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

Roy Oswalt to Philly?

ESPN.com is reporting that Houston Astros ace and franchise face Roy Oswalt is close to waiving his no-trade clause and packing his bags for Philadelphia.

Roy Oswalt appears to be on the move.

The article even quotes a “source” as saying it’s a done deal. Now, we’ve all heard the “done deal” phrase before, but this trade makes sense for all parties involved. Let’s look at the possible implications.

The trade gives Philadelphia a second ace in the rotation (and maybe a third if you’re willing to label Cole Hamels an ace). The Phillies are in need of some rotational help, especially starters who can work deep into ball games.

Oswalt also brings big game experience. He’s pitched for Houston teams that were mainstays in the playoffs and reached the World Series in 2005.

And with the Phils cutting into the first place Braves lead this past week, this move only capitalizes on that momentum. It may hamper Philadelphia’s ability to resign Jayson Werth in the off-season, but the Philly front office has proved since last season that they’re committed to winning now with their current crop of stars.

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 May 10th edition

I’m experimenting with a format change this week so if this post looks a little unusual, that’s because it is. Anyway, each “Round-Up” post will now look at a team of the past week, position player of the week, and a pitcher of the week. Also, I will add a preview for an upcoming weekend series that looks intriguing.

Team of the Week: Philadelphia Phillies (5-2). The defending NL champions took 3 out of 4 at home against the Cardinals last week and 2 out of 3 at home against the Braves over the weekend to increase their first place lead in the NL East to 1.5 games. The Phils mixed good pitching and timely hitting together throughout the past 7 days.

Position Player of the Week: J.D. Drew (Boston). The Sox struggled against the rival Yankees in the weekend series, but none of that can be attributed to J.D. Drew. Drew batted an even .500 with 12 hits in 24 at-bats. He drove in 5 runs, walked 4 times, and scored 9 runs.

Pitcher of the Week: Dallas Braden (Oakland). The young A’s pitcher was previously best known for calling out A Rod earlier this season after the Yankees slugger crossed the pitcher’s mound on his way back to first base (a big no-no in the unwritten rules according to Braden). But now he owns the nineteenth perfect game in Major League history after shutting down the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday (who only happen to be the best team in baseball so far). Congratulations Dallas.

Series of the Week: Minnesota at New York (Friday through Sunday). This series is a rematch of last season’s first round playoff game which the Yanks won. Both teams have played great baseball to start the season and look poised to meet in October once again.

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.