Saturday, March 31, 2012

MLB 2012 Preview: NL East

5. New York Mets: This was a team that battled injuries all of 2011. Their ace Johan Santana missed the entire season after recovering from shoulder surgery. Notable hitters David Wright, Jason Bay, and Ike Davis all spent time on the DL as well. And going into 2012, the Mets appear to be at full strength. But talent wise, its not that good. Their lineup has potential to be decent, but much of that depends on which Jason bay shows up. Their rotation could be good, but can everyone stay on the field? And their bullpen doesn't look good at all. Too many question marks while playing in a tough division. Mets are the cellar dweller all year.

4. Washington Nationals: This was the most difficult decision for us, when picking these divisions. As much as we like the Nationals offseason moves (SP's Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, and RP Brad Lidge were all brought in.), we still think this is a team that is just a year away from making a run in the NL East. They obviously boast one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball (led by ace Stephen Strasburg), and they have a pretty good up and coming bullpen. They should be fine offensively as long as 3B Ryan Zimmerman stays on the field and RF Jayson Werth can bat for an average higher than his weight. This team could/should be in it for a majority of the year, but their youthfulness will keep them out of the postseason just one more year.

3. Atlanta Braves: This team has a very talented roster returning in 2012. They have a nice mix of veteran and young players all around in this lineup. They have one of the best bullpens in baseball (Anchored by Eric O'Flaherty, Johnny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel at the back end) to compliment a good starting staff (Led by top starters Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens). This team should have no problem putting up runs with a lineup featuring Michael Bourn, Jason Heyward, a healthy Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, and Brian McCann. But why pick the Braves at 3? They had a epic collapse in 2011, and with the same roster returning, I see no reason why this team will be outside looking in on October once more.

2. Miami Marlins: No one made more headlines this offseason than the (formerly Florida Marlins) Miami Marlins. They were throwing money around (They Reportedly had offers to SP CJ Wilson and 1B Albert Pujols before being turned down) like no other (They have a new ballpark driving this free spending now). They did land SS Jose Reyes, RP Heath Bell, and SP Mark Buehrle with all the free spending. And don't forget they have a new manager, Ozzie Guillen. Throw in existing stars Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, and Mike Stanton, and this should be one good ballclub. They won't be good enough to dethrone the Phillies as East champs, but they should have no problem finding one of the two Wild Card spots.

1. Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are set to begin the season without mainstays Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. But lucky for them they have the best pitching staff in baseball and a lineup full of talented hitters after Utley and Howard. If that weren't the case, we would be picking this team lower in the division. They have three aces on this club (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels). They have a lineup featuring 6 all stars, if you include Utley and Howard. And they now have some stability at the back end of their bullpen with the addition of Jonathon Papelbon. This will be the most contested division title for the Phils since their first one back in 2007. And they squeak it out despite having to hold off the Marlins, Braves, and Nationals. Then look for them to go one and done in the postseason...again.

Friday, March 30, 2012

MLB 2012 Preview: NL Central

6. Houston Astros: Lets be real folks, this team will be a solid lock for the worst record again this year. They have one solid starter (Wandy Rodriguez) and one decent bat in their lineup (Carlos Lee, who is seeing his skills diminish due to age). If Houston wins 60 games that would be impressive. Have fun moving to the AL West next year.

5. Chicago Cubs: Again, being real here, this team has very little to offer. Ryan Dempster was not good last year, so it remains to be seen how he will fare in 2012. Alfonso Soriano is still with the Cubs, and still is under performing. Starlin Castro appears to be the face of the Cubs moving forward, but, he will be the face of a franchise in a rebuilding mode.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: Last year, the Pirates were the surprise team in baseball through June. But, a second half collapse saw them fall into fourth place. This year the Pirates return with a similar team, but they added AJ Burnett to be the staff ace and brought in Rod Barajas to replace Ryan Doumit who left for Minnesota. It would be fun to see Pittsburgh have a run similar to 2011, but keep it going much past June. But they play in a tough division and they finish closer to the top in fourth place, than the bottom.

3. Milwaukee Brewers: Despite the loss of Prince Fielder, the Brewers are still going to put up a lot of runs (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, and Rickie Weeks lead the way). They still have a good starting rotation (Led by Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke). But, their problem lies in the bullpen. If they get the lead to the 8th, its game over with K-Rod and John Axford. But before those guys, it doesn't look very good. So getting to Brewers starters early will be key for the opposition. Its hard to pick the Brewers third, but with the talent the two teams above them have, its the only spot they could finish.

2. St. Louis Cardinals: Somehow, the Cardinals got in the postseason and won the World Series in 2011. No one certainly thought Albert Pujols would leave. But he did. And to replace him in the lineup the team brought in Carlos Beltran. With Beltran, this team has a very good lineup (Matt Holiday, Lance Berkman, David Freese bolt down the middle of the order). They are still very strong pitching wise despite the uncertainty of Chris Carpenter's health. The Cardinals make a good run for the division title, but they fall just short and hope for a Wild Card spot.

1. Cincinnati Reds: The Reds set out this offseason to get some starting pitching. So they went out and did just that, when they acquired Mat Latos from San Diego. Throw him in the rotation with Cueto, Arroyo, Bailey, Leake, and possibly Chapman, this team is very deep with their starting 5. Their lineup is one of the best in the NL (lead by 2010 MVP Joey Votto). And their bullpen looks to be solid with Ryan Madson set to close games for the Reds. Ultimately, this team made the right moves this offseason, and it gives them the division title despite close calls from St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MLB 2012 Preview: NL West

Hello all! The past few days, me and Zach have put our heads together and we hashed out our picks for the 2012 MLB season. This is a continuing tradition I have carried on from the Giles Talks Twins days, the only difference now is that there was a second voice in these picks. We will be posting one per day, ending with a super Twins preview for 2012, leading up to Opening Day. At points, it got rough to agree on certain teams/divisions, but we got them done. We hope you enjoy and watch us fail horribly (Haha, but maybe not so much on the failing part).

5. San Diego Padres: San Diego strikes us as a curious team, but frankly they have to many "who's that?' on the team for our liking. Tim Stauffer (Who?) appears to be their staff ace. Their closer is Huston Street. And their prized acquisition in the offseason was Carlos Quentin, and he is set to begin the season on the DL. This is a young team, with some nice potential. But for 2012, they will be the cellar dwellers in the NL West.

4. Colorado Rockies: The Rockies boast one of the NL's best offenses. But their pitching is a huge turnoff for this team. True, they have some nice young starters due to break camp with the team (Drew Pomeranz, Alex White-Both players acquired in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade), but they lack a true staff ace (Pick between Jeremy Guthrie and Jhoulys Chacin). Also, their bullpen frightens us (Rafael Betancourt is their closer?!?!). So if Colorado can get anything from their pitchers, they could compete. But they won't.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers: Honestly, I'm tired of waiting for the Dodgers to step it up and win. They have good starters (Kershaw, Billingsley, Lilly). They have a lineup full of talented hitters (Kemp, Ethier, Loney). Their bullpen does appear to be out of sorts (No set closer as of yet), but it is not all that bad. This team should be better than this, but we can't see them finishing higher than third. So that's where they will end up.

2. San Francisco Giants: The Giants set out to acquire some offense for the top of their order this year. So their answer was trading SP Jonathan Sanchez for OF Melky Cabrera (Fail!). Also throw in the fact, the Giants will be getting C Buster Posey back, and their lineup should be just about the same: No punch at the top, solid in the middle, lifeless at the bottom. They have one of the league's best pitching staffs, but it will not save them from their dismal lineup. The Giants get second in the division, but sit out on October once again.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks: If you don't love this team, start loving them now. They can hit (Former Twin Jason Kubel is projected to bat 7th!), they can pitch (Former A's standout Trevor Cahill is slated as the team's 4th starter!), and they can play defense as good as anyone. The D-Backs went out this offseason and added another bat (The before mentioned Kubel) and bolstered their bullpen (They brought in Craig Breslow and Takashi Saito to bridge the gap to JJ Putz in the 9th). This team could sneak up on people as a NL pennant contender. They are that good. Don't sleep on them again in 2012.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Notes: 3/22

The Twins are moving along through Spring so quickly. Its hard to believe we are just 2 weeks away from Opening Day in Baltimore. So here is some notes/thoughts on spring training so far.

  • Justin Morneau is batting .091 this spring. I would like to think he will be ok, but at this point, I'm not sure what to think.
  • Scott Baker had some elbow tendinitis this past week, but for the time being appears to be fine. I hope the Twins deal with this right, Baker is too valuable to have multiple stints on the DL again.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka was sent down to the minors earlier in the week. This was something that should of been done last July!
  • Francisco Liriano has had a nice spring. If he can translate that success to the regular season, it can make this team so much better.
  • Brian Duensing has done well as a reliever so far in March, and he should have no trouble having similar success once the season starts. He will be very valuable to the team as a late inning reliever.
  • I do not like the idea of a platoon between Ben Revere and Trevor Plouffe in left field. I believe the left field job should be for Revere. Ben and Denard Span could cover a lot of ground in left and center field defensively, especially in the spacious outfield of Target Field. Revere did struggle towards the end of last year at the plate, but don't forget he is young and his best years are ahead of him.
  • Jamey Carroll was brought over to help the Twins defensively by filling the void at shortstop. If he hits during the year like he has in the spring (.156), he better be bringing Gold Glove caliber defense to makeup for that lack of offense.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Hello Old Friend

Today, the Twins officially open spring training. And if you're like me, this couldn't of come any sooner. Yes, its just spring and the starters play 3 innings. But this is baseball. Twins baseball. And today its the Opening Day lineup (With the exception of Ben Revere) out there to open up the Twins Grapefruit League schedule. Get excited everyone! 34 days until Opening Day!

Twins Lineup: Span-CF, Carroll-SS, Mauer-C, Morneau-1B, Willingham-RF, Doumit-DH, Valencia-3B, Plouffe-LF, Casilla-2B, Pavano-SP