit his league-leading tenth base hit to tie the game and Chris Davis hit the next pitch for a grand slam.

- from The Amazing Astros:

– Starting pitcher Erik Bedard earned a save on Opening Night in an 8-2 game.
– Rick Ankiel homered in his first at-bat this season. Since then he is 0 for 11 with 10 strikeouts.
– Brett Wallace singled in his second at-bat. Since then he is 0 for 15 with 12 strikeouts.
– As a team, the Lastros have struck out an amazing 74 times, with just 9 walks.

- Players of the Week

AL: Chris Davis – .455, 4 home runs and 3 doubles, 17 RBI, 1.636 OPS
NL: Clayton Kershaw – 2-0, 16 strikeouts in 16 innings, 0.00 ERA and hit a home run in the eighth inning of a 0-0 game
chris davis

what you need to know about Chris Davis

AL BEast Notebook – April 6

Orioles games have become Must-See TV with the way first baseman Chris Davis has been hitting. Much has been said already but here are some things that stick out to me.

- Only two other players in history have hit a home run and had three runs batted in four straight games: Lou Gehrig and Bill Dickey (75 years ago). They both did it five in a row.

- Every team has played four games. Fourteen teams have lower home run totals than Chris Davis.

- Davis has produced more runs (17; 16 RBI plus one other run scored) than sixteen teams have scored. That’s over half the league.

- 16 RBI is the most for the first four games in MLB history.

- Davis has 9 hits in his last 13 at bats (.692) with four homers and three doubles.

- Davis is 5 for 7 with runners in scoring position for 14 RBI, and 3 for 3 with RISP and two outs.

- Davis is 7 for 8 batting against righties and has hit two home runs against lefties.

- Three of his home runs are on pitches outside the strike zone. He has hit a home run to right field, center field, and two to left field.

- For his career, Davis has averaged a strikeout every three at-bats. This young season he has one strikeout in 15 at-bats.

- Despite his hot hitting, Davis has been walked just once. Why? The man immediately in front of him (Adam Jones) has a league-leading 10 hits. And the batter before Jones has had four hits and three walks. Strangely, managers have intentionally walked the batter before or two before Davis twice. Davis knocked the ball out both times.

chris davis

O’s sting the Rays on Opening Day #2

AL BEast Notebook – April 2

Trying to show that last season was no fluke, Baltimore started the season with an impressive win in Tampa Bay over David Price and the Rays’ bullpen.

Everybody got hits for the Orioles Tuesday afternoon but it was the heart of the order that did all the damage. David Price gave up a two run homer to Matt Wieters in the first inning. Then, with two on, two strikes and two outs, Adam Jones smacked a go-ahead double in the seventh, and after an intentional walk to Wieters, Chris Davis took Jake McGee to the bleachers.

After Wieters’ homer in the first Orioles had lots of baserunners but Price did a good job of getting out of trouble. He escaped a bases loaded jam in the third and leadoff doubles in the fourth and sixth. Price ended his day after six innings with a lead, but McGee couldn’t put batters away.

McGee had two strikes on both Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis but the veterans each smacked the ball right back over the mound for singles. Then with two strikes to Adam Jones, the center fielder hit a clutch shot to deep left center for the go ahead runs. Davis’ three run homer followed. McGee has a dubious 67.50 ERA after one day.

Ben Zobrist homered in the fourth for Tampa’s first run. Joe Maddon and the Rays manufactured a couple runs in the sixth to take the lead. After a leadoff walk, Jennings doubled in a run, Fuld bunted him over to third, and Ben Zobrist hit a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2 Rays. But the pitchers couldn’t stop the O’s, giving up 13 hits (including two homers and four doubles) and four walks.

Jones, Wieters and Davis combined to get on base nine times and knock in all seven runs.
The division rivals meet again Wednesday night with Wei-Yin Chen opposing Jeremy Hellickson.

From around the league, the Daily Top Five:
- Yu Darvish retired the first 26 Houston batters until Marwin Gonzalez broke up the perfect game with a shot up the middle between Darvish’s legs with two outs in the ninth. I have a feeling that we will be seeing several more potential no-hitters against the Astros this season.
- The knuckle wasn’t working for R.A. Dickey today as the new Blue Jays’ ace gave up five hits, four walks and four runs in a loss to the Indians. It took Darvish 107 pitches to finish six innings.
- Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki each homered for the second straight game. Rockies beat the Brewers 8-4.
- Elvis Andrus and the Rangers agreed to a contract extension through 2022. Including the two years he had remaining, the deal is basically for 10 years, $131 million. So much for the Yankees’ plan of chasing him to be Jeter’s replacement. Andrus is 24 years old.
- Madison Bumgarner is pitching a gem. Through six innings he’s given up just one hit while shutting out the rival Giants.|
sabathia ellsbury

Opening Day win for the Red Sox in the Bronx

AL BEast Notebook – April 1

It’s a great start to the season if you are a Red Sox fan. Not so much for their proud counterparts in the Big Apple.

CC Sabathia gave up four runs in the second inning on walks and singles and that was all Boston needed as they beat the Yankees 8-2 on a day that started out warm and sunny and ended cold, rainy and windy, with empty bleachers and trash blowing all over the field.

The Yankees certainly didn’t exactly resemble your traditional Bronx Bombers. Confused New Yorkers were cheering for “Yooouuk.” Injured A-Rod and Jeter were replaced by Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez, who combed for 0-6 with five strikeouts. Ben Francisco, playing for his sixth team in the last 16 months, was the designated hitter. They needed some terrific pitching from their ace, and they didn’t get it: CC gave up eight hits, walked four batters and got pulled after the fifth inning. Joba Chamberlain, looking like a caterpillar is taking up residence under his nose, pitched a terrible ninth allowing three to score that only about 68 fans left in the stands witnessed. It was an uninspiring performance by the Yankees, who allowed four infield hits and walked eight Boston batters.

Sabathia’s career ERA in April is 7.24 and despite starting five times he is still winless on Opening Day with the Yanks. In his last seven games against the rival Red Sox he is 2-4 with a 6.70 ERA.

The Red Sox lineup wasn’t much more intimidating, but the first three batters had seven hits while Jarrod Saltalamacchia and rookie Jackie Bradley combined for six walks and four runs. Bradley had a big impact in his major league debut, also beating out a throw at second base that opened the floodgates in the second inning, then made a run-saving catch in left field in the third.

The lone bright spot in the game for New York was Francisco Cervelli, who coaxed Yankee fans one step back from the ledge when it looked like it would be the same old story. Cervelli got a two out hit, the Yankees’ first in two years, with the bases loaded to send two runners across home. Then in the sixth he made a great tag to stop Ellsbury at the plate and keep the Sox’ lead at just two.

But the day belonged to the Red Sox and the Yankee lineup made Boston’s pitchers look nearly perfect. Lester had just one bad inning while striking out seven in five innings, while five relievers yielded one hit across the last four frames. New Sox reliever Koji Uehara needed just five pitches to get through the sixth. New closer Joel Hanrahan also threw a 1-2-3 inning in his his first appearance for the club.

If the game wasn’t bad enough, Alex Rodriguez made an appearance for the media beforehand, answering more questions about PEDs and stating that the Yankees being projected to finish in last place is “pretty crazy.”

Both teams get a day off tomorrow. Then the Yankees will shake up the lineup with righty Clay Buchholz taking the hill, although that really only means Lyle Overbay and Travis Hafner get the start and Ichiro bats second.

Certainly, Girardi declares afterward that it’s just one game out of 162, but the lackluster yet predictably bad performance will probably not be a rare occurrence this month.

From around the league, the Daily Top Five:

- Bryce Harper homers twice, Strasburg throws seven shutout innings, Nationals win 2-0
- Clayton Kershaw pitches a complete game shutout and breaks a scoreless tie himself with a home run in the eighth, Dodgers beat the Giants
- Angels and Reds combined for 30 strikeouts and 4 errors in a 4:45 long 13 inning game in Interleague action on Opening Day. Reds batters not named Shin-Soo Choo went 1-37 (.027). Angels win
- Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale each threw 7.2 shutout innings for the Mariners and White Sox, Jeff Samardzija throws 8 scoreless for the Cubs
- Meanwhile, the Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles and Indians are saying “don’t forget about us!”
stephen strasburg

Look into my Crystal Ball – Projections for 2013

I can think of no better way to open up the baseball season than with one game on a Sunday night in March in Houston, home to the worst team in the whole league. Tough to take this “Opening Night” thing serious. Naturally, the Astros start the season with a win. But hey, the Yankees and Red Sox, Giants and Dodgers, and Phillies and Braves all kick off the true Opening Day on an April Monday for one of the most anticipated season kickoffs in memory.

On Friday I gave my season preview and projections for the AL East. Here are my predictions for the rest of the Major Leagues. Division standings are first and awards follow.

There is a lot of parity in the AL while the NL is pretty much the haves and the have-nots. With two terrible teams in both the NL East and West, the wild cards will come from both, while at least one wild card comes from from the AL West (possibly two), and it won’t be the Astros.

American League

East

1. Blue Jays 89-73. Toronto New Jays bring winning back to Canada.

2. Orioles 88-74. Starting pitchers improve and the young nucleus of sluggers give opponents headaches as the Orioles get back to the postseason.

3. Yankees 84-78. Too many issues to overcome and the early hole they get into will be too deep to crawl out of.

4. Rays 83-79. Price will be dominant, one of Cobb, Hellickson or Moore will breakout, but not all three. Wil Myers won’t make much of a rookie impact as the Rays struggle to score runs.

5. Red Sox 80-82. Improvement is unavoidable but too much has to right and another team will have to fall apart for the Red Sox to finish above the bottom.

Central

justin verlander

1. Tigers 97-65. In his second year in town Prince is settled in comfortably and V-Mart is back. Rotation is solid led by the horse of the AL. Even without a designated closer the bullpen is very strong. Look at what the Giants did last year without a “closer.” Tigers start the season much better and pull ahead instead of climb back.

2. Indians 81-81. It all comes down to pitching and if they play like last year Cleveland will be under .500. But if Francona can get Ubaldo and Masterson to pitch well the Indians could compete for a Wild Card. I like their lineup.

3. Royals 79-83. It’s an all-new rotation with James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Wade Davis, and Ervin Santana. That is still pretty mediocre with a mediocre lineup for support.

4. White Sox 77-85. I picked them to finish last in 2012 and they surprised by leading the way well into September before falling. Chris Sale and Jake Peavy are strong anchors for their rotation, but there’s not much upside on this team.

5. Twins 63-99.  Mauer, WIllingham and Morneau could provide a little firepower but this is a 96 loss team last year that didn’t get any better. The whole rotation is a bunch of #5 starters.

West

1. Angels 93-69. Trout, Hamilton, Pujols and Trumbo with a clear ace in Weaver, along with a couple quality arms in C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hanson. Bullpen is a question mark, but barring injuries the Angels should have no trouble eclipsing 90 wins.

2. Athletics 91-71. They fooled me last year and won’t do it again. This young pitching staff will outperform expectations again and Yoenis Cespedes will lead a surprisingly competitive lineup. Playoffs again.

3. Rangers 85-77. This group is a disappointment candidate without Hamilton unless A.J. Pierzynski repeats his career year at age 36 and Berkman slugs for a whole season. I don’t trust any of the pitchers after Yu Darvish, and the bullpen is also highly questionable.

4. Mariners 82-80. The pieces are coming into place (Morse, Morales, Montero, Seager, Smoak, Ibanez on the bench) and King Felix will be around for a while. Are the Mariners ready to make the jump above .500? Perhaps, but not much above that.

5. Astros 46-116. Ask me how I really feel about them. It will be a long inaugural season in the AL as the Astros are completely starting over and doing so in the toughest division in all of baseball. The payroll of their entire active roster ($19M) is less than about a dozen individual players’ salaries.


National League

East

1. Nationals 99-63. Best rotation, lineup and bullpen in the National League. Strasburg makes the next great step in his career as he plays the whole year and collects the Cy Young award while teammate Bryce Harper wins MVP.

2. Braves 92-70. Craig Kimbrel is the most dominating pitcher in the game, but for the first time in decades there are serious questions about the starting rotation. If the Upton brothers breakout together along with Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, the offense will be explosive.

3. Phillies 86-76. Howard, Utley and Young looking for a big comeback campaign. A Halladay-like Halladay would get the Phils in the playoffs, but instead they will fall just short.

4. Marlins. 64-98. Giancarlo Stanton is on an island in Miami.

5. Mets. 65-97. David Wright is also on an island. Too many injuries already for a team that has such little talent to begin with.

Central

1. Reds 93-69. Outstanding offensively, and Votto is back healthy. Strong bullpen and top of the rotation. Reds run away with the division.

2. Brewers 86-76. This changes if Braun gets suspended or injured. Brewers have an All-Star ace (Gallardo) and three great young pitchers. The solid core of Braun, Ramirez and (eventually) Hart will benefit with a rebound by Rickie Weeks and solid surprise production from Aoki, Segura and Gomez. Braun has another MVP-caliber campaign but loses votes because of PED suspicion. Brewers in the playoff picture all season long.

3. Pirates 84-78. On July 28, 2012 Pittsburgh was 16 games over .500. The previous year they were 7 over on July 19. In 2013 they contain the summer swoon and finish with a winning record led by a rising star in Andrew McCutchen.Russell Martin will help the starting pitchers step up their performance.

4. Cardinals 80-82. Losing Chris Carpenter, along with their closer, shortstop and third baseman to injuries already, plus their #2 starter to free agency, plus losing fifteen scheduled games against the Astros all make me question how successful the Cardinals will be this season. Will Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran each play 150 games again? I doubt it. I may be wrong but I’m just not excited about this team.

5. Cubs. 66-96. Starling Castro is your All-Star but the pitching is seriously lacking (both starters and relievers). Bottom half of lineup will put you to sleep.

West

1. Dodgers 91-71. The free-spending Dodgers are a bit of a wild card. There is so much talent on this team. The ceiling is very high if Crawford, Greinke, and Kemp are healthy, if Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett step up, and HanRam comes back after his injury motivated. The rotation is very deep. However, there are tons of injury flags and risks as well as possibly combustible clubhouse chemistry with this Fantasy Baseball All-Star construction. The Dodgers could win 100 games or 80.

2. Diamondbacks 87-75. There is not a single star on the team but still, surprisingly solid pitching with an offense that should score a ton of runs. Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero will emerge as All-Stars as the D-Backs sneak into the playoffs.

3. Giants 86-76. It is impossible to explain just how this team became champs last year other than that they snuck in and hung in there until the World Series started. Matt Cain and Buster Posey are crazy good and Giants still get a lot of wins, but they will just miss the playoffs unless Lincecum returns to form, and still, that may not be enough.

4. Rockies. 70-92. So much went wrong last year. Most of their sluggers and pitchers got hurt, the coach tried some creative managing that didn’t work, and it was back to the Old School Rockies Way (historically bad pitching). This year they get a little less unlucky but still struggle to win games in a competitive division.

5. Padres 64-98. One of the least-talented teams in baseball will play like it.


Postseason

A’s over Orioles – Tigers over A’s – Angels over Jays

Tigers over Angels

Braves over D-Backs – Nationals over Braves – Reds over Dodgers

Nationals over Reds

World Series

Nationals over Tigers

bryce harper

Awards

MVP: Jose Bautista – Bryce Harper

Cy Young: Justin Verlander – Stephen Strasburg

Rookie: Jackie Bradley – Wily Peralta

Manager: Buck Showalter – Kirk Gibson

Comeback: Mariano Rivera – Ryan Howard

Batting Champs: Miguel Cabrera – Joey Votto

Home Run Leaders: Jose Bautista – Ryan Howard

robinson cano

AL East Preview and Predictions

AL BEast Notebook – March 29

I’ve been covering each of the five East teams all winter and spring long and here is my “Official 2013 Preview.” Yes, it’s long so bookmark and come back often. I’ll have the rest of the league up in the next couple days.

The AL East will be the most interesting division in baseball with five teams that could each reasonably finish in first or last place. All should have win totals in the 80s. While the division has been known for it’s intimidating sluggers and top-to-bottom lineups, there has been a clear shift to pitching.

For each team you have:

1) my report with reasons to be excited and reasons to be concerned

2) specific bullet points of what must happen for them to succeed

3) specific bullet points of what must happen for them to end up in the basement

4) Season headline

5) My record prediction

6) How many more wins in best-case scenario (ceiling)

7) How many fewer wins in worst-case scenario (floor)

8) A player that is likely to outperform expectations

9) A player that is likely to disappoint

Boston Red Sox

After being MLB’s most disappointing team two years in a row Boston is looking for a bounce back season. They definitely aren’t in typical “Rebuilding Mode” with the likes of Victorino, Napoli, Gomes, Dempster, Lackey and (eventually) Ortiz all in prominent positions. Now that expectations are so low after losing 93 games they hope that a new manager, revamped lineup and more secure bullpen will get them back into prominence. But it won’t be easy.

Two of the best pitchers this spring were Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. After a dismal 2012 campaign, that is a welcome sight for Sox fans. Even Jon Lackey has been effective. In fact, the Red Sox staff led the league in Spring Training ERA. It may just be Grapefruit League but it’s much better to be good than bad!

There are issues with the lineup. Your Opening Day lineup will include Jose Iglesias, Jonny Gomes, Jackie Bradley, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The #5 hitter is a player with less than a full year of major league experience (Will Middlebrooks). If things go poorly—and with injured and injury-prone players like Ortiz, Ellsbury, Napoli and Gomes, and young players like Middlebrooks, Bradley and Iglesias, you can expect it—there is virtually no depth on this roster.

The weak bullpen from a year ago looks to be put together well. New closer Joel Hanrahan, former All-Star Andrew Bailey, and veteran setup man Koji Uehara are expected to shorten games to 6 innings.

For those that think the pitching staff will bounce back to greatness, consider this: Saltalamacchia is the signal caller. Jason Varitek is long gone. Once Salty took the majority of the time behind the plate the starting pitching (everyone) fell apart. Don’t underestimate the importance of a good catcher (or impact of a catcher the pitchers don’t trust).

Red Sox will WIN the division IF…

1) Jon Lester wins 20 and Clay Buchholz wins 18

2) Ortiz and Ellsbury combine for 55 home runs

3) Napoli and Middlebrooks stay healthy all year

4) Dempster or Lackey pitch effectively

 Red Sox will finish LAST in the division IF…

1) Ortiz and Stephen Drew are ineffective

2) Two of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Napoli or Middlebrooks miss significant time

3) Any two of the starting five pitchers miss significant time

Miller’s Forecast

“Sox Crumble Third Year in a Row”

80-82 +8 ; -8

Surprising impact: Jacoby Ellsbury

Biggest Disappointment: Ryan Dempster

Tampa Bay Rays

david price

Tampa Bay had the best team ERA in all of baseball last year and won 90 games, but still finished third in the division, three games out of the final playoff spot. And in the offseason they lost James Shields, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena and didn’t really replace them.

The biggest question for the Rays is where is the offense going to come from? Yes, Evan Longoria is ready after missing half the season and could finally emerge as an elite player, and Wil Myers will get called up sometime, but who else is there? Ben Zobrist and Luke Scott?  That’s it! And while Myers is the best hitting prospect in baseball, he probably won’t break out like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. He could be great, but the Rays tend to baby their young players. Myers will be a star in 2014, but for ‘13 Tampa has the weakest lineup in the division.

Of course, their pitching is very good.  David Price won 20 games, the other starters were great and Fernando Rodney finished 2012 with a 0.60 ERA and 48 saves. Can young Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb keep the Rays’ team ERA microscopic again? Well sure, but it’s not a guarantee. And if you check the history of Rodney, his first year in Tampa was his first since 2006 of an ERA lower than 4.24 and WHIP under 1.47. Seems like a fluke.

Many people are picking the Rays to make the playoffs. The Rays have been the quietest team in the league this spring, and that’s surely a very positive thing. Great pitching in Tampa has been a given for like eight years now. Joe Maddon, perhaps the best game manager in baseball is running the show. But I cannot see how a team that continues to lose key players year after year without bringing in free agents will keep it up this year, especially in such a competitive division.

Rays will WIN the division IF…

1) David Price wins 20 games again and another pitcher wins 16

2) Evan Longoria plays 155+ games

3) Wil Myers is called up early and breaks out in a big way

4) Fernando Rodney continues where he left off in the WBC with another All-Star season

5) Two of Zobrist, Joyce, Scott or Jennings hit .295+ with 25+ homers

Rays will finish LAST in the division IF…

1) Something happens to Price and Longoria

2) Hellickson and Matt Moore regress

3) No hitter beyond Longoria provides power

Miller’s Forecast

“Where’s James Shields?” and “Not Enough Help for Longoria”

83-79; +7 ; -4

Surprising impact: Alex Cobb

Disappointment: Matt Moore


New York Yankees

Yankees won 95 last year, and this team looked like the worst 95-win team in the history of baseball. Due to injuries and questionable personnel decisions the lineup is very different, especially early in the season.

Everybody knows about the crowded star-studded disabled list (Teixeira, Granderson, A-Rod, Pineda, Hughes and Jeter) and they have a whole bunch of other players that could potentially fall apart (Hafner, Youkilis, Wells, Ichiro, Pettitte, Rivera) and some key positions that are serious offensive question marks: catcher (Stewvelli) and first base (Overbay). It is just not the situation you want to be in to start the season.

One concern with this team is that they are very lefty-heavy in the lineup. Cano, Granderson, Gardner, Ichiro, Hafner, and Overbay all bat from the left side. That’s great for Yankees Stadium, but they will struggle on the road against left-handed starting pitchers.

Robinson Cano is the one rock on this team. He will be an MVP candidate every year he stays in pinstripes. Reports are that Curtis Granderson should return on time and back to form in May. The power is gone, but there is still ability to score runs with Ichiro, Gardner, and Jeter/Nunez at the top of the lineup. The starting pitching is strong and deep. The bullpen, even without Rafael Soriano, should be very strong again as long as Mariano is effective.

Eduardo Nunez struggles defensively, but if he ever gets a full-time job he could hit .300 with 25 homers and 30 steals.

 Yankees will WIN the division IF…

1) C.C. Sabathia makes 28+ starts

2) Derek Jeter plays 145 games and hits .290+

3) At least two of Hafner, Youkilis, or Wells make it through the season healthy and somewhat effective

4) At least two of Teixeira, Rodriguez or Pineda return and are somewhat effective

5) Mariano Rivera stays healthy and Rivera-like

 Yankees will finish LAST in the division IF…

1) Sabathia and Cano miss significant time

2) Teixeira and A-Rod miss the season, or are ineffective upon return

3) Rivera shows the effects of his 43rd birthday, getting hurt or pitching poorly

4) Yankees get nothing from Wells and Youkilis

Miller’s Forecast

“Old Age and Injuries Catch With Bombers”

84-78; +5 ; -6

Surprising impact: Kevin Youkilis

Disappointment: Derek Jeter

Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore had a miracle season, winning 93 games taking the Yankees to a full series after knocking out the Texas Rangers in the playoffs. And all this after averaging 94 losses for the previous six seasons. What was most miraculous was how they won. They did not even have a positive run differential until September 28, the last week of the season. They dealt with tons of injuries. They only had one pitcher start more than 20 games or pitch 140 innings, and that was an unspectacular rookie. And of course, their 29-9 record in one run games, including a record 13 in a row, is something difficult to explain.

Looking ahead to now, there are actually very few question marks with this team. While they don’t have a true “ace,” they have one of the deepest reservoirs of starting pitchers in the league including a handful of pitchers that were outstanding in limited 2012 action. Due to 65 starts by terrible pitchers their overall ERA was mediocre, and that should improve this season with a little stability.

Baltimore’s bullpen was one of the AL’s best, led by closer Jim Johnson’s league leading 51 saves, and Darren O’Day, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop and Luis Ayala. Johnson is a regression candidate, but the ‘pen should still be very strong.

The lineup is also very stable with many players on the way up in their careers (Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Nolan Reimold). Nate McLouth may have regained his All-Star form after the trade to Baltimore. Late call-up Machado looks like he could be a star player and is here for a full sophomore year. The biggest difference could be in the middle of the field as two-time All-Star Brian Roberts is finally healthy and looking good in spring. It looked like he would be hitting leadoff but just today Showalter announced that Roberts will start at the bottom of the order.

Buck Showalter has turned this young group into winners. They have a very good core of players in Jones, Wieters, Machado and Davis, and if the starting pitching doesn’t fall apart they should contend for the Wild Card again. If Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta develop and improve, they could win the East outright.

Orioles will WIN the division IF…

1) Team pitching gets their ERA down to 3.80

2) At least three pitchers win 13 games

3) The bullpen remains a strength

4) Brian Roberts plays 140+ games

5) Adam Jones and Matt Wieters make their third All-Star game

Orioles will finish LAST in the division IF…

1) The inexperienced pitching falls through

2) Two of oft-injured Roberts, McLouth, Reimold and McLouth can’t stay healthy and produce

Miller’s Forecast

“Critics Still Waiting for Showalter’s Club to Fade”

88-74; +4 ; -8

Surprising impact: Brian Roberts

Disappointment: Wei-Yin Chen

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto sailed along at 45-44 until July 16 when Jose Bautista injured his wrist. Several pitchers broke down as well and the Jays floundered, going 28-45 the rest of the way. GM Alex Anthopoulos was very busy this offseason, acquiring R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Emilio Bonifacio and re-hiring coach John Gibbons. Suddenly, Toronto looks like the most complete team in the division.

The biggest x-factors for the Jays this year are Johnson and Brandon Morrow. If they can stay healthy the Jays rotation should stay quite effective. You know what you are getting with Dickey, Buehrle and J.A. Happ, and the offense will score a lot of runs and hit a lot of home runs. Johnson and Morrow have top-of-the-rotation potential. If they stay healthy Toronto will win a lot of games.

One concern critics have is all the moving parts. Reyes played poorly in Miami, Johnson was less effective, Melky was suspended 50 games, and Dickey moves from pitcher friendly Citi Field and the NL East to the AL East. Bautista is coming off a wrist injury that has the potential to drain his power. All that being said, this is a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in twenty years. Changes had to be made! Opportunities presented themselves and the Jays jumped. And with three pitchers coming from the NL to AL East, remember that none of the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox or Orioles improved their lineups; in fact, they all (other than the Orioles) should have worse offenses.

I love the way this team is made: Knuckler, power righty, soft lefty, power righty, lefty. Reyes, Melky, Bautista and Encarnacion (42 homers in 2012) should be the most productive 1-4 this side of Los Angeles, and if Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie produce they are even deeper.

The one issue with the Jays is their bullpen, which was dead-last in the AL in 2012. They didn’t add anyone new. Closer Casey Janssen is coming off shoulder surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season, and Sergio Santos missed most of the regular season with shoulder surgery as well. The way the Jays are set up for “Win Now,” expect them to look at the free agents available (Brian Wilson, Jose Valverde, Francisco Rodriguez) should things start to fall apart.

Blue Jays will WIN the division IF…

1) Morrow and Johnson pitch 56+ games

2) Jose Bautista regains his power stroke and has an MVP-level season

3) Reyes and Cabrera each play 145+ games and hit over .290

4) Bullpen finishes no worse than 10th in the AL

Blue Jays will finish LAST in the division IF…

1) Any two of their top four starters miss significant time

2) Bautista re-injures his wrist

3) Bullpen repeats a dismal season

4) Major chemistry issues emerge

Miller’s Forecast

“Joey Bats is MVP” and “Anthopoulos’ Aggressiveness Pays Off”

89-73; +5 ; -5

Surprising impact: Brett Lawrie

Disappointment: Melky Cabrera

ra dickey

Toronto 89-73

Baltimore 88-74

New York 84-78

Tampa Bay 83-79

Boston 80-82