By: Tiffany Rutledge
The Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays have both started the 2011 campaign with an 0-6 record. With two series completed, these two AL East teams are still winless. Six games into the season, is it time to panic?
The Red Sox came into the season favored by many to win the World Series. Everyone was talking about their lineup with the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. How could they be stopped? The Rangers and Indians showed how to stop this team. Take advantage of that shaky pitching staff. After Jon Lester and youngster Clay Buchholz, their staff is shaky at best. John Lackey is not the same pitcher he used to be. Neither is Josh Beckett. And Daisuke is well, Daisuke. He has not been the pitcher the Red Sox hoped to be getting for much of his time in the states. It might not be time to panic because with that offense, they should win a lot of games but they need another arm to solidify that rotation. Their weakness has been discovered and they do not look as scary to other teams as they did going into the season.
The Rays might need to be a little quicker to push the panic button because they do not have the offensive threat that the Red Sox have. They not only have not won a game, they also have put their biggest offensive threat Evan Longoria on the DL and have lost their biggest offseason acquisition Manny Ramirez to an abrupt retirement. Things are going from bad to worse down in Tampa. The defending AL East Champions are reeling and in that division, a slow start could be the end of it. My question now is, will the fast-starting Baltimore Orioles end the season with a better record than the Rays? In this game, anything can happen.
The Red Sox bats came to life today to help them get their first win of the season. They defeated rivals New York Yankees 9-6. Lackey gave up 6 earned runs but the offense backed him up today. It felt good to be back at Fenway for the Sox and they look to right the ship and get back to winning games. The Rays take on the Chicago White Sox later today as they look to be the last team to get in the win column.
Filed under: Uncategorized
By Tiffany Rutledge
There are a few question marks surrounding the Oakland A’s going into the 2011 season, but for the first time since the 2006 team that lost in the ALCS there are expectations. The expectations are not sky high but they are there, which is new for this club. Some say they can overtake the reigning AL Champion Texas Rangers and win the AL West. With the Rangers losing a major piece of their postseason run in Cliff Lee, the A’s have hope. They can win the West, but it will take more than strong arms to lead the way.
It is well documented how good the A’s pitching staff is and can be. They led the AL with a team ERA of 3.56 and their arms are young. All-Star and Cy Young Candidate Trevor Cahill led the staff last year at the age of 22 while Brett Anderson was great as well at the same age. Gio Gonzalez matured on the mound and became a dominant force out there at the age of 24. We all know what Dallas Braden accomplished last year, hurling a perfect game at the young age of 26. This rotation is young and extremely talented. They started to come together as a unit last season and expectations for them this year are sky high. This staff has the potential to be great for years to come. The bullpen should be solid as well with the additions of Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour. They will accompany Craig Breslow and Michael Wuertz in setting things up for All Star closer Andrew Bailey in the 9th (when healthy). The pitching looks to be rock solid, but where will the runs come from? This is and always has been the biggest concern for the Green and Gold.
With such a great pitching season last year, how is it the A’s only won 81 games? Runs. They did not scratch across enough runs to support the great outings from their staff. Their home run leader, Kevin Kouzmanoff, had a not-so-impressive 16 dingers in the 2010 campaign. The team ranked 23rd overall in runs scored, making it much harder on their young arms. Getting runs on the board is a concern for the club even with a few new bats in the lineup and a revamped offense. The A’s acquired Hideki Matsui in the offseason and hope he can provide some pop as the DH in the middle of the lineup. Also acquired were outfielders David Dejesus and Josh Willingham via trades this offseason and the A’s are hoping they too provide some much needed timely hitting and also a little power to an offense starving for it. Injuries have plagued the A’s in the past as well and they hope leadoff man Coco Crisp can stay healthy this year and get on base and in scoring position for these new guys to have the RBI opportunities. Only time will tell if these three additions to the lineup will make the difference and get the A’s back over that hump and back into the playoffs. It should be a fun year to watch and a great race to follow in the AL West.
Some have compared this team poised with pitching to the reigning Champion San Francisco Giants across the Bay but the A’s want to make a name for themselves and prove they can win with their own great pitching and a little bit of hitting on the side.
Filed under: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Uncategorized
By Wes Yee
2010 was a year of serious emergence in baseball. Much hyped prospects Buster Posey of the Giants and Jason Heyward of the Braves stepped forward and established themselves as bona fide stars. St. Louis’ Jaime Garcia threw up a sub 3 ERA and Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez nearly won the MVP.
This season there’s a whole new list of players primed to make an impact. While perhaps the biggest names in the prospect world (Bryce Harper and Mike Trout) may not see major league time this season, there is a group of young players who will influence playoff races.
1. Jesus Montero, Yankees – This beastly catcher has drawn comparisons to Frank Thomas and Miguel Cabrera in the batter’s box. He improved consistently as a 20 year old in AAA in ’10 and should break camp with the team thanks to the injury to Francisco Cervelli. While his defense has drawn serious long term questions, Montero has a cannon arm and is blocked only by a declining Russell Martin and the hobbled Jorge Posada. An injury (not unlikely given their histories) to either would open up full time at bats for Montero. With a healthy and reinforced Red Sox lineup, Montero’s bat will be counted on to provide additional offense in an aging lineup. If he succeeds early, Yankees Manager Joe Girardi will have no choice but to find a place for him to play.
2. Michael Pineda, Mariners – Baseball Reference lists the intimidating Pineda at 6’5, 180. Reports from Spring Training, however, have him at 6’7, 260. He’s a flamethrowing righthander who can touch the high 90’s. Opponents hit just .227 against him in the minors and he showed good control. Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro has to be upset that he picked Phillipe Aumont over Pineda when trading Cliff Lee after the 2009 season. Pineda has shown that he’s ready now, and he too should break camp with the major league club.
3. Brandon Belt, Giants – Belt led the minors in hitting and OPS in 2010 and has held his own in Spring Training. Giants management has already announced that he’ll hit 7th if he breaks camp with the club, and even if he doesn’t, he’ll be up by June. While it’s his bat that entices people, his defense is outstanding, starting with an arm that touched 93 mph in high school. He moves well and could offer a consistent RBI man with 20-30 HR power. Think of Belt as a first baseman in the Todd Helton mold. Athletic with a great approach and ability to hit for average.
4. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Twins – Nishioka won the Pacific League batting title in 2010 and is known for plus speed. He’ll be an integral part of a contender in Minnesota, playing up the middle for a strong defensive team. Don’t expect any power, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t hit at least .300 with 25 steals.
5. Manny Banuelos, Yankees – Banuelos won’t break camp with New York, but he should be in the majors sometime this summer. He’s a lefty who sits in the low 90’s and can touch 95. He has outstanding command and major league capable off speed pitches. The major concern with Banuelos is workload, he’s never gone more than seven innings in a game or 108 innings in a season. This could work out for the Yankees though, as limiting his workload early could conserve some innings for the big league club upon his call up. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him break in as a reliever, a la Aroldis Chapman.
6. Jake McGee, Rays – McGee was one of the top starting pitching prospects in the minors in 2008 when he blew out his elbow. He moved to the bullpen last year and showed a high 90’s fastball. With Rafael Soriano and the rest of the Rays bullpen gone, McGee is expected to step in and pitch crucial innings. He’ll be a big reason behind the Rays success or failure in 2011.
7. Freddie Freeman, Braves – Freeman has received a decent amount of hype already, as he’s been photographed as a Jason Heyward sidekick. He’ll open the season as the starting first baseman and will be counted on to fill the void left by Chipper Jones’ youth and Derrek Lee’s departure. He’s strong athletically and I expect to see an Ike Davis type rookie season.
8. Julio Teheran, Braves – Teheran, the minors’ top pitching prospect, sits in the 94-96 mph range and throws a dominating changeup. He’s just 20 years old and will probably start the season in AAA. His stuff is elite and if Atlanta gets desperate due to injury in the rotation or ineffectiveness in the bullpen you could see him get a callup. Atlanta’s bullpen lacks experience after the retirement of Billy Wagner and their rotation includes Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson, two older pitchers.
9. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays -Hellickson has been much discussed. He has a relatively low ceiling compared to the other pitchers on this list but is also more proven than any of the others. He’ll be the #4 or #5 starter but really slots in behind David Price as the Rays second best pitcher.
10. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians – Chisenhall isn’t big at 6’1, 200 but hit for good power in 2010 (17 HR in 460 AB) and tore up Spring Training this year. He’s been sent to minor league camp, but that was before Jason Donald injured his hand. Jack Hannahan, Jason Nix and Luis Valbuena should start the season at third for the Tribe, but none have the pedigree or staying power that Chisenhall will offer once he’s called up, likely in May or June – late enough to delay his arbitration clock.
Filed under: Uncategorized
By Wes Yee (@wesyee)
How quickly the cookie crumbles for fans of the Giants. Ace Tim Lincecum combined to shutout LA on Saturday and things were looking up for the city by the bay. With the resurgent Barry Zito starting Sunday for the Dodgers’ rubber match followed by three with lackluster San Diego, It looked like a statement week for the squad.
It sure was, as they blew an 8th inning lead in LA and got swept at Petco. The Padres series should serve as a reminder that a team that lacks offensive punch is prone to streaks. As hot as Lincecum and Zito were against LA, Todd Wellemeyer showed why he hasn’t been a rotation regular in the majors. As fans clamored for Kevin Pucetas or Madison Bumgarner, the beleaguered Wellemeyer walked four in a row and burned through 87 pitches in just four innings. 2009 organizational mover of the year Dan Runzler continued to struggle, giving up 3 runs.
The bright side:
Madison Bumgarner made a mechanical fix and was throwing in the low 90’s in his last start, far better than the mid 80’s being discussed during Spring Training and in his first start.
Star setup man Jeremy Affeldt, who allowed just three home runs in 2009, was tagged for a second, off the bat of spaz second baseman David Eckstein. The first was hit by the monstrous Jason Heyward, so we can give him a break on that one. He’s a key though, as Sergio Romo hasn’t been strong and Runzler cannot be counted on in close situations.
Around the league:
Ike Davis made his debut to a WSG7 type ovation in New York. The hapless Mets, who had hoped to be energized by the return of former speedster Jose Reyes, were forced to turn to the patient Davis. Ike won’ t be Jason Heyward, but he could provide 20 or so home runs and a .360 OBP for a team badly in need of some offensive consistency.
Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no hitter in Rockies history. He was far from perfect and walked six, but a no hitter is a no hitter. He could be in for a bit of a hangover effect after throwing a career high 129 pitches. Although he faces the lowly Nationals, their offense has actually been decent, 11th in the Majors in runs.
Indians prospect Nick Hagadone made his third start, he’s gone 13 innings and has yet to yield a run. The powerful lefty has been throwing in the mid to high 90’s.
Filed under: Uncategorized
By Wes Yee (@wesyee)
The season kicked off the way every season should, with a rivalry game between the Red Sox and the Yanks. A back and forth affair, the game lived up to all expectations, from a Pedro appearance (throwing out the first pitch) to a fantastic Neil Diamond “Sweet Caroline” performance that had the stadium rocking. A few quick shots:
@ESPN’s coverage – The addition of Orel Hershiser was a strong one, the Bulldog brings an intellectual perspective to breaking down the action. The same can’t be said, unfortunately, about his counterpart Joe Morgan, who was in midseason form announcing that Kevin Youkilis was a good fielder immediately after Hershiser mentioned his Gold Glove and stating that “the Red Sox would be wise to score some more.”
@Joe Girardi – Also in midseason form was the Yankee’s skipper. Mismanaging his bullpen by bringing in Chan Ho Park and Damaso Marte in the 7th. Rolling with Joba in the 7th would have made a lot more sense – even if he struggled and wasn’t able to go the 8th the teams have tomorrow off – no reason not to go with Rivera for two innings to lock down an opening win.
@David Ortiz – The highlights for Ortiz seemed to be not being called on his check swings. He shouldn’t be counted on for a big year by any means – I’d quickly go to Lowell (who kills lefties) as a DH platoon option.
@Josh Beckett – His low 90’s two-seamer continues to get hammered by right handed hitters. He tries to be too perfect with his curveball and overthrows it. Throw the hard four-seamer inside and break some bats.
@Daniel Bard – CANNOT be walking Nick Johnson to get to Teixiera with two outs and none on. Challenge!
@Britney Griner/Baylor – A great presence but looked like the freshman she is against UConn. There is no reason anyone should ever get a rebound or box her out.
@WesYee – Follow me on Twitter! I’ll be prolifically tweeting baseball chatter all season long!
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Mets Prospect Ike Davis is causing a Buzz in New York’s camp
The 2010 baseball season is nearly upon as and not a moment too soon. Spring training is in full swing and games have begun. With deep rosters filled with young prospects and embattled veterans contenders and pretenders alike are evaluating important position battles that will make or break their seasons. This is the part of the year that can determine not only the team’s early season, but the development of a young player and perhaps the end of an aging veteran’s career. In this post, I’ll take a look at some of the fascinating competitions going on throughout the league.
Mets First Baseman – Daniel Murphy vs Ike Davis
The Carlos Delgado era is over in New York. Daniel Murphy hit just .266 in a nightmarish 2009 campaign. He’s back again, but is no lock for the job. He hit for limited power (.427 SLG) and was not strong on defense (10 errors). Davis – the team’s 2008 top draft pick – brings a power bat and is coming off of a very strong 2009 that saw him hit .298 with 20 HR’s between high A and AA. He hasn’t played a game above AA yet, but is the first baseman of the future. Is the future now? Ike has started off his audition very strong, hitting a grand slam on Thursday. He is just 22, and I wouldn’t expect him to make the club out of spring training. A team like the Mets is likely to hold him at AAA for at least the first couple of months, both to delay his arbitration and to give Murphy, Mike Jacobs and Fernando Tatis a chance to seize the job. That’s no murder’s row – expect Davis to come up in May if the team is struggling offensively. He profiles as a .270-.280 hitter with potential for 30 HR type power. Realistic expectations would have him down as a strong doubles hitter with 25 HR a season – perhaps in the mold of a James Loney with slightly better power.
Yankees Fifth Starter – Joba Chamberlain vs Phil Hughes
No more Chien-Ming Wang means one of these two hyped prospects needs to make the transition to full time starter. The Joba rules are over, and his stuff is superior when at his peak. However, Chamberlain is one of the most inconsistent starters in the game. He averaged just over 5 innings per start and led the majors in HBP. He has also been unable to translate his overpowering fastball into consistent velocity through 7-8 innings. Hughes, who has perhaps a lower ceiling but also a higher floor, was especially good in the setup role last season. However he also has more of a starter’s makeup. His biggest issue has been his health. Expect Joba to win the job initially with Hughes as a fallback option. This is likely Joba’s last chance to start before he is simply forced into the setup/closer in waiting role that many saw when he burst on the scene in 2007.
Braves Rightfielder – Matt Diaz vs Jason Heyward
Heyward, the game’s top prospect, is already the far bigger name. However Diaz had a strong 2009 with limited at bats. Atlanta might have an inclination to build his value then trade him after adding another year to Heyward’s arbitration clock. The reports out of Atlanta however, are gushing on Heyward. After all the hype it will be hard for them to chance a slow start by Diaz. They faced a similar situation last season with Tommy Hanson, the club chose to delay his callup and paid for it dearly with terrible performance from the likes of Kris Medlen, Jo Jo Reyes and Kenshin Kawakami. Hanson was outstanding and a full season from him could have put Atlanta in the postseason. I have Heyward winning the job out of spring training and Diaz perhaps being moved to a needy team, perhaps a club who sustains an injury or has limited faith in their own prospect/veteran outfield mix – Detroit anyone? Diaz could also fall into the Seth Smith sort of platoon role.