MLB Power Rankings Week 1

After four opening days have (finally) been completed, all teams have wrapped up their first series. Some early season surprises (Mets, Orioles, Astros) will try to keep their momentum, while some disappointments (Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Braves) will try to overcome their bad starts into the first full week of the season.
Rank Team Record Comment
1 St. Louis 4-1 Not many expected the defending champs to start off this well, losing their face (Pujols) and their leader (LaRussa), but they have
2 Detroit 3-0 They lead the league in BA (.345), slugging (.593), and runs scored (26)
3 Tampa Bay 3-0 A sweep of the Yankees to start the season has confidence high in Tampa
4 Arizona 3-0 The defending NL West Champs put the Giants in an early hole with their season opening sweep
5 Texas 3-1 SP Yu Darvish struggled early (4ER in the 1st), but the potent Rangers offense still got him a win in his debut
6 LA Dodgers 3-1 Many thought SP Chad Billingsley was about done, but a great 1st start (8.1 IP, 0ER, 1BB, 11K) says otherwise
7 NY Mets 4-0 A team thought to be a cellar-dwellar, the Mets swept the Braves, then got a walk-off vs the Nationals
8 Pittsburgh 2-1 Is this the year they break the losing streak (20-straight losing seasons)? Probably not, but made the Phillies look old
9 Baltimore 3-1 So it was at home against the awful Twins, but the O’s have to be happy with their start
10 Houston 3-1 Another team thought to finish near the bottom of the standings, the Astros took care of the Rockies over the weekend
11 Cincinnati 2-2 Can OF Jay Bruce (3HR, 5RBI) keep up this pace? SS Zack Cozart is batting .500 early
12 Kansas City 2-2 Took the series from the Angels with spectacular play from the starters (17.1IP, 12H, 4ER, 5BB, 12K)
13 Milwaukee 2-2 Outside of SP Zack Greinke’s gem (7IP, 4H, 0R, 0BB, 7K), got totally outplayed by the Cardinals
14 LA Angels 2-2 Losing a series to the Royals wasn’t the way the Pujols era (.214avg, 1RBI, 2GIDP) was supposed to start
15 Toronto 2-2 Pitching has been there (.168 BA against), but the offense must pick up (19 runs scored in 46 innings)
16 Washington 2-2 Would be higher, but let a win slip away against the Mets on Monday
17 Seattle 3-2 Will have to beat someone other then the A’s to move further up the rankings
18 Miami 2-3 Offense finally starting to pick up after sluggish start at home
19 San Francisco 1-3 Who knew four games in the best pitching performance would be from…..Barry Zito?
20 Chicago Sox 2-2 Sox rank 20th or worst in most major offensive categories so far
21 Boston 1-3 That bullpen is obviously going to be an issue. Must get that resolved quickly
22 Oakland 2-3 Good outing for Milone vs the Royals doesn’t overshadow giving up 18 runs in 3 losses to Mariners
23 NY Yankees 1-3 Looked completely over-matched vs Rays before getting first W against the O’s
24 Cleveland 1-3 You have to wonder if RP Chris Perez still has lingering injury issues with the way he’s pitched so far
25 Philadelphia 1-3 Losing 2 of 3 to the Pirates while only scoring 6 runs makes the concerns with the offense seem justified
26 Chicago Cubs 1-3 Haven’t looked good at Wrigley so far, having only scored 14 runs
27 Atlanta 0-4 25th or worst in most offensive and pitching categories will get you an 0-4 record
28 San Diego 1-3 Avoided the 4-game sweep against the Dodgers, but the starting pitching must do a better job
29 Colorado 1-3 Ugly way to start the season, losing the series at Houston. Only scored 10 runs through 4 games
30 Minnesota 0-4 Oustcored 20-6 so far in what could be a very long season in the twin cities

A “Big Hit” for the Future of Baseball?

March Madness. We love it. We live it. We breathe it. We drive our families and friends crazy with talk of brackets and upsets. For three weeks in March, it’s the ONLY thing that matters, until it’s over. At that point, the annual, “Oh no, what now?” feeling kicks in.

What’s next is baseball. Spring training is already in full swing. Opening day of the regular baseball season is just two weeks away and it’s time to start planning your fantasy league and dreaming of that breakout offensive season that no one else picked.

This year, there might be a LOT of increased offensive production if what I’m hearing about a new baseball bat is true. Baden Sports–you may be more familiar with their basketballs–has recently introduced a new baseball bat called the Axe. This is the first major change to the shape of a bat in over a century.

I spoke with the company and one of the first things they told me was that Ted Williams says in his book, “The Science of Hitting,” that swinging a baseball bat is like swinging an axe. Apparently, an axe handle guides your hand into a proper position that fits flush at the bottom and increases leverage through the swing–something that a traditional baseball bat doesn’t do.

Baden says: “The Axe bat promotes an ergonomically correct grip, a better fit, a less restricted swing and greater bat speed through the hitting zone.”

Who’s using it and what are the results?

Rollins hit a deep solo home run over the left field fence with the new Axe baseball bat from Baden. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Since this is such a new bat, big league players are just being introduced to it. It’s been approved for use in MLB games in 2012, so the company is currently working with players at spring training. They can’t “name names,” but they will say that players from every club are taking at least practice swings and becoming familiar with the bat.

Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies hit a monster home run–his first of the season—on March 12 against the Pirates with the Axe bat. He’d been practicing with it, and his first time to the plate with the Axe someone from the dugout yelled, “Let loose with that bat, Jimmy!” He did, and hit it DEEP over the left field wall.

That was the first “official” home run, but I’ve done some digging and found a reliable report that among others, Oakland As first baseman Brandon Allen enjoyed his first outing with the Axe. On opening day of spring training, Allen hit a grand slam, a two-run double and drove in the go-ahead run in the 9th … all with the Axe. 7 RBIs. Not bad.

So maybe there’s something to this new Axe baseball bat. Time will tell, but since my basketball team didn’t even make March Madness this year, my tears are close to drying and I’m getting a jump start on putting a miserable basketball season behind me.

Baseball will fill my sports cravings over the next 6 months, and I’m paying close attention to what’s happening with the Axe bat.

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 MLB Preview / Prediction Post

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I will not be able to bring a week-long celebration of all things baseball to EJSIC this season. Instead, it will be a giant entry found below. I’ll provide a snippet of each team in each division, ranking the teams in order of my projected finishes. Then, as an added bonus, I’ll throw in some major award predictions and playoff prognostications sure to be wrong. Enjoy.

AL East

Red Sox New LF Carl Crawford

1. Boston Red Sox: The Sox won the off-season with additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Now they look to bring a third championship to Chesapeake Bay since 2004.

2. New York Yankees: Jeter’s building mansions and signing new contracts, A-Rod is toning his body and being fed popcorn by a superstar, C.C. cut out Captain Crunch, and the rest of the news is meaningless in Yankee country. Joe Girardi has his toughest challenge ahead in catching the Sox with a battered starting rotation.

3. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays bring in some new faces this season in key positions (LF, 1B, and SP). They’re probably too green to beat the Red Sox this season, but that’s why they play 162.

4. Baltimore Orioles: The O’s showed signs of life under Buck Showalter last season. Can they carry it over to April and beyond? Depends upon how good future ace Brian Matusz is in his second year in the bigs.

5. Toronto Blue Jays: Just when the birds of the Great White North finally shed the albatross contracts of Vernon Wells and Alex Rios, they commit $62 million to a guy who had never hit more than 16 HRs in a season until mashing 54 last year. Oh well, they’re not winning any time soon anyway.

AL Central

1. Minnesota Twins: Some injuries and slow starts have dominated Twins’ news in Spring Training. These guys always find a way to win though. Don’t count ‘em out (unless they play the Yanks in October, then bet your house against it).

2. Chicago White Sox: I really wanted to list the South-siders as numero uno in the AL Central. They may very well finish there, but on-going health concerns with Jake Peavy and other pitchers leave the Chi Sox behind the Twins on paper.

3. Detroit Tigers: I liked Detroit’s off-season, until Miguel Cabrera’s DUI. Even then, not sure they have the talent to overtake the Twins.

4. Cleveland Indians: Shin Soo Choo is probably the best RF in baseball you’ve never heard of, and they have a future star at catcher, Carlos Santana (not the rock legend), but this team is still not close to competing.

5. Kansas City Royals: It could be really bad in KC this season. I mean, extremely, never-before-seen Royals bad. But the future is bright. Numerous outlets labeled the Royals’ farm system the best in baseball. That has to count for something, right?

AL West

Oakland's Young Ace Dallas Braden

1. Oakland A’s: Want a team that could replicate last season’s Giants? Look no further than north of the bay. The A’s are loaded with pitching; in fact their staff led all of baseball in quality starts last season. The downside? Like the defending champs, a struggling offense could derail their season.

2. Texas Rangers: Cliff Lee is gone which leaves a huge hole in their rotation. Plus, their starters were taxed to career highs last season. I still love this offense with Josh Hamilton in the middle, but their pitching is worrisome.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They dominated the late off-season by foolishly taking on Vernon Wells’ contract after whiffing on target Carl Crawford. Their pitching will be good enough to keep the halos alive through the summer, but unless a mid-season bat arrives, they probably just don’t have quite enough.

4. Seattle Mariners: King Felix Hernandez rightfully won the Cy Young last season. And he’ll probably be in contention for the award throughout the next decade. He, along with Ichiro, are lone bright spots for a struggling franchise.

NL East

1. Philadelphia Phillies: They have to be favorites in the division because of their rotation. However, Chase Utley’s long-term health is a major question mark as is the replacement of RF Jayson Werth who moved to Washington in the off-season. Most analysts are putting the Fightin’s on a crash course with the Bo-Sox in the World Series.

2. Atlanta Braves: The Braves finally addressed their need of a power hitter by trading for 30 HR man Dan Uggla. Their pitching staff will remain a strength of the team. Atlanta may be closer to the Phillies then some analysts originally thought.

3. Florida Marlins: The Marlins are dark-horse team in this division. They traded away Uggla, but they also rebuilt their bullpen after it cost them numerous games last season. Josh Johnson is a Cy Young in waiting.

4. New York Mets: I wanted to peg this team for the cellar, but they can’t be that bad, can they? Maybe they can. Their pitching staff is horrendous, and there’s no telling when Johan Santana will return or how effective he’ll be. Jose Reyes could be on the move by mid-season.

5. Washington Nationals: No Strasbourg or Harper this season, but they have the $100 million dollar Grizzly Adams in RF (Jayson Werth). The Nats do have, in my opinion, the best 3B in all of baseball, Ryan Zimmerman. He really should receive more attention.

NL Central

1. Cincinnati Reds: A little magic and an easy schedule propelled the Reds back into the postseason where they were promptly swept by the Phillies. Cincinnati returns most of that team plus the added experience of playoff baseball. I like the Reds to repeat as NL Central champions.

New Brewers' Ace Zack Grienke

2. Milwaukee Brewers: A trendy pick to win the division with their off-season acquisitions of Zack Grienke and Shaun Marcum, the Brew Crew are exciting fans in Milwaukee. And although I can see them winning the division, there’s still some reservation with this team; particularly defense.

3. St. Louis Cardinals: No Adam Wainwright will be the death-nail of the Cards in 2011. Pitching coach Dave Duncan has worked miracles before, but losing one of the best 6 pitchers in all of baseball (check the stats if you don’t believe me) cannot be replaced. And so begins a long season with the fate of the game’s best player unknown.

4. Chicago Cubs: Mike Quade performed admirably down the stretch after Sweet Lou rode into the sunset, but the Cubs still remain a cash-strapped, aging team. I don’t think they have enough to compete for 162.

5. Houston Astros: The Astros believe they can win this season with their pitching. I’m not so optimistic. They’re always a second half team so maybe they turn a few heads and make things interesting in August, but there’s not enough on this team currently to make any objective viewer believe they can compete with the top of the division. Then again, this is the weakest division in baseball again.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates: Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez are solid young franchise centerpieces that could help return the Pirates to past glory. They need some pitching help first though. The Bucs are a franchise on the (slight) rise, but not this season.

NL West

1. Colorado Rockies: I picked them to go to the World Series last season, and I’m not backing off too much after a less-than-expected performance last year. Ubaldo Jiminez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez mark the core of a Rockies franchise that should be regularly competing for the next decade. They get the job done this season.

Future 2011 MVP Troy Tulowitzki

2. San Francisco Giants: The defending champs rode their strength (pitching) to a championship last season. But their talented hurlers threw career-highs in innings last season. Will it affect them Giants? Historical stats point to yes. Giants come up a little short this season.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers: Look for LA to bounce back this season and remain in the hunt for the division title through September only to come up a little short. Matt Kemp will be a name to keep an eye on as he looks to bounce back from a career worst season.

4. San Diego Padres: The Padres won 90 games last year and barring a late season 10 game losing streak, would have been the NL West champs. Now they’ve shipped Adrian Gonzalez off to Boston for prospects which means their offense probably takes a step back this season. Their pitching will keep them in ball games in the tough NL West.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks: The highlight of the D-Backs’ season will be hosting the 2011 All Star game. The lowlights will be everything else. New GM Kevin Towers will rebuild Arizona into a winner, but not this season.

Playoffs Predictions

NLE Phillies v NLC Reds: A rematch of last season’s opening round repeats itself. Phillies advance.

NLW Rockies v NLWC Braves: Rockies hand the Braves a second straight playoff exit at the hands of a NL West team.

ALE Red Sox v ALWC Rangers: Texas misses Cliff Lee’s postseason brilliance as it loses to the Sox.

ALC Twins v ALW A’s: The Twins’ playoff misery continues as the young Oakland staff gets it done.

NLCS Phillies v Rockies: Funny how often history repeats itself, huh? The NL West champion Rockies send the Phillies home again in the NLCS as they march on to the World Series.

ALCS Red Sox v A’s: Oakland pulls the upset on the heavily-favored Bo-Sox as Moneyball GM Billy Beane assembles his franchise just enough offense to survive.

The World Series Trophy

World Series: Rockies v A’s: The Oakland dream ends in the Fall Classic as Rocktober finally brings home a championship to the Mile High City. Tulo claims World Series MVP.

Regular Season Awards

NL Cy Young: Josh Johnson (Fla)

AL Cy Young: Jon Lester (Bos)

NL MVP: Troy Tulowitzki (Col)

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton (Tex)

So there you have it folks, my predictions surely to be wrong. Take it to the bank and enjoy the season.

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.**

Baseball Admits Playoff Scheduling Part of Pity Marketing Strategy

Bud Selig tries desperately to ignore a question at today's announcement.

Bud Selig tries desperately to ignore a question at today's announcement.

In a shocking move today, Major League Baseball Interim Commissioner for life Bud Selig announced that the bizarre scheduling of this year’s Playoffs was not merely blatant ineptness as most observers believed, but part of a marketing strategy aimed at making NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman seem marginally less inept.

”Gary and I have been friends for a long time,” Selig said today. “We have had a number of long discussions about how frustrating it is running the most obscure ‘major’ sport in North America and this is sort of what we came up with.”

When discussions first arose between Selig and Bettman about how to make “America’s Pastime” more obscure than hockey, even Selig wasn’t sure it would be possible.

“It was right after 1998,” Selig said. “We had just had the big home run chase. People were flocking to ballparks. And everybody on Earth knew the names of our big stars. I told Gary I wanted to help, but that it might not be possible.”

The key to the plan, it turns out, was to OVER-expose the league. Major League Baseball managed to get six games a week on ESPN. It seemed baseball was about to boom, but exactly the opposite happened.

“Once people really saw how horrible our product was, especially when we had to clean up the steroids, the slide was almost inevitable,” Selig said.

But as fewer and fewer fans watched baseball on TV, the one part of the season that seemed difficult to kill was the Playoffs.

“It’s just like any other sport,” Selig explained, “especially ones like ours with an insufferably long, nearly meaningless regular season; people tend to tune back in for the Playoffs in big numbers. And with our ridiculous economic structure that ensures that the teams from the biggest cities make the Playoffs, we knew it would be hard to get people to quit watching.” Continue reading

The Biggest Jerkass in the Major Leagues

I hope this monkey bites his owner.

I hope this monkey bites his owner.

Baseball is America’s sport. I used to think it was because it was played in the summer; because kids grew up playing stick ball in the street or those that were more well off may have actually played baseball in a field. Analogies to base running are everywhere in American society. A great presentation is greeted by the boss telling you you hit a home run. Every young boy’s dream is to get to second base. Striking out, batting a thousand, etc., etc.

The sad part is that America is also becoming a nation of jerkasses. Oh, everyone is quick to blame the media, or Hollywood, or anyone that serves some underhanded political agenda. But, let’s face it America, the reason so many Americans are jerks is because the athletes we admire most are jerks. They are our role models and we embrace and mimic their actions, even if only subconsciously.

Here, I present the biggest asses in the game today. The people who I blame for the degeneration of society. The people responsible for almost everything I hate about the direction this country is moving. The people, who make me wish baseball was Canada’s problem.

Continue reading

New York Mets Scrambling to Find Way to Blow 4th Place NL East Finish

With Major League Baseball deep in the throes of its annual stretch run, many teams are positioning to achieve a playoff berth. Meanwhile, the New York Mets, baseball’s most lovable losers, are determined to outdo their late season collapses of the past two seasons by finishing in last place in the National League East division.

“We have conditioned our fans to have a certain set of expectations, and we intend to meet them,” Mets General Manager Omar Minaya stated. “You saw us lose it in style in 2007, then we repeated with in 2008; just wait until you see what we’ve got in store for you this year,” Minaya said with a wink and a smile.

In 2007, the Mets led the NL East division by 7 games on September 12th before making history, losing 12 of the last 17 games to succumb to the surging Philadelphia Phillies and miss the playoffs. They repeated their late season swoon in 2008 by falling in 10 of the last 17 to lose the division lead again, as well as their chance at the Wild Card in their final game. This season, the Mets find themselves secured in fourth place in the NL East after September 21st with 11 left to play: 15.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves, 13 games ahead of the Washington Nationals, and 23.5 games behind the first place Phillies.

With just 11 games remaining and a 13 game lead over the MLB-worst Washington Nationals, it is mathematically impossible for the Mets to be overtaken. When the numbers were laid out for Minaya, he didn’t seem to understand. When the subtraction was done for him on a nearby whiteboard, Minaya discourteously snapped, “What are you, some kind of astronaut? We’re just trying to lose baseball games here.”

Continue reading