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 5/17 edition

Last week, you may have noticed a change in format in the weekly MLB Round-up post. That format will be used again this week. As a refresher, it included a team of the week, position player of the week, pitcher of the week, and an upcoming series to keep an eye on.

Team of the Week

Cincinnati Reds – Manager Dusty Baker has had his Reds floating around .500 for much of the early season, but after going 5-1 last week (and 8-2 in their last 10 games), the Reds have ascended to the top of the NL Central standings. Winning 2 out of 3 over the weekend against the visiting Cardinals cemented the Reds claim to first place. Can they stay there?

Also, apologies to the Los Angeles Dodgers who have posted a 9-1 record over the last 10 games and reemerged as a contender in the NL West.

Position Player of the Week

Eric Hinske (Atlanta) – The veteran utility man and pinch-hitter posted a .529 batting average over the past week in route to helping the Braves win 5 out of 6 games. Hinske recorded 4 doubles, 1 home run, 8 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .941. Perhaps the most outstanding stat comes from the Twitter account of Braves beat writer, Dave O’Brien. On Sunday, he wrote, “Eric Hinske has more extra-base hits in 6 games as ATL LF than Diaz, Cabrera had combined in 31 games at the position.”

Pitcher of the Week

Bronson Arroyo (Cincinnati) – In my preseason previews of each division, I did think Cincinnati could compete this season, but admittedly, their play as of late has been a bit surprising. They’ve received good pitching and run support. And in the past week, no Cincy pitcher was better than Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo pitched twice (winning both games), threw a complete game gem, and recorded an ERA of 1.69. Lights out work from a veteran pitcher is always welcomed in the manager’s office.

Series to Watch

During the week, the Red Sox and Yankees player twice (Monday and Tuesday) followed by the Yankees and Rays playing Wednesday through Thursday.

But the real series to watch comes on the weekend in the form of Interleague Play, one of commissioner Bud Selig’s best decisions in my opinion.

Boston visits Philadelphia for a weekend series has caught my eye. Boston has played better baseball since their horrid start with a resurgence from Big Papi. The Phillies to seem to have found their groove and appear ready to take off at any minute. Should be some good baseball.

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 week of 4/12

Now that Major League Baseball is entering its second week of play, EJSIC can highlight three things to keep an eye on throughout the next 7 days.

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1. Boston Red Sox vs Minnesota Twins – The Twins open their new stadium, Target Field, today on ESPN at 4 PM EST. But not only do you have those festivities to look forward to, it should be some great early-season baseball. Carl Pavano and Jon Lester will be dueling one another today. Is there any doubt who will be the first to homer at the new park? It has to be hometown boy Joe Mauer, right?

2. The .500 club – We all know no person is ever going to hit .500 for a season, but four players are at or above that mark after six games. It’s fun to see how long they can keep it going. The players include Martin Prado (Atlanta), Edgar Renteria (San Francisco), Miguel Cabrera (Detroit), and Vlad Guerrero (Texas). Placido Polanco for the Phillies is close with an average of .481.

3. Weekend series – Quite a few Friday-Saturday-Sunday series are intriguing this week. Tampa Bay travels to Boston for three games, Florida faces Philadelphia, the Mets take on the Cardinals on ESPN’s Sunday Night game, and the Braves host the Rockies over the weekend. All four series have potential for great baseball.

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: AL East Edition

While the NCAA Tournament suspends play until Thursday, EJSIC is here to provide a Major League Baseball preview in the form of two questions for each team prior to the start of the season. Today, we will start with the American League East before working our way through the rest of the American League this week and into the National League next week. It will all culminate in my predictions for the season which are guaranteed to be no better or worse than any other predictions you may read before the start of the season.

New York Yankees

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1. Can the Yankees repeat? New York fans want a ring every season, but with the additions of Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson in the everyday lineup along with what GM Brian Cashman hopes is an improved Javier Vazquez as the fourth starter, the Yankees seem poised to win the AL East for the second consecutive season. Joba Chamberlain will likely return to the bullpen providing a devastating one-two punch for the eighth and ninth innings with Mariano Rivera.

2. Is Javier Vazquez a different pitcher? Last time Vazquez pitched for the Yankees, he was unreliable. Now, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t need him to be a top of the rotation guy, but rather a pitcher who can take the mound every five days and eat innings which is exactly what he did last season for the Atlanta Braves. The Yankees need pitching depth as they used a three man rotation exclusively in last year’s postseason. A solid Vazquez just makes this team even deeper.

Boston Red Sox

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1. Do they have enough offense? Boston parted ways with veteran left fielder Jason Bay over the off-season, and signed free agent CF Mike Cameron and 3B Adrian Beltre. Neither one of those acquisitions are known for their hitting. Instead, Boston seems to be counting on pitching and defense to defeat the Yankees.

2. What is David Ortiz’s impact? Big Papi started last season in a horrible slump which prompted questions of his true age and whether or not he was finished as power hitter. He rebounded to finish well, but his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS were the lowest they had been since 2001. The Red Sox need him to be the Big Papi of old and provide that reliable power needed in the division.

Tampa Bay Rays

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1. Does David Price take the next step? Former Vanderbilt stud David Price was labeled a future ace while in college, but he has struggled at times. Perhaps, it was unfair expectations, but the kid is talented and he should show great improvement in his second full season in MLB along with an increased workload.

2. What is Carl Crawford’s future with the Rays? Five tool left fielder Carl Crawford is a free agent at the end of the season. The Rays would love to resign him, but he’s going to cost a lot of money. Plus, rumors of the big market teams, most notably the Yankees, being interested could spur a mid-season trade for prospects if the Rays struggle early and find themselves in an insurmountable deficit in the division standings.

Baltimore Orioles

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1. How good is Matt Wieters? He played in 96 games for the Orioles last season and produced a .288 batting average, 9 home runs, and 43 RBIs. Solid for a rookie catcher who has the tough job of dealing with a young pitching staff as well. He’s considered a future star by many and should continue to showcase his talent.

2. Does the starting pitching step up? The Orioles have a good mix of young talent on the team, but one of their biggest weaknesses in 2009 was lack of starting pitching. The O’s starters averaged 5.5 innings per start (and only two complete games all season) which created a huge workload on the bullpen. If the Orioles want to improve their record, they’ll need their starters to go deeper into games.

Toronto Blue Jays

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1. How bad will it get? The Blue Jays lost A.J. Burnett and Roy Halladay over the last two off-seasons leaving their starting rotation young and inexperienced. To go along with the loss in talent, Vernon Wells has demised since his $100 million contract. They still have good players in Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, but they’re not enough to carry the Blue Jays for an entire season.

2. How many other moves do they make? With the Halladay trade last off-season, the Blue Jays also dumped right fielder Alex Rios despite a massive contract and sent third baseman Scott Rolen to Cincinnati. It seems logical that Vernon Wells could be traded during the season. Other trades could be determined by how long the organization expects to be in “rebuilding mode.”