Big League Blurbs 2011: NL Update #1

NL East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies(14-6): The Phils have yet to miss Chase Utley in the middle of their lineup, rocking the best record in the major leagues. Utley still has no timetable for his return from a knee injury. In the meantime the offense has been carried by Ryan Howard’s power and Placido Polanco’s stick. The monster rotation we have all heard so much about has yet to disappoint.
  2. Florida Marlins(12-7): Its too bad that Javier Vazquez and Chris Volstad are bringing this rotation down because Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco have all been extremely impressive. Johnson is looking like the Cy Young candidate we all know he can be; he has a 1.00 ERA and has only allowed 10 hits in his 27 innings of work. Logan Morrison was off to a hot start for Florida(.327 average and 4 homers) but has just landed on the disabled list.
  3. Washington Nationals(9-10): The Nats are a team that may be the definition of extreme mediocrity. They have no one in their batting lineup that has raised any eyebrows to this point. Free agent signing Jayson Werth has gotten off to a slow start with a .214 average and only 3 long balls. He must be missing Citizens Bank Park in Philly. The entire rotation has been extremely pedestrian and Riggleman continues not to commit to a single closer; Burnett and Storen are still splitting save opps.
  4. Atlanta Braves(10-12): I love this team on paper and they are much better than a 10-12 team. They have pitched well but the offensive game has been anemic. Young stud Jason Heyward has struggled big time and Freddie Freeman is still adjusting to major league pitching. As a whole the rotation has impressed and the Venters/Kimbrel duo at the backend of games has been dominant. They should turn it around quickly.
  5. New York Mets(8-13): What is there to say about this walking disaster. They looked in far worse shape earlier in the week when I planned to write this update but they are still a mess. The infusion of Jason Bay into the lineup has seemed to give them a shot of life. The fact of the matter is the Mets will be flirting with the basement of this division all year and should start selling off players when they feel the price is right. Expect Reyes, Beltran and KRod to be gone.

NL Central

  1. Cincinnati Reds(11-10): If the Reds continue to get pitching this poor they will not hang around in first place too much longer. The entire rotation has an ERA over 4.15 yet the starters have combined for a total of 8 wins. They can not continue to out slug everybody; mainly behind the bat of Joey Votto(.392/.505/.649.) Of course, they will continue to battle for this division all year long.
  2. St. Louis Cardinals(11-10): The big story out of St. Louis in the early goings is none other than Albert Pujols. Phat Albert got off to as slow of a start as we have seen him get off to in his entire career. He has pulled his average up to .250 but that is still not very Pujolsesque. However, it must be noted that he has jacked 7 home runs which currently leads the league. They have been very impressive all around. In the next update we will check out if starters like Jamie Garcia continue to dominate.
  3. Chicago Cubs(10-10): Many believe that the Cubs are the dark horse in this division and they have not done anything particularly spectacular in the early going this year. Dempster and Zambrano, who are supposed to head this rotation, have been pretty awful. I would like to note that Starlin Castro looks like he is going to be a star(.391 batting average.) All he does is hit hard line drives; what a stud.
  4. Milwaukee Brewers(10-10): Zack Greinke is going to be returning for the Brew Crew very soon and he will be what puts this team over top. They are sitting at .500 right now without their ace and have been getting incredible production out of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Chris Narveson has been a wonderful surprise for Milwaukee so far. I never thought too much of him but his breaking stuff is nasty.
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates(9-11): Everyone knows the Pirates are an utter joke but they are making it very hard on us to be able to get a good read on them after the first 10th of the season. The pirates are a mere 2 games under .500 and not even in last place in the division(which we may not be too surprised about given the poll results from the 1st WTP Poll – check out the WTP Polls page.) The struggle with consistency at the plate and James McDonald has been quite the let down on the hill with the 10.13 ERA in 4 starts. He was on my radar as a major 2011 sleeper but he has been dreadful.
  6. Houston Astros(8-13): The Astros continue to prove why the poll voters believe that Pitt will finish in front of these guys this season. Wandy Rodriguez is off to his typical slow start. He seems to be like the Mark Teixeira of pitchers. He starts out the season dreadful but then finds a way to get it together for an incredible 2nd half. The have actually hit the ball a little bit but Hunter Pence is still the only one I would trust for any kind of consistency. He is batting .286 with 3 home runs and 17 RBIs over the first 21 games.
NL West
  1. Colorado Rockies(14-6): No one should be surprised that the Rox have gotten off to such a strong start. They are just oozing with talent. I could not bring myself to pick them as a playoff team because i did not see it on the pitching side of the ball but they have impressed me, can’t deny it. Troy Tulowitzki is an absolute monster and if I could go back and change my NL MVP pick now I would change it from Pujols to Troy with no question. He currently has an OPS of 1.154 and wOBA of .478. Absurdly incredible. It is scary to think of how good they are going to be when Ubaldo Jimenez is fully healthy and comes around. Watch out for the Rox.
  2. Los Angeles Dodgers(11-11): I have a feeling that a Dodgers blog post is going to be coming up soon addressing their current situation. Major League Baseball and Bud Selig have taken over the major operations of the team from owner Frank McCourt. McCourt was an awful owner and I have plenty to say about him but this blurb is about the actual team’s play. Stay tuned for more about McCourt. Andre Ethier has a MLB leading 20 game hitting streak. Could he make a push for the last magic number in sports; 56? Matt Kemp appears to have returned to his 2009 form, and may be even better now. He is currently batting .402 with 5 home runs, 17 RBIs and 8 stolen bases. 
  3. San Francisco Giants(10-10): The Giants broke my heart by sending down ROY candidate Brandon Belt but he could use more minor league seasoning. My other favorite Giant bat is none other than the Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval. The slimmer, but not quite slim, Sandoval is rebounding nicely from a poor 2010 campaign. He has busted out of the gate batting .308 with 5 home runs. If I were the Giants I may start worrying that the Verducci Effect may be hitting Madison Bumgarner hard(0-3 with 7.79 ERA over first 4 starts.)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks(8-11): No surprises here that the Dbacks are on their way to another poor season. The pitching has been extremely bad to this point in the young season. The starting rotation does not have a starter with an ERA under 4.98, that simply will not get the job done. I do not expect much out of this rotation but Daniel Hudson is still on my radar to potentially break out this year. Ryan Roberts, a 31 year old career minor leaguer/journeyman, has taken over at 3rd for Arizona and banged the ball around. Jury is still out on whether he is the real deal. 
  5. San Diego Padres(8-13): Last season many, including myself, were shocked and awed by the fact that the Pads were able to win 90 games. Outside of Adrian Gonzalez(5.7 oWAR & 6.3 WAR) they had no offensive presence. Now that he is gone, we see what this offense is really all about. The Friars will be in a battle with the Dbacks all year for last place in this division. No reason to expect them to compete with the atrocious offense and lack of pitching. Mat Latos is another starter who could get bitten by the Verducci Effect bug and the likes of Aaron Harang and Dustin Mosley are pitching well above their pay grade, so they can be expected to come back to Earth.
Happy Easter everybody! Hope you enjoyed the 1st installment of Big League Blurbs. Stay tuned for more about the Dodgers situation and my thoughts on Barry Bonds/Manny/the steroid and Hall debate. 
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Big League Blurbs 2011: AL Update #1

AL East

  1. New York Yankees(10-6): The Yanks are currently sitting atop the AL East and are the only team in the division with a winning record. Their only losing series to date was against the Red Sox in Boston and they have yet to lose back to back games. Brett Gardner is struggling hard at the plate with a .128 batting average while Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon are showing promise on the hill. The Bombers will need to get more longevity out of their starters as they have only 1 off day between now and May 25th.
  2. Tampa Bay Rays(9-10): There is not a hotter team in the American League right now than Tampa Bay; 8-2 in their last 10. Out of the gate this season looked like a lost cause for the Rays. They could not hit, lost Evan Longoria to an oblique injury and Manny Ramirez suddenly retired to avoid a suspension for drug use. Sam Fuld has emerged as a pleasant surprise for Tampa and the rotation is holding their own. Longoria is still on the shelf but looks to return next week.
  3. Baltimore Orioles(8-10): After starting the season 6-1 the Orioles lost 8 straight at the hands of the Rangers, Yanks, Indians and Twins. It is a wonder if the Buck Showalter effect has faded in B’more already. It is also a wonder how the team is nearly .500 at this point. I see them at a .500 team this year but they have gotten no consistency on offense or in the rotation outside of promising rookie Zach Britton. Although it appears to moving in the right direction, in comparison to last year, the Birds’ pen is still dreadful. Things may not be getting better any time soon; 4 out of next 5 opponents are Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox & Rays.
  4. Toronto Blue Jays(8-10): There are still question marks all over the place with this Toronto team but one positive this week was that strikeout artist Brandon Morrow was activated from the DL. The trio of Morrow, Ricky Romero and Kyle Drabek(struggling with control but 3.00 ERA regardless in the early going) can win a lot of games for the Jays. Still my pick to finish in the basement of the AL East they have been more impressive than I thought. Don’t look now but Jose Bautista is on pace for 43 home runs; maybe he was not an enigma in 2010.
  5. Boston Red Sox(7-11): Who would have thought with 10% of the season gone that Boston would be sitting 4 games under .500 and be last in the American League East. The BoSox luckily have not buried themselves after a brutally poor start and no one has ran away with this division. The media is saying that Josh Beckett “looks like the Beckett of old.” Don’t forget that he has a 3.92 career ERA and is not a notoriously good regular season pitcher. He made his bones as a stud in the postseason. There should be serious concern about the consistency of Lackey and Dice-K, even some about Buchholz possible regression but to a lesser degree. One fact that we can all agree on is that this team eventually will start hitting. Carl Crawford’s bat will certainly return to form and Youk will start banging the ball around. Youkilis left last night’s game after fouling a ball off his shin but X-Rays were negative.

AL Central

  1. Cleveland Indians(13-6): A new top dog in the AL Central? I don’t know about all that but Cleveland has been very impressive thus far in 2011. What makes their great start even more notable is that Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana are stuggling at the plate and ace Fausto Carmona has pitched poorly. Can they stand to get even better or will everyone else just come back to Earth? Asdrubal Cabrera carried them on his back for a few games and Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin may have finally found their niche. For a team that was expected to finish 4th or 5th here they must be very satisfied.
  2. Kansas City Royals(12-7): Well look at we have here. Another team who was expected to be sitting in the basement all season yet they have the 2nd best record in the league. Jeff Francis and Bruce Chen has given the Royals a lift with their arms and Alex Gordon seems to have finally figured it out at the plate after all these years. Gordon is batting .354/.393/.544 with 12 extra base hits. I hope everyone out there has made their attempt to snatch him up in your fantasy leagues.
  3. Detroit Tigers(9-10): Here is the first of the 3 teams who are actually expected to battle for this division crown. Nearly every player on the Tigers roster has been a letdown outside of a few. Miguel Cabrera has been his typical self and Justin Verlander despite his 1-2 record has been solid. Phil Coke has been a pleasant surprise as a starting pitcher with his 2.75 ERA so far but Austin Jackson is killing Detroit at the plate with a .157 average and 24 strikeouts over 70 at bats. A regression was expected for AJax due to his absurdly high BAbip in 2010 but this poor of a showing has shocked many.
  4. Chicago White Sox(8-11): My World Series pick is not looking so good right now is it? The ChiSox have not been able to close games out at all this year. The bullpen appeared to be a strength on this team and it has become an absolute circus. Matt Thornton and Chris Sale who were supposed to lock down the end of the game can not get anyone out. The big bopper that I believed to put this team over the top, Adam Dunn, has not started off well and is likely having a hard time adjusting to the American League. I expected Dunn to lead the AL in homers but he is batting a mere .178 with 2 jacks. One final note is that Carlos Quentin is showing us that spring training really does mean very little; he looked lost at the plate in ST and has busted out so far with a .310 average, 4 homers and 14 RBIs.
  5. Minnesota Twins(7-12): Although only slightly worse than the two teams just ahead of them in the Central I believe that Minnesota is in the worst shape of all. I was always shocked that they found a way to make the playoffs each and every season because I simply did not see what made them so good. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are both struggling and have appeared to come down with some sort of virus that is really messing with their bodies. Former All Star closer Joe Nathan has already been knocked out of his closing position; I guess his bounce back from Tommy John is not going to be very smooth after all. I would not be surprised if they find a way to battle until the end since they always do but this start is not promising.

AL West

  1. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim(12-7): As of the other day Jered Weaver had as many wins at the New York Mets with 5. I have not seen pitching brilliance like this in a long time. Weaver looks well on his way to the 2011 Cy Young award. The 2nd reason I picked this team to win the West, Dan Haren, has not been to shabby himself. They have combined to go 9-0 with a 1.19 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 68 April innings. Utter brilliance. They made the smart move by putting Jordan Walden in as their closer and he will be much more effective than Rodney ever could be. It only took Vernon Wells 74 at bats but he finally hit his first homer as an Angel; earn that paycheck Vern. The pitching will be the story in LA all year.
  2. Texas Rangers(11-7): The Rangers should keep pace with the Angels all season but how they respond long term without Josh Hamilton for two months is still yet to be seen. No team started better than the Rangers but they have only won 4 out of their last 10 and 2-5 since losing Hamilton to the shoulder injury. Alexi Ogando, chosen to be the 5th starter in the 11th hour, has looked absolutely filthy in his first 3 starts. He still has plenty of room for improvement but this should prove to be a successful year for him. The Rangers also have to be happy with themselves for not shipping off Michael Young this offseason. They will need his experience and consistent bat now more than ever as they try to fill the gap left my the Hamilton injury.
  3. Oakland Athletics(9-10): The story out of Oakland year in and year out seems to be that they pitch great and can’t hit. It is no surprise that they have not even one regular on offense hitting anywhere near .300 but have 5 starters with an ERA of 3.00 or lower. As good as the pitching is, it will be very difficult for this team(a preseason favorite by many to win the West) to win with such an anemic offense. Dallas Braden just hit the DL so they will hope Tyson Ross can fill in for the time being but I feel like they will be okay with the 4-some of Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy who have all baffled hitters to this point.
  4. Seattle Mariners(7-13): No surprise here that the Mariners have the worst record in the American League considering they lost 100 games last season. Last night Felix Hernandez had a dominant start against the joke of an Oakland offense discussed above but the few starts previously have not been Felixesque. He is sitting at 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA and 31 Ks in 34 inning and people are wondering what’s wrong with Hernandez. After last year’s dominant showing we expect him to go out and give 8 innings of 2 run ball or better every 5th day; I don’t know if those are fair expectations. It is hard to believe that a team can struggle more at the plate than Oakland but the Mariners are in this early season. Even potential Hall of Famer Ichiro, who has been a lock for a .310+ average and 200 hits every year since 2001 is off to a slow start(.274 avg with 23 hits.) Seattle should be sitting in this same spot in my next blurbs update.
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Manny Being Manny – Our Favorite Moments

What better way to start this blog post than with what may be my favorite “This is Sportscenter” commercial ever. 55% of voters stated in last week’s WTP Poll that they believe Manny Ramirez’s legacy will revolve mainly around his “Manny being Manny” persona. Due to that winning out in the poll here is a look at a few of everyone’s favorite Manny being Manny moments

  1. Girly ‘Man’ny: Not only is Manny busted for using PEDs once he was got caught twice. The first failed test, back in 2009 which held a 50 game suspension, was for a female fertility drug. This was a drug known to be used to help combat the negative effects of steroids on the body. The fact that it was a female fertility drug became the butt of many jokes. I do not know if there is another baseball player could ever be caught using a banned substance a second time; a mere 2 years later. ManRam decided to say screw it and just retired rather than taking the suspension. A typical Manny being Manny move.
  2. Monster Leak: We all remember Manny Ramirez disappearing into the Green Monster at Fenway Park at random times during ball games. The reasons have including talking on a cell phone, taking a swig of Gatorade and taking a quick leak. He was even absent for a pitch of an actual game one time while he dilly-dallied inside that big green wall. It is a good thing he was a complete and utter masher of the baseball back in those Boston days otherwise he would never have been able to get away with such shenanigans.
  3. High 5 in Baltimore: Another infamous Manny being Manny moment came in May of 2008. In the year that Manny was ultimately shipped off to the Dodgers he was up to his usual tricks. Kevin Millar hit a ball deep to left and not only did Manny actually track it down he took a few extra steps, leaped up on the wall and high fived and unsuspecting fan. Not only did ManRam slap hands with some lucky fan he was able to turn around and get the ball back into the infield to double the runner off of first. This phrase seems to be getting old here but; only Manny…Manny being Manny.
  4. I will be taking that Mr. Damon: Without question the most epic, most hilarious, most incredible, most “Manny” moment had to be the Johnny Damon cut off play. Not only did Manny misplay this ball and let it go to the wall, when Damon picked it up and tried to get it into the infield to limit the damage Manny came diving out of no where to cut it off and allow the batter to complete his inside the park home run. It was the definition of a complete train wreck of a play. It was amazingly funny. I wish I could find the video for this play but it seems to not be posted anywhere currently. I will keep searching and post as soon as I find it.

I was going to delve into Manny’s dominance on the offensive side of the ball but I will save it for my upcoming post about steroids and my beliefs on the Hall of Fame for players like Manny, Bonds and Clemens. The remainder of the poll results are as follows…

  • Manny = one of best RH batters of all time: 36%
  • Manny = steroid user: 9%
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Babes of Baseball: Ryan Braun Edition

Happy weekend everybody. This is the first installment of what I like to call, “Babes of Baseball.” Every so often I will update the blog with a small profile and some pics of a hot babe that is currently or recently linked with a Major League Baseball player. In the first edition we have a hot Miami-based model who has been linked with Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun. Larisa is 5’9 with brown hair and hazel eyes. Her measurements are 34-23-34. Braun played his college ball at University of Miami so it is not a surprise that these two hooked up. Enjoy the gallery and stay tuned for more WTP updates.

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Pittsburgh or Houston – Who is Less of a Mess?

When the first ever Warning Track Power weekly poll question was released last Sunday the Pittsburgh Pirates were off to a fast start winning their opening series against the Chicago Cubs, 2 games to one. This shocked myself, as well as many others in the baseball community, considering my prediction that the Pirates would win a mere 58 games this year. The Houston Astros on the other hand were swept with ease by the Philadelphia Phillies and looked like a complete mess. Houston’s bullpen is a disaster and they will struggle to close out games all season long with Brandon Lyon and Wilton Lopez working the back end of games.

As of Sunday, the Pirates are playing .500 baseball(5-5) and the Astros are still struggling sitting at 2-7 on the early season. According to the WTP Poll 44% of voters believe that Pittsburgh will keep it up and finish in front of Houston in the standings this season. By keep it up, I do not mean play .500 or better baseball but keep it up in terms of outplaying the Astros this season. Upon re-examination of each team’s roster and current situation this could be very possible.

Which of these two disastrous franchises will finish with more wins in 2011?

The Pirates extremely young offense appears to be coming into its own. You know what you will be getting from Andrew McCutchen, one of the best centerfielders in the game today, and Jose Tabata is emerging as a great all around corner outfielder. Tabata was considered to be a top tier prospect in the Yankees system before ultimately being traded to Pitt for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte a few years back. The problem with the Pirates is they have absolutely no pitching to speak of. Kevin Correia is as far from an ace as a team can get. Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf and Charlie Morton bring no value to the team(-.2 combined WAR in 2010,) and it is hard to expect anything out of them this season. James McDonald appears to have great stuff and a ton of talent but the jury is still out on whether he is going to put the pieces together and be a success.

The Astros on the other hand are an all around mess. There is a lone hitter in their lineup that can be relied on night in and night out; Hunter Pence(good for an OPS around .800 every year.) Carlos Lee is over the hill and Michael Bourn tends to waste his speed because he can’t find a way to get on base. It must be noted that Houston is stronger than the Pirates in the rotation; Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez are both very successful major league pitchers. It is too bad that they can not close any games out. Brandon Lyon would not even make many team’s bullpens yet he is the closer in Houston. Can you say utter disaster?

I do not want to go back on my preseason predictions so early in the season(Pirates 58 wins & Astros 70 wins) but I would not be surprised if Pittsburgh ended up surpassing Houston in the NL Central and not finishing last for once. By the way, great NL Central winner prediction Steve Berthiaume.

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WTP Weekly Poll 4/11/11-4/17/11

Results at close of poll:

  1. Manny Being Manny: 55%
  2. Manny = one of the best RH hitters ever: 36%
  3. Manny = steroid user: 9%
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Sam Fuld Catch – Incredible!

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