Tagged: Division Overviews

Jumping back into the routine – Division Overviews

Finally back from Chicago – this time for good. It was arough three weeks, really. I haven’t been able to follow much of baseball at
all, so it’s gonna be tough getting back into the swing of things. Luckily, I
have four days off* – in a row! – so that should make it a little easier. I
haven’t had that much vacation time from work and school for more than a year. Anyway, hopefully we’ll look at getting the website and podcast started up in the next week, both of which are obviously long overdue. As for today’s post – and we will be back to the normal daily post routines (except for weekends, which are always a little touch and go,) I’m going to talk about a few things that are less-than-current, since, well… as I said before, I haven’t been following the game as intently as I should be the last three weeks. But I’m going to try to hit on each division. Well, let’s go.

*- Not true. Got called in to work on Sunday for 5 hours.

AL Central
How about the Tigers? Are they actually
for real? The White Sox have won nine in a row, and are still in second place
in the AL Central. And the Tigers have 51 wins in late June. That’s a September
number, not a June number. It’s looking like, barring a major collapse, the
Tigers may be going to the playoffs this year. Shh, it’s still early. See, the BPS will tell you that the Tigers aren’t going to the playoffs this year because they’ve had an easy schedule. Here’s the thing.  In any
case, the AL Central is already a race for third. Minnesota has won nine of
their last 10 games – and are still 11 games back. Cleveland is 17 back with a
record of 33-41 – hardly what I expected from a club I
said
could make a legitimate run at a playoff spot this season. And the
Royals… oh the Royals. They’re 23-50, good for 26 games back. However, the
standings reveal that they’ve won seven of their last 10. Are you kidding? When
I left for Chicago three weeks ago, I don’t think the Royals even had seven
wins total. What
a bad team…
Finally, it looks as though – for now – we might actually see an AL Central team take the wild card. This is special only because, for the last several years, the Wild Card has been the Red Sox’s ticket to the post season. The fact that that this may not happen is, to me, remarkable. Then again, there’s a lot of that going around this year, (see NL East.)

AL East
Things look pretty much the same as they did when I left. We’re 2.5 games back,
with a bunch of guys still on the DL. The Sox are on an 8-game win streak, and
as soon as they drop that and get cold, they can sit back and watch the crowd
go by. Meaning, we’ll fly right into first place. Toronto is just four games
back, which is impressive – considering they have been without one of their
biggest free-agent signees, A.J. Burnett. Is he still afraid of throwing the
ball, or what’s going on with him? Halladay – your 2006 Cy Young Winner, I
maintain – has been on his usual tear throughout the League. He’s 9-2 and has
won eight of his last nine decisions. Because I’ve been away from my computer for so long, I can’t offer much insight on  the Yankees and Red Sox – like I said earlier, it looks much the same as it did to me three weeks ago. The Sox have won 8 straight and they’re only 2.5 games up. That’s a 3-day lead. Nothing too special, and it is only June – lest we forget. I hear that Gary and Matsui both received promising news, (whatever that may be,) and as soon as they get back we should start running away with the division  – again.

AL/NL West
Apparently the clubs in the NL West had a talk with those in the AL West. ‘Look, if you play bad, we’ll play bad, and no one will look bad.’ All 9 teams in the two West divisions have records below .550, (about 41 wins.) The A’s (SI’s 2nd best team going into the year,) are 41-34, for first place in the AL/NL West. The Angels are last, with a 34-41 (.453) record. In other words, there are no great teams, but there are no immensely terrible teams either. Now, there are a few ways to look at this. One is to say that all the teams are slightly above-average, and so they’re just beating up on each other. This is not true. Rather, all 9 teams are extremely mediocre and while there is no runaway, (such as the Tigers or White Sox,) there are no terrible teams either, such as the Royals or Pirates. See, this is pure luck. All the teams happen to be average teams. Great, what’s that get you? Average attendance, and below-average performance against the other teams in the league. Spectacular.

But to get into some detail; the Angels have totally collapsed this year. Their offense, which used to be great, (think about two or three years ago,) is now in a complete state of disarray. They’ve scored 339 runs, 2nd to last in the league – behind, who else, but the KC Royals, with 313. And you can’t point to Vlad and say that his numbers have declined, he’s aged, he can’t carry the team anymore. No one has said it yet, but I’m sure they will before the end of the year. Well, here are the facts – Vlad, who recently turned 30, is seeing some decline in his numbers. So we’re halfway through the year, and he has 10 doubles. In 2004, he hit 40. In 2005, when he only played 141 games due to a shoulder injury he suffered while making a stupid slide at home, he hit 30. And now he’s on pace to hit 20. But that’s all pointless. The truly interesting stats, for him, are his OBP and AVG. Vlad’s career OBP is .387, yet it is just .326 so far this year. His average is at .290, down from his typical .322. His slugging is at .490, a significant drop from his career.581. But, back to the original question – is Vlad aging, or is something else happening? I think it’s a little bit of both. His numbers – which aren’t really that much lower – are probably the result of playing on a poor team as much as they are of being older. And now you say, ‘but the Angels aren’t that bad.’ Maybe not, but they’re terrible if you look at their expectations. People are asking questions and attendance is (probably) down. Either way, that makes for a bad vibe in the clubhouse, if you will. And that, I believe, only makes matters worse – it makes it harder to perform when everyone is asking you why you aren’t. A bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you will.

Meanwhile, in the NL West, we have… today it is… the Dodgers, on top with a 40-35 record. As has been previously stated on numerous occasions at BHGM, they can pretty much start printing playoff tickets now. 5 Games above .500? That’s a mountain the rest of the division really can’t climb.

NL East
Well, I’m not sure what’s going on here. I know that when I left three weeks ago, the Braves were about 5 games back of the Mets. Maybe, I really don’t know. The Marlins were the second-worst team in MLB, behind the Royals. Now, and follow me closely here, they’re 8 games back of .500 and in 3rd place. Now, forget for a moment that the Mets are so far out in front that third place (13.5 games back,) second place (11.5 games back,) and fifth place, (15.5 games back,) are all the same. Try to forget about that. Now, the Marlins are in third, and they’re 32-40. Seriously, they must have won every game they played since I left for Cincinnati (and then for Chicago,) four weeks ago. In fact, on June 1st – the date I left – the Marlins were 17-34. So, in 25 days, they’ve won 15 games and lost 6. What a clip! Meanwhile, the Braves went from 28-26 and 5 games back to 32-44. That means they’ve gone 4-18. How far away is Atlanta from Kansas City, exactly?

NL Central
Well here’s another interesting story that I would’ve liked to include closer to the NL West, but it just didn’t work out that way. Regular readers already know what I’m about to bring up, but here goes. Name one of two players the Pirates received when they traded away a fellow named "Jason Schmidt" in 2001. Answer: Ryan Vogelsong. The other player was Armando Rios, who started 55 games for the Pirates. Anyway, back to Ryan Vogelsong. He was never a good pitcher, but he has remained on the Pirates roster. And now, CBS Sportsline has the following to say about him in their nifty fantasy notes:

News: Pittsburgh
RHP Ryan Vogelsong, who has allowed at least one baserunner in each of
his 20 relief appearances, did not pitch in the weekend series at Los
Angeles.
Analysis: Vogelsong should only be active in
leagues that reward negative play. Even there, the fact that he is not
being used makes him obsolete.

Could you be any tougher on the guy? He’s a stud on the negative play team. Great. Then again, his career ERA is 5.86, and you gave up Jason Schmidt to get him. Surprisingly enough, Dave Littlefield, who made the deal to acquire Ryan, is still the GM in Pittsburg. Now, is there any stronger way for the Pirates to tell their fans they have no desire to win than by keeping Littlefield around? During his 5-year reign, the Pirates have consistently been one of the worst teams in the league. In 2001, they rang in the brand new PNC Park by losing 100 games. In 2002, it was 89 games. 2003 was 87, and 2004 was 89. in 2005, in was 95 games. They’ve gone nowhere, and are currently riding an 11-game losing streak as they head in to play the White Sox and Tigers. At least the Pittsburg fans have the All Star game to look forward to… that game counts for more than possibly any other game ever played at PNC Park. That is, the AL will be taking home field advantage again.

And how about the Cardinals – they’ve quietly, (since no one ever wants to gang up on the Cardinals, and for good reason – how would you feel if you lived in Missouri?) gone on a 6-game losing streak. That puts them at 42-32, and only two games up of the Reds. It’s interesting that when Derrek Lee went down, everyone talked about how silly the Cubs were for centering their offense around one guy. No one seemed to notice that the Cardinals were centered on the same philosophy. Oh, that’s right. The Cardinals have a strong supporting staff for Albert on the bench, and they also have pitching. Unless the Cubs define Kerry Wood and Mark Prior as ‘pitching,’ there is a difference. Both Pujols and Lee are now back, by the way. However, that doesn’t mean that the Cubs’ season isn’t over, because it still is. The latest news on Kerry Wood – and this is an accurate quote, I didn’t make this up – an MRI on Wood’s shoulder revealed "no significant concerns or any kind of significant issue or injury or anything like that… the MRI, in Dr. Kremchek’s terms, stated it was pristine, that the labia repair looked as if it was completely intact, looked like it had healed nicely and perfectly," said Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal. Yet, ‘there is still no timetable for his return.’ So let me get this straight; Wood went to the doctor, and the doctor told him he was perfectly healthy, and that everything was in order. In fact, it was perfect and pristine. Yet, no one has any idea how much longer it will be before he pitches again. Is this some sort of joke?

Anyway, that’s the wrap up for the divisions. It took me Friday night, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday to write this, so some of it may be out of date – but I did my best. In any case, I’m going to try to get back into the groove. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do, and I’m mostly running around all day. But we should be completely back to normal in about a week I think. Anyway, that’s it for now. It’d be nice to see some comments but I can understand if we don’t have the readers back yet. See you tomorrow, I hope!

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Don’t look now, but… Player and Team Recaps

It’s that time of year again. Players and teams that you never would’ve thought get a hot start right out of the gate… and the on-pace projections start to roll in. Don’t hit the panic button just yet, however – there’s a reason they’re called projections. They haven’t happened yet, and they probably never will. Here’s our annual look at things that won’t be happening this year:

  • Former 21-game loser, (but good sport) Mike Maroth won’t finish the season leading the league with a 0.73 ERA and 32 wins.
  • Chris Shelton won’t hit 108 Home Runs this year. Nor will he finish with a .479 average, or have 311 hits.
  • Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols will not hit 230 RBI’s this year. Well, Pujols might, but Berkman won’t.
  • Ryan Freel won’t steal 81 bases. Half that, maybe. If he gets anywhere near consistent playing time (150 games, maybe,) he’s got a good shot at 40-50.
  • Adrian Beltre won’t steal 50 bases. I’m not making that one up folks – despite the fact that his OBP through the season is just .212, he’s already swiped four bags.
  • Tom Glavine, of career season-high 181 K’s in 1996, won’t strike out 231 guys this year. On second thought, if he keeps starting against the Marlins (5K’s in 6IP,) and Brewers, (11K’s in 6IP) he has a shot.
  • Last year’s Chris Shelton, Brian Roberts, won’t end the year with 0HR. As beautiful as it would be, Barry Bonds is unlikely to hit 0HR all year as well. Barry – more time in the ‘weight’ room, less time in the studio. Wait, I forgot, it’s ‘real life,’ and real life doesn’t happen in a studio.

That said, there are some teams that are in it for real this year. I’m gonna briefly hit on each of the divisions, in no particular order.

NL West
The NL West continues its circus act. In 1st place, we have the Homerless Barry Bonds, 40-year-old Outfield San Francisco Giants. Followed closely by the 7-5 Rockies, who – if anyone noticed – lost a game at home 1-0 yesterday. Second time in history that only 1 run has been scored in a game at Coors Canaveral – I mean, Field. Meanwhile, last year’s Division Whateveryou’llcallthem Padres are 4-7 and dead last. And no one cares.

NL Central
The NL Central is a pretty tight race right now – well, for most of the teams. Houston leads with an 8-4 record, and the Cubs are .5 games back with a 7-4 mark. The Reds, Brewers, and Cards are all 1 GB at 7-5… and then the Pirates are 5 GB at 4-10. Recall that I got pissed at SI for calling the Reds the 3rd worst team in Baseball in their annual preview. They’re not that bad, but they’re not this good either. If Arroyo becomes (I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say ‘first’) member of the 30-30 club (30HR, 30 Wins,) then the Reds go to the playoffs. As for the Cubs…

Chicago Cubs
Dusty_baker5_1
Everyone will disagree with me here, but the Cubs aren’t this good (7-4) either. I know they’ve been without Wood/Prior, but that’s Dusty’s fault. I can’t talk about Prior without getting pissed at Baker. Good luck getting a solid read on when either of these guys will be back, because if you ask Baker he’ll probably reply with: "I didn’t disappear him, he disappeared himself. Right?" And yes, he did actually say this. In any case, the current PsyOp (short for Psychological Operation) that the Cubs have running indicates that Prior and Wood are under the care of Master Game Simulator Larry Rothschild. On Friday the 14th, Prior threw 40 pitches in a bullpen session. Rothschild’s analysis: "We’ll see how he reacts [on Saturday] but he’ll probably throw another one Monday, and that’ll probably be three sets of 15." So… I think the Cub’s official position remains that Prior does not have an elbow injury but is off to a slow start because of a virus he acquired during the off-season. The news seems to be even more informative on Kerry Wood, who was supposed to throw a "3-inning simulated game, throwing at least 15 pitches each inning." In other words, 3 sets of 15 pitches. "We’ll see how he reacts. It will be more than a bullpen session – we’ll keep counts and outs, stuff like that," Rothschild said. In conclusion, Prior is throwing bullpen sessions at 3 sets of 15, and Wood is throwing "more than" bullpen sessions at 3 sets of 15. The sports world has surmised that Prior is suffering from a ‘shoulder strain’ while Wood is recovering from August shoulder surgery and an apparent Spring Training knee injury.  The Cubs are a lot like the Iraqi Minister of Information, or Harry Houdini. That is, lies and illusions.

AL West
Out in the AL West, the Rangers are struggling mightily. In other words, they have no pitching and their bats went cold. I know I’ve said before that the Rangers have no pitching, but I’m gonna go ahead and recap what I said before. That is, if over the off-season you’re staring at a rotation of Kevin Millwood, The Padilla Flotilla, Kameron Loe, R.A. Dickey, and John Koronka, it goes without saying that your main goal is going to be shoring up your ‘pitching’ staff. That said, you don’t trade your best tradable asset – Alfonso Soriano – for a struggling Outfielder. Of course, the Rangers’ line at the time was, "we need a leadoff hitter." Well, Wilkerson continues to **** and is already down to #7 in the order. Then, you traded away Chris Young, who was really the only pitcher in the organization who had a chance of breaking out say, this year. In return, you acquire Adam Eaton – a 28-year-old with a 4.34 career ERA over about 800IP, all with the Padres, (note that only 2 of those 6 years were at PETCO.) In any case, you’ve traded away the only rising pitching star in the organization for a guy that can’t seem to get good. Are the Rangers trying to keep away from good pitching? Until they stop this experiment of trying to win games with one legit starter, they’re not going anywhere. It’s happens every year – they’ll get hot with their offense, but as soon as the bats get cold they’ll plummet.

NL East
Duffy_1
Over in the NL East, the Mets are quietly the best team in the league with an 9-2 record. Disclosure – the Mets have played 6 games against the Nationals, who are 4-9, and 2 games against the 3-8 Marlins. The Mets’ record in those 8 games: 7-1. Add a 2-1 showing against the Brewers, and you’ve got 9-2. Again… the Mets aren’t that good, they’re just not. David Wright is amazing, and Jose Reyes is also improving, but Beltran continues (inexplicitly) to decline, and Pedro, Glavine, Victor Zambrano, and Steve Trachsel make up the top 4/5 of your rotation. In other words, plug the holes. I covered the entire NL East in a huge overview earlier, check it out here.

AL Central
Ozzieguillen_2
The AL Central has Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago in a 3-way tie for first. Minnesota is 1GB, and the 2-9 Royals are 4.5GB. It goes without saying that the 3-way tie is at a 7-5 record because these teams have done nothing but beat up on each other – each of those 3 teams have played each other at least 3, if not 4 times already. Broken record, I know, but I told everyone
before the season started how the Tigers would surprise people, and they
already proved me correct. I still stand by my AL Central Prediction of
Soxs, Indians, Tigers, Twins, Royals. Could the Tribe jump the Sox?
Absolutely – I’ve said over and over again that the Sox will come
crashing down to earth this year, and they will – it’s just a matter of how far. Could the Tigers jump
the Tribe? Yes. I know more about those three teams than any other in Baseball, and I have to say that on paper, they go White Sox, Indians, Tigers. Whether or not the season ends like that is anyone’s guess. Detroit’s team overview can be found here; the Indians can be found here.

AL East
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The AL East is a crapshoot right now – that is, for who’s gonna finish in 2nd place. Boston may be on top of the division now, but they’ve been ******* wind – their offense is weak, as is their pitching. Right now, Papelbon seems to have drawn the short straw for the closing job. I’m not sure how often they do the drawings in Beantown these days, but maybe Foulke will draw it next time, or it could be Embree, or Schilling – you never know. Heck, Theo himself might make a run at it before the season ends. On top of that, whoever was running the Boston Ship during the offseason decided to dump Mirabelli in exchange for Josh Bard. Well, that experiment fell flat on its face the other day after Bard allowed 3 passed balls from Wakefield. I’m not saying that catching a knuckleball is easy – I once attempted to catch a knuckleball, but it ‘passed’ right into my face. True story. In any case, it’s tough to do, which is exactly why you stick with the guy that can do it instead of the guy who can’t. Then again, I’m speaking to the deaf and dumb on that one. Other than that, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, New York, and Toronto are all stacked up within .5 games of each other. Who knows how this will end up? Actually, we know that New York will be at the top, Tampa Bay and Baltimore at the bottom, and Boston and Toronto somewhere in between.

AL v. NL, Mariners, Nats, and more!

AL v. NL
Al100thWhy is the AL so much stronger than the NL? I think I’ve got it. When a dominant player rises through an organization, he still has to be able to field. If he can’t field, or there is nowhere for him to field, he can’t hit. At least not in the NL. Take Ryan Howard. Rookie of the Year last year. But he played first base, so the Phillies traded away Thome. Lyle Overbay, (who was actually just an average 1st basemen, despite all the run he gets from his doubles and OBP,) was traded away by the Brewers to make room for Prince Fielder. Within the NL, this makes no difference, as all the teams are handicapped equally. But when they play the AL, the teams that have traded away some of their valuable players because their positions forced them to are matched up against teams that have one overflow spot when it comes to hitting talent. Whenever you’re forced to trade away a player, you’re probably not gonna get the best value for him. NL teams are continuously put in this position because they don’t have the DH rule; AL teams can always DH someone. Yes, I understand that some teams have entrenched DH’s as well – Cleveland’s Travis Hafner, Oakland’s Frank Thomas, etc – but at least Oakland didn’t have to give up the rising Dan Johnson to acquire Thomas. See the point? It’s a little tough to wrap your arms around at first, because it has nothing to do with the lineup. But the bottom line is that the National League will always be trading away a hitter that is at least the 9th best hitter on the team, (likely higher, as 1B is probably a better hitter than the 2B you’re forced to bat because he has to field.) Additionally, did you know that while the DH usually hits for the pitcher, he doesn’t have to? During interleague/postseason play, I want to see St. Louis employ that little known fact with Jason Marquis, just for fun. I’m serious. Put a DH in for Junior Spivey, and have Jason Marquis bat. Has anyone ever actually done this?

Seattle Mariners
In SI’s Baseball Preview ’06, Tom Verducci compares Felix Hernandez to the Hope Diamond. This is alluding to the fact that the Mariners want to show off Hernandez, but must be careful – he can’t be stolen, sold, or borrowed. However, if he just sticks around in the Smithsonian forever, he’ll be of no good to anyone. So, the Mariners have to find some sort of competitive equilibrium. He then notes that if Hernandez makes 32 starts this season, at 7 innings per start (which wont happen,) he’ll pitch 244 innings, including Spring Training. Verducci notes,

Jobe’s Law [a pitcher’s innings should max out at his age times 10] would confine Hernandez to about 180 regular-season innings this year, which for the desperate Mariners may be as difficult as counting calories in an ice-cream parlor. The team has lost more than 90 games for two straight years, and average attendance has dropped by more than half a million fans over that time… So, where do the Mariners cut out 40-plus innings? Do they pull him from games after six innings even if he is pitching well? Do they skip six of his starts at assorted times over the season? Do they shut him down for the year in August? And how difficult will that be if the Mariners are in contention? How hard will it be for a manager with somewhat shaky job security and a general manager on a year-to-year contract to intentionally not use their best pitcher?

Is this an April Fool’s Joke? The Mariners in contention in August? As I said in a previous post,

I saw on MLB.com that Ichiro
returned to the Mariners with ‘Classic-like’ intensity. Hold it right
there. Ichiro can hit .900, get 400 infield singles, and never make a
single error. Heck, he can be in the batting order three times for all
I care. The Mariners still aren’t gonna mean anything this year, and
that’s that. Welcome to West Coast Baseball,
(minus the Angels.) And yes, I know the Mariner’s aren’t in the NL
West. I’m trying to show a pattern, people. (Get it, NL West… AL
West?)

Have the Mariners done a single thing this offseason? Here’s your Seattle Mariners 2006 Team Overview:
The Mariners acquired lefty Jarrod Washburn, now their 3rd starter. They also acquired DH Carl "Fan is short for fanatic – he’s crazy about something he doesn’t know about. And it’s proven that 99 percent of baseball fans have no idea what they’re watching" Everett. Centerfielder Joe Borchard and his .263 average – from AAA – replaces Randy Winn. They also acquired catcher Kenji Johjima, who will become best buddies with Ichiro but not do much in the batter’s box. In short, the Mariners are still a very bad team. End of overview.

Washington Nationals
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I’m watching the Nationals v. Orioles game, and Nationals SS Royce Clayton just bobbled a "tailor-made double play ball," and then went to toss it to Soriano Enemy Number One – Jose Vidro. Even though Royce just made the toss to avoid looking like a 3rd grader, it was a bad toss and Vidro missed the catch. Whichever Orioles prospect who was running to 2nd had already been safe for about 4 minutes, so the play was over. Anyway, the ball rolled a third of the way to 3rd base while Vidro – literally – sulked after it. For awhile it looked like the ball might out ‘run’ Vidro, but he eventually caught up with it.  And did you know that Clayton has played for 8 teams in his career? And that the Nationals have made 48 errors in Spring Training so far? The team is already depressed and downtrodden. Looks like we need to send them to another city already, because the scenery change that lit up the whole team in the first two-thirds of last season seems to have dried up. That, or the entire clubhouse – including Frank Robinson – is so furious with GM Jim Bowden that they can’t breathe. What was Jim Bowden thinking? The National’s 2006 Overview? The entire team will land in psychotherapy before the close of the season. Jim Bowden will pull a Jimmy Hoffa, and Frank Robinson will announce that he can no longer deal with the stress of managing, and will become a 3rd base coach for a few years before another team offers him a gig.

More on SI’s Baseball Preview
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Also, I know SI wants to be original and exciting, but when predicting the division winners, remember, this isn’t March Madness. In fact, a 162-game baseball season can’t be any further from a 65-team, single-elimination Battle Royale. The Oakland A’s probably aren’t the 2nd best team in Major League Baseball. Likewise, the Devil Rays are not likely to hop over the Orioles in the AL East, although this isn’t a total impossibility. And how can you try to sneak in the A’s as the 2nd best team in the game, yet rate the Tiger’s as the 18th best? You can’t make the bold prediction for the A’s and completely ignore the Tigers. By the same token, the Red’s may be bad, but they aren’t the 3rd worst team in Baseball. I’m the first guy to kick a bad team when it’s down, but the Red’s simply are not that bad. They haven’t really done anything bad to the team since they finished 73-89 last year. They’ve lost Sean Casey and Willy Mo Pena and placed Rich Aurilia into hiding. Casey was an average 1B, Aurilia is going the way of Frosty Bret Boone in more ways than one, and Pena didn’t really fit into the team’s lineup, (back to why the AL is better than the NL.) Then again, any guy who hits a HR every 16 times he steps up the plate should find a way into your lineup… whatever. Meanwhile, they acquired Tony Womack, Scott Hatteberg, Chris Hammond, Bronson Arroyo, and Dave Williams. And if Eric Milton pulls it together, they’ll be… a little better than last year.

Other than the above, there don’t seem to be too many weird ideas. I’m not gonna tell you all the predictions, but basically they’re the same any commoner would make, with the exception of the NL Central going Cards, Brewers, Cubs, Astros, Pirates, Reds. I would say Cards, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Reds, Pirates. Big diff. Neither of those predictions will be correct, because as I’ve said before, preseason predictions are a crapshoot. And then they have White Sox over Cards in the World Series, which won’t happen. White Sox, maybe. Cardinals, no. You don’t get farther in the postseason by using ‘addition through subtraction’. And yes, losing Reggie Sanders, Larry Walker (basically worthless last season, but still,) and Mark Grudzielanek is subtraction.

Opening night is less than 24 hours away. Exciting!

The Last Weekend of the Void

Tigers_opening_day_1 Any of you who have read the book "Bunts" by George Will – from which the name of the Blog was taken – are probably familiar with the two-season concept. That is, Baseball Season and The Void.

Last year, on the day of Game 4 of the World Series, I cried in the middle of my psychology class. I couldn’t help it. I knew that I would be watching my last live baseball game for months and it made me terrified. Would I be able to survive The Void this year? Or would it take me before Baseball Season returned? I was scared, frightened, and downtrodden. But – I persevered through the winter months, survived The Void, and now Baseball has arrived. Every year, my routine is the same… grit my teeth, watch Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS (I’m serious, it’s saved on my computer,) and count down the days. As spring approaches, I start listening to Buck 65’s album "This Right Here is Buck 65" – baseball’s soundtrack – and start right into the swing of things. I was extremely busy (and sick) for the last month so it was difficult for me to devote as much time as I usually do, but it’s ok. I start wearing my autographed Andres Torres Fan Club T-Shirt, (see the story) and trying to get a game of catch going. Yesterday, Michigan decided to be about 65 degrees (???) so I spent some time outside throwing around. It was amazing.

In any case, baseball has arrived. The Void is pretty much over. Therefore, I think it’s only appropriate for us to declare us much. Out with the Void, bring on the baseball. One of the first things I’ll be doing when I get home from school around the 2nd week of May is going to a Tigers game. I’ll go alone if I have to. But I’m going. And then I’ll go to another… and hopefully about 15 more.  I can say hi to all my usher-friends – I haven’t seen them since August – and make new friends with the Cops, since the last one – Famous Officer Diaz – got laid off by silly Detroit. How exciting is this? Think about it, genuine, real-life baseball. No more getting by on simple TV spring training games, or MVP 2004, and no more not wanting to wake up because your baseball dreams are better than real life. No more. Baseball Season has arrived, and (not coincidentally) the Sun has started shining in Michigan. I don’t think I’ve seen sunshine here since, say… early November.

In any case, the prep for the Season has been pretty strong here on BHGM. I encourage you to check out the team and divisional overviews – many of the teams can be found within their respective divisional overviews, obviously.

Cleveland Indians – A very detailed mailbag response.
Toronto Blue Jays – Brief, mostly pitching oriented look.
Detroit Tigers – Detailed look at the hometown team.
NL East – Mets and Phillies, with a smidge of Braves, Nats, and Marlins.
St. Louis Cardinals – Covering Sidney Ponson here.
New York Yankees – Focusing on the rotation… because we know how the offense will do.
Washington Nationals – Jim Bowden’s second fatality.
Cincinnati Reds – Not too many details… because they’re screwed up. See above.
NL West – Please, you’ve got to be kidding me. If you don’t know how I feel about them by now, you haven’t been paying attention.
Toronto Blue Jays/AL East – Just reminding the Jay’s what division they’re stuck in.

We’ll be seeing more excitement as the weekend continues. But for now, thanks for reading. Also, check out the new BHGM Site Search. You can find it on the bottom left toolbar.

Can we talk about something for a second?

Padres_2 Ah, it seems MLB.com is at it again. First, I love the new look. Second, I don’t like the cover story, "NL West Battle: Better from top to bottom." I’ve said it about 17 times now; there is no such division. It appears that MLB.com misidentified the division formerly known as the NL West with the actual NL West, which hasn’t existed in quite some time. Please, as I said before, it matters not what is done in the Western Division this year. Last year, the top finisher in that race ended with an 82-80 record after, "a strong finish." There are consequences for such lackluster ‘performance.’ Consequences which include probation. That’s all.

Will the Braves make it…15 straight? NL East overview

I’ll focus on the two major threats to the Braves this year – the Mets and Phillies. I’m really not an expert on the NL East, so this is really uncharted territory for me.  You’ll probably notice throughout the year that I root for the entire AL and the NL Central.

Atlanta_braves_nachoAtlanta Braves

I was pretty sure before the last two seasons that the Braves were through. Uh, no. They’re like baseball’s version of a vampire. You think they’re dead, you start throwing dirt on the grave, and then they come back, again, and again, and again. Don’t get me wrong – there’s no other team in the NL East I would rather see win, with the possible exception of the Phillies, because I’m starting to like them. But how do they do it? I’m not gonna waste my time trying to answer that, so I’ll move on. I think that this may be the year the Braves end this insane run. I’m not sure if it will be the Mets or the Phillies, but… I don’t like the rise of those two teams, combined with the loss of Mazzone and Furcal. Maybe Mazzone was nothing special, and he just had good pitchers to work with – that’s certainly part of it, anyway. And maybe Renteria comes back and puts up some good numbers. I just think the Mets and Phillies are too good for it to matter. I don’t think that the Phillies will steal the division, although it’s certainly a possibility. However, the Braves have 38 games to play against the Mets and Phillies, and that will certainly make things difficult. But before we listen to everyone proclaim the Braves’ demise, let’s examine carefully the supposed threats coming from those two teams.

New York Mets

The Mets have done good things in the last two years, but that ship is still full of holes. It’s afloat, and it’s not sinking… yet. Such a hole can be found at 2B, where the Mets are fielding Kaz Matsui. Matsui used to be a pitcher until he was converted to a 2B by his former Japanese team. However, if you looked at his batting stats, you’d never guess! In 265 AB’s last year, he was able to produce 3 HR, 9 doubles, and 68 total hits. His average was .255, his OBP was .300, and his slugging percentage was .352. Grand. He did a little better in 2004 but not much. I know he’s kinda new to the whole America thing and all, but whatever. It’s possible to win a division with that. Now it’s time for me to include an excerpt from the Rabid Mets Fan, from MLB Radio’s Stayin’ Hot with Seth and Bone last year… or maybe Under the Lights with Casey Stern. Can’t remember.

Well I found this year’s Kaz Matsui trade. Danys Baez to the Mets. For Yusmeiro Petit! Don’t do it Omar! Don’t do it Omar! Why would you do that! I think Baez is the worst closer in baseball! Is he better than Braden Looper!? I dunno, I should, cuz I see him every night, but what, is he gonna take us to the World Series!? No… why would you trade him away for someone who’s working his way up through the system?!

There’s a lot of wasted words there, because that’s how the guy talks. The point is that Mets fans want Kaz out of there, for some reason. I don’t like ever saying that a team’s season depends on a few guys, but for the Met’s I think it’s true. If Beltran comes back to his old form, David Wright has another good year, and Peddy somehow manages to pull it together again, they have a good chance of overtaking the Braves this year. The biggest hole is the Met’s rotation. I still don’t understand it. Let’s lay it up:
1) Pedro Martinez – 5′ 11" dude that frankly, I don’t like. Pedro played Villain too long in Bean Town.1100706901_5904
If the Universe turned on it’s skull and Pedro somehow landed in a Yankee uniform, I would go out back and hang myself. In any case, this run isn’t gonna last forever. I’m just waiting for the season to come when Pedro has a 4.20 ERA, strikes out 100, and wins 8 games. Mediocrity. Let’s see how he deals with that.
2) Tom Glavine – Turned 40 today. And he’s exactly 25 wins short of 300. His ERA was only 3.53 last year, but he just got 13 wins. That was a bullpen problem. If he can tough it out for another two years he’ll be good. I don’t see him breaking down too much more this year. One cause for concern is the fact that he’s a lefty, and left handers are batting .323 off him.
3-5) Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano, and Aaron Heilman? – As I said earlier, I’m really no expert on the NL East. I do know that Trachsel is not that good, Zambrano is worse and looks even goofier than Trachsel in his profile picture, and Heilman is a train wreck. The Mets have been trying to start Heilman for years and the experiment has never really worked out. Meanwhile they keep hiding him in the bullpen, but it looks like they won’t have that option this year.

This is what I don’t get. The Mets offense is strong, but let’s go back to the analogy of the Mets team as a ship with a bunch of leaky holes. The offense/defense has a few of the holes, but the ship is still afloat. Add the pitching to the mix and it’s like you just struck an iceberg. I can’t see the Mets making a reasonable run in the playoffs unless they can shore up that rotation and bullpen. The one bright spot is Billy Wagner, (courtesy of the Phillies, ironically enough.) Wagner might be a tiny and goofy looking dude, but he’s lights-out. Much better than Braden Looper. I remember writing this after the Met’s opened 2005 by having their bullpen sabotage their first few games.

The Mets bullpen is not good. They’re 0-2 now in holds and saves. Their bullpen consists of Manny Aybar, who said that parts of his family are unaware that he’s an MLB pitcher even though he’s been in the Majors 8 years. Felix Heredia is a lefty specialist who can’t get any lefties out and had an ERA of 6.28 in 39 innings last year. Mike DeJean is about 90 years old. Dae-Sung Koo is 36 and made his MLB Debut just this year. Roberto Hernandez is 41 years old. Mike Matthews had an ERA of 6.30 in 30 innings pitched last year. And Braden Looper, the one supposed bright spot, has yet to get a single batter out this season, although he has given up 3 runs. Bunch of firestarters.

But that was last year. This year, Chad Bradford and Duaner Sanchez will do their best to hide a bunch of 5.00+ ERA stars. Bradford and Sanchez are actually 3.50-.75 ERA gems themselves. All this team really has to do is make it to the 9th inning with a lead, and they’re good. The problem is, with that weak rotation and that 2-man pen, how many times will that happen? Last year, Pedro was terrified to leave any game before he had to because he knew that bullpen would screw it up. Hopefully – for the Mets – this year will be different. I doubt it. But if they were able to finish 83-79 last year – enough to beat that entire West Coast League – and they’ve only gotten better, it seems they have a legitimate chance, somehow.

Philadelphia Phillies

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The Phillies’ main if is their pitching. The Phillies are trying to re-tool Tom Gordon back into a closer. This is unlikely to work out. I’m making this statement based on one fact – Tom Gordon’s own admission. About two years ago, I was listening to an interview of him and he said he didn’t believe he could ever close games again, because he only had two pitches. I’ll tell you what’s happening here. He was sick of winning, I mean, playing for the Yankees. First, he obviously thinks he can close; he left because he wasn’t ever gonna close in New York unless a lighting bolt struck down Mo. He would not have taken a closing job if he thought he was just gonna make a fool out of himself. That being said, the last time I checked, age 38 wasn’t the best time to turn a guy back into a closer. Let us not forget, he has 116 career saves. But only 18 in the last 4 years. He’s been putting up great numbers; from 2002, his ERA has dropped per the following: 3.38, 3.16, 2.21, 2.57. But he’s been away from the job for too long, I think. I’m not sure what it is I don’t like, because if you just look at his numbers he almost checks out. But the numbers are all over the place. Of course, the craziest part is where he saved 46 games for Boston in 1998. That was 8 years ago. In any case, it doesn’t matter that he just isn’t as good as Wagner. What I’m concerned about is his ability not to totally flop. You know the Phillies would’ve preferred to sign someone a little more solid, but they couldn’t. They’re just as nervous about Gordon as I am.

Other than that, the Phillies have a lot in common with the Mets. A mostly-experimental infield, an021706pitchers
anchored (Bobby Abreu) outfield, and a shaky rotation. The Phillies rotation looks much more solid than the Mets’, but I’m not even sure I can break it down because I don’t even know that much about it. It looks like Ryan Franklin, Cory Lidle, Jon Leiber, Ryan Madsen and Brett Myers will form it up. With the exception of Madsen, all have career ERA’s between 4.20 and 4.50. This typically translates into a reliable, albeit not lights-out, rotation. Brett Myers appears to be the leader (read: opening day starter,) of this little band after he pulled together a reasonable 2005 campaign, but it’s likely that Leiber – 10 years older than Myers – will likely be doing most of the actual leading. Madsen has only started one MLB game; he made 51 appearances in relief for the Phillies in 2004 with a 2.34 ERA, and 78 in 2005 for a 4.14 ERA. In any case, he’s filling in for Randy Wolf, who’s out recovering from a Tommy John-er and will be back by the middle of the season, hopefully. The problem is that if any of these guys go down, there’s no one to fill in. The bullpen is already weak with the departure of Madsen to the rotation. And Arthur Rhodes, Robinson Tejeda, Aaron Fultz, and Tom Gordon are your big men. Tejeda and Fultz? Arthur Rhodes is one of the sketchiest guys in the league, and we already talked about Gordon. There’s simply no one there if a starter goes down or if (when) Rhodes/Gordon do something weird.

That said, if the Phillies somehow make it through 2006 with their fragile pitching intact, they too have a legitimate chance of overthrowing the Braves. I didn’t delve into their hitting because I don’t think that will be their problem; it’s average and you’ve been reading long enough.

Washington Nationals

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Baseball in the District. Fantastic. Jim Bowden in the District – catastrophe. Frank Robinson will have a fun time battling through the trash that Bowden through in his lap – mainly, Alfonso Soriano. That said, the Nationals have too many holes in their ship to keep afloat for the entire season. As if that wasn’t enough, Tony Armas Jr., Pedro Astacio, and Ramon Ortiz comprise 3/5 of your rotation. At least they’ve got horse Livan Hernandez to anchor it; the Phillies have no such ace. Without stretching it out, the Nationals are still too much of a puzzle team for the big time. Too many ifs, and too many potential problems. I don’t see them playing through the entire season and ending on top. Furthermore, I think the NL Wild Card will likely go to a Central team, or the Phillies/Mets/Braves – not the Nats.

Florida Marlins

Someone needs to alert GM Larry Beinfest that he needs to field a Major League Baseball team in less than two weeks. 50% chance you’ll catch him unawares. After the Pokey Reese defection/escape, the Marlins line up like this, from the 1-9 spot on the defensive depth chart.

1) Dontrelle Willis will be leading this band of unknowns – SP
2) Josh Willingham? – C
3) Mike Jacobs? – 1B
4) Dan Uggla? – 2B
5) Miguel Cabrera – 3B? They finally shifted the bus to the infield.
6) Hanley Ramirez – SS. I know the name… but his MLB experience is 0-2, with 2 K’s.
7) Chris Uguila? – LF
8) Reggie Abercrombie? – CF
9) Jeremy Hermida – RF. Rookie of the Year candidate.
Manager – Joe Girardi. Rookie Manager.

The question marks are because, lets face it – six of those eight position players have less than 100 AB’s at the major league level. Chris Uguila has 123, and Miguel Cabrera has played 63 games at 3rd Base. The rotation is more of the same.

The Marlins aren’t a major league team. They’re a team of unknowns.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

NL West – Citizenship Revoked

Some people have this thing where they go through the divisions and tell you what they think that division is going to accomplish. Team by team. Well, I’m going to stick with the whole ‘original’ theme of this blog, and go with something new. It’s been irking me all year. So:

I’m sick of the NL West. Let me lay out, in great detail, why I hate it.

San Diego Padres

First, Mike Cameron. Does anyone remember when he collided
with Carlos Beltran
last year? That was probably one of the freakiest
collisions I have ever seen, and unfortunately I had to watch it Padres
live. Cameron
was on my bad side for awhile after getting pissed about moving to Right Field
when the Mets acquired Beltran. I know what it’s like to have to switch
positions, so I’m not angry at guys for being pissed, but it’s something they
need to keep to themselves. If they really can’t handle it, tell the GM in
private how you feel, then shut up and make way. Especially if you’re Mike
Cameron, and he’s Carlos Beltran. I know Cameron’s agent said that they never
wanted his reservations about moving to right to go public, but still. In any
case, Cameron is now in Center with the Padres. If you ask the Padres, they’ll
tell you they’re pumped because now they’ve got someone with wheels patrolling
that massive backyard, and they’re ready for another championship season.

Let
me explain something to you. The Padres did not win a divisional title last
year. Yes, I know that technically they did, but I’ll give Bonds the HR Title
before I give the Padres the NL West. You don’t go 82-80 and win a title. And
if you do, you don’t get to keep it. I’ve touched on revoking the NL West’s
citizenship this year, but now I’m just gonna say, they don’t deserve a playoff
spot this year. I don’t care if one of those teams wins 162 games, they stay
out. If you can put the UofM Basketball team on probation, you can put a
division on probation as well. Meanwhile, you have the Blue Jays trapped in the
AL East. So, give the AL another Wild Card Spot, and there you go. Bud Selig
will never do this, and for that he is a weak man. In any case, the Padres
aren’t gonna bring home another ‘championship’ this year just because they have Mike
Cameron. Seriously, the news coming out of Padres Camp is ridiculous. ‘Padres
reload in an effort to repeat
.’ Please… spare me. In all honesty, I don’t
know what the Padres chances are this year, because I don’t like the NL West.

The Rest of this joke of a division

Why don’t I like them? Not only are they terrible, but they’re far away from me and they’re
Drama Central. Think about it – Barry’s running around screaming at the media,
the Padres are asking who the heck made center field 650 feet deep, the Dodgers
are still trying to invent a successful 7-man batting order, the
Diamondbacks are all over the place, and the Rockies are playing on the moon with a minor league team.

Arizona Diamondbacks

So, to go more in depth with the Diamondbacks, they were tooling aroundRandyjohnson1sized_2

with a
mean Redneck (Randy Johnson,) who vanishes to the team they somehow defeated in
2001, which is all the more
hilarious because in 2004 they were actually a AA
club – look it up. The Diamondbacks were so bad in 2004 that they
managed to win only 3 out of every 10 games. In Moneyball, it’s mentioned that
all teams win a third of their games, lose a third, and the remaining third
determines the best teams. Well, remember that crazy redneck? He had an ERA of
2.60 with 290 K’s, and went 16-14. Still, Randy’s wins accounted for a third of the team’s wins that season. Here’s something I wrote after the 2004
Season:

Randy Johnson has got to be on the verge of killing somebody. Near the end
of the 2004 Season, he struck out 15 in 8 innings, allowed one run and received
a no decision, which was on the heels of him pitching 8 innings, striking out 11
and getting a loss, on the heels of him pitching into the 8th, striking out 14,
allowing one run, and getting the loss. So, lets review. In those three starts,
he pitched 23.2 innings, racked up 40 K’s, four ER’s, and walked five guys. His
record: 0-2. He has 14 losses this season – 9th worst in the league – with an
ERA of 2.60 – second best in the league.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Next, the Dodger’s 7-man batting order. Do you remember when the Dodgers
traded Kaz Ishii to the Mets for backup catcher Todd Phillips before the 2005
Season? This was one of the worst trades ever. Both of these teams were going
nowhere. The Mets got a guy who walks eight a game because he pitches around
everyone, including pitchers, and the Dodgers got another catcher who can’t
hit. Apparently, they have a policy where no catcher is allowed to hit over
.220. Piazza and Lo Duca – gone. David Ross? Paul Bako? Keep them. Phillips?
Get him. Well, apparently the joke is up, because the Dodgers were able to
grab a hold of Sandy
Alomar
for the 2006 Season. Slow down. This guy isn’t an Alomar Jr., he’s
the original, and three months shy of his 40th birthday. For a catcher, in the
NL with no option to DH, this basically makes him a non-factor. Moving on,
we have Russell
Martin
. Never played in the majors. Next, Dioner
Navarro
, who actually smacked for .273 in 176 AB’s last year for the
Dodgers. He also knocked in 14 runs. Fantastic. If you’re the opposing manager,
why walk their 8 spot to get to their pitcher if they’re both easy outs?

Did
anyone think something good was gonna happen when the McCourt’s took over? This
organization is a mess. Frank McCourt’s title is ‘Chairman.’ Tommy Lasorda is
going by the alias ‘Special Advisor to the Chairman.’ Jamie McCourt, the ball
and chain, is going around as ‘Vice Chairman and President.’ You’ve got the following exchange occurring between Met’s
scouts and Kim Ng, ‘VP and Asst. GM,’ 

Mets: "Where are you from!?"
Ng: "China"
Mets: "What country
in China!?"

… and then blaming their racist outbursts on the Atkin’s diet.
In short, the Dodger’s organization, along with the entire NL West, is one
giant Circus.

Colorado Rockies

Here is another team grappling with the fact that11_01_brosius_hr2_300 someone built their
ballpark in a way that makes it impossible to win. Coor’s field is a
launch pad, not a baseball park. A few years ago, USA Today ran a story
saying that analysis had revealed that Coors Field is the worst park
for pitcher’s ERA. I didn’t know that. Anyway, Shawn Chacon couldn’t be
happier to get out of Coors, first off. Next, remember last year when
the Rockies acquired the ‘expendable, $10 million mistake,’ Byung-Hyun
Kim? That’s what Boston called him after he posted a 6.23 ERA in 2004.
And you ship him off to Coors. His debut for the team was nuts – 6
hits, 2 homers, and 8 runs. One out. That’s an ERA of 216.00.
Incredible. The best part? It wasn’t even at Coors. Then, he threatened
to quit if he didn’t get better. More circus action. I don’t think it’s
ever been easier to point to an exact moment in a guy’s career when he went from good to bad. The minute Derek Jeter homered off Kim in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series to win the game – which was just tied after Tino Martinez’s 2-run jack off Kim made it 3-3 – Kim started to go bad. In Game 5, Kim gives up a game-tying Homer to Scott Brosius, and the Yankees end up winning that game in extras as well. I don’t really care where Kim is now, but the Rockies are still terrible, and that’s no mystery. They’re not going anywhere. I don’t care if MLB.com is leading with a story of your young prospects. Remember when Clint Barmes got taken out for months last year because of a grocery/stairway incident? It’s that kind of thing that happens in the NL West. Sure, maybe the Rockies are on the upswing or whatever. But they’re still a giant circus of a team. First they decided to go with the big bats strategy to win games. That kinda worked. Then they decided to go with pitching, that didn’t work. Then they tried fast fielders. Failed. Get a plan, and good luck.

San Francisco Giants

Barry Bonds. As if you could get any more tragic than that.

In Conclusion…

The NL West is still a circus. Get your act together, pack up the tents, and then you can be reconsidered. Until then, the NL only has 11 teams.

Thanks for reading. Leave comments and emails. I’ve been gone the whole previous week, and a post regarding current baseball events will soon follow.