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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago White Sox’

As good as the AL East is, the opposite may be true of the AL Central. I don’t project any of the five teams to win 90 games – and two could lose more than 100. This is a division that is loaded with teams filled with mediocre talent. In fact, the most interesting team to watch may be the Royals, if only because they may actually have days where they start 9 rookies.

The best of the worst is, once again, the Minnesota Twins. Projected to win the Central by three games, they’ll win based on sound fundamental play, two star players (Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer) and because they’ll be able to bottom feed on 36 games with two of the worst teams since the St. Louis Browns. The starting rotation is suspect, featuring the injury prone tandem of Francisco Liriano and Carl “Strained Buttocks” Pavano. The strongest element of last year’s division winning team, the bullpen, was wracked by free-agent defections – meaning this year’s pen relies on the much-traveled Matt Capps and a not-quite-healthy Joe Nathan. In fact, injury carry-overs from last year could get the Twins out of the gate slowly, as nobody is quite sure if Morneau is sufficiently recovered from last season’s concussion to play first full time yet. If they do start slowly, the crown my well fall to Chicago.

The White Sox made quite a splash this off-season, re-signing Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski and landing Adam Dunn as their new DH. Unfortunately, they would have been better off looking for a starting 3rd baseman and a couple of outfielders, because the current line-up may be one of baseball’s worst group of defenders we’ve seen in a while. Which is a shame, because the Pale Hose have the makings of an outstanding pitching staff – perhaps the best in baseball. If Jake Peavy returns to form after his pectoral tear, they’ll have 6 quality starters and a bullpen that features a bevy of quality (if not nationally known) arms. But the offense will once again be a classic three-outcome type, as typified by Dunn: walk, strike-out or homer. Don’t expect much in the way of sustained rallies or guys flying around the bases at US Cellular Field.

The Tigers look destined for a distant third place finish. The best thing going for this team is that they’re managed by future Hall-of-Famer Jim Leyland. But the star player, Miguel Cabrera, is turning into baseball’s version of Charlie Sheen. Actually, Detroit’s middle of the order could feature some good players, with the addition of Victor Martinez joining Magglio Ordonez. The rest of the supporting cast, though, is supect, featuring such luminaries as Brandon Inge. The back of the bullpen could be solid, if Joaquin Benoit can prove last year wasn’t a fluke, Joel Zumaya can stay healthy and Jose Valverde can stop his decline. But both the starting rotation and middle relief corps are a mess. Aside from Justin Verlander, the Tigers are relying on converted relievers, reclamation projects and prayers.

The youth movement is in full swing in Kansas City. After their farm system was ranked #1 by Baseball America, they might as well give the kids a shot – nothing else has worked for the past 20 years. Yes, they traded away Zack Greinke and made a couple of curious signings in old friend Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer. But KC’s real aim this year is to see if youngsters Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Kila Ka’aihue and Eric Hosmer are ready for prime time.

Bringing up the rear is the Cleveland Indians. Once again, the Tribe is looking more like “The Mistake by the Lake” instead of a major-league team. They do have a bona-fide star in Shin-Soo Choo and a star in the making in catcher Carlos Santana. But otherwise, Cleveland is hoping Grady Sizemore shows enough that he can become a viable trade chip. I’m pretty sure Cleveland fans have to be wondering what they’ve done to deserve the Cavaliers, Browns, and this abomination of a baseball team.

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The 2011 Yankees work out during Spring Training

It’s that time of year. Spring training games are underway and baseball fans everywhere are having heated discussions about who will finish where. It’s kind of silly, really. As any Yankee fan can tell you, “You can’t predict baseball.” Still, we make the effort – never mind that mid-season injuries, trades and call-ups always alter the picture. Add in the players who have break-out years (seriously, who thought Jose Bautista would slug 54 homers in 2010?) or unexpectedly terrible ones (think Carlos Lee), and predicting anything this time of year becomes an exercise in futility. But it is a fun exercise, so here I go.

I’ll start by posting the expected finish of team, including record. How did I come to this? I ran 100 season simulations, based on a program I originally wrote for picking football games. Of course, this assumes I’ve correctly guessed every team’s roster on Opening Day and that nobody suffers a significant injury. It’s worked well for me in picking the NFL (as those of you who followed my picks on Twitter last year probably know), but this is the first time I’ve ever tried it in baseball. By the way, the division names double as links, you can hit them to get to a more in-depth prognostication.

AL East

  1. New York Yankees,     105-57    0 GB
  2. Boston Red Sox,     105-57    0 GB
  3. Tampa Bay Rays    95-67    10 GB
  4. Baltimore Orioles    94-68    11 GB
  5. Toronto Blue Jays    67-95    38 GB

AL Central

  1. Minnesota Twins    87-75    0 GB
  2. Chicago White Sox    84-78     3 GB
  3. Detroit Tigers        71-91    16 GB
  4. Kansas City Royals    55-97    32 GB
  5. Cleveland Indians    45-107    42 GB

AL West

  1. Oakland A’s        97-95     0 GB
  2. Texas Rangers        85-77    12 GB
  3. Anaheim Angels    83-79    14 GB
  4. Seattle Mariners    64-98    33 GB

Yes, the AL East is that good. And yes, Cleveland is that bad.

Season’s biggest surprise: The Oriole starting rotation. I know, you probably think I lost my mind. But the O’s may have the best stable of young arms in the league, with Jake Arrieta (25), Brian Matusz (24), Brad Bergesen (25) and Chris Tillman(23). Add in a resurgent Justin Duchscherer and the steady Jeremy Guthrie, and that’s a lot of promise.

Season’s biggest bust: Texas. They’re really going to miss not re-signing Cliff Lee. Not to mention the whole Michael Young saga is a great case study in how to blow up team chemistry.

MVP candidate: Robinson Cano. If you thought last year was special, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

CY Young Candidate: Since this award seems given to somebody from a losing team lately, I’ll stay with the trend. Here’s a vote for Joakim Soria.

As always, I look forward to your feedback. And…PLAY BALL!!!

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The One that Got Away

For those of you haven’t heard, Cliff Lee surprised just about everyone by deciding to sign with the Phillies. The move is an unqualified disaster for the Yankees and Brian Cashman, who had bet the farm (and the team’s immediate future) on signing the ace lefty. Combined with Boston’s wheeling and dealing, and Andy Pettitte’s possible (and likely) retirement, the Yanks may not be in serious contention for a playoff spot: Boston hasn’t only improved themselves, but so have the Tigers, Twins and White Sox. The Yankees look like they’re headed into the season with a two man rotation. (CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes),  a depleted bench and shaky bullpen. Ouch.

So, what to do now?

1. Trade for for a starter: use some of the Yankees minor-league depth to acquire a proven, front-end starter. Unfortunately, two best rumored to be available, Zack Greinke and Carlos Zambrano, are both head cases. Greinke is a former Cy Young winner. He’s rumored to want out of Kansas City. He’s young. He’s also had problems handling stress – and suddenly being cast as the “savior” of the 2011 season for the New York Yankees has a good chance of stopping his 2011 season before it starts. Not too mention that KC would want half of the Yankees farm sytem in return. Zambrano has top of the rotation stuff and the “Big Z” certainly has delivered both wins and quality starts in the past. But he’s also the poster child for petulance – and does anyone really think Larry Rothschild wants to be reunited with the Cubs ace?
2. Promote Ivan Nova and Hector Noesi: the last time the team slotted two rookies into the rotation was in 2008. Enough said on that idea. Although it may be the only option left.
3. Sign Carl Pavano: stopped laughing yet? Remember, this is the same front office that sent a popular outfielder and LH relief prospect to bring in a past failure who would eat innings, coming off a good season. That didn’t work out so well, but Cashman may well be considering the idea. After all, none of us thought he’d bring back Javier Vazquez, either.
4. Put Joba Chamberlain back in the rotation: no matter how much they say otherwise, this team loves jerking the kid around. He’s been everything from Mo’s heir to doghouse sitter so far. As much as they’ve been saying that Joba is in the pen for 2011, no doubt the brass has to be seriously reconsidering that idea at the moment.
5. Ride it out and wait for 2012: there are some big time prospects headed this way in 2012. Players like Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, Austin Romine and Brandon Laird. It smacks of the late 80s Yankees, who kept buying stop-gap major leaguers while waiting for the farm to deliver. (Anyone remember how Roberto Kelly was going to save the franchise?)

6. Stockpile relievers, realizing that half of the team’s innings need to come from the ‘pen: great idea, except free-agent relievers rarely work out as intended. The only high-upside reliever left on the market is Rafael Soriano and it’s hard to see the Yankees singing another closer.

Then, there’s my personal favorite…

7. Bring in a player personnel guy. Cashman has proven astute on the business side of baseball and made the Steinbrenner family a ton of money, so its no wonder they love the guy. But his personnel moves leave a lot to be desired. Its simply insane that the team with the highest payroll has holes, and this one now needs a 4th and 5th starter, a set-up reliever, a 4th outfielder and utility infielder. When you look at the players he’s brought in versus who he’s let go, well… that’s a whole other post.

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On Wednesday, the real season begins: the postseason, that is. The Bombers will travel to Minneapolis to take on the Twins; first pitch is scheduled for 8:07 ET.

I realize many of you are still wondering what happened over the weekend, when the Yanks managed to lose the division (in what may be the craziest final weekend in memory) and haven’t had a chance yet to really focus on the task at hand. Most of you are probably still trying to figure out what a “Twins” might be.

The Twins finished the regular season 94-68 and won the AL Central by a very comfortable 6 games over the White Sox. Once again, Ron Gardenhire‘s crew of unknowns and cast-off’s won the division, even though most prognosticators had them pegged for no better than third place at the start of the year. During the season, the Yankees won the season series, 4-2, but these aren’t the same Twins that faced the Yankees in May. Here’s a quick breakdown on the team that will face off the with the Bombers.

Rotation:

Just like their better known opponents, the Twins face a conundrum regarding their starting rotation. Without a doubt, Francisco Liriano (14-10, 1.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) will get the ball in game 1, but after that it’s a crapshoot. Will game 2 go to Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75 ERA, 1.20 WHIP), Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) or Scott Baker (12-9, 4.49 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)? The smart money is on Pavano for several reasons: one, he pitched much better at home than on the road this year and two, the last thing Gardenhire seems likely to want is to pitch Pavano in the first game at Yankee Stadium. That makes Baker the probable starter in game 3 – if Duensing can’t get two starts, his best value to the Twins is as the ace left out of the pen. The big question for the Twins, like the Yanks, is do they go with a 3- or 4-man rotation? If they opt for a four man staff, expect game 4 to go to Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.45 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). In short, this is a righty-heavy staff facing a Yankee line-up that mauls right-handers (.796 team OPS and 118 OPS+). The Twins bullpen looks to get plenty of work in games not started by Liriano. Edge: Yankees

Bullpen:

The Twins are pretty formidable if they have a lead going into the 8th inning, with the duo of set up man Jon Rauch (3-1, 21 SV, 1.30 WHIP) and closer Matt Capps (2-0, 16 SV, 1.18 WHIP). Capps was acquired in a deadline deal with the Senators, where he posted 26 SV and a 1.30 WHIP; the 42 combined saves are the principle reason the Twins made the move. Duensing was effective out of the pen before finding himself in the rotation, posting a 1.80 ERA and holding lefty-hitters to a .162 average. The Twins also figure to lean heavily on Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, with Jose Merias being the other left-handed option in the ‘pen. Overall, the pen is the strength of this Twins team. Then again, it was the strength of last year’s team, too. Edge: Twins

Offense:

The Twins lost Justin Morneau mid-way through the season and with him gone, the Twins lost both their starting first baseman and premier power threat. As a team, they only have four players who reached double figures in home runs and nobody hit more than 25. Despite that, they still scored 781 runs – good for fifth in the American League. This is a team that gets by on creating rallies from doubles and smart baserunning. Yankee catchers look to catch a breather, as the Twins were last in steals and attempted steals this season, averaging one attempt every two games. The attack is anchored by reigning MVP C Joe Mauer (.327, 9 HR, 75 RBI), back-from-the-dead DH Jim Thome (.283, 25, 59) and always steady RF Jason Kubel (.249, 21, 92). Perhaps their most intriguing player is LF Delmon Young. After years of waiting for Young to turn his talent into a solid season, this seems to have been his breakout year (.298, 21, 112) – even if nobody outside of the Twin Cities noticed. The question surrounding Young is, will he continue to produce in the postseason or revert to his more pedestrian career numbers (career OPS .704)? Edge: Yankees

Defense:

Defensively, the Twins are once again a solid – if unspectacular – team. They ranked 2nd in the AL in fielding percentage, but overall, they’re range is not exceptional. In other words, they make the plays on the balls they get to – they just don’t get to as many balls as you would expect from a top-flight defense. This is a team that needs to play sound fundamentals – because they lack the ability to overcome errors with the great play (and the pitching staff, other than Liriano, lacks the ability to pick up their teammates with a strikeout). Edge: Yankees

Manager:

Gardenhire is consistently recognized as one of the game’s best managers, and with good reason. Every season, he brings a small market, mid-budget team that project to somewhere around 85 wins, figures out a way to win an extra 5-10 games a year and delvers Minnesota to the post-season. Once they get there, the Twins tend to get sent back home. But it’s not the manager’s fault. Edge: Twins

Other notes:

The Twins are opening their first post-season at Target Field, which figures to be not really cold for Wednesday’s opener (forecast: 63 degrees at first pitch). The Twins learned their new park pretty quickly. Mauer may complain about the stadium robbing home runs with its dimensions, but the Twins were still 53-28 at home. The +12 differential between home and away wins is the largest spread for any of the eight playoff teams.

Projection:

Once again, the Twins make the playoffs – and once again, they exit early with their hearts broken. On paper, they seem to match up well with the Yankees, and if this were a nine game series, the added depth in their rotation would probably be their greatest asset. But this is a five game series and the off days mean the Yanks don’t need to entrust a start to either AJ Burnett or Javier Vazquez. The Yankees superior front three and line-up depth should make this one Yankees in 4.

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Yankees (79-50) at White Sox (70-59)

Pitching Matchup:

RHP Ivan Nova (0-0, 2.16) vs RHP Gavin Floyd (8-10, 3.97)

Lineup

Gardner LF
Jeter SS
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Thames DH
Granderson CF
Nunez 3B
Cervelli C (more…)

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Yankees (78-50) at White Sox (70-58)

Pitching Matchup:

LHP C.C. Sabathia (17-5, 3.02) vs LHP John Danks (12-8, 3.31)

Lineup

Jeter SS
Swisher RF
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Thames DH
Posada C
Kearns LF
Gardner CF
Nunez 3B (more…)

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Yankees (78-49) at White Sox (69-58)

Pitching Matchup:

RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11, 4.80) vs RHP Freddy Garcia (10-5, 5.08)

Lineup

Gardner LF
Jeter SS
Teixeira 1B
Cano 2B
Swisher RF
Posada DH
Granderson CF
Cervelli C
Pena 3B (more…)

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The Yankees head to Chicago, as they open up a three-game series against the White Sox tonight. Here are the pitching probables for the series:

Fri: RHP A.J. Burnett (9-11, 4.80) vs RHP Freddy Garcia (10-5, 5.08)

Sat: LHP C.C. Sabathia (17-5, 3.02) vs LHP John Danks (12-8, 3.31)

Sun: RHP Ivan Nova (0-0, 2.16) vs RHP Gavin Floyd (8-10, 3.97)

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Could C.C. reach 300 wins? He’s got 149 career wins and he just turned 30 last month. I don’t think it’s out of the question. If he really wants it, a few extra years in the major leagues should do the trick. If he plays until he’s 40, he’s going to have to average about 15 wins a year for the next 10 years.   

Is Monument Park big enough? When the new Yankee Stadium was built, you heard many complaints about how you couldn’t see Monument Park from your seat in the stadium. The old stadium’s park was wide open and was visible from basically any seat in the house. The new one is more closed in. Nobody is arguing whether it’s good looking or not, but is it big enough to house all the Yankees greats?

At the moment, Yankees security guards need to count fans and send them in certain group numbers. As a person whose been to the new one several times, I can say that it gets pretty crowded in there. Sometimes it’s a struggle to even get a camera shot with all the fans walking all over the place. You have to figure that one day, Monument Park will have to be expanded. But how? There’s the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar overhead, and the bullpens/bleachers on both side of it.

Monuments: Steinbrenner, (Will Jeter get a monument? How about Rivera? They both rank at the top with the greatest players to ever put on the pinstripes)

Retired numbers: Jeter, Rivera, Posada, Pettitte, Rodriguez, Torre, Williams (You might think it’s crazy now, but Sabathia, Teixeira [both thought to be franchise players] and Cano will likely have their numbers retired when it’s all said and done).

Plaques: You have to figure that some of the players who get their number retired, will also get a plaque up on the wall.

Here are a few more photos: Photo 1 – Photo 2 – Photo 3 – Photo 4 

Joe Girardi to the Cubs? Many have debated the topic, with Cubs manager, Lou Piniella, recently stating that he will be retiring at the end of the season. Girardi grew up in the Chicago area, went to college there and was even drafted by the Cubs. As Mike Axisa discussed, this will give him leverage with the Yankees when contract negotiations are brought up. Does it make sense for Joe? He would be leaving a World Series caliber ball club, for a team that hasn’t won a World Series in 102 years and is a total disaster.

If Joe was to leave (he never dismissed the possibility)….who would replace him as manager?

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    White Sox (10-14) at Yankees (15-8)

    Pitching Matchup

    LHP Mark Buehrle (2-3, 4.68) vs RHP Phil Hughes (2-0, 2.00)

    Lineup

    Jeter SS
    Johnson 1B
    Teixeira DH
    Nick Swisher RF
    Cano 2B
    Posada C
    Thames LF
    Gardner CF
    Pena 3B (more…)

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    White Sox (9-14) at Yankees (15-7)

    Pitching Matchup

    LHP John Danks (3-0, 1.55) vs RHP Javier Vazquez (1-3, 9.00)

    Lineup

    Jeter SS
    Swisher RF
    Teixeira 1B
    Rodriguez 3B
    Cano 2B
    Posada C
    Thames DH
    Granderson CF
    Gardner LF (more…)

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    The Pitching:

    Andy Pettitte didn’t have the spectacular stuff he had in earlier starts, but as always, he battle and managed to go through six innings and keep the team in the game. He gave up three runs in the first inning, but only one run over the next five innings of work. His pitching line was: 6.0IP 7H 4R 4ER 2BB 3K (97 Pitches, 66 for Strikes).

    Alfredo Aceves came on in the 7th inning, and threw up a scoreless frame. He wound up picking up the win, moving his season record to (W, 2-0). Damaso Marte started the 8th, recorded and out and was pulled for Joba Chamberlain. Joba recorded the outs with ease, and then it was all up to Mo to close it out. Rivera entered the game to a rousing ovation in the 9th inning, and as soon as the opposing team heard “Enter Sandman” blasting from the stadium speakers…they knew the game was over. Mariano struck out two batters in the inning, and picked up the save (S, 7). In total, he’s now thrown nine innings of scoreless baseball this season.  

    The Offense:

    The team was placed in a 3-0 hole to start the game, but that didn’t stop Derek Jeter from taking the problem into his own hands. In fact, he put up a Jeterian performance. Derek supplied four of the six runs the Yankees scored on the game. Derek singled in the first inning to give him 2,776 career hits, which allowed him to pass Ken Griffey Jr. for the most among all active players. In the 5th inning, Jeter tied the game at 4-4, with a 2-run home run off Freddy Garcia. In the 7th inning, he gave the team the go ahead runs when he smacked a 2-run RBI triple off Matt Thornton. All in all, Derek’s state line was: 3-for-4, with two runs and 4RBI’s.

    Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano both went 1-for-4, and picked up an RBI. Brett Gardner went 2-for-3, picking up two runs and a stolen base (SB, 10).

    After the game, Ozzie Guillen had this to say about Derek: “He is God,” Guillen said. “I say he’s God all the time. It’s fun to watch him play the game. He’s the No. 1 ambassador in this game. The guy always has good-looking women around him, too. I mean, God bless him.”

    To be honest, I always thought Mariano Rivera was God. (more…)

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