Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Powder Blue Menace

The overarching thing of the Winter seemed to be "who are the next Rays?"

I remained fairly non-committal on the subject. I don't think there will be another 08 Rays for a long time. But that doesn't mean there can't be surprises. And there definitely have been so far.

The Blue Jays are out-slugging everyone. The Tigers are playing defense for a change. The Padres look like an actual Major League Baseball team. And the Marlins look like a juggernaut.

But there is only one team who I define as "real." Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2009 Royals are the real deal.

It isn't just luck, grit and Zack Greinke. It is talent. The Royals have it in spades. The line-up is balanced, strong and deep. The rotation looks sharp, everyone knows their place on the field and the bullpen...well, the bullpen has Joakim Soria. 

It has gotten so bad that I am starting to see George Brett charging at me in my dreams. AL Central, look out: Kansas City is legit. This doesn't mean that they are GOING to win the Division. But they definitely, definitely could.

Player of the Week
Jason Bay OF - Boston Red Sox. Jason Bay reached base 60% of the time this week. 60%. Of. the. Time. All together now: Holy crap. I am feeling pretty good about my Red Sox on top of the world prediction right now and Jason Bay is a big reason why.

The only question now is what the middle of the Red Sox line-up will look like a week or two from now. If Terry Francona bases everything purely on performance, Red Sox Nation will be looking at a Youkilis, Bay, Drew, Ortiz 3-4-5-6. The only problem is the pairing of righties and lefties. But with the state of left-handed relief in that division, they may not even worry about it.

So mark my words: the Red Sox are winning this division and Jason Bay is going to be a big reason why.

Pitching Performances
Zack Greinke, just continues to blow my mind. And he is tailor-made to become America's sweetheart. Debilitating medical disorder? Check. Boyish good looks? Check. Laser/Rocket Arm? Check. I just worry about all the exposure with him. I am not sure the cover of Sports Illustrated with the text "The Best Pitcher in Baseball" is good for someone who has a history of reacting poorly to pressure.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Yovani Gallardo is just mowing bitches down. And I am the benefactor of it (picked him in Fantasy!) It is remarkable what talent + a whole year off will do for you. If the Brewers stay in contention, we could be talking Cy Young here.

Fantasy Minute with BBB
My experiment after four weeks of the season is a solid 10 out of 10. I am 3 and 0 in my league, having just beaten the only other undefeated team. I am loving Fantasy Baseball. Usually in Football, I would be so far behind after four weeks that the trades would begin. But honest to God I haven't even begin to start pondering roster moves. It has been such a relief to leave my line-up alone and just check in every day and watch the carnage that my team is wreaking. My MVP of the week is Jorge Cantu. Only 20 more weeks for an undefeated season!

Linking it Up

- Smell that in the air? That's the draft, baby, the D-R-A-F-T.

- I really can't get enough of this.

Odds and Ends
- I am one of twelve people on the planet who thinks Joba Chamberlin should remain a starter.

- Don't look now but my boy Pujols is as good as ever.

- Alfonso Soriano won't crack 30-homers this year. This start is the definition of aberration.

- Travis Hafner quietly ended up on the DL. Fmylife.

- Props go out to Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver and Shane Loux for keeping the Angels playoff hopes alive.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

April 2009 Power Rankings

At the end of every month here at Bojay's, I will be posting the Major League Baseball Power Rankings as I see them.

The prevailing trend in sportswriting seems to be picking Power Rankings every week or every ten days. But I think every month is the way to go. If I had done Power Rankings after the first week: the Rays would have been ranked very high and the Padres very low.

I just find this to be more accurate.

30. Washington Nationals
I can't imagine them ever getting out of this spot all season. The "Natinals" need to start shopping: Adam Dunn, Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham, Ronnie Belliard, Scott Olsen and Christian Guzman sooner rather than later.

29. Houston Astros
Answer me this: what does an Astros fan have to be excited about? They are essentially down to a 4-man rotation, only one of which is good.....and no, I don't mean Wandy Rodriguez.

28. Los Angeles Angels
I hate to do it after all that this team has gone through but just look at that rotation. Ever heard of Shane Loux? No? Well that's their 3rd pitcher! I wasn't too high on this team going into the season but now they might actually be battling for 2nd in the division.
27. Oakland Athletics
The good news for Angels fans is that this is the team they are battling. Billy Beane had better be right about his young pitching because it is the Athletics only hope.

26. Milwaukee Brewers
Gallardo is looking like the Ace everyone thought he was. But after him it has been pretty ugly. I don't know why they had $100 million for CC but $0 for everyone else. If there is money in that front office, they should use it. This team can still compete.

25. Cleveland Indians
Hafner seems to be back and Martinez is unquestionably back and probably the best Catcher in baseball. Still its the pitching that is killing them (and that seems to be killing all the lower half-ranked teams). More 6-7 innings are needed from the starters so the bullpen doesn't have an opportunity to blow the game.

24. Colorado Rockies
Don't look now but Matt Holliday's replacement in LF, Seth Smith has a .961 OPS.

23. New York Mets
Johan is doing everything he can to win the Cy Young. And the scary part is that he is always better in the second half.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks
I think there were more problems with the starting rotation than most people realized. And now that Brandon Webb is out, things are only going to get worse.

21. Philadelphia Phillies
A sluggish start is nothing to be worried about, especially for the defending World Champs. But it might hurt my prediction that the Phils will be a powerhouse all year.

20. Minnesota Twins
They cannot panic and bring Mauer back too soon.

19. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles seem to be right in line with what I thought they'd be: young, inexperienced but not incompetent.

18. Tampa Bay Rays
The fact that they started out strong tells me that they're still for real. Don't worry about this recent tailspin. Evan Longoria might thrust his name into conversation for best player in the League by the time this season is over.

17. Texas Rangers
DO. NOT. SLEEP. ON. THE. RANGERS. The AL West is now the worst division in baseball I believe. 85 wins may take this thing. Now doesn't that high-powered Rangers offense look good for 80-85 wins?

16. San Francisco Giants
Pablo Sandoval doesn't look like an All-Star. And that in and of itself might be enough to crush the Giants' playoff hopes.

15. Atlanta Braves
They overpaid for their pitching, but at least its better. Jorge Campillo is going to start doing more for them as well.

14. Chicago White Sox
They've been the definition of mediocre so far. But Carlos Quentin hasn't.

13. Seattle Mariners
The AL West may be awful, but I do think you can sleep on them. Even if King Felix and Erik Bedard are themselves, they just won't score enough Runs.

12. Detroit Tigers
I am worried I may have overlooked the Fielding factor on this team. They are so absurdly better on defense this year than last that it might be good for 10 more wins.

11. Cincinatti Reds
They can't keep this up. Not without a half-decent Edinson Volquez.

10. San Diego Padres
I am going out on a limb. Heath Bell in his prime will be better than Trevor Hoffman in his prime. 

9. Pittsburgh Pirates
They've showed their fans something at least. They can't keep this up but maybe they can crawl out the NL Central. (Most of) That pitching is not a mirage.

8. Chicago Cubs
They may be winning but they are not looking good doing it. Milton Bradley is batting .043.

7. Kansas City Royals
It is shocking how much of a difference Coco Crisp has made at the top of the line-up. And who knew David DeJesus could carry the load of a #3 hitter? If Bannister and Davies continue their excellence, the Royals will not spend a day out of 1st place this season.

6. New York Yankees
With A-Rod back in that line-up and in that new wind tunnel of a stadium, the Yanks will probably have the most high-powered offense in baseball.

5. Boston Red Sox
They are essentially doing all of this without Big Papi and Dice-K. They will be 1st in these rankings before you know it.

4. St. Louis Cardinals
They are good, but not this good. Kudos to Ryan Ludwick to coming out of the gate strong. Boos to Rick Ankiel for not performing when Coby Rasmus is breathing down your neck.

3. Toronto Blue Jays
They are the mirror image of themselves from last year: awesome hitting, awful pitching. Something has to give...and I think that awesome hitting is going to start falling off.

2. Florida Marlins
Are they for real? In a word: Yes. In 7 words: You bet your sweet ass they are.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The hottest team in baseball right now. Call me crazy but I still think that rotation holds up.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The House that Damaso Marte Built

On April 18, 1923, Babe Ruth christened Yankees Stadium with a 3-run homer en route to a 4-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. On April 16, 2009, Damaso Marte gave up a Grand Slam to Grady Sizemore en route to a 10-2 loss against Cleveland Indians.

After their victory in 1923, the Yankees went on to win 26 World Championships and become the most successful franchise in the history of North American sports. After their loss in 2009 ... well that remains to be seen. For those of you who believe in such things: the Universe may be sending us a sign regarding the direction of baseball for the next Century. For those of you who do not believe such things: the Indians took enough pitches to knock the Hefty Lefty out of the game just in time to victimize a truly awful bullpen and save a fighting Cliff Lee.

But now that the Yankees have opened up the House that Damaso Built it feels like the baseball season has truly started. Are there any themes we can notice yet? Power production seems to be down but that is nothing new. Perennial favorites (Yanks, Mets, Sox, etc.) are all struggling but again that is nothing new because I picked them and obviously jinxed them for the early season (sorry Tribe!). The only thing that seems to be the constant in the early-goings is loss. And I don't mean "loss" as in "opposite of win", I am referring to all of the baseball figures that have died recently. 

One expects a few players to be placed on the DL in the beginning of the new season. But it seems to me that baseball has lost more than its fair share of important men forever. The Angels lost a current player, the Tigers lost a former player and the Phillies lost a current broadcaster. I know they say death comes in threes, but come on! 

Player of the Week
Look, I don't want to be too Yankees-centric this week, but Nick Swisher has to be the guy. I was so confused as to why Yanks fans were down on the trade for him. The dude has 20-25 HR legit power, gets on-base at will and is  basically Kevin Millar 2.0 personality-wise. But I know how smart Yankees fans are, they probably missed Wilson Betemit and all the great things he brings to a baseball team. Nick Swisher is POW this week (I love that the initials are the same as "Prisoner of War) for proving me right. This guy should be batting 5th or 6th all year...even in that line-up.

Pitching Performances that Rocked
I was sitting around bored the other day, when I flipped open my phone to check scores around the league. It was then that I read of Josh Johnson and Johan Santana's duel. Look, I am not Johan's biggest fan, but even I had to give the old golf-clap to his 16 Ks. And it was a losing effort! I knew once I saw that box score that that was a game I would have loved to see. I get the feeling that the Marlins are going to engage in a Pitching duel more than once this year. Props also go out to Tim Wakefield for a masterful performance when his team needed it.

I guess it is perfectly normal to witness a cycle two days in a row by Second-Basemen (Orlando Hudson, Ian Kinsler). This game confuses me sometimes.
Fantasy Minute with BBB
So far, so great for my experiment. I had the fourth overall pick and ended up selecting Jose Reyes. I know, he wasn't the best SS available according to my Bojalad Factor stat but the players I really wanted would be available later on and Jose Reyes wouldn't. The only player in the first round that I truly coveted was Wright and he was gone after pick three. I ended up with several guys I targeted: Carlos Quentin, Carlos Beltran, Justin Morneau, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Victor Martinez. And the early results have been unbelievable. I squeaked out a little win in the first week and have now been dominating my opponent every single day in Week Two. My confidence in Bojalad Factor is currently 10/10.
Linking it Up

Paul Lukas is dead-on about the influx of sleeve patches in baseball right now.

And this will never stop making me happy.
Odds and Ends
- Chris Carpenter to the DL? Ohhh boy. This should worry you, Cards fans.

- The more I see Brandon Inge play, the more I understand why everybody raves about his Defense at 3B. Seriously, he was Brooks Robinson-esque this week. Making him a Catcher would be like putting hand-cuffs on a painter.

- Evan Longoria will win the MVP. If I had my doubts before, they are no longer there.

- My brother went to the Diamondbacks game in Arizona on Wednesday. He loved Chase Field...he did not love Jon Garland.

- The Nationals really need to start trading people ASAP. Forget the fact that they are 0 and 5 trillion, for a second and remember they have 5 decent outfielders on their team. What business do they have keeping Elijah Dukes off the field and making my Fantasy team suffer?

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Player of the Week

Man, what an Opening Week. There was so much baseball out there floating around, just waiting to be watched that it made my head hurt. I don't get the MLB Network, I don't have the Extra Innings package, and I own no MLB TV service on my computer. I am just a college student with standard cable who wants to watch as much baseball as we can. And from that sample size: this is what I can glean.

We have a very clear cut Opening Week Player of the Week. And she shares his name with the Mighty Ducks' coach. Emiiiiiiilllllliooooo Bonafacio ate Washington pitchers for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is nothing quite as exciting as Opening Day ... except maybe for an inside-the-park homer. So Emilio nearly exploded baseball fan's hearts by providing us all with a double dose of excitement on April 6.

The Aces (Current and Former Tribe Edition)
As for my Indians, it isn't looking so good. Both Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona defined the term "meltdown" in their two initial starts. But what is sadder is the fact that the offense couldn't produce more than 6 runs in Arlington (a.k.a the place where home runs are born). It could be worse though, the Indians could have had CC Sabathia pitch the owner. Ouuuuuch. I am sorry, CC, you're my dude but even you have to know that that isn't going to cut it in the Bronx. Cliff Lee had some good signs in his initial outing. He was striking people out when he needed to and even settled into a groove at certain points. There were just a few times that he missed his spot that the Rangers capitalized. And the Rangers DO look excellent, by the way. But CC really had no signs of life to speak of in his start. He was in danger early on and never seemed to get out it.

Ladies and Gents, Your Defending World Champions
Speaking of run support ... I think it is too easy to blame Brett Myers for the Phillies first game. Sure, he fell apart in the early going, but he DID settle down later in the game and we was pitching in a game that Cole Hamels was supposed to pitch in. If I'm Charlie Manuel, I am more worried by the fact that the Phillies hitters laid an egg on Opening Night, in their hitter-friendly park while facing Derek Lowe. Having said that: Derek Lowe was dealing on Sunday night. If he can resemble an Ace for 4 or 5 months, I will feel pretty good about my 2nd-in-the-East Braves pick. Jair Jurrjens did exactly what he was supposed to and nearly replicated Derek Lowe's start the day before exactly. But then came the Phighten Phils in an 8-run 7th inning outburst that I would have loved to have witness. I didn't, so for now I can only assume that it was an aberration and the Phils need to get their bats along with the program.

Fantasy Minute with BBB
I have never really been much for Fantasy Baseball. I play Fantasy Football every year but have never enjoyed the Baseball version. It is really only for two reasons: A) I am very forgetful and would surely never remember to set my line-ups every day. B) I never shut up about how I know everything there is to know about Major League Baseball, so it will be really embarrassing when I finish dead-last. But this year I am finally going for it. I am in a small 8-team league with some of my family.

So, to curb the embarrassment of a last-place season, I have come up with a poorman's formula to determine the best players available. I don't know anything about Fantasy Baseball rules so I don't know if the rules we are playing with are the norm, but I noticed that statistical category was about 1 point. There were, however, a few exceptions. Home runs, RBIs, wins, Stolen bases are all worth more points, while Strikeouts (for hitters) will cost you a point. So I thought I would simply add up all of the "major" categories and subtract anything that took points away.

I have found that all the pitchers essentially add up to the same result so I won't be using the formula for them anymore. But when it comes to hitters, results can vary anywhere from -65 to +68. I think it is fairly promising so I am going to give it a go with the hitters in my Fantasy draft.

The math is basically a kindergarten level and I did not account for the actual point level. So a 5-point homerun and a -1-point strikeout are weighted the same under my little equation. It is imperfect and probably a little stupid but I think it could work. My draft is tonight (Thursday) so I will keep you updated periodically on my progress to see if my goofy little formula works for Fantasy Baseball. Consider me a guinea pig (emphasis on the "pig") for this concept.

In case you are curious, here are the 5 best hitters under my equation, (let's call it the Bojalad Factor):

1. Dustin Pedroia 2B - +68
1. Carlos Beltran CF - +68
3. Justin Morneau 1B - +67
4. Carlos Quentin LF - +63
4. Mark Teixeira 1B - +63

And here are the best players by postion:

Catcher: Victor Martinez (based on 07 stats) - +63
First-Base: Justin Morneau - +67
Second-Base: Dustin Pedroia - +68
Third-Base: David Wright - +54
Short-Stop: Jimmy Rollins - +62
Outfield: Carlos Quentin - +63
Outfield: Carlos Beltran - +68
Outfield: Josh Hamilton - +45

Potential first overall picks Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez received +56 and +13, respectively, under my little system. The absolute worst player I measured was Mark Reynolds with a back-breaking -68. Any other players you would like to know about are available upon request.

Now, let's start this experiment to see if I can draft a competitive Fantasy team.

Linkin' it Up
Bill Simmons may barely write about anything other than basketball anymore but he still has a keen eye about the goings on in baseball. His profile of A-Rod is dead-on to me.

Spending in baseball is universally down this year and the Yankees are leading the cost-cutting charge!

Oh and here are the top 25 earners in baseball per FoxSports.

Odds and Ends
- Is it just me, or does anyone else find it strange that Terry Francona batted Rocco Balldelli 5th and Jason Bay 6th against the Rays?

- I am completely terrified of Zach Greinke. I hope the Indians only have to see him 3 or 4 times this year.

- What is up with the offensive fire-power in the Padres-Diamondbacks series? Is the NL West going to score runs by the bunch this year?

- Speaking of NL West, Chad Billingsley should be the Dodgers Ace.

- My man-crush of Nick Markakis just grows every day.

- In the Sports Illustrated Baseball Preview, SI predicted the AL Cenral to finish in descending order of each team's manager's experience. (i.e Gardenhire - 10 years, Wedge - 7 years, Guillen - 6 years, etc.) It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

- Dallas Braden looked pretty bad for the A's. I can only hope it was just Opening Day jitters.

- If Chris Carpenter keeps on pitching like that, the Cards will be in the playoffs no problem.

Fallen Angel
Finally, there was the horrifically sad news this week that baseball has lost one of its most promising upcoming stars. Angels Pitcher, Nick Adenhart, was killed late Wednesday night when a car ran a red light and smashed into his car. Two other people were killed and one person was still in critical condition as of Thursday.

We don't know what Adenhart would have done in his career. That is the tough part about potential: it is only a shrewd idea in all our heads. But Nick did his part to make that idea a little less shrewd and a little more realistic. His final start, pitched only a few hours before his death, was an absolute gem. The first words beat writer Lyle Spencer wrote in his game recap were:

"Nick Adenhart couldn't have been much better."

How fitting.

Rest in Piece, Nick Adenhart and all baseball fans' hearts go are surely going out to his friends, family and the Anaheim community.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

2009 MLB Preview Pt. 3

Well, this has been fun. I have done my AL Preview and my NL Preview and now it is time to add up all the loose ends. Who is going to win the World Series? Who will be the MVP? Who will simply be the best team in baseball in 2009? 

The answers to all these questions and more in the thrilling conclusion of to Bojay's Baseball Blog's 2009 MLB Preview!


AL Division Series 1
Boston Red Sox: 3 games - Cleveland Indians: 2 games

AL Division Series 2
Oakland Athletics: 3 games - Tampa Bay Rays: 2 games

AL Championship Series
Boston Red Sox: 4 games - Oakland Athletics: 2 games

NL Division Series 1
Philadelphia Phillies: 2 games - St. Louis Cardinals: 3 games

NL Division Series 2
Los Angeles Dodgers: 3 games - Chicago Cubs: 0 games

NL Championship Series
St. Louis Cardinals: 3 games - Los Angeles Dodgers: 4 games

World Series
Boston Red Sox: 2 games - Los Angeles Dodgers: 4 games


30. Pittsburgh Pirates - 50-55 Wins
29. San Diego Padres 50-55 Wins
28. Washington Nationals - 50-55 Wins
27. Seattle Mariners - 55-60 Wins
26. Houston Astros - 55-60 Wins
25. Chicago White Sox - 60-65 Wins
24. Arizona Diamondbacks - 60-65 Wins
23. Toronto Blue Jays - 60-65 Wins
22. Colorado Rockies - 70-75 Wins
21. Detroit Tigers - 70-75 Wins
20. Cincinatti Reds - 70-75 Wins
19. Baltimore Orioles - 70-75 Wins
18. Florida Marlins - 70-75 Wins
17. Milwaukee Brewers - 75-80 Wins
16. Texas Rangers - 75-80 Wins
15. New York Mets - 80 - 85 Wins
14. Kansas City Royals - 80-85 Wins
13. Atlanta Braves - 80-85 Wins
12. San Francisco Giants - 80-85 Wins
11. St. Louis Cardinals - 85-90 Wins
10. Minnesota Twins - 85-90 Wins
9. Los Angeles Angels - 85-90 Wins
8. Chicago Cubs - 90-95 Wins
7. Cleveland Indians - 90-95 Wins
6. Oakland Athletics - 90-95 Wins
5. New York Yankees - 90-95 Wins
4. Los Angeles Dodgers - 95-100 Wins
3. Philadelphia Phillies - 95-100 Wins
2. Tampa Bay Rays - 100-105 Wins
1. Boston Red Sox -100 - 105 Wins

All Star Line-ups
1. Ichiro Suzuki RF - Seattle
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B - Boston
3. Mark Teixeira 1B - New York 
4. Josh Hamilton CF - Texas
5. Carlos Quentin LF - Chicago
6. Evan Longoria 3B - Tampa Bay
7. Victor Martinez C - Cleveland
8. Derek Jeter SS - New York
1. James Shields - Tampa Bay
2. Jon Lester - Boston
3. Ervin Santana - Los Angeles
4. Cliff Lee - Cleveland
5. CC Sabathia - New York
1. Jonathan Papelbon - Boston
2.Brian Fuentes - Los Angeles
C. Joakim Soria - Kansas City
1. Grady Sizemore CF - Cleveland
2. Kevin Youkilis 1B - Boston
3. Matt Holliday LF - Oakland
4. Jose Lopez 2B - Seattle
1. Jimmy Rollins SS - Philadelphia
2. Chase Utley 2B - Philadelphia
3. Manny Ramirez LF - Los Angeles
4. Albert Pujols 1B - St. Louis
5. Carlos Beltran CF - New York
6. David Wright 3B - New York
7. Ryan Braun RF - Milwaukee
8. Geovany Soto C - Chicago
1. Adam Wainwright - St. Louis
2. Cole Hamels - Philadelphia
3. Chad Billingsley - Los Angeles
4. Johan Santana - New York
5. Tim Lincecum - San Francisco
1. Brad Lidge
2. Carlos Marmol
C. Francisco Rodriguez
1. Hanley Ramirez SS - Florida
2. Russell Martin C - Los Angeles
3. Chipper Jones 3B - Atlanta
4. Andre Ethier RF - Los Angeles

Rookies of the Year
AL: Koji Uehara SP - Baltimore
NL: James McDonald SP - Los Angeles

Managers of the Year
AL: Bob Geren - Oakland
NL: Tony La Russa - St. Louis
Cy Youngs
AL: Jon Lester SP - Boston
NL: Chad Billingsley SP - Los Angeles

AL: Evan Longoria 3B - Tampa Bay
NL: Albert Pujols 1B - St. Louis

So what are my final thoughts on the 2009 MLB Season?

I think the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I am not talking about dollar amounts, I am talking about WINS. Last year, baseball's middle class seemed to be pretty strong. The Indians finished at .500 and were above the median in terms of wins. To me this means there was a lot of parity last year and there were a lot of teams who had a chance at the Postseason. There were only about two teams who seemed to have punched their postseason ticket from the All-Star Break and on (the Rays and Angels) and there seemed to be as many as seven or eight teams who had NO shot from Opening Day on.

This year, things will be different. I think the better teams (see the top 8 of my rankings) suck up a lot more wins from the "Middle class"and I think the dregs remain the dregs. So the scenario looks like this: 10-12 teams playing to make the playoffs and win in the playoffs, 8-10 teams clearly playing for next year and 8-10 teams in no-man's-land just playing because they are legally obligated to participate in 162 games as members of Major League Baseball.

Of course, the cloud hanging over the season is no longer PEDs, but the economy. So what effect does that have on baseball? I think it depends on where baseball is being played. For the 10-12 teams in contention, this should not be a problem (provided that they offered appropriate ticket prices), and about half of the teams in the "bottom 8-10" don't spend enough money to be worried anyway (Pittsburgh, San Diego, Florida). The only teams in trouble as far as I'm concerned are the teams who are paying to be bad (Seattle, Detroit) and the teams who are in No-man's-Land. People will spend their disposable income on a competitive team, or on a bad team with hope for the future. But they won't spend their disposable income on a mediocre team that is "fighting" to get to .500.

That's my two cents. And hopefully, you now have everything you need from me for the upcoming 2009 Baseball season. If it isn't enough, here are three of my favorite baseball articles from the past couple of weeks.

While I basically live my life to read and write Previews for upcoming baseball seasons, even I get sick of the anticipation at some point.

Enough talking about it. Let's get playing!

*Update* That was an excellent opening game (more on this Saturday)! I forgot to link to Rosenthal's preview so here t'is.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

2009 MLB Preview pt. 2



1. Boston Red Sox

1. Jacoby Ellsbury CF
2. Dustin Pedroia 2B
3. David Ortiz DH
4. Kevin Youkilis 1B
5. Jason Bay LF
6. J.D Drew RF
7. Mike Lowell 3B
8. Jason Varitek C
9. Jed Lowrie SS

1. Josh Beckett
2. Jon Lester
3. Daisuke Matsuzaka
4. Brad Penny
5. Tim Wakefield

1. Justin Masterson
2. Hideki Okajima
C. Jonathan Papelbon

Key Player: Jacoby Ellsbury
BBB Off-season Ranking: 1st of 14 in AL
Analysis: Ladies and gentleman, I present to you Major League Baseball's best team in 2009. People seem to be slightly down on the Sox this year (including Boston Sports Guy Bill Simmons) and I am not quite sure why. When I look at this team, I see the closest thing the 2009 season has to perfection. Would you like to hear their POTENTIAL weaknesses? Here goes: Jacoby Ellsbury, End of the rotation guys like Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield. Would you like to hear their almost undeniable strengths? Here goes: everything else. This team is stacked and not just in terms of the talent on the field. Don't get me wrong the on-field talent is excellent as well, but it almost doesn't mean anything if you don't have an organization that is dedicated to winning from the top to the bottom. The Red Sox have that and more. The talent is there, the attitude is there and the intelligence is there. We are talking about a potential 100-win season here as far as I'm concerned.

2. Tampa Bay Rays

1. Akinori Iwamura 2B
2. B.J Upton CF
3. Carlos Pena 1B
4. Evan Longoria 3B
5. Carl Crawford LF
6. Pat Burrell DH
7. Matt Joyce RF
8. Dioner Navarro C
9. Jason Bartlett SS

1. James Shields
2. Scott Kazmir
3. Matt Garza
4. David Price
5. Andy Sonanstine

1. Grant Balfour
2. J.P Howell
C. Dan Wheeler

Key Player: Evan Longoria
BBB Off-season Ranking: 5th of 14 in AL
Analysis: The Rays are almost a different case entirely from the Red Sox. They have just as much talent as the Sawx do, if not more (that was not a typo; the Tampa Bay Rays may actually be more talented than the Boston Red Sox) but the intangibles seem a bit off. The baseball season is a long, tortuous grind and the Rays really squeezed every bit of juice out of last season as they could. They were a young team, unaccustomed to success battling for their very lives every day deep into October. Common baseball sense dictates that they are due for a letdown this year if only because they are emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. I saw it happen first hand to the 2006 and 2008 Indians. Young teams just have a hard time bouncing back from big seasons like that. So what makes the 2009 Rays different? God, just LOOK at that team! Longoria and Pena could hit 40 homers each. Their line-up is so young, so fast, so athletic and so freaking balanced. And pound for pound, I think they have the best rotation in baseball. The bullpen is a bit of a question mark but bullpens always are. I think the Rays make the playoffs by the very skin of their teeth.

3. New York Yankees

1. Johnny Damon LF
2. Derek Jeter SS
3. Mark Teixeira 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez 3B
5. Hideki Matsui DH
6. Jorge Posada C
7. Xavier Nady RF
8. Robinson Cano 2B
9. Brett Gardner CF

1. CC Sabathia
2. Chien Ming Wang
3. A.J Burnett
4. Andy Pettite
5. Joba Chamberlain

1. Edwar Ramirez
2. Damaso Marte
C. Mariano Rivera

Key Player: A.J Burnett
BBB Off-season Rankings: 3rd of 14 in AL
Analysis: So what does $430 million buy the Yankees? Third place in the division. To be fair, the Yankees are playing in what be the most competitive division of the decade but even with all their talent, they cannot win it. The Yankees may have fixed many of their problems and they may have just as much talent as any team in baseball but they also have more baggage, distractions and pressure than any team in baseball. Assembling baseball teams is a little more complex than paying a player to play a position you don't have filled yet. And when you overpay for that position you take away motivation. Just sweep your eyes over the Yanks line-up real quick. Think very hard about what players on that line-up you would want on your favorite team. Johnny Damon? Too old. Derek Jeter? Not a Shortstop anymore. A-Rod? Injured, insane and overpaid. Jorge Posada? Injured and old. Hideki Matsui? Injured, old and can't play anything other than DH. Brett Gardner? Not a starter. That leaves Robinson Cano, if he can get over himself; Xavier Nady, if you can suffer his poor fielding; and Mark Teixeira if you can afford him and don't mind having an emotionless cyborg in your clubhouse. Sure, their rotation is a lot better this year but it still isn't nearly as good as either the Rays or the Sox and those teams didn't have to pay an arm and a leg for their pitchers. I am also mystified that in their trillion-dollar spending spree, they forgot to pick up another bullpen arm who can achieve an ERA under 5.00. Call me a hater if you want, New York, but I am hard-pressed to believe that the Yankees will be any better than they were last year.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

1.Aaron Hill 2B
2. Adam Lind LF
3. Alexis Rios RF
4. Vernon Wells CF
5. Lyle Overbay 1B
6. Scott Rolen 3B
7. Travis Snider DH
8. Rod Barajas C
9. John McDonald SS

1. Roy Halladay
2. David Purcey
3. Jesse Litsch
4. Casey Janssen
5. Dustin McGowan

1. Jason Frasor
2. Brian Tallet
C. B.J Ryan

Key Player: Alexis Rios
BBB Off-season Ranking: 11th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Oh boy, does it look ugly in Toronto....and I don't just mean those hideous chrome jerseys. The payroll is getting pretty bloated and what do they have to show for it? Not much. I am at as much of a loss over Alex Rios and Vernon Wells poor performance as the Blue Jays. They do not have a good offense to begin with and Rios and Wells falling off the map only compounds matters. They don't even have their solid rotation to make up for the lack of hitting this year. And for the record: I think their pitching was overrated last year. So what should they do with a bad team,mediocre farm system in an un-winnable division. I am sorry to say it, but I think it time to start this thing over. Ricciardi, you tried hard but it didn't work out. You need to turn this ship around. The core of your team has been misjudged and you do not have a strong foundation to stand on. It is time to blow the thing up.

5. Baltimore Orioles

1. Brian Roberts 2B
2. Melvin Mora 3B
3. Nick Markakis RF
4. Aubrey Huff 1B
5. Adam Jones CF
6. Luke Scott DH
7. Ryan Freel LF
8. Matt Wieters C
9. Cesar Izturis SS

1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Mark Hendrickson
3. Koji Uehara
4. Radahmes Liz
5. Rich Hill

1. Jim Johnson
2. George Sherrill
C. Chris Ray

Key Player: Koji Uehara
BBB Off-season Ranking: 6th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Speaking of blowing the thing up.... Last year the Orioles finally made the correct decision to rebuild with the hope of contending in a hopefully easier division a few years down the line. I am happy to report that the decision seems to be paying off. I think some of the position players they have in the Bigs are the real deal. Brian Roberts is legit, Adam Jones shows real potential and Matt Wieters is on his way. Then there is Nick Markakis who is the most underrated young player in baseball, but won't be for long. If they had any semblance of a pitching staff, I might even like them to finish 4th or even 3rd this year, but they aren't quite there yet. If they continue to collect a garrison of young pitchers through the draft and develop them well enough, the Orioles could be contenders in as early as two years from now. I am a big Andy MacPhail fan right now. The Blue Jays should pay attention to what he is doing because they will have to rebuild too in a year or two.


1. Cleveland Indians

1. Grady Sizemore CF
2. Mark DeRosa 3B
3. Travis Hafner DH
4. Victor Martinez C
5. Jhonny Peralta SS
6. Shin Soo Choo RF
7. Ryan Garko 1B
8. Ben Francisco LF
9. Asdrubal Cabrera 2B

1. Cliff Lee
2. Fausto Carmona
3. Carl Pavano
4. Scott Lewis
5. Anthony Reyes

1. Jensen Lewis
2. Rafael Perez
C. Kerry Wood

Key Player: Travis Hafner
BBB Off-season Ranking: 2nd of 14 in AL
Analysis: Call me a homer, I don't care. The Indians are the deepest team in a very winnable Central. The line-up is a nice blend of vets and young, core-type guys. Barring a Travis Hafner renaissance, I don't think anyone will hit more than 25 homers in this line-up. But they are built in such a way that grinders like Sizemore (one of baseball's best young players) and DeRosa can produce runs at the top of the line-up. The bullpen has also gone from being a weakness to being as close to a sure thing as a volatile beast like a bullpen can be. The rotation is the biggest question but I truly believe that Cliff Lee will be CLIFF LEE again this year, inspiring and pushing his fellow hurlers to be better. I can't say that Pavano and Aaron Laffey/Lewis as a #4 and #5 doesn't make me nervous though. All in all the Tribe has the talent to contend and the organizational depth to ensure that they continue to contend.

2. Minnesota Twins

1. Denard Span LF
2. Alexi Casilla 2B
3. Joe Mauer C
4. Justin Morneau 1B
5. Michael Cuddyer RF
6. Joe Crede 3B
7. Jason Kubel DH
8. Carlos Gomez CF
9. Nick Punto SS

1. Scott Baker
2. Francisco Liriano
3. Nick Blackburn
4. Glen Perkins
5. Kevin Slowey

1. Pat Neshek
2. Craig Breslow
C. Joe Nathan

Key Player: Denard Span
BBB Off-season Ranking: 10th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This is a nice, balanced team. But it isn't without its questions. Is Michael Cuddyer still Michael Cuddyer? If not, can Delmon Young and Jason Kubel be legitimate power threats? Is the rotation really as good as it was last year? Will Denard Span's production fall off? The thing of it is, however, even if half of these questions are unfavorable, the Twins will still be in good shape. That's the nice thing about establishing a baseball organization the right way. Win or lose, the team will be hungry and they will play to the best of their abilities. I think the Twinkies fall off a bit from last year. Let's face it: they over-performed and are bound to come back down to Earth. But if Ron Gardenhire keeps the kids focused and playing hard (and he always does) they can grind out a 2nd place finish and maybe even a playoff appearance.

3. Kansas City Royals

1. Coco Crisp CF
2. MikeAviles SS
3. David DeJesus LF
4. Jose Guillen RF
5. Mike Jacobs 1B
6. Billy Butler DH
7. Alex Gordon 3B
8. Miguel Olivo C
9. Alberto Callaspo 2B

1. Gil Meche
2. Zack Greinke
3. Brian Bannister
4. Kyle Davies
5. Luke Hochevar

1. Kyle Farnsworth
2. Juan Cruz
C. Joakim Soria

Key Player: Luke Hochevar
Off-season Ranking: 8th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Here is your trendy Tampa-esque sleeper pick for the 2009 season. I am in agreement with the majority that K.C will take a giant leap forward this year, but I don't think it is a 2nd or 1st in the AL Central type step forward. But it IS a legitimate step forward and not a random aberration like the 2003 Royals (seriously, how random was that?). This line-up is young, fast and balanced. And that is the first step I look at when looking for a potential break-out team (see: Rays, Tampa Bay; Orioles, Baltimore). Finally, Alex Gordon doesn't have to worry about being "the guy" and can just be "Alex Gordon, Thirdbaseman, batting 6th or 7th in line-up." But my enthusiasm kind of tempers off a bit when I look at their rotation. Gil Meche has done the near-impossible and has earned the $55 million he is being paid and can even be called a legitimate Ace. Zack Greinke is dynamite as well. But after that.....meh. I used to be a big Brian Bannister guy, but after last year: who knows? Kyle Davies was probably a mirage and Luke Hochevar has been fairly worthless so far as a big-leaguer. The bullpen looks decent enough but lacks the young, nondescript guys that the prototypical surprise playoff team has. Of course, Joakim Soria is pitching the 9th, so there is always hope. KC will be much better but I don't see them making the playoffs. Although I did have a funny feeling about Tampa Bay last year and ended up picking them third as well, so theirs always a chance...

4. Detroit Tigers

1. Curtis Granderson CF
2. Placido Polanco 2B
3. Miguel Cabrera 1B
4. Magglio Ordonez RF
5. Carlos Guillen LF
6. Gary Sheffield DH
7. Brandon Inge 3B
8. Ramon Santiago SS
9. Gerald Laird C

1. Justin Verlander
2. Armando Galaraga
3. Jeremy Bonderman
4. Edwin Jackson
5. Dontrelle Willis

1. Joel Zumaya
2. Fernando Rodney
C. Brandon Lyon

Key Player: Justin Verlander
BBB Off-season Ranking: 4th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This could be a big uh-oh season for the Tigers. Either they had poor chemistry last season which lead to a flukey failure. Or they severely misjudged the quality of their core and have to start from scratch. I am guessing that the "uh-oh" will come to fruition. This team is starting to look pretty old, pretty overpaid and pretty bad. Everyone in the line-up is out of position and everyone is on the downside of his career aside from Curtis Granderson and Miguel Cabrera. The bullpen still sucks, possibly worse so than last season. The only hope that the Tigers have going into their 2009 is their rotation. I see Verlander bouncing back, Galaraga maintaining excellence and Edwin Jackson establishing himself as a #3 or #4 starter. But Bonderman, Willis and Robertson are all pretty much toast. So the real question becomes: can the ancient, bloated line-up happen into enough runs to help out Verlander/Galaraga/Jackson? I am going to guess: no.

5. Chicago White Sox

1. Jerry Owens CF
2. Alexei Ramirez SS
3. Carlos Quentin LF
4. Jim Thome DH
5. Jermaine Dye RF
6. Paul Konerko 1B
7. A.J Pierzynski C
8. Josh Fields 3B
9. Chris Getz 2B

1. Mark Buerhle
2. Gavin Floyd
3. John Danks
4. Clayton Richard
5. Bartolo Colon

1. Octavio Dotel
2. Scott Linebrink
C. Bobby Jenks

Key Player: Clayton Richard
BBB Off-season Ranking: 13th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This is my ballsiest pick of the off-season. The White Sox will go from 1st to worst in the AL Central. There is some talent to be had on this team. Carlos Quentin terrifies haunts-me-in-my-nightmares-terrifies me. I don't want my Tribe pitchers having to pitch to a 40-homer threat for the next decade or so. But every one else in that line-up is pretty tame. Kenny and Ozzie wanted to get more athletic. I think they just confused athletic for "worse." They have no one to play CF and no one to lead off. I don't like any of their 2B options and who knows how Ramirez will handle shortstop (although I like him at #2 in their line-up). Thome, Dye and Konerko are all done, they just don't know it yet. And no one from #5-9 in the line-up is close to anything what I would describe as athletic. The bullpen is due to regress (any bullpen relying on Octavio Dotel and Bobby Jenks as sure-things is bound to). The rotation looks half-way decent, however. Gavin Floyd and John Danks are legitimate Major League pitchers and Danks even has Ace-potential. I don't think Mark Buerhle will survive the inevitable purge though. The Sox will take their lumps in 2009 to rise again like a phoenix in 2010.


1. Oakland Athletics

1. Orlando Cabrera SS
2. Travis Buck RF
3. Jason Giambi 1B
4. Matt Holliday LF
5. Jack Cust DH
6. Eric Chavez 3B
7. Kurt Suzuki C
8. Ryan Sweeney CF
9. Mark Ellis 2B

1. Justin Duchserer
2. Dana Eveland
3. Sean Galagher
4. Gio Gonzalez
5. Dallas Braden

1. Joey Devine
2. Santiago Casilla
C. Brad Ziegler

Key Player: Eric Chavez
BBB Off-season Ranking: 7th of 14 in AL
Analysis: Maybe my eyes have been clouded by the fact that I read Moneyball this Winter, but I really like the A's to win the West. I like the line-up and bullpen better than the Angels Teixeira and K-Rod-less line-up and bullpen. Jason Giambi fits so well in Oakland that I am hard-pressed to understand why he ever left....oh GREED, that's right. Jack Cust is thanking his lucky stars that he can continue to DH and will reward the A's with a 30-homer season. How many teams can boast two left-handed hitting 30-homer sluggers with the one of the game's premier RBI men (Matt Holliday) in-between them? Suzuki, Cabrera and Ellis are all proven commodities and can help them win. If they get any sort of production out of Chavez, Buck, Barton and Sweeney, they should be the highest-scoring team in the West. The only area that worries me is the rotation. Duchserer and Eveland are both Ace-material but after them its a whole lot of question marks. Gio Gonzalez looked pretty awful last year and Sean Galagher has never looked particularly good. But if I have one abiding principle on this Earth, it is this: I believe in young pitching. And the A's have plenty of it in the pipeline. It's good enough for me to declare the Athletics the AL West winners.

2. Los Angeles Angels

1. Chone Figgins 3B
2. Bobby Abreu RF
3. Vladimir Guerero DH
4. Torii Hunter CF
5. Juan Rivera LF
6. Kendry Morales 1B
7. Howie Kendrick 2B
8. Mike Napoli C
9. Erick Aybar SS

1. John Lackey
2. Joe Saunders
3. Ervin Santana
4. Jered Weaver
5. Dustin Mosely

1. Scot Shields
2. Darren Oliver
C. Brian Fuentes

Key Player: Kendry Morales
BBB Off-season Ranking: 12th of 14 in AL
Analysis: In just one year's time, the Angels line-up went from everything I loved (young, athletic, balanced) to everything I hate (old, power-oriented, focused on righties). It is a shame because the Angels have been one of the most underrated team of the decade. But if they continue down the Juan Rivera, Gary Matthews Jr., Mike Napoli, Kendry Morales path they will be one of the worst of the next decade. To be fair, they can't control the fact that Vladimir Guerro is aging faster than mayonnaise left out of the fridge but they can cultivate young guys to step in and take people's place. And it looks to me that they have severely overestimated their young talent. If they were so high on Kendry Morales, why did they put off giving him a starting job until they were forced to? Why do they continue to sign more outfielders than any team really needs? It's because they don't have any better options. For better or worse, they are stuck with the line-up they have. It hasn't hurt in past seasons, because they have been good but the decline will be seen this year. The rotation will mask some of the bleeding, however. Lackey, Saunders, Santana, Weaver, Escobar is just a dynamite 1-5. Even if Escobar can't bounce back and Jered Weaver starts to resemble his older brother, their starting rotation can be good enough to earn them a playoff berth. That's not to say it will though...

3. Texas Rangers

1. Ian Kinsler 2B
2. David Murphy LF
3. Josh Hamilton CF
4. Michael Young 3B
5. Chris Davis 1B
6. Nelson Cruz RF
7. Hank Blalock DH
8. Taylor Teagarden C
9. Elvis Andrus SS

1. Kevin Millwood
2. Matt Harrison
3. Vincente Padilla
4. Brandon McCarthy
5. Dustin Nippert

1. Joaquin Benoit
2. C.J Wilson
C. Frank Francisco

Key Player: Brandon McCarthy
BBB Off-season Ranking: 9th of 14 in AL
Bottom Line: Here is another trendy pick for the 2009 season. While I understand why some people are excited, I don't think people in the Dallas-Arlington area should be purchasing playoff tickets just yet. True, this is the best line-up the Rangers have had in years. I see no reason why Josh Hamilton shouldn't continue to be MVP worthy. Ian Kinsler is one of the game's best middle infielders and is legitimate leadoff hitter. Michael Young looks good at 3B and looks good as a clean-up hitter. Even the outfield has some promise with guys like Murphy and Cruz. And we've all heard about the Rangers' young Catching ad nauseam. But much like the Orioles, and the Royals to a lesser extent, the Rangers are a team with a good line-up and a bad rotation. Kevin Millwood has been a decent Ace so far but how much longer can he keep it up? Vincente Padilla is okay as a 4th or 5th starter but is frequently expected to a 2nd or 3rd. Matt Harrison looked good last year but Brandon McCarthy did not. And when it comes to young pitchers in that bizarre ballpark, who really knows what to expect? It really wouldn't surprise me if McCarthy and Harrison completely switched roles this year. The bullpen is pretty good and the line-up is excellent but it just isn't there for the taking for the Rangers in 2009.

4. Seattle Mariners

1. Ichiro Suzuki RF
2. Yuniesky Betancourt SS
3. Adrian Beltre 3B
4. Ken Griffey Jr. DH
5. Jose Lopez 2B
6. Russell Branyan 1B
7. Kenji Johjima C
8. Endy Chavez LF
9. Franklin Gutierrez CF

1. Felix Hernandez
2. Erik Bedard
3. Brandon Morrow
4. Ryan Rowland-Smith
5. Carlos Silva

1. Roy Corcoran
2. Mark Lowe
C. Miguel Batista

Key Player: Erik Bedard
BBB Off-season Ranking: 14th of 14 in AL
Analysis: This team is so hopeless that I don't even really want to write about them. I know it is hard to announce a rebuilding phase when your fans overpaid to watch a 100-loss team in a bad economy last year, but the smart baseball move to be rebuild. To a certain extent, the M's are rebuilding but they are just being too damn gentle with it. They shouldn't be getting cute converting relievers like Brandon Morrow and Ryan Rowland-Smith into starters, they SHOULD BE TRADING THEM. TRADE, TRADE, TRADE. SELL, SELL, SELL. It is cute that Ken Griffey Jr. is on this team and I don't mind the Mariners bringing him on a farewell tour but guys like Russell Branyan, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Silva (I know no one would take him though), Miguel Batista, Erik Bedard, Kenji Johjima and Endy Chavez should not be on this team. The line-up will be terrible, the rotation will be terrible, the bullpen will be terrible, the defense will actually be excellent (Betancourt, Lopez, Beltre', Gutierrez, Chavez, Suzuki are all among the best at their position) but the team as a whole will be terrible as a whole. Jack Zduriencik cannot control the fact that this team will lose. 85 games, 95 games, 105 games, 115 games, it doesn't matter, this team will inevitably lose. But what he can control is the payroll. If this is an losing team with no hope, they should not be paying a dime over $60 million to lose. They are currently paying in the neighborhood of $100 million to lose.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

2009 MLB Preview Pt. 1


1. Philadelphia Phillies

1. Jimmy Rollins SS
2. Shane Victorino CF 
3. Chase Utley 2B      
4. Ryan Howard 1B
5. Jayson Werth RF
6. Raul Ibanez LF
7. Pedro Feliz 3B
8. Carlos Ruiz 

1. Cole Hamels     
2. Brett Myers
3. Jamie Moyer
4. Joe Blanton
5. Chan Ho Park

1. Ryan Madson
2. Scott Eyre
C. Brad Lidge

Key Player: Joe Blanton
BBB Off-season Ranking: 7th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: I try not to be boring with my picks but this time I just had to go with the defending World Champs. I think the Phillies have a chance to be the MLB's New York Giants this year. That is to say, they are the defending World Champs but probably weren't the best team in the sport (I think Boston and Tampa were better last year) but they will be one of the best legitimate teams in baseball this year. For all we've heard about the AL East this year, I think the NL East could be just be good. The difference for the Phils that puts them at the cream of the crop is their bullpen. Yes, a bullpen is going to decide who the best team in the NL East is...don't tell me you're surprised. I also love that rotation. Cole Hamels might win the Cy Young this year and everyone else slides in nicely behind him. I would like the line-up a lot better if there was a power-hitting righty in there but I think it can score enough runs for a Division crown.

2. Atlanta Braves

1. Kelly Johnson 2B
2. Yunel Escobar SS
3. Brian McCann C
4. Chipper Jones 3B
5. Garet Anderson LF
6. Jeff Franceour RF
7. Casey Kotchman 1B
8. Jordan Schafer CF

1.Derek Lowe
2.Javier Vazquez
3. Jair Jurrjens
4. Kenshin Kawakami
5. Tom Glavine

1. Manny Acosta
2. Buddy Carlyle
C. Mike Gonzalez

Key Player: Jeff Franceour
BBB Off-season Rank: 14th of 16 in the NL
Analysis:I've yelled at the Braves quite a bit for over-spending this off-season. But the fact of the matter remains that their pitching is a lot better than it was last season. I like Derek Lowe as a legitimate Ace, Jair Jurrjens is an absolute monster, Tom Glavine and Javier Vazquez both project well for their respective spots in the rotation. Kawakami worries me though. Call me crazy but I think I like the line-up better without Mark Teixeira. It may be weird that their 1B bats near the end of the line-up but I don't think that makes it any less effective. Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar at the top of the order is just awesome...especially when Brian McCann and Chipper Jones have proven time and time again that they can drive them in. 

3. New York Mets

1. Jose Reyes SS
2. Luis Castillo 2B
3. Carlos Beltran CF
4. David Wright 3B
5. Carlos Delgado 1B
6. Ryan Church RF
7. Daniel Murhpy LF
8. Brian Schneider C

1. Johan Santana
2. John Maine
3. Oliver Perez
4. Mike Pelfry
5. Freddy Garcia

1. J.J Putz
2. Pedro Feliciano
C. Francisco Rodriguez

Key Player: Francisco Rodriguez
BBB Off-season Ranking: 1st of 16 in the NL
Analysis: I am sorry, New York. I really don't enjoy predicting another season of pain for you but I think it is going to happen. The bullpen just isn't better and you all know it's the truth. Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz are the real deal...but two pitchers a bullpen does not make. I think the rotation is a little thin after Johan Santana. I just think that John Maine, Oliver Perez and Mike Pelfry are all #4 pitchers and not #2, #3 and #4. The Mets do have a high-powered offense, however, including one of baseball's best players in David Wright. It is tempting to choose the Mets to finish high in the division but I just don't think things will go the Mets way this year. They are really relying on their line-up this year and if someone underperforms or gets hurt they are screwed.

4. Florida Marlins

1. Cameron Maybin CF
2. John Baker C
3. Hanley Ramirez SS
4. Dan Uggla 2B
5. Jorge Cantu 1B
6. Cody Ross RF
7. Jeremy Hermida LF
8. Emilio Bonafacio 3B

1. Ricky Nolasco
2. Josh Johnson
3. Chris Volstad
4. Anibal Sanchez
5. Andrew Miller

1. Logan Kensing
2. Leo Nunez
C. Matt Lindstrom

Key Player: Andrew Miller
BBB Off-season Ranking: 5th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: I was tempted to choose the Marlins to pick second....then I realized that was insane. The Marlins have a deceptively good team on paper and I think a lot of that will translate to real-life. But they just aren't good enough to finish any higher than 4th in this brutal division. The thing is that they have such an excellent rotation. It might be the best in the East. Ricky Nolasco is absurdly good. Josh Johnson could be a #2 in this league and the Marlins are in love with Chris Volstad. If Anibal Sanchez and Andrew Miller can simply be a #4 and a #5, this rotation will be awesome. The bullpen might be the most cost effective in the Majors. The Mets much, much more for Francisco Rodriguez than the Marlins did for their whole bullpen and I really think I'd rather have the Marlins bullpen over the Mets. The only problem is that I don't see where the runs are coming from. Hanley Ramirez is probably the best young player in baseball right now and the Fish can build around him for years (the next seven, to be exact). But after him, there isn't much else. Cody Ross, Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu are all essentially the same player. One high-strikeout/high-homerun guy is nice....three is annoying for exasperated hitting coaches. I am interested to see how Cameron Maybin and Emilio Bonafacio turn out. If they can be the #1 and the #2 to Hanley's #3, then I wouldn't count the Marlins out in 2009.  

5. Washington Nationals

1. Christian Guzman SS
2. Lastings Milledge CF
3. Adam Dunn 1B
4. Ryan Zimmerman 3B
5. Josh Willingham LF
6. Elijah Dukes RF
7. Jesus Flores C
8. Anderson Hernandez 2B

1. Scott Olsen
2. Daniel Cabrera
3. John Lannan
4. Shawn Hill
5. Colin Balester

1. Garrett Mock
2. Joe Beimel
C. Joel Hanrahan

Key Player: Lastings Milledge
BBB Off-season Ranking: 6th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: Oh Nationals, what are you doing. Actually, I think we know a little bit too much about Jim Bowden has been up to. Har-har-har, I got my Bowden joke out of the way, Nationals fans (all six of you). But seriously...this team sucks. There is some promise in the line-up. Ryan Zimmerman is a legitmimate franchise player. He may not be the most talented, but he plays hard, he's fun to watch and he probably won't break the bank to stay in D.C. After him and Adam Dunn, there isn't much to be excited about. I'll give you that the bullpen could be surprisingly good. But bullpens are naturally fickle anyway. The rotation looks pretty bad. The Daniel Cabrera signing could work. Then again, it might not. John Lannan is the de facto "ace" but when you even has to use the word "de facto", you are in trouble from the get-go. Scott Olsen seems to have his personal problems and turned in a good season last year, but how long can he maintain his cheery disposition with the line-up costing him gangs. I don't know why anybody would go out of his way to get both Lastings Milledge AND Elijah Dukes. To me, they are essentially the same player. So why not take a chance on only one of them and not waste your time with two models of the same player? And for what it's worth: I don't think either of them will pan out.


1. Chicago Cubs

1. Alfonso Soriano LF
2. Mike Fontenot 2B
3. Derek Lee 1B
4. Aramis Ramirez 3B
5. Milton Bradley RF
6. Geovany Soto C
7. Ryan Theriot SS
8. Reed Johnson CF

1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Rich Harden
3. Ryan Dempster
4. Ted Lily
5. SeanMarshall

1. Jeff Samardzija
2. Kevin Gregg
C. Carlos Marmol

Key Player: Milton Bradley
  BBB Off-season Ranking: 13th of 16 in the NL  
Analysis: I would love to rank the Cubs lower this year, I really would. It is my honest belief that they are far worse this year than they were last year. They made a lot of changes to their bullpen...not one of which was necessary and not one of which made them better. The rotation is good enough to bring them the NL Central crown for the third year in a row, but again: it is slightly worse than last year. They could benefit from a full season of Rich Harden, but when has Rich Harden ever pitched a full season? And who's to say that Ryan Dempster can replicate his success from last season. Zambrano is great, Lily is okay and whoever is the 5th starter will inevitably be bad. Does that sound like a World Series rotation to you? It isn't. I don't know why I am coming down so hard on the Cubs, they are going to be fine and they are going to win the division. I just don't think they are set up right now for extended success. Alfonso Soriano is just going to get worse while he gets more expensive. Milton Bradley may never play more than 100 games in a season for the rest of his career and Derek Lee is finally on the downside. The Cubs are good but they had better hope they win it all this year because after this season....the walls finally cave in. 

2. St. Louis Cardinals

1. Skip Schumaker 2B
2. Khalil Greene SS
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Ryan Ludwick LF
5. Rick Ankiel CF
6. Troy Glaus 3B
7. Chris Duncan RF
8. Yadier Molina C

1. Adam Wainwright
2. Kyle Lohse
3. Todd Wellemyer 
4. Kyle McClellan 
5. Chris Carpenter

1. Ryan Franklin
2. Josh Kinney
C. Chris Perez

Key Player: Ryan Ludiwck
BBB Off-season Ranking: 12th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: The Cards are a weird team. The only legitimate star of the rotation is Adam Wainwright, yet they have an excellent starting staff every year. They have the finest offensive force in the game, to go along with an excellent outfield, yet they seem to have a problem scoring runs. The only thing that seems to be certain about them is that year after year, they find a way to win. They will find a way to win this year yet again, and they might actually do it with some good old fashioned talent this time. I like moving Skip Schumaker to second-base. The Cards' talent seems to lie exclusively in the Outfield and they need to find a way to get that talent ABs. This could be the answer. Now instead of being weak in the middle-infield, they can just start transferring their talent to where they need it. Their line-up is surprisingly solid. And having Albert Pujols is no different than having a game-changer like Kobe or LeBron in basketball. He just wills his team to win. He and Tony La Rusa have too much of a presence to let this team go wayward. If Chris Perez and his bullpen crew can do their job, the Cardinals can be a playoff contender.

3. Milwaukee Brewers

1. Rickie Weeks 2B
2. Mike Cameron CF
3. Ryan Braun LF
4. Prince Fielder 1B
5. JJ Hardy SS
6. Corey Hart RF
7.Bill Hall 3B
8. Jason Kendall C

1. Yovani Gallardo
2. Manny Parra
3. Jeff Suppan
4. Dave Bush
5. Seth McClung

1. David Riske
2. Carlos Villanueva
C. Trevor Hoffman

Key Player: Yovani Gallardo
BBB Off-season Ranking: 16th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: The Brewers are another team that I wish I could slot down further than #3 in the division(a la the Cubs). But the competition has taken a big enough of a step backwards in the NL Central that the Brewers are barely going to notice the drop in their own quality. I predict a significant decrease in the Brewers number of wins this season but don't see them falling more than one slot down in the Division than they were last year. That isn't to say that they don't have their strengths. I still like their rotation, even without Sabathia and Sheets. To me, asking Yovani Gallardo to be your Ace is no more absurd than asking Chad Billingsly, Jeremy Guthrie or Justin Duscherer to be your Ace (And I think two of those teams are going to the playoffs). And if Manny Parra performs well enough to climb up to #2 or #3 in the rotation, the Brewers might have themselves a (very) poor man's version of Sabathia/Sheets. Suppan and Bush are legitimate starters as well. The fact that the Brewers signed a man in his 40s to a $6 million deal tells you all you need to know about the bullpen. It's bad...very bad. And you already know that their defense is atrocious, but what you may not realize is that their offense is severely overrated. They are too right-handed, too batting average oriented and too slow. I think I would take Ryan Braun over any Major League outfielder not named Grady Sizemore, but every one else I could take or leave. 

4. Cincinatti Reds

1. Willy Taveras CF
2. Jay Bruce RF
3. Brandon Phillips 2B
4. Joey Votto 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion 3B
6. Ramon Hernandez C
7. Chris Dickerson LF
8. Alex Gonzalez SS

1. Aaron Harang
2. Edinson Volquez
3. Johnny Cueto
4. Bronson Arroyo
5. Micah Owings

1. David Weathers
2. Bill Bray
C. Francisco Cordero

Key Player: Aaron Harang
BBB Off-season Ranking: 10th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: The Reds have youth and the Reds have a serviceable bullpen. Those are two good qualities to have, but it won't bring them a division title this year. The youth is still raw and I don't care if they have 100 Dusty Bakers as Managers, it still won't be enough to make this kids Major Leaguers over night. There seems to be a lot of upside in the rotation and the line-up and I must say: not many teams can boast this kind of balance as far as prospects are concerned. Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Micah Owings could very well take a step back this year. But I really don't think it matters much. This team seems to have the long-view in mind and those three pitchers to go along with Harang, Arroyo and Homer Bailey can form good foundation for many years out. Then in the line-up, they have guys like Votto, Phillips and Bruce. Again, all three of these guys could take a step back or two this year but I really feel like they have the talent to be middle of the order hitters. The talent is there and the talent has to learn. If Walt Jockety is patient and if the Reds hitting and pitching coaches know what they are doing, I may be able to predict the Reds to finish 2nd or 3rd in 2010. But for now, that notion seems fairly ridiculous. 

5. Houston Astros

1. Kazuo Matsui 2B
2. Hunter Pence RF
3. Lance Berkman 1B
4. Carlos Lee LF
5. Miguel Tejada SS
6. Geoff Blum 3B
7. Ivan Rodriguez C
8. Michael Bourn CF

1. Roy Oswalt
2. Wandy Rodriguez
3. Brandon Backe
4. Mike Hampton
5. Brian Moehler

1. LaTroy Hawkins
2. Chris Sampson
C. Jose Valverde

Key Player: United States Congress (Miguel Tejada)
BBB Off-season Ranking: 9th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: Truth be told, I am surprised that the Astros finished as well as they did last year. I though they had the talent to finish 4th or 5th and they finished 3rd. So instead of admitting I was wrong, I am going to selfishly predict them to finish 5th again this year, with the hope that 2008 was an aberration. I mean, seriously, any 'semblance cannot last very long in Houston. This team just isn't built on a solid foundation. And it's a real shame too because they are such legitimate offensive forces on this team. Lance Berkman has been all kinds of wonderful for the duration of his career and people are finally starting to realize it. Carlos Lee is a fairly one-dimensional player, but there is really no shame in that. I don't think there is a single Manager who would have a problem with his powerful presence in their line-up. Is he overpaid? Sure, but so is everyone else on the Astros. But after that, there is really no one to be excited about in the line-up. The Rotation is set up similarly. Roy Oswalt is one of baseball's most consistently excellent pitchers. But after him, they might as well not even show up to the ballpark. "Spahn, Sain and pray for rain" may have worked. But "Oswalt, only Oswalt and nothing but Oswalt....then pray for rain" is NEVER going to work.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Nyjer Morgan LF
2. Freddy Sanchez 2B
3. Nate McLouth CF
4. Adam LaRoche 1B
5. Ryan Doumit C
6. Andy LaRoche 3B
7. Brandon Moss RF
8. Jack Wilson SS

1. Paul Maholm
2. Ian Snell
3. Zach Duke
4. Jeff Karstens
5. Phil Dumatrait

1. Craig Hansen
2. John Grabow
C. Matt Capps

Key Player: Freddy Sanchez
BBB Off-season Ranking: 8th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: Listen, Pittsburgh, I don't enjoy watching Pittsburgh finish last year after year any more than you do. But I am sorry to say that they will, once again, finish dead last in one of baseball's worst divisions. I would like to say this, however: they are on the right track. I know that isn't fun to hear when you are watching a baseball team lose game after game, but it is the truth. This kind of ineptitude isn't solved by simply finding and signing better players. It is solved by getting the right guys at the top of the ladder. And I truly believe that the Pirates have the right organization in place now to start making the subtle changes toward becoming a competitive franchise again. Sadly, this makes the actual team's performance on the field fairly inconsequential for this year. But I will blabber on about it anyway. I look at this roster and only see one guy who is not only good right now but who is also part of the long term answer in Pittsburgh. That man would be Paul Maholm. I think calling him a legitimate "Ace" would be fairly presumptuous, but he is definitely a Major League-quality Pitcher right now and I could see him on this team years from now when the Pirates finally start to put some things together and get the right team on the field. As currently constituted the bullpen is fairly underrated and if the Pirates lose 100 games this year, it won't be because they were blowing leads in the 7th, 8th and 9th. No, I think the Pirates won't have very many leads to begin with this year. Nate McLouth is the only offensive threat they possess and I even think that he is a bit overrated. Freddy Sanchez is terrible, Adam LaRoche isn't consistent and Ryan Doumit is good but shouldn't be batting as high as he is. Still, as I've said before the Pirates should not be worrying about this year anyway. Prepare yourself to lose, and to lose a lot this year, Pittsburgh. But that doesn't have to mean that things won't look up soon.


1. Los Angeles Dodgers

1. Rafael Furcal SS
2. Matt Kemp CF
3. Andre Ethier RF
4. Manny Ramirez LF
5. James Loney 1B
6. Russell Martin C
7. Casey Blake 3B
8. Orlando Hudson 2B

1. Chad Billingsley
2. Clayton Kershaw
3. Hiroki Kuroda
4. Jason Schmidt
5. Randy Wolf

1. Guillermo Mota
2. Hong Chih-Kuo
C. Jonathan Broxton

Key Player: Clayton Kershaw
BBB Off-season Ranking: 4th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: The NL West will be undergoing a mini-renaissance and the Dodgers will be leading the pack. It is tempting to say that Manny Ramirez is the key to this team's (presumed) success but I had them at #1 even before they brought Manny back in the saddle. No team in the National League has a better core of young hitters than the Dodgers. Kemp, Ethier, Loney, Martin: they are all young, all have a season or two of experience under their belt and all complement each other in the line-up. This is the year that the Dodger's offensive potential becomes an offensive reality. If Rafael Furcal and Orlando Hudson get on base like they are capable of, then the Dodgers will score runs in bunches in 2009. And they just might need those runs with the rotation's current state. I think I trust Chad Billingsley as an Ace more than most do. And Hiroki Kuroda had a hugely underrated rookie season. But I am a little nervous about the veterans. Schmidt might be done as a quality Major League pitcher. And if that's the case, suddenly Kershaw-Wolf doesn't look so hot as a #3/#4. Still, their bullpen is competent enough and I am not willing to bet against this line-up over 162 games. 86-90 wins aren't out of the question. 

2. San Francisco Giants

1. Fred Lewis LF
2. Emmanel Burriss 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval 3B
4. Bengie Molina C
5. Travis Ishikawa 1B
6. Aaron Rowand CF
7. Randy Winn RF
8. Edgar Rentaria SS

1. Tim Lincecum
2. Matt Cain
3. Jonathan Sanchez
4. Barry Zito
5. Randy Johnson

1. Bob Howry
2. Jeremy Affeldt
C. Brian Wilson

Key Player: Pablo Sandoval
BBB Off-season Ranking: 3rd of 16 in the NL
Analysis: It is all Pablo Sandoval....ALL Pablo Sandoval. Really no one else is of consequence for the Giants' season. It isn't fair to place an entire season (and possibly the jobs of everyone in the front office) on the shoulders (albeit BROAD shoulders) of a 22-year-old playing out of position but it is a reality that the Giants must live with. The Giants starting rotation is excellent, the bullpen is much improved and the line-up is filled with competent role players. All it takes now is that X-factor, that one last little flash of lightning to reanimate this sleeping Giant. And that is where Pablo Sandoval comes in. I won't get into specific numbers, but he needs to do something befitting of the #3 spot in the order for this team to win. Although, I will say that 25+ homers wouldn't hurt.... In any case, much like the citizens of Gotham believed in Harvey Dent, I believe in Pablo Sandoval. And that confidence is reflected in my high-hopes for this team.  

3. Colorado Rockies

1. Carlos Gonzalez LF
2. Troy Tulowitzki SS
3. Todd Helton 1B
4. Garrett Atkins 3B
5. Brad Hawpe RF
6. Ryan Spilborghs CF
7. Clint Barmes 2B
8. Chris Ianetta C

1. Aaron Cook
2. Greg Smith
3. Ubaldo Jiminez
4. Jason Marquis
5. Franklin Morales

1. Manny Corpas
2. Alan Embree
C. Huston Street

Key Player: Manny Corpas
BBB Off-season Ranking: 2nd of 16 in the NL
Analysis: To be perfectly honest with you, I have soured on the Rockies quite a bit since I originally made this pick. But it is too hard to copy and paste in Bogger so, sorry Arizona, Colorado remains #3 in the West. Let's flash back a month or two to the reveal that Jeff Francis is going to miss significant time in '09. Rockies fan panic...and so do I because it means that my Preview may be thrown completely into flux. And it a way it did. The Rockies have been ranked anywhere from 2nd to 4th in my mind since last season ended.  But Francis' injury opened my eyes to a surprising aspect about the Rockies' organization. They have the most pitching depth in the division! This about it, if you had no idea that Jeff Francis existing and had no idea that this team was missing their former Ace, you would just look at this rotation and simply think "that's not a bad rotation; two vets with three young guys wedged in-between." And then after that there is still: Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hirsh. Niiiiiice. And the bullpen isn't too shabby either. If Manny Corpas and Huston Street can get each other's competitive juices going, the bullpen could really work. That just leaves the line-up....which I have true reservations about. Todd Helton may finally be done. Who is playing Left-field? I like Carlos Gonzalez...I think they prefer Seth Smith. Garrett Atkins is not a clean-up hitter. And there might not be a clean-up hitter in this line-up. I like the Rockies a lot better than I did last year (called it!) but they won't be able to climb higher than #3.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

1. Felipe Lopez 2B
2. Chris Young CF
3. Stephen Drew SS
4. Conor Jackson LF
5. Mark Reynolds 3B
6. Chad Tracy 1B
7. Justin Upton RF
8. Chris Snyder C

1. Brandon Webb
2. Dan Haren
3. Doug Davis
4. Jon Garland
5 Max Scherzer

1. Jon Rauch
2. Tony Pena
C. Chad Qualls

Key Player: Justin Upton
BBB Off-season Ranking: 11th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: The talent is there, it really is. This is an above-average team in a below-average division. So why can't they finish higher than third or fourth? It's simple, really: the front office doesn't want to win so the players won't either. I truly believe that baseball teams adopt the effort and identity of their decision-makers. And the Diamondbacks decision-makers have decided to lose this year. It isn't fair to say that they have decided, however, as the economy has forced their hand. I don't think that the Owners adequately anticipated the down-turn. Because if they did, they would have tried to sign Adam Dunn for only $20 million and would have tried to sign Orlando Hudson for only $3.4 million. I am not implying that teams NEED to have good off-seasons to compete, I am just saying that in the Diamondbacks case, specifically, they needed to send the message that they wanted to compete in 2009. The message that they sent to their team was that they couldn't afford to compete in 2009. So why would the players try? Especially when you consider that their best player comes from the same bloodline as J.D Drew. Talent-wise, they have enough youngsters to compete in 2010 and beyond. And if they can hang on to both Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, they will be in good shape. But 2009 won't be their year.

5. San Diego Padres

1. David Eckstein 2B
2. Brian Giles RF
3. Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B
4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
5. Chase Headley LF
6. Scott Hairston CF
7. Nick Hundley C
8. Luis Rodriguez SS

1. Jake Peavy
2. Chris Young
3. Cha Seung Baek
4. Josh Geer
5. Wade LaBlanc

1. Cla Meredith
2. Mike Adams
C. Heath Bell

Key Player: Kevin Kouzmanoff
BBB Off-season Ranking: 15th of 16 in the NL
Analysis: Let's be honest: this season doesn't matter. The Padres are in such poor economic shape that the best they can hope to do this year is keep things respectable, cut payroll and pray that Adrian Gonzalez stays happy enough that he'll stick around for years to come. In their line-up, I count 1 player I would absolutely want on my team (Gonzalez), 2 I might want (Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chase Headley) and the rest I would just leave. Then when it comes to the rotation: there is 1 player I would love to have (Jake Peavy), 1 I might like to have (Chris Young) and the rest I would leave yet again. And don't even get me started on the bullpen.... The only people who are going to be doing actual work this year are the Padres fans praying for John Moores to sell the team. And that's never a good sign.