Monday, February 28, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Florida Marlins and Kansas City Royals

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Kansas City Royals: Mike Jirschele
I'm guessing most people don't have a clue who this guy is, if you do, props to you. He is the manager of the Omaha Storm Chasers, the AAA affiliate of the Royals. So maybe he isn't a player, and he isn't technically on the Royals, but that doesn't mean he isn't the most important person in their organization right now.

The Royals are bad, and looking through their major league roster, I don't see a whole lot of upside. The best player on their team is Billy Butler, who appears to be nothing more than a solid average, medium power guy. From a DH/1B, that is not anything special, it's towards the bottom of the league at the position.

Jirchele is important because the Royals farm system is loaded with some of the best prospects in baseball. Using Baseball Americas recent top 100, the Royals have nine in the top hundred, including five of the top 20 and three in the top 10. No other team seems to match up with the prospect power the Royals have.

Their top 5 include 1b Eric Hosner, 3b Mike Moustakas, OF/C Will Myers, LHP John Lamb, and LHP Mike Montgomery. Having prospects that are highly touted is great, but most prospects seem to be more hype than actual production.

There hasn't been much to talk about with the Royals the last few years. They have had some decent prospects before, but they never make much noise. Maybe the lower systems are to blame, or maybe it is their Major League office messing things up. 

Jirchele has been around for quite some time as the AAA manager, so maybe he is not doing a very good job. It is difficult to tell whether they have had prospects who just weren't ever going to be good, or if they never had a chance to develop. This year it looks as if they have legitimate prospects, so it will be a good season to judge if the Royals should continue to rely on Jirchele. 

This is why the minor league system is so important for the Royals. If they can help in the growth of their prospects, they could be competing in the next 3-5 seasons. They have been bad for a long time, but this could be their chance to make a push to be relevant again. Look at what the Tampa Bay Rays have done the last few years, they built their team from the inside and became a contender, and almost won a World Series.

The Royals need to try to do the same, but they must remain patient and smart. If they get greedy and bring guys up before they're ready it could be kill their maturation process. Rome wasn't built in a day, and the Royals contending won't happen in a day either.

Others considered: The Royals scouting director, their player management guys, their GM: These guys all have an impact on what is done with their young talent, but I think the AAA manager, and the AA manager will be most important...Billy Butler: He is the only guy on the team I see with a real bright future, he has had some success, but may turn out to be nothing more than an average hitter with average power.

Florida Marlins: Michael Stanton
As an 18 year old, Stanton hit 39 home runs in 125 A ball games, the following season he split between AA and high A, settling for just 28 home runs in 129 games. Then last season he started the year off in AA, where he hit 21 home runs in just 53 games, which led all of professional baseball at the time.

The Marlins decided enough was enough, and they called the 20 year old up to the majors. He proceeded to hit 22 home runs in just 100 games. If he kept that pace for 162 games, he would have finished the year with 35 home runs. For a 20 year old to have numbers like that is insane, but it was not a fluke.

He is a physical freak, at 6-5, 233 pounds, Stanton's power is legit and could only get better. He struggled to with contact in his first year, hitting just .259 with 123 strike outs (199.3 per 162 games). That is to be expected though for someone as young as Stanton.

This season he will be starting in right field for the Marlins and will likely end up hitting 3rd or 4th. That could be a lot of pressure for the young kid, but he hasn't struggled at any point in his career, so why would this year be any different? 

With Hanley Ramirez in the lineup, Stanton will see good pitches, also he will have guys on base very frequently. The Marlins have several young contact hitters that will be atop their lineup which will be very good for Stanton. Gaby Sanchez is another guy who could help Stanton; he is older than Stanton, but has very few games played at the Major League level. He should hit for some power, which would let Stanton see more pitches.

While he is still young, this year is important for Stanton because it will be his first full year in the majors. Pitchers will have a better idea how to pitch to him this time around. He hasn't seen very many pitchers more than once in his career, so that could catch up with him. If he is able to make adjustments and keep his power numbers up, he could quickly turn into one of the better power bats in the league.

Also his average is a question mark that he needs to answer. He could go two ways, either into an Adam Dunn clone, hitting 40 hrs with a .250 avg, or a legit power hitter like Barry Bonds.

Others considered: The Marlins entire rotation has some proving to do. They are a relatively young bunch, but all have seen some sort of success. Most notably is Josh Johnson who started the 2010 season on fire, but cooled off to end the year. Also Ricky Nolasco was the opposite, he started awful, but closed the season on a high note. Their lineup is also young with upside, it will be interesting to see how they develop as a team, I wouldn't be surprised to see them contend as soon as this season.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Six: the week in review

Another week in the books, more sports to be discussed. This week there were some repeating stories, but also one story that shook up the entire make-up of the National League.

1. Adam Wainwright to have season ending Tommy John Surgery:
My full story here; but since that time the rumors that have swirled have been all over the place. The most important may be the discussion that the Cardinals may be forced to trade Albert Pujols. I want to put an end to that, because I think there is no way on earth the Cardinals could do such a thing.

Pujols is the best player in baseball and in my opinion, the most dominant in all of sports. Trading him would be the worst PR move the Cardinals could ever make, even if they know they had no chance to re-sign him, and were able to get a great package for him, it still would be an awful move. He is the face of the team, fans love him, and the money he brings in likely out-weighs his cost.

Back to Wainwright and what it means... His absence makes the Cardinals rotation go from one of the best in the NL to probably the second worst in their own division. There aren't any pitchers worth going after in the free agent market, trading for one also would be tough, so they are left with what they have. Someone may step up and pitch out of their mind, but replacing Wainwright is going to be impossible.

2. Arizona is falling apart, giving hope to UCLA and Washington:
A week ago, the Arizona Wildcats had beaten the Washington Huskies, which gave them a firm hold on the Pac-10 championship. With 4 games remaining they had a solid lead, all they had to do was win a few more games and they were golden.

That's when they headed to Los Angeles to play USC and UCLA. They dropped both games, including a 22 point loss yesterday to the second place UCLA Bruins. With the losses, they have fallen into a tie with UCLA, and are just a game and a half ahead of Washington.

Lucky for Arizona, they have the easiest schedule left of the three teams. They face Oregon State and Oregon this week, both games at home, where they haven't lost this season. They did lose to Oregon State on the road earlier this season, but that was a one point game, and was their second conference game of the year. If they win both games, they will clinch at least share of the title.

The UCLA Bruins have a tough week ahead of them as they head to Washington for their two final games. First, this Thursday they play Washington, which is going to be a huge test. Both teams are fighting for not only the conference title, but an easier first round game in the conference tournament. If UCLA wins both games, they will share the title, no need for any help by the Oregon schools. Saturday they head to Pullman to face the Cougars, which will be a test as well. The Cougars will be trying to play spoilers, plus they play well most of the time at home, that game is anyones.

The Washington Huskies have three games left, all at home, but all against good basketball teams. Even if they do win all three games, they could end up in second place in the Pac10, which they will take, but it isn't a championship. The Huskies are a team that can come out and beat anyone on any night, but if they aren't hitting their shots, they will lose. At home, they win, end of story, but this week will not be easy for the Huskies.

Any of the three could end up on top, but in the end I expect all to be in the NCAA tournament, and also surprise the nation. March can't come soon enough.

3. NFL Draft preview/Combine:
I plan to write a more complete story this week about the NFL draft and talking about the combine. But it has been a major part of the last week, and I couldn't leave it out.

The whole process seems weird to me, it is like parading around show-dogs and teams pick the winners. Measurables in my opinion are very overrated. I think watching a kid play football and seeing their game-film is the most important thing. Even though GM's don't go only on how fast or strong someone is, I think the overall process is too much pomp and circumstance.

4. The NBA trade deadline:
As I have said, the NBA is not my thing, it is drawn out, and overall just seems boring. Nonetheless, the trade deadline came and went, and there were plenty of moves that happened, some were a long-time coming and others were out of left field.

The first, and most notable trade was Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups going to the New York Knicks. Obviously, there was more to it, but Carmelo has been on the outs in Denver for quite some time. It was inevitable that he would be moved, and then he finally was. He has played good for the Knicks so far, the question of how Amare Stoudemire would react has been asked. So far so good, but both guys want to score, and at some point that may become an issue.

The Boston Celtics upset their fans when they sent away Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson in return for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic plus some draft picks as well. The trade does not appear to make them better at this point, but the fans are just wondering why they made the deal. It looked like they would be able to stand pat and be good enough to make a run again in the playoffs. The Celtics didn't think so, but it may be a while before we know if they made a good move.

NBA trades are mostly just moving money and salaries around, so in the end judging these trades is impossible to do without looking deeper into the numbers. That is something I won't do, because I dislike the NBA, but thats probably already clear.

5. Who's number one?
Last week the tops teams in NCAA basketball all seemed to fall. In fact the top 4 all did lose, which gave Duke the free pass to the number one ranking. They did not make the most of that opportunity by losing last night to Virginia Tech. It was a close game, but at this point, that loss is going to drop them a few spots indefinably, but who will be number one?

My bet is on Ohio State, who won both of their games last week. But so did Kansas, so it could be either one. They will be number 1 and 2, but based on the voters selections last week, I assume Kansas will not leap-frog the Buckeyes.

After those two, it is again cloudy. the next 3 teams all lost this week, Pittsburgh, Texas and San Diego State had opportunities to move into the top 3, but they weren't able to win twice last week.

BYU, the 7th ranked team may move all the way up to number 3 in the nation. Thanks to Jimmer Freddette, they went into San Diego State and won in convincing fashion. Duke could hold on to their top 3 ranking, but I think BYU deserves to be ahead of them after winning a huge conference game, on the road, against the 6th ranked team in the nation.

6. NFL Labor Dispute:
I wrote an earlier story here, and really not all that much has changed. But what has happened is the deadline has come closer, when it comes, something must happen. That deadline is Thursday at 11:59 P.M., which is when the CBA expires, but it could be moved by the owners if they decide to give the players more time.

If it comes and goes with no agreement, the players will be locked out. I think the deadline will be extended and eventually a deal will be worked out. It would be a major loss for both the players and owners to take a season off. Both sides know this, but one has to budge.

I think the players will be the ones needing to budge to make the deal work. They need the years salary more than the owners do, they also have a shelf life before they will be retiring, meaning they need to make the money now. I am on the players side of things, but the owners hold more cards than the players do, and usually the one with the better cards ends up on top.

My hope as a fan is that we see football next Fall, a year without NFL games would be a tough pill to swallow.

Top Sports Memory: Number 2

If you have anything you want to add to my memory feel free to comment, if you want give me your top 5, I expect everyone's to be different. 
Honorable Mentions: David Tyree's Catch...Kevin Dyson comes up 1 yard short...Giants commit 11 False Starts...IMA Game of the Century
Number 5: 2001 Huskies beat the Canes in explosive Husky Stadium
Number 4: Antonio Freeman did WHAT?1?
Number 3: The BeastQuake in Seattle

Number 2

1995 Seattle Mariners: The Double:
I have said before that I can't say a single bad thing about the 95 Mariners, but I have thought of something I would change...well two if you include them being world champions. But I with I were older during the 95 season so that I would be able to remember the magic even better. But maybe because I was so young it helped form my love of sports...Either way it was a magical season and the double was just icing on the cake: The Double, courtesy of

Whenever I watch that play or hear the call I get the chills! My memory I have of watching the game may not even be a real memory, it doesn't quite fit logically, but it is still entrenched in my mind nonetheless...I remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV with just my dad and mom watching along with me. I was nervous as all get-out. Then when it happened I remember just being giddy with joy and jumping up and down.

The Mariners were going to the ALCS! My memory of it just makes me smile, but here is why I am not so sure it makes any sense...In my memory I am in the second house I ever lived in, but in 95 I don't think I lived there yet. Maybe I did, but I am pretty sure I moved there later. Either way I am going to take this and call it a top memory.

I don't remember any of the season, not that the M's were way out of it in late August, but I do remember the "refuse to lose" slogan that swept the area. It was so cool to me that the Mariners just weren't going to lose. And they didn't...well until the ALCS, but the magic had already been made. Even better to me was that I hate the Yankees, probably more than any other team in any sport, and the double crushed their hopes of winning the World Series.

One thing I know I remember is this picture in the newspaper the next day, it still is one of the best pictures I have ever seen...

As I continue through Thiel's book on how that team saved baseball The Double becomes even more important in my sports memory bank. If the M's don't come back to force a playoff, if the Mariners don't beat the Angels in the 1 game playoff, If Edgar doesn't hit that double, If Junior doesn't make it around to score...Chances are there isn't baseball in Seattle...but all of those things did happen, and while I think the Mariners organization has its problems...having baseball in Seattle is something I will never take for granted.

Friday, February 25, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Colorado Rockies: Troy Tulowitzki
Ever since he came into the league in 2007, the talk has been that Tullowitzki could be one of the best short stops in the game, but he has been unable to stay healthy long enough for that to happen. He has played two seasons where he missed very little time, but his other two he missed over 100 games combined. 

Last year Tullowitzki missed substantial time, but still put his name out there as one of the best players in all of baseball. That was in large part to his September to remember, where he had a stretch of 15 games where he hit 14 home runs. When he got hot, no one knew when he was going to stop, he just kept launching the ball out of the park, and was doing everything he could to try to get the Rockies into the playoffs. 

They lost just 2 of those 15 games, but after those 15 games, Tullowitzki did not homer again, and the Rockies won just one out of their next 14 games. They couldn't do anything when Tullowitzki wasn't carrying them. The one game they did win, Tullowitzki was 4/5 with a home run and 5 rbis. He needed some help, but there was none to be found.

If he were a healthy guy who you knew would play 160 games every season, he would be considered the best SS in baseball, but he isn't, which makes his season the key to the Rockies. Other than Tullowitzki there is no one in their lineup that will scare opposing pitchers. Maybe Carlos Gonzalez, but he has only had really one good season. If Tullowitzki is absent the Rockies offense is going to look anemic.

It isn't just injuries that take Tullowitzki out of the lineup, he also is a straight up streaky hitter. September is a good example of this, but he also has months where he just doesn't hit. Last April he had just one home run, but did hit .304 for the Rockies so he was forgiven. The best players in baseball don't have single home run months, he needs to be consistent and carry the Rockies for the entirety of the season.

Others considered: Carlos Gonzalez: He is coming off an amazing year where he did everything for the Rockies, but I have doubts another season like that is on its' way...Ubaldo Jimenez: Like Gonzalez he had a great year, especially the first half of the season, but then he tailed off; what Ubaldo will we get? The dominant one, or the mediocre one? The Rockies will need him to be a force atop their rotation to compete with the rest of the pitching heavy National League. 

Detroit Tigers: Max Scherzer
Last season he got off to an awful start to the year, his ERA in April was 4.23 and then in May it was 9.45. He was pretty much left for dead, but after that he was straight up filthy. His ERA after the All-Star break was 2.47, which included a 1.29 ERA in August. The inconsistency is nothing new to Scherzer, as he had similar ups and downs in 2009, but his finish to 2010 makes him a prime candidate to break out.

He is just 26 years old, has one blue eye, one brown eye, and is a strike out machine. In 195.2 innings he had 184 strike outs, good for an 8.46 K/9. That ratio is up there with some of the best in the league, but the question is, can he put together an entire season?

He seems to be up for the task this season after he really only had 2 bad months in 2010. When the Tigers were making their push for the division they road his arm down the stretch. He had seven consecutive starts going from late July to September first, in which he gave up no more than 2 earned runs, in all of those games he pitched 6+ innings, and actually all of those games, but one he gave up two or no runs. That is the kind of dominance the Tigers should expect for stretches in 2011.

But what about the none-dominating stretches? Will those be 9+ era months? Or just a bad start here or there? Maybe he will be able to put it together and not have a rough patch. If he can find a way to make the rough patches not as rough, keep the Tigers in every ball-game he pitches in; He could step up as a dominant number 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.

This season is a big one for the Tigers, the division is wide open, they have a good lineup led by perennial MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, and newcomer Victor Martinez. They just need to find consistency from the young arm of Max Scherzer if they expect to win the division.

Others considered: Miguel Cabrera: He is going to be up there for the AL MVP, but we know what to expect so I don't see that as a key to their team...Victor Martinez: He is the new guy on the block, but like Cabrera he has a proven track record, the question will be, how will he respond to a pretty big ballpark...Rick Porcello: He is another young arm that needs to step up, he could be a legit number 3 in the rotation, but will have to pitch better than he has recently.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs  Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians

Thursday, February 24, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Indians

My complete preview for the MLB season is here, today I will continue my team by team analysis of the player that is the most important to watch in the upcoming season. This isn't necessarily the best player, rather someone who's season is important for the team, or their growth as a player.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto
He may be the reigning NL MVP, but that doesn't assure he will have another year as good as 2010. That is one of the reasons I think his play is so important to not only the Reds, but himself as well. 

Votto was a very good hitter in his first two seasons, but last year was head and shoulders ahead of his first two. He made a run at the triple crown, and pretty much put the team on his back and carried them to the playoffs. That was after not even being voted to the NL all star team.

Things will change this season for the 27 year old Canadian, he is a known commodity and will likely be pitched around throughout the season. The question is, will he be able to put any hoopla behind him and just play baseball?

I think he will be able to do so, but not to the level of last season. He will be a top 5 hitter in the NL and he will win plenty of games for the Reds, but triple crown threatening seasons don't happen very often. For Votto, another .300, 30 hr, 100 rbi year is on its' way, but not a whole lot more, but if thats the case the Reds will need all of it.

Votto is in the middle of a good lineup that has plenty of power, he is different though because he adds a good average as well. Having a player of his caliber hitting 3rd or 4th makes their lineup go from mediocre to very good, and the upside of being great. 

Votto's abilities are only matched by one man, Albert Pujols...the best player in baseball. Some may argue that Votto is better right now, I'll disagree with that, but he is no doubt the difference between the Reds being a contender and them being a .500 baseball team. That though assumes he can have another MVP Caliber season, which I think he will be close to, but just short of.

Others Considered: Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce are two young guys that the Reds have seen do great things. Last season each of them played full seasons and had great numbers, the two of them join an already young strong lineup that is becoming one of the best in baseball...Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez: The two young starters have shown flashes of dominance at times, but then other times have looked awful. Both have control problems, but if they are able to find the strike zone consistently they will be a dominant one two for years to come.

Cleveland Indians: Grady Sizemore
Just 2 seasons ago Sizemore was coming off a 33 homer, 38 steal season, and was primed to go after the elusive 40-40 mark. His effort never got going and it was a short-lived season for him, playing in only 106 games and hitting just 18 home runs and stealing 13 bases. He followed that up with a 33 game season in 2010 and has pretty much been left for dead.

Sizemore is only 28 years, but had micro-fracture knee surgery which may delay his return to the lineup. His doctors do expect him to be ready to start the year, but being a base-stealer he will need to be near 100 percent if he wants to be valuable.

The Indians are not likely to compete for a playoff spot this season, but if they can figure out what they have in Sizemore going forward. He could easily be a player who finds his health and gets back to his power-speed combo, but there is just as good a chance he never recovers and has no future with the Indians.

Sizemore's season is important to the Indians because he could very well be a key to them turning things around in the wide open AL Central. No team in their division is a power house, meaning if the Indians can have guys like Carlos Santana and Matt LaPorta develop quickly, add in Shin-Soo Choo and their lineup could be one of the best in the division.

For that to happen though, Sizemore needs to become the player he once was, and that has to happen this year or he is likely not going to be given another chance. The Indians are a bad team, but they do have some young talent that would benefit from seeing a guy like Sizemore be successful.

Others considered: Carlos Santana is coming off a major knee injury that halted his rookie year, if he can get back to where he was last year, he would be one of the best hitting catchers in the game...Matt LaPorta  was disappointing for the Indians last year, but the highly touted first basemen needs to rebound this year and be a big bat in the middle of a bad lineup.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs

Top Sports Memory: Number 3: Marshawn Lynch sets off a BeastQuake

If you have anything you want to add to my memory feel free to comment, if you want give me your top 5, I expect everyone's to be different. 
Honorable Mentions: David Tyree's Catch...Kevin Dyson comes up 1 yard short...Giants commit 11 False Starts...IMA Game of the Century
Number 5: 2001 Huskies beat the Canes in explosive Husky Stadium
Number 4: Antonio Freeman did WHAT?1?

Number 3
January 8, 2011: The BeastQuake: Seattle Seahawks Vs. New Orleans Saints
First let me give some background on this one...I have had season tickets to the Seahawks for about 15 years. I hadn't missed a home game in Qwest field until the 2009 season. I had been to every single home Seahawks playoff game during my lifetime. Yet I was NOT at this game.

I can't begin to explain my devastation for missing it. I had a work day for my house I couldn't miss...worst decision EVER! If I were at the game it would be number one almost indefinitely. But instead I was at home watching the game, but it still was the most amazing run I have ever seen.

I'm sure by now you've seen this video once or twice, or if your me about 150 times. I can't get enough of it! Going into the game against the Saints I thought the Hawks would win it. It just seemed meant to be, they were huge underdogs, but playing at home and having Matt Hasslebeck seemed like a recipe for a win. Even after the awful start to the game I thought they were in great shape...Down 10-0 to the defending champs seemed tough, but I liked what I saw...and man was I right!

That play was the epitome of Marshawn Lynch...He is just a guy who isn't going to be taken down lightly, he is a BEAST of a runner. I remember the Giants game when he had a 7 yard run that should have been nothing but he just kept fighting and fighting to get 7 yards even though the Hawks were out of it. This run was very similar, had he been taken down after 10 yards it would have been a great run.

I was on my feet jumping and screaming and he just kept going. Most 67 yard runs are a break away play and take no time, this was probably the slowest run of that length ever, not because the Beast is slow, but he was following his blockers...that run was just flippin nuts!

I don't know how else to explain it! It made an earthquake for goodness sakes! It's too bad the Hawks lost in Chicago, but I know for a fact 10 years from now we will be seeing this play on Sportscenters top 10 NFL plays ever! And if not...we can always watch these fun renditions of the BeastQuake.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Adam Wainwright out...What does that mean for the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL?

The Cardinals are my pre-season favorite to win the World Series, but that was before the news broke that Adam Wainwright could miss some substantial time this year, maybe the entire season. News came out of the Cardinals camp that he suffered a significant injury to his throwing elbow during a bullpen session on Monday.

Last year Wainwright was second in the NL Cy Young race behind Roy Halladay, but his season was one of the better seasons in recent memory. He pitched 230.1 innings, has a 2.42 ERA, a 1.05 whip, struck out 213 batters and finished with 20 wins on the season. He ranked 4th among National League starters with his 6.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR)  in 2010. (War is a sabermetric stat that determines how many wins a player is worth in comparison to someone who could be found to replace them)...Plain and simple he was filthy.

All of that was great, but the Cardinals still missed the playoffs by 5 games. Take him out of the rotation and it could be bad news for the Red-Birds.

Assuming the injury is as bad as suspected and he needs Tommy John Surgery, the Cardinals will need to seek out another arm for their already injury riddled rotation.

Chris Carpenter is a bona fide ace who can be the number one for the Cardinals, but he has a history of injuries that could be the final blow to the Cardinals at any point mid-season. Carpenter missed almost the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons with injuries, but has since found his way and dominated opposing batters to the tune of a 3.22 era in 235 innings in 2010, and a 2.24 era in 192.2 innings in 2009.

Jaime Garcia will have to step into the number 2 spot, which he clearly has the skills for, but he is young and coming off an injury of his own. Garcia's career was delayed due to Tommy John surgery forcing him to miss almost 2 year, but he bounced back in his rookie 2010 season. He pitched just 163.1 innings after being shut down in September, but had an amazing 2.70 ERA on the year. If he has a year similar to last season he would be a great number 2, but after him it would be a major drop off.

St. Louis' depth chart currently lists Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse as the final two starters in the Cardinal's rotation.

Westbrook was an innings eater last season, finishing with 202.2 innings and a decent 4.22 ERA, if he can repeat that, the Cardinals would be alright with him as their number 3, but anything worse would be lethal to their playoff hopes. The bad news on Westbrook is that he has been very inconsistent in his career, so no one knows what to expect.

Lohse is a different story, he pitched just 92 innings last year and had a 6.55 ERA. That cannot happen again if he wants to be of any help for the Cardinals. However, just 2 seasons ago he put together a very good season in his first year as a Cardinals he pitched 200.0 innings and had a 3.78 ERA. If he has a season like that, the Cardinals will certainly be able to stay afloat in the NL Central, but that season looks like an anomaly for Lohse.

So that's four starters down, but still one more spot needs to be filled, which could be done from the inside or the outside of the organization, both options seem viable.

The top two free agents right now are Jeremy Bonderman and Kevin Millwood, both who have had success at times, but haven't been able to stick on any one team. If a good deal can be made to sign one of the two of them, that would probably be the Cardinals best option.

If the Cardinals decide to stay in their organization for a fifth starter, there are a few options, none of which seem very good...Miguel Batista, P.J. Walters, Lance Lynn, Ian Snell and Brian Augenstein seem most likely...Of those, the only names I recognize from previous time in the Major's are Snell and Batista, both former Seattle Mariners, and neither one very good.

Really whoever fills in as the fifth starter won't be very good, but the question remains, how will St. Louis fare without their ace? Will they flounder and miss the playoffs again, or maybe they can respond and win the Central, blow through the playoffs and win a championship...oh and then sign Albert Pujols to a long-term deal...

I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I still think the Cardinals are the favorites in the central division. The Cincinnati Reds will likely regress from last season, the Chicago Cubs will be better, but not enough better, and the Milwaukee Brewers will probably be in the mix as well, but fall short. Any one of those teams could win it though and I wouldn't be surprised, it is a tough division.

I expect the Cardinals to win about 89 games in the regular season. The top of their rotation has to remain healthy and each get about 30-35 starts and 200 innings. The hitting on this team will be good enough to carry a mediocre pitching staff into the playoffs...When a team has Pujols and Matt Holliday on their team, they are going to score plenty of runs...but the playoffs will be when the pitching needs to step up.

In a playoff series the Cardinals would like their chances when they start Carpenter and Garcia, but even if they win all their starts (a HUGE if) of the lesser pitchers would still need to get a win. It seems very unlikely for them to be able to push through a tough National League without their ace.

That being said, I will stick with my prediction because anything could happen. Had I waited a week and made my guess now, I would have chosen someone else to win it all, but I will stick to my guns and say that the St. Louis Cardinals are going to be World Champions in 2011.

MLB Preview, Key to success: Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs

I did my full preview of the MLB season Here:, but there is much more to it than just the playoffs and awards...

Over the next 2-3 weeks I will be going through team by team and choosing the player most important to his team's success in 2011. This won't necessarily be the best player on the team, rather the one whose season is most important. This could be for the team's success or their development as a player.

Chicago White Sox: Gordon Beckham
In his first year in the league Beckham hit .270 with 14 home runs, 63 rbi's, and 28 doubles in just 103 games. He had been a stud in college, he led the nation in home runs and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes award in his senior year.

Beckham looked poised to come out in his second season and have a huge year for the White Sox. That didn't happen, he was hurt throughout the year, and when healthy he struggled to a .252 average with just 9 home runs, 49 rbi's and 25 doubles in 131 games. He was a huge disappointment to say the least. 

Even though Beckham struggled last season, Chicago was still just a few games away from making the playoffs. If he had been able to play better, it isn't too far fetched to think they could have caught the Twins. That's why this season I think he is the key.

If he is able to keep his spot in the lineup and play second base for 150 games, and play well he will be a boost for his team. He has the ability to be a 25+ home run guy this season, something that is huge from a relatively power thin position. 

For Beckham to turn things around he will need to get going early, last year he started slow and built no confidence. If he has a good first month he will know he is ready to play at the Major League level and that should be the medicine he needs for a breakout season.

Others considered: Carlos Quentin: he has some major power, he his 36 hrs in 130 games three years ago, the problem is he can't stay healthy. His most games played in a year:131, if he does stay healthy all season he could hit 30+ home runs again...Alexei Ramirez: No one is sure what kind of player he is, he looked like a decent power plus speed guy, but has not put the power together, nor the speed, maybe he is just average, but this year will tell us for sure...The pitching rotation: Buehrle, Floyd, Danks, Peavy, Jackson; they all have the ability to be aces, but none of them has done it for long, Buehrle is the least ace-like, but his consistency will help atop this staff.

Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza
He is the new man in the rotation and was brought in to be a top of the rotation staple of the staff. The Cubs lack and semblance of an ace on their rotation, the closest they have is Ryan Dempster who sported a 3.85 ERA last season...Garza wasn't better with his 3.91 ERA.

While I see nothing that makes me think Garza will be much better than he was last season, his impact may be the simple ability to pitch 200 plus solid innings. If he is able to lower his ERA that would be icing on the cake, but his past doesn't show that happening.

His career ERA is 3.97, but that was mixed between the AL Central and East divisions, which hit quite better than any NL division. For Garza to step into th number 2 roll it could take some pressure off a shaky bottom half of the rotation.

Following Garza will be Zambano, Wells and Silva...Two old guys who are not all that great and a third year journeyman who is coming off two decent seasons for the Cubs. None of those guys has much upside at this point, but if they can hold down the bottom half of the rotation with Garza and Dempster leading the way, the Cubs could be a much improved team.

Garza needs to lower his home runs allowed this year, he's coming off two consecutive 25+ hrs allowed seasons. That may be a bi-product of being in the AL East, but if he wants to succeed he needs to keep the ball in the park. I think he will do that and will bolster the Cubs rotation.

Others considered: Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood: These two guys are supposed to be a sure thing at the end of games, but last season they struggled, that can't happen again if the Cubs want to win...Alfonso Soriano: He is old and has lost a lot of steps, but did stay healthy last season, if he can do that again the Cubs could benefit from his numbers...Aramis Ramirez: He has had a lot of trouble staying healthy in his career, but last season he still his 25 home runs, if he can be productive he could be a huge asset to the middle of the lineup.

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and OriolesRed Sox and Braves

Top 5 Sports Memories: Number 4

If you have anything you want to add to my memory feel free to comment, if you want give me your top 5, I expect everyone's to be different. 
Honorable Mentions: David Tyree's Catch...Kevin Dyson comes up 1 yard short...Giants commit 11 False Starts...IMA Game of the Century
Number 5: 2001 Huskies beat the Canes in explosive Husky Stadium

Number 4

November 6, 2000 Antonio Freeman's amazing catch:

Rather than explain what happened on the play itself here is the video:

I was 11 when this play happened so I had a bed-time, but my parents usually didn't care too much when I went to sleep. This was sort of one of those occasions, they told me to go to bed, but I didn't want to, which turned out to be an great decision for me. I don't remember much about the game until the play other than that it was a cold game and the field looked like crap.

But when the play happened all I remember thinking is OH MY GOODNESS there is no way that happened! How!?! What?!? WOW...I had to be quiet so my parents didn't wake up but I was just screaming in my head thinking about how amazing and crazy that play was.

For those who weren't watching, which is most people reading this, the play was just a thing of beauty. Watching the replay is nice, but when something is live it is just so much better. 

That was back in the days when Favre was sorta young, and I had no hatred for him...those days are long gone now, he is my least favorite player in the NFL...Second in all sports right next to LeBron James.

Favre is a good player, but stayed around too long, was unloyal to everyone and then decided he wanted to share his..."member"...with a woman who didn't want anything to do with him. I hope he is retired, it is a few years, teams and texts late, but hey eventually all the good ones have to go...I hope!

But he did have one amazing play I will never forget, but the funny thing is, it should have been a pick, not a TD, so Favre doesn't deserve credit in my 4th greatest sports memory!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Boston Red Sox & Atlanta Braves

I did my full preview of the MLB season Here:, but there is much more to it than just the playoffs and awards...

Over the next 2-3 weeks I will be going through team by team and choosing the player most important to his team's success in 2011. This won't necessarily be the best player on the team, rather the one whose season is most important. This could be for the team's success or their development as a player.

Boston Red Sox: Clay Bucholz:
Last season was his first full year as a starter at the Major League level, he pitched brilliantly. His ERA was 2.33, his batting average against was .226, and he won 17 games while pitching 173+innings. He was a major asset to the Red Sox.

The question is though, can he repeat or even improve on his amazing season? He looks like he could be the Sox' number 2 starter behing Jon Lester, but ahead of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and either Tim Wakefield or Daisuke Matsuzaka...all very good pitchers.

Bucholz gives the Red Sox the potential for a second Ace, but I have doubts that his arm will be able to hold up after such a huge innings increase last season. His 173 innings were more than he has ever pitched before in a season, and was more than his 2 previous years in the minor leagues combined. 

For Boston to make a run for the World Series they will need Clay to repeat last season and then also follow it up in the post-season. His ability to become a top tier pitcher is the difference between Boston having a pretty good rotation and them having a great rotation.

Others considered: There were several different players that are important to the Red Sox, newcomers, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez were possibilities, but both seem like safe bets to have very good years for the Red Sox. I also thought about Beckett, Lester or Lackey because they have some question marks, but I think we know what we will get from the three of them. Pedroia and Ellsbury were candidates because they have had injury issues, but because of how good the Red Sox lineup looks like it is going to be, I think they could miss substantial time and still win the East. 

Atlanta Braves: Larry Jones:
He is the staple of the team, he has been a Brave his entire career, beginning way back in 1993. Thats great for him, but what it means is that he is old, which for some players isn't a huge issue, but Chipper has played in 143+ games just once since 2003, that was the 2009 season, where he hit just .264 with 18 home runs and 71 rbis.

Jones is the key to the braves because they have a lot of young talent on their team, but he is the only real veteran in their lineup. They need him to find a way to stay healthy and in the starting lineup everyday. When he is healthy and playing at a high level he could be a major boost to the Braves, but with his history it seems doubtful.

Whats makes him more important is that the third basemen on the depth chart behind him, is the Braves starting Left-fielder Martin Prado, who is also the back-up 2B and 1B for the Braves. If Jones goes down  the likely back up is Brooks Conrad, the 31 year old journeyman that has just 229 career MLB at bats.

Many people thought Jones would retire after last season, he didn' really anything the Braves get from him could be considered a bonus to the team, but they may get little to nothing. If Jones is able to regain some of his top form the Braves will likely be able to make a run for the wild-card again this season.

Others Considered: Jason Heyward came onto the scene last year with promise to be a huge power threat, he has some development, but he could come up huge...Tommy Hanson is coming off a stellar year last year and the Braves need the third year pitcher to have another great year to bolster their rotation...Dan Uggla is coming off a career year for Florida, but can he continue his power AND average combo?

Previous keys to their teams: Diamondbacks and Orioles.

Top 5 Sports memories: Number 5

If you have anything you want to add to my memory feel free to comment, if you want give me your top 5, I expect everyone's to be different. 

Honorable Mentions: David Tyree's Catch...Kevin Dyson comes up 1 yard short...Giants commit 11 False Starts...IMA Game of the Century


2000 Washington Huskies beat the Miami Hurricanes in Seattle
I hardly remember anything from the game itself, but it still remains in my top memories because of what I do remember. The Huskies won that game 34-29 over Miami who was ranked number 4 in the nation.

It was their only loss all season long, meaning it took their national championship opportunity away. I don't really remember all of that, but here's why I put this at number 5...

This game was the loudest game I had ever been to at the time, and nothing was even close. All I remember is that the entire time the place was rocking and I couldn't hear anything but noise. I was 12 at the time so I was shorter than anyone else and I couldn't really see much.

I was standing on my bench seat trying to watch the game, but I was young and didn't really understand anything. That game was incredible and since that game I always have loved going to games that were just crazy loud. The louder the better for me! I even tend to gauge how good a game was by the crowd noise...Kind of ironic that now when I go to games as part of the media I can't cheer at all...sometimes you gotta make those sacrifices though.

Monday, February 21, 2011

MLB Preview, Key to success: Baltimore Orioles & Arizona Diamondbacks

I did my full preview of the MLB season Here:, but there is much more to it than just the playoffs and awards...

Over the next 2-3 weeks I will be going through team by team and choosing the player most important to his team's success in 2011. This won't necessarily be the best player on the team, rather the one whose season is most important. This could be for the team's success or their development as a player.

Baltimore Orioles: Nick Markakis:
The last two seasons Markakis was looked at as someone who was primed to breakout and become one of the top hitters in the game. He had 20+ home runs and 85+ RBI's in both the '07 and '08 seasons. That wasn't what experts were pointing to though when projecting Markakis. He had 43 and 48 doubles, and hit .303 between those two seasons. The power was expected to develop...

It never did for him, his power numbers dropped in the next two years, all the way down to 12 home runs in 2010. The doubles were still there, even the average was still high, but he sort of showed he may be nothing more than a mediocre player. A guy who will hit for a decent average, some power, but nothing else, something like a 2 hitter without much speed.

Markakis is important for the 2011 Orioles because they are a team who will not compete, but if they want to any time soon, they need to know what they have. If Markakis is ever going to develop his power then this has to be the year. If he doesn't have the upside, then the Orioles will need to look for someone else to bolster their young improving lineup.

Others considered: Matt Weiters: The young catcher has all the hype, but hasn't played to the level quite yet... Adam Jones: Like Weiters he was expected to make a huge splash, but has been a disappointment...Brian Matusz: coming off a solid first full year the lefty needs to build on his decent numbers if he wants to become a upper level SP...Mark Reynolds/Vladimir Guerrero: These are the two new guys in town and both have major power upside, but can they put it together like they have done in the past?

Arizona Diamondbacks: Justin Upton:
Upton was expected to be the next big thing, but because his last name is Upton, he fell well short of those expectations. Everyone knew he would strike out a lot, but he was supposed to be a 30+ home run guy who also stole 30+ bases. Sounds an awful lot like what people said about B.J. Upton.

Justin hit .273 last season which is respectable, but he also only had 17 home runs and 18 stolen bases. While those are good numbers for most 23 year olds, Justin is not just any other 23 year old outfielder.

He needs to figure things out quickly this season before following in B.J.'s footsteps. The two are very similar and at some point Justin must break the trend of Upton's being overrated. This has to be the season for him to do so or he may never turn into what some people expected.

I think Upton has the power to be a 40 home run guy, but he has no confidence in himself right now. The Diamondbacks are unlikely to make noise in the NL West this year, so the development of Upton is the key to their season.

Others considered: Chris Young: Similar to Upton, he was someone who is full of potential, but he has lived up to it, the question is whether he can repeat his 2010 season where he almost went 30-30 AND set a career high in Avg...No other players seem important on this team...they are BAD.

Next two Teams: Boston Red Sox & Atlanta Braves

Top 5 Sports memories: Honorable Mentions

Over the next week or so I will be counting down my top sports memories from 5 to 1.. These are going to be memories of things where I was either watching the event or at it. Some memories are more clear than others, some are on the list because it was an amazing thing that happened that made me go nuts, others may be things that I just know I will remember forever...If you have anything you want to add to my memory feel free to comment, if you want give me your top 5, I expect everyone's to be different.

I will be mix these in with other posts as well, this is more of a side-bar to the current sports news.

I will start off the week with a couple of memories that came close, but weren't in the top 5.

Honorable mentions:

Super Bowl XLII: The catch by David Tyree after Eli Manning eluded several defenders and threw up a prayer. I hate the Giants, but that play was incredible on both ends. The catch gets all the credit, but Eli did an amazing job to not get sacked.

Coming into the game everyone thought the Patriots would roll and become the first 19-0 team, but the Giants kept it close and that play helped them to a game winning drive that was capped by a Plaxico Burress TD pass a few plays later.

Super Bowl XXXIV: Dyson comes up shortI became a Titans fan mid-way through that season, mostly because I liked their team colors, but I was 12 so who really cares. I will remember this game for more than just how it ended, but also how I spent my time during that game.

I watched the first part with a friend and then we decided to go play some basketball. We got tired and came in moments before the infamous pass to Kevin Dyson fell a yard short. To this day I will always wonder why the heck I didn't want to watch that whole game.

November 2005, Giants commit 11 false starts in OT loss to Hawks: I was at this game and will never be able to explain just how loud it was throughout the game. It seemed that every time the Giants were on offense the entire crowd was on their feet going straight bonkers. Not only was there 11 false starts, but Jay Feely had 3 field goal attempts for the win and missed all three of them.

I remember seeing a video of Jeremy Shockey on TV acting like the Giants had one, but then Feely missed and he was dumb-struck. Then to top it off, Josh Brown knocked through a game winning 36 yard field goal to secure the win for the Hawks, it was amazing!

November 2010, IMA football game of the century: I told you I was giving my personal memories and this one will be something I remember for the rest of my life. I hurt my foot in the first game of the season, forcing me to coach a few games until coming back and playing QB instead of WR.

We were down by 8 points with about 30 second left in the game so I moved back to WR. On a third down play a jump ball was thrown up between me and two other guys, somehow I came down with it for a huge first down. The clock was ticking and we had to score fast. We had the ball at the 20 with about 15 seconds left. I went into the End zone doing whatever I could to get open, but couldn't.

Our QB scrambled and threw up a prayer towards me, went up near the back of the end zone and put one hand in the air trying to catch it, somehow it stuck in my hand and I pulled it in falling towards the ground. TOUCHDOWN!

We scored and that put us down 2 points. In IMA football you can go for 1,2 or three, the more points the further away you go. We needed 2 to force OT, but we were going for 3 and the win, which is from the is how the last play went:

The plan was to find me in the end zone and let me make a play. I was double teamed though including a guy who was at least 6 inches taller than me. I tried to get open but had no luck, eventually our QB put the ball up towards me, but I had three guys around me. The ball was thrown high and was coming down short of me right to the defenders.

Their team was yelling "knock it down", there was nothing I could do to make a play but hope something good happened. and it guy batted the guy down, the other hit it on the way down giving me a split second to dive at it near the ground. I got two hands under it and secured it thinking I had the game won.

A defender dove at the ball to and tried wrestling the ball away, I saw the refs arms signal the catch was good! We WON! It was the most amazing finish to a game I have ever seen, let alone been a part of! I will remember that game for the rest of my life!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Six: the week in review

Every Sunday I will look at the six top sports stories from the week. It will be a Sunday through Saturday week. So anything that happens today will likely not be included. It could be things I have talked about, but some things will also be new.

1. The fall of the leaders:
Coming into the week the top four college basketball teams were Kansas, Ohio State, Texas, Pittsburgh...All four teams lost! I have never seen something like this happen. Even more astounding is that all four teams had a handful of first place votes. What will the top 5 look like when the polls come out Monday?

Those weren't the only upsets either, SEVEN of the top ten teams fell this week. The only teams in the top 10 that didn't lose, Duke, who plays tonight, San Diego State, and BYU who played only one game. This season has been one full of parody, but this week was easily the clearest explanation that there are no great teams in college basketball.

2. Pujols will be a free agent:
I wrote about it in depth here, but that was before the deadline for him to sign came and went. The Cardinals made offers to him, but he did not like anything he saw. He is set up to make as much money as he wants after this season when he hits free agency.

Pujols is a beast, not just on the field, but as a man. The Cardinals need to find a way to get him back for the rest of his career. This off-season will be entertaining, especially if Pujols does what I think he will...

3. Blake Griffin Dunks over a car:
I knew he could dunk, and I thought he would win the dunk contest, but I never imagined what he would do. He has had some insane dunks this year, but he brought it all out for the NBA all-star-joke weekend. I will let him do the talking...

4. Anniversary of the passing of Dale Earnhardt:
While I am not a NASCAR fan or follower at any level, he was a legend of the sport and a household name. Ten years ago Friday he died in the last lap of one of the biggest races there is, the Daytona 500. He was the only racer I could name at the time, and even now his son, Dale Jr. is one of the few I know.

Dale Sr. was a winner, but from what I have learned also a family man. His passing left it's mark on the sport and also his family. Seeing what Dale Jr. does to recognize his father is very cool, even 10 years after it happened I can hear the voice and see the image of the announcement that we had lost Dale Earnhardt.

5. The NBA All-Star weekend came and went:
Yeah I had to look that one up too, it is hard to believe right? Actually it isn't even over yet, but still I feel as if it's over. I watched just two portions of the weekend, Griffin's dunks, well just replays of them, and then a bunch of celebrities get balled up by a kid.

Justin Beiber won the MVP for the celebrity game Friday, he was probably the shortest on the court by 6 inches. I watched the 4th quarter of the game, and wow those guys were not good at all. I don't mean to say I am a good basketball player, but I think I could've gone out and been the best on either team.

6. Pitchers and Catchers Report:
Just typing that makes me feel so relieved that baseball is back. Yes the regular season is still over a month away, but taking a 4+month break from constant baseball news is tough to do. Teams are getting ready, people, including myself, are making predictions about the season ahead...before we know it we can see the one realish all-star game.

Baseball season is something that brings so many things to the table, a new fantasy season, new rookies to breakout, new old guys breaking down, some controversies, and even maybe another Perfect-One-hitter...but I doubt that will happen again, at least I hope not. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Saturday NCAA Predictions, Top 25 and Pac 10, with a look back at Thursdays picks

Thursday I was 3/4 on my Pac-10 picks, my one miss was USC beating Stanford, which was the pick I felt least confident in. The scores were surprisingly close to the actual scores as well, maybe I have a knack for this?...probably just lucky though...Today I will predict the NCAA top 25 slate which has 16 games, and then scores for the Pac-10.

No. 1 Kansas over Colorado
No. 2 Texas over Nebraska
No. 4 Pittsburgh over St. Johns
No. 6 SDSU over Air Force
West Virginia over No. 7 Notre Dame
No. 8 BYU over TCU
No. 9 Georgetown over South Florida
No. 14 Villanova over DePaul
No. 17 Texas A&M over Oklahoma St.
No. 18 Vanderbilt over Auburn
No. 19 North Carolina over Boston College
No. 20 Syracuse over Rutgers
No. 21 Missouri over Iowa St.
No. 22 Kentucky over South Carolina
No. 23 Saint Mary's over No. 24 Utah St.

That looks pretty boring and safe, but I just don't see any upsets waiting to be happened. The top 25 looks safe tomorrow except for Notre Dame and one team in the Pac10...

Washington-83 No. 13 Arizona-79
Washington State-74 Arizona State-61
Oregon-72 Oregon State-62
Stanford-68 USC-64

Call the Washington win a Homer pick if you want to, but I think Washington has found its footing again and will come out strong. Suggs is hurt so Overton will start, but I think that will be alright as it gets Wilcox on the court more. This could be a slug-fest for both teams, but the final 10 minutes will be where Washington forces it's will and shows how deep of a team it is. 

2011 MLB preview, Who's the MVP? Who's the Cy Young? Who's the World Series Champ?

Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training already, position players are beginning to file in as well. This means it's time for baseball season to really get going. Predictions at this point are pretty much a crap shoot, but with all of the different things that can go wrong in a season, there is no better time than now to start looking towards October. Here are my pre-season award predictions as well as who I think will be in the playoffs and ultimately win the World Series.

American League Cy Young:: Felix Hernandez: He should be able to repeat this season for a variety of different reasons. First is that the AL pitching crop is not very good...Only really two other guys seem to have a shot, Sabathia and Lester. The NL has taken the all of the top pitchers out of the AL. Greinke is gone, Lee is gone, Halladay is gone. Felix will also get more wins this season, there is no way the M's offense is as bad as it was last year. He has to get more run support which will lead to a higher win total.

National League Cy Young: Tim Lincecum: There are 4 Phillies who all could win the award, but I think Lincecum will return to his dominant form and get his 3rd Cy Young in the last 4 seasons. He struggled at times last year which put fear into everyone's mind his arm was dead. Then in September he was 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA, then in the playoffs was 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA and a .92 WHIP. He found his arm again and I think 2011 will be the year of the Freak.

American League Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson: This year I don't see any Buster Posey's or Jason Heyward types, but I do like what Hellickson brings to the table. He pitched 36 innings last season and was very good with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP overall and in his first 4 appearances, had 4 quality starts and a 2.05 ERA. He could earn a spot in the Rays opening day rotation, if he does I think he will be able to pitch about 150 innings with a mid to high 3 ERA and about 11 wins. He won't be amazing, but he will be very good.

National League Rookie of the Year: Dominic Brown: I think he is going to be the next Carl Crawford...meaning he will steal a ton of bases, and every year people will say his power will show up, but it never really does. He hit 20 home runs last year between AA and AAA ball, but it's his speed and on base prowess that impresses me. He has a career .373 OBP, and has 89 steals in 5 minor league seasons. Neither of those jumps off the page, but those solid numbers and a clear shot to be the Phillies every day left fielder is going to give him an excellent opportunity to shine this year.

American League MVP: Carl Crawford: I mentioned him above, and I will talk about him again, he is as sure a bet as anyone in the league, and I think moving to Boston will help him to a career year. Last season he posted career bests in HR's, RBI's and OPS (On base plus slugging) all while hitting .307 with 47 steals. Lefties in Boston tend to have a lot of success and I think that along with being at the top of a dynamic offense will help him have a monster season. Speedsters don't usually win the MVP, but I think this season he will put it all together and be the top player in the AL.

National League MVP: Albert Pujols: I don't think I need to explain how good this guy is, but I think this year will be one of his best yet. He is playing for a new contract, which I think will give him even more incentive than he has already. The guy is a monster and doesn't need more reasons to be great, but give him more and I think he will take them. Joey Votto will probably regress just slightly from last season giving Pujols less competition. I think the runner up will be Ryan Braun, a guy who has been very good every year, but just hasn't had one of those WOW years yet. But he will be forced to settle for second behind a machine who has everything to play for.

American League Playoff Picture:
West winner: Texas Rangers-They are the best team in the division and I think they run away with it this year.
Central winner: Detroit Tigers-Adding Victor Martinez will help, but their rotation is young and improving and this is the year they put it all together.
East winner: Boston Red Sox- They added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to their lineup, they have a deep rotation that will keep them competitive in every game they play.
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees- How can you bet against a team that has as much star power as the Yankees? They may be outpitched sometimes, but they will hit with the best of the league.

National League Playoff Picture:
West winner: San Francisco Giants- led by Lincecum and Cain followed by BumGraner and Sanchez, they will have one of the best rotations in the NL, whether they can hit enough to win 90+ games? That may be another story.
Central Winner: St. Louis Cardinals-Pujols will be better than ever, Votto will regress, that plus Adam Wainwright every 5 days will be enough to push the Cards over the Reds.
East Winner: Philadelphia Phillies- Halladay, Lee, Hamels, a good offense. This might not even be a race.
NL Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds- While I think they will regress...Votto is still a monster and the Reds are a young team getting better, and I think they sneak into the playoffs.

American League Champion: Boston Red Sox-I think this Red Sox team is one of the best they've put together in a long time. They don't have the best pitching, but they have guys who can go out and throw gems on any given night. Lester is a legit Ace and I think he will carry this team to the World Series. Also the huge additions of Crawford and Gonzalez help just a tad...

National League Champion: St. Louis Cardinals-Wainwright and Carpenter match up well against any other 1-2 in baseball...yes even the Phillies. I think in the playoffs this team will be tough to beat, their number 3 starter will probably be Jaime Garcia, a guy who I think is a legit number 3 and can win a playoff game. Also their line-up is VERY good, they have the young Colby Rasmus who has huge potential and the ageing Lance Berkman, who I think will be key for the Cards.

World Series Champion: St. Louis Cardinals-For all of the above reasons I think they are able to win their second championship in the last 6 years. Pujols will be looked at as the King of the city and he will get whatever contract he wants. They have some question marks on their team, but in a long season full of surprises, I think the team with the best player in the league will end up bringing home the hardware.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sports Boredom in February...The Super Bowl and NCAA Basketball Enough to Entertain you?

I'm a college basketball fan so that keeps me pretty entertained at this time of year, but is there a worse time to be a sports fan than the month of February?

I am going to take a look through the different slow times in sports and determine which part of the year is my personal least favorite.
The NBA is in full swing as teams push to make the playoffs, but I really never watch the NBA at all. I will elaborate another time on my NBA disdain, but in general it isn’t nearly as appealing to me in comparison to other professional sports.

The Super Bowl is in the beginning of the month, which I guess should automatically boost February’s sports appeal, but that’s just one day and one game. It is the biggest game of the year though and one any sports fan makes sure they watch no matter that’s playing.

The beginning of the month has another big day with National signing day for college football. Like the Super Bowl, because it is just one day it doesn’t really do a lot as a whole; especially because it isn’t something you can watch on TV.

Lucky for me college basketball is hitting its stride at this point giving me something to look at daily. While I enjoy watching and following college basketball as much as anything, being a Pac-10 fan makes half the days boring. All teams play Thursday Saturday almost every week, meaning that Monday through Thursday morning nothing is happening.

When I turn on SportsCenter I can see highlights, but not teams I care about. I wish the Pac-10 would change how they do things, but I doubt that will happen, and maybe it's good for me, broadens my horizons to all teams in the country. But really I don't like seeing Terrence Jones and Coach Calipari highlights every night…probably because I have bitter feelings towards them for pretty obvious reasons.
As a Mariners fan, the fourth of July marks the day the team is out of the playoffs just about every year, meaning locally I have nothing to follow.

Well…Actually the Storm may play in July, but I honestly have ZERO clue if that is right or not, and I refuse to go look it up. If you know me you know how I feel about women’s recreational activities…although that is slowly changing.

Lucky for me I am an avid fantasy baseball player and this time of the year is when I usually spend hours checking my teams while the rest of the league squanders around letting me move further ahead in first place.

July is a good month as well because I love baseball regardless of what teams are playing, nothing’s much more enjoyable than sitting down and watching a good baseball game, even a crappy one can be enjoyable, or maybe I have just grown used to crappy games living in Seattle...

Another plus to this time of year it that it is right before NFL pre-season starts up, notice I said before, and that’s a good thing. The pre-season is lame and I can't stand it, but I do enjoy getting a daily dose of pro football news.
Early December:
This month could be great or awful, it just depends on a couple of key things…

First if you don't like football then chances are you are bored with sports in November as well...but what American doesn't like sports?

The second thing is where your teams are at in the standings...The college football regular season is pretty much over at this point and teams are getting ready for bowl games. But if you are a Husky fan you've been stuck watching your team clean out their lockers and go home. If your team is not going to a bowl it marks the end of football season and the time until the bowls actually start can be pretty boring.

The NFL season can get lame at this point as well...the reason being that the playoffs are usually pretty well set up at this point, you know if your team is in or out. Either way the early December games aren't really all that fun to watch.

I like this time of year, because college basketball is getting started up, but I could see why other people could dislike this time of the year.
And the Winner is...
My vote clearly goes to February…which is a little odd because it’s college basketball season, one of my favorites. But there just isn’t anything else going on and most days I have little to no entertaining sports to read. Plus there is too much talk about baseball going on, yet no games being played.