Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dodgers and Cards. An NLCS preview? The defending champs might have something to say about that

In a preview of what should be the NLCS the Cards show that the addition of Holliday may be the missing piece to put them over the top and exposing the Dodgers weak leak in the process. For the first time the season LA has lost three games in a row, the last team in Major League Baseball to do so. LA dropped 2 of 3 to the Marlins and has been beotch slapped in the first three games of their series with the Cards. Although the third game was a 15 inning classic that if it was played in October would go down as one of the best ever played. The series itself has shown why these are the best two teams in the NL and should be the last two standing with stars delivering in the clutch, good starting pitching, and amazing defense. One area that might come back to bite LA is their relief staff. The brightest spot on their staff has been Jonathan Broxton who had converted on all but two of his save opportunities going into the St. Louis series but couldn’t close a 1-run lead, as the Cards tied it in the bottom of the 9th and eventually won in 15. The Dodger starters have consistently got into the 6th or 7th inning but after that the wheels come off the wagon and come playoff time, with the spotlight on, that weakness will be exposed. The Dodgers have five players in their lineup that have driven in over 50 RBIs this season, with Philly being the only other team that can make that claim, but they do leave a plethora of runners on base. The Cards addition of Holliday solidifies their lineup and gives them a ‘murders row’ middle lineup. Holliday has hit in seven straight games since coming over and has sparked a string of clutch hitting making the Cards the favorite of many despite LA having the best record in baseball. What stands out is the outright OWNERSHIP of the Dodgers by the Cards (8-2 last 10 going back to 08’). I know, don’t leave Philly out of that equation but right now this series has been incredible to watch and if this is prologue to what might be coming in Fall, then pass the beer nuts and enjoy.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Cards close the Holliday deal and look to revive his bat and thier BA

The Athletics and Cardinals have completed a trade that sends outfielder Matt Holliday to St. Louis in exchange for third baseman Brett Wallace, outfielder Shane Peterson and right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen in addition, the Athletics will throw in $1.5 million to the Cardinals. Holliday, 29, is eligible for free agency after this season, and has had a lackluster season overall with the Athletics, hitting .287 with 11 homers and 54 RBIs. But he has hit well this month, batting .344 with a .421 on-base percentage, and one scout who has seen him play said Tuesday that Holliday is swinging the bat as well now as he has all year. The first place Cards have been searching for a way to upgrade their offense to build some lineup protection for Pujols, but is this the right move? Many times in various sports have we’ve seen “a change in scenery” make all of the difference (Randy Moss, Lamar Odom, Corey Dillion) as both the player and the team get a shot in the arm and improve their games. However is this going to be one of those situations? Holliday has not been all that and a bag of chips since he left the Rockies and at 13mill per perhaps he should be. Any move in a positive direction is worth it for the Cards who despite hitting a dismal .254 (24th in the league) still find themselves in first place in the NL central, but eventually the sand runs out on timely hitting and inconsistency is exposed. The Cards are spending what cash they have left to go all in for this year. Is this going to be the move to get them back to the NLCS? Let us know here and in the MLB chat rooms and team rooms.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A look at the division Leaders, who will stem the tide?

Yankees - finally hiting a hot streak and take the lead in the AL East
The streaky Yankees have now won five in a row on the heels of three consecutive losses that followed a run of 13 wins in 15 games. And this time, their streak has provided a tangible bit of success. Shortly after Rivera recorded the final out at Yankee Stadium, the Rangers completed a 4-2 victory over the Red Sox in Texas. The Yankees, five games out of first place less than a month ago, now stand in sole possession of it, with solid starts coming from all members of the starting rotation.

LA Dodgers - Manny leaves game after getting hit by pitch

Manny Ramirez, who was hit on the left hand by a pitch from Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey in the third inning. X-rays were negative and he’s now listed as day-to-day. The Dodgers are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have opened up a 9-game lead in the NL West, the largest of any division leader. It was the Giants who flinched first as both teams started hot after the All-Star break but SF had a tough series with Pittsburgh where they dropped a couple of 1-run games that gave back the two games they made up during Manny’s absence.

Philadelphia Phillies – Looking like champs that aren’t ready to give up their crown
To say that the Phills have come out of the box strong is a massive understatement. Going 10-1 their last 11, with only 2 games being 1-run games they have been winning, and winning easily until the Cubs put an end to the streak with a win to salvage the series. However it doesn’t get any easier for Philly as they get the division leading Cards next. Finally over .500 at home they may be peaking at the right time in order to make a convincing titile run.

LA Angels – Quietly going after the best record in the AL
The Angels got the best medicine you could ask for when trying to increase a division lead on the road, a date with the KC Royals and after sweeping a double header to take 3 of the first four the Angels have opened up a little breathing room however small (3 games). However LA has gone 8-2 in their last 10 and now has a .587 winning pct just behind the NY which they own in head-to-head.

St. Louis Cardinals – (for now!)
Is this a great division or what??!!! Five teams within 2 ½ games of each other?? To try and predict who will be left standing at the end of this one is an exercise in futility. This has just been a great race to watch all year and it promises to only get better. For now the Cards have seat after the music has stopped, but a torrid schedule that includes series with the Houston, Philly, LA, with Houston again could drop them as far back as 4th place in the division. That could mean the current front runners might find themselves a distant 3 games back in early August.

Tigers - Doing their best to fall out of first but manage to hang on
Detroit has only managed to go seven games above .500 for the season and more recently, 5-5 in their last 10 but that is good enough for them to maintain their two game lead in the AL Central because the Sox and Twins can’t seem to gain any kind of mo’ either. The Tigers have held the top spot for a while but series with the Yankees and Mariners might bring them down to reality.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Are the Phillies poised to repeat?

I know we’ve called them one of the teams to watch in the second half of the season but the Phillies are making believers of the rest of the league and making us look like prophets in the process. With Jack Nicholson wearing a Yankees cap and watching from a front-row seat, the Phillies wasted no time picking up where they left off in their first game back in Philadelphia since before the All-Star break. Raul Ibanez hit a three-run homer, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard each went deep, and the Philadelphia Phillies won their ninth straight game, 10-1 over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night. Ruiz also had an RBI double during a four-run fourth inning that helped the NL East leaders turn this one into a rout. Rodrigo Lopez (2-0) allowed one run over six innings to give the Phillies their 13th win in their last 14 games. The Phillies are on their longest winning streak since 2006 and improved to 23-23 at home. They were 13-22 at home before they went 9-1 in their last homestand. Ted Lilly (9-7) was rocked in his shortest outing of the season for the Cubs, who snapped a four-game winning streak. The teams boasted the two longest winning streaks in the National League, but the start of the anticipated three-game series was all Phillies. Can the Phills pull off the first repeat since the Jays teams of the 90’s? Is it possible in today’s era? Let us know here and in the MLB chat rooms.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Smacchat Teams to watch in the second half of the season

New York Yankees – For an “Empire” they sure have been quietly going about their business, playing .580 ball (which would be good for first place in every division but one), the lineup is still stacked from top to bottom, with a batting average that is 2nd best in baseball. Pitching wise, core starters Burnett, CC, and Joba are all coming off good months. If they can keep the mo’ going the Sox will have to continue their torrid pace just to hold them off which won’t be easy. Look of the Yanks to take the reigns of the AL East by the end of August and win a tight race to the tape because they know if they go in as the wild card they’ll draw the Angels who seem to have Luke Skywalker managing them when it comes to NY.

San Francisco Giants – If the adage holds true and the ‘good pitching will stop good hitting’ then the Giants are a team that no one will want to play. Second only to Philly as the hottest team in the NL over the last 20 games, the Giants nucleus, of “Board Walk & Park Place” starters Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, both 10-2 on the year, will be a problem for any team in a seven-game series regardless of who they play. The SF team ERA 3.51 is the best in baseball but their hitting is where they need to improve. Could you imagine if they had a certain someone in the lineup that just happens to be greatest home run hitter in the history of the game? Look for them to get in as the Wild Card winner and set up a heated NLDS with their hated rivals from So Cal who should hold the best record in the NL. Who do you think will be the surprise of the second half? Let us know here and in the Chat rooms and team pages.
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Philadelphia Phillies – I know how do you pick the defending champs as a “team to watch”?? Well, firstly they come into (and out of) the All-Star break the hottest team in baseball and they still are only playing .500 ball at home, in itself is a big improvement. Moreover, they are likely to make a move prior to the trade deadline, possibly for Halladay which instantly would make the favs to get back to the show. Even without the Halladay move the Phills look like a comer as the bats are finally starting to come around hitting just .261 there is plenty of room for growth, and if they can keep the consistency, they’ll be around come October.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

American League continues All-Star Dominance

For the 13th straight year(1 tie) the American League has proven to be superior in the “best vs. best” competition as they topped the NL 4-3 at the Mid-Season Classic in St. Louis. This was one of the best opportunities for the NL to get a win as the starting pitching was in their favor but it was the AL pitching who allowed only 2 base runners over the last seen innings, and also got to the AL got to “the freak” early for 2 runs in the first inning. From there they used a home run robbing play from Carl Crawford that would have tied the game and had Super Mario come in and get his record 4 All-Star game save. Despite raising the stakes by awarding home field to the winner, the AL still continues to make the NL their punk and hold a sizeable advantage in interleague play as well. What can the NL do to turn this around? Is AL really that much better or is the ALG and Interleague not a true gauge and should stats be the judge? Let us know here and in the MLB chat rooms and team rooms.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

All-Star Game Starters Announced

2009 Starting All-Star Game Starting Line-Ups

National League Pos. Player Team
C Yadier Molina Cardinals
1B Albert Pujols Cardinals
2B Chase Utley Phillies
3B David Wright Mets
SS Hanley Ramirez Marlins
OF Ryan Braun Brewers
OF Raul Ibanez Phillies
OF Carlos Beltran Mets
P Tim "the freak" Lincecum

American League Pos. Player Team
C Joe Mauer Twins
1B Mark Teixeira Yankees
2B Dustin Pedroia Red Sox
3B Evan Longoria Rays
SS Derek Jeter Yankees
OF Jason Bay Red Sox
OF Ichiro Suzuki Mariners
OF Josh Hamilton Rangers
P Ray Halladay
Who should not have gotten in and who got snubbed? Let us know here and in the MLB team rooms and chat rooms.
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National League Home Run Derby Contestants
Prince Fielder
Adrian Gonzalez
Ryan Howard
Albert Pujols

Major League Baseball reaches Mid-Season

Half way through the marathon that is a major league season the division races have only gotten closer since the last ‘mile post’ as for the first time since the inception of the new format, five of the six divisions three teams within three games of the lead. Most of the clubs have had an opportunity to get healthy, train up or train out the young talent, and solidify roster positions, but trying to make sense of who’s really good and who won’t be around when the leaves turn brown is another story. Here how the divisions are shaping up at halftime

Predicted to finish somewhere in the pack the Tigers didn’t get the memo on their insignificance and continue to lead the Central at the midway point of the season. Ok, it’s not enough room to cover getting swept in a series but who is consistent enough to step up and take if from them in the second half?

The heavyweights are still going toe-to-toe and it looks like this one is going to go the distance. Unfortunately, this was supposed to be more of a steel cage match with at at least three participants but the defending AL Champions have begun to lose sight of the leaders. It made for the story of the year last year but we’re questioning if the Rays have any staying power.

The Angels have managed to weather the storm of injuries and lack of pop from Vlade’s bat to hold on to a tie for the lead in the AL West but this race is far from over. After getting out to a red hot start the Mariners cooled off but a revived Jr. and inhuman consistency from Ichiro have put them back in the mix and with a lot of mojo. Look out for the M’s in the second half of the season.

The closest division in baseball top to bottom where even the Pirates are still within striking distance. If .531 is good enough to lead then as these teams beat each other there will be plenty jockeying for position in the second half of the season.

Philly still can’t seem to win at home but it doesn’t seem to matter as they still have the best record in baseball on the road. The Marlins are playing their best baseball since the first week of the season, but the Braves who were supposed to be in the midst of a two year rebuilding process might be ahead of schedule.

LA continues to hold the best record in baseball and is trying to go wire to wire but have slowed down from the feverish pace they set in the early season (.680) and the Giants now look like they may be poised to make them work a little come second half of the season.

Who has been the biggest surprise of the first half of the season and who will be around at the end? Let us know here and in the MLB chat rooms and team rooms.
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