Monday, June 28, 2010

Division Leaders change prior to the break

AL - Central
The Twins are hanging on but facing a vicious surge from the Sox and Tigers. Chicago’s 11 game winning streak has put them in the thick of things and may have saved Ozzie’s job. I’m not sure how the Tigers are doing it but they’re only a half game back despite going 5-5 their last 10 and with a paltry run differential of 4.
AL - East
Wow did this turn around in a hurry! Just when we all were all aboard the Rays Express to the post season the ol’ guard has answered with vigor and have taken control of the division. Interleague play was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Yankees and Sox as they both have looked impressive over their last 10.
AL - West
The Rangers refuse to come back down to Earth and the Angles have fallen even further behind despite playing .700 ball of their own but will get an opportunity to make up some ground when the Rangers come to town this week. The Rangers are in the top three in 3 of 4 offensive categories and second only to the Empire in run differential.
NL - Central
This has been a two horse race all season but now the stakes have gone up as the Metropolitans have caught fire in the NL East and now hold the wild card spot. .550 is the best ball we’ve seen out of Cincy in years so one has to wonder if they can keep the pace in the second half. Meanwhile it’s business as usual for the Cards but have been knocked off the top perch for a while and it will be interesting to see how long it takes them to get back.
NL - East
The Mets are finally getting healthy and it’s starting to show as they are knocking on the door of the Braves who have held the division lead for most of the season. The Brave’s offense, or lack there of, is starting to catch up with them as they are in the top 10 in only one major category (RBIs) and they’re 9th in that. The Nats, Marlins, and Phils are their next three series before the showdown with NY just before the All-Star break.
NL – West
Ouch. LA has taken a serious tumble and fallen off the ‘can o’ whippin’ tree and hit every branch on the way down, going 2-8 over their last 10 and find themselves in the deep water 5 games out. It’s time we all start giving some respect to the Padres as they have stood atop longer than any of the other sleepers early in the season (ie; Rays, Nats, Reds), and they seem to be doing it without any offense. Never in the history of the leage has a team held the division lead going into the break while being in the bottom quintile in all offensive categories, but San Diego will be the first to do so (24th in ¾ and 26th in the other), with a 4.5 game lead and just about two weeks before the break.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Do the Interleague matchups create a disadvantage for some?

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Complete interleague schedule with times and starting pitchers.
I gotta admit watching the Cubs take on the ‘South Siders’, the battle for DC, rematch of the JC walk-off jack, 1-70 series, and the original battle for New York between Dem’ Bums’ and the Bombers, even makes the baseball purist think it ain’t bad every once in a while to shake things up a bit. Unfortunately one of the drawbacks is that it would add too many games to have an NBA type format where every team sees each other at least once a year, so the divisions rotate and in some years that creates a decided advantage/disadvantage for some. Take the poor saps in the NL West who get the bad luck of the draw to get the toughest division in baseball this year. The Dodgers (1-8 in interleague play) can’t wait for the experiment to be over has when they started this latest interleague session they were in first place but trips to Boston and their rivalry series with the Angels have them two games out now, with the Yankees coming back to LA for the first time since the 88’ series for a 3-game set. I’ll concede that every team in the division has to match up with the same division but not everyone has to got to Fenway after their corresponding NBA franchise just pulled the 18th banner away from the Celtics. When it’s all over it will even out in the division but in years when some divisions are really down this could make all the difference when it comes down to home field advantage in the playoffs and as much as I like to see the ‘once every 7 years’ matchups I would much rather see my club with a better record and hosting a playoff series. Do you like inter-league play or how would you change it? Let us know here and in any of the quick links:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An amazing MLB season approaches the midway point

You can pick your storylines but this season is setting up to be best since the BigMac/Sosa/Jr. home run derby year. It’s all but confirmed that Strasburg is the real deal and so far has lived up to the hype going 2-0 and proving he can also do it on the road. His presence gave an added shot in the arm to an already compelling season, mind you he won’t be enough to get the Nats into the playoffs but this financial impact for them both at home and on the road has been well documented and in itself has become another reason to watch. Additionally, we only hope the pennant races can keep the momentum into the second half as they possess the perfect combination of the surprises teams of the year pitted against the ol’ guard in the AL East with the Rays trying to hold off the Yankees, back to the future as the Braves, Reds, and Dodgers are all leading or tied for the division lead, and great battles in the others. The Rays have proven they are the real deal and don’t just promise to be around at the end but (pardon the blasphemy) but may actually be the favorites to take the flag in the East. Despite just cracking the top ten in HRs, and 13th in batting average and hits, the Rays have done it with timely hitting as they’re 3rd in RBIs which has translated to a run differential of +103 second in the majors to the second place Yankees but almost double on anyone in the NL. With four hitters in the lineup at .300 and two just under at .285 they don’t give opposing pitchers much time to gather their thoughts, but the real deal is having five pitchers with an ERA under 3.00 making them the team to avoid in any 7-game series. With the Red Sox threatening to becoming a non-factor, the Rays are looking to become the new nemesis of the Empire and hope to declare that the King is dead come October. In the NL all of the races are within a half-game and with great stories the Phills are back again, with that young and consistent lineup, tied with the Metropolitans who seem to have put it together out of nowhere to challenge. However the best story of the year has been the revival of the Braves and Reds to are attempting to make a return to glory in years in seasons that were supposed to be “rebuilding”. The Reds are the new ‘lumber company’ as they sit near the top of the NL in most team offensive statistics (3rd BA, 4th HRs, 4th RBIs, and 3rd hits) and the Braves pitching staff has the best numbers on their storied history as only TWO pictures on their ENTIRE STAFF have an ERA of over 2.00 which is simply an astonishing stat and it would be great to see them back in the mix after the long hiatus. Lastly, the NL West will probably come down to the wire again with the Dodgers managed to survive losing the leading ‘triple crown’ candidate Andre Ethier and still are on top, but their hoping to make it through injury free season for the core of their lineup and JT seems to issuing plenty of days off. At the end of the day they will have to address the holes in their starting rotation as they’ve illustrated how you can’t survive with relief pitching alone. What has been the best storyline of the season thus far? Let u know here and in any of the quick links.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

No one can say they saw this coming

In case you haven’t noticed, the Memorial Day weekend just past so any team sitting on top of their division 52 games into the season has some fortitude to them, and over the course of a week I’ve gone back and reviewed the pre-season predictions of all the sports pundits from the online, magazine, and newspaper universe and the best anyone is sitting right now is one out of six (Tampa Bay or Minnesota as a division leader) as we approach the All-Star break. However, you can’t really blame them as no one had clubs like Cincinnati, Texas, and San Diego, in the top tree of their division, and Atlanta was left for dead as their average age approaches 50. Grant it, this could all turn around in a hurry, for example the Padres have held first place in May in each of the last two years only to fade as the weather heats up, and some of the place horses are the derby favorites (ie; Yanks, Cards, Dodgers, and Phillies) but that is what makes the game great because in all probability the sure fact that five of the division leaders are new faces at this time of season means we should see some new blood in the mix come pennant race time. Of the afore mentioned leaders the Padres (7-3 last 10) and Braves (8 straight wins) are the hottest but both will be tested as the Braves have a 4 game set on the road against a hot LA Dodger team that was the hottest team in the NL during the month of May going 20-8, and the Padres go on a torrid 7-game trip to Philly and NYMets before returning home to start interleague play. So the experts still may have a chance to save face before the break as next week that number could easily be down to 3 out of six, but don’t quote me. Who do you think is the biggest surprise in baseball this year so far? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Season surprises could spark major moves ahead of the trade deadline

There may be some nervousness on the part of many of the top MLB clubs because they’re not where they wanted or expected to be a third of the way into the season, so we looking forward to some major activity ahead of the trade deadline. Obviously Oswalt has made his feelings known that he wants to contribute to a contender and feels like his time in now, but there are some other big names that could be on the move as well:

Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros. Expect his desire to be traded to get stronger as Houston continues to get buried in the standings. Even with a large contract, Oswalt will cost a couple of front-line prospects because he is pitching so well. If a club comes calling for Carlos Lee, however, it could have him for his contract. Lee is due $18.5 million a year through 2012 and, according to a scout, "looks like he doesn't even care." (I will second that opinion. In an early season game at Busch Stadium, Lee strolled into the Astros' clubhouse about 10 minutes before stretching -- long after the rest of his teammates already had dressed).

Mike Lowell, IF, Red Sox. Boston doesn't need him; the Angels do. They cannot expect to win the AL West with Mike Napoli, Robb Quinlan and Michael Ryan trying to replace Kendry Morales at first base. And they can't expect the White Sox to move Paul Konerko or the Cubs to deal Derrek Lee unless those clubs still are struggling in late July.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Diamondbacks. Who knows how long Arizona might wait to become a seller. As O'Dowd points out, "We were very similar (last year) to where the Diamondbacks are now." One difference: The Rockies didn't have what is shaping up as a historically bad bullpen (7.70 ERA).
Cliff Lee, SP, Mariners. Another weekend of consecutive walkoff losses like the past one in Anaheim, and the Mariners just might conclude what everyone else already has: This isn't their year. With Lee unlikely to stay in Seattle when he becomes a free agent in the fall, the Mariners can save some salary and return a decent prospect. For Seattle's sake, let's hope that prospect can hit.
Kevin Millwood, SP, Orioles. Baltimore is one team that doesn't need to wait. The Orioles are 22 games under .500 and 19 1/2 games out of first place, and their attendance already is an embarrassment. The sooner they move Millwood, the more of his $12 million salary they can save. He isn't in the class of Lee or Roy Oswalt but "he's a pretty solid pitcher who has pitched well" this season, says a scout.
Miguel Tejada, 3B, Orioles. Ty Wigginton has been the more productive Orioles hitter, but the team can better afford him because of his versatility and his salary ($3.5 million), compared to Tejada's ($6 million, plus a $150,000 trade bonus). Tejada isn't enjoying as strong a season at last year but he is "fine," says a scout.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox. He could be moved soon because he becomes a 10-and-5 man on June 14, which will give him veto power over any trade. However, the contender most in need of a catcher, Texas, remains in a state of semi-limbo because of its pending sale.
Jose Guillen, DH/OF, Royals. His average has dropped 54 points to .250 since April 30, but he has 12 homers. Kansas City might even help pay the remainder of his $12 million contract. Guillen, however, has started only two games in the field and needs to DH.
Kerry Wood, RP, Indians. In a market that appears thin in bullpen help, Wood is one hard-throwing veteran who has handled ninth innings. Of course, he is a health risk and makes huge bucks ($10.5 million this year, $11 million team option next year). But Cleveland could pay a big portion of that and still save millions. The Indians aren't going anywhere with him, anyway.
Ben Sheets, SP, A's. I pegged him as likely trade bait the moment the tight-fisted A's signed him for $10 million. Sheets hasn't missed a start after not pitching all last season and he has a 2.81 ERA over his past five outings. First-place Oakland needs offense and Sheets could fetch a bat.
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