March 4, 2014

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2014 MLB Division Winners

By: Joe Williams

MLB Opening Day is just a couple weeks away which means it’s time for my yearly ritual of predicting the six division winners and ensuring that those teams don’t have the season they are hoping for. What can I say? It’s a gift. (I don’t think the Blue Jays would call it that after the 2013 season). So let’s get on with it.

A.L. East

Last season proved that anything can happen in this division. A year ago I wrote “The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over 2012.” So now I say, “I told you so.” Of course they didn’t win 25 more games than 2012. They won 28 more games. Just like I suspected they would. I’d like to see them try to do that again. But I think they will have a tougher road this year. They won’t be the team of destiny anymore. The Yankees will be trying to give Derek Jeter one final postseason and the Blue Jays have to be better right? The Orioles and Rays will be very good, too. I say all five teams finish over .500 and it’s the Rays that claim the division crown.

Boston Red Sox

Can the Red Sox repeat as AL East Champs in 2014?

A.L. Central

It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. But when the same team has won for the last three years, it just seems stupid not to pick them. Am I right? Especially when they haven’t won a title yet. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch. The may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball with Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. They won’t run away with it. But Detroit wins the Central again.

A.L. West

Once again, people seem to think the Angels are back. I don’t think so. There’s too much up in the air with Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. I don’t see them returning to elite players. So that leaves the Rangers and the A’s to battle it out (with Seattle improving but not there yet). I’ve learned my lesson. I keep picking against Oakland and I keep getting it wrong. No more. Despite the Rangers adding Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, I’m taking the A’s to work their magic again and defend their title. If you don’t believe me, watch Moneyball and you will.

N.L. East

I’d like a mulligan. (Does it count as a mulligan if you pick the same team as last year?) It seems like Washington is due to have some stuff go its way. Just a couple more wins than last year should be enough to get the job done. Especially when the Nationals are going to be rolling out Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmerman and Fister to the mound all season. The Braves will give them a run, but its about time something went right in Washington.

N.L. Central

We know it won’t be the Cubs. The Brewers should be better than the 74-win team from last year and make it a four-team race for a while, but in the end it will come down to the three teams (Cardinals, Pirates and Reds) that all won at least 90 games last year. One of them won’t get there this year. Sadly, I think it might be the Pirates that drop off the pace. The Reds won the Central in 2010 and 2012 so obviously 2014 is going to be their year as well. I like their rotation the best and if they can get Billy Hamilton on base, their offense will be scary.

N.L. West

Question: How many division titles do you have to buy before you become hated like the Yankees? The Dodgers are determined to find this out. No team has more superstars right now. They ran away with the West last year and should win it easily again. The real question for this team is can it make a deep run in October.

June 18, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There is another month of baseball to play before the MLB All-Star break so we should know who is good and who isn’t at this point, but I’ll bet there isn’t anyone out there who would have guessed that the best teams during the month of June would be Kansas City, Toronto, San Diego and Oakland. Meanwhile, teams like the Yankees, Rangers and Dodgers are struggling. Where will that leave those teams in today’s power rankings?

The Cardinals can celebrate being at the top of our latest MLB Power Rankings.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (44-25): As a Cubs fan, you never want to see the Cardinals at the top of the list but there’s no denying they have the best record in baseball and are +102 in run differential.

2. Atlanta Braves (41-28): The Braves hold the biggest lead of any division leaders at 6.5 games over Washington.

3. Cincinnati Reds (42-28): If the Reds were in any other division, they’d be in first place.

4. Oakland A’s (42-29): The A’s have made a huge jump from the 15 spot a month ago. That’s what an 18-7 record will do for you.

5. Boston Red Sox (42-29): Boston leads the majors in runs scored with 363.

6. Texas Rangers (38-31): Just like the end of last season, the Rangers have been caught by Oakland.

7. Detroit Tigers (38-29): Right now just Chris Davis is standing between Miguel Cabrera and a repeat triple crown.

8. Baltimore Orioles (40-30): Baltimore has quietly taken the lead in the wild card race and pulled within just 1.5 games of Boston.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-32): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-28): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

11. New York Yankees (38-31): Could this be the beginning of the end for the Yankees. They’ve lost ground in the AL East and wild card races.

12. Colorado Rockies (37-33): Gonzalez and Tulowitzki have lead the Rockies into the race. The pitching will need to improve to stay in it to the end.

13. San Diego Padres (36-34): Seven straight wins will and the Padres are back in the hunt after a 2-10 to the season.

14. Tampa Bay Rays (36-33): Wil Myers has been called up. Now let’s see what he can do.

15. Kansas City Royals (34-34): The Royals have been the best team in baseball, going 12-4 in June.

16. Washington Nationals (34-35): It’s turning into a disappointing season in the capital. The Nats better get back on track soon or it will be too late.

17. Cleveland Indians (34-35): Here’s a team that has really cooled off and is just 5-10 in June.

18. San Francisco Giants (35-34): The Giants will have to do better than 14-22 on the road if they want to defend their title.

19. Toronto Blue Jays (33-36): The Jays have six wins in a row and are climbing out of a big hole.

20. Philadelphia Phillies (34-37): The Phillies are second in the majors in quality starts but don’t have much to show for it.

21. Minnesota Twins (30-36): The Twins are near the bottom in just about every pitching category. Not good.

22. LA Dodgers (29-39): Talk about a wasted season…nobody is farther away from next-to-last in their division than the Dodgers.

23. LA Angels (31-39): Here is another team that was supposed to contend and has let their fans down.

24. Milwaukee Brewers (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Cubs for last place in the NL Central.

25. Chicago Cubs (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Brewers for last place in the NL Central.

26. Seattle Mariners (31-40): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

27. Chicago White Sox (29-38): It looks like it will be a tight race for worst team in Chicago.

28. New York Mets (25-40): The Mets are making a strong run towards the worst record in baseball with a 3-10 start in June.

29. Houston Astros (26-45): An 8-8 record so far this month is a big improvement for the AL West newcomers.

30. Miami Marlins (22-47): The Marlins are playing better, posting an 8-6 record so far this month.

May 21, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

Now that we’ve made it a quarter of the way through the MLB season we know a few things we thought at the start of the season are right (Texas is good, Houston is not) and a few are wrong (Boston is good, the Dodgers are not). So it’s time for the first power ranking post of the season.

After losing six in a row, the Orioles have fallen close to the middle of the pack.

1. Texas Rangers (29-16): It sure looks like they picked the right time to lets Josh Hamilton leave town.

2. Atlanta Braves (26-18): One Upton brother has been their best player, while the other has been their worst.

3. Boston Red Sox (27-18): Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 12-1 so far.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (28-16): The Cards lead the majors in ERA.

5. Cincinnati Reds (27-18): The Reds are 16-6 at home, the best record in the majors.

6. Cleveland Indians (26-17): Five straight wins and 8-2 in the last 10 makes the Tribe the hottest team in baseball.

7. New York Yankees (28-16): Who would have thought they would be in first place without all of their injured stars?

8. Detroit Tigers (23-19): The Tigers have scored 20 more runs than their opponents this month but are just 8-9 to show for it.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates (26-18): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks (26-19): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

11. Colorado Rockies (24-21): The Rockies are leading the majors in runs scored with 222.

12. Tampa Bay Rays (23-21): Reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price has be awful, but Matt Moore (8-0) is filling the void nicely.

13. San Francisco Giants (25-20): The defending champs are known for their pitching but their batting average ranks second in baseball.

14. Baltimore Orioles (23-21): Six straight losses have the Orioles five games behind the Yankees.

15. Oakland A’s (24-22): The A’s are 24th in batting average, but 9th in getting on base. Why? They lead the majors in walks with 187.

16. Washington Nationals (23-22): Anybody know what’s going on with Strasburg? He’s been offered to me in my fantasy league and I just can’t decide.

17. Kansas City Royals (20-21): After a hot April (14-10) the Royals have cooled off.

18. San Diego Padres (21-23): San Diego has recovered from a 2-10 start. Can they keep it up?

19. Philadelphia Phillies (21-24): Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay are 7-13 combined. Ouch.

20. Seattle Mariners (20-25): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

21. Chicago Cubs (18-25): Matt Garza is finally back….and the Cubs need him to be great.

22. Chicago White Sox (20-23): Paul Konerko, Jeff Keppinger and Adam Dunn are hitting .220, .199 and .172. They’ll keep losing if that doesn’t improve.

23. Minnesota Twins (18-23): After losing eight of the last ten, the Twins are in the AL Central cellar.

24. LA Angels (17-27): Here is the first of three teams battling it out for most disappointing team of the season.

25. New York Mets (17-25): Where would this team be without Matt Harvey?

26. Milwaukee Brewers (17-26): With the Astros moved to the American League, the Brewers are in danger of being the worst team in the NL Central.

27. Toronto Blue Jays (18-26): Toronto tried to fight fire with fire by signing big name free agents but so far they are getting burned.

28. LA Dodgers (18-25): The Dodgers by far the most disappointing team in the National League and maybe in all of baseball.

29. Miami Marlins (13-32): The Marlins have scored just 122 runs and are last in the majors. They are also last in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

30. Houston Astros (13-32): The Astros have allowed a whopping 266 runs this season and are last in the majors. They are also last in ERA, quality starts and WHIP.

September 26, 2012

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Taking a Look at True World Series Contenders

By: Matt Bowen

As the 2012 MLB season begins to wind down and the playoff picture begins to take shape, realistic expectations are realized for postseason play. MLB baseball is reaching a fever pitch heading into the post season. Once almost forgotten about because of the start of the 2012 NFL season, America’s true favorite pastime couldn’t be more exciting right now.

The Cardinals are the defending champions, but who will win the World Series this season?

This season adds another Wild Card contender into the mix, which was once frowned upon by diehard baseball fans, but is now quite exciting as the added slot has put many teams in the running.

Over the weekend the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants all clinched playoff berths in the National League.  The Atlanta Braves clinched a Wild Card spot  on September 25.

The Nationals have finally had success after struggling since moving to the nation’s capital in 2005. With a plethora of young talent and a Cy Young contender in pitcher Gio Gonzalez, the Nats will be in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately for the up-and-coming squad, 2012 won’t be their year to win it all, but the future is bright.

In terms of the Braves, they get redemption for faltering down the stretch and missing the postseason last year.

As for the Reds, the team is a fine blend of pitching and hitting and they have a good shot of reaching the World Series. Led by slugger Joey Votto and a lethal bullpen to shutdown games, the team is feared. Don’t be surprised when the Reds end up in the World Series.

If the Reds are to win the NL pennant, they will have to defeat the Giants, who have the necessary experience to win it all. Considering they reached the ultimate goal in 2010, the Giants are primed to make another run.

The American League has some tight races at the top of the East and Central divisions as the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles are neck-and-neck along with the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Both of these battles are great for baseball as the Yankees and Tigers were the preseason favorites while the Orioles and White Sox were somewhat of an afterthought. Neither team expected to reach the magnitude of success they’ve enjoyed this season.

No team has yet to clinch in the AL, but the races sure are enticing.

The Wild Card picture is what’s best in baseball right now. There are currently five teams within five games of the four Wild Card spots.

The current leaders are the Orioles and Oakland Athletics in the AL and the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL. Within striking distance of the current leaders are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Tampa Bay Rays and Tigers/White Sox in the AL and the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies in the NL.

So, who has a legitimate shot? Historically, the season’s best record or the highest payroll doesn’t guarantee a World Series ring. Like the St. Louis Cardinals of last season, many times it’s the team that gets red hot and rides the lightning that goes down in history.

Right now, the Giants and Reds looks like they’ll compete for the pennant in the NL and the Texas Rangers and the winner of the Central will duel in the AL.

September 18, 2012

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Analyzing the MLB playoff races

By: Joe Williams

There is only about 15 games left in the grueling 162-game MLB schedule and still more than half of the teams have a realistic shot at making the postseason. Unfortunately, the team I root for is not in that group. I won’t have to worry about making playoff plans this year, but for those of you who do, let’s take a look at the playoff races and see who will be in and who will be left at home.

Josh Hamilton and the Rangers are still fending off the Oakland A's, but should win the AL West.

A.L. East
In one of the more shocking finishes in recent memory, the Baltimore Orioles are about to come from out of nowhere to overtake the Yankees and steal the East. At one point the Yankees led the division by 10 games and now they are going to host the Red Sox in the final series of the season with a playoff spot on the line. Boston doesn’t have much to play for, but knocking New York out of the playoffs would be a decent consolation prize.

Division winner: Orioles

A.L. Central

My original pick to come out of the Central was the Detroit Tigers and right now they sit three games behind the White Sox. Luckily for me and Detroit, the Tigers last 13 games are against the Twins and Royals and most of them are at home. The schedule is not as friendly for Chicago, which gives me a good shot to get that pick correct.
Division winner: Tigers

A.L. West
At the beginning of June, I declared the Oakland A’s to be out of the race. They have done their best to make me eat some crow by going 41-19 in the second half of the season. But they still trail the Texas Rangers by three games and I’m sticking to my guns.
Division winner: Rangers

A.L. Wild Card
It’s going to be a wild finish with the Yankees, Rays, White Sox, A’s and Angels battling it out for two spots. I recently watched ‘Money Ball’ so I have a ton of respect for what the A’s have done but the schedule is not on their side. They play 13 games against the Tigers, Yankees and Rangers and only three are in Oakland. That’s as tough a finish as there is. But somehow they find a way to get to 90 wins and that’s enough for at least one playoff game. The second spot will go to the Angels as their spending spree pays off down the stretch and edge out the old and broken down Yankees who are running out of gas.

Wild Card winners: A’s and Angels

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N.L. East
I don’t think anybody saw this coming from the Nationals. They are well on their way to locking up the East. It will take a collapse like Atlanta had last season to for the Braves to make a run at Washington. Even though the Nationals have put Stephen Strasburg down for the season, that’s not going to happen.
Division winner: Nationals

N.L. Central
Cincinnati has the biggest lead in baseball with the Cardinals sitting 11 games back. The Reds won’t even need another victory to win the Central, but they are playing for the top seed and home-field advantage in the National League so don’t expect them to rest too many guys just yet.
Division winner: Reds

N.L. West
This is the National League division that I’m going to get wrong. I had the Dodgers edging out the Giants in a down-to-the-wire race. San Francisco has opened up an eight game lead and should have smooth sailing to the West crown.

Division winner: Giants

N.L. Wild Card

If you are at .500, you are still in this thing. Atlanta has pulled away from the group and should easily seal the deal for the first wild card spot. This leaves the Cardinals, Dodgers, Brewers, Pirates and Phillies all with a shot at the last spot. Pittsburgh finishes the season at home with six games against teams with nothing to play for and Pirate fans deserve a playoff appearance so I’ll take another surprise and say Pittsburgh sneaks in on the back of Andrew McCutchen.

Wild Card winners: Braves and Pirates