Posted on: March 30, 2010 8:50 pm
With the start of the baseball season less than one week away (yes, a week , with Red Sox vs. Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball), it means only thing: it is time to dust off the magic eight-balls, look into the future and predict where the 30 teams will end up at the end of the season.
(I should point out that I won a pool last season in which we made predictions about the 2009 season before its start, and so needless to say, when I use the word "prediction" I am really meaning "cerifiable locks and spoilers" for the 2010 season.
Let's start with the American League East:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, I know the Yankees are defending champs, and they had a great 2009 season. But I am not impressed with the moves that they made to stay atop the best division in baseball. CBSSports.com has the Yankees, Sox, and Rays as the top three teams in baseball heading into Opening Day, and with those other teams, the Yankees needed to do better than Javier Vasquez and Curtis Granderson. Vasquez will disappoint again as he did during his first tour in New York (he's simply an N.L. pitcher) and Granderson has to fill the roles of three outfielders (Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Melky Cabrera - also with no Xavier Nady returning). As for the rest of the team, well this year simply makes them one year older. The Sox will indeed have enough offense to back the best all around pitching staff in baseball. The Rays remain essentially the same, but will get more from Pat Burrell and B.J. Upton. The Orioles have good, but raw, young talent (this will be Adam Jones' coming out party), enough to leapfrog the Blue Jays out of last place, who will be the designated whipping-boy of the mighty A.L. East.
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Chicago White Sox
3. Detriot Tigers
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals
Traditionally a mediocre division, the Central is shapping up to be... well, mediocre, again . Last year, the Twins made a late run to win the division last season, and they have improved by adding players such as Orlando Hudson, and have enough to overcome the loss of closer Joe Nathan. (This only means that the Twins will not have to wait to the last day of the season to win the division with only 85 wins.) The White Sox have gotten better, with a very strong rotation headed by Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy. But their success is not automatic, with Buerhle falling off after his perfect game, and Peavy struggling from injuries recently, and offensively, they will be forced to rely on busts (Alex Rios), aging veterans (Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones) and still developing youngsters (Gordon Beckam, Alexei Ramirez) to fill in around Carlos Quentin. Detriot remains a couple of starters away from the playoffs, while Cleveland and Kansas City will compete for "quickest A.L. team to 100 losses."
1. Seattle Mariners
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Oakland Athletics
Possibly the most interesting and exciting division in baseball in 2010. The Mariners stand as one of the most improved teams in all of baseball, adding Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins and Casey Kotchman. The Lee-Felix Hernandez 1-2 punch is one of the best in baseball. The Rangers also figure to be stronger, with ample pitching and an always impressive offense. But, perhaps most importantly for the Mariners and Rangers is what is absent from the Angels, long the dominant team in this division. They lost depth everywhere, but remain the same fundamental team of the small ball philosophy, which can always prove to be difficult to play against in September. They have a decent lineup, but no power outside of Kendry Morales, and Matsui and Joel Piniero were not the solutions to the holes in the lineup and rotation left by Figgins and John Lackey, and their bullpen also remains an issue. As for Oakland, not all is as bad as it seems. They have serious young pitching depth and a their first real base-stealer/leadoff hitter since Rickey Henderson in Rajai Davis. They, like the Orioles, are definitely moving in the right direction, but luckily for the Athletics they play in sunny California in the now suddenly wide-open A.L. West, which could start to attract a free-agent bat or two.
A.L. Wild Card:
New York Yankees
Is there any chance that the Wild Card will come out of any division besides the A.L. East in the forseeable future? I really cannot envision a situation where that would come about. Although the Rangers and White Sox may be worthy of post-season play, there is no way that two teams from the Central or West will win more games than either the Sox, Yankees, or Rays. Whoever wins the East should do so with around 100 wins, where the second place team will likely have at least 95, and that is just too many games for anyone else to keep pace.
Red Sox vs. Twins
Mariners vs. Yankees
These teams matchup well with each other, but it comes down to the Red Sox and Yankees having more talent in the bottom half of their roster. The Twins do not have the depth in the rotation to hang with Boston, and the Yankees overpowering style of offense will lead to another ALCS rivalry.
Result: Red Sox, Yankees, both in 4
Red Sox vs. Yankees
The two best teams in the A.L. will feature two of the best rotations in baseball. The Yankees have the advantage on the offensive side, but the Red Sox have the pitching depth. The Yankees would likely have to use CC Sabathia twice in the ALDS, while the Sox can afford to only use their starters once, which means that the Beckett/Lackey/Lester order is preserved for this series. The Sox bullpen is also stronger, as is their bench.
Result: Red Sox in 6
N.L. previews coming soon.
Tags: Adam Jones, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, Andruw Jones, B.J. Upton, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Carlos Quentin, Casey Kotchman, Chicago White Sox, Chone Figgins, Cleveland Indians, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Detroit Tigers, Felix Hernandez, Gordon Beckham, Hideki Matsui, Jake Peavy, Javier Vasquez, Joe Nathan, Joel Piniero, John Lackey, Johnny Damon, Kansas City Royals, Kendry Morales, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Buerhle, Melky Cabrera, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Opening Day, Orlando Hudson, Pat Burrell, Paul Konerko, Rajai Davis, Rickey Henderson, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Xavier Nady
Posted on: December 30, 2009 12:42 pm
Jason Bay agreed in principle to a four year, $66 million contract with the New York Mets on Tuesday, officially ending his season-and-a-half stint with the Boston Red Sox. While GM Theo Epstein never explicitly stated that the Sox were out of the bidding war with Bay, the writing was on the wall. Epstein signed veteran outfielder Mike Cameron to a two-year deal, and used the money that would have gone to a long-term deal with Bay to sign right-hander John Lackey.
The Bay signing has wide-ranging implications for several clubs, but the actual move should raise some perplexing questions. Of the free agent hitters available at the beginning of this off-season, Bay was second best behind Matt Holliday. Bay wanted to stay in Boston and the Red Sox hoped to keep him. But Bay insisted on the prospect of a fifth year of any type of contract, and the Sox remained resolute against it. When the Mets came calling with a similar four-year deal to what the Sox were offering plus a vested option for a fifth, Bay accepted the deal that he had been looking for.
But once the Sox had signed Cameron and Lackey, they were effectively out of the discussions for Bay. The Sox are less than $10 million away from the luxury tax limit for the 2010 season, and re-signing Bay would have put them over that limit. The St. Louis Cardinals have focused solely on re-signing Holliday, thus removing one potential buyer for Bay. The Angels, Mariners and Yankees also went after other players and dropped out from the Bay sweepstakes as well.
In the end, it appears as though the Mets were bidding against themselves. Due to a rash of injuries last season that sidelined seemingly the better half of their lineup for extended amounts of time, the Mets were in desperate need of a power-hitting outfielder, and it showed in the negotiations with Bay.
One of the biggest snag-ups about Bay was his defense, which often went unnoticed in the strange dimensions of Fenway Park. With no designated hitter in the N.L., Bay will have to play the outfield until he is 35 or 36, a prospect that deterred the Sox, especially for $16 million a year. Bay also displayed an unfortunate inability to connect on off-speed pitches and was prone to very cold slumps.
The Mets’ new CitiField is quickly becoming known as a right-handed hitters nightmare. Just ask David Wright: his home run total dropped from 33 in 2008 (the last year in Shea Stadium) to 10 at the new CitiField. Bay has spent most of his career in the N.L., so there should not be a terrible layover while he tries to become acclimated with new ballparks and pitchers, but the Mets would be foolish to expect a home run total in the high 30s from Bay.
But at least the Mets got their man. For the Red Sox, the search is on for some spark in the middle of the lineup. They remain the number one buyers for third baseman Adrian Beltre, who is an excellent fielder with some offensive upside. But if Beltre is the answer, that means that Cameron and Florida Marlins cast-off Jeremy Hermida will patrol left field for the ’10 campaign. Combined with speedy Jacoby Ellsbury and the mediocre J.D. Drew, the Sox may field an outfield that has a legitimate shot to account for less than 30 home runs.
Other names are possibilities, such as ex-Yankee Xavier Nady, who would be a decent option in the outfield, but injuries limited him to only seven games in 2009. If the Sox were unwilling to go after Bay, they will definitely stay clear of Holliday, which means that any other move would have to come via a trade. And if the Sox were unwilling to unload the farm system to acquire Roy Halladay, then the same can likely be said for the Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez.
Tags: Adrian Beltre, Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, CitiField, David Wright, Fenway Park, Florida Marlins, J.D. Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Bay, Jeremy Hermida, John Lackey, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Matt Holliday, Mike Cameron, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Roy Halladay, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Theo Epstein, Xavier Nady
Posted on: December 14, 2009 7:04 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2009 7:06 pm
Tags: A.J. Burnett, Aroldis Chapman, Boston Red Sox, Clay Buchholz, Cliff Lee, Curtis Granderson, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, GM Meetings, Jason Bay, Johan Santana, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Matt Holliday, Mike Lowell, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Roy Halladay, Scott Boras, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Theo Epstein, Tim Wakefield, Toronto Blue Jays
Posted on: May 16, 2009 2:28 pm
Everyone is well aware of the season long struggles of Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, whose numbers, .208-0-15, would be cause for grumblings even for a player such as Jason Varitek, who also struggled heavily last season.
Manager Terry Francona benched Ortiz for Friday's series opener versus the Seattle Mariners, and said that Ortiz could sit for more than just the one game. The benching follows Thursday's afternoon extra inning affair against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in which Ortiz went 0-7 which three strikeouts while tying Trot Nixon for the franchise record with 12 runners left on base.
For the Sox game against the Mariners, J.D. Drew was moved upinto the number three spot in place of Ortiz. Francona always try to alternate batters in his lineup, left-right-left-right, as much as possible, and with the lefty Drew, Francona was able to keep his alternating batting order.
Last season, when Ortiz was on the disabled list for a wrist injury, Drew filled in predominantly in the number three hole. Everyone remembers the scorching month of June that Drew put up, with the line of stats: .337/.462/.848 for a 1.310 OPS, 12 home runs, 21 extra base hits, 21 base on balls and 27 RBIs.
All of those numbers came from hitting in the number three hole, and when Ortiz returned, Drew went back into his customary role in the bottom half of the lineup, and had what we have come to know as typical J.D. Drew Red Sox numbers: a high on-base percentage, few extra base hits, and untimely hits.
In the number three hole for the first time this season last night, Drew went 3-5 with a double, run scored and an RBI.
It may seem as though this is looking into too small a sample, but this is not just a coincidence.
The Red Sox line-up is in rough shape these days anyway, because of injuries to Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia. In the place of Ortiz last night, Rocco Baldelli got the start as the designated hitter and batted fifth. If we sub Ortiz back in that lineup, and put Youkilis in (due back from the disabled list in about a week) we'll get:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
6. Jason Bay
7. Mike Lowell
8. Jason Varitek
9. Julio Lugo
Per Francona's alternating hitters rule, the line-up in that respect remains unchanged, with the only two hitters from the same side of the plate in a row is Bay and Lowell.
This line-up does several things. First, (and most obviously) it takes advantage of Drew's prowess in the number three hole and allows his RBI opportunities with Ellsbury (who is, by the way, batting .307 on the year while trailing only Carl Crawford for the major league lead in stolen bases) and Pedroia so often on base.
Second, Ortiz will still be thought of as somewhat of a threat to opposing pitchers, as evidenced by the 20 walks he has drawn. Bay will provide protection for him, so pitchers cannot simply throw around him. The rest of the line-up remains unchanged.
The only problem with this is that Francona is a player's manager. He has said that he has a great deal of loyalty to Ortiz and is not going to give up on him only six weeks into the season. But, if Ortiz continues to struggle and Drew continues to be hot in the three spot, the change must happen for the Sox to really get the most out of their offense.