October 10, 2011

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Rebuilding the Yankees

By: Anson Whaley

Only two years removed from their last World Series title, the Yankees are far from a colossal disappointment. Winning 97 regular season games and losing in the fifth game of the Divisional Series is hardly an embarrassment. Still, anytime they fall short of winning the championship, fans aren’t happy.

‘Rebuilding’ is probably far too strong a term – the Yankees need a tune up, not an overhaul. It’s pretty obvious that this team is still stacked beyond belief. The roster features a host of current or former All-Stars and it’s difficult to find too many holes. That said, there are a few things the Yankees can do to have a better shot at winning another title in 2012.

Add Another Starter

Pitching, pitching, pitching. More times than not, the playoffs are decided with great pitching. Once the postseason arrives, nearly every team has it. The Yankees aren’t without quality pitchers. For starters, there’s the ace of the staff, C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia won 19 games this season and with an ERA of 3.00, was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball. But here’s the thing: After him, the Yankees don’t have a truly dominant guy next in line. Remember the Arizona Diamondbacks with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling? Or last year’s San Francisco Giants team featuring Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain? Or those Red Sox teams with Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling (again)? World Series contenders are always better served by having two top of the line starters.

The Yankees do have young pitcher Ivan Nova who had an amazing year, winning 16 games. But with an ERA approaching 4.00 and at only 24, he might not be a true No. 2 starter just yet for a championship caliber team. Free agency pickings are always slim when it comes to finding aces, but if the Yankees could swing a trade for one, it would go a long way to helping their chances in 2012.

Another quality starter would help the Yankees' chance at another championship.

Let The Jesus Montero Era Begin … Now

Jesus Montero is largely regarded as the best prospect in the Yankees’ system. In limited action (18 games) this season, he smashed four home runs and hit .328. Montero is ready for the big stage, and, after hitting 39 home runs in the past two seasons in AAA and being named as the #3 overall prospect in the minors in 2011 by Baseball America, it’s clear he needs to play. Whether that means the Yankees start Montero as the everyday catcher and play him as the DH, manager Joe Girardi needs to find a way to get his bat into the lineup next year.

Will he come in and immediately dominate the league? Not likely. But the sooner the team can get him at bats, the sooner he can get used to life in the majors. He has the potential to hit 25-30 home runs eventually and that’s the type of power that could make him an elite catcher in the league.

Add a Power Bat in the Outfield

With Curtis Granderson’s 41 home runs, the Yankees’ outfield isn’t completely devoid of power. But the Yankees could use a few more long balls from the remaining two positions, left field and right field. Brett Gardner is unquestionably one of the best base stealers in the entire sport, but he hit only seven home runs in a full-time position. So while New York obviously needs to find space for his speed on the base paths, his lack of power as a corner outfielder clearly hurts at least a bit. Nick Swisher manned the other corner spot opposite him, and the duo combined for a total of 30 home runs between them. That’s not terrible, but 30 home runs from two corner outfielders is below average for a contending team. The Yankees would be wise to keep both of those players, but if they could add another 30-home run outfielder to the mix, the team would be even stronger since it would allow either Swisher or Gardner to come off the bench.

Will the Yankees rebound and reach the World Series next year? No one knows for sure, but making these moves would improve their chances.

September 13, 2011

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Handing Out The Hardware

By: Joe Williams

With the baseball season coming to an end in a couple weeks, some MLB players are still battling it out for the post-season awards. Here are my picks.

American League

MVP

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.

Other contenders: Jose Bautista, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury

Cy Young

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.

Other contenders: Jered Weaver, James Shields, C.C. Sabathia

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

National League

MVP

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.

Other contenders: Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, Justin Upton, Ryan Howard

Cy Young

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

Could this player win the Cy Young Award?

 

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

March 29, 2011

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American League Preview

By: Joe Williams

In just two days, the Major League Baseball season will begin with games that may or may not be played, depending on snow. If it seems like it was just a couple months ago that the World Series was finishing up in cold weather, it was. So who will be representing the American League in the Fall/Winter Classic in 2011?

A.L EAST

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles may finally be headed in the right direction. The O’s hired Buck Showalter to be the manager in the middle of last season and he immediately turned the team around. He led them to a 34-23 finish in 2010. Baltimore has added some quality veterans in the offseason which should provide some leadership for a young team. They should be better but it won’t be enough to win the toughest division in baseball.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox won 89 games and missed the playoffs in 2010. They have a star-studded roster and will be in the playoff hunt all season. The additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have the Red Sox as the favorite to win the division and the World Series.

New York Yankees

The Yankees’ success in 2011 will depend on the health of their older stars like Jeter and A-Rod and the questions in the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Riveria are as good as it gets, but questions surround the rest of the staff. Cliff Lee is back in Philadelphiaand Andy Pettitte is retired so the Yankees will have to rely on guys like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova. And if that doesn’t work out, they can always afford to make a deal.

Tampa Bay Rays

The defending A.L. East champs look quite a bit different in 2011. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and Matt Garza are out. Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are in. If Manny being Manny happens at the plate and not off the field, the Rays will be right in the mix with Boston and New York.

Toronto Blue Jays

One thing is for sure. The Blue Jays will be the best team in Canada. They led the majors in home runs in 2010 and won 85 games. They may have been good enough to contend in another division, but not the A.L. East. No team would benefit more from realignment than Toronto.

A.L CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox aren’t the superstars of the Yankees or Red Sox but they are solid at every position. What they can get from Jake Peavy will go a long way towards determining how they finish in the Central. The addition of Adam Dunn at DH will be a boost to the lineup as well.

Cleveland Indians

They were bad in 2010. The roster hasn’t changed much. They are going to be bad in 2011. The misery continues for Cleveland fans.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers won 81 games last year. The additions of Joaquin Benoit, Victor Martinez and Brad Pennyoutweigh the losses of Jeremy Bonderman and Johnny Damon. If Miguel Cabrera can leave his off the field problems off the field and be the monster in the middle of that lineup, Detroit could steal the division title.

Kansas City Royals

If you are a Kansas City fan, help is on the way. Next year. The Royals have the best farm system in the majors and should start getting reinforcements in the near future. They will be much better in the next couple years, but will struggle in 2011.

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota won the A.L. Central in 2010 without Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. If both players can come back healthy, the Twins will likely defend that title.

A.L WEST

LA Angels

The Angels were a disappointment in 2010. They were also a disappointment in the offseason. They failed to sign any of the big free agents they wanted. They have been passed in the West and haven’t done anything about it.

Oakland A’s

The A’s have a strong young pitching staff. They play in a winnable division. The question is can they score? Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui will help. Will it be enough?

Seattle Mariners

Seattle lost 101 times in 2010. They will be better. They almost have to be better. They have some great players like Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. They have some young prospects with potential. But they will still finish last in the West.

Texas Rangers

Texas won the A.L. West and went to the World Series in 2010. They can score. And they added Adrian Beltre at third. Cliff Lee is gone and Michael Young has asked for a trade. If the Rangers can keep Young happy and Brandon Webb can get healthy, they have the horses to defend their division title.