August 1, 2013
Now that the dust on settled on the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline, we can focus our attention on the true contenders. It’s now August, this is the time where the cream rises to the top. MLB GM’s believing that this is their year have spent the last couple of weeks trying to feverishly hammer out deals to put their team on top when it’s all said and done. As baseball fans we now get to sit back and watch the drama unfold. The next two months will be pure entertainment as every division except the NL East is up for grabs.
So, what is to be expected down the stretch? Who were the real winners at the deadline?
AL East: Per the usual, the AL East will be one of the most interesting races until the end. The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Baltimore Orioles are all in contention.
The Rays were the quiet, only acquiring left reliever Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox. Crain is currently on the DL, but has electric stuff out of the bullpen. This was a low-risk, high-reward kind of deal for the Rays—if Crain returns healthy they win, if he doesn’t, the compensation towards the White Sox will be next to nothing.
The Baltimore Orioles proved to their fan base that they plan on winning now and forever. They traded for starting pitchers Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs and Bud Norris of the Houston Astros along with reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers. Nice work from the Orioles front office.
While the Orioles made plenty of noise, the Boston Sox stole the show in the division. The acquisition of pitcher Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox made headlines as the Red Sox appear to be legit. They also picked up left-handed reliever Matt Thornton from the White Sox. For a team that lost 93 games in 2012, they have certainly changed their course. The Bo Sox have Boston buzzing at the moment.
AL Central: This division is a two horse race that won’t be settled until the final days of the season. The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are the two best teams in the Central and only got better at the deadline. Both teams picked up necessary relief help with Marc Rzepczynski headed to Cleveland from the St. Louis Cardinals and Jose Veras to Detroit from the Houston Astros.
In the end, it was the Tigers who made out best though. They were involved in the trade with the Sox, both White and Red, that sent the aforementioned Peavy to Beantown, shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers and young prospect Avasail Garcia to Chicago, along with others.
The Tigers need a shortstop with the suspension of Jhonny Peralta seeming imminent. Peralta, who is involved in the Biogenesis mess, is also a free agent as the end of the season, so picking up the talented 23-year-old Iglesias now is a stroke of genius.
While the Tigers will benefit the most now in the division, the White Sox may have gotten the best player out of the deal. Garcia has star written all over him, but with a crowded outfield in Detroit, it was a price that had to be paid.
Regarding the race in the Central, neither the Tigers nor Indians will quit. As of August 1, they’re two of the hottest teams in all of baseball. The two teams face each other seven more times in 2013 with the last game on September 1. Both teams won at the deadline, but who will win the division?
AL West: Still in disbelief that the Oakland A’s are truly good? Don’t be, this team is for real, but did the division leader do enough? They swapped a minor leaguer for infielder Alberto Callaspo from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to shore up their defense. Where they swung and missed is in the pitching department. For decades the A’s were sellers at the deadline and this year, when they needed it most they couldn’t land a prized trade target to take the hill.
This means their rival the Texas Rangers were the true winners in the division at the deadline. They got starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs and seem to be in a groove right now. True, the A’s are still the team to beat, but the Rangers won’t go away. Now that the A’s seem to have crosshairs on their back, can they hold onto the West?
NL East: No contest here—the Atlanta Braves have a double-digit game lead in the division and the small and subtle acquisition of reliever Scott Downs from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim only made them better. Overall, the NL East has been a dud this season. Maybe 2014 will bring more competition. The Braves will skate into the playoffs.
NL Central: Baseball’s best division had an interesting trade deadline this time around. While the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs were heavy sellers, and for good reason, the top three teams were rather stagnant. This is a very peculiar situation, the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds were all quiet. The Pirates, who currently lead the division tried but could not land a big-name right fielder. The Cardinals didn’t make a splash and the Reds needed a viable two-hole hitter to bolster their lineup but did next to nothing. Content with what they have, all teams are now on board with their current rosters. This was disappointing on all accounts. If a winner had to be chosen, it would have to be the Cards, who seem to always find a way to win.
NL West: Let’s not forget about the NL West—there’s no west coast bias here, but the deadline proved that only the Los Angeles Dodgers are the real thing. They snatched up coveted pitcher Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins and had the luxury of signing charismatic reliever Brian Wilson. Since rookie Yasiel Puig was called up earlier in the year the team has been on fire. In just 50 games Puig is batting .364 as of August 1—most importantly he’s instilled some swagger in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
The Dodgers payroll may be bigger than many small countries’ annual GDP, but they are now looking like they are worth every penny. Move over Hollywood, the Dodgers are now the big stars in town.
November 16, 2012
When Dave Dombrowski and Mike Illitch went out and got Prince Fielder, the expectations for the Tigers were nothing less than winning a World Series Championship. They were picked to win the AL Central by 8 to 10 games. They ended up winning the division by just 3 games. Now, with the signing of former Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, is it fair to say the Tigers will win the division by 16 to 20 games? Probably not; But anything less than a second straight trip to the World Series will be considered a blunder.
With that, here are 5 things the signing of Torii Hunter does for the Tigers:
1. Better Hitting
In the outfield, the majority of the Tigers’ hitting came from Austin Jackson. Right field was a weakness all season, where the batting average was just .235.
2. More Experience
Brennan Boesch has only played 2 seasons in the majors, while Andy Dirks was a rookie last season. The Tigers can now ease them into the majors as a platoon while letting Hunter mentor them for the next two season.
3. Number 2 Man
Hunter will cement the number 2 spot in the batting order. He will be more consistent than Quintin Berry and Omar Infante. Another consistent hitter ahead of the Tigers’ 3-4 hitter will only make Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder harder to handle.
4. Better Defense
Hunter was a Gold Glove outfielder in 2009. Couple that with the inconsistent play of corner outfielders last season, and Hunter will easily improve Detroit’s defense. There is a lot of ground to cover at Comerica Park, and the combination of Hunter and Jackson will give the Tigers’ pitchers an advantage at home.
With all the ups and downs last season, hopefully somebody like Hunter can bring some guidance to make the team more consistent night in and night out.
The addition of Torii Hunter was a great move. The Tigers were not consistent in the regular season and as a result, they had to make a late rally to catch the White Sox. This addition should fix that issue and make the Tigers a more dominant force. My early-early prediction is that the Tigers will win the division by 7 games, and make it back to the World Series.
October 24, 2012
First and foremost, MLB diehards are in for a treat as two iconic teams square off for the first time in the World Series. This matchup seems quite fitting for fans of all ages as history will write itself over the next week.
Secondly, it is well known that the winning side of the MLB All Star Game gets home-field advantage and this year the National League has the honors. As you may remember, Tigers ace Justin Verlander started the 2012 MLB All Star Game for the American League and was roughed up by the National League’s best, notably the members of the Giants. Don’t expect that to happen in Game 1 when Verlander takes the hill in San Francisco. To put it simple, he’s a Jedi with the ball in his hand—in the All Star Game he was a young Luke Skywalker before he learned how to harness the force. Judging by his display during the Tigers playoff run, he’s reverted back to being Yoda.
Starting Pitching: Advantage Detroit
This is not a surprise, but the fact that the Giants Matt Cain had to pitch Game 7 of the NLCS puts them at a disadvantage. They’ll send veteran Barry Zito, who has become unpredictable, to the mound for Game 1.
A most exciting matchup to watch is to see if the Giants’ Buster Posey and Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera can go blow-for-blow throughout the series. Cabrera did the merely unthinkable during the regular season when he took in the Triple Crown, but Posey was the only player in baseball to have a better batting average than Cabrera this season. It will be imperative for both players to produce because without them, their team could be doomed.
Which Star Has a Better Series: Stalemate
Both these guys are too good to be shut down and will reach base early and often.
The playoffs aren’t as much about the stars as it is the unsung heroes. Every year a small-time role player emerges to look like the Incredible Hulk and power his team to the World Series.
Who will it be this year?
Only time will tell, but history has told us that it’s bound to expect the unexpected. The Tigers have Delmon Young, who is postseason gold while the Giants have guys like youngster Brandon Belt and outfielder Angel Pagan who could be the hero.
These guys are why we watch. They represent the dream in millions of children and give hope to everyone that anything is possible with grit and determination.
So, who has the ultimate advantage?
Well, the Tigers steam rolled the New York Yankees in the ALCS while the Giants simply refuse to lose. They seem to be channeling the magic that occurred in 2010 when they won the World Series. One thing is for sure, fans have a doozy on their hands. We couldn’t ask for much more.
Bold Prediction: Tigers in 6
This team seems so focused on the prize. They may not have had the best regular season, but it’s not about who’s the best during the regular season, it’s who gets hot at the right time. The Giants have a stellar ball club and a winner in place for years to come, but having played the maximum amount of games and the emotions that come with it mean that the tank is running on fumes right now.
World Series MVP: Prince Fielder
The slugger, who was brought to Detroit to win championships, will revel in playing in his first World Series. He’ll go 9-for-21 with three homers, eight RBI and three walks.
October 19, 2011
The Fall Classic gets underway tonight in St. Louis and the Cardinals will try to put the Hollywood ending on their unlikely run at a World Series championship. Unfortunately for the redbirds, I don’t see them having their happy ending. Here are five reasons why I think that the Texas Rangers will be the ones who are celebrating a championship at the end of the series.
Both of these teams have been to the World Series in recent years. The Cardinals won their 10th championship in 2006 and the Rangers lost to the Giants just last year. I believe the Rangers are coming into this matchup hungrier because of the way last season ended and the fact that many of the Cardinals already have a ring. Texas should have learned from the experience last year and will be ready for the big stage.
It doesn’t get much better in the middle of the order than Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz are pretty good too. That being said, the Rangers lineup is stronger from top to bottom and Texas finished the season in the top three in virtually every major offensive category. If one or two of the Cardinals’ big three struggles, they will have a tough time keeping up with Texas.
He struggled in the first round against Tampa Bay but now he has the hottest bat on the planet. He hit .364 with six home runs and 13 RBI in against Detroit. We would likely be talking about a Cardinals and Tigers rematch from 2006 if not for the numbers Cruz put up. His two extra inning home runs were the difference in the ALCS. And the Cardinals are going to have to pitch to him because of the quality of hitters around him.
Neftali Feliz’s job got much easier when the Rangers acquired Koji Uehara and Mike Adams midway through the season. The quality and depth of setup men the Rangers have now is much better than what they had last year against the Giants. The Texas relievers allowed just four earned runs in more than 27 innings against Detroit in the ALCS. If they have another series like that, they will be World Series champions.
St. Louis has certainly played a lot of great baseball over the last month, but they are lucky to be here. If not for a collapse by the Braves, the Cardinals wouldn’t have won the wild card and even been in the playoffs. Prince Fielder’s performance in the All-Star Game has given the Cardinals home field advantage in this series. Everything Tony La Russa has done has worked. Does he have enough tricks left up his sleeve to pick up four more wins?
Prediction: Rangers in six.
September 13, 2011
There is no doubt in my mind that Justin Verlander has been the most valuable player to his team. He is 22-5 with a 2.44 ERA and 232 strikeouts in 229 innings. That puts him on pace for 25 wins and over 250 strikeouts. The Tigers are 23-8 in games he started and have all but clinched the A.L. Central title, leading the White Sox and Indians by 11.5 games. Take him out of that rotation and Detroit likely doesn’t even make the playoffs. The question is whether the voters will give the award to a pitcher. It hasn’t happened since 1992.
While Verlander may not get the votes for MVP, he will certainly get the votes for the Cy Young award. The Tigers ought to give him some rest once they have clinched the division title so he will be fresh for the playoffs. If that happens, his numbers won’t be as impressive as they could be, but he will still win in a landslide.
Rookie of the Year
You can make a good argument for a few players to be the MLB Rookie of the Year. I’m going with Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners. He is just 9-10 on the season, but it’s not his fault he is on a bad team. If he were pitching for the Yankees, his record would look more like the 15-4 that Ivan Nova has. He has a 3.72 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and averages more than a strikeout an inning.
Other contenders: Eric Hosmer, Ivan Nova, Mark Trumbo, Jeremy Hellickson
It’s always an interesting debate when one team has multiple MVP candidates. Ryan Braun leads the league in hitting at .331 and slugging at .579 with 27 HR, 96 RBI, 97 runs and 31 steals. He is near the top of all the statistical categories. He has helped carry the Brewers to a big lead in the N.L. Central. His chances to win MVP will depend on how many votes his teammate Prince Fielder takes away from him.
This comes down to three players and I’ll give the nod to Cliff Lee. It’s pretty much a tossup with Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay. All three have similar records, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. Lee is 6-0 with a 0.49 ERA in his last seven starts. He’s had 11 starts where he pitched at least seven shutout innings. There has been 31 shutouts in the N.L. Lee has six of them. Nobody else has more than two.
Other contenders: Ian Kennedy
Rookie of the Year
Craig Kimbrel is having one of the great seasons of all time for a reliever, let alone doing it as a rookie. He is tied for the major league lead with 43 saves. He converted 25 consecutive save chances while making 38 straight scoreless appearances. His strikeout rate of 14.8 per nine innings is one of the best all time for a MLB pitcher who has thrown at least 70 innings.
Other contenders: Freddie Freeman, Vance Worley