Tuesday, November 4, 2014

They Might Really Be Giants

The arduous nine month journey is over with a new World champion being crowned and the third time in six years the ring holders reside from the Bay area. Also in familiar fashion, apologies are in order for most of us that didn’t think they would get out of the West four months ago let alone the National League. However in typical Giant fashion now folklore they put it together exactly when they needed to, did just a little more than the club they were playing and just enough to win and eventually won the war of attrition to bring another tittle to NoCal. I mean really, how many of you honestly thought that after losing Angel Pigan thought they even had a chance to make any real noise? Pense wasn’t hitting real well, Sandoval was being sat down of games at a time “to rest” and other than Bumgarner they didn’t look to have a consistent starter. The Dodgers had just burned through their 9 game cushion and they were now tied with LA shortly after getting swept at A T & T park. Honestly there was more talk about restructuring than winning another World Series. All of us bloggers, writers, pundits that were provided with months of fodder by adamantly stating that the “every other year” notion had no more validity to than the “curse of the bambino” or the sheep in Chicago well, maybe there was something more to it than we thought and may I be the first to step up to the cafeteria and get a plateful of crow. I’ve written before that That I felt this club and franchise in particular more resembles the execution of the ‘Money Ball” theory than their brothers from across the bay, and they are the reciprocal of they’re attempting to do down in LA which is to spend your way into the Series. Whatever it is, it is working, well at least every other year. We would be remised if we didn’t extend to the levels of hyperbole to illustrate how great a coaching job Bruce Boche has done. Sure he had a horse to ride in Bumgarner, but he paid attention to when the buzzer sounded and then stopped the ride, as opposed to Don Mattingly who always seemed to leave his ace in one inning too many. Boche never seemed to be in that position and that’s the mark of a great manager, sure there’s always pressure situations but the moves are so seamless that the club seems to avoid being on the wrong end of dramatic moments, like 3-run jacks to complete a 7 run comeback. San Francisco took its beating in game 6 then calmly came back in game 7 when the city, the odds makers, and most of the country was waving blue towels and simply slammed the door on the dream and the series. Lastly, how about the play of Pablo Sandoval? He would have been in line to pick up his second WS MVP putting him in Hall of Fame company, if he wasn’t surpassed by an even more unhuman performance of one Madison Bumgarner. Not bad for a guy not expected to last past his contract year. So now perhaps the Giants will do their best to help lower the unemployment rate, and take a year sabbatical and give someone else a chance to justify the money they spent to build a winner. It would be nice to see someone like the Orioles, Royals, Pirates, or even the Dodgers get back to the spotlight after a couple of decades but even if that happens, they shouldn’t get too comfortable because the Giants will probably be back in 2016.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Royals Don’t Need A Broom When a Whisk Will Do

Kansas City rolled into the playoffs the hottest club in baseball, which unfortunately has sometimes been the kiss of death. Just ask the Angels and Nationals whom had the best record but didn’t have to play a meaningful game for so long before the playoffs that they were swept away by the intensity and right out of their first round series. The Royals journey has been well documented, on the outside looking in coming down the stretch, making the wildcard, then riding that momentum into the playoffs and winning 8 straight games, 4 in extra innings, and 4 by one run. Now that steam seems to be running out, they are still playing the same game, great defense, small-ball, full of sacrificing, bunting runners into scoring position, and trying to bring them home. However what has been missing has been the speed on the base paths and the timely hitting. Actually, the Royals are hitting rather well with runners in scoring position (.322) they just haven’t had that many, only 31 opportunities in five games. And the stolen bases? Only one, and they haven’t even attempted one after being caught by Buster Posey early in the series. Meanwhile the Giants have a lower average (.301) still respectable but have had 53 runners in scoring position. They also have only one stolen base, but that’s not what they do. That begs the question would you be more upset if you left runners in scoring position or if you didn’t have enough? The Giants may have left 39 runners in scoring position but they have had 16 more than the Royals over the course of the first five games, and most importantly San Francisco has out hit KC by almost 20, 52-33. With all of that said, and all of those stats, at the end of the day Kansas City still has the final two games at home and rest assured at the beginning of the season if someone would have proposed that to end the “Pine Tar Curse” all they had to do was sweep a two game series at home they would like their chances. After all they have already proven they could take four straight from the best baseball, and the odds are actually on their side as eight out of the last ten clubs that came back home down 2-3 won the final two games to take the series. So they don’t need the Royal flush, just get back to what got em’ there and hope that the Giants don’t bring back Bumgarner on two-days rest!

Monday, October 20, 2014

World Series Preview - The Wildest Cards in The Deck

And then there were two. After what always seems like it takes a full calendar year to complete the regular season came to a close, giving way to a post season that was one of the best and most surprising fans have ever been treated to. The clubs with the best record were both eliminated in their first series by teams that didn’t even with their division. The clubs with the highest payroll didn’t make it out the Divisional round, if the playoffs were determined by marketing dollars then the Dodgers and Tigers with rosters fill of Cy Young award winners, MVP’s, and Gatorade spokespersons should be throwing out the first pitch on Tuesday, but that’s not how it works. What did hold true was that the teams that were playing the best baseball are still playing and everyone else is home for the Holidays. The Royals and Giants needed all 162 games just to make it into the playoffs so it seems they’ve been playing playoff games for two months now, and therein could be the key, if you go in cold you get carried out cold, and conversely regardless of rest if you come in battle tested, you’ll last much longer. Regardless of what you might think the formula is and despite what it might look like on paper the two best clubs are the ones we have left standing, and they both needed to win a play-in game. The Giants got out of the blocks like they finished the season, playing their brand of baseball and simply just winning games. They burst out to a nine game lead on the Dodgers and looked like they were going to run away with the division. Then they hit a lull that culminated in the Dodgers coming up to A T & T Park in late July and sweeping their way back into contention. LA would eventually take over first, lead by 6 games down the stretch and hold off the Giants by winning 7 of their last 9 meetings. However once they got in, they’ve looked worthy to represent the National League going 8-2 against the League’s best. Meanwhile the plight of the Kansas City Royals was very similar. The Royals got out of the box fast including a 13-3 streak in June where they took control of the division but tough stretch in the second half of the season particularly against the division leaders Detroit who seemed to own them, put them in danger of missing the playoffs all together and fighting for that final playoff spot. But they got it an now they’re 4 wins away from the pinnacle it took them 29 years to get back to. KC has defied everything we thought we knew about baseball as we watched a club with a .549 winning percentage win 8 consecutive playoff games, sweep the team with the best record in baseball, win four extra-inning games (new record), and 4 one-run games. So the Series opens in Kansas City as they try to keep the win streak alive which got all kinds of things going through my head. Could you imagine if they manage to keep this streak going? What if they win 4 straight? This team goes down in the books as the greatest ever? Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinal teams of the past and this Royals clubs gets top billing over all of them? Or what about the Giants? In the first four games of the series they’ll send out pitchers where 3 of the 4 in their rotation have winning percentages of .538, .692, and .615 respectively. I look at this and ask how did they get this far? I mean, we’re all aware of the “every other year” phenomenon, and it make for great fodder but really?? In the end I don’t know if the Royals can keep it going and finish the post season with the most wins in MLB history, or if the Giants can win in another even numbered year, but I do know that I’ve seen every game of the playoffs thus far and these clubs, as unsexy as they may be, play the game the right way and it works for them. If they get a runner on first the either bunt or steal him into scoring position and then they get a timely base hit or move the runner over and get a sac fly. A walk is sometimes as good as a run with them. Defensively the Royals have been the best we’ve seen in years, quashing rallies with leather and breaking teams spirit in the process. A guy like Pablo Sandoval goes AWOL for 6 months, benched at one point during the season for lack of production, and suddenly is playing like the guy that took home a World Series MVP. And they did all of this with Angel Pagan, arguably their most consistent player in the lineup. We can all make strong arguments how one of the clubs watching from their living has more justification to be running out on the field on Tuesday but they would all be wrong. This is the World Series, and you don’t get this far without being the best in the world, and say what you will, the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals have proven that they are just that. Enjoy. View the complete World Series preview with highlights, stats, predictions, and more here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Body of Work Doesn't Get You Far In October

If the MLB playoffs were the NCAA tournament everyone’s bracket would be thoroughly busted at this point with club with the best record in all of baseball not only eliminated but swept out, and the club with the best record in the NL dropping the first two games at home to trail 0-2 going on the road. The Angels’ bats that had come through with timely hitting the entire season en route to 98 wins couldn’t get any when it counted and dropped two tough extra inning games to start the series and then it was all over but the shouting as they laid down in KC in game 3 to complete the sweep. In the other AL matchup the #2 Baltimore Orioles also brought their brooms as they swept the #3 Detroit Tigers away in very orderly fashion, by getting the upper hand in two one-run games that pushed them into the next round. Crazy how all of that stick in the Tigers lineup couldn’t produce more than one run at home in an elimination game and how the “Three-Headed Monster” of three consecutive Cy Young award winners couldn’t produce even one win. This will be a very long winter for both of those clubs and their fans as you would have to wonder how much more of a favorable matchup will you ever see for a chance to get to the show?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Playoff Bracket Worthy of March

It took over a half a year for us to get here and it was well worth the wait. The post season matchups have all of the necessary components for one of the best in history. I know that’s saying a lot but before you rain down the post to the contrary hear me out, and look at the matchups. Firstly, the September appetizer was one of the best ever, going down to the final week/day before the positions were decided and that just rolled into the wild card games where one home team (KC) had to come back multiple times before getting the walkoff hit and in the other game a pitching gem by a road club that sent thousands home stunned. A little something for everyone that left us with a playoff bracket worthy of the one that takes place in March. (3) Detroit at (2) Baltimore –The Orioles are hosting an ALDS for the second time in 3 years coming off a prior 15-year playoff drought. They are the AL East division winners, by a landslide, with the baseball world wondering how they did it. They don’t have a great rotation, deep lineup, or bullpen but they do have a deep pitching staff, great defense, and the most home runs in baseball. Oh, and they’re the best story left outside of Kansas City. On the other side is the combination of where the Lumber Company meets Rocketdyne. There is so much wood in Detroit lineup that their home games could be protested by environmental groups, Victor M, Cabrera, JDM, with 32, 25, and 23 homers each, add Hunter and Kinsler at 17, and 3 hitters hit better than .300 and you’ve got one Excedrin headache staring at you from top to bottom. Just for good measure the Tigers will send out the last three Cy Young award winners consecutively for the first time in history. Really? On Paper this should be a sweep but rest assured this series may be being played at two of the most modern and picturesque ballparks but this is ol’ school Sparky Anderson vs. Earl Weaver and will probably go six or seven. Our Pick, the Tigers. (5) Kansas City at (1) Los Angeles Angels – The Royals are the “feel good” story of the post season, making their first appearance since before most of their was born going up against the club with the best record in all of baseball with some future hall members and the reigning MVP in their lineup. Much like the afore mentioned Orioles, ya kinda’ wonder how the Royals even got here. They’re 14th in the league in home runs, 19th in slugging pct, and their best pitcher in recent years signed with a team that could be representing the National League in the World Series. But they hit the ball (4th in avg.) and then when they get on they steal bases, run plays, manufacture runs, and generally make life miserable for opposing pitchers. Chicks may dig the long ball but these guys are fun to watch. On the other side are the Angels whom have consistently played the best baseball in the majors of any team this season. Even when the A’s looked like they were positioned to run away with the divison early on in the year, the Angels not only gunned them down but left them in their wake, winning the division by a massive 10-game margin. An experienced club with a lethal combination of pitching, hitting, and coaching whom are not a bit nostalgic. We like the Angels to end the dream but leave them with story of a great season. (6) San Francisco at (1) Washington – I gotta’ tell ya, I’ve looked up and down the Giants roster, particularly now with the loss of Angel Pagan and Hector Sanchez and I can’t figure out how they keep winning games, in fact they’re 7-0 in ‘close out’ games. A club so seemingly taken right out of the book “Money Ball” that I expect to see Brad Pitt running onto the field after each big win. This is another series where on paper you figure it may only take the Nationals 3 or 4 games but that’s what makes the GMen so dangerous as many, like myself, simply look past them. On the other side of the diamond are the Nats that simply dominated the NL West taking the flag by an egregious 17 games en route to the best record in the NL. Last the decision to shut down Stephen Strasberg prior to the post season back in 2012 will be second guessed every day until they throw out the first pitch to start this series. The last time they were in the postseason was in 2012, when their bullpen blew up in the NLDS against the Cardinals, including in the decisive Game 5. This season, that same bullpen ranks among the league leaders, and looks even stronger now that Drew Storen has replaced Rafael Soriano as the team’s closer. The Nats seem to know what it will take to move on to the NLCS and beyond and believe this team could bring the city it’s first championship in 90 years. We’re with them, at least for this step. (3) St. Louis at (2) Los Angeles Dodgers – Doesn’t it seem like these two meet in the playoffs every year?? The storyline for this series is poignantly obvious, if the Cards are going to advance they’ll need to cut one of the heads off the two-headed monster that is Kershaw-Greinke something that most clubs haven’t been able to do. In a three-game series it almost seems unfair but if there is any team that has the Dodgers number it’s the Cards, winners of 3 out of 4 series including the NLCS last year. Much has been written about the how LA has broken the bank to win ‘now’ and the pressure that has come with that, with many players publicly stating anything less than a World Series win, would be considered a failure. This Dodger team has been Jeckyl & Hyde all season, capable of to putting up a batting lineup where there has been no place to hide and the run come through like the California sun and sometimes it dries up like the California drought. Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp are the wild cards in this as they have been all year. If they play even ¾ of their potential it will be a short series coming out in their favor, however if the ‘Wild Horse’ is tamed or makes mental mistakes that cost his club potential runs the Cardinals won’t be very forgiving. We like the Dodgers to get that boost from winning game 1 (LS is 24-3 when Kershaw starts) and from there closing the deal in 4. Get all of the scores, stats, highlights, and previews of every playoff game here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

After a Day to Catch Our Breath, It's Back to the Seat's Edge - MLB Wildcard

It took all of the 162 to get the tournament in place, and by the way this is another example of why the book should be closed on if the addition of the second wild card makes the game better or worse as there was never a meaningless day the entire month of September, and now that the brackets all have names in them it’s time to throw out the ball to start the second season. Speaking of the second wild card, the A’s managed to hold off the Mariners and claim that last ticket on the playoff train however unconvincingly down the stretch going 5-5, In fact, Oakland's post-All-Star break winning percentage of .433 is the lowest in MLB history for a team that reached the postseason, fortunately for Oakland the M’s were just as futile and a bad business trip across the border to Toronto where Seattle went 1-3 was their undoing. Now the last men in try not to be dead man walking on a visit to Kansas City where they will face James Shields (14-8). The Royals will come into the riding the mojo train but perhaps might be too happy just to be playing in October for the first time in 30 years to enough to focus on the task at hand by the time they finish the National Anthem and if they come out cold then it will be the shortest celebration three decades in the making that the world has ever seen. Conversely, if the Royals ride the enthusiasm of the crowad to and early lead then that can be their ticket to California. Kansas City's nearly historic bullpen went 72-1 in the regular season when leading after seven innings and 79-1 when leading after eight. The A's, meanwhile, led the majors with 13 wins when trailing after seven and eight wins when trailing after eight. So this one-game series may turn out to be continuation to the drama we saw to close the year only two days after we had a chance to catch our breath so buckle up for what promises to be a great playoff season. Giants at Pittsburgh As far as stats go, the Giants and Pirates are neck and neck. their win loss percentages are completely identical; 88-74. The Pirates batting average of .259 surpasses that of the Giants’ .255. The Giants’ ERA of 3.50 trumps the Pirates ERA of 3.47. that’s their regular season stats against the rest of the National League division, but let’s not forget that the Giants and Pirates met a few times before… to the Pirates liking. These two wild card teams met 6 times in the regular season with the Pirates taking 4 of those games. Wednesday’s game will bring on a whole different game, different mentalities will be on the field, this is do or die time. Now which team will do and which team will die. The Giants have made a very wise and completely obvious decision in starting their left handed ace, Madison Bumgarner. When MadBum is on the mound, the Giants feel a little more at ease. The young pitcher’s win loss record is 18-10 with an overall ERA of 2.98 and not to mention the kid can hit! Grand slams are hard to come by and even harder when you’re the pitcher. In a batting position where it’s a good job if you can even hit the ball, Bumgarner not only puts the ball into play he knocks it out of the park and clears the loaded bases, not once but twice. It’s great that he can knock a few around, but it’s not great when you are your whole team’s entire defense. Hopefully, the Giants can help out their stud both defensively and offensively. The Pirates have decided to start Edinson Volquez with a win loss record of 13-7 and an ERA of 3.04. An impressive pitcher he may be, but the star of the Pirates is none other than Andrew McCutchen, with 89 runs, 83 RBI’s and 172 hits, McCutchen is their postseason power. The Giants offense has to wake up if it even wants to be a match to McCutchen. The Pirates and their fans hope to be a contender for that beautiful World Series trophy that they haven’t seen since 1979 and the Giants want to bring a parade back to the city of San Francisco because it’s an even year and everything. Good luck, may the best National League Wild Card team move onto the NLDS. View the complete MLB playoff preview on the main site here...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MLB Wild Card Races - As of Sept 24

Ok, I gotta’ admit I really thought King Felix was going to break trend and pitch well in the Great White North but he got rocked again, and on a day that the A’s loss adds insult to injury and they’re in a ton of trouble now. I think the A’s can lose 3 over their last 5 as although the Angels have nothing to play for they still have the best record in baseball and they certainly don’t want to limp into the playoffs by being swept. Conversely the Mariners haven’t shown any consistency let alone enough to run the table over the last 5, which is what they would need to do and for a team that is playing .529 ball this year for you quants the chances of that happening is 2.35%, it may be time to start looking towards next year. American Team............Wins......Losses.....GB Oakland..........86.........71..... - Kansas City......86.........71..... - Seattle..........81.........68...... 3.0 Cleveland........82.........76...... 4.5 New York.........81.........76...... 5.0 National Pittsburgh.......86.........71....... - San Francisco....85.........72....... - Milwaukee........80.........77....... 5.0 Obviously, no one wants to play a do-or-die one-game playoff and face the ace of the opposing staff with their season on the line and it’s a very fine line between that outcome and best of five series where there is some time to strategize. The Royals are quite happy they’re not going to see the Tigers over their last 6 games as the Tigers have just owned them this season and if they get run down by Seattle that is what everyone will look to as a big part of the cause. The Giants just are not willing to concede the NL West to the Dodgers and have two games left in LA to pull to within a game of the lead but they will have to go through Boardwalk and Parkplace facing Greinke and Kershaw without dropping one of them and that will be difficult. The Royals and Tigers both get teams outside of the bubble but KC is on the road at Cleveland, who may not be mathematically eliminated but for all intent and purposes are, but they will keep on fighting and if the Tigers don’t get some run support they may find themselves in that one game playoff as their lead in the Central is also down to one game. Coming down the home stretch of the season although some of the horses have faded but there is still much to be decided and these games in September are going to be looked back on in October particularly those with home field advantage or favorable pitching rotations. We have to start in the AL as fortunes can change so much and so quickly. As we have previously written the Central Division winner, either KC or Detroit, will be on their way to Baltimore for a 7-game set. Certainly no picnic and could also be an early exit from the playoffs but at least there will be the opportunity to make adjustments and the Orioles haven’t played a game that’s mattered in quite some time so stealing home field is not out of the question. The loser gets a one-game winner-take-all, steal cage death match probably against King Felix and the Seattle Mariners. Other than Clayton Kershaw probably the one guy you would not want to face for one game with your season on the line. Now I understand that right now Oakland is sitting in that second spot but losers of 7 of their last 10, including the worst batting average and slugging percentage in the league since the Cespedes trade, I have not indication that they will do enough to outlast the M’s despite a very favorable schedule as the Angels have nothing to play for and will be basically be resting starters during their 3-game set, and then series with the Phillies and Rangers would be a welcome sight for anyone in pennant race, but even that won’t be enough to get them through. Seattle has 3 games with Houston, 4 with Toronto, and close with the Angels for a 3-game set. I like their chances to better than .600 over their final 10 and that should be enough to get their one game playoff. Hernandez is scheduled to pitch that last game against the Angels but if the M’s don’t need it look for them to sit him in that game and pitch the play-in game on an extra days rest. There are two series that will be watched this weekend probably as much as the playoffs themselves, the Tigers at Kansas City and the Giants at the Dodgers. Both division leads can change hands before the Summer ends. We have laid out the case (fate) of the Tigers/Royals winner and let me tell you, both need to win this upcoming series as the rest of the schedule should be about a wash. Both the White Sox, but the Tigers get a Twins squad with nothing to play for and the Royals will play a Cleveland team that will be desperate to run the table in the hopes of getting that last spot, and willing to pull out all the stops. Rest assured this will be must see TV and a great appetizer ahead of the real deal. Next up the NL. American Team............Wins......Losses.....GB Oakland..........83.........68..... - Kansas City......83.........69..... - Seattle..........81.........67...... 1.0 Cleveland........79.........73...... 4.0 National San Francisco....84.........68....... - Pittsburgh.......82.........70....... - Milwaukee........79.........74....... 3.5 View all the game previews, pitching matchups, betting lines, and more here. Kansas City and Detroit are dueling for the AL Central division lead, the first wild card, and perhaps most importantly avoiding a one-game death sentence against King Felix and Mariners. If the Royals don’t take the flag they certainly can look back and blame it on their lack of production against their division rivals from Detroit as they have dropped 11 out of 15 to the Tigers this season including the first two games of this current 3-game set. The Royals have not made it to the post season in 27 years, the longest such streak in the major leagues and they hope to put it to and end. The Al Wildcards will come down the final series of the year, and among those contenders Seattle appears to have the most difficult path as they have series with three playoff contenders including 7 huge games with the Angels who possess the best record in baseball, 3 with the A’s whom they’re a half-game back of for the last playoff spot, and 4 with the Blue Jays who are 3.5 back and have an outside shot. You have to figure they have to sweep the Astros in their 3-game set to even have an outside shot. The A’s may be recovering from a terrible skid where they lost 9 of 10 but they are still in the driver seat because of the cushion they had and their advantageous schedule which includes 7 games left against the Rangers who possess the worst record in baseball and 3 with the Phillies another last place team, mixed in with 3 with the Mariners and Angels. They may have to win the do-or-die game but if they do, they go back to being one of the favorites to represent the AL.

Monday, August 18, 2014

MLB Wildcards – Don’t call this race just yet

For the better part of this season the division races haven’t been in doubt, a couple have been two horse races, but if you give any credence to ESPN’s POFF category then all but one is sealed and delivered. However some of the leaders at the mid-point have began to fade down the stretch, some of the older horses are showing their age, and the colts are hitting their stride, so this one may not end up how you think at the wire so don’t tear up that ticket just yet. In the AL you gotta’ love what Buck Showalter has done in Baltimore, coming out of the broadcast booth to almost get it done last year but creating a canyon of space (7games) between themselves and the Yanks, Jays, and Rays to coast to the division crown. Not only that but suddenly are only two games back of the Angles and A’s for the best record in baseball after it looked they those two had a monopoly on home field advantage throughout the playoffs and Series after the AL’s All-Star game win. Then they they’re bats seemed to go cold and the Angels lost 4 straight, the A’s 5, each going 5-5 and 3-7 respectively, which was enough for the Angels to take over 1st by .001 but also got the Orioles and perhaps the Royals involved in the chase. Speaking of the Royals how great is that story? Holding the division lead this late in the season for the first time in a decade, Kansas City is the hottest team in the AL, winners of 8 of their last 10. Now before we start getting all nostalgic for George Brett let’s not forget that if they don’t hold off the Tigers who are just 1.5 games back then they may be in a dog fight for the 2nd and final wild card spot. Why, because the first spot was given out long ago as the California consolation prize. With 72/73 wins already in their pocket the top seed and 1st wildcard the A’s and Angels have those seats reserved. That leaves one seat left for the Mariners (and King Felix, how would you like to draw them in a 1-game playoff?) Royals/Tigers runner-up -.5, Yankees -4, Jays -5, and Indians -5. So despite having the best record in the MLB for most of the year the loser of the AL West could find themselves needing to beat King Felix in a one-game or go home, seems like a very poor ROI for a solid 162 games worth of work. In the NL all eyes have been on the central which finally has a front runner as the Brewers are coming off a 3-game sweep of the Dodgers who prior to that series had the best record in the NL. Now they each have 70 wins each and Milwaukee has a 3-game lead in the division, their largest since the opening couple of weeks. This was done at the expense of the perpetual challengers, St. Louis and the other really “feel good” story the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now this division is far from over and the top 3 have been trading places for most of the year, but the young Brewers are peaking at the right time and after their summer vacation in LA they don’t have any doubts that they have talent necessary to get to the show for the first time since 1982. However much like the Pirates they don’t have the pedigree for winning that the club 3 games behind them does, and the Cardinals will have 7 chances head-to-head to make up those 3 games. As good a story as Ol’ Milwaukee is this year I’m not ready to hand over the Central to em’ just yet as the Cards are still the Cards and something tells me we haven’t heard the last of them. “The Lumber Company”, “The Family”, “Pops”, all of those images of the 79’ Pirates were being replayed earlier in the year as it looked like Pittsburgh finally had the depth to get them back to the post season but a 3-7 stretch including 5 straight losses over the last 10 has dropped them 5.5 back and scrambling to get back in the picture. The schedule will present the opportunities but being that they’ve barley been a .500 club all season and they’ll need to be closer to .700 the rest of the way out, it looks like Stargel and company will have dibs on baseball in the steel city for another year. The West has long been decided, and much like the AL West, it’s a California thang, with either the Dodgers or the Giants (-3.5) taking the flag and the other the top wild card. LA went on a roll and took over the best record before being swept at home by the Brew Crew, couple that with injuries to Ryu their number 3 starter, Juan Uribe, Hanley Rameriz, and “The Untouchables” looking touchable in their last two starts, all of the sudden the team that seemed destined to go one step further than they went last year when they lost in the NLCS, seems to looking a little old compared to the rest of the field. But all the Dodgers need to do is win the West. Then they avoid the possibility of losing a one game “fluke” series and teams will have to deal with the Untouchables Kershaw and Greinke in a 7-game series and that will be tough to do. Get all of the scores, schedules, highlights, and everything about the playoff races here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MLB - Post Break evaluations

It may be called the ‘mid-way point’ of the MLB season but the fact is that most clubs have played 100 games already and the old baseball adage is that you’re going to win 60, lose 60, and what you do with the rest determines who is still playing in November. That said, it’s time to take a look at who is still going to be playing ball when the seasons change. Starting with the craziest division the NL Central, where four of the five teams have taken turns leading the pack and right now they’re only separated by 2.5 games. It might be pointless to write who is actually leading the division (Cardinals and Brewers) because it will probably be different next week and that’s what has made every game worth watching for those fans who think a 162 game season is too long please put an asterisk next this division and this season in particular as there will certainly be one or two of the four teams looking back come September at a games that were played way back in July that they let get away that they would love to have back if they’re a couple of games back coming down the stretch. St. Louis come out to the break the hottest, winners of 7 of 10 to tie for the lead with Brewers who took the foot off the pedal going into the All-Star break and haven’t regained their stride going 2-8 over their last ten games to fall into a tie for the lead. If St. Louis can get through the first two weeks of August they should be near the top going into the final turn but it won’t be easy as their fist four series in August are with those same Brewers, followed by the Red Sox, Orioles, and Marlins. The mother ship has the red birds with a 54% chance of winning the division. Milwaukee needs to get it’s mojo back as the current losing steak followed a 15-6 run that had the league talking. Unfortunately the schedule doesn’t look cohesive for getting healthy as over the next 20 games are all against teams over .500 except the Mets who are tied for the best record in baseball over the last 8 games. The stretch includes the Reds, Mets, Rays, Cards, Giants, and Dodgers. Cincinnati looks to be healthy and in a good position to come out of the show position and win this at the wire but will need their starting pitching to hold up. Meanwhile the “Feel good” story of the year continues in Pittsburgh but the pessimist are starting to rear their ugly heads as this has all the makings for what has become a typical Pirate fade, as the finish lines becomes in focus. Facing the toughest schedule of the contenders down the stretch Pittsburgh needs get back on top in the first 3 weeks of August and feast ton the bottom have of the NL west as 9 games with the Rockies, DBacks, and Padres could provide them with the boost they need. Despite being right in the hunt with their compeers ESPN only gives the Pirates a 32% chance of taking the division and that could be directly related to difficulty of their path to the division tile. In the 1960’s the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament was only 22 teams and each conference was only allowed to send their champion. There were many seasons where the team playing the best basketball in the country wasn’t able to compete for the National Championship. Some of us are old enough to remember 1993, when there were only two divisions in each league, 7 teams each, and if you waited to the All-Star break to get into form it was too little too late. Now there are six divisions, two wild cards, and five teams in the playoffs and the best clubs are always without the excuse of being shutout for a slow start. This year the two best clubs may reside in the same division the AL West as Oakland and Anaheim continue to exchange haymakers at the top of MLB. With 61 and 59 wins respectively they’re 7 and 5 games clear of the rest of the league. Each have over a 92% chance of reaching the playoffs according to ESPN, and should settle their dispute over the best in the league over a 7 game playoff series and it would be justified if it were the ALCS. It could be another sad year for Seattle as they’re playing some the best baseball they’ve played since before ARod left them for a quarter-billion dollar greener pasture, and they will have to struggle to grab one of those top five spots. The other two NL divisions have become two-team races for the remaining 60 games of the season with the NL West becoming the California civil war with the Northern California being represented by the Giants and So.Cal by the Dodgers. These two were going toe-to-toe last year as well with the Giants having the Dodgers on the ropes, pounding their mid-section, and seeing Don Mattingly administered a standing 8 count seemingly days away from losing his job. Then a comeback so statistically improbable that Vegas took the bet off the board and unbelievable that it wouldn’t even be accepted by one of the Rocky Balboa films. The Dodgers got fire and went on a winning streak that would go down in history and it took them all the way to the NLCS and left the Giants smoldering behind them. Very similar to last year the Giants started hot got out to a ten game lead and looked like they had a strangle hold on the division only have the Dodgers repeat the feat, go on another roll, and take over the division lead just before the all-star break. The question is who has the fortitude to outlast the other over the final 59 games of the season? The dodger arms are healthy and that gives them an added plus but the big bats have been dormant other than AGong, while the Giants continue to find ways to win by manufacturing runs and getting great relief pitching. In either case this is an ‘old school’ street fight between two long-time rivals from the hood in New York and this year it’s going the distance starting with a three game set this week. Next Up.........AL East View the complete schedule, odds, and game previews here.....

Monday, July 7, 2014

MLB All Star Game - All About The Arms

American League American League Starters C: Salvador Perez^, Royals 1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 2B: Robinson Cano, Mariners SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees 3B: Josh Donaldson, A's OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays OF: Mike Trout, Angels OF: Adam Jones, Orioles DH: Nelson Cruz, Orioles Pitchers RHP: Dellin Betances ^, Yankees LHP: Mark Buehrle ^, Blue Jays RHP: Yu Darvish ^, Rangers LHP: Sean Doolittle ^, A's RHP: Felix Hernandez ^, Mariners RHP: Greg Holland ^, Royals LHP: Scott Kazmir ^, A's LHP: Jon Lester *, Red Sox LHP: Glen Perkins *, Twins LHP: David Price *, Rays RHP: Max Scherzer *, Tigers RHP: Masahiro Tanaka ^, Yankees Reserves C: Derek Norris *, A's C: Matt Wieters, Orioles C: Kurt Suzuki *, Twins 1B: Jose Abreu ^, White Sox 1B: Edwin Encarnacion *, Blue Jays 1B: Brandon Moss *, A's 2B: Jose Altuve ^, Astros 3B: Adrian Beltre ^, Rangers SS: Alexei Ramirez ^, White Sox OF: Michael Brantley ^, Indians OF: Yoenis Cespedes ^, A's OF: Alex Gordon ^, Royals DH: Victor Martinez ^, Tigers Final Vote candidates LHP: Dallas Keuchel, Astros RHP: Corey Kluber, Indians RHP: Rick Porcello, Tigers RHP: Garrett Richards, Angels LHP: Chris Sale, White Sox National League National League Starters C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals 1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs 2B: Chase Utley, Phillies SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 3B: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers OF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers Pitchers LHP: Madison Bumgarner ^, Giants LHP: Aroldis Chapman ^, Reds RHP: Johnny Cueto ^, Reds RHP: Zack Greinke *, Dodgers LHP: Clayton Kershaw ^, Dodgers RHP: Craig Kimbrel ^, Braves RHP: Pat Neshek *, Cardinals RHP: Francisco Rodriguez ^, Brewers RHP: Tyson Ross *, Padres RHP: Jeff Samardzija ^$, Cubs/A's RHP: Julio Teheran *, Braves RHP: Adam Wainwright ^, Cardinals LHP: Tony Watson *, Pirates RHP: Jordan Zimmermann ^, Nationals Reserves C: Jonathan Lucroy ^, Brewers C: Devin Mesoraco *, Reds 1B: Freddie Freeman ^, Braves 2B: Dee Gordon ^, Dodgers 2B: Daniel Murphy *, Mets SS: Starlin Castro ^, Cubs 3B: Matt Carpenter *, Cardinals 3B: Todd Frazier ^, Reds OF: Charlie Blackmon ^, Rockies OF: Josh Harrison *, Pirates OF: Hunter Pence ^, Giants OF: Giancarlo Stanton ^, Marlins Final Vote candidates 1B: Justin Morneau, Rockies 2B: Anthony Rendon, Nationals 1B: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs 3B: Casey McGehee, Marlins OF: Justin Upton, Braves NOTES ^ Player ballot-elected * Choice of manager/MLB $ Jeff Samardzija, who was dealt to the A's, was named to the NL team as a Cub. He will receive All-Star honors, but will be inactive for the All-Star Game.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Back to the Future as Lincecum Comes to the Giants Rescue

Seems like old times as the Giants really needed a lift after they had lost 8 of 10, just put their titular MVP, Angel Pigan had to go on the DL, and have seen their once double digit lead reduced to 3 games over the Dodgers. Enter Tim Lincecum, their two-time Cy Young award winner that quite frankly most of the league doesn’t fear much any more, but with a glorious past as being unhittable when his stuff is on. Well Michael J. Fox was back in the house as Lincecum looked like he did about six years ago and not only got the much needed win for the GMen but no-hit the Padres for the second time in his career. A big win for Tim whom was only 5-5 on the year with an ERA to match at almost 5 (4.65), hardly inTIMidating. However, he put it together against San Diego who went back to the future to get a second taste of no-no pie from Lincecum. To say San Francisco needed it couldn’t be overstated as they begin a nasty stretch of games that could open the door for LA to run them down if not catch them by the All-Star Break including a series with the Reds, Cards, and Athletics. If the Giants can hold the lead into the break, get healthy, we might see them return to the spotlight but if they let the Dodgers take 1st from them, much like last year, they may not get it back.

MLB Moves Towards the Break w/New Faces on Top

As the MLB season speeds towards the midway point and competes for prominence with the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup, US Open, and World Cup what’s gotten lost in the fog has been a great season that has already had it share of ebbs and flows, new milestones reached, and golden arms. Best of all, with the exception of the A’s and Tigers it’s all new names at the top of each division, but will they be there come Fall remains to be seen. AL East has gone to the birds as the Jays and Orioles have perched atop the division and look like they finally have the roster depth to do more than set up good mid-week ratings for EPSN before bowing out to the Sox or Yankees around game 140. The Jays went on a roll where they won 20 out of 24, which shot them to the top of the division getting giving some of it back by a split with Orioles, and getting swept by the Yankees. We’ll get a good a better litmus test on the staying power of the fowl from across the border over the next three weeks ad it reads like a road map on how to get from first to last via the causeway, including series with the Yankees, White Sox, Brewers, A’s, Angels, and Rays. The Orioles have had good seasons from Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy and Steve Pearce among others and the only thing outshining the Orioles season thus far is the future if they can keep all the young guns on the roster. In the meantime we look for the birds to make a run and be around when the leaves turn brown. Next UP........NL East
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