Even though I had my doubts when the Rangers drew the Rays in the first round, they still came through. For some reason I like the Rangers chances even more against the all mighty Yankees than I did against the Rays. Back in September when the Rangers swept the Yankees, I started to believe in them, and wrote a little about why. In that series they were without Josh Hamilton, and the Yankees were without A-Rod, so I figure those two injuries evened each other out lineup wise. What they got from that series more than anything was some extra confidence that they belong with the best. The Rangers have a swagger to them, there’s no way around it, and they’ve been that way all year. I know I brought this up in an older post, but I remember one game back in June when Ian Kinsler was yelling at the Angels players after the game in Arlington to get off their field. I thought it was kind of stupid since they played each other the next day, but it speaks volumes about this team’s mentality, and how together they are. I mean, how many teams would do a separate ginger ale celebration because one of their players is an addict? How many teams survive a manager’s dirty drug test? How many teams would have survived a bankruptcy during a season seeing guys that played in Texas eight years ago, still not being paid what was owed to them? Not many can go through that much turmoil in the workplace, but I think all those outside distractions just made them closer. They don’t roll over like the Twins did when things went wrong, they just move on to the next pitch. Continue reading
Tag Archives: pitching
I was all fired up to write a Cahill for the AL Cy Young Award last night, but sadly he got shelled for 8 runs by the Yankees. His ERA ended up ballooning from 2.43 to 2.82 dropping him from second to third in ERA. He held the lead in WHIP with an amazing 0.99, but that ballooned to 1.07 after last night, and now he’s now second behind Cliff Lee in that department. He was going to need to lead those key categories if he was going to have any chance in winning a Cy Young. Cahill missed April with an injury, so he had some ground to make up in innings pitched to be considered. Since he doesn’t strike out a lot of guys he needed to keep that ERA and WHIP down to get any Cy Young votes. He’s about as dominating a ground ball pitcher as you can be, but voters value K’s A LOT, so falling out of the lead of those two major categories might have pushed him out of the Cy talks. Until last night, he’d lasted five or more innings, and given up seven or fewer hits in all 23 of his starts. That was broken up yesterday, but the streak was still good enough for an Oakland record, which is surprising thinking of all the pitching greats that have donned the green and gold over the years. I ended up posting Stealing First Base last night, because I was rattled by this rare ugly start for our 22 year old sensation. If he’d shut down the Yankees, there would be more optimism in his Cy Young candidacy. At this moment, I can’t really put him at the top, so I’d probably drop him down to the second tier where I have CC, Bucholtz, and Wilson. He’s got a month left to get a new streak of zeros going, but the way Felix has been firing on all cylinders he’s the man to dethrone now.
If it was decided today, I’d would crown King Felix with the AL Cy Young. He’s been phenomenal after a so-so May. If he played for any team but Seattle, he’d at least have 15 wins. If he was on the Yankees he’d probably have as many wins if not more than CC’s 18. A 10-10 record isn’t anything to write home about, but I care a lot more about the pure pitching numbers, and the 24 year old is having another great season. He’s lost a number of games where his team only scored one run for him or in some cases was completely shut out. Nothing surprising coming out of Seattle since they own the lowest total amount of runs scored in all of baseball. They can’t even score as much as Pittsburgh! Just checking out his game log, it tells the story of his lack of run support. Quality start after quality start, and nothing in the win column to show for it. Over his last 15 starts he’s pitched at least 6.2 innings, and has given up only three runs three times, and two or less runs in the other twelve starts. He’s currently second in K’s (192), second in ERA (2.47), third in WHIP (1.11), leads in IP (204.1), and is holding hitters to a .225 BA (sixth best in the AL). I’ve found myself feeling sorry for the guy. Every time he goes out there he gets the least run support of any of the candidates, and the Seattle crowd knows it, giving him standing ovations even when he leaves the game behind on the scoreboard, because they know they are watching a great pitcher that gave them everything he had. Maybe I’m picking him because I thought he deserved it last year or because he’s on one of my fantasy teams. If it weren’t for Greinke’s freakish year that made Felix an afterthought when the award was handed out, he could be going for back to back awards. Even Greinke got better run support in his Cy Young season last year than Felix has had these past two seasons. I know the award isn’t given out based on a two year period, but consistency can be taken into considered in a year that the award could go either way. Kind of like when Kobe and Barkley won their MVP awards in the NBA. Kobe wasn’t the overly obvious choice for the award, but sometimes you have to reward someone that is at the top for an extended period of time. Same went for Barkley, they might have been tired of giving it to Jordan, so they threw in a change up and gave it to the big man who finished runner up a few times. If Felix keeps doing what he’s been doing, he should win the award! Now that I’ve said all that, I bet Felix gets blown up by the Angels tonight…
Who says money buys you championships!?! Oh yeah, the Yankees, well, there’s two teams that I never would’ve thought would be in first at any point this season let alone in there at the end of June. The Padres and Reds are both in the bottom third of payrolls, and have been pleasant surprises. I doubt anyone outside of their own fan bases would’ve thought either team would be in the hunt when the season started. Okay, maybe a couple people picked the Reds, but were they really confident about those picks? I actually didn’t even expect either of them to be above .500 outside of April, which is why I’ve been so intrigued with their rises out of seemingly nowhere. Every year we have at least one team making the playoffs that didn’t make it the previous year. The way we are heading right now we could see five or six teams make it in that weren’t in the playoffs last year. I feel like we are all waiting for them to fade, and just like Tampa Bay in 2008 we will wait and assume that collapse is coming. Can they prove us all wrong? Maybe. Although I’m not an NL guy, I’ve come to appreciate these two teams for showing me that there are multiple ways to get it done without spending like a billionaire. They both have executed their respective game plans to perfection playing within their means, and sticking to what they are good at to get to the top of their divisions. Sadly only one of these teams will be able to improve at the trade deadline, and I’m preying that the other one doesn’t sell off their stock just to lower the amount going to the ex-wife. Continue reading
Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics isn’t an overpowering pitcher, but as I said in my preview a month ago, he’s a gamer, and will give you everything he has when you put the ball in his hand. Whenever he’s on the mound he doesn’t back down. He’s already proved that twice this year. He proved that by telling A-Rod to get off his mound. He followed that up today by throwing a perfect game against one of the best teams in the leagues, Tampa Bay. I caught innings six through nine, and he never really looked nervous, just fired up the way he always is. After Kaplar fouled off what felt like 20 pitches in the 6th, Dallas cruised the rest of the way and only fell behind one hitter 3-1 after that. I was strangely confident that he was going to come through while I watched, maybe a little too confident for comfort. The main reason was because he threw a ton of strikes mixing up speeds and locations. He was hitting the target nearly every pitch. Since he’s not overpowering it was truly a masterful performance. Braden is a guy that didn’t seem like he was ever overwhelmed by it on the mound, he just kept dealing with one pitch at a time. He had a ton of friends and family including grandma on hand, as he bought out a lot of section 209 to watch the game. It was the first perfect game in Oakland since Catfish Hunter decades ago. Dave Stewart threw a no hitter in 1990, but there has been nothing since! I’m not sure if the difference was NOT having their normal catcher Kurt Suzuki behind the plate. Instead he had Landon Powell, his catcher he worked with routinely in AAA, and from what I saw he rarely shook off a pitch, so you have to give Powell a little of the credit. The one bad thing about this perfect game is if/when he does bean A-Rod, it will be more obvious because now everyone knows he has great control!
I’ve been searching for a solid baseball video game for awhile. And by awhile, I mean since 2007 when Electronic Arts stopped making their MVP baseball series. I tried out the 2K9 series last year, and thankfully I rented it opposed to buying it. The game was un-realistic to say the least. I also tried out The Bigs, and that one was even less like the real game, and felt more like NBA Jam (side note: I’m very excited about the new edition of Jam). Anyways, I think I’ve finally found my replacement for the EA MVP Series, and after about ten games played it is; Sony’s MLB 10 The Show.
The graphics are great, but they better be for every PS3 game. The best part about the game is obviously how much control you have over everything. The pitching is tough, and like real life the pitchers get angry, and over throw when they aren’t getting calls. It’s great how they did borderline pitches that are grazing or missing by millimeters. If your guy is on a streak of strikeouts, then when you slightly miss a corner the ump still gives it to you. It also works the other way when you can’t throw a strike, and you get squeezed on the corners having everything get called a ball. Fielding is fairly good, even though it randomly switches what player you are from time to time it usually changes you to the correct/closest person. They don’t make it super hard, and that’s a big plus, because I hate playing those games when a weak grounder ends up being an inside the park home run. Hitting is tough, but I think I’m getting the hang of it and finally not swinging at every pitch. If you square one up it’s usually out of the park. While hitting you can swing for the fence or you can use the left toggle to “go with the pitch” and spray it all over the field. All in all great gameplay, and I didn’t really scratch the surface of some of the truly cool features. I just wanted to let everyone know that if they are looking for a lifelike game this is it.
Another great feature in the franchise mode is the announcers. Yeah I know you rolled your eyes, but in this game they seem to not recycle the same phrases nearly as much. They also talk about the batters previous games. They will talk about how hot or cold they are and spit out stats like if they homered or went 3 for 3 or struck out five times. It’s pretty refreshing so far, because I don’t think I’ve really heard them repeat anything more than a couple times over about ten games. One downside is you have to listen to one of my most despised announcers, Rex Hudler. If you want to know how much I can’t stand him, read this one I wrote a little while back. Pretty good when the games can last an hour or more. Two thumbs up for the show! Oh, and so what if I only wrote this post because my hands were getting tired from playing!
I guess it might be a stretch, since none of the four teams residing in the AL West are truly considered a threat to knock the Yankees off their thrown, but is there really anyone that looks like they can derail the Yankees besides injuries? I don’t think so… Can you name the only division that had three teams finish the season with 85 wins? Surprisingly, it’s the AL West! Sure you can argue that the AL East had three 84 win teams, but the basement is a lot worse than it is in the West.
The Yankees have pushed over the $1 billion mark in payroll a long time ago, and the Red Sox aren’t all that far behind, so we’ve been trained to see the East as far superior. Surprisingly the AL West had a great record versus the East going 95-79 in 2009. I think the best team in the West (Angels) regressed a little over the off-season losing their horse/ace in Lackey, and their versatile infielder Figgins, and that has put the division up for grabs.
I felt that Seattle made the biggest push to be a force in the west by trading for a bonafied yearly Cy Young contender, Cliff Lee, and last year’s runner up Felix Hernandez was already there setting up one of the deadliest duos in the league. They also stole Figgins away from the Angels, which should get them two guys on base if Ichiro and Figgy are hitting one and two. Milton might be able to knock them in if he’s on the field for more than 80 games, but that’s a big IF.
The Rangers bolstered their roster, but there are question marks already on the health of the players they signed. Vlad seems past his prime, but if he can be productive anywhere, it’s going to be in Arlington where careers being revived happens. They also signed the often injured Rich Harden, which could be a boost if they have a plan b for all the starts he gets scratched from each year. They were in the race for the West crown up to the last couple weeks, and have a ton of young talent that will only be better this coming season. It seems like a lot of the experts are picking them to win the west this year, but those predictions don’t seem to have much confidence behind them.
I’ll do my A’s preview a little closer to the season when I’ve gathered all my expectations of them, but honestly, all I’m hoping for from them is to stay healthy for once. We’ve used the DL more over the past two years than anytime in franchise history, and broke records two straight years in a row for DL usage. Not a good stat for a young team trying to figure out what pieces go where, and far from a recipe for success! Not sure about the offense, but the pitchers must be happy to have a true ace on the staff in Sheets. They owned a better run differential than Seattle last year, so there’s some hope!
All in all, I’d say the top teams of the AL West aren’t as good as the AL East. From top to bottom though, the West has teams that will be able to pull out wins night in and night out. You know you aren’t getting that from Toronto or Baltimore, who have both probably already given up on this year. I’d say that one distinct advantage that the West has over the East is in the farm systems. The East gets better through buying free agents that most of the time we can’t afford, and the West gets better by building up their prospects from within. I’m pretty pumped to see how it all shakes out, and one thing is for sure, the West is up for grabs this year with none of the teams completely out of the picture. Can’t say the same for the AL East.
What really defines the best division in baseball? The degree of difficulty? The balance from top to bottom? General intrigue?
Maybe I’ve been worn down from all the northeastern hype, and the YES network, but I believe there’s a solid argument that the west is the “best” division in baseball!
About two years ago I joined a wiffle ball team, and it was pretty fun, and surprisingly competitive. I thought that it was pretty amazing that guys were throwing a wiffle ball that weighs an ounce forty feet at upwards of 50 mph! I’m not saying that it hurts to get hit by the ball, but I did get a few welts here and there from pitches. Although I only had one glorious wiffle season it made me respect guys that could make the ball go where they wanted it to. The video above is 2008 first round draft pick Pat Leahy. Yes, they do have drafts and free agency in wiffle ball. I guess it’s getting to be pretty big over on the east coast, where they do take it pretty damn serious! Fast Plastic is a growing league, and might be something worth checking to see if they have it in your area. Everything’s worth trying once!
Fantasy sports are always frustrating. A win feels mildly satisfying, but a loss can make you hate everything about the sport or want to quit fantasy sports altogether. I’ll be honest, many of my man crushes come from players I’ve had on my fantasy teams, and pure hatred for a player has also come from fantasy short comings. With the fantasy baseball championship round upon us, I find myself in the finals in one league and a battle for 5th place in my other league. I figured this would be as good a time as any to run through the fantasy MVP’s, and steals of the draft for the season. I’ll only focus on the league that I’m in the Championship for, which also happens to be the league that I’m in with the blog mates. Here was our draft results for your refrence (Chappy 81 – Salsa Valverde, MCeezy – Holy ShirtsandPants, Dyslecix – No Use For A Name)
MVP’s: Hanley Ramierez, Matt Holliday, and Joe Mauer deserve Co-MVP honors, and were three out of my first four picks. They are all ranked in the top twenty for the season, and undoubtedly helped my team get to the Championship round. Mauer should win the MVP award this season, but due to lame eastcoast media Jeter might skip away with the award much like Pedroia did.
Offensive steals of the draft: My team wouldn’t be where it is without Raul Ibanez (10th round) Carlos Pena (9th round), and Shin-Soo Choo (17th round). They were catalysts in my offensive power numbers combining for 86 of my teams 248 home runs on the season, which probably helped me win as nearly categories as the previous three mentioned players.
Offensive Bust of the Year: Milton Bradly. Although I didn’t pick him that high, I held onto him way too long. His season of below mediocrity explains itself.
Pitching and Steal of the draft: This year was always changing, but Felix Hernandez and Chris Carpenter were no doubt my horses. Chris Carpenter was the biggest steal I got on draft day as I picked him in the 19th round, and he ended up being the sixth ranked pitcher in Y! games. He is also looksing like a lock for his 2nd Cy young award this season posting 16 wins and a 2.34 ERA.
Honorable Mention: Jair Jurrens, my 16th round pick, had an outstanding year putting up 12 wins and a 2.45 ERA with 138 K’s.
MVP: Matt Kemp – This was a no brainer, as Kemp is the only player I had in the Top 25. He’s ranked #7 overall, as he’s amassed 25 HR and 34 Steals. He’s also on pace to eclipse 100 runs and 100 RBI as well. Nevermind the fact that he was a steal in the 3rd round (28th overall), Matt Kemp is a definite fantasy franchise player.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Broxton – Anchored a shaky corps of closers contributing 35 saves and 107 Ks in only 70 IP.
Steal of the Draft: Justin Verlander – I called this pick the steal of the draft before the season started, and his first few outings made me look like a fool. However, to this point, Verlander has 16 wins and a 3.44 ERA to go with his MLB leading 245 Ks. His slip in the draft is attributed to an injury riddled 08 campaign that produced some pretty ugly numbers. So, getting a player of his caliber in the 11th round (124th overall) and seeing him ranked 27th in the fantasy ranks is a steal indeed!
Honorable Mention: Adam Lind – 17th round. 196th overall. 30+ HR, 100+ RBI. None of the other 16 guys I picked before him put up bigger numbers.
Bust of the Draft: David Wright – Hard to call a guy who’s ranked #52 a bust, but when you chose him 4th overall, and you really wanted to take Braun, who ended up the 6th best fantasy player this year, it stings a little. Actually a lot, seeing as how I don’t even want to keep the guy as one of my three keepers. His average and stolen base totals were nice, but I was really expecting more than 10 HR and 60 RBI from my first round pick. Could’ve been worse…. I could’ve had Jose Reyes or Grady Sizemore.
Honorable Mention: Mike Aviles – Tempting to include Nate McLouth (5th rd) or Scott Kazmir (8th rd) since they were picked higher, but Aviles’ complete lack of production gives him the nod. I chose him in the 12th rd, two picks after Nelson Cruz, and basically handed him my SS spot. 1 HR and 8 RBI later, Aviles was done for the year, exiting with a stellar .183 batting average.
Co-MVP’s: Chase Utley & Ryan Howard - I remember logging on to our baseball draft at the start of the year and being sick that I was drafting at 11. Typically sitting at the backend of a draft can pay off and has its distinct advantages, however I typically want to avoid this draft spot in baseball for a variety of reasons. That despair quickly turned into optimism when big slugging Howard and his fabulous Philly counterpart Utley fell to 11 and 15 respectively. Any big baseball fan will be well aware of there numbers so I skip them, however offensively I have ridden them to a fantasy final for a 2nd time, and feel extremely good riding them the last two weeks for the title itself.
Honorable Mention: Jason Bay – Shocked he survived the entire turn back to me in the 4th round, his 35 home runs have been the perfect power addition to Utley and Howard. Although his batting average of .268 leaves much to be desired from a fantasy geek perspective, he easily deserves mention in anybody fantasy team MVP discussion.
Steal of the Draft: Andre Either – At the time I thought little of this pick in the 11th round, I knew the upside was there along several different categories but didn’t think much more about it. 31 home runs and 101 RBI’s later he easily goes down as my steal of the draft. By the way are you picking up on the trend here? My fantasy team this year was sporting some real power this year!! The real question I have now with Either is what’s his possible peak? Do I keep him next year over Jason Bay? Alas, a different topic for another day.
Honorable Mention: Heath Bell – In years past I’ve always discounted closers during my fantasy drafts, and by and large ignored them completely. However, over the last couple of years I have a new strategy with how to utilize them, and thus look for upside closers like Bell late in drafts. 37 saves later along 72 K’s he was a core aspect of my pitching staff all year long. With a price tag of a 16th round pick, he could easily have been my main steal of the draft as well.
Bust of the draft: Francisco Liriano – I’ll admit I was blinded by his pre-Tommy John career and thus most likely reached drafting him in the 5th round of the draft. Granted there isn’t a way to have forecasted such a terrible year, but I most likely should have looked else where drafting my first pitcher. In hind sight Adam Wainwright was the clear choice I dropped the ball on. As the baseball season winds down, Liriano can boast a brief stint in AAA, a demotion to the bullpen, and an ERA of 5.71 in only 119 innings. The word “bust” can’t describe my draft pick any better, and maybe it’s to understated, perhaps “Nuclear Implosion” is a bit better?
Honorable Mention: Cameron Maybin – Not much to say about this one. We drafted this year with the understanding that we were going to keeping three players for the following year, and Maybin was a gamble on the keeper front. Less then a month into the season it was readily apparent he couldn’t turn on MLB pitching and was getting over powered on a regular basis. Perhaps his upside will surface in the years to come, but this year wasn’t it for him. The cost of a 14th round pick was pricy for a player who I cut less than a month into the season.
The A’s had their fans hopes sky high going into this season after making many moves and signings to acquire talent, instead of their normal MO of trading away talent. One thing led to another, and we found that the guys we signed either weren’t that good in an A’s uniform, or were just plain old. This season has been a disappointment to say the least especially with some of the experts picking them to win the AL West at the beginning of the year. Those dreams were quickly dashed as we saw Matt Holliday consistently getting fooled by pitches, and taking the crown for most fly ball outs since Eric Chavez was healthy and playing. Once his trade to the Cardinals went through Oakland once again had hope for the future. At the time of the trade all A’s fans wanted was a bag of peanuts for Holliday, but instead we got what looks like a great hitter in the near future with Brett Wallace, and a possible good end of the rotation pitcher in Mortensen.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been paying that much attention to them since they dipped below the 20 games out of first. Alas, they have been playing very good as of late, which has inspired me to pay attention to them again. Maybe it’s because the games don’t matter, or maybe it’s because they have finally adopted a new style of play since their most recent rebuilding began. Since being swept by Seattle on August 26th, they’ve won or tied every series since, going 16-6, and are currently on a seven game win streak. Once again, A’s fans will be able to go into the off-season hoping that a fresh start will rid us of our recent losing ways.
The A’s main failings over the past couple season’s have all pointed to their incompetence on offense, and since getting rid of Holliday, Giambi, and Cabrera they’ve surprisingly done much better in that department. Post All-Star break, the A’s have led the league in stolen bases, doubles, and are third in runs scored. For a team that never used to steals bases, and isn’t known for manufacturing runs, it’s refreshing to see them make a change for what suits their players. The always referenced “Moneyball” will finally be an afterthought, as they seem to be turning to a new page. I haven’t read anywhere that they’ve had a change in philosophy, but it’s pretty obvious if you ever pay attention to them. Even Rajai Davis, a guy I never thought I’d like, is tearing it up. He stole his 40th bag of the season last night against Cleveland, and is the first big threat on the base-paths since Rickey Henderson was around. Rex Hudler, the Angels announcer, whom I completely despise, actually made a good point about the A’s and how they have adapted to so called “Angel way” of manufacturing runs. He likes how they are putting pressure on opposing defenses to worry about runners taking off at any given moment, which opens holes in the infield for more of those dribblers to get through. In a post steroid era the A’s can’t rely on power as much as they once did as we all know it was rampant in the Bay Area. So the shift to stealing bases and manufacturing runs has looked like the a good change in their philosophy, and is starting to pay dividends in the win column late in the season.
The greatest part about these late season stats is the fact that this isn’t even the reason I’m optimistic for next season. I’m excited about the guys going to be in our offense of the future. Sure guys like Kurt Suzuki are going to be mainstays in the lineup for awhile, but since everybody digs the long ball, A’s fans should be very excited about the two power hitters coming to Oakland sooner rather than later. 3rd baseman, Brett Wallace (#2 in Baseball Prospectus) and 1st baseman, Chris Carter (#4 in Baseball Prospectus) are the new reasons there is optimism in Oakland. They’ve already contributed to the Sacramento Rivercats (AAA) team during their playoff run for a PCL championship. Carter had three home runs in one game since being called up from AA about a month ago, and he is the closest to Ryan Howard type hitter the A’s have in their farm system. Many point to Carlos Gonzalez as the biggest position player gained in the Dan Haren deal, but Chris Carter has the potential to have much more power than C-Gon. It also looks as though we kept the best pitcher from the Haren deal as well in Brett Anderson, who has had a rocky season, but has shown that he has ace type stuff. Brett Wallace should be on the other corner for the A’s infield solidifying a position that’s been a problem since Chavez went on the DL, about three seasons ago. Personally Wallace reminds me of Troy Glaus, and if we got that I’d be pretty happy. If the A’s can continue to steal bases and hit doubles the way they have been at the end of this season, and add the power of Wallace and Carter to the lineup they will undoubtedly have a chance to challenge the Angels for years to come.
Their pitching has been shaky at times this year, and may continue to stay that way as their under 25 year old rotation learns the ropes. Between Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Vin Mazzaro, Gio Gonzalez, and maybe Justin Duchscherer (if he snaps out of his depressed mental state) we should have a solid rotation come next season. The young guys have taken their lumps this season, but they have also shown that they can shut teams and shown glimmers of domination. This year should have taught them the ropes as they find out what types of adjustments they need to make going into the off-season to prevent those crooked numbers from going up on the score board. Michael Inoa is a long way from being called up, but he’s another young guy I will be keeping my eye on, especially since we gave him a Strausberg like contract for a 16-year-old, which I still feel is kind of ridiculous. All in all I couldn’t ask for much more from our management on a tight budget. You just have to hope it all pans out!