Monday, June 20, 2022

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2022: HOT STREAKS

 

Marco’s Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2022: HOT STREAK


By the end of the 1948 season Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees is a crippled mess, barely able to hobble around the diamond. His problem is a nasty bone spur digging into his heel when he puts weight on it. He goes home after the Yanks are eliminated in the pennant race by Bob Feller and the Cleveland Indians... an aberrant season in which the Pin-striped Pulverizors are NOT going to be in the World Series. DiMaggio has an operation on his tender heel and limps home to rest.


His “rest” lasts through the winter, the total run of Spring Training in spring of 1949 and into June...8 months of no baseball at all as his heel still screams at him whenever he puts weight on it. He misses 65 games to start the 49 season. Joe’s career is hanging... twisting slowly in the wind.


The Yankees are doing very well without him to start the season, but they slow down in June as the Red Sox start coming on.

The Sox have won 10 of 11 as the teams get ready to play a 3 game set at Fenway that would start the fans wondering just who was whose Daddy.

But on Wednesday morning back in New York, Joltin’ Joe stands up out of bed and feels...no pain. It is miraculous after over a year of suffering. He can finally put weight on his injured heel without gritting his teeth. He calls manager Casey Stengel immediately.


And that is why on Friday, June 28, Joe DiMaggio’s name is written into the Yankee lineup card and delivered to the umpires at the traditional home plate exchange.


With no Spring Training and no at bats in a game since September 1948, Joe’s timing is off in his first time up and he fouls several pitches out of play to the right side. The Red Sox starter, Mickey McDermott, throws hard. Joe finally blasts a single to left. Ted Williams fields it and laughs, shaking his head. Even he is impressed.


But Ted isn’t laughing when Joe comes up in his second at bat and hits a 2-run homer over the monster. The Boston fans actually give Joe DiMaggio a standing ovation. As one would say later, “You can hate the Yankees, but you gotta love Joe DiMaggio.”


With New York leading in the ninth 5-4, Joe runs down a Williams deep shot to center to preserve the victory.


Saturday. Game 2. The Red Sox come storming out of the gate and lead 7-1 in the 4th inning. Looks like a laugher until ...3-run homer over the monster by DiMaggio! And then in the 8th...2-run bomb over the Green Hulk again! Yanks win 9-7!


The third game of the series has New York leading Boston 3-2 in the seventh in front of a SRO crowd at the Fens. Joe comes up in the 8th with two men on. Nobody is really surprised when he hits the light tower with a 3-run moonshot that wins the game for the Bombers and sparks them towards the pennant and the first of 5 Series wins in a row from ‘49 to ‘53.


DiMag bats .455 in the three game set with 4 home runs and 9 rbis. He says simply: “I think I was the most surprised guy in all of Boston.” So much for Spring Training.


Now Trevor Story is no Joe DiMaggio. But his selection as the Player of the Week in May of 2022 gives pause. Where did that come from?


Boston obviously needs to sign a productive middle infielder in the off season, but the list of suspects empties steadily as one star free agent shortstop after another is gobbled up by hungry teams. Correa to the Twins, Baez to the Tigers, Seager and Marcus Semien to the Rangers, Andrelton Simmons to the Cubs... no call for Story, waiting for the axe to fall after a very productive run as shortstop of the Colorado Rockies. Maybe teams figure Trevor’s numbers have been inflated by Coors Field?


Finally the call from the Red Sox nets him a 6 year, $140,000,000 deal. Oh My Soul, that’s a hunk of change!


Which is why Boston fans are booing him lustily in early May when Trevor is batting .195 with no homers and almost nothing else positive. But here’s the deal…


1/Story is coming from the National to the American League and he doesn’t know the pitchers well.

2/He is adjusting to playing second base instead of his familiar position of shortstop. (Where Boston All-star Xander Bogaerts excels.)

3/Story gets the flu in April

4/Trevor’s wife has herself a baby in May and Trevor goes home to play Daddy. (As he should.)


So he has a few alibis. But the Red Sox are losing spectacularly. Obscenely. Regularly. Constantly. In wholesale lots of lost series after lost series. One run games, blown saves, extra inning cataclysms and blow outs. They are in last place and already written off for any kind of post season, even with the new additional wild card team for this year. And the fans decide that Trevor Story is not earning his salary of $23 mil a year. So they let him know.


But the whole team is in a funk. The Red Sox don’t like the cold weather at all, and this year their offense just ...isn’t. Devers, Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez are doing great, but then the next 6 positions in the lineup are strictly Mendoza-ville. Verdugo, Dalbec, Vasquez, Bradley Junior, Kiki Hernandez...and yes, Trevor Story...all hovering feebly around the .200 line.

You could say the Red Sox can’t hit for average but they have no power. Tough to win ballgames with that lineup, and when you add in a confused and ineffective bullpen you got...as Porgy says…

plenty of nuthin’”.


Story hits his first 4-bagger as a Red Sox on May 11. And then in Game 1 of the next series against the Mariners he connects 3 straight times and steals a base. Next game? Grand Slam to win it for the Bostons. He winds up the week with two more homers...6 dingers in 7 games with 14 Ribbies. How do you get that hot that quick?


If anybody should know, it’s Trevor Story. His rookie year in Colorado he hit 7 home runs in his first 6 games to win Player of the Week in the N.L. The Hall of Fame wanted his helmet and batting gloves after that career-start. (They wanted his bat too but no way.)


This time, coincidentally, the rest of the Sox lineup gets hot at the same time Trevor does and pours on the the runs. I mean, the averages are still excruciating, but at least people like Dalbec are hitting an occasional bomb and even Jackie Bradley gets a couple of base hits. And since Story’s outbreak, the Boston team has vacated the basement and has a winning record now.


Manager Alex Cora takes the credit. The winning streak coincides with him shaving his beard.


Here are some other interesting Hot Streaks to ponder:


1968...Frank Howard of the Washington Senators hits 10 home runs in a string of 20 at bats. You can’t even understand how hot that is. He sets a record with 10 taters in a week of 6 games. He has 4 games of multiple dingers in the streak.


1952...Walt Dropo of the Detroit Tigers gets a hit in twelve consecutive at bats. He ties the record originally set by the old Cubs catcher Johnny Kling in 1902 and tied by Pinky Higgins of the Boston Red Sox in 1938, but Higgins had a couple of walks mixed in with his base hits. Only Dropo and Kling have ever gotten 12 base hits in consecutive plate appearances. Walt hit 9 straight singles and then went triple, single, double to tie the record before a foul pop ended it in his fourth at bat of the day.


1932...Johnny Burnett of the Cleveland Indians gets 9 hits in one game. (It’s a trick...it was an 18 extra inning game and the Clevelands lost. Burnett went 9 for 11 with 2 doubles.) Nobody has ever gotten within 2 of Johnny Burnett’s Hot Hit Streak.


1927...Babe Ruth hits 17 home runs in 1 month. The Babe set the record of 59 circuit clouts in a season back in 1921. As an older player nobody really expects him to challenge that record and when he stands at 43 taters at the end of August nobody is watching for anything stratospheric. But the Bambino gets hot and clobbers 17 home runs in the month of September, hitting his record 60th in the last game of the year on the same day that his great rival Walter Johnson retires. The Babe hits one off Johnson’s Washington teammate Tom Zachary, who sits in the dugout crying afterward.

Ruth sets the record for home runs in a month that is beaten by…


1937...Rudy York hits 18 bombs in August. Rudy is a rookie on the Detroit Tigers searching for a position on the loaded Tiger team. He’s an Oklahoma Indian with scary power but limited defensive prowess at any position. The Tigres have Hank Greenberg in his prime at first base so nothing for York there. Outfield is not Rudy’s bag either. Likewise catcher and third base. Rudy is a bench warmer until manager Mickey Cochrane puts him in the lineup at catcher on August 4. Rudy hits 4 bing bangs in 4 games...and Cochrane sits him down for awhile and only lets him pinch hit! Eventually they leave him in the lineup and the rookie winds up with 18 tatas and 49 rbis in 30 August games. He finishes the season with 35 long balls in only 375 at bats. So over half his four baggers come in one month. Hace mucho calor!


2017...Giancarlo Stanton hits 18 downtowners in August to tie York’s record.


*****ASTERISK SECTION: Sammy Sosa hits 20 home runs in June of 1998. I guess that makes him a greater player than Ruth, York and Stanton? No...it doesn’t.


The record for homering in consecutive games is 8 by 3 men: Dale Long was a journeyman first baseman playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates when he got hot in 1956. Don Mattingly went yard on a daily basis in 1987. Ken Griffey Jr. duplicated those results in a good week back in July ‘93.


What about the pitchers? Most of you remember Orel “Bulldog” Hershiser strapping the Dodgers to his back and carrying them over the line in 1988 when he set the record for consecutive shutout innings with 59.


But I noticed a funny thing going through the history books: some of the most impressive pitching hot streaks were put up by screwball pitchers.


That is noteworthy because very few pitchers have ever mastered the pitch. We’ve got hundreds of forkball/split finger pitchers and we’ve had submariners and quite a few effective knuckle ball pitchers. But good screwball pitchers? It’s a very hard pitch to master...it’s just the opposite of a curve or slider...the pitcher has to turn his hand inside instead of outside to get the contrary movement. But rarity equals potency when it comes to screwball pitchers.


The Screwball Pantheon:

Starters:

CHRISTY MATHEWSON (he invented it)

CARL HUBBELL(he mastered it)

WARREN SPAHN (he added it and tried it on Musial)

JUAN MARICHAL (with a high kick added)

MIKE CUELLAR (lots of Cubans liked the screwball)

FERNANDO VALENZUELA (cemented the screwball’s fame)



Relief Pitchers:

Luis Arroyo (Cuban born Yankee reliever circa 1961)

Tug McGraw (thanks Warren!)

Willie Hernandez (MVP closer Tigers 1984)

Hector Santiago (throws it today)


Christy Mathewson either invented his famous “fadeaway” (which was a screwball) or didn’t give credit to whoever taught it to him. Matty was such a goody two shoes and super smart to boot that maybe he did invent the pitch. He wasn’t the type to lie about it.


Matty had a great fastball and great control, so when he was on, the other team was in serious trouble. In the 1905 World Series Matty’s Giants were going up against Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics. Matty pitches a 4-hit shut out in Game 1, another 4-hit shutout in Game 3 and wins the Series for the New Yorkers with a 6-hit shutout in Game 5. All complete games.


Notice one thing...this was the first meeting between these two rival teams from different leagues, and the A’s had never seen a screwball.


Carl Hubbell might have had the best of all possible screwballs. That’s because he had nothing else to throw that would get people out. King Carl threw the screwball so much that his left (throwing) arm was permanently hanging pronated.


Carl was most famous for his start in the 1934 All Star Game. With two men on in the first inning, King Carl fans Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx...in a row. All three of the sluggers look awkward as hell trying to hit that darting scroogie. In the second inning Hubby fans two more Hall of Famers in Al Simmons and Joe Cronin to set the most memorable All Star pitching record of all time. Notice how many screwballs those five hitters were seeing in the American league...nil. Again, the very rarity of that particular pitch made it effective.


Carl “The Meal Ticket” Hubbell also owns the record for most consecutive games won without a loss. He won 24 decisions without a loss in 1936-37.


Warren Spahn is the winningest leftie of all time. His career didn’t really start until he got back from WWII. His first win came at age 25...and he wound up winning 363 ball games! Spahnie had an arsenal of good pitches. His circle change was famous and in the second half of his career, he added a screwball to give him an even stranger look.


Spahnie coached for the Mets after his playing days were over and taught the screwball to one of the top relief men of the game...Tug McGraw.


Juan Marichal was another pitcher with a gigantic repertoire. He would throw a slider, a curve, a change and a screwball all in the same at bat and throw them from two or three different arm slots.


Fernando Valenzuela showed up in 1981 and took the game by storm with his Luis Tianteyes to the heavens prayer to the sky-god” as he delivered to the plate. While the stadium disc jockey played The Lonely Bull on the sound system. Fernando allowed a total of one run in his first 5 games...4 complete game shutouts! Again, the hitters hadn’t really ever seen a pitch do what Fernando’s screwball did.


You know how all the time the Stat-Heads of the game are mumbling about not letting their starters go through the opposing lineup a third time? Familiarity breeds contempt and when good hitters get multiple looks at a hurler’s stuff he’s more likely to do something with it.


Well, if that’s true on a per game basis, it is also true on a seasonal basis. Back in the Good Old Days of two 8 team leagues, each team played the other 7 in their league 22 times every year. Almost every team used a 4-man starting staff and most had maybe 10 pitchers total. So the hitters of the Old Days only had to study up on maybe 30 starters and they saw those starters 5 or 6 times a season. Add in the key relievers. Lots of familiarity. So they got to know the tendencies of those pitchers.


Nowadays you’ve got 14 other teams in your league plus some interleague games. Even with video scouting the hitters can’t keep up with that many pitchers. What is it, maybe 100 pitchers that they’ll see more than once or twice a year and need to figure out how to hit them? Plus new arms coming into the game constantly?


Yet another reason why hitting is disappearing from the game. (And yet another list!...call this one….)



High Average Hitters...An Endangered Species

1/Too many pitchers to keep track of.

2/Improved scouting and video making it possible to find all the studs in the world who can throw 96+ and filling rosters with them.

3/Everybody teaches a slider/cutter that is super hard to recognize as a “pseudo” fastball.

4/Huge bullpens mean hitters never face a tired pitcher. Instead they face a new pitcher almost every at bat.


5/so much speed in the game means outfielders make spectacular plays to rob hitters of base hits in the gaps.

6/glove technology is probably three or four times better than in the

pre-war era.

7/too much travel in the game

8/too many cold weather games


How did guys like Ted Williams, Rod Carew, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Tony Gwynn and Ichiro do it? Will we ever see a batting average over .360 again? (Ty Cobb hit .362...LIfETIME!)


AND NOW... THE GAZETTE:

AL EAST:

The Yanks are pounding the Dickens out of everybody. I tried to jinx them by picking them to finish fourth in the AL East, but it backfired. Whereas in the last several years the Yanks have looked old, now every move they make works like magic. I think their best move was trading Gary Sanchez, the anti-catcher ,to the Twins for Josh Donaldson. Their pitching staff loves new catcher Trevino and you’ve seen Taillon, Montgomery, Severino and Nestor Cortes all turn into stoppers. And Gerrit Cole is still there!


If I had told you pre-season that Chapman, Chad Green, Loaisiga and Zack Britton were going to miss all or most of the season you would have jumped off their bullpen bandwagon I bet. But the Yanks got lucky with Clay Holmes turning into Mariano Junior and Michael King striking out 51 batters in 37 innings.

They fixed up their shortstop problem with that Falafel kid from Pittsburgh via Twinky town. (Excuse me...Isiah Kiner-Falefa.)


The infield is solid now with Gleber Torres moving over to second where he does less harm. They went out and got Anthony Rizzo to play first base. I told you he was too old. But evidently not too old to lay in ambush of low inside fastballs to Pop into the Pavillion. 18 taters to augment Aaron Judge’s 25. (Aaron on his way to a career year...barring injury.)


So much for my prediction of disaster in Pinstripes. The oddsmakers are only giving the Yankees a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs. (Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re tellin’ me there’s a chance!”)


AL Central: Tony LaRussa is obviously insane. He’s walking Trea Turner after his pitcher gets ahead with a 1-2 count? Huh? Not exactly a by-the-book managing decision. The White Sox should get Joe Maddon who the Angels should never have let go. (How many games was he supposed to win with no pitching staff and injuries to Trout and Rendon?) The White Sox, even as diminished by injury as they are, still hold the hammer in the AL Central.


AL West: Those mischievous Astros! They’ve somehow reworked their whole lineup so skillfully that it’s the same production with mostly new names. From Springer, Altuve, Correa, Bregman to Alvarez, Tucker, Altuve, Bregman, Pena. Nicely done, Space City!


NL East: the Bravos just finished a 14 game win streak against Arizona, Colorado,Oakland,Pittsburgh and Washington. Impressive, right? Not when you look at the records of those opponents. The Braves are short on hitting, especially in the outfield. They lost Ozzie Albeis at least til September. Their pitching is definitely not deep. They are down 5.5 games to the Mets and 3 ahead of the Phillies. And they’ve now finished up the kindest portion of their schedule.


So..one question Atlanta...NOW DO YOU MISS FREDDIE FREEMAN???


NL Central: Dead tie. Milwaukee and St. Louis. As predicted in these pages. Goldschmidt and Arenado are the golden boys of the Cardinals and they have offensive help from Edman. But the St. Louis team has 8 regulars or semi-regulars with on base averages under .320.

The Brewers are barely functioning offensively. Yelich has never rounded into the form of MVPs of old and the Brew-Crew has 11 regulars with OBAs of under .320. So don’t expect a lot of scoring in their upcoming 4 game set in Milwaukee.

Problem: The Brewers have lost 3 star pitchers: Peralta, Woodruff and Josh Hader. Poof and they’re gone. Corbin Burns is the last Ace standing.


St. Louis needs to win this series and start pulling away from Milwaukee. These teams have gone 5-5 against each other this season. I relish watching how they match up right now.


NL West: Ssshhhh! Everybody be quiet and don’t wake them up! DON’T WAKE THE DODGERS!!!


They’ve been coasting all season with their unbeatable lineup and their unbeatable pitching staff and now they’ve somehow just fallen totally asleep and zonkered out into a protracted comatosity.

Remember San Diego...Pride of the Waffle House team colors and forever cursed because they never won one with Tony Gwynn? Have a shortstop who’d rather break bones on his motor bike than on the ballfield? Well yesterday they were in first place for a minute.


And the Giants of San Francisco...nice city if you like cable cars and Hippies. The Giants have been winning frequently and doggedly.


They’re coming for you again Dodgers! Bobby Thompson, Juan Marichal, Willie Mays, Stretch McCovey, Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and all the Dodger-killers of the past are biting you on the ass in the division standings. They never quit, Dodger Boys!!



(The hairy, skinny freak with the pistol and the coke bottles on his fingers from The Warriors:

(“Dodger-Boys! (clink-clink)

Come out to PLAAAAAAY_AAAAY!!!!”)




Monday, April 25, 2022

MARCO'S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2022: QUICK PICKS NL

 

MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2022: QUICK PICKS NL


The Madness Continues:


It’s so much easier to make predictions after the teams have played ten games. I bet it’s even easier at the end of the season! But not even I can hold back the tide of premonition that long so here goes.


NL EAST: The AL EAST was tough to predict. Injuries are going to have a huge effect on the teams’ finish.


The NL is a piece of cake in comparison. You know going in that the Dodgers are better than everybody and are going to win a lot of games. Same as last year. Of course, the TV executives would be happy if Los Angeles and New York won every pennant every year and went on to an endless number of World Series matchups...maybe with an occasional interruption from the Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs to make it all look unrigged. As long as the action stays centered on the highest possible viewership.


Baseball has always been dominated by the big money teams but there’s enough slippage in there that we get a tantalizing surprise once in awhile, because, thank God, nobody has figured out how to precisely peg the cost of a player to his performance. So you get delightful anomalies like Brandon Crawford going career year for the Giants last season and Logan Webb turning into Whitey Ford before our grateful eyes. Salvador Perez struggles to his feet on his catcher-punished knees and hits the most homers ever hit by a major league catcher (48). Something weird and wonderful is always happening in baseball. And that’s why big money teams need to watch their asses.


1/ ATLANTA BRAVES...I like ‘em. They have the depth and the seasoning to defend their run of divisional first place finishes. I know all the sentimental slush about Freddie Freeman is the focus. “How could they cut him loose after he gave HIS VERY SOUL to the Bravos!” Freeman cashed in after a couple of great seasons and leaves the Georgians at the very height of success. Freeman has already played 12 seasons. He’ll turn 33 this season. The Dodgers will get the dregs of his career. Do you think the Braves want to have a dreadful nostalgia-fest overpaying Frederick for a Miggy Cabrera type circus? And Freeman knows this is his last dip into the piggy bank to set himself up for a life beyond baseball. Way it goes. Atlanta went out and got a comparable player (Matt Olson) who is younger and cheaper even with two additional years on his contract. He’s a Georgia favorite son as well.


The Braves have the offense, especially with Ozuna, Duvall and Acuna coming back. Their infield is really strong third to first...Riley, Swanson, Albies, Olson.


Pitching depth is good even with no stand-out Number One. The bullpen won them a ring last year. The Braves are ready.


2/NEW YORK METS...be still my heart picking these scrapdoodles to finish this high, but I can’t help it if the other teams in this division besides Atlanta are hopelessly lacking. The Mets are the very picture of a random team. You have a potential team leader (Lindor) who flibbered the gibbet in the worst way and wound up bad-mouthing the fans as the source of his ineffectiveness. They had to let Javier Baez go so Francisco, who was one of my favorite players, wouldn’t have a partner in whine to insult the public as he celebrated his $341 million dollar contract.


Then there’s the testosterone twins Robbie Cano and Starling Marte

(if you want me to type those names in bold, I’m sorry) comparing their prescriptions as they reminisce how they successfully bumped up their salaries into the stratosphere with creative chemistry.


The dynamic pitching duo of Scherzer and deGrom were ready to restore greatness to the Metskies just as soon as they got their new ligaments rubberized and vacuumed out their thoracic cavities.


Owner Steve Cohen happily spent the big money on all these guys because he wants to win. Good for him. But Scrooge McDuck could have organized a better team atmosphere.


You know who could make that team come together? The Polar Bear...first sacker Pete Alonso. He’s the most productive member of the offense and he’s good with the fans, good in the clubhouse and he does it all with 8 regulars in the lineup making as much or more money. Some of them are making two or three times more. He’ll help the Mets stumble into the wild card somehow, where maybe a resurrected Scherzer can win them something.


3/PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES...a boutique pick for a pennant. I don’t know what that means but it sounds cool, you know? I think I mean that this iteration of the Phillies have some flash and they suck you in with the possibility of being a winner when they really aren’t and may never be. Yeah I know. Bryce Harper is such a “passionate” player and his hat comes off when he runs...like Willie’s used to! He’s so strong...like Mickey was! I’m sorry but Bryce can’t carry this team all by himself.


Castellanos and Schwarber, welcome to Phillie! But we are only allowed one DH and both of you are *gladiators* in the outfield. Realmuto and Hoskins and old timers Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius are going to have to be productive and they just haven’t got many arrows left in their quivers.


The Phillies looked like they were moving into contention a couple of years ago but then they spit the bit and didn’t complete the mission. Now they have a few good pitchers (Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola) but not enough bullpen and an aging roster. If those two starters have good years, they get some bullpen help and the old guys don’t go lame and Harper, Castellanos and Schwarber all go crazy...the Phillies might be Franklins. If not? Bye Bye Benjamins.



(*gladiators*...this nickname bestowed in honor of the original “gladiator” Pete Browning...a famous nineteenth century batting champion who was also notorious for his “battles” with fly balls.


Deaf and illiterate, the six-foot, 180-pound Browning was eccentric as well. He refused to slide; played defense standing on one leg to prevent anyone running into him; stared into the sun to improve his “lamps” (eyes); treasured his “active” bats because of the hits they still contained; was constantly on the prowl for the next, new “magical” stick with hits in it; reportedly favored bats that were 37 inches in length and 48 ounces in weight; maintained a warehouse of “retired” bats in his home — all of them named, many after Biblical figures; kept his batting statistics on his shirt cuffs; and when traveling over the circuit, frequently alighted from trains and introduced himself as the champion batter of the American Association.)


4/MIAMI MARLINS...oh boy oh boy oh boy. Derek Jeter and his little elvin helpers have really screwed up this team. Jeter walked away after insuring and bequeathing another cycle of rebuilding upon his former possession. The Marlins have stuffed their roster with great young pitchers. Dozens of them it seems like. And they are all coming into their productive years and find themselves saddled with ...no OFFENSE!! Idiot owners have mis-planned this whole deal.


The Chicago Cubs rebuilt a decade ago by building the team with regulars and then going out and then buying the pitchers to be ready to win when the offense was there. The Marlins have got these talented pitchers who are learning to lose because the team is at the bottom of baseball in runs scored, homers,etc. Now the Miami Mistakes have to wait around for the team to develop some steady hitting. This is the team that used to have Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton in their lineup all at one time...and let them go!


Poor Don Mattingly. He deserves better. I fully expect him to be fired and Miami to trade all their great young arms for a new crop of Miami wannabes. Another chapter in the book of Miami Marlin ineptitude.


5/WASHINGTON NATIONALS...like the song says...”Beat the drum slowly and play the pipes lowly and play the Dead March as you carry me along...” Observe, everyone, the demise of yet another once thriving franchise. A moment in the sun in 2019 and now...the Deluge!


One of baseball’s brightest stars, Juan Soto, is about to have the same fate befall him as Ernie Banks, Mike Trout and other worthy superstars of the game...a career sucked dry by the desert of a franchise that mistimed their rebuild. Now the Nats have nobody to deal. Not much farm system. A barren pitching staff with nobody worth trading now that Strasburg is permanently damaged. (Maybe Josiah Gray would be a chip if he works on his control.)


Maybe Soto can last until what should be a very rich free agency. Maybe he will play it safe and accept a long term contract from Washington and try to last out the losing. One way or another, it’s too bad that baseball keeps forsaking its most appealing stars and hiding them in back-water losing ball clubs.


And don’t expect miraculous batting feats from Soto for awhile... there ain’t no protection for Juan in the current lineup so why pitch to him?


NL CENTRAL:


1/ST. LOUIS CARDINALS and 2/MILWAUKEE BREWERS...this is a close call between the St. Looie-Looies and the Milwaukee Brewskies. The Brews certainly have a championship pitching staff and own the three top pitchers in the division in Corbin Burnes (WHIP 0.94) Brandon Woodruff (0.96) and Freddie Peralta (0.97). That can be lethal in a short playoff series if those guys stay healthy this season. They also have Josh Hader (WHIP 0.84/almost 16 K’s per 9 innings) and Devin Williams (WHIP 1.19/almost 15 K’s per 9) in the bullpen plus many other Major Dudes. I say the Brews have the best staff in baseball...better than the Dodgers, better than the White Sox and better than the Mets even if deGrom hadn’t gotten hurt.


Only St. Louis closer Giovanny Gallegos (WHIP 0.85) would make the top end of the Brewers bullpen. No St. Louis starter would make the Milwaukee rotation unless Jack Flaherty is healthy in which case you might want him over Adrian Houser or Eric Lauer.


So what am I thinking by picking the Cards to take the Central?

Well, while the Brewers own the mound in a Big, Big way, they are woefully lacking in farm system prospects and money. (The Cardinals have oodles of cash and guys like 2B/3B Nolan Gorman in the minors...7 home runs in 7 games this week in Memphis)


The Wisconsin-ites (?) are depending on an unlikely rebound from Christian Yelich after two nightmare seasons. Yelich has a bad back and that comes and goes. He’s had a few other injuries as well. Playing baseball doesn’t exactly help. He’s probably going to be better this season but will he be MVP-level better like he was? Very very doubtful. But he’s the offense, along with Rowdy Tellez?


The Brewers have a very good infield now that they traded for Willy Adames to play short. He and Kolton Wong are GG caliber at the keystone and Luis Urias surprises at third. First base...Rowdy Tellez?


Of course the St. Louis Cardinals are not exactly hurting defensively with an infield of Nolan Arenado at third, Paul Goldschmidt at first, Tommy Edman at second and either Edmundo Sosa or Paul DeJong at short. The first three all won Gold Gloves. Two of the Cardinal’s outfielders won Gold Gloves also...Tyler O’Neill and Harrison Bader. Right fielder Dylan Carlson finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. So with catcher Yadier Molina (many Gold Glove years) the whole team can field like fiends. (And five total Gold Gloves I believe is the new all-time record for one team in one year.)


So I list these two teams together. Worthy competitors if it plays out like I think it will in the Central. Two great defensive teams...one with superior pitching and the other with superior offense. As Yogi used to say, “Good pitching will beat good hitting every time….and vice versa!”


I pick St. Louis to finish first because I guess you can say I drink the sentimental Kool Aide that the Cardinals are serving up. Isn’t it sweet that Molina and Wainwright have decided to play one more year with each other and then retire? Two old War Ponies now joining up with Albert Pujols in his Last Grand Tour around the league? It’s just like a storybook or something!


A BIG HOWEVER… if the Brewers finish first in the Central regular season and play in a wild card first round in the Playoffs, the Wisconsin-ians (?) get to play 3 straight home games in the wild card match with their triple headed starting pitcher monster rotation of Burnes, Woodruff and Peralta! Them are Long Odds for the Louie-Louies and anybody else who plays Milwaukee!


3/ CHICAGO CUBS...and now for the NL Central Also-Rans. The Cubs have definitively and officially gone in the tank for 2022 and probably beyond. They have dispensed with Rizzo, Baez and Bryant. So no more of those pesky hitters. They’ve dumped their name pitchers as well because who needs pitching? Who’d they keep? Marcus Stroman and Kyle Hendricks who aren’t world beaters but are true competitors. For regulars they have Ian Happ, Wilson “Contrary” Contreras, Patrick Wisdom and Jason Heyward. Jason is going into his eighth and final year of an 8 year death spiral contract. His OPS in 2021? .627. His average was .214 and at 34 he’s lost his range in the outfield. It is what it is.


And yet the Cubbies are not without hope for the future. They picked up some interesting young prospects from their various Tank-Trades.

There best move may have been the purchase of Seiya Suzuki from Japan. Suzuki is a real player. Dominated in the Japanese Leagues as a .300+ hitter with power and speed. He’s played outfield, 3B and shortstop and at 27 he’s in his prime as a ballplayer. He has a great eye at the plate and takes walks. OPS of 1.000 + every year. Should make a big difference for the Cubs. Someone to build around.


I like Jud Hoyer as the GM and David Ross as a paternalistic player’s manager. I don’t think the Cubs will disgrace themselves and I have a feeling they will be back soon.


4/CINCINNATI REDS...are also doing a Tank Job, but they aren’t being as up front about it as the Cubs. They’ve left their die hard fans in a state of horror as they appeared to be making a big push a couple of years ago and then just...stopped. They traded Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart and their great closer Raisel Iglesias. Nick Castellanos...Adios!


The Reds are going into this season with Joey Votto, Jesse Winker and Rookie 2B Jonathon India leading the offense. They still have Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray in the rotation and new wunderkind Hunter Green who looks like Doc Gooden or a friendlier Bob Gibson throwing 100 mph consistently.


I am disappointed. I guess the Reds are going to be satisfied to phone in a .500 record.


5/PITTSBURGH PIRATES...they’ve become a farm team for the rest of baseball. Claim the best draft choices year after year as they finish last. Trade anybody that qualifies for an arbitrated higher salary. It’s an insult to the memory of a once proud franchise. What to do? See the section on Oakland in the Quick Picks AL blog sent out two weeks ago. Meanwhile look at this all-time lineup to remember the heritage of the Buccos. Raise the Jolly Roger Maties!


C: Jason Kendall

1B: Willie Stargell

2B: Bill Mazeroski

3B: Pie Traynor

SS: Honus Wagner

INF: Arky Vaughn

OF: Roberto Clemente

OF: Paul Waner

OF: Dave Parker

OF: Max Carey

OF: Fred Clarke

DH: Ralph Kiner

P: Babe Adams, Jesse Tannehill, Wilber Cooper, Steve Blass, Vern Law, Harvey Haddix, Elroy Face, Doug Drabek, Kent Tekulve


NL WEST:


1/LOS ANGELES DODGERS...at last! The glamorous NL West! Home of the famous Los Angeles Show Ponies...slick and glossy pride of the West Coast! A team of destiny! A team of Stars! A team that finished second to the San Francisco Giants last season! (Oooops. Wait a minute….something wrong with this bullhorn.) How about those Rams, Huh?


Yep, the Deadly D’s had a great team last year and still managed to lose the division for the first time in ten years. Blame it on Trevor Bauer I guess, and move on. Or better yet...congratulate the talented and stubborn San Francisco Giants and be glad they are in the division with L.A. so we have a contest.

Also be glad that the Dodgers have a couple of guys like the Yard Gnomes... Justin Turner and Mike Muncy... and versatile clutch hitter Chris Taylor. True Grit players like that put a little beard fuzz on those shiny pony-boys who make the glossy cover of Dodgertown Confidential. You know, pretty boys like Mookie, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, Kershaw and Bellinger. (And yes, I know that men like Mookie and Trea and Clayton are equally gritty. Their only fault is being glamorous and inviting my opportunistic sarcasm.)


And I can’t blame the players for enjoying the candy store that is the Dodger roster. Who doesn’t enjoy winning and playing on a club loaded with talent? I’m just glad there is still competition in baseball and teams like Washington and Atlanta get a turn at the top now and again.


I really don’t see how the Dodgers could possibly finish out of the money this year. Even if we get another surprising anomaly like the resurrection of the Giants, L.A. can’t help but at least win a wild card spot. They are so deep and they have more great young players (catcher Diego Cartaya, Of Andy Pages) waiting to move up to the Big Club.


But that potential lineup of Betts, Freeman, Turner, Turner, Muncy, Taylor, Will Smith, Lux and Bellinger/Rios/Matt Beaty at DH? Fuh-git A-bou-dit!


And the pitchers! You think Kershaw is close to the End? 7 perfect innings in an April start! Maybe not! Buehler, Urias, Heany, Gonsolin also in the rotation? Bullpen bristling with arms as usual.


The Yankees should take a good look at what Big Money can buy . Even if you still believe in thrift, like L.A.’s President of Operations and ex-Tampa Bay Rays exec. Andrew Friedman.


Because the Dodgers are Locked and Loaded.


2/SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS...hats off to you, Gigazmos. You came out of the Great Blue Bay and throttled the League with your winning ways. I had given up on you for last year. Won’t make that mistake again.



Of course you did lose Buster Posey to retirement and he had a big year for you. And Brandon Crawford can’t have ANOTHER career year, can he? Will the League figure out how to hit that sinker Logan Webb throws? And isn’t that last year’s Ace Kevin Gausman pitching for Toronto in 2022? Can you really have 12 guys over 30 on your Opening Day roster?


So...questions for the season ahead. But I like the attitude on this team. Bunch of Old Pros who won’t quit. They took the Dodgers to the very end last year. I say a wild card at the least.


3/SAN DIEGO PADRES...I picked them to win the N.L. last year. I was wrong, wasn’t I? Tatis got hurt which was one thing that screwed them up. And the pitching went south, surprisingly, except for Joe Musgrove. What was the matter with Yu Darvish and Blake Snell? Gopher balls and walks, specifically. Pitching questions make evaluating this team really dicey.


The hitters are formidable when Fernando Tatis Jr. is in the lineup but he hurt himself on a motor bike (are you listening Madison Bumgarner?) which I’m sure pleased management to no end. Especially when Tatis had this to say to a question about his bike wreck: “Which one?” Team first, huh Fernando? No wonder Manny Machado has to kick your ass so often. Anyway, the Pads are a different team when Tatis is healthy. He is a huge presence.


Speaking of team chemistry, San Diego seemed to lose focus during the injury-tainted 2021 season and it didn’t help that Eric Hosmer asked for a trade. Soured the atmosphere a little bit. I understand why Hosmer hates that ballpark though. Petco is the exact wrong fit for him. Knocks 100+ points off his slugging because he’s a line drive hitter.


Positives? CJ Abrams looks like a future star as he fills in for Tatis during the injury. He’ll stay in the infield when Fernando gets back.

And the new manager Bob Melvin is just the right choice to get the Padres back on point.


4/COLORADO ROCKIES...I wish some baseball science nerd would explain to me why the Rockies can’t figure out how to win in the major leagues. If Coors Field is that extreme an environment that they can’t even cash in on the offensive advantage in their own park...maybe they should put the whole team in a humidifier instead of just the baseballs.


Pitchers can’t throw a lot of breaking balls because they don’t break in the thin air. Got it. So recruit power fastball pitchers with great control (if they exist) or else change-up/sinker ball specialists who fool the hitters with change of speed. I mean, what other choice do you have if you’re the pitching coach? They can’t entice any free agent pitchers to come to Colorado because who wants to go get their brains beat in? So you have to build the farm system. Bring up some knuckle ball pitchers. Try Kent Tekulve submarine pitchers. Eephus balls! Try something! Go with a big staff of mixed talents...one type pitching in Coors and save the traditional pitchers for the road games. Get creative!


And for offense, go Big! Colorado has actually won in the past with three or four guys like Andres Gallaraga, Dante Bichette and Vinnie Castillo in the lineup...not Hall of Famers...just big guys who took advantage of the conditions in that ballpark!


Currently the Rockheads have a bunch of hitters with low averages and medium power and a bunch of pitchers with ERAs of over 5. Not a winning formula.


Right now the Rockies franchise lies like a bludgeoned trout rotting in the sun.


5/ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS...it gets painful at this end of the NL West projections, fans. What do you get if you’re a Diamondbacks fan? Ketel Marte (their ONLY hitter with a plus .800 OPS) and the husk of a once great Madison Bumgarner? Watching this team is like watching the wreck of the Hindenburg in slow motion. You want to yell “Jump! Jump!” but you know the passengers on the film can’t even hear you.

Just one example of the fruitlessness of the Arizona genius- front office: they spent a whole lot of money on free agent Mark Melancon to be their CLOSER! Mark is great, but how many leads do you think they expect to have with their lineup? Why not spend that money on about six young prospects and start their rebuild? Are they really pretending that they have a chance?


SUMMING UP: The National League has 8 decent teams with a real chance at a Playoff spot...L.A., San Fran, San Diego, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Atlanta, New York Mets and Philadelphia. The rest are shark chum.


The AL is deeper. Tampa Bay, Toronto, New York Yanks, Boston, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Cleveland, Kansas City, Houston, Seattle, and the Los Angeles Angels all have a shot.


MY NL PICKS:

NL EAST: ATLANTA

NL CENTRAL: ST. LOUIS

NL WEST: LOS ANGELES DODGERS

1ST WILD CARD: MILWAUKEE

2ND WILD CARD: SAN FRANCISCO

3RD WILD CARD: NEW YORK


FIRST ROUND WILD CARD WINNERS:

ST. LOUIS OVER 3RD WILD CARD NEW YORK

2ND WILD CARD SAN FRANCISCO OVER 1ST WILD CARD MILWAUKEE.


DIVISION PLAYOFF WINNERS:

LOS ANGELES OVER ST. LOUIS

ATLANTA OVER SAN FRANCISCO


NL PENNANT WINNER:

LOS ANGELES OVER ATLANTA


AL PICKS:

AL EAST: TAMPA BAY

AL CENTRAL: CHICAGO

AL WEST: HOUSTON

1ST WILD CARD: TORONTO

2ND WILD CARD: BOSTON

3RD WILD CARD: LOS ANGELES ANGELS


FIRST ROUND WILD CARD WINNERS:

HOUSTON OVER 3RD WILD CARD LOS ANGELES ANGELS

1ST WILD CARD TORONTO OVER 2ND WILD CARD BOSTON


DIVISION PLAYOFF WINNERS:

HOUSTON OVER TAMPA BAY

TORONTO OVER CHICAGO


AL PENNANT WINNER:

HOUSTON OVER TORONTO


WORLD SERIES WINNER:

LOS ANGELES OVER HOUSTON


Many Happy Baseball Returns!


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Marco's Baseball Blog-O-Roonie 2022: Quick Picks AL

 

MARCO’S BASEBALL BLOG-O-ROONIE 2022: QUICK PICKS


AL EAST:


1/TAMPA BAY RAYS...They aren’t very glamorous and they don’t have very much star power and they operate like a farm team for everybody else in the majors. They win because they are the smartest evaluators of talent . They always seem to win trades and they get the best out of their young pitchers before letting them go to another team.


The Rays lost Shane Baz and Corey Kluber early to injury...but they have six or seven other guys who can be starters...especially since their starters are handled like long relievers anyway. Their pitching staff has a lot of big young arms who can bring it 95 or better.


Their everyday lineup doesn’t seem impressive (like Boston’s or Toronto’s) until you realize that they have power all through the order plus good speed and excellent defense. And oh yeah...Wander Franco is already in the top five of MLB shortstops.


2/ TORONTO BLUE JAYS...a very good bet for a wild card team. Why won’t they finish first? They didn’t last year and they had three great hitters with career years. Guerrero, Bichette and Marcus Semien. Semien is gone to the Rangers after leading baseball in extra base hits. There is no replacement for that. Getting Matt Chapman from the Oakland A’s to play third is a nice addition, but Chappie is not going to lead the league in extra base hits. He batted .210 last season. Vlad Jr. hit 31 of his 48 taters in those band box minor league and Spring Training stadiums the Jays had to use for home fields last year. He hit 17 on the road...not bad but not Ruthian either. His slugging average was 200 points higher at home. The very definition of a player who got enormous help from his home park. But now they play back in the Acadian Driftwood.


The Jays also lost their best pitcher...2021 Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. Kevin Gausman might be able to replace what Ray gave them but he’s been an underachiever. It’s extremely doubtful he can win the Cy Young. The rest of the starters are questionable. The bullpen is suspect.


The Jays are everybody’s sexy choice to win the East...I don’t see it. One thing in their favor...Canada doesn’t let anybody come play baseball in their country without being vaccinated. That means a lot of top stars won’t be in the lineup against the Rays in Canada.


3/BOSTON RED SOX...I see the Red Sox and the Yankees scrambling over the leftovers in the AL East. The Red Sox are pitching deficient. If Taylor Houck ups his game, Chris Sale comes back from his stressed rib fracture before June, Eovaldi can be his horse-like starting pitcher self and the bullpen can stay intact they have a chance to win. But please notice how long that list of “ifs” is.


The offense is great. Rafael Devers should contend for the MVP. Xavier Bogaerts and J.D Martinez are good for a hundred ribbies each. Bobby Dalbec could hit 35 long balls (while batting .205) to pep up the bottom of the batting order. If Trevor Story can hit in Fenway like he did in Coors (.296 average and .880 OPS) and get better on the road (he hit .203 last year with an OPS of .718) that’s the joker in the deck. If Trevor happens, the Sox win a wild card.


I wish the Sox could have coaxed Kyle Schwarber back to serve as DH in waiting during J.D.’s last season in Bean town. They could have really used that leftie power bat and Kyle was good for the clubhouse.


4/NEW YORK YANKEES...it’s embarrassing how the Yankee ass kissers ignore the Yankee’s problems and keep picking them to win the East, win the pennant, win the Series etc. Why? Because the Yankees haven’t won since 2009 and the New York fans thinks the Yankees are entitled to a couple of World Series victories per decade at the very least. Of course, that 2009 team hit 244 home runs, stole 111 bases and had eight starters with an OPS of over .850. They had four switch hitters, Jeter hitting .334, Sabathia and Petitte and Mariano etc etc. None of the starters missed significant time except for A Rod playing only 124 games and Posada getting some rest. Anyway...


...Welcome to 2022. The Yankees are not as good as the three teams I’ve listed above . Their bullpen is better than the Jays and the Red Sox, but not that much better. The Yankees have put together a team of former All Stars who are now injury prone to the max. Everywhere you look on their roster you see 30 game IL stays waiting to happen.


Aaron Judge is a great Yankee in the classic tradition of the team. After that they are scrambling. Giancarlo is a threat but can be pitched to. LeMahieu, Hicks, Gallo, Rizzo...they’ve all passed their sell-by dates. Former stars. The Yanks got rid of Gary Sanchez finally but they had to throw in Gio Urshela the Most Happy Fella to get Josh Donaldson from the Twinks. They will miss Gio...he played hard and didn’t get hurt so much. You can say the same about the former quality but not the latter in discussions pertaining to his replacement Donaldson. Josh is not what they needed. Another right handed hitter who strikes out a lot and gets injured frequently?


Pitching? They’ve got the right guys at the top...Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman. Hard to improve on those two. But who is their second starter? Are they really counting on Severino? Nestor Cortes? Jamison Taillon with a broken ankle? And the bullpen thins out pretty much after Chad Green and Jonathon Loaisiga.


I predict the Yankees will not make the Big Dance this year. Aaron Boone will be fired by mid-season and GM Brian Cashman will go at the end of October. (Even with his recent missteps, I maintain that firing Cashman would be a mistake. Boone would have been gone last year if George Steinbrenner could have come back from the grave to do the honors.)


5/BALTIMORE ORIOLES...ahhh, the Orioles. How long has it been guys? Well, at least this year the Birds have a couple of players to watch. First up is outfielder Cedric Mullins...a 30/30 man and the first one of those in Oriole history. Pitcher Grayson Rodriguez struck out 14 per 9 innings in Double and Triple A. He has one of those fastballs. His battery mate could well be Adley Rutschman, the top catching prospect in the game and a sure thing to hear them talk. (He better be! The Orioles can’t afford a miss…)


AL CENTRAL:


1/CHICAGO WHITE SOX...it will be a minor miracle if the Sox don’t win the Central by at least ten games. They have the best offense in the league with the possible exception of Houston and Toronto. Luis Robert is due for a break out season. And he is well-supported by Eloy Jimenez, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and every other great Cuban ballplayer short of Minnie Minoso. I saw the White Sox play in a Cactus League Spring game in March. They pounded the Rockies. The White Sox have sluggers like Andrew Vaughn, Squirmin Yermin Mercedes and Yoenis Cespedis’s little brother Yoelkis on their bench! Those are three 30 homer men right there and they barely have spots for them! And you ought to see Yoelkis throw! He nailed a fast runner trying for third on a line hit to right center. Yoelkis speared it in the gap as he ran to his left, then did a 180 and fired to third on a line. That throw never got over head level and that runner was oh so very, very OUT…


Anyway, I can see why Tony La Russa came back to manage this bunch. They have four really good starters in Giolito, Cease, Kopech and Lynn and a Cy Young winner in Dallas Keuchel as the Number 5.. Of course Lynn and Giolito are on the IL for awhile...what’s new? But they have depth. The bullpen is awesome with Kendall Graveman and leftie Aaron Bummer backing Liam Hendriks.


Mark your ballots and call your bookies...the White Sox are the Faves in the AL.


2/CLEVELAND GUARDIANS (now officially known as the “Guard Dogs”.)...their pitching is loaded with starters Bieber, Quantrill, Plesac, Civale and McKenzie and relief from Karinchak and Gose backing up the hardest thrower in MLB (until they get a final radar read on Hunter Greene of the Reds) Emmanuel Clase. (0.96 WHIP)


The offense is loaded wth Jose Ramirez and...and...and...well, Jose Ramirez!

Talk about a one man team! I guess you could include hit/average leader and shortstop Amed Rosario and on base first week phenom Steven Kwan. How about Franmil Reyes? Strikes out 32 % of the time...hits 30 homers...weighs 265...the very epitome of today’s model ballplayer.


The most interesting facet of the Guard Dogs’ attack is their team speed. They have 5 possible 20+ stolen base guys. If they went full-speed-tard like the Kansas City Royals or St. Louis Cardinals of old they might surprise a few people. The Go-Go Guard Dogs. We need a team like that.


3/KANSAS CITY ROYALS...speaking of the Royals, this team has 4 speed burners in Merrifield, Mondesi, Nicki Lopez and Michael Taylor. All established double figure steal guys. Put that together with Sal Perez who hit 48 bombs last year and should have finished 2nd in the MVP vote and favorite for Rookie of the Year Bobby Witt Jr. and the Royals could contend for a wild card.


Of course, that depends on their shaky and oft-injured pitching staff holding up. Certainly not a safe bet. But leftie Kris Bubic looks promising and Carlos Hernandez brings it at 100mph. If Mike Minor’s shoulder solidifies I like the Royals chances.


4/MINNESOTA TWINS...I’m starting to warm up to the AL Central. You have the White Sox who are as strong as anybody plus rebuilds on the QT like KC and Detroit plus recent contenders like Cleveland and Minnesota who, with a little luck and good years from their stars could win 90 games. One way or the other the AL is going to be competitive for the wild cards this year.


The Twins scored a coup by picking up blushing bride free agent shortstop Carlos Correa. I guess Carlos didn’t want to hear the “Cheater! Cheater!” chorus at Yankee or Dodger Stadium. So he goes to Twinkie -ville.


Carlos is a deserving gold glove shortstop who only has two years in his career where he’s played in at least 120 games. So he goes to the Twin cities to join another highly regarded would be superstar who can’t stay healthy...Byron Buxton. That gives the Twins the top two Gold Gloves at two important positions. Which helps. Especially because the Twins undid all their defensive upgrading by going out and trading for Mr. Passed Ball of the MLB catching core, Scary Gary Sanchez. They also have to live with Jorge Polanco at second base. He’s a very bad fielder.


The offense is loaded with 5-7 25 dinger specialists plus hundreds and hundreds of strike outs.


Pitching? Minnesota’s Numero Uno starter is Dylan Bundy. That’s all you need to know.


5/DETROIT TIGERS...things are finally looking up for the Tigres. They won’t win anything this year, but they are bringing up young people who can play and in another two years Detroit will be Rock City once again.


The pitchers are Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and closer Gregory Soto. (the Tigers were smart enough to bring in Gold Glove catcher Tucker Barnhart from the Reds to help them.) The hitters are Javier Baez, Jeimer Candelario, Akil Badoo and rookie Spencer Torkelson. Look for Detroit to make a big jump...but it’s a tough division for them to finish higher than 4th or 5th in.


AL WEST:


1/HOUSTON ASTROS...they still can’t catch the Astros. The Angels, the Mariners, the A’s, the Rangers. All are trying to rebuild badly flawed ball clubs. Meanwhile, the Astros keep winning.


In two seasons the ‘Stros have lost George Springer and Carlos Correa. But they cultivated two hitting stars to take their place: Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker...MVP level players. Put those two guys in with the Astro core players Jose Altuve, Michael Bradley, Alex Bregman and batting champion Yuli Gurriel and you have a high grade All Star offense.


Like every other team, the pitching is vulnerable to injury. But if Verlander, McCullers and Framber Valdez hold up, the Astros will cruise. A bullpen with Ryan Pressley, Ryne Stanik and Hector Neris won’t hurt either.


2/LOS ANGELES ANGELS...this is a big if. I think that if Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and especially Shohei Ohtani can all appear in at least 130 games, the Angels will win a wild card spot. That means Ohtani has to be their Number 1 starter and still hit close to what he did in 2021. The Angels have some help with their young players Jared Walsh, Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell and Max Stassi.


It’s the pitching staff that needs to step up. Noah Syndergaard, Patrick Sandoval, Michael Lorenzen and Jose Suarez all have the tools to be winning starters. Raisel Iglesias is a shut down closer. Let’s take Trout and Ohtani... two great generational stars...to the Playoffs and Beyond!


3/SEATTLE MARINERS...the M’s are coming together. This year they’ll add Uber-Prospect Julio Rodriguez to a lineup with Jarred Kelenic, Ty France, and Mitch Haniger. That’s four guys with major sock potential. Let’s be magnanimous and add Funky Winker-bean to the list. He gets it done!


The Big Clue that the Mariners are expecting to go for it now and in the next few seasons is the acquisition of Robbie Ray from Toronto. That’s a Cy Young winner from 2021. That helps the young arms in that rotation immensely. Watch Logan Gilbert. He could be a Number One soon.

I wonder how much it hurts Seattle to be the team that has to travel the most miles of any in MLB every year. Can it possibly be a coincidence that this team has never made it to the World Series?


4/TEXAS RANGERS...have the Rangers shot themselves in the foot again? Have they just spent half a billion dollars on a fragile shortstop and a 31 year old coming off a career year? Have they repeated the mistake they made in 2001 when they bought a steroid-enhanced shortstop on a long term contract that left them with no money for any other players who could help them win?

Look at the Rangers roster and tell me what you think. Do you smell that whiff of ARod grapeshot still haunting the battlefields of Arlington? Notice also the barren desert that was once the Rangers’ Farm System.


5/OAKLAND ATHLETICS...why oh why can’t they let this team build a new ballpark in San Jose or Oakland or Nashville or somewhere that is accessible and attractive to fans? You know...baseball fans who spend money that you can buy players with?


We had a 90 day lockout and they still don’t have a viable team or a workable plan to make baseball work in Miami, in Tampa Bay, in Pittsburgh, or in Oakland. This can’t be good. Move it or lose it. Austin and San Antonio are in the top twenty population centers of America. Put a ballpark smack dab in the middle of those two burgeoning metropolises and play baseball in it.



Here’s another hint for you Mr. Commissioner….San Jose is number 5! If you build it they are ALREADY THERE!


Stop beating a dead horse.


Or do you like a team like Oakland tearing their team apart every six years like they are right now? Sell off the stars that brought the fans in the first place and build from scratch again and again? Same thing in Tampa, Miami and Pittsburgh and it looks like Cincinnati has joined the fun this year. Cleveland will probably give it one more year before depopulating their roster of good players. Franchise Suckage I call it. Somebody please recalibrate.


And I’ll take a couple of days to recalibrate and then I’ll be back with the NL predictions.


Harry Verderci