Friday, September 30, 2011

2011 ALDS NLDS Predictions

The first pitch of the 2011 MLB Playoff season will be thrown in roughly three hours when Texas Rangers left-hander takes the mound in Texas against the AL Wild Card winner Tampa Bay Rays. In anticipation of today's games, I've decided to make my predictions for the first round of the playoffs. Here goes.

#2 Texas Rangers vs. #4 Tampa Bay Rays
In a rematch from last year's first round match-up, the Rangers have home field advantage when the meet the Tampa Bay Rays. Holding a slight lead in the season series against the Rays (5-4) the Rangers just might be the most balanced team in the AL. But I have a problem going against the hot team. The Rays crawled back from a nine game deficit in the Wild Card race and did so by winning the playoff slot in dramatic fashion with a walk-off by franchise player Evan Longoria. I believe the Rays will ride the wave of euphoria to a first round defeat of the Rangers.

My Pick: Rays over Rangers in Five

#1 New York Yankees vs. #3 Detroit Tigers

In a season where the New York Yankees were picked to finish second and even third in the AL East, the Bombers continued to prove those naysayers wrong all season long rolling along to win the AL East and lead the AL with the best regular season record. They face a Detroit Tigers team who is led by Cy Young favorite Justin Verlander and MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera among others. The Tigers hold a slight lead in the season series (4-3) against the Yankees and the spotlight is shining specifically in the marque pitching duel of C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander. I think the Yankees have the offense that can make Verlander work. There really isn't an easy out in their lineup and I think that will be the deciding factor in who wins the series. I believe there is too much being made about the Yankees rotation issues. I mean, all the playoff teams have pitching issues with the exception of the Philadelphia Phillies.

My Pick: Yankees over Tigers in Four

#1 Philadephia Phillies vs. #4 St. Louis Cardinals

I'm going to go on a major ledge here but I think if anyone in the NL can beat the Phillies at this point in time it is the St. Louis Cardinals. Why? well, like the Rays they are super hot. Pujols, Carpenter and company should thank Mr. Tony Plush of the Milwaukee Brewers for lighting a fire under them. Since that series with the Brewers, the Cardinals are 16-6 and have been playing some of the best baseball in the league and the Phillies have the privilege of playing them in the first round. the season series is firmly in the favor of the Cardinals (6-3). And the Phillies? What can I say. They have an astounding offense, the best pitching in the league and a very capable manager. So I must be nuts with what I have to say next. Right? Even I have doubts in my prediction but what the heck. Never let it be said that I don't like climbing on the ledge for the fun of it.

My Pick: Cardinals over Phillies in Five

#2 Milwaukee Brewers vs. #4 Arizona Diamondbacks

The Brewers come into this series with high hopes after setting a franchise record in wins with 96 wins. This team is offensively stacked and is led by MVP candidates Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. On the pitching side, their rotation in solid. On the other side Arizona is led by Cy Young candidate and 21-game winner Ian Kennedy. They have shown that they can compete with the Brewers having an edge in the season series (4-3). I have to be honest, aside from Juston Upton, I really don't know much about the Arizona Diamondbacks offense. Maybe that's what Arizona has counted on all season while they won game after game on their way to the NL West title. That said, I have a hard time seeing the Brewers losing in the first round.

My Pick: Brewers over Diamondbacks in Four

So there it goes. Lets see if next week I'll have egg on my face or a big smile.


How My 2011 League Predictions Turned Out

Since this is the time of year of making predictions for the Post-season, I've decided to throw my proverbial two cents into the mix. Before I do so, I wanted to look back at my pre-season predictions to see how accurate I was in my picks.

Here is how my standings looked like on March 27th, 2011:

AL East
New York
Tampa Bay

AL Central
Kansas City

AL West

NL East
New York

NL Central
St. Louis

NL West
San Francisco
Los Angeles
San Diego

AL Wild Card: Boston
NL Wild Card: Atlanta

Well now, those darn Braves and Red Sox made a real mess of my Wild Card predictions. Enough has been said on that point since Wednesday night.

In the AL East, I was on point until the last day of the season. As we all know Tampa Bay stormed back from the brink to catch the Red Sox. The rest of the AL East showed why that division is the toughest in Baseball. With the exception of Baltimore, the division was made up of teams with .500 records and better.

On the other hand the AL Central was a big disappointment. I picked the teams all wrong. I would have never thought the Twins to be in last place. It really was a rough season all round for the AL Central since the Detroit Tigers was the only division team to finish at .500 or better.

I also made a mess of my AL West predictions. The only team I picked to finish correctly was the Seattle Mariners and that really wasn't much of a stretch. So much for the new and improved Oakland A's.

Over in the Senior Circuit, I was 3-for-5 in my divisional predictions with the Marlins and the Nationals trading places in the standings. The Nationals finished one game under .500 in a season where they made major moves in the offseason and it looks as if they are going to try and do so again this offseason. The future is bright in Washington. The same can be said in Miami since the Marlins will be getting a new home, a new name and a new manager. The sound bytes coming from the NL East should improve immediately with the arrival of Ozzie Guillen in Little Havana.

The NL Central picks started with Milwaukee and that's all I got right. Cincinnati regressed, St. Louis overcame, Pittsburgh surprised, Chicago was well Chicago and Houston just plain sucked. Enough said.

Over in the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks proved the majority of people wrong by going 94-68 and winning the NL West. I wish I could say that I picked them but I picked them to finish dead last in the division with the 2010 World Series Champions winning the division. The order that I picked the rest of the teams was accurate just not in correct slots in the standings.

In total I went 7-for-30 with my pre-season predictions. Let's hope I have better luck with my ALDS and NLDS predictions.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Jose Reyes Batting Title Controversy

With the Cincinnati Reds and the New York Mets playing an early afternoon match-up in Flushing today to end the season, controversy emerged after the first at-bat of the game. Jose Reyes led the game with a lead-off bunt single and was replaced by Justin Turner. Speculation ran rampant with people wondering did Reyes take himself out or did manager Terry Collins take him out with the intention to protect his lead in the batting race. With his 1-for-1 day, Reyes increased his lead average by .003 points to .337. This left the next batter in the race, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun with a .334 batting average and needing a 3-for-4 night to catch Reyes. As of right now Braun has gone 0-for-4 and it would seem as if Jose Reyes would be the 2011 National League Batting Champion and the only batting champion in the history of the New York Mets. But my question is this: Was the move the right one?

As we now know, it was Jose Reyes' choice to be taken out of the game after his only at-bat. Reyes was quoted by Adam Rubin of ESPN New York as stating the following:

"I said, 'If I go 1-for-1, take me out of the game,'" Reyes said. "And I did that. If I went 0-for-1, maybe I'm still in the game until I get a hit. ... I wanted to stay in the game, but (Mets fans) have to understand, too, what's going on. They have to feel happy about it if I win the batting title. I do that for the team, for the fans too, because they've been supporting me all the way through. I've (had) throughout my career a lot of ups and downs here with a lot of injuries. One thing I do all the time is give 100 percent on the field."

When asked what he thought about the move, Braun took what I seemed to believe was a very diplomatic route:

"I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and ultimately he left the door open for me," Braun told "I know it's not impossible. I've gotten three hits in a game plenty of times. It's still attainable, still a possibility. If he had stayed in the game and gotten multiple hits, it would not have been a possibility at all. I respect whatever decision he decided to make, and I'm not really here to judge him."

It would seem as fate is not without a sense of irony. It would seem as if Reyes tried to protect his lead on a day when back in 1941 Hall of Famer Ted Williams could have taken a similar route to protect his batting lead. In Williams' case, he was batting .3999955 going into a season ending doubleheader. Had he decided not to play, he would have ended the season at .400 with his average rounded up to the highest number. Instead of taking that route, Williams validated his season and his place in history by hitting a combined 6-for-8 ending his season at .406 and being the last man to ever lead the league with a .400+ batting average. Sure Reyes wasn't going for .400, Maybe we fans would always like to see players taking actions that are for the good of the game rather than the good of their individual numbers. Like my friend Keith said, the Mets were not playing for anything important so why shouldn't Reyes go for his own individual achievement. Reyes is the one who will have to answer the questions and from what I've read in the Rubin piece, Reyes isn't concerned with his decision.

In the end, Reyes' actions in protecting his lead aren't unprecedented. ESPN blogger David Schoenfield his blogpost Jose Reyes leaves game to protect title describes six different occasions where players have have pulled themselves out of a game to preserve their batting title lead. It is an interesting read, I highly recommended it.

Reyes becomes the first New York Met player to win the National League batting title. What might be more important for the Mets is whether or not Reyes will be wearing the blue pinstripes next season or if he will be taking his dynamic mode of play somewhere else. Only time will tell.


For Further Reading

- Click Here to access Jimmy Hascup's article Mets' Jose Reyes Asked To Leave Game After Single To Protect NL Batting Title Lead from dated September 28, 2011
- Click Here to access Adam Rubin's artice Jose Reyes: My choice to leave after hit from ESPN New York dated September 28, 2011
- Click Here to access David Schoenfield's article Jose Reyes leaves game to protect title from his blogpost the Sweetspot which is on dated September 28, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

2011 Wild Card Races Super Hot

The Wild Card races are super heated with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays being tied for the AL Wild Card while the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals are tied for the NL Wild Card. In an unprecedented manner, we may see TWO one game playoffs to decide who makes it into the Postseason and who goes home. I guess if we see a tie to end the season, it would be a prelude of what might end up happening with the proposed extra Wild Card team in each league possibly starting next season.

There have been three occasions where there has been a tie for the Wild Card at seasons end. All three have occurred in the National League.

- In 1998, the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants were tied with a 90-73 record. The Cubs would defeat the Giants by a score of 5-3 to face the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.

- In the next season, the New York Mets and the Cincinnati Reds were tied with a 97-66 record. The Mets would defeat the Reds 5-0 on a two-hit complete game shutout by Al Leiter to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

- In 2007, the Colorado Rockies and the San Diego Padres tied with a 90-73 record. The Rockies defeated the Padres in a thrilling 13-inning game by a score of 9-8 with the Rockies scoring 3 runs in the bottom of the 13th to win the game after the Padres took a two run lead in the top of the 13th. The red-hot Rockies would defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLCS before losing to the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

MLB has announced the schedule for the potential tie-breaker match-ups if the Wild Card participants remain tied after tomorrow's games. The Tampa Bay Rays would host the Boston Red Sox at 4:07pm and the St. Louis Cardinals will host the Atlanta Braves at 8:07pm. The home team was determined by the head-to-head wins and losses, The Rays decisively led the season series against the Red Sox 12-6 while the Cardinals led the season series against the Braves 5-1.

The amazing part of this historic scenario is that both the Red Sox and Braves squandered decisive Wild Card leads heading into September. The Rays trailed Boston by nine games while the Braves has a 8.5-game lead on September 1st. The ending to the 2011 season is shaping up quite nicely. Here's to hoping for those two tie-breaker games on Thursday.


PS: Thanks goes to Melvin Nivar for planting the seed for this post. Once he mentioned I should write it, I couldn't help myself.

Baseball Bloggers Alliance Year End Ballot

As part of our requirements for membership in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance(BBA), we have to make our selection for the alliance's year end predictions. The five awards are as so:

- Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)
- Willie Mays Award (Top Rookie)
- Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
- Walter Johnson Award (Top Starter)
- Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)

So without further ado, here are my predictions for the awards: 

1. Connie Mack Award (Top Manager)
Joe Maddon (Tampa Bay Rays)
Kirk Gibson (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Ron Roenicke (Milwaukee Brewers)

2. Willie Mays Award (Top Rookie)
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
Eric Hosmer (Kansas City Royals)
Ivan Nova (New York Yankees)

3. Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
Craig Kimbrel (Atlanta Braves)
Jose Valverde (Detroit Tigers)
Mariano Rivera (New York Yankees)

4. Walter Johnson Award (Top Starter)
Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers)
Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Ian Kennedy (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies)
C.C. Sabathia (New York Yankees)

5. Stan Musial Award (Top Hitter)
Adrian Gonzalez (Boston Red Sox)
Miguel Cabrera (Detroit Tigers)
Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays)
Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Curtis Granderson (New York Yankees)
Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers)
Michael Young (Texas Rangers)
Prince Fielder (Milwaukee Brewers)
Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies)
Robinson Cano (New York Yankees)

In my next post, I'll elaborate further on my predictions for the end of the year award based on league.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yu Darvish or Haven't They Learned Their Lesson Yet

I've been thinking about this one for a while and I wanted to elaborate on what the title mean. First off, in case you don't know, Yu Darvish is currently the best starting pitcher in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB). The 25-year old pitcher for the Nippon Ham Fighters is currently one of the heavily scouted players by MLB teams in Japan. Why? Well, according to Jason Coskrey and Kaz Nagatsuka in their MLB scouts doing due diligence on Fighters' Darvish from the Japan Times dated September 5, 2011:

In his seventh year as a professional, Darvish is 91-36 with a 2.04 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. So far this season, Darvish is 16-4 with a 1.54 ERA. Through 21 starts, he has 206 strikeouts, marking his fourth season with at least 200.

So on paper Darvish seems to be a jewel of a find for any MLB team that would be open to post for him. A quick and concise explanation on how the posting process works can be found here at the page Posting System on This is where things can get complicated. First off, Darvish is not a free agent at the end of the year. In the NPB the rules concerning how free agency is attained are stricter than how free agency is attained for players in MLB. According to Ryan Webber in his article Japanese Free Agency from dated November 13, 2009:

Starting in 2009, there are two classes of free agents: international and domestic. Domestic free agents can only sign with other NPB teams while international free agents are free to try their luck overseas as well as sign domestically...In order to qualify as an international free agent, players must play nine seasons in the NPB. To qualify as a domestic free agent, players drafted before 2007 must wait eight seasons. Players drafted after 2007 are only required to wait seven seasons before being declared domestic free agents. This is a much longer period than in MLB.

Also, in contrast to MLB regulations, players must be on the team’s top roster for 145 days in order for it to count as a “year” for free agency purposes. Time spent injured or in the minors does not count. Therefore, it can take much longer than eight or nine years for a player to be eligible for free agency in Japan.

So in Darvish's case he can become a domestic free agent during next season and an international free agent during the 2014 season. It is believed that Darvish will asked to be posted by the Nippon Ham Fighters. If approved by Nippon Ham and the league then there will be a mad dash on MLB teams to try and put together the highest posting fee and hope their's gets picked. There are at least 10 teams scouting Darvish among them being the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Herein lies the meaning of the second part of the title to this post.

I was telling a couple of friends of mine who are Yankees fans of the Yankees' attempts to scout Darvish and after a couple of perplexing looks from them, they both almost voiced the same statement in unison: Haven't they learned their lesson yet? In case you don't know, the Yankees have been burned when it comes to Japanese pitching in the form of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa. Theoretically you can say that every MLB team has been burned by Japanese starting pitching not living up to their expectations though Daisuke Matsuzaka did put up a 33-15 record with a 3.72 ERA in 61 games (61 starts) with 355 stikeouts and 155 walks his first two seasons with the Red Sox before injuries and ineffectiveness have limited him to a 16-15 record with a 5.03 in 45 games (44 starts) with 213 strikeouts and 127 walks. Perhaps if the Red Sox hadn't shelled out a whopping $51,111,111.11 posting fee on top of a six-year, $52 million dollar contract the ineffectiveness would be felt less by the Red Sox Nation. Position players such as Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and to a certain degree Akinori Iwamura lived up to the expectations. No Japanese starting pitcher since Hideo Nomo has been able to meet up to the same kind of expectatios. But back to Darvish.

In the Coskrey and Nagatsuka article, they say that MLB scouts view Darvish favorably when compared to current MLB starters. How can a team looking to stay competitive such as the Yankees and the Red Sox who play in Baseball's most competitive division ignore a potential ace such as Darvish. As with any player who is scouted, it can be a crap shoot. Look at Jose Bautista, who could have predicted two years ago that he'd be such a dominant player. On the flip side, look at Jason Heyward who had an impressive rookie season and is struggling this season. The scouting is never guaranteed to bring success. Teams just have to sometimes take a chance on a player and hope for the best which is what teams hope to do with Yu Darvish. This whole thing can be made moot if Darvish does not ask to be posted or if he does ask to be posted and the team decides not to. Until then we'll just have to wait and see.

*** Photo Credit goes to the Japanese Baseball Card Blog Page


For Further Reading:
- Click Here to access Yu Darvish's career statistics from the NPB website

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hey Scoop we got all brothers out here

September 1 in Major League Baseball is known as the day when the rosters are expanded to accommodate the minor leaguers that have earned a brief promotion to the major leagues. But on September 1, 1971 in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania something happened in a major league baseball game that had never happened before. 

Pirates manager Danny Murtagh had prepared the lineup that he planned to field against the Philadelphia Phillies as he would have done for any other game for the exception of one little detail. Before I go into the little detail, here is the lineup:

Rennie Stennett (2B)
Gene Clines (CF)
Roberto Clemente (RF)
Willie Stargell (LF)
Manny Sanguillen (C)
Dave Cash (3B)
Al Oliver (1B)
Jackie Hernandez (SS)
Dock Ellis (P)

What was different about this lineup from any other lineup that Murtagh  (or any other manager in Major League baseball up to that point) had ever written up was that this lineup was the first starting lineup that was made up of players of color. Considering  that they color line was broken only 24 years prior by Jackie Robinson in 1947, it was an amazing and historic event.

Was there a reason past just winning the game for Murtagh's decision? It's hard to say. Murtagh had been quoted as such when asked about the lineup for the article "Pirates Starters All Black" which was printed in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin:

"When it comes to making out the lineup, I'm color blind and my athletes know it. They don't know it because I told them, but they know it because they are familiar with the way I operate."

The Pirates roster was a cosmopolitan blend of 14 whites, six African-Americans and seven Latinos. According to Bruce Markensen's article Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup:

In 1971 the Pirates represented baseball’s most heavily integrated team, with black and Latino players accounting for nearly fifty percent of the club’s roster.  The Pirates also featured one of baseball’s most harmonious teams, with friendships and gatherings often crossing racial lines

The reason for the team being called the "All-Black team" rather than let's say the "All-Black/Latino Team" (as I chose to do so) is that at the time there wasn't much in the way of distinguishing African American and Latino players past the color of their skin which always seemed to upset Roberto Clemente. Clemente always stressed that he was Puerto Rican and should be regarded as a Latino because of it rather than the color of skin. So what happened in the game?

In front of just 11,278 fans, the Pirates defeated the Phillies by a score of 10-7. History and continued progress was made that day.


For Further Reading:
There are two excellent articles that cover the subject of the Pittsburgh pirates starting lineups of September 1, 1971

- Click Here to access Bruce Markensen's article Thirty Years Ago...The First All-Black Lineup from

- Click Here to access Charlie Vascellaro's article Bucs broke ground with first all-minority lineup dated September 1, 2011 from