Bandwagoning Baseball’s Finality

Has your favorite baseball team been eliminated from post-season play? Do you remain reluctant to dive headfirst into football 24/7? Are you willing to set aside your normal allegiance for the next month and a half and bandwagon a contender for the sake of shit-talking and a possible faux championship?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or preferably to all three, then it’s time for you to hop on the shoulders of a more successful fanbase a la Carlos Mencia’s “comedy” routine (yes, I just Mencia’d a Mencia joke). EJSIC is here to rank the possible teams on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being fully bandwagon-worthy, 1 meaning we’d rather root for Hitler.

Let’s start with the American League and work our way through the pennant chasers there before exploring the National League.

Note: the author of this post is anti-DH, but in the interest of fairness will attempt to reasonably grade the AL teams instead of giving all of them the 1 they so deserve.

American League

1. New York Yankees: THE EVIL EMPIRE! That should be enough for you to realize that only intolerable douches and fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, and Duke Blue Devils (sorry, repetitive) “root” for these guys. Seriously, they’ve won more Fall Classics in baseball history than any other team. They also possess the deepest wallet, the NY superiority belief, and include Cleveland native LeBron James as a fan. Do NOT bandwagon under any circumstance. Score – 1

2. Boston Red Sox: The Sox are 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the East crown, but with a comfy 6.5 games up in the Wild Card they’re virtually in. This is the same franchise that defeated an eight-decade curse with two World Series titles since 2004. And when the core of that team aged too much, they went out and splashed Yankee-esque money this off-season. While I find them more root-worthy than their arch-rivals, there’s no need to really bandwagon them for their fans have been treated to championships in all four major sports this decade. Score – 2

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

3. Detroit Tigers: Detroit has slowly put the AL Central away over the second half of the season. Aside from playing in a collapsing shit-hole of a city, what’s not to like? They have a chain-smoking manager who puffs during games, an ace pitcher who could seemingly throw a no-hitter each time out, and an alcoholic first baseman. Sounds like a recipe for bandwagon awesomeness to me. The only downside? They’re in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox so a championship is unlikely to come this season. Regardless, you’ll have a good time. Score – 8

4. Texas Rangers: The defending AL Champs refueled after losing ace Cliff Lee to free agency, and yet they’re right here again. If you like offensive baseball, the Rangers are your team. They’ve crossed home 737 times this season, third best in baseball behind the Yankees and Sox. They also maintain a relatively unknown squad. Some guys (like Michael Young and Josh Hamilton) are known nationally, but many of their better players have yet to receive a lot of national pub (Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz). So if your choice is the Rangers, it would help to do some research and not unveil yourself as a bandwagoner within the first five minutes. Score – 7

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Really, these guys should get a one for having the worst name in baseball. Pick a damn city. I could also give them a one for the owner complaining after whiffing on free agent Carl Crawford this season despite the fact that the Angels have plenty of money themselves. You lost out to a better organization, STFU and get over it. However, the Angels assumed an underdog role this season winning ball games with great pitching. Their offensively challenged team has scored 586 runs to date, the worst of any AL challengers. They’re also 2.5 games back of the Rangers so they have some work to do. Score – 4 Continue reading

The No-No Lotto

Since it’s apparent that any pitcher from a middle of the rotation innings eater to ace studs can throw a no-hitter this season, let’s look at who could be next.

1. Adam Wainwright (St. Louis). One of two Cardinal aces, Wainwright has a 1.94 ERA (2nd best in baseball), and he’s lights out at home. Odds of a no-hitter: 35%

2. C.C. Sabathia (New York). Big C.C. has motored along quietly in his second year in the Big Apple. He’s grown stronger with the season. Plus, 9 innings are common outings for Sabathia. Odds: 19%

3. Carl Pavano (Minnesota). Yankee fans cringe at his inclusion, but Pavano has experienced a career resurrection in the Twin Cities. The likelihood of him grabbing a no-no seems considerably greater than other. Odds: 7%

4. Josh Johnson (Florida). The best pitcher in baseball has to be on the list. His 1.61 ERA and 8 games of 1 run or less make him a very likely candidate for a no-no. Odds: 41%

5. Clay Buchholz (Boston). Buchholz has one no-hitter in a previous season, but 2010 is becoming his breakout year (and it also shows why the Red Sox were reluctant to trade him so many times). His only problem? The short porches in Fenway Park. Odds: 23%

6. Tim Hudson (Atlanta). The Braves ace is also having a very solid season. When he keeps his sinker ball down, as he has the majority of the season, then he’s very tough to hit. Odds: 16%

7. Matt Latos (San Diego). The All-Star snub has assumed the role of ace for the first place Padres during life without Jake Peavy. Can he continue the stellar season? Odds: 21%

8. John Danks (Chicago). It’s not easy to have a quiet season in the second biggest media market, but when you pitch behind Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle, it’s a little easier. Odds: 11%

9. Roy Halladay (Philadelphia). He’s gotten a perfect game once this season against the Marlins, but he also has 3 shutouts and 7 complete games. Doc Halladay has the goods for a second no-no. Odds: 27%

**Disclaimer – The author of this article has very little knowledge of statistics. All odds were made up in his head.**

MLB Round-Up 6/21 Edition

It’s Monday (unfortunately) which means it’s time for the weekly MLB Round-Up entry (fortunately).

Team of the Week

American League – Texas Rangers. The Chicago White Sox were also deserving of this award, but the Rangers win it. Texas was undefeated last week and own an eight game winning streak, best in the majors. In the process, they increased their first place lead over the hard-charging Angels to 3.5 games.

National League – Atlanta Braves. Can you say National League’s best team? Residents of Hotlanta can. The Braves have been on a hot streak since mid-May akin to the increasing temperatures of northern Georgia. They took two out of three against the Rays at home mid-week before sweeping the hapless Royals over the weekend.

Position Player of the Week

American League – Josh Hamilton (Texas). Want to know why the Rangers have suddenly taken off? Look no further than number 32. True, Texas has played well all season, but their recent burst can be attributed to an awakened Josh Hamilton. He had a .593 average over the past seven days and slugged .815. He also scored six runs and recorded six RBIs.

National League – Matt Holliday (St. Louis). After signing a big off-season contract, Holliday has played mediocre by his own standards. He’s alive now. A .435 batting average, 1.000 slugging percentage, 8 RBIs, and 4 home runs are just some of the highlights of his past seven days.

Pitcher of the Week

American League – Carl Pavano (Minnesota). Since he left the Florida Marlins following the 2003 championship season, Pavano has been a disappointment, especially under the bright lights of New York City. This past week, Pavano pitched 16 innings (including a complete game) with a 2.25 ERA and 2 wins.

National League – Adam Wainwright (Cardinals). Wainwright has steadily become one of the best pitchers in baseball since ascending to the rotation after the Cardinals 2006 championship in which he notably played the role of closer. Wainwright pitched 15 innings, struck out 10 batters, posted a 1.80 ERA, and recorded 2 wins.

Series to Watch

As Interleague play winds down before the All-Star push, we highlight some intriguing match-ups for the rest of this week.

Atlanta Braves vs Chicago White Sox (midweek)

Detroit Tigers vs New York Mets (midweek)

Minnesota vs New York Mets (weekend)

Detroit Tigers vs Atlanta Braves (weekend)

New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Dodgers (weekend)

Boston Red Sox vs San Francisco Giants (weekend)

MLB Round-Up 6/14 edition

The weekly MLB Round-Up post is back amidst World Cup phenomenon. In case you forgot, we will detail a team of the week, position player of the week, and pitcher of the week in each league. Let’s begin.

Team of the Week

American League – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Los Angeles’ other team swept the Dodgers over the weekend Interleague series and, in the process, have reached a season-high 6 games over .500. The Angels have also closed their AL West deficit to a .5 game. The Angels seem to lose key players and replace them with less than high profile free agents, yet they always start playing great baseball around the end of May. Watch our for them.

National League – New York Mets. Has there been a more up-and-down team in the majors this season? One week, the Mets look like serious division and pennant contenders only to look like a team competing for a high draft pick the next? A patchwork rotation has allowed the Mets to close Atlanta’s division lead to 1.5 games.

Position Player of the Week

American League – Johnny Damon (Detroit). The Tigers off-season acquisition played in 6 games in the past week posting a .476 batting average. Damon was the catalyst for a Tigers offense that helped them sweep the Pirates over the weekend.

National League – Brandon Phillips (Cincinnati). The Reds are just 5-5 in their last 10 games, but Brandon Phillips cannot be blamed for the mediocrity. He batted .538 and slugged .808. Phillips added 3 RBIs and 6 runs scored.

Pitcher of the Week

American League – Colby Lewis (Texas). Despite a shrinking division lead, Lewis kept his Rangers in first place with 2 wins in the past 7 days. His 1.80 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 15 innings was as impressive as anyone in the same time span.

National League – Matt Cain (San Francisco). When a hugely-hyped phenom gets 2 wins in his first 2 starts in the majors while giving up 3 runs, they usually get Pitcher of the Week honors. Unfortunately for Stephen Strasburg, Matt Cain was just better. Cain posted a 0.56 ERA in 16 innings helping the Giants gain ground on the first place Padres.

Series of the Week – Tampa Bay Rays vs Atlanta Braves. It doesn’t get any better than a 3 game, mid-week series between 2 first place teams. The Rays take a 22-8 road record to Turner Field where the Braves 19-6, which is the fewest losses at home by any team in the majors. Something has to give in Hotlanta.

Baseball Round-Up 4/26

Another week of the national past time has gone by, but before we check out the week ahead, we need to take one last look of remembrance at the week that was.

Looking back

1. Tampa Bay Rays – I officially feel like an idiot for not slotting them in the Wild Card spot in the playoffs (or maybe even AL East champs). I still believe Boston will be there in the end when they are healthy, but the Rays look really good right now. They’re currently 14-5 (a game better than any other team). Young phenom David Price was masterful in his complete game on Sunday. They host Oakland and Kansas City this week.

2. Who said Ivan Rodriguez was finished? – Thankfully, it wasn’t me. The 39 year old catcher signed with the Nationals this off-season, and he is proving his worth by leading the majors in batting with a .411 average. Of course it’s going to fall by the end of the season, but perhaps his greatest asset to the team is catching and calling games for a young but talented pitching staff. We’ll see when he catches Stephen Strasbourg (sometime this season) how he handles the number one pick.

3. The 1 and under club – Somewhat surprisingly, this club is exclusive to National League pitchers. Seven NL pitchers have ERAs equal to or under the 1.00 mark. They include Mike Pelfrey of the Mets (0.69 with 24 straight scoreless innings), Livan Hernandez of the Nats (0.75), Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay (0.82), the Cardinal’s Brad Penny (0.94), Mr. No-Hitter Ubaldo Jimenez (0.95), Carlos Silva of the Cubs (0.95), and the reigning Cy Young award winner, Tim Lincecum (1.00). Great pitching so far in the Senior Circuit.

Looking Forward

1. Atlanta Braves – The Bravos have lost 5 straight games despite good pitching. Their offense is anemic right now though. The schedule does not get easier this week as they travel to the Central-leading Cardinals for 4 games before hosting the hot Astros for 3 over the weekend.

2. Hot Home Run Club – Another never-before-seen club has been created by EJSIC, this one called the Hot Home Run Club. In the past 7 days, three players hit 4 home runs. They are Adrian Gonzalez of the Padres, Kelly Johnson of the Diamondbacks, and Paul Konerko of the White Sox. They all put on impressive displays of power this week.

3. Weekend series worth watching – I’ve picked out three weekend series to keep an eye on. The first comes from the American League in the form of the White Sox traveling to the Bronx. If my preseason predictions hold true, then this will be a preview of the ALCS. The other two series come from the NL. The first involves Colorado playing in San Francisco. These two teams appear to be the class of the NL West and should battle for first place all season long. Finally, the resurrected New York Mets visit Philadelphia. Preseason predictions did not list the Mets as the main contender for the Phils, but the first month has shown that New York is a different team this season. They can make some noise by winning the series.

MLB Round-Up and Look Ahead 4/19 edition

Major League Baseball is entering the third week of the long regular season and we begin this week’s post by looking back over the first two weeks as well as looking forward to the next 7 days.

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Ubaldo Jimenez

Looking back

1. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves (I called Jimenez a Cy Young candidate in the NL West preview, so I now pat myself on the back). The Dominican native is a long, lanky pitcher who throws hard. His fastball can top 100 while he consistently hits above 95. He even throws an off-speed breaking ball at 89. That’s faster than a lot of fastballs. Kudos to Jimenez on his historic night. He should be in line to pitch again Thursday against the Nationals.

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Nelson Cruz

2. Jason Heyward was named the number one prospect in all of baseball by numerous publications this off-season. He has not disappointed after two weeks either. Through twelve games his stat line is as follows: .302 avg, .423 OBP, .581 SLG, 1.004 OPS, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs, and 9 walks. His only bad stat is 16 strike outs, but what else can you expect from a 20 year old in the majors?

3. Nelson Cruz is off to a great start for the Texas Rangers. An All-Star from last season, Cruz is still gaining notoriety around the nation. He leads MLB with 7 homers and is tied for second with 15 RBIs (one behind the leader). Texas will be, once again, relying on the offense to carry the team and Cruz playing this well makes them even more dangerous.

Looking Forward

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Terry Francona needs to turn his team around

1. The NL East leading Phillies travel to Atlanta for a 3 game series beginning on Tuesday. It’s very early to talk about divisional races, but one of the reasons Atlanta’s hot second half in 2009 did not produce a playoff spot was the fact that they found themselves so far back of Philadelphia. The Braves will be pitching three of their best in Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and then Derek Lowe while the Phils counter with Kyle Kendrick, undetermined, and (most likely) Roy Halladay.

2. The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a horrible start to the season. Boston is 4-9 and all ready find themselves 6 games back of the division leading Rays after 13 games. Jon Lester has yet to pitch effectively. In 16 innings pitched, he has an ERA of 8.44. The Sox host the Rangers beginning on Tuesday.

3. Two series look promising for the weekend games. In the American League, a rematch of last season’s ALCS will take place with the Bronx Bombers visiting the Angels. In the National League, St. Louis travels to the left coast to play the Giants. The four teams have all gotten off to relatively good starts, some better than others.

Baseball quote of the week: “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.” – Bill Veeck, 1976.

MLB predictions sure to be wrong

Now that I’ve successfully turned EJSIC into a baseball blog, I will take the next step by providing some predictions for each division as well as the major award winners. I preface these prognostications by saying baseball is one of the hardest sports to accurately predict. It’s difficult enough to choose a World Series champion before the playoffs start and that is after the teams have played 162 games. But despite the odds, I’m putting my neck on the chopping block.

American League

East: New York Yankees – The Yanks are the most complete team in baseball. They have four solid starting pitchers, a potent offense, and Mariano Rivera at the end of the game.

Chicago White Sox – The South-siders are a sleeper team for the World Series. Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy are a solid one-two combo, and Paul Konerko is poised to have a big season.

West: Seattle Mariners – Seattle will finally overtake the Angels this season. They have a good offense, but Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee (with the possibility of Erik Bedard returning by June) puts them over the reigning AL West champions.

Wild Card: Boston Red Sox – The Sox have a deep pitching staff (a theme with these picks), and just enough offense to defeat the rest of the contenders.

MVP: Mark Teixeira (New York) – Once ARod returned to the lineup last season, Teixeira’s production soared. With Rodriguez present all season, I expect “Tex” to have a monster season with the short porch in right

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Seattle ace Felix Hernandez

Cy Young: Felix Hernandez (Seattle) – “King Felix” posted Cy-worthy numbers last season, but Zach Grienke won the award (and deservedly so). Hernandez will turn 24 this season and is coming off the best season of his young career. He is only going to get better.

Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz (Baltimore) – The South-Paw tasted the big league last season after a late call-up, and showed signs of both good and bad. The good was his strikeout to walk ratio while the bad included his low groundball frequency. However, Matusz still has plenty of time to learn the art of pitching.

National League

East: Philadelphia Phillies – Manager Charlie Manuel boasts the most complete team in the league, and with the addition of Roy Halladay, anything short of a third straight World Series appearance would be considered a failure.

Central: St. Louis Cardinals – Again, this is an easy pick for the division. The Cards have Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter at the top of the of the rotation plus a full season of Matt Holliday protecting Albert Pujols.

West: Colorado Rockies – Get ready for a second straight Rocktober as Colorado will dethrone the Dodgers division crown. They’re going to score a lot of runs with Troy Tulowitzki in the middle of it and Ubaldo Jimenez leading the pitching staff.

Wild Card: Atlanta Braves – General Manager Frank Wren has built a solid pitching staff with youthful talent and veteran experience. The Braves will also be relying on an increase in run production, especially from the oft-injured Troy Glaus. If Glaus recaptures his 2008 numbers, the Braves will be returning to the postseason.

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Rockies Short Stop Troy Tulowitzki

MVP: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado) – The Rockies are poised to make a World Series run, and it will hinge on their All-Star short stop. He presents a nice balance of power and contact at the plate as well as playing great defense.

Cy Young: Josh Johnson (Florida) – The two easy picks for this award would be Tim Lincecum (since he’s won it two years consecutively) and Roy Halladay (dominant pitcher moving to an easier division). However, I’m going with the young Marlins ace Johnson. He’s a big guy who can take the workload of an entire season and remain consistent. He will keep Florida in the race all season.

Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward (Atlanta) – Heyward was the minor league player of the year last season, and named the number one prospect in all of baseball before Spring Training. He will be the starting right fielder for Atlanta. Heyward is a five star talent who will make jaws drop across the nation.

Playoffs

American League champion: Chicago White Sox over the New York Yankees in 7

National League champion: Colorado Rockies over the Philadelphia Phillies in 6

World Series champion: Colorado Rockies in 6

Two Questions: NL East

Last week, EJSIC previewed the Major League Baseball season by looking at two questions surrounding the American League teams. Now, we’ll check out the Senior Circuit and begin with the NL East.

Atlanta Braves

null1. How good will Jason Heyward be? At the beginning of March, this question was actually, Will Jason Heyward make the team out of Spring Training? Now that manager Bobby Cox has announced he will be the starting right fielder, how well will the twenty year old phenom perform? If Spring Training is any indication, he will make the transition relatively smooth. He has posted a .347 batting average with a .467 on-base percentage. Perhaps the best stat has been his patient approach at the plate with 9 walks.

2. Do the Braves have enough offense? Atlanta has one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, but the offense is not as potent. Franchise player Chipper Jones will need to have a come back season after his struggle for most of the second half in 2009. The Braves are also hoping for a healthy Troy Glaus at first base. If they get some more consistency and power in the lineup, the Braves will be contenders for the NL East crown.

Florida Marlins

null1. Does Chris Coghlan pick up from his rookie season? Coghlan won the NL Rookie of the Year award last season after a spectacular offensive campaign. He routinely got on base and portrayed great base running skills. The Marlins need him to get on base consistently again this season. He sets the table well for MVP candidate Hanley Ramirez.

2. Do the Marlins have enough rotational depth to catch the Phillies? Florida has a good rotation mixed with young talent and settled veterans. But to catch the Phillies, the Marlins will need the consistency at the lower end of the rotation. Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco are set at the top. Can Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and Andrew Miller step up?

New York Mets

null1. How healthy are the Mets? There’s no doubt that the Mets have talent on the team, but rarely were fans treated to a full lineup at Citi Field last season. Jose Reyes missed most of last season and has experienced thyroid problems in Spring Training. The Mets offense is just not the same without him at the top of the lineup.

2. Does ace Johan Santana get any help? Santana was hurt a lot last season, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. Truthfully, he’s the only pitcher in the Mets rotation that is consistent. Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, and Oliver Perez need to step up.

Philadelphia Phillies

null1. Can the Phillies make it to three straight World Series? No National League team has accomplished the feat since the 1942 to ’44 St. Louis Cardinals. The addition of Roy Halladay makes it seem more of a possibility. Plus, the Phils have one of the best offenses that is hard to shut down for 9 innings.

2. Does Cole Hamels return to form? In 2008, Hamels was dominant all season and it culminated in the World Series victory. He was a disappointment in 2009 however. Now, he has Roy Halladay all season for help. If Hamels can pitch effectively, it gives the Phils a lefty-righty combo at the top of the lineup that can shut down any team.

Washington Nationals

null1. How soon do we see Stephen Strasburg? The Nationals were in the headlines positively before last summer’s amateur draft. Will they take Strasburg and if they do, can they sign him? They took the Scott Boras client and they signed him. He’ll start in the minor leagues, but if he performs as well as some envision him, he may be pitching in D.C. by late summer.

2. Does the defense improve? The Nationals had a lot of problems last season, but their offense was serviceable for most of the season. They really struggled in the field though, committing 143 errors. Baseball has seen a resurgence in emphasis on pitching and defense. The Nats can help themselves by improving with the leather.