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Many say it is the worst division in baseball. I personally am inclined to agree. However, it is also a very deep division, in which the Pirates are the only horrible team. Anyway, it was an exciting division this year; culminating in the emergence of the Chicago Cubs and their new concept of spending money. Here's the rundown:
On May first, the Brew Crew was in first place, 4 ahead of the Reds and Pirates, 6 ahead of fourth place Chicago, and 6.5 ahead of Houston and the defending champion, St. Louis. On June first, Milwaukee was starting to run away. They had a 6.5 game lead on second place St. Louis, a 7.5 game lead on Chicago and Pittsburgh, an 8.5 game lead on fifth place Houston, and a 9.5 game lead on last place Cincinnati. On July first, the Brewers still had a commanding 6.5 game lead; however, it was now over Chicago. St. Louis was the only other team within 10 games at 9.5 back. At the break, Chicago was 4.5 games back and the Cards were 7.5 back, in third place. On August first, Chicago and Milwaukee were tied for first with third place St. Louis 6 back. On September first, Chicago was in full possession of first place with the Brewers 1.5 back and St. Louis 2 games back. Two weeks later, St. Louis dropped to third place and 6 games out (out of the race) following the Rick Ankiel HGH revelation. Chicago was still in first, one game ahead of Milwaukee. A week later, on the 22nd, Chicago had pushed Milwaukee 2.5 back. The Brewers post-season aspirations were now on life support. Chicago clinched the division on the 28th despite only being 3 ahead of Milwaukee at the time and only having a 84-76 record.
That was an exciting division. It should not be as weak this year as in the previous years. Anyway, here are the final standings for your 2007 NL Central Division: 1. Cubs: 85-77 2. Brewers: 83-79 (2 GB) 3. Cardinals: 78-84 (7 GB) 4. Astros: 73-89 (12 GB) 5. Reds: 72-90 (13 GB) 6. Pirates: 68-94 (17 GB)
The Pirates have been the second most pathetic team in baseball over the last 20 years (Also the second most pathetic in Pennsylvania). Ever since losing Barry Lamar Bonds to free agency, this franchise has been unable to rebound. That is why it puzzles me to see the Pirates do so little in the off-season year, after year, after year... and once again this year. Here are the Pirates' moves this off-season: -Acquired pitchers Marino Salas and Kevin Roberts from the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Salomon Torres. -Signed pitchers Jaret Wright, Hector Carrasco, Casey Fossum, Elmer Dessens, Adam Bernero, and T.J. Beam, catcher Raul Cavez, utility man Jose Macias, and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to minor league contracts. -Claimed shortstop Ray Olmedo off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Pitching Staff: SP1: Ian Snell SP2: Tom Gorzelanny SP3: Paul Moholm SP4/5: Zach Duke/Matt Morris CL: Matt Capps SUM: Damaso Marte
Field: C: Ronny Paulino 1B: Adam LaRoche 2B: Freddy Sanchez SS: Jack Wilson 3B: Jose Batista LF: Jason Bay CF: Nate McLouth/Chris Duffy RF: Xavier Nady
Predictions: Easiest- The Pirates will finish last, once again. Boldest- Ian Snell will have over 200 strikeouts. Team MVP/Best Season/Breakout Player- Ian Snell (14-16 wins, sub-4 ERA, +200 Ks) Best Hitter- Jason Bay (30-35 HRs, 80-95 RBI)
- P.S.: The reason there was no '08 RAP yesterday was because I was out all night. However, I will be able to do two posts on Thursday and Friday.*
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
I love what the Reds have done this off-season. They were able to bolster their pitching staff without giving up Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, or any other prospects. The Reds are once again contenders in the NL Central. Here are the Reds off-season moves: -Signed pitcher Francisco Cordero to a four-year deal. -Signed pitcher Jeremy Affeldt to a one-year deal. -Signed pitcher Josh Fogg to a one-year deal. -Signed outfielder Corey Patterson to a one-year deal. -Signed infielder Jerry Hairston Jr to a minor league deal.
Pitching Staff: SP1: Aaron Harang SP2: Bronson Arroyo SP3/4/5: Homer Bailey/Matt Belisle/Johnny Cueto/Edison Volquez CL: Francisco Cordero SUM: David Weathers
Field: C: David Ross/Javier Valentin 1B: Joey Votto/Scott Hatteberg 2B: Brandon Philips SS: Alex Gonzalez 3B: Ryan Freel/Edwin Encarnacion LF: Adam Dunn CF: Corey Patterson/Ryan Freel RF: Ken Griffey Jr.
Predictions: Easiest- The Reds will not make the playoffs. Boldest- The Reds will finish second in the NL Central. Team MVP/Best Season- Adam Dunn (45-50 HRs, 110-120 RBI, under 200 Ks) Best Pitcher/Breakout Player- Homer Bailey (12-15 wins, sub-4 ERA
Houston had a very busy off-season. Most of the moves that Ed Wade made focused on improving the bullpen, which he did very effectively. However, signing Kaz Matsui to a ridiculously bad contract was a huge mistake. Here are the Astros moves this winter: -Signed outfielder Reggie Abercrombie to a one-year contract. -Signed pitchers Shawn Chacon, Chad Paronto, Doug Brocail, and Geoff Geary to a one-year contracts. -Signed pitchers Brian Moehler and Runelvys Hernandez,infielder David Newhan, and outfielder Nick Gorneault to minor league contracts. -Signed pitcher Oscar Villarreal to a two-year contract. -Acquired pitcher Jose Valverde from the Arizona Diamondbacks for infielder Chris Burke and pitchers Juan Gutierrez and Chad Qualls. -Signed second baseman Kazuo Matsui to a three-year contract. -Acquired shortstop Miguel Tejada from Baltimore for outfielder Luke Scott, pitchers Troy Patton, Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate and third baseman Mike Costanza.
Pitching Staff: SP1: Roy Oswalt SP2: Woody Williams SP3: Wandy Rodriguez SP4: Brandon Backe SP5: Chris Sampson/Shawn Chacon CL: Jose Valverde SUM: Doug Brocail/Geoff Geary/Oscar Villarreal
Field: C: Brad Ausmus/J.R. Towles 1B: Lance Berkman 2B: Mark Loretta SS: Miguel Tejada 3B: Ty Wigginton LF: Carlos Lee CF: Michael Bourn/Reggie Abercrombie RF: Hunter Pence
Predictions: Easiest- The Astros will finish under .500. Boldest- The Astros Bullpen will be among the top 5 in ERA in the NL. Team MVP/Best Season- Carlos Lee (35-30 HRs, 100-115 RBI) Best Pitcher- Roy Oswalt (10-12 wins, sub-3.75 ERA) Breakout Player- Ty Wigginton (28-32 HR)
Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Cardinals have had, in my opinion, one of the best off-seasons of any team in the MLB. I love the signing of Kyle Lohse and acquisition of Troy Glaus. Here are the moves the Cards made this off-season: -Signed pitcher Kyle Lohse to a one-year contract. -Acquired third baseman Troy Glaus from the Toronto Blue Jays for third baseman Scott Rolen. -Signed first baseman-catcher Josh Phelps to a minor league contract. -Signed pitcher Matt Clement to a one-year contract with a club option for 2009. -Signed shortstop Cesar Izturis to a one-year contract. -Acquired infielder David Freese from San Diego for outfielder Jim Edmonds.
Pitching Staff: SP1: Adam Wainwright SP2: Kyle Lohse SP3/4/5: Braden Looper/Joel Pinero/Anthony Reyes CL: Jason Isringhaussen
Field: C: Yadier Molina 1B: Albert Pujols 2B: Adam Kennedy SS: Cesar Izturis/Aaron Miles/Brendon Ryan 3B: Troy Glaus LF: Chris Duncan CF: Rick Ankiel RF: Brian Barton/Skip Schumaker
Predictions: Easiest- The Cardinals will finish under .500. Boldest- Kyle Lohse will lead the NL Central in wins. Team MVP- Albert Pujols (30-35 HRs, 110-130 RBIs) Best Season/Breakout Player- Kyle Lohse (14-17 wins, sub-3.80 ERA, 190-210 Ks)
After coming up a bit short in 2007, the Milwaukee Brewers have had a very eventful off-season. They picked up two solid relievers in Dave Riske and Eric Gagne, as well as a great all-around center fielder in Mike Cameron. However, the Brewers failed, in my opinion, to address their biggest problem: starting pitching. Here are the Brew Crew's winter moves: -Signed catcher Jason Kendall to a one-year contract. -Signed pitcher David Riske to a three-year contract. -Signed pitcher Eric Gagne to a one-year contract -Signed catcher Eric Munson to a one-year contract. -Signed outfielder Mike Cameron to a one-year contract with a club option for 2009. -Signed Abraham Nunez and Russell Branyan to minor league contracts.
Pitching Staff: SP1: Ben Sheets SP2: Jeff Suppan SP3: Carlos Villanueva SP4: Dave Bush SP5: Manny Parra CL: Eric Gagne SUM: Derrick Turnbow
Field: C: Jason Kendall 1B: Prince Fielder 2B: Craig Counsell/Rickie Weeks SS: J.J. Hardy 3B: Bill Hall LF: Ryan Braun CF: Mike Cameron RF: Corey Hart
Predictions: Easiest- The Brewers will not finish first in the NL Central. Boldest- The Brewers will have the second worst starters' ERA in the Central. Team MVP/Best Hitter- Ryan Braun (38-45 HR, 120-125 RBI) Best Pitcher- Dave Riske (sub-3 ERA) Breakout Player- Corey Hart (18-24 HR, 75-85 RBI)
Friday, March 21, 2008
The Cubs, after finally being willing to spend a few bucks, captured the NL Central. This year, the Cubs were once again willing to spend money: this time on Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. Lets see if they will also be able to repeat as Champs. Here are the Cubs off-season moves: -Signed outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year contract. -Agreed to terms with pitcher Jon Lieber on a one-year contract. -Signed pitcher Shingo Takatsu to a minor league contract. -Agreed to terms with infielder Alex Cintron on a minor league contract. -Acquired pitcher Tim Lahey from the Tampa Bay Rays for cash considerations.
Pitching Staff: SP1: Carlos Zambrano SP2: Ted Lilly SP3: Rich Hill SP4: Ryan Dempster SP5: Jon Lieber CL: Carlos Marmol/Bob Howry/Kerry Wood SUM: Kerry Wood/Carlos Marmol/Bob Howry
Field: C: Geovany Soto/Henry Blanco 1B: Derek Lee 2B: Mark DeRosa/(potentially Brian Roberts) SS: Ryan Theriot/Ronny Cedeno 3B: Aramis Ramirez LF: Alfonso Soriano CF: Felix Pie RF: Kosuke Fukudome
Predictions: Easiest- The Cubs will win the division again. Boldest- Ryan Dempster will win 12 games. Team MVP- Ryan Dempster (11-13 wins, sub-4.25 ERA) Best Hitter- Alfonso Soriano (35-40 HR, 110-120 RBI) Best Pitcher- Big Z (15-18 wins, sub-4 ERA) Breakout Player- Kosuke Fukudome (15-20 HR, +400 OBP, 70-80 RBI, +20 OF assists)
Monday, March 24, 2008
After covering the Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates this past week, it is finally time to make my final predictions for the 2008 AL Western Division. But first, as always, let's break down the division by pitching and offense.
6. Astros: Roy Oswalt had a bit of a down year last year. However, even if he bounces back the 'Stros bullpen will be mediocre at best. The Astros parted with Brad Lidge and Chad Qualls and picked up Jose Valverde and Geoff Geary. While I fully understand why the Astros went in this direction, I do not think it helped improve the team in any way. Valverde has had one nice year and Geary, well... I just don't like Geary because he was a Phillie. 5. Brewers: I just heard today that Chris Capuano will probably need Tommy John Surgery. That puts this rotation in serious jeopardy. With Ben Sheets likely to get hurt and only make about 10 starts, I don't see the Brewers accomplishing much with this rotation. Eric Gagne was a tale of two seasons last year. He was terrific in Texas, as the closer, and terrible in Boston, as a setup guy. This year, he'll get another chance to close in the National League. However, he better perform, because if he doesn't, Derrick Turnbow and the rest of that pen won't help much either. 4. Cardinals: I love the acquisition of Kyle Lohse here. With Lohse and Wainright at the helm of the rotation the Cards could have two 15 game winners this year. However, unless Carpenter comes back very soon, the rest of the rotation is a mess. The Cardinals bullpen is also weak, and that includes unpredictable closer, Jason Isringhaussen. 3. Pirates: The Pirates have a rotation stocked with improving young talent. Moholm, Snell, and Gorzelany have proven themselves while Zach Duke has been very inconsistent. With an experienced pitcher in Matt Morris to aid in the development of the young kids, the Pirates rotation can very easily be a surprise to a lot of people. In the bullpen, Matt Capps has been a very good, young closer over the last couple years. While the loss of Salamon Torres will hurt, the pirates pen still has a solid core with Marte, Capps, and company. 2. Cubs: Holding on to Big Z was huge for Chicago. Now that Dempster is back in the rotation (where I always felt he should've been) this rotation could be very, very good. Kerry Wood, Bob Howry, and Carlos Marmol will make up the back end of the bullpen. While it appears Wood will get the nod as the closer, it is unknown whether he'll be able to pitch back-to-back days. Still I think this bullpen core is the best, young core second only to Boston. 1. Reds: The Reds have a ton of upside in their starting rotation. Good, young starters, Johnny Cueto, Edison Volquez, and Homer Bailey, coupled with ACE, Aaron Harang and a solid number two guy in Bronson Arroyo give the Reds, by far, the most promising rotation in the NL Central. The Reds' bullpen has been a weak area the last few years. However, signing Francisco Cordero this off-season gives that pen a much needed boost.
6. Pirates: Outside of Xavier Nady, I have no clue how the Pirates will perform. Jason Bay and Adam Laroche are way too inconsistent to count on. The rest of the Pirates lineup just isn't good. 5. Reds: With Griffey Jr. continuing to age and Corey Patterson being the Reds biggest winter acquisition offensively, the Reds are in pretty bad shape here. However, if Adam Dunn exceeds his normal production in his contract year and Joey Votto and Jay Bruce come up and perform well in the majors, the Reds offense could surprise some people. 4. Cardinals: Everyone knows about Albert Pujols' nagging injury. Everyone knows about Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel's HGH usage. However, if spring is any indication, at least for Pujols and Ankiel, this lineup could be very formidable, meaning trouble for the Central. 3. Brewers: This Brewers lineup could be amazing for years to come. Ryan Braun looks like the real deal. Give him a full year, along with Fielder, Hardy, Hall, newly acquired, Mike Cameron, and Corey Hart and you've got a very talented, young lineup. 2. Astros: Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman are one of the best tandems in baseball. Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence are two very skilled ballplayers. Ty Wigginton and Miguel Tejada add a huge boost to this lineup. Over all, this is the most balanced lineup in the Central. However, outside of Berkman, the lack of a true left handed bat and an aging core worry me a bit. 1. Cubs: Kosuke Fukudome. Kozz-OO-K Fook-oo-doe-mAY. The only two word and seven syllables that matter to this Cubs lineup. A-Sor, Aramis Ramirez, Derek Lee, Felix Pie, and possibly Brian Roberts mean nothing if Fukudome bombs. He is the glue in this lineup. Very expensive glue if you ask me; but glue nonetheless.
Standings: 1. Cubs: 88-74 2. Reds: 83-79, 5 GB 3. Brewers: 81-81, 7 GB 4. Cardinals: 78-84, 10 GB 5. Astros: 78-84, 10 GB 6. Pirates: 70-92, 18 GB
Division MVP: Kosuke Fukudome: you know, the whole "glue" thing that I just talked about. Runner Up: Alfonso Soriano Divisional CY-Young: Carlos Zambrano: there's a reason he made so much money, and he'll prove that he deserved it right away. Runner Up: Kyle Lohse
- By the way, I apologize for taking off for two days, but it was Easter. I'll do my best finish by the start of the season (for every team except Boston and Oakland).