Results tagged ‘ Yankees ’
As we have finished April, there are many surprises around baseball. Here’s what I feel are the biggest ones:
First, a major surprise to me is that the Rockies are leading the NL West with a 17-11 record. I don’t think that they will wind up at season’s end, but I didn’t think they had enough pitching to be where they are now, even this early in the year.
Everyone’s preseason pick in the NL West seemed to be the Dodgers, because of all the money they spent in the offseason. I was not one who picked them to win it. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t believe you can buy a team. You can buy players, but not a team. The Dodgers had eight starting pitchers coming out of Spring Training. They traded Aaron Harang and the next day Zack Greinke breaks his collarbone in the fight with Carlos Quentin. Then Chris Capuano gets hurt. So the Dogers are hanging around .500.
Then we go to the other LA team. This team I did pick to win the AL West because I thought the additions of Josh Hamilton and Jason Vargas would help them because they are both low-key players who would fit in to the Angels clubhouse — which I have since found out from a player who has since left was not a very cohesive clubhouse. And it shows on the field.
Harold Reynolds pointed out one specific play that demonstrated this point perfectly. Albert Pujols was coming in for a pop-up and it bounced out of his glove. The catcher, Chris Iannetta, was there to catch it. There was no excitement on their faces, no laughing, nothing. This game is supposed to be fun. The minute you play the game just for the paycheck, it’s time to go home.
I can speak from personal experience on this. I always said that when the game felt like a job, I would retire. Because your ability won’t shine through. I retired at 32 because I wasn’t having fun anymore. The Angels have arguably the best all-around player in the game in Mike Trout to go with Hamilton and Pujols, and they are 10-18. Losing Jered Weaver didn’t help, but this team should be much better than they are.
In the NL, the Pirates started poorly and now are just one game back in the Central at 16-12 . They have started fast the last two years, but faded toward the end of the year. They traded a lock-down closer in Joel Hanrahan and gave the job to a career setup man in his mid-30s in Jason Grilli, who entered this season with five career saves. He is now 11-for-11 in save opportunities. I didn’t think this would be the year they broke the streak of 20 straight losing seasons in the Steel City, but it may be.
Over in the AL Central, the Tigers will win this division! But the Twins being at .500 after the first month is a shocker to me. I thought they had a lineup that could compete, but I didn’t see anything in their starting rotation that would have led me to believe that they could be anywhere near the .500 mark after the first month. Justin Morneau is back to his MVP form at the plate, and they have gotten enough pitching to keep them afloat.
Back to the Can’t Buy a Team Theory. The Blue Jays had the huge trade with Marlins this winter that made many people’s pick to win the AL East. The pitching they got via trade has been subpar to this point. So far R.A. Dickey has not been the guy who won the NL Cy Young Award last year. Mark Buehrle has not been his reliable self, and Josh Johnson is on the DL. But the biggest loss for them has been the Jose Reyes injury. This guy absolutely disrupts the opposing pitcher’s focus when he is on base. He was hitting .395 when he got hurt. Meanwhile, the man who was an MVP of the 2012 All-Star Game and well on his way to perhaps a league MVP award until failing a drug test and getting a 50-game suspension, Melky Cabrera — to whom the Jays gave a two-year deal and a $2 million-a-year raise — has not even come close to being what he was before the suspension. All of this leads to the Jays being 10-19 and in the cellar of the AL East.
The other surprise in that division is the Yankees. I picked them to finish last because of all the injuries they were dealing with coming out of Spring Training. They led the majors last year with 245 home runs, and 200 of those were not in the lineup Opening Day. Yet they are in second place right now behind what I consider to be the biggest surprise so far this season to everyone. (I wasn’t as surprised most by the A’s, as I had the chance to see them in the spring in person and talk with the players to get a feel for what this team was all about.)
The Red Sox are a very good team. I think the main reason is the change in the manager. Bringing back John Farrell to manage a club where he was the pitching coach when they won their World Series titles was pure genius on the part of the Sox. First, they needed Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to return to their former selves. Secondly, they needed a manager who wasn’t the main focus of the team. Farrell is very content to sit back and let his players play, and wants none of the credit. They have three starting pitchers who have not yet lost. Buchholz is 6-0. Lester is 4-0. And Felix Doubront is 3-0. The Sox have the best record in baseball and — barring injuries — I think they will win the AL East.
And for the record, I didn’t see them being this good. I expected them to be much improved, but I would be lying if I said I saw this coming all along. Also, for the record, Buchholz and Lester returning to their old form under their former pitching coach, Farrell, is not a coincidence!
Now for my least surprising performance to this point: Mariano Rivera being 11-for-11 in save opportunities. Many people wondered about his knee. If it had been his landing leg, yes, there would have been concern on my part. But the fact it is his post leg meant I never doubted he would be the old Mo! He is only off to the best start of his career. And yet he has said he will retire at the end of this year. I hate to see that. I believe Mo could close for another five years. When you have his command and an absolute understanding of the mental part of closing — by that I mean he knows the pressure is on the hitter, not you as the closer. You already have the lead.
I don’t care if his cutter velocity drops to 85 mph. Any coach who wants to teach kids perfect throwing mechanics, put on a tape of Mo for them to watch. His mechanics are flawless. And simple. If he decided not to retire, he would put the save record so far out of reach that no one would ever come close to it. He could pitch five more years and be close to 800 saves. He is a guy who shouldn’t have to wait five years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The day he says “I’m retired,” he should be inducted. We will never again see anyone like him!
We are in the middle of one of the best Postseasons we have seen in a long time, with all four Division Series going the full five games.
Of the two Division Series still undecided, the NL is the tougher one to predict. The Nationals and Cardinals are very closely matched. It will come down to the pitchers. If Gio Gonzalez has his emotions under control, I see the Nats moving on to the NLCS. If he goes out overamped like he did in Game 1, I see the Cards moving on.
The AL is a little easier to predict. Pitching will definitely decide Game 5 of the Yankees-Orioles series. Neither team is swinging the bats well. The Yankees are beat up: Jeter is on one leg, Teixeira has a bad calf and Cano has a bad calf. A-Rod cant catch up with a fastball and Girardi has pinch hit for him twice in the last two games. That is not a good sign for the Yankees, considering they have five years of $30 million a year that they still owe him. But CC will put the Yanks through to the ALCS.
When the League Champions Series start, the AL will be much easier to predict a winner. With the feel-good story of the A’s coming to an end, I don’t think the Yankees are healthy enough to beat Detroit. That could be a quick series. The NL will be much tougher to predict. With the Nats and Cards still unsettled, with Giants awaiting the winner, either way the NLCS will be much more compelling. But I see Washington facing Detroit in the World Series.
Next week I will have more on the World Series. I picked Detroit out of Spring Training to win it all, so I doubt I will change that pick!
As we sit here today, the American League division leaders are the Yankees, White Sox, and Rangers. The Wild Card leaders are Baltimore and Oakland.
Do I believe this is how the season will end up? NO!
As I look at the AL, I see a Yankee team that is beat up, an Oakland team that I think has been a great story, but ultimately are a little too young in their starting rotation to hang on to a Wild Card berth, and a White Sox team that is heaping a ton on two young left-handers in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana to take them some place niether of them have been in their careers: pennant chase baseball. Sale has been great this year, winning 16 games, but he recently lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. I don’t think they will be able to hold off Detroit. The Tigers are too talented. I believe that the Tigers will win the Central.
Not a lot of question about the West. The Rangers will win that division.
The most exciting baseball in September will take place in the East. I think the Rays are the team that will win that division because of their pitching. The question for me is whether the Yankees and Baltimore be able to win enough games to stay in the Wild Card hunt? I think the Yankees will be able to, because they have been through it so much. I love what Baltimore has done this year. It has been fun to watch, but I think they may be a little too young right now.
The team I think will be will be playing the Yankees in the Wild Card game will be the Angels. I see a late push by them to get that fifth and final spot.
Next week I will address the NL.
Before the season started, I made predictions as to what teams I thought would be Postseason teams. We are in the first week of July, and there are some teams that I thought would win divisions that are either not playing good baseball and are still in the hunt and there is one team that sits dead last in its division — the Phillies being that team.
As I sit here today, the American League East is shaping up to much like I thought it would, with the Yankees leading the division. The big surprise is that the Orioles sit in second place. I still believe that the Yankees will win that division, and I am sticking by my pick of Boston being one of the Wild Card teams. They have endured more days of players being on the DL than any other team in baseball, with over 900 games missed. And they still are only 6.5 games out of first. That means when they do get healthy, the Red Sox will be very deep heading into the second half.
The AL Central has not played out in the first half like I thought it would. I had Detroit running away with the division, but they have not played well as a team yet. I still see them doing much like they did last year and winning the division by a wide margin. Their starting pitching hasn’t been as dominant yet this year. Namely Doug Fister. He came to Detroit last year at the Trade Deadline and went 8-1 for the Tigers. He is 1-6 at this point. That won’t last.
The AL West is right where I thought it would be, with the Rangers leading the division, and the Angels in second place, which will earn them the other Wild Card spot.
In the NL, it has been much harder to figure out what has happened. The Dodgers got off to a great start, but the loss of Matt Kemp due to a hamstring injury has left their offense unable to out-hit average starting pitching. The Giants lead the division, but the team I picked to win the division, Arizona, has started to gain a little ground and they are getting healthier. I still feel that they will win the West.
In the Central, I picked the Cardinals to win the division. They started off on fire this year, but have since come back down to earth. The team that has shocked me and every other so-called expert is the Pirates. They have pitched well and are starting to hit a little bit. This is one division I am changing my pick to win from St. Louis to the Reds. They are at the top of the division in spite of the fact that they have not hit well all year long. They will hit in the second half and win the Central.
The NL East is a division that looks upside-down. In the spring, I picked the Phillies to win the division, even though Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were starting the year on the DL. They are in last place and 11 games out of first. Roy Halladay hasn’t pitched in well over a month. Cliff Lee has not won a game. All of these things will change in the second half. Utley is back, Howard is rehabbing in the minors, and Lee will start winning games. Washington, who I picked to finish second and be a Wild Card team is leading the division and is a very deep team. Atlanta is getting healthy, despite losing Brandon Beachy for the year. They have gotten Jair Jurrjens back, and he has thrown very well in his first two starts. People are going to think I’m nuts, and that is ok. I’ve been nuts before. But I think Washington is going to win this division, and the two Wild Card teams are going to come out of the East, with Philly and Atlanta being the two Wild Card teams.
I think Philly is going to trade Cole Hamels at the deadline to get a big right handed bat to hit behind Howard and also get an arm or two in the deal. There is zero chance of Hamels resigning with the Phillies, in my opinion. He is a Southern Cal boy, and the Dodgers will overpay to get him in their rotation, to go along with Clayton Kershaw. Hamels is at his peak as far as trade value. If the Phillies get a big bat and a bullpen arm or two in the deal, they can win games with Halladay, Lee, and Worley in the top 3 spots in that rotation.
Like I said, people will think I’m nuts. Well, I have papers to prove it! So let’s see how it all shakes out.
We’ve reached that point in the year when I attempt to forecast which teams will be division winners. I’ll start with the American League.
Of all the moves that were made during the offseason, three have the potential to impact the chase for the AL pennant.
The obvious one is Albert Pujols to the Angels. And then there’s Prince Fielder signing with the Tigers, who are leaps and bounds ahead of the other teams in the AL Central. The midseason addition of Doug Fister to their rotation proved to be the best move made at last year’s trade deadline. Fister has a change to be a 20-game winner, with a full-year in Detroit and a lineup that will score runs in bunches. And I think AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander may be better this year than in 2011.
Back to those impact moves: If Yu Darvish can stay healthy, the Rangers should make another trip to the postseason. Keep in mind that we have the additional Wild Card team this year, so here is how I see the AL shaking out:
I like Rangers over Angels in the West, and I the Yankees will rise to the top of the East while Detroit wins the Central in a runaway.
As for the Wild Cards, I’ve got the Angels and Red Sox playing the one-game playoff for the chance to advance to the Division Series. I have the Angels winning that game, which means they will have to play Detroit in the DS. Detroit will have the best regular-season record but, this year, that will mean playing the first two games on the road in Anaheim. Regardless, I still see the Tigers winning that series.
That means Texas and New York would play the other series, and I’d take the Rangers in that one, setting up a rematch of last year’s ALCS between the Rangers and Tigers. Adding Prince to the lineup gives the Tigers the edge and, unlike last season, Detroit advances to the World Series.