Mid Season Evaluation

Well this has certainly been an interesting first half hasn’t it? Between Pittsburg, Arizona, Cleveland and Seattle I don’t know anything about baseball anymore.

AL East: Yes, the Rays are still in this thing, but I think as the season goes along you’ll see that this is going to become a two-horse race between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Boston’s pitching scares me, but not in the good way. Lester is good, Beckett is great, and you got nothing else. But New York doesn’t exactly have the Big 5 either, honestly they are hoping and praying that Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon don’t fall apart and that CC Sabathia can pitch with 1 days rest, because that is what they’ll need to win the Division or the World Series this year. As far as offense goes, New York looks good with Texiera, Granderson and Cano while Boston has a VERY good Adrian Gonzalez. Boston is my pick still to win the division, but I think I’m putting the Yanks as my new Wild Card winners.

AL Central: This division makes less than no sense. Seriously. The only thing I know about this division is that the Royals won’t win it. But the Twins? The White Sox? Both are possible now! What the world. My pick remains Detroit though, but I have a feeling this division will cause me to change my picks about 15 times in the last two weeks of the season. Why Detroit? As much as I love the resurgence of the Indians, they don’t have Justin Verlander. Verlander has been RIDICULOUS this season, and that reason is why Detroit can hold off anyone else to win.

AL West: I don’t even want to write about this terrible division. The Rangers are my pick still. That is all.

NL East: Until yesterday I was 100% confident that the Phillies would win this decision, and while they are still my pick, my doubt is starting to rise. This has nothing to do with the Phillies, and everything to do with the Atlanta Braves, who are still my NL Wild Card pick. The Braves are being led by amazing pitching and some really good hitting, especially from Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. With how good Atlanta is playing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this division get very competitive by the end of the season, especially if the Phillies keep playing hurt.

NL Central: This is also a wacky division this season. The Cardinals are good, despite having gone over a month without either Matt Holliday or Albert Pujols on their roster, Lance Berkman suddenly decided to hit home runs this year, and they have no closer (literally no closer. It’s rotated between like, 3 guys), yet are in first place as of this writing. The Brewers are somehow being completely ignored, even though they have amazing hitting and some really good starting pitching. To add to the wackiness, the Reds are still hanging around and the Pirates are playing above .500 baseball for the first time since the 1890’s. (Not a real fact). Brewers still win this because of Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks , Prince Fielder and Shaun Marcum.

NL West: Someone explain to me how the Giants are in first place still? The hitting is atrocious, but thankfully we have one of, if not the best, rotation in the Majors and probably the best bullpen in baseball also. Giants still win this division, but the D-Backs and Rockies will give me heart attacks all the way until October.

First Half AL MVP: Wow. My pick of Adam Dunn was a little off wasn’t it? First half MVP has to be Adrian Gonzalez. Sure you can make a case for Paul Konerko and Jose Bautista, but Gonzalez is putting up some crazy wild offensive numbers and is probably the biggest reason the Red Sox are so good right now.

First Half AL Cy Young: You can make a great case for CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester and David Price, among others. I’m voting Verlander. He has a 2.86 ERA, .88 WHIP, 138 K’s, 31 walks (!!!!) and an opponent batting average of .187. ONE EIGHTY SEVEN. Craziness! Weaver is putting up numbers that are just as good, but Verlander also has a no-hitter this season, either way there has been some GREAT pitching in the AL in 2011.

First Half NL MVP: Prince Fielder, no question. You can make a good case for Matt Kemp, and an excellent case for Jose Reyes, but I’m in the unique position of having in-laws who are Brewers fans and have the MLB Extra innings package, so I’ve gotten to see Prince play, and there really is nobody as valuable to his team as him. The Mets aren’t going anywhere this season and neither are the Dodgers (yay!) but the Brewers hitting is anchored by Fielder. Yes, Ryan Braun is a huge asset and Rickie Weeks is going nuts, but without Prince and his NL leading 72 RBI, they aren’t tied for first in the Central.

First Half NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Jair Jurrjens are your top NL pitchers, but I think Halladay takes this award. This only reason I’m holding out on Jurrjens is his total K’s are lower (due to injury) and a higher ERA than Roy. Roy is nutty. Just plain nutty on the mound. Crazy good stats, crazy good strikeout rate and is just crazy good. Like have you actually seen him pitch a game? Ridiculous.

(-NW)

Advertisements

Third Time Is {Probably} The Charm

June updates to predictions? DONE! Nick Waltz style…

AL East:

I thought all along that the tales of the Red Sox demise was foolish at best, and now I look like a freaking genius. Sox are still my pick for the AL East but I’m changing my Wild Card pick to the Rays. A few reasons: They’ve played out of their minds since Manny left town, and the reworked bullpen ACTUALLY IS WORKING! Their biggest strength last year became their biggest weakness and now it’s a strength all over again. By the way, look at this lineup: Sam Fuld? Johnny Damon? Kyle Farnsworth as your closer? You’ve got to be kidding me, but it’s WORKING. Amazing. Plus I hate the Yankees.

AL Central:

So the Twins are done and the White Sox are looking like it? Amazing. Nothing in the American League Central makes sense this season. I want to stick with the Indians winning the Central (Which was my new pick after picking the White Sox at the beginning of the season), but I have to agree with the great and wise Josh Stover: Tigers look good, and I honestly think they are underperforming right now. Plus there is no way a team could look like one of the 3 worst teams going into the season and ending up being one of the top 3 teams right? Right?

AL West:

So a funny thing happened while no one was looking: The Mariners are 1.5 games back of Texas, and this is happening with Ichiro apparently forgetting he’s one of the greatest hitters ever to play baseball. Amazing. However I’m picking the Rangers to win the division this year. Oakland is looking like they are about to fall down hill fast, and the Los Anaheim Angels of Anaheim have no offense. especially with Morales gone for the whole season yet again. The M’s have no one hitting for them either, which means the Rangers, who were in good shape offensively already before Beltre started  killing it for them this season, will only be better has Hamilton comes back to form, plus you’re looking at a very good rotation still.

NL East:

So the Phillies are still the team to beat, or rather their rotation is, and so they stay my pick for the NL East champs, but what the heck is going on with Florida? They’re making me doubt picking the Braves to win the Wild Card, until I noticed that Josh Johnson is now on the DL and that’ll affect them a LOT. Braves still win the WC but they have some middle relief issues that needs solving, and Dan Uggla needs to stop doing his best impression of Carlos Pena and start getting on base.

NL Central:

The Brewers continue to impress me each time I watch them play. Rickie Weeks is crazy good and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have put together incredible offensive season almost completely under the radar, which makes no sense to me at all. Jonathan Lucroy is the hottest young catcher in baseball and Shaun Marcum is showing how good he really is, all this while Zach Greinke isn’t pitching at his peak yet. Brewers still for the win.

NL West:

What in the world? Arizona is in first? This league is crazy. Losing Posey is a huge blow, but the Rockies took a bigger one with De La Rosa out for the year, so instead of a Giants/Rockies chase, it’s not a Giants/Diamondbacks chase. Will Arizona continue to perform this well? Who the heck knows, but I do know that I’d take the Giants pitching over theirs, (and that includes the bullpen) 100 times out of 100, and there is NO WAY the Giants continue to hit so poorly. Hopefully Huff’s 3 HR night breaks him out and when Pablo comes back, watch out. Giants still win this one.

(-NW)

Prediction Reboot: The (correct) Stover Addition

Steve has issued some re-picks as we enter June and I thought I would set him straight on a few…

AL East

Steve is half right here. The Red Sox are back and they are going to win this division. I differ with his assessment of the Rays though. I don’t think you can succeed in that division without more hitting. Yes, they are a very similar team to the Giants, but they don’t play in the NL West (thankfully) and I can’t see them beating the Yankees and the Red Sox. They rank 21st in hitting and I’m not sure that will cut it in that division. In addition, the Yankees actually are ranked higher in pitching stats and I don’t think they are going to lose 1st place to anyone but the Sox.  I’m taking the Red Sox to win it, and the Yankees to win the wild card. One side note, I think Joe Maddon is one of, if not THE best manager in all of baseball. I would want to play for him.

AL Central

Ok so this one is super confusing….still.  Even more confusing is the White Sox. They have turned around, or at least slowed, their awful start. Steve, I like that you aren’t just picking chalk here, but I don’t see a division win in their future. I don’t see it in Cleveland’s either. At some point, Cleveland is going to start playing up, or should I say down to their potential. I’m taking the Tigers in this one.

AL West

This division still lines up clearly for me. The Rangers are winning it. Billy Bean came out today and said he didn’t want his catcher getting run over at the plate so he told him to avoid any home plate collisions. That should keep the A’s from having a repeat of the Buster Posey incident. However, Suzuki isn’t Posey, and the A’s aren’t as good as the Rangers. I’ll still take them to repeat as AL west champs.

NL East

Steve and I are in complete agreement here. Even though Hanley Ramirez is stinkin’ this year, the Marlins are finding a way to win. Pitching is the key to their success, but Josh Johnson is on the DL and they don’t have a lot of proven winners on the staff or in the bullpen. They should come back down soon. The scary part for that division is even when the Marlins are playing great, the Phillies still lead by 2 games. Philly will win this one easily and I am changing my wild card pick to Atlanta. That has more to do with Cincy stinking than with my faith in Atlanta.

NL Central

So I have publicly ripped the Brewers in previous posts and it looks like they listened. They are playing great right now and only 2.5 games out. It looks like they may make my pre season pick correct after all. Here’s a fun fact: they are amazing at home and AWFUL on the road. 21-7 vs 9-19. I don’t know what to do with the Cards. They are surprising, especially noting the slump that Pujols is in. My bold prediction is that he is going to stay in that slump all year. I know he didn’t want to negotiate his contract during the year, but maybe he should reevaluate that stance. Something is bothering him and he says he isn’t injured. I will choose to believe him and say it must be mental. Sign a contract for 26 mil a year for the next 7 years and he’ll be fine.  I’ll keep the Brewers winning the central but knock Cincy off of my previous wild card choice.

NL West

Nobody panic. Arizona isn’t winning the west. Every team gets hot at some point, they just put a couple of hot streaks together. I also don’t believe that Colorado is out of it. I look for the Rockies to be in it until September. I am still concerned about the Giants. I watched the game last night and even though we got 16 hits, I just have no faith in where our offense is coming from. Especially when Huff is up, I have no faith. I am the eternal pessimist when my team is up but I’m still not a believer yet. Trade options are a discussion for a separate post but we need to strengthen our lineup. We have 5 outfielders that Bochy has to try to time their hot streaks (ie Ross and Nate right now) and that isn’t a recipe for success.

Ok so Steve and I agree on a lot of picks.  That is a natural occurrence because we are both very smart males.  I’m really looking forward to this summer.  I broke down and got the MLB package so now I can watch the Giants more.  Blasted east coast time is killing me though.  Enjoy the games!!!

(-JS)

Prediction Reboot: June Edition

June 1st means that we are effectively one-third of the way through the season. The old adage is that a team spends the first third of the season figuring out its identity and needs, the second third getting what it needs to fill the holes, and the final third making a run at the playoffs. If that is true then the next two months will be defined by the moves teams make to help with the final push. Each division remains close with multiple teams in contention…this is shaping up to be a fascinating season. Here’s another prediction reboot as I evaluate my pre-season picks and give my take on each division:

AL East

Order has been restored in the East and as improved as the Orioles are and as fun as the Blue Jays have been, this is and will continue to be a three-horse race between the Sox, the Yanks, and the Rays. The interesting thing about this division is that the Red Sox and Yankees are virtually identical: good offenses, star-studded line ups, veterans who are underproducing, and big questions marks in the back half of the rotations. The Rays are the opposite…they are the AL version of the Giants: pitching, pitching, pitching, and hope for some runs. Still going with my original predictions: Red Sox take the division and the Rays win the Wild Card.

AL Central 

I continue to admit that picking the Twins was one of the worst predictions I have ever made! That said, this division presents a conundrum to many around baseball. Are the Indians for real? They seem to be playing above their heads, especially in the pitching department, and the gap has closed between them and the rest of the division recently. Detroit continues to be the primary adversary to date, and the Twins and Royals are essentially done. That leaves Chicago. They appear to have righted the bullpen issues that plagued them early and I have to believe that their offense will heat up as the weather continues to warm. My money is still on Chicago to get hot and take this division, but I have little confidence in any prediction I can make about the AL Central.

AL West 

The AL West is extremely close and incredibly mediocre. Each team has 27, 28, or 29 wins. First and last are separated by 2 wins (2.5 games). The big surprise has been the Mariners who could be in first place by tonight if things go right. As impossible as it might seem, given their atrocious offense, they might be able to stay in this slowest of  races. The Western divisions are probably the two that will be most affected by mid-season trades. Whoever makes the best moves here will probably prevail. Last year it took 90 wins to take this division, right now the winner is on pace for 87. That’s not great. My thoughts: I have the most confidence in the Rangers to pull off a difference making move, but I am not ready to change my original pick. The A’s will make a move too, and they will also see their starters go on a crazy run and win 15 of 17 at some point this summer to separate themselves from the pack. Oakland prevails.

NL East

One of the best stories of the year has to be the Marlins. They were my NL Sleeper pick back in January and they are making me proud! That said, I still can’t help but think the Braves will overtake them. And now with the news about Hanley Ramirez and his bad back, I feel even more strongly that the Marlins will fade. It will be close though. The Braves squeak by for the Wild Card and the Phillies ride their four horsemen to the division title.

NL Central 

I have to admit that I am starting to believe in the Cardinals. However, not much has changed here as far as my opinion about this division. Still think the Brewers are the team to beat, still think the Reds are/were overrated, still think the Cubs and Pirates are actually close to contending and could be annoying down the stretch. The Cardinals though are really going to make this interesting. Their offense is great as much because of the Allen Craigs and David Freeses and Ryan Theriots even though much credit  goes to the big three of Berkman and Holliday and Pujols (who WILL break out soon). If they make a significant pitching move, it could be enough to make the playoffs. I don’t think Milwaukee can make a big move (ala Jose Reyes) because they lack the prospects (after their two big offseason trades). They will have to do this with what they have. That could be the difference. Nonetheless, I still stay the Brewers take the Central.

NL West

So, the Rockies lose their best pitcher for the season and everyone concedes the division to the Giants. The next day the Giants lose their best player for the season and meanwhile no one really notices that, hey, the Diamondbacks are winning the division! The loss of De la Rosa and Posey means the West is wild and wide open. However, it is pretty safe to say that the Padres and Dodgers aren’t going to join the party. The Rockies are in danger in burying themselves, but even down an important arm I think they are too talented to go away and die. The Diamondbacks are good, young, and talented, but their pitching is a far cry from what the Giants have. I expect the Giants to make significant move and I hope it involves Eric Surkamp and Thomas Neal, not Zack Wheeler or Brandon Belt, and I think that move will be helpful. But at the end of the day, no one in the West pitches like the Giants. It might only take 88-91 wins to take this division and I think the Giants can manage that even sans Buster. Sticking with my boys: Giants win the West.

As you can tell, not much has changed in my opinion here in the last month. Still a long way to go and as we head into trade season much will be illuminated. As it was last year there are a lot of good teams, but no GREAT team and so anything seems possible. It’s going to be a crazy summer!

(-SB)

Nick’s Prediction Reboot

(note: nick’s article was submitted on may 6th, before the completion of the Giants-Rockies series).

AL EAST

Well the Red Sox certainly blew up my prediction for a dominant run at the AL title. That being said I still see them recovering nicely and being in the playoff hunt for the rest of the season. I still think I’m sticking with them for the title since the Yankees seem to be falling apart. As for the Rays, they’ve sold me after a really rough start. That, in addition to the terrible Central and West mean I’m picking them as my new AL Wild Card winners.

AL CENTRAL

I still think the Royals are a few years away, but good lord do the White Sox suck right now. No hitting, no pitching, no nothing. I have no clue what the Tigers really are and I don’t know if I can trust the Twins with Morneau and Mauer out so much. Looking at the Indians I think they’re the real deal, or at least real enough to win the Central.

AL WEST

Not sold on the A’s anymore and I’m changing my pick to the Rangers. Losing Feliz and Hamilton didn’t help, but Neftali is coming back and when Josh returns the offense will continue to swing large. The A’s could make a run and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but it’ll be down to those two teams as the Angels don’t seem to have the pieces necessary to win and the M’s are the M’s.

NL EAST

I don’t buy the Marlins at all. I know everyone says that and then they go win a World Series, but I don’t see that pitching and offense outlasting the Phillies or the Braves. That being said I still have the Phillies winning the division but after watching Atlanta this past few weeks, It’s going to be a LOT closer than I thought, close enough that I think the Braves will take the Wild Card in the NL.

NL CENTRAL 

I know St. Louis is playing really well, but honestly I still see this as the Brewers’ division to lose. I’m not picking them to win the NL anymore, but this division should still be there with good pitching and REALLY good hitting.

NL WEST

I just don’t know what to make of the Giants. They look SO bad some times, but they have had no Torres, Pablo, Zito, Wilson, Ross or Casilla and a bad hitting Belt for some or most of the season, and they’re still within a stones throw from the Rockies. The Rockies, on the other hand, are REALLY good. I’m sticking with the Giants out of plain homerism but I wouldn’t be betting against Colorado to win the division at this point.

(-NW)

Tomahawk Chop

The Braves, as of this writing, sit in 3rd place in the East, 4.5 back of the Marlins and 4 back of the Phillies and sitting one game under .500. Not the start they were hoping for, but in a division with very weak Nationals and Mets teams, and a Marlins team that is overachieving, in my opinion, the Braves are looking in pretty good shape, and really look like a team that could make a better run at the division than I initially thought. Let’s take a look at why they’re in good position.

Hitting: This is a group of hitters that has performed much better than I would have predicted this season. You have Jason Heyward doing scary good Jason Heyward things, Brian McCann being the best human catcher in baseball (Buster Posey of course being a Demigod), Chipper Jones pretending he’s 29 and not 39, Martin Prado continuing what he started in his breakout year last season and Freddie Freeman beginning to find his groove after coming into the season than with only slightly less hype than Brandon Belt. The three biggest weak spots for the Braves? Center fielder Nate McLouth, who while not doing really well, is at a MUCH better place than last season, Dan Uggla who has had some big struggles so far, but still has been hitting long balls, and Shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who more than makes up for it with his glove. The only other area that makes me pause when I look at their lineup is a very shallow and weak bench outside of backup catcher David Ross. But seriously: Chipper Jones has been looking scary good this season, it’s incredible considering going into Spring Training that he looked like he was going to retire.

Pitching: With all the talk about the pitching rotation of the Phillies, Giants and Brewers this offseason, the Braves were almost completely ignored, except now that I look at their starting it’s got to be one of the stronger ones in the National League. Tim Hudson is the only one of Oakland’s old Big Three (Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder) that has been consistently good the last few seasons and he looks really good this year. His ERA is a bit high, but watching him pitch tells you a different story. Jair Jurrjens just came back from the DL, and continues to mow people down as he somehow is the most underrated young pitcher in the NL right now. Tommy Hudson has a great strikeout rate (1 an inning) but a fairly high Opponent Batting Average, but this guy is young and will be the Braves ace for years to come. Derek Lowe, the Braves 4th pitcher, looks more like the old Red Sox Derek Lowe and less like the Lowe of the last few years, leading the team in K’s and the starters in ERA. Brandon Beachy came out of nowhere during Spring Training to win the 5th starters job, and although he hasn’t looked amazing, has looked way better than expected with 31 K’s in 29 innings and 1.09 WHIP. Add in to that a ridiculous back of the bullpen of Eric O’Flaherty, Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, and if the Braves have the lead going into the 7th inning, they’ll probably win. That said the rest of their bullpen has proven to be a big time weak spot and you can only hope George Sherrill holds up for so long before you need to go get yourself a solid right hander, or call one of your many AAA prospects to get it done.

Overall: If this team stays healthy there is no reason to think that it can’t win the NL East this year, in fact if the Phillies continue to break down, that’s exactly what I expect to happen.

(-NW)

New Monk/New Post

introducing atlanta-based nick waltz, our newest monk. today nick offers a guide for the displaced Giants’ fan.

As a displaced baseball fan, you run into this problem sooner rather than later: going to a ballgame in which your favorite team is not playing. So what do you do when that happens? How does one conduct themselves, especially if one lives in a foreign town, like Atlanta as I do? Fear not baseball-monk readers, as I’ve compiled a list of do’s and don’ts for your behavior at said games, whether in Boston, Atlanta, DC, San Diego, LA, or any other city you may live in. (Note: I use the Braves as my example, feel free to substitute your own team.)

Rule 1: You must ALWAYS cheer for the Giants when they come to town. No exceptions.

Rule 2: You must ALWAYS boo the Dodgers and the Anaheim Angels. (I refuse to call them by any other name.) The Dodgers should be clear. The Angels because through their shenanigans and tomfoolery, they managed to get the 2002 World Series cancelled after they realized the Giants would sweep them.

Rule 3: You may wear a modest amount of Braves team apparel. A hat is appropriate, as is a t-shirt, sweater, etc. Wearing a combination of apparel is appropriate in moderation. For example: A hat/t-shirt combo is fine. A jersey under a jacket with a hat while wearing your Braves sweat bands and track pants would be considered excessive, and unfaithful to your home team.

Rule 4: You are allowed to participate in various home town activities, such as betting on the Milwaukee sausage race during the 5th inning, or doing the Atlanta tomahawk chop as long as you do not do so in an excessive manner.

Rule 5: You may vote for Braves players to be represented in the All-Star game, but ONLY if your favorite team’s option is injured with no chance to play. Even then, you need to think long and hard about possible write-in options before punching out the box of your next choice.

Rule 6: If both the Braves and the Giants make the playoffs, there is NO excuse for missing the Giants game on TV, even if you manage to score sweet, free tickets to see the Braves. The only exception to this is if you plan on sabotaging the Braves in order to set up a more favorable matchup for the Giants in the next round.

Rule 7: Sabotaging your new hometown team is forbidden in all other circumstances.

Rule 8: If a player that you despise is signed by the Braves, you may, in moderation, boo said player, even if you are given evil stares by the fans around you. (For example, if Shane Victorino signed with the Braves, I would be obligated to make signs and say unflattering things to him, while still appreciating the team as a whole. It’s a balancing act.)

Rule 9: Enjoy yourself, but do not make a fool of yourself. Remember, you represent the Giants and you don’t want to give others a bad impression about us. Unless you’re a Yankee fan, in which case it’s impossible to make anything BUT a bad impression on others.

Rule 10: If your favorite team does not make, or is knocked out of the playoffs, you may cheer for your new hometown team to win the World Series, but only by making it clear to friends and co-workers that your favorite team would have totally kicked your new team’s butt if they were both still playing.

Stick to these 10 simple rules and you’ll easily be able to enjoy baseball in person wherever you live!

(-NW)