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Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – May 12, 2013

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On today’s episode of The Sully Baseball Daily Podcast, I honor baseball mothers, especially the mom who produced the three Molina brothers and also the Waner brothers.

I also wonder if there are superstitions that foil someone trying to hit for the cycle.

Mark Buehrle, Jose Tabata, Adam Wainwright and Justin Morneau owned baseball on May 11, 2013.

To see the up to date tally of “Who Owns Baseball?,” click HERE.

Subscribe on iTunes HERE.

Sully Baseball Daily Podcast – May 12, 2013

 

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The All-Bargain 2012 MLB Free Agency Team

 

Monday November 21, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  Every baseball offseason, we all seem to fall into a familiar trap.  The focus always seem to be on the “prize” free agents, while bargains always seem to be had (especially when the big spenders have reached their budgets).  So while Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson and company are the majority of the headlines- are they truly the difference makers? Getting quality players that are more economical may in fact have a stronger impact on a team that is looking to compete.  It allows for a team to fill needs while devoting financial resources to other resources, including scouting, signing draft picks and locking up younger players before they hit free agency.  Remember: a team has many expense areas but only a certain amount of money to go around. Devoting $100 million+ to 1 player tends to significantly limit a team, regardless of the strength of such a player.  “Spreading the wealth” so to speak, will limit the risk of putting all the eggs in one basket.  It is a similar to diversification of stocks.  A well-rounded portfolio will tend to outperform most others.  But if those assets can be acquired at a reduced cost, the return will look even better.

Now, imagine that we were going to build a starting lineup based purely on free agents.  What available free agents would give a team the best bang for the buck? If we were to look at the 2012 MLB free agency list, our All-Bargain team would probably look a little something like this:

C:  Ryan Doumit (starter) and Jose Molina (backup): At approximately $5 million combined, Doumit and Molina should offer fairly solid production at a reasonable rate.  Doumit also offers versatility by playing first and some outfield.  If (and when) Doumit gets injured, Molina can handle the starting chores for a stretch with a minor leaguer backing up.  In my estimation Doumit has the potential to breakout in a Mike Napoli manner.  He has the skills and power.  The guy just has to stay healthy.  As far as overall offense and defense from the catching position, there are fewer solid backups that Jose- part of the great “Catching Molinas.”

1B:  Carlos Pena:  This one area that I am prepared to splurge.  For all the talk of the low average, Pena should offer good power, a solid OBP and gold glove defense.  At approximately $10 million per season, he will still be a bargain to the other heavyweights at the position.  This is one area that you need top-notch offense and Pena should deliver again in 2012.

2B:  Kelly Johnson:  See Carlos Pena but at a more reasonable ticket price.  Johnson has a strong knack for getting on base and has excellent power for the position.  He is a gamer that will always have a spot on my team.

SS:  Ramon Santiago:  You can’t fully appreciate what Santiago offers unless you watch him on a daily basis.  Few infielders have a glove as strong as his.  While not the most gifted offensive player, he can chip in the occasional big hit while holding his own as a #8 or #9 hitter.  Another versatile player to have on the roster.  Options are always good.

3B:  Kevin Kouzmanoff:  The “Crushin’ Russian” is on the squad.  Yes, I am still holding out hope that he will come together.  I would take a chance on a breakout.  At the very least you will get good “D” and some offense at a bargain basement price.  If he doesn’t come together, I would grab Casey Blake or Wilson Betemit to sit on the bench if they come dirt cheap.

CF:  Grady Sizemore:  I like the style of Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick.  I would have been at Sizemore’s house on the first day of free agency as well.  Given his high upside and apparent health, I would sign him as quickly as possible.  If you get even 75% of the old Sizemore, you still have a likely All-Star.

LF:  Raul Ibanez:  I’ve heard about his defense.  But I am still signing him.  Rauuuuul will come at a fraction of his last big contract.  The man owns his own rejuvenation chamber and still has the body of a 35-year old.  Strong leader, 20+ home runs and all at a maximum of cost $5 million per season.  Mark him sold.

RF:  J.D. Drew:  Hungry for one more big contract?  With Scott Boras as his agent, this on-base machine should be hungry to prove that he is healthy and productive.  He may cost $3 million per season.  Well worth the risk.  Just to cover ourselves, Johnny Damon is also coming on board as a 4th outfielder.  Between Sizmore, Ibanez, Drew and Damon, we should be able to run out an outfield most days.  If David DeJesus or Rick Ankiel are prepared to hang around as 5th outfielders/designated hitters, we may find some spare cash for them as well.

DH:  If we are talking non-National League team, then we HAVE to grab Josh Willingham as our designated hitter.  Or even a right fielder if we must.  The Hammer still carries a heavy bat and should anchor the offense.  He still has a couple of more productive years in him.  He should come at a relative bargain price considering 25+ home run bats are not easy to come by.

SP:  Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Aaron Harang, Paul Maholm, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis:  From these six selected starters, we should have ourselves a fairly decent rotation.  Pitching is one of the most difficult areas on any roster to fill, especially starters.  You have to catch lightning in a bottle and hope many factors, especially health, work out.  Maholm and Harang should be our “aces” with approximately 12 wins a-piece.  Capuano will be the third starter, who should be even better with another healthy year under his belt.  Between Chen, D-Train and Penny, we will count on veteran inning-eaters who are able to squeeze out wins.  Not the team’s greatest source of strength, but all six of these pitchers combined will cost less per season that C.C. Sabathia on his own.

RP:  Matt Capps, Jonathan Broxton, Jeremy Accardo, Shawn Camp, Fernando Rodney, Damaso Marte, J.C. Romero:  Going with the Tony La Russa formula, we are putting together a veteran pen with several closing options.  If at full strength, Broxton should be the ninth inning guy.  Otherwise, the role will fall to Capps or Rodney.  Accardo and Camp should be decent middle relievers with Marte and Romero balancing out the pen.  Used to their capabilities, our pen should help us contend.

Conclusion:  Building a team on a budget is not the easiest process.  This team will cost us likely north of $80 million dollars, but should stay under the magical $100 million mark.  Considering it is a team built from scratch and based on availability, “Team MLB Reports” should be a veteran squad that stays in the pennant race.  Even with the relative slim pickings in some areas, this year’s free agency squad offers value at most positions.  While no teams will be built based solely on free agency this year, there are enough complimentary parts that any Major League team can find good value.  It is just a question of shopping smart and buying at the right time.

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Rangers Win Game 4: 2011 World Series Tied 2-2 and Preview of Game 5

Monday October 24, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays and Prospects Writer – MLB reports):  Already down 2-1 in the series, the Texas Rangers were craving a win against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.  Especially after being outscored 16-7 the game before.  And, with Derek Holland on the mound – – that’s exactly what they got.

The scoring started early for Texas when Josh Hamilton doubled in Elvis Andrus, giving the Rangers the early 1-0 lead in the first.

From then on in, Edwin Jackson settled in, allowing only one hit after the first inning. It was not the hits that hurt him though, but rather the walks.

In the fifth inning, after Jackson walked David Murphy and Nelson Cruz, Jackson was replaced by Mitchell Boggs to face power-hitter Mike Napoli.

So what did Napoli do? You guessed it – hit a home run – a three-run shot and his second of the series. His monster shot gave the Rangers a 4-0 lead.

That would be how the game ende,d as the Cardinals were only able to manage two hits the entire game and only once had a runner past first base (Lance Berkman’s double in the second).

While Napoli was a key reason to the Rangers’ win, the player of the game was certainly Derek Holland who went 8 1/3 innings, allowing only two hits, while striking out seven and walking two.

Interestingly, the two batters he walked came in the ninth inning, before he was replaced by Neftali Feliz, who got Albert Pujols (who went 5-5 with three homers the game before) to fly out and Matt Holliday to strike out to end the game.

The dominance of the Rangers pitching on the mound this night allowed the bullpen to take it easy who had already been overworked from allowing 16 runs the game before.

On Monday, the Cardinals look to regain the lead as they sent their ace, Chris Carpenter to the mound. With that said – the Rangers are hoping C.J. Wilson will rebound from his loss in game 1 and get the win to give them their first lead of the series.  Game time is 8:05 PM ET from Arlington.  From there, the World Series shifts to St. Louis.  The winner of tonight’s game will be only 1 game away from winning the 2011 World Series.  Given Carpenter’s dominance as shown in this year’s playoffs, St. Louis appears to have the edge over Texas and a struggling Wilson.  But as Holland showed last night, anything can happen in baseball on any given night.  Tonight’s game promises to be a classic.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage

Expanding the MLB Postseason: More Wild Card Teams Coming

Friday October 21, 2011

MLB reports – Rob Bland:  Expanding the playoffs has been a hot topic for many years now.  While the move will not be as drastic as when the MLB added the first wild card team in each league, it has drawn the ire from a lot of critics.  In 1994, MLB was to use the postseason system currently in place; however the season was cut short due to a player strike.  It was then that the MLB went to three divisions in each league (East, Central, and West) as well as a wild card team (the best non-divisional winner record in the league).  The American league Divisional winners would have been the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox in the Central and Texas Rangers in the West (with a record of 52-61).  Conversely, the Cleveland Indians would have been the wild card winners at 66-47.  In the National League, the East would have been won by the Montreal Expos, who had the MLB’s best record of 74-40.  The Central and West would have been won by the Cincinnati Reds and LA Dodgers, respectively, while the wild card winner would have been the Atlanta Braves.

However, due to the strike, which also shortened the following season, 1995 was the first year this system actually came into play.  This season saw a shortened 144 game schedule.  The NL East winners, Atlanta Braves had to go through the slugging Colorado Rockies; the first NL wild card team.  They then faced the Reds, and the eventual World Series Champions Cleveland Indians.  The Indians took a very peculiar path to the World Series.  After leading the MLB with a 100-44 record, the Indians faced the Boston Red Sox, winners of the AL East, who had the 2nd best record in the American League.  The Yankees were the wild card winners, who were defeated by the Seattle Mariners in the AL Division Series.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the commissioner, Bud Selig, with the MLB and its players’ union expires in December of this year, and an extension of five years is expected to be reached any day.  One of the main hold-ups to a deal is the addition of another wild card team.  The 2nd best non-divisonal winner would get into the playoffs.  This may not seem like much, where every other major sports league in North America has at least 3 “wild card” teams, but in baseball, tradition is always at the top of people’s minds.  Adding a team to each league’s postseason picture could lengthen the MLB season, which is something that is a major concern to most people involved in the process.

One option that was bandied around was to have the two wild card teams face off in a best 2 out of 3 series.  The advantage of this short series is that both teams that didn’t win their division would have to play extra games while the winners get a short break to recuperate their injured players.  Also, the extra games give opportunities to more teams to earn extra postseason revenue, which benefits the league.  However, the extra 2-4 days off that the other teams would have to endure could also cause a team to lose its momentum gained at the end of the season.

However, it is believed that the MLB will go to a one game sudden death playoff between the two wild card teams.  In my opinion, the biggest advantage to this is that it gives the winner of the game a monumental disadvantage going into the second round.  The wild card teams would be forced to pitch their ace in the playoff, and therefore would not be able to pitch until at least game 3 of the next round.  This means the team’s best starter would only get one start in a best of 5 series.  Not only would the team with the best record in the league have home-field advantage, but they would see their opponent’s best pitcher in only one game.

In the current state of the MLB postseason, ten wild card teams have made it to the World Series, out of a possible 34 teams going back to 1995, including 2011.  Roughly 29% of wild card teams make it into the World Series.  If you figure that 1 out of 4 teams in each league make it to the World Series, or 25%, then you have a better chance of making it as a wild card than as a divisional winner.  Four World Series have been won by wild card teams.  25% of World Series have been won by a team that should have a distinct disadvantage, but obviously do not.  It is due to this that MLB must make it a bigger hindrance for not winning your division.  Playing an extra game, extra travel and burning your ace are ways to weaken a wild card team’s chance of making it to the World Series.

With the union and MLB reps meeting every day trying to hammer out the extension for the CBA, you should see the added teams in the playoffs in 2012 or 2013.  It is widely expected that the deal will be reached in the middle of the World Series to take advantage or the added publicity it would gain.  I am fairly certain that the new playoff format will come into effect for the 2012 season, and there will be a lot of teams looking to push the envelope and make an appearance.

 

 World Series:  Game 2 Recap

Game 2 was a bit of a surprise, as Jaime Garcia, whom many picked to implode in this guy, had a great start.  Through 7 solid innings, he gave up only 3 hits and 1 walk to 7 strike outs.  Colby Lewis was equally as impressive until the 7th inning, where he was able to strike Matt Holliday out to lead off the inning.  David Freese then singled and Yadier Molina flew out.  Nick Punto then hit a ground ball towards first base that went off of Michael Young’s glove and into right field, moving Freese to third.  With runners on the corners and one out in the 7th, Alexi Ogando came in to face the hitter in the pitcher’s spot.  That hitter: Allen Craig.  The same hero of game 1 that hit a single to right field that scored the go ahead and eventual winning run.  Craig promptly lined a ball to right field to score David Freese, breaking the dead lock.

What would a playoff game be without drama? Jason Motte came in the 9th to close out the 1-0 game.  So far in the postseason, he had given up 1 hit in 29 plate appearances.  Ian Kinsler led off the inning with a bloop single off the end of the bat.  Elvis Andrus came up to the plate and looked to get a sac bunt on the ground, but Kinsler decided to take matters in his own hands, and stole second base by the smallest of margins.  Andrus then lifted a 2-2 pitch to center field for a single.  While Kinsler was held at 3rd, Cardinals CF Jon Jay threw the ball wide of the cutoff man, which allowed Andrus to slide safely into 2nd base.

Manager Tony La Russa then yanked Motte for lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Josh Hamilton.  On the first pitch, he hit a fly ball to right that scored Kinsler and advanced Andrus to third.  Even more like La Russa, he brought in Lance Lynn to face Michael Young, who hit a 3-2 curveball deep enough to center to scored Andrus, and the Rangers lead the game 2-1.

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz took the mound in the bottom of the 9th and walked Yadier Molina on 5 pitches 97 mph or faster, hitting 100 on the radar gun with the first pitch.  Nick Punto came to the plate, bunted two balls foul up around his eyes, then swung feebly to strike out.  Feliz then struck out Skip Schumaker and induced a fly ball off the bat of Rafael Furcal to seal the victory.

With the series tied at one game apiece, an off day tomorrow and game 3 slated for Saturday night in Texas, this series is only going to get better.  Keep checking MLB reports for your daily fix of updates on the World Series.

 

Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap for Monday October 10th

 

Tuesday October 11, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Monday was a fun day of baseball.  These two games had strong performances from superstar players who led their team to victory.  One team took a defining step forward by winning their 2nd game of the series, while one team fought to even their series up.  Let’s start with the first game of the day which was a thrilling ballgame in Texas.

 

Detroit Tigers at Texas Rangers:  ALCS Game Two

The Rangers jumped out to an early lead thanks to Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre who both hit RBI doubles in the bottom of the first.  They both jumped on Max Scherzer‘s fastball, which he was consistently throwing early in the count.  Derek Holland showed the poise of a veteran, getting Ramon Santiago to ground out with the bases loaded in the second.  Things weren’t exactly easy for Holland on Monday, as evidenced as Ryan Raburn‘s three run homer in the third.  This was a crucial hit because it gave the Tigers an early 3-2 lead.  Ron Washington had a very short rope with Holland, he pulled him after Holland had only thrown 2.2 innings.  Holland really struggled to throw even two innings, he just didn’t have his command.  He did nothing to dismiss chatter of his inconsistency by throwing 76 pitches in his limited appearance.  Still, Scott Feldman played the role of dominant long reliever needing only 49 pitches to throw 4.1shutout innings in relief.  Scherzer surrendered a 1-2 fastball to Nelson Cruz who hit out to left field to tie things up.  Scherzer had just thrown three straight sliders and Cruz must have just been waiting back on the fastball.  Going into the season, Nelson Cruz was my dark horse MVP pick.  He is just a monster, i seriously believe he could have a .300 AVG, 45 HR, 100 Runs, and 100 RBI type season.  The main thing holding Cruz back for superstardom these past couple years has been injuries.  In particular, his hamstring injury stints have been lengthy and costly to his ballclub.

In the top of the ninth, Neftali Feliz escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting Victor Martinez to hit an infield fly.  Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Rangers had the bases loaded with no outs!  The sometimes annoying, but overall effective, Jose Valverde got David Murphy to fly out to shallow left field, which was not enough for Beltre to tag up.  Next, he made a huge 2-2 pitch to get Mitch Moreland to ground into a double play to retire the side.  In the top of the 10th, the Tigers had a runner on second with only one out, but they just couldn’t drive the run in.  This game was really an offensive struggle for both teams, especially trying to drive runners in scoring position in.  In the bottom of the 11th, Ryan Perry came into the game to pitch for the Tigers.  He gave up three consecutive singles to load the bases.  Then he threw a 1-2 slider to Nelson Cruz who crushed it to left field to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the series.  This was the first ever walk-off grand slam in postseason history.  This was an amazing game, and i feel sorry for you if you missed the chance to witness history in the making at the Ballpark in Arlington.  The series will shift to Detroit where the two teams will face off Tuesday at 8:05 ET.  Colby Lewis will start for the Rangers while Doug Fister will start for the Tigers.  It should be a pretty fun game, and a vital game for the Tigers to get their first win of the series.

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers:  NLCS Game Two

Fresh off a tough 9-6 loss on Sunday, the Cardinals came out and dominated the Brewers on Monday.  Albert Pujols got things started with a two-run home run in the top of the first.  Then, when Pujols faced Shaun Marcum again in the third, he ripped a two-run double off the center field wall.  In the top of the fourth, Nick Punto singled to center field scoring Yadier Molina from third.  The Brewers weren’t completely mute, Rickie Weeks belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.  Shaun Marcum had another rough outing, he has given up 13 runs in 8.2 innings this postseason.  He has been hit hard in both of his outings, but after the game Manager Ron Roenicke suggested that Marcum would pitch again this series if the Brewers needed him.  In the top of the fifth, Albert Pujols collected his third extra base hit of the day, an RBI double to score Jon Jay.  Pujols came around to score on a Marco Estrada wild pitch.  The Cardinals also strung together six straight hits in the 7th to really blow open the lead.  Prince Fielder hit a moonshot in the bottom of the eighth, and David Freese also homered in the ninth.  Edwin Jackson turned in another decent start.  Despite getting hit around a little bit, he only gave up two runs in 4.1 innings.  The real stud of this game was debatably the best hitter in baseball, Albert Pujols.  Pujols finished 4 for 5 with 5 RBI.  The series will move to St.Louis all tied up.  Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers against Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals. The game is Wednesday at 8:05 PM  ET.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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The Toronto Blue Jays Reinvented

MLB reports:  2011 has been one of the most anticipated seasons in Blue Jays history. A young GM in Alex Anthopoulos has reinvented the organization from the top-down. From the hiring of experienced front office advisors, new scouts, John Farrell as manager, strong drafting and trades/ free agent signings, this is certainly not your father’s Blue Jays.

With three games already in the books, let’s take a look at some key aspects of the newest incarnation of the Jays:

1) Farrell plays to win. From switching up his lineups, getting his bench involved, pinch hits, pinch runners, pitching changes- John Farrell is an active manager. Whereas Cito Gaston was criticized for sitting on his hands, it is doubtful that Farrell sits for a moment during a game. I really like Farrell’s managing approach. If nothing else, the Jays of 2011 will never be boring.

2) Kyle Drabek is for real.  All Drabek did to start the year was take a no-hitter into the 6th and consistently throw strikes. Showing maturity beyond his years, Drabek looks to be a fixture in the Jays rotation for the next decade or so.

3) The Jays catching will be solid.  J.P. Arencebia crushed 2 home runs on opening day and Molina hit one of his own in the 2nd game of the series. Both catchers have looked comfortable behind the plate and working well with the pitching staff. Arencebia is no Johnny Bench yet, but he hits the ball hard every time out. He looks to be the next MLB catching superstar.

4) Jose is worth every penny. For the doubters of Jose Bautista, he has picked up where he left off last year. From crushing big home runs, taking walks and playing solid D, Bautista has become the face of the franchise. He is a threat every time at the plate and is receiving the respect of opposing teams. For those keeping score, Vernon Wells is hitting about .150 for the Angels thus far.

5) Adam Lind is getting there. Brian Butterfield has clearly worked hard with Lind at 1st and he is becoming above average to good in the field. Lind has also become a great clean up hitter for the Jays and should benefit from hitting behind Jose. A note to Adam though: no more first pitch ground outs with the bases loaded and two outs in the 9th inning anymore please.

6) Travis Snider is truly a superstar in the making. Please see my post on Travis from Saturday. Snider has a new stance and is much more patient at the plate. Snider had key walks and hits all weekend long. He also showcased his cannon in left on Sunday and I can see gold gloves and silver sluggers in his future.

7) The bullpen is stocked. Farrell has many weapons in his pen on any given night. From Francisco, Camp, Janssen, Rauch etc, the Jays have one of their deepest pens in history. Any starter that can give the Jays lead after 6 innings will give the team a high chance of victory. The Jays strong pen makes the team a force every game.

8) Speed. When healthy, the combination of Rajai Davis and Yunel Escobar gives the Jays boppers with an abundance of chances to drive in runs. Both Davis and Escobar are strong with their bats and legs. Having a running game gives the home run happy Jays a better balanced offense and nightmares for opposing pitchers.

9) Edwin Encarnacion and Juan Rivera. The weak link of the 2011 Jays, both men look lost at the plate. Worse, EE looks even more clueless in the field. After three games it is safe to say that no ball hit to third is safe when Encarnacion is out there. A better filler is in order until the Lawrie era begins. Rivera further is another frustration case who is only in Toronto as a salary dump by the Angels in the Vernon Wells deal. A free agent at year’s end, the rope for Rivera should be very short.

10) The atmosphere and vibe.  I have not seen Toronto this excited about the Jays in 18 years. The Jays shop had lineups all weekend and fans were cheering and on their feet throughout all of the games. With all of Toronto’s other sports teams in the gutter, the Blue Jays have a prime opportunity to become Toronto’s #1 team as well as reclaim its status as the face of Canadian sports.

 

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