Week [23] In Review (9/5-9/11) #sfgiants #weekinreview

Welcome back to the pennant race Giants.

The Giants got kicked in the gut big time twice in the last 7 days (Sunday, the 4th in Chicago, and then again on Wednesday night in Colorado), and after the second meltdown I thought it might be over.

It may yet be over, but it doesn’t feel like it today.

It feels like maybe, just maybe, they’ve unlocked something, and good baseball will start to flow once again.

What I want to do now is look at the remainder of the season and make a bit of a forecast (starting today where the Giants sit 77-65, 3 games behind the Dodgers):

  • 3 games at home against the Padres (It seems like perfect symmetry/baseball justice, for the Giants to sweep the Pads this week. After all it was the Padres series to start the second half and that launched the Giants into their funk. I hate predicting sweeps, but that’s kind of what needs to happen so…80-65. Meanwhile the Dodgers have to fly all the way to New York to face the Yankees, they’ll drop 2 of 3, 82-63.)
  • 4 games at home against the Cardinals (This is a huge series in terms of the Wild Card race. The Giants could potentially put the Cardinals out of the race by the time this series is over…that’s being extremely optimistic, and on the other hand, the Cardinals could very much assert themselves here to the Giants demise. These are two proud teams, and with the Giants missing Madison Bumgarner in this series, I see a split coming: 82-67. Meanwhile the Dodgers have to fly all the way back to the West Coast and play four in Arizona, where they too will split the series: 84-65.)
  • The Giants head back out on the road for the last time, starting with three games in LA. They should have Bumgarner, Cueto, and Moore lined up to go for these big three games. Again, I hate predicting sweeps, but I want to stay positive: 2 of 3, 84-68. the Dodgers, obviously would drop 2 of 3, being a little tired after the travel of the week: 85-67).
  • The final road series takes the Giants to San Diego. Remember: the Giants were 9-0 against the Pads until the post-all-star fiasco. If they can continue the dominance they could potentially sweep this series. Weird things happen in San Diego and this is the end of a road trip and the end of a stretch of over two weeks without a day off. I’ll go conservative here and predict a spilt: 86-70. Meanwhile, the Dodgers finish their home season with four against the Rockies. This is the one place in the schedule where it seems the Dodgers are set up to make up ground. I’ll say they take 3 of 4: 88-68.)
  • The Giants close the season with six home games, and isn’t interesting that I stated the importance of asserting themselves at home as a significant theme for the year. They will need to go 5-1 to capture the division back, and I believe they’ll get off to a good start with a sweep of the Rockies. Meanwhile, the Dodgers will get ambushed by the Padres, losing 2 of 3. Both teams will sit at 89-70 to start the series. A series the Giants will win by taking two of three to finish 91-71.)

Let’s summarize: 20 games left, a 14-6 close to the season (17-6 if you include the sweep of the D-Backs this weekend). Why is this possible?

  • First, he offense is finally starting to get going. This may be too much to ask, but everyone contributed this weekend in Arizona: Span and Pagan homered, Posey had some great at-bats, Belt came up with a couple huge hits, Panik and Crawford continued to produce as normal rates, Nunez looks like he’s in the middle of hot streak, and there are no ends to the superlatives one could heap on Hunter Pence for the series he had. It’s been amazing that the Giants have gone such a long time essentially rotating one hot hitter at a time. The law of averages seems to say they are due for a stretch where multiple guys hit at the same time. Now is the time!
  • Second, the starting pitching continues to deliver, and Matt Moore, in particular, seems to have figured something out. The rotation has four more turns to keep this going. Meanwhile, the bullpen, sans Santiago Casilla, has actually been pretty good. Derek Law should return this week, setting up a nice little debate: who do you want closing games down the stretch, the guy who has been great all year (Law), or the guy who seems to have the hot hand right now (Strickland). Honestly, Strickland scares me a bit because he can give up a home run with the best of them, but his last couple turns have been dynamic, so let it ride I guess.
  • It’s a simple formula, but the Giants have been so good at losing games (bad pitching when they hit, and no hitting when they pitch, some bullpen implosions for good measure) that I believe it will continue to turn around, and translate back into winning games.

Hitter of the Week: No brainer here…hello Hunter Pence! 12 hits, 4 walks, a home run, and 8 runs scored! It’s the walks that are the most encouraging sign…when Pence is right, as he was several years ago back at the beginning of the season (that’s an intentional sentence) his eye was exceptional. He is locked in and playing with passion, and that’s the kind of thing that can propel this team in a positive direction (as we’ve seen several times over the past 4 years).

Pitcher of the Week: Matt Moore had an incredible game on Sunday, but that has to be balanced with his tough start on Monday. It was a Coors start, and he was undermined by Brandon Crawford missing a ball he catches 99% of the time, but he also walked the 8th and 9th place hitters (one of them was trying to bunt too), and so painted himself into a corner. It seems the only thing holding him back, though, is this occasional spell of wildness. I’m going to give the POW to Jeff Samardzija who continues to pitch incredible well down the stretch, something that seems to be under the radar. His last 5 starts he gone 31 innings, striking out 30, with a 2.90 ERA, and only one home run allowed.

This is going to be a great final three weeks. Buckle up. Who needs football?!

Week [12] In Review (6/20-6/26) #sfgiants #weekinreview

This was not a good week for our POWs from the last post. Matt Duffy got hurt and Jeff Samardzija reverted to bad Jeff. Meanwhile, the Giants lost both starts by Madison Bumgarner this week despite 14.1 great innings.

All that makes it sound like it was a terrible week, but, no, no it wasn’t! The Giants still won 5 of 7, increased their lead in the NL West, and now stand with the best record in the National League. That’s just how this season is going.

We hit the half-way point this week, so let’s look for a moment at the big picture, and then an interesting, smaller story line.

Big Picture: as mentioned here several times, the off-season/pre-season mantra for the 2016 SF Giants was “if they can stay healthy.” We heard it again and again. That was the key to everything.

The answer, we now know, is “no, they can’t.”

Now, granted, they haven’t lost Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner, and their “big 3” have made all their starts (in fact only one starting pitcher, Matt Cain, has struggled with injuries). But, the injury/hamstring bug has hit them at every level, especially the line up. And yet they have the best record in the NL (and are only half a game behind Texas for best record in all of baseball).

The Giants will need Duffy, and Hunter Pence, and Sergio Romo to make a deep run at a World Series, but so far the “need to stay healthy” maxim is proving incorrect.

Smaller Story: assuming everything went well for the Giants (health, again), it appeared heading into the season that the only glaring weak, potentially, was in Left Field. Yes, there were questions about the back-end of the rotation. Yes, there were questions about the bullpen. Yes, there were question (here we go again) about health. Yes, there were questions about the bench.

But, expecting reasonable outputs from each player, left field seemed to stick out. Angel Pagan got off to a great start, however, alleviating those concerns pretty quickly. But, as it always seems to go, Pagan got hurt, and then Pence got hurt, and suddenly the outfield was in disarray.

We are ever grateful for Gregor Blanco, but a question I had about the 2016 Giants was “could this be the year that a home-grown outfielder makes his way into the conversation.” That outfielder, in my mind, was Mac Williamson.

There are many reason to root for Mac. He’s young, cheap, a good enough defender in left, and has tremendous power. He’s also a right-handed bat who brings some balance to the left-handed heavy Giants. I like Pagan and he’s been a good Giant. But Williamson could be answer not just for 2016, but beyond.

Williamson was stashed in AAA to continue developing to start the year, but has been yo-yoed back and forth with all the injuries. This week he finally seemed to turned a corner, and had a couple really nice games, and beyond the numbers just looked more comfortable.

I get very excited about this lineup:

  1. Span CF
  2. Panik 2B
  3. Posey C
  4. Belt 1B
  5. Pence RF
  6. Crawford SS
  7. Williamson LF
  8. Duffy 3B
  9. Pitcher (or switch the Pitcher/Duffy)

However, Pagan has returned with a vengeance, such a vengeance that rumors are flying about bringing him back for 2017! 

Who knows how this will all turn out. Since Barry Bonds retired, the Giants have done just fine with a revolving door approach to LF. I’m still rooting for Mac to take over.

Week In Review: won 3 out of 4 in Pittsburg, and took 2 of 3 from the Phillies at home. 49-28, 8 game lead in NL West.

Hitter of the Week: back to the LF conversation! Mac Williamson went 4 for 7 with a home run, 2 RBI, and 3 walks. The walks are just as important as the home run, as patience has been a problem for big Mac. Angel Pagan answered the challenge from the young buck, hitting .440 this week with 4 extra base hits and 9 RBIs! Hat tip to the other “scrubs” (Parker, Pena, and Gillaspe) who along with the LFs round out the top 5 statistical heroes of the week.

Pitcher of the Week: The POW should be Madison Bungarner who had two great starts (Peavy was the only main comp from the rotation, but he only started once). However, Bumgarner went 0-2 through no real fault of his own, and that means we bump the award to the bullpen.

Cody Gearrin had an outstanding week, appearing 4 times and allowing no runs. I’ve been slow to come around on Gearrin, but Bochy is clearly a huge fan, and Cody made him look brilliant this week. I still feel that Hunter Strickland is going to prove to be the most important reliever for the Giants down the stretch, but Gearrin’s quality has brought stability and order to a unit that was sorely lacking both a month ago.

Looking Ahead: The Giants play 4 in the Bay to get the week started (2 at home, 2 in Oakland), and then head to Arizona (it seems like they are always going to Arizona) for a three game weekender. These are two teams with poor records, but the A’s always play the Giants tough, and they are playing for their season right now. If things don’t turn around quick, word on the street is the Billy Beane fire sale is just around the corner. Arizona has been playing much better, and Zack Grienke has quietly turned his season around. This is another sneaky tough week.

Week [10] In Review (6/6-6/12) #sfgiants #weekinreview

As mentioned in the last post, the Giants’ faced a weird challenge this week. They “only” had five games on the schedule, the five most challenging games of the month (judging by by records), while at the same time enjoying the odd 2-day off week.

Given a history of June swoons, this felt like an important week. With some key players hurt and slumping, it didn’t seem unreasonable for the familiar pattern to set in.

And there were moments, especially against the Dodgers this weekend, that felt swoonish. Somehow, though, they gutted out a 3-2 week, increased their lead on the Dodgers, and head into the end of the home stand (and start of an easier stretch) more healthy with the return of Matt Cain tonight (which also happens to be the 4-year anniversary of Cain’s perfect game).

All seems just a bit brighter in Giants’ land today. That being said these “easy stretches” are never actually that easy, and now is no time to relax.

Week in Review: 1 of 2 from the Red Sox, and 2 of 3 from the Dodgers (all at home); 5 game lead in the NL West.

Hitter of the Week: Buster Posey sat out the Red Sox series and then didn’t really light the world on fire when he came back (only hitting .167 in the 3 games against the Dodgers), but he certainly passed the eye-ball test. His walk off single against the Dodgers on Saturday received the appropriate praise attention, but I was more impressed with his at bat against the same foe (Kenley Jansen) the night before. He bombed a fastball into triples ally, a ball that harmlessly fell into the glove of Klay Thompson’s brother, but that was the quintessential Buster swing. When he’s driving the ball to right field with power that is a very good sign.

Pitcher of the Week: Tip of the cap to Alberto Suarez for doing an admirable job filling in for Matt Cain. Feels like the Giants found something good with Suarez (maybe a Yusmeiro Petit-type weapon). But, the pitcher of the week award goes to good ole’ Jake Peavy, who simply needs to do what he did Sunday night to be more than a positive asset to this team. Quality starts (by definition, 6 innings, 3 earned runs or less) are what he needs to provide. Keep the team in the game, keep the game competitive Jakey and everything will be alright.

Looking Ahead: the Giants get the Brewers at home for three to start the week. They run our Cain, Bumgarner, and Cueto in this series which is calling out for a sweep. Then an off day on Thursday and a three game weekender in Tampa Bay to start off a road trip. Here’s to hoping some of these positive trend lines continue moving upward.

Week [3] In Review (April 20-26) #SFGiants

After a miserable 8 game losing streak and the squandering of a long early home stand, the Giants faced a daunting task this week: 3 games against the rival Dodgers (the hot Dodgers at that), and then a trip to Coors field, house of horrors.

It’s not over stating it to suggest that how this week unfolded could possibly determine the rest of the season.

Not every question has been answered, but the Giants certainly answered the bell, sweeping the Dodgers (with two walk off wins no-less), and then splitting the two games of their rain shortened trip to Colorado.

There are still some troubling signs: the lack of ability to drive runners in from scoring position is truly remarkable, especially for a team that must hit well in this position if it has any hopes of competing this season. Casey McGehee is an abomination. He nearly broke the record for double plays last year in what was one of his better seasons, and now he is on pace to shatter the record. By all accounts, he is not feeling well, so shutting him down and giving him another go when healthy might be a good idea. But, it is ugly right now. The #FreeMattDuffy campaign is fully underway here. The bullpen and rotation still leave something to be desired, although they all did their jobs for the most part this week.

Despite those concerns, there is a lot to be excited about. First, of all the Giants won some games. A 4-1 week was desperately needed. Just as important was the way they won: getting ahead, pitching well, and playing downhill. This is not a team that can catch up very often. They need a strong turn the first time through the order by their starter, early runs, and then they can hang on for victories. They followed that formula for the most part this week.

Second, the Giants are getting Justin Maxwell’s best Hunter Pence impression and it is making a huge difference in the lineup. JMax (as we like to call him around our home) has been a much-needed shot of power. Also, Andrew Susac is here and making his presence felt, already sparking Bochy to think about putting Brandon Belt in LF from time to time (THANK YOU).

Third, speaking of Belt, both Brandon’s seem to be coming around with the bat, and that is a beautiful sign.

Hitter of the Week

JMax wins this award running away with his big home runs and walk off ways. It remains to be seen if he can keep this up. As good as he’s been he still has a strong propensity to go out of the strike zone. In fact you can already see teams making that adjustment. This is where his success can actually be a detriment: he’s so eager to keep hitting that he’ll expand his zone, only to find that he stops hitting. If JMax can stay disciplined maybe he can turn his hot start into a breakout season.

Pitcher of the Week

Once again I have half a mind to give this to Tim Lincecum. I’m also tempted to name Ryan Vogelsong the POW. I was thinking of writing a post about the potentially gut wrenching decision to cut Vogelsong, but he certainly bought himself a lot of time with his strong start again the Dodgers.

But, despite all that, I give the nod to Madison Bumgarner. Even though his night did not end well, he outdueled Clayton Kershaw in what, I think, was the most important game of the year to date. Even though the Giants got back in the win column the day before, losing to Kershaw and potentially losing the series the next day, could have sent this team right back into the doldrums. But, Bumgarner’s start, plus the walk off excitement, leading into the sweep the next afternoon, has helped changed the atmosphere around this team dramatically.

Looking Ahead

Well, speaking of the Dodgers, here we go again! This time the Giants will visit Chavez Ravine, but with the rainout, we can expect the same pitching match ups as last week (check that, it looks like we will have to see Grienke this time around). One interesting thing to watch: Don Mattingly continues to affirm his position as one of the weaker managers in the game. I know body language isn’t everything, and I’m certainly not in that clubhouse ever, but he seems to exude an aura of weakness (or wieneeness as I told my dad this week). He’s kind of like a toddler. He’s the baseball manager version of Jed York. He contributed to at least one of the losses and behaved poorly in one of the others. I cannot imagine him lasting long in under the new regime, especially he continues to act like this. It will be interested to see what he does this time around. After the Dodgers, the Giants head home and face the other LA team next weekend.

Go Giants.

-SB

Thoughts and Predictions for the DS #MLBplayoffs

1. Tigers vs. Orioles. These teams are mirrors of each other. Baltimore hits home runs, plays great defense, and has a stellar bullpen. Detroit has the THE STAR and the starters. This is going to be the ultimate test of postseason theories: do you need strong starting, defense, bullpen, or home runs to win?

  • Prediction: Tigers in 4. The Tigers will not win the world series with that bullpen (we’ve heard this story before), but they have more than enough to get past an Orioles team that lacks dominant starting pitchers.

2. Angels vs. Royals. The Angels have the best record and offense in baseball. The Royals bunt and steal all the time and have the best bullpen in the postseason. Will this be bedlam in KC or Mike Trout’s national coming-out-party?

  • Prediction: I want to pick the Royals so badly. I really, really do. Oh, I want to pick them. In fact, a couple of months ago when I was sketching things out, I thought they might have the best path to the World Series in the American League. That, though, was based on them winning the division, which they did not do. Furthermore, that game against the A’s revealed just how clueless Ned Yost can be. Sometimes, and it is rare, a manager can help win a series, usually they are fairly neutral, and there are some times where they are an all-out liability, and I fear that is where Yost is. Yikes. Angels in 4.

3. Dodgers vs. Cardinals. Of course they are playing each other, which means, if the Giants get through they will have to play their long-standing mortal enemies (the Dodgers, just in case you didn’t know), or the team Giants’ fans have learned to hate in recent years (the Cardinals, mostly for being the Cardinals). And even if the Giants don’t make it through it means one of these teams will play the Nationals (who we will then hate) in an absolutely awful NLCS. This is the most detestable of all possible matchups.

  • Prediction: Mattingly is horrible, the bullpen is shaky, and the non-Kershaw/Greinke starters are a major liability. Plus Puig will do something stupid at some point. Otherwise the Dodgers are basically unbeatable. The Cardinals had a surprisingly bad offensive season, some shakiness in the rotation (that seems to have been shored up), and are here mainly because the Brewers faded so badly. And yet, they are the Cardinals, the team, other than the Giants, most likely to play flawlessly in October. I won’t be the least bit surprised if the Cardinals win this series, but I’m going with the Dodgers in 5.

4. Giants vs. Nationals. The Nationals are the best team, in my opinion, top to bottom in this tournament. So, of course, the Giants get them in a short series. Awesome. That being said, the only result here that would be shocking to me is a sweep by either team. Mostly, though I just don’t see the Giants laying down. It’s going to go 5 either way. I’ll have a bigger preview tomorrow morning, but for now a couple of silver linings for the Giants: the Nationals have a lot of right-handed starting pitching. They are really good, so that part stinks, but the right-handedness plays into the hands of a lineup that is heavy lefty right now. Second silver lining: Matt Williams is a rookie manager, and only 4 times has a rookie manager won a World Series. The last one to do it, of course, was another ex-Giant, Bob Brenly, whose team won in spite of him, not because of him. Loved Matt Williams as a third baseball in the black and orange, but he might be a liability.

  • Prediction: The Nationals are too deep to go down to a Giants team lacking Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, and Matt Cain. Nationals in 5.

-SB

3 Thoughts on Today’s Wild Card Game #royals #athletics #mlbplayoffs2014

Maybe it’s because the Giants are in the Wild Card Game this year, maybe it’s because I know a lot of A’s and Royals fans, maybe it’s because I’m having a hard time getting into the football season, but whatever the reason I am pumped for two ridiculous baseball games here over the next two days.

Knowing as many A’s and Royal’s fans as I do I’m bound to tick off someone here, but I’d like to offer 3 thoughts on tonight’s game:

1. Big trades led to this moment. The A’s made several big trades this year, but the controversial move of sending Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester will only be able to be fully appreciated and evaluated in light of tonight. If Lester pitches the A’s through this game, and if the A’s go on to make some noise, perhaps even get to the World Series, no one will moan and complain about this trade anymore. They shouldn’t complain about it anyway. The irony of the A’s moves this year was that they actually built a roster that could succeed in the playoffs (as opposed to strong regular season teams that weren’t designed well for short playoff series). Now, it’s time.

The Royals traded Wil Meyers to the Rays for James Shields. There were other players involved, but this was the heart of the trade. Big Game James gets an opportunity to live up to his name and bring joy to Kansas City that hasn’t been felt there in a long time. Many people thought it was a bad trade, but it made sense for one reason: this moment. No one will question the trade if the Royals win tonight and go on to make some noise in the remainder of the playoffs.

2. Someone will be very sad. All season the Royals fans expected the “other shoe” to drop and the bottom to fall out. You can still sense their reluctance to give their heart to this team. One thing, though, about not making the playoffs for 25 years (as depressing as that is) is they haven’t faced the sadness that A’s fans have faced since 2000. The A’s have lost in every conceivable way in the postseason over the last 14 years, and losing this Wild Card Game would only bring a new level of misery to the east bay.

3. And the winner is…I wan to pick the A’s so badly, I really do. I can see a world where they win this game, and go on to exact their revenge against the Angels and Tigers. It would be so, so sweet. But, all year long I have loved this Royals team. They remind me in many ways of the 2010 Giants. Strong starting pitching, unbelievable bullpen, just enough offense at just the right times. I think the Royals get an early lead and their nasty bullpen makes it stand up.

3-2 Royals.

-SB

A Whole Lot of Nothing

2 basic premises: (1) We have no idea what kind of conversations were going on behind closed doors over the past week. The Giants might have been offered absolute peanuts for their players. (2) The Giants’ collapse has been swift and unexpected and perhaps the front office was simply caught off guard by the sudden need to make huge, important, and non-sentimental decisions about players they have strong feelings for.

But man, it sure seems like (1) Sabean was asking for the moon (scroll to the bottom of this) and (2) the Giants front office was too soft.

Question(s): will we laugh at our July 31, 2013 selves next year, when this team is clicking again and everything is great, or will always wonder what we might have gotten back for a Hunter Pence or a Javier Lopez? Or will we simply be satisfied with some draft picks when Pence and Lincecum spurn the Giants for free agency?

Maybe I just wanted something more interesting to write about but I was hoping for prospects today. I got none.

Watch, they are going to get hot now.

Postseason! (An Ode to Buster Posey)

In all honesty I am not tingling with anticipation about the postseason the way I was in 2010. Maybe it’s because I’m three weeks into being a dad and nothing quite compares with that. Maybe I’m jaded now that the Giants won the World Series. Maybe it’s something else.

Who knows, but I do know this: I will be pumped and ready for the game come Saturday night.

Here are some thoughts to close out the regular season as we prepare for the stress of post-season baseball:

  • Buster Posey is the MVP. You can read several articles on the web right now parsing the stats (like this one), but as much as I love stats it comes down to this for me: 2010 we had Posey, we won the division. 2011: no Posey, 86 wins, no playoffs. 2012: Posey, division champions. Simple. More to the point, when Posey got hot, post-all star game, the Giants took over the race and never looked back.
  • Adrian Gonzalez: sweet swing, solid player, but that three years in a row, three different teams, three times coming up short.
  • If you had of told me in 2010 the Giants will win it all, Torres and Huff and Burrell and Ross will be heroes, but Pablo Sandoval will disappear and be a non-factor, I would have believed it all except the Pablo part. NO WAY the Giants win without that guy in top form. Maybe this year that story line is repeated with Tim Lincecum.
  • You have to go Cain and MadBum 1-2 to start this series, but I really don’t like the options when the page turns to Cincinnati. Lincecum and Zito especially seemed destined to fail in that small ballpark.
  • Major props to the A’s. What a season, what a story!
  • Josh Hamilton will get a large contract this offseason but I just don’t see him being worth the money.
  • My predictions for tonight’s games: Braves over Cards 3-2 and Orioles over Rangers 4-3.

(-SB)

Steve’s Pick (2012 Predictions)

AL East

Both easts are tough calls, with four legit teams in each division. It seems easy to go with status quo (which I will do in NL, but not here):

  1. Rays
  2. Blue Jays*
  3. Yankees
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

The Rays have it all: pitching, defense, and more than enough offense to win this division. They finally stay healthy and put it all together for a deep run into the playoffs. The Blue Jays are a bit of a reach, but I think they have plenty of talent, and they are able to stay healthier than the Red Sox and Yankees. Age and injuries take down the two beasts of the east this year and for the first time since 1993(?) there is a postseason with no Boston or New York teams.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Royals
  3. Twins
  4. White Sox
  5. Indians
This is the easiest division to call. Tigers coast for 2012, and then it gets more interesting next year because the Royals will finish strong, end up at .500, and be ready to go for real in 2013. Enjoy it Tigers because the division is gaining on you! Twins and White Sox continue to retool and struggle, and the Indians are in full-out rebuild mode.
AL West
  1. Angels
  2. Rangers*
  3. Mariners
  4. A’s

The Angels pitching carries the day. They have the deepest and nastiest staff in the AL. The Rangers take the second wild card, but I worry about the toll that the last two post-seasons have taken on the team…look for some injuries to slow them down. The Mariners are not as bad as it might appear, but the A’s are in for a dismal season.

NL East

The east has seen a lot of shifts, but it won’t make a difference in the end this season…the times are a changin’ but not quite yet…

  1. Phillies
  2. Braves*
  3. Nationals
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

As I said earlier there are four legit teams in this division. The Phillies though will prevail one last time before they succumb to age and breakdown. The Braves have too much pitching to not compete and they take the second Wild Card. The Nationals will be good, but they are a year away from the Harper/Strasberg combo taking over the division. The Marlins have made some moves and they will hang around, but I don’t think they have enough of anything to hang with the Phillies. The Mets will be good…in 2015.

NL Central

  1. Cardinals
  2. Reds
  3. Brewers
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

This is the one totally wide open division where anything could happen. The Cards lost Pujols, but we’ve seen teams lose stars again and again and keep on going, if not get better. They made some nice additions (Betlran) and have some rising stars (Freese), but most importantly got one of the best pitchers in the world back (Wainwright). They should be able to make it out of the central. The Reds will make it close, the Brewers are still dangerous even without Prince, and even the Pirates could make some noise if their young pitchers make the jump this year. Cubs and Astros have no shot. Sorry guys.

NL West

  1. Giants
  2. Diamondbacks*
  3. Dodgers
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres

I believe that every team in this division improved this offseason, even if only a little bit. Which means it will be competitive. At the end of the day, though, the Giants and the D-Backs have great pitching staffs from top to bottom and that is what wins the day. Given health for both teams, I can’t not pick the Giants staff, so they take the division and D-Backs have to deal with the one and done wild card system. The Dodgers will be better and the Rockies are always a little scary, but they go 3 and 4. The Padres will be tough too, but there’s just not enough there to move them out of the cellar.

Playoffs:

WC: Braves beat the D-Backs; Blue Jays beat the Rangers

DS: Giants beat the Cardinals, Braves beat the Phillies; Rays beat the Tigers, Angels beat the Blue Jays

LCS: Giants beat the Braves; Rays beat the Angels

WS: Giants beat the Rays

(-SB)

 

Nick’s Picks

Just because I was wrong about Mike Fontenot being a lock for the Giants roster doesn’t mean I’m wrong here! Let’s start with my second favorite MLB League, the American league.

AL East

  1. Yankees
  2. Rays
  3. Blue Jays
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

I think the Yankees win but not by much over the Rays. Tampa has better pitching and it’ll be interesting to see if the older Yankees can put enough hitting together to get the division. Ultimately I think the Rays win one of Wild Cards and the Yankees are bounced in the first round again. The Red Sox seem to have some trouble, and I really like what the Blue Jays are doing with some great young pitching. Honestly the Sox will probably finished 3rd and could very well win the WC as well, but I like my home country team so they go 3! O’s suck.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Indians
  3. White Sox
  4. Twins
  5. Royals

I think the Tigers run away with the division, but the rest is tough to predict. The Indians will keep improving, the White Sox will be about the same as last year I think, and the Twins can’t possibly be as bad as they were last season. Any of those 3 teams could switch positions, and all will miss the playoffs. The Royals are slowly getting better, but still a year or two away from contending in this division.

AL West

  1. Rangers
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners
  4. Athletics

The Angels got Pujols and CJ Wilson, but I think the Rangers will win their 3rd straight division title with the Angels winning the 2nd WC. It honestly could go either way, and Albert and Kendry Morales being a huge addition to the Angels team in terms of offense. But this team still has Tori Hunter, Vernon Wells and other not as powerful offensive options. The Rangers have Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz , Ian Kinsler etc.

NL East

  1. Marlins
  2. Phillies
  3. Braves
  4. Nationals
  5. Mets

It’s not that I think the Marlins are really good, although the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle certainly help, it’s that I don’t see Atlanta or Philly that good. Philly has their big 3 pitchers but not much else other than an aging lineup, the Braves can be so inconsistent and have little pitching or hitting depth.

NL Central

  1. Brewers
  2. Reds
  3. Cardinals
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

I’m going against the trend and picking the Brewers to win the division with either St. Louis or Cincy to win a WC. The Brew Crew lost Prince, but added Aramis Ramirez (still a good power hitter), and better hitting shortstop and a potential big bat prospect at first in Mat Gamel. Other than that this is the same team as last year, I don’t see them losing the division. St. Louis is going to feel the lack of Big Albert in their lineup, and I don’t see how Berkman puts up the numbers he did last season again, plus no Chris Carpenter and who knows how their closer situation will be?

NL West

  1. Diamondbacks
  2. Giants
  3. Rockies
  4. Padres
  5. Dodgers

Dodgers are always last in my book. I’m worried about the Giants offense competing enough to win the title. The D-Backs looked really good last season to me and I don’t see them dropping off. The Giants will be good and win the other WC and make a good, solid run into the post season. I actually think this will be a competitive division that will be a lot of fun to watch.

World Series

  • Brewers vs. Rays…Brewers win.

(-NW)