Saturday, October 30, 2010
So Sandy Alderson is the New Mets GM, and I think it's a pretty good choice.
It really wasn't any sort of a surprise. Even with the number of good people that were interviewed, this was a move the Mets needed to make. Alderson will not be viewed as a puppet. He's a very respected baseball man with a strong voice. In no way can I imagine that the Wilpons will be pulling his strings. Like ANY GM, I'm sure there will be things he'll have to bring back to ownership for approval, but overall I see him having the ability to do whatever it takes to turn the Mets franchise around. I expect some serious changes throughout the ogranization, from front office to ocaches to medical staff and even (hopefully) Public Relations. I think it's high time that Jay Horowitz retired.
While I still would like to see Wally Backman as the next Mets manager, I don't see Alderson going in that direction. I think a guy like Bob Melvin or Clint Hurdle is more likely.
This was a big step for the Mets and overall I like it. The only thing I think I would have preffered more would have been to see Alderson brought in as the Team President and Jon Daniels hired as the GM. Otherwise, I'm pretty happy.
This does not mean that the Mets are suddenly fixed. There's a lot of work to be done and next year is likely to be a transition year with low expectations... however I think we'll see the team start to take some shape with a eye for the long term success for the franchise as a whole. And suddenly, the Mets have a little less of s chaotic feel to them.
Monday, October 25, 2010
There is a lot of talk about the changes happening to the Mets organization. The fans are almost rabid for a different regime, with names like Sandy Alderson and Josh Byrnes coming back this week for second interviews and there is even a group of holdouts hoping that Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels might consider leaving the AL to come and fix the Mets.
But there is another candidate... one that knows the Mets inside out and feels he could return the franchise to the heady days of 1986 and 2000. A candidate that is less known, but perhaps just as qualified as the larger names mentioned in the same breath as the ones above. A candidate that has suffered with the rest of us Mets fans over the years, and one who decided to do something about it.
Howard Megdal is someone Met fans should reconize. He writes for SNY.tv, MLBTradeRumors.com and NYBaseballDigest.com and provides keen insight with his analysis. He has covered the team for the New York Observer and is the Editor in Chief of The Perpetual Post, an online "newspaper" that covering everything from Politics, Sports, Humor and News. He's also the man behind MegdalforGM.com... a website dedicated to getting Howard noticed in his quest to be the next GM for the New York Mets.
Two particular items on his website sum Howard's passion for the Mets up nicely. I quote:
"He has lived and loved the Mets since he was six years old. When he was 13 years old, his school Principal forced Megdal to spend the day in his office, since the school had declared Phillies Hat Day, and he refused to remove his Starter pinstriped Mets cap. Had he agreed to remove the Mets hat, he would have been set free. But that was too high a price to pay.
Since 2005, Megdal and his wife have created an increasingly intricate chart of the organization’s major and minor league players. They currently use a 24X36 mockup of Citi Field mounted on their kitchen wall, with tabs containing each player’s name, position, and a headshot for easy identification."
With this in mind, I just had to talk to Howard and pick his brain about his quest. Many fans have dreamed about being a GM for their favorite team, and as much of a longshot as I might be, Howard is taking his shot. He and I talked a little about what he would do if the job became his.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: Ok, to start, a number of people (and fans) usually feel they know what it takes to run a sports team, but most would likely crumble under the real pressure of the job. You aren't just a fan off the street making this claim, but what makes you think you are the man for the job?
HOWARD: Well, I've covered the Mets, and MLB, for most of my adult life. I have a knowledge of both the Mets and the league to rival those in charge, and I've seen, again and again, players I've judged to be on the rise or on the wane to follow that path. No one is perfect, of course, but those decisions compare favorably to the people in charge.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: Ok, let's say you have the job. What is the FIRST move you make?
HOWARD: A tough question to answer, as I'd need to know what my budget is, what other teams are willing to do, etc. Clearly, second base needs to be addressed, along with the back of the rotation, right field, and the bullpen.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: Who is on your potental manager list? Give me three names and a quick reason why for each.
HOWARD: Again, I might well go with an unknown here. I don't think a name manager is particularly important, and rather it is a waste of resources. A manager capable of reasoned in-game strategy, who won't alienate his players, is all I'd want.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: The impression the average person seems to have of the Mets organization is that the franchise as a whole (front office, ownership, medical staff, PR department, the team) is a punch line. What needs to happen for this to change?
HOWARD: Simple: winning, and doing so transparently. If the team has a single story for every event, and success is frequent, the Mets won't be a punch line anymore. Remember when the Red Sox were a punch line? Not that long ago.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: Give me your player wish list from the 2011 free agents.
HOWARD: I strongly prefer Carl Crawford to Jayson Werth. I also think Cliff Lee will get way too many years at way too much money.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: Are there ANY "untouchables" on the team? How about in the minor league system?
HOWARD: It is hard to imagine a trade that makes it worth trading David Wright or Jose Reyes. Generally, there aren't many Mets around who would be at artificially high value, which is what makes a trade candidate for me, rather than some standard of excellence. If Washington offers Ryan Zimmerman and their top six prospects for David Wright, he's no longer untouchable. Naturally, they won't do that, but less-extreme versions of trades like that exist for all players.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: It's often been said the Mets need to establish a "Mets' Way" of playing. What sort of style should this team have? What would you stress as the type of play (and players) you want that will help the club succeed on the field?
HOWARD: I personally think this is ridiculous. You can have a masher at first base, a speedster at second, etc., and provided that player is boosting overall team value, there doesn't need to be a team theme.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: The attendance has been dropping the last few years, even with the new ballpark. Obviously winning will draw fans, but what else do you feel is needed to increase ticket sales?
HOWARD: A sense from the team that they care about the fans in a fundamental way. Things like elimination of Banner Day and Old Timers' Day are a great example of doing things the wrong way. I've proposed student rush tickets, for instance, but there are many ways to make fans more valued. For instance, at Stubhub, you can actually choose your seats. At Mets.com, you can pick a price level. Guess why fans kept going to Stubhub?
IT'S OUTTA HERE: Do you allow the manager to pick his own staff fully or are there some coaches you want and will assign them yourself?
HOWARD: I want to choose the pitching coach. That seems vital. I'd also let the manager know I expect a certain level of competence from the third base coach. Teams lose runs every year when that job goes to the wrong person- and I don't just mean what we see (runners thrown out), but also what we don't see (runners unnecessarily held).
IT'S OUTTA HERE: You know this team. You've seen the strange and bizarre things that have surrounded them the last few years. What would you do to avoid simular incidents and public embrassments?
HOWARD: Like I said: a single voice, a single story. Things will happen, they happen to all teams- the Mets seem to exacerbate every one of them with multiple leaks and unnecessary extension of stories. That needs to end.
IT'S OUTTA HERE: Is the integrity and reputation of the franchise at an all-time low? Will free agents WANT to come here?
HOWARD: Absolutely. It's about the money, and winning. The Mets should have both with even basic competence in management.
Those are the three words Howard has on the banner for his "Megdal for GM" webite. Just from his answers it seems he takes those three words seriously. I don't know who will be the next Mets GM (I strongly think it's going to be Alderson though) but the Mets could do WAY worse than consider a man who seems to know what the Mets could use in righting the ship.
Check out Howard's work at:
and of course, www.MegdalforGM.com
Howard can be reached at email@example.com.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Well that didn't exactly go as planned.
Like I said in my prediction of the ALDS between The Tampa Bay Ray and The Texas Rangers that both teams were VERY strong and it would not be a surprise if either team wound up in the World Series. Well, I gave the Rays a slight edge in that series and gave the Yankees the benefit of the doubt in their ALCS with Texas, sayingh they needed to finish them off in Six or less, because the Rangers would win a Seven game series. Seems they didn't even need the full seven. I won't make that mistake again.
Overall, this was a very one sided series. The Yankees were out hit, out pitched, out hustled and out thought. That is not to say the Yankees season was not a moderate success. I know many Yankee fans feel that without a Championship the season is a failure. I cannot subscribe to that way of thinking. Yes there are things to look back at to lament... the fact the team really didn't seem to REALLY push to win the division in the last weeks of the season... but overall the Yanks played well and looked good (barring those last few weeks in Sept). They handled a strong Twins team with relative ease in the ALDS but ran into a juggernaut in the Rangers.
Josh Hamilton won the ADCS MVP award... and his 4 home runs and 7 RBIs (and seemingly endless intential walks) clearly showed he deserved it, but do not discount the incredible pitching performance of Colby Lewis in games 2 and 6. He handcuffed a powerful Yankee lineup that really never seemed to really swing the bats well except in game 5. Even the fantastic comeback in game 1 seemed almost a product of a little luck and some Ranger bullpen mistakes then it seemed like the Yankee bats coming alive.
So, congratulations to the Rangers. If my team annot win, I ALWAYS love to see teams advance that have never been there before or haven't been there in a long time. Texas won it's first ever playoff series in franchise history just a week and a half ago... and then exorcised a long standing ghost in beating the Yankees (who had been 9-1 against the Rangers in the Playoffs before this year) on the way to their first ever World Series apperance. It was nice to see... just like to was quite endearing to see the Rangers spray Ginger Ale all over the place instead of Champane in respect to teammate Hamilton's issues with alcohol. It seems like the Rangers are a tight group who make a solid team of guys who genuinely like and pull for each other and I won;t be betting against them again this year. No matter which NL team wins the pennant.... I think the Rangers are going to make mince meat out of them.
Deep in the heart of Texas.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Well, I was close.
So I got three out of four right with my first round predictions, and the one that I got wrong was the series I said would go five games and either team really could come out and find itself in the World Series (the Rangers/Rays series) so I feel pretty good about my selections.
It doesn’t get any easier in the American League though, because the two teams left standing (New York Yankees and Texas Rangers) both make a compelling arguement for why they should be considered the favorite.
So let’s take a look at some interesting bits that could be considered a reason to give either team an edge.
1. C. C. Sabathia: He looked shakey in Game 1 of the ALDS, but you know he’s more than trustworthy on the big stage. Able to go on short rest and pitch well. A true Ace.
2. Mariano Rivera: No matter what his age of his recent struggles at the end of the year, he is shutdown city in the playoffs as usual. Can get you a four or five out save in a close game and be trusted to still dominate. Unflappable. Turns games shorter… if you’re going to get to the Yanks bullpen do it before he comes in.
3. Experiance: Most of the roster has playoff and World Series experiance. They’ve done it before and know what to expect.
4. The Offense: If Derek Jeter really ready to be able to pull the ball with power (something he hasn’t done pretty much all year) then the lineup is hard to beat. Robinson Cano continues to hit like he has for most of the season and Jorge Posada usually finds a way to hit in the postseason. With Mark Teixeria more recovered from his ailments and Curtis Granderson suddenly swinging a hot bat the potential to score a ton of runs is there.
5. The Rangers Rotation matchups to start the series: Since Cliff Lee had to pitch last night’s Game 5, he won’t be available until Game 3. With C.J. Wilson starting Game 1 of the ALCS against Sabathia, if the Yanks can jump to a quick 2-0 series lead, Lee’s presence can be neutralized. That is not to say the Ranger starters aren’t good (they are), but having Sabathia, a true ace, against anyone but Cliff Lee give the Yanks a nice advantage.
1. Cliff Lee: Seemingly unbeatable. Lee was lights out against the Yanks this year (and in last year’s World Series) and he’s been amazing in the playoffs. If the Yanks split in Texas, they are looking at Lee in Game 3. Lose that and suddenly you are looking at a 2-1 Series Yankee deficit against Lee in Game 3 and an unreliable A.J. Burnett as your Game 4 starter. Not something most Yankee fans want to see.
2. The Offense: Talk about being dialed in. The Rangers have two players with 3 Home Runs in the post season already (Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz) and the whole lineup just flat out hit in the first round (except, surprisingly, expected AL MVP Josh Hamilton) . There is a lot of power and some speed in this lineup and they hit big time in Arlington, where the Rangers have the home field advantage. They are aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths and are a lot like the upstart Angels of 2002, but actually have more superstar power.
3. The Starting Pitching: The Rangers’ pitching is not just Cliff Lee. C. J. Wilson is a solid #2 and is actually quite under-rated. The Rangers went 24-9 games he started, which is the second-best winning percentage by any team for any pitcher in baseball this year. Colby Lewis is a serviceable starter who has an average fastball but pounds the strike zone with it. Hitters do not pick up his slider well at all. The Yankees know how good Wilson is and even Tommy Hunter will likely more than hold his own against Burnett in Game 4.
4. The September 10-12 Series Sweep: Don’t discount the importance of that three game series in which the Rangers found every way to beat the Yanks. The Twins haven’t been able to beat the Yankees in the regular season or the postseason, and that had to have played its part in their minds. The Rangers, on the other hand, walked away from this season with the sense they can beat the Bombers. Two come from behind wins (beating Mariano Rivera in one of them) and a convincing gem of a game from Lee gives the Rangers faith they CAN win, and faith is important to a franchise who finally won their first ever playoff series just this week.
Overall this should be a heck of a series in the way that the Rangers/Rays series turned out to be. Both teams have a number of reasons why they could win and neither team should be considered a clear favorite. What it comes down to is this: much like the 1986 Mets, who desperately wanted to avoid facing off against Mike Scott in a Game Seven of the NLCS, the Yankees want to avoid facing Lee in the same scenario. Most teams who start out a series without home field advantage look to split the first two games to get themselves the homefield advantage. The Yankees are hoping to actually win BOTH of the first two games in Texas. Why? Because you have the spectre of Cliff Lee looming in Game 3. While it’s no lock that the Rangers would win that game just because Lee is starting, the odds favor it. If the Yankees split the first two games and face Lee in Game 3, they could find themselves in a 2-1 hole with A.J. Burnett as their Game 4 starter which could be a disaster. Yes, they could send C.C. Sabathia (and what the heck is it with all the intitials in this series? C.C., A.J., C.J. … jeez!) on three days rest into Game 4, but then you would have to pitch Burnett in Game 5 or you’d be sending Phil Hughes into it with only three days rest. You do not want that. Any way you look at it, odds are Burnett is starting a game in this series. That doesn’t make anyone feel good, although there is no lock that Burnett would pitch badly. You just don’t know what you will get. The Yankees have Phil Hughes going in Game 2 and Andy Pettitte going in Game 3 and a potential Game 7 against Lee. That is smart. Pettitte will not be daunted by that pressure.
To me, the Yankees need to win this in six or less games, because if it goes to a Game 7 with Lee on the mound in Texas… well, let’s just say the Yankees will NOT have the advantage. If they can win the first two games of the Series, I think the Yanks can win fairly handily. If not, this is going to be a hell of a fight for them.
KEY PLAYERS: YANKEES
For the Yanks, three really stand out.
Phil Hughes: who struggled in the 2nd half after a fantastic first half, but looked excellent in his Game 3 start in the ALDS. Hughes will be expected to either help even the series if the Rangers find a way to beat or outlast Sabathia in Game 1, or help give the Yanks a 2-0 advantage going into a Game 3 against Lee. His performance could be huge.
Andy Pettitte: The crafty veteran really is the best one you can pick to face off against Lee in Game 3 (and perhaps Game 7) if it can’t be Sabathia. He’s unflappable, cool and calm in the face of pressure. He’s got more postseason wins than anyone. He looked very good in Game 2 of the ALDS, but there are still some questions about his health. It’ll be up to him to shoulder a heavy load if the Yanks are down going into Game 3 or if there is a Game 7. If he’s on, he’s the one *I* would want in that position.
Boone Logan: You know who might have been the REAL 2009 World Series MVP? It could have actually been Damaso Marte. Ok, that’s an exaggeration… but Marte was key in the postseason last year including retiring twelve in a row at one point after a little bit of a shakey start to the postseason. The Phillies two biggest bats are both lefties (Chase Utley and Ryan Howard) and neither one could touch Marte. What does that have to do with Logan? One name: Josh Hamilton. Imagine this: 1 run lead for Yanks. Bottom of the 7th inning. Two on, two out and Josh Hamilton at the plate. Who is pitching there? Joba Chamberlain? Kerry Wood? No. It’s going to be Logan, every single time. Joe Giradi will play the matchups and he should. Logan could wind up being the difference makers when it comes to neutralizing Hamilton’s incredible bat. Hamilton is 0-3 with one strike out lifetime against Logan, who was murder on lefties this year. He’s a specialist and can’t be counted on for a full inning for the most part, but his contribution could be huge.
KEY PLAYERS: RANGERS
For the Rangers, it’s quite simple:
C.J. Wilson: Lefties hit only .141 aginst him this year, something that could play a huge part with Cano, Granderson and Brett Gardner. The Yankees overall seem to struggle at times with lefthanded pitching. Wilson cannot be expected to outpitch Sabathia, but he can keep the game close and leave his team within striking distance. The Rangers pitching needs other starters to step it up besides Lee, and Wilson is one that can and should that.
Jorge Cantu: The Rangers, like the Yankees, have a strong offense. What they don’t have though, is a solid 1st baseman. Cantu has power but little else. He’s shown flashes of excellent bat control but often falls back into his normal free-swinging self. You expect big offense out of Hamilton, Kinsler, Cruz and Young (and Molinia to a lesser extent) and excellent table setting from Elvis Andus… but a hot bat in Cantu’s hands would make this team very difficult, if not impossible to shut down.
Neftali Feliz: The hotshot rookie closer had a fantastic season but was a little shakey in the ALDS against the Rays. He’s got the stuff but can he handle the pressure? Could he close out a one run lead in the ninth inning of a game in Yankee Stadium facing A-Rod, Teixeria and Cano? The Yankees know that if they go into the 9th with a lead, there is pretty much a 99.5% chance of a win. The Rangers have to wonder. Feliz needs to be a rock. There aren’t many things more demoralizing then eight great innings from a starting pitcher and then a loss when your closer gives it away in the 9th. Feliz’s performance in close games will go a long way to determining how far the Rangers go.
PREDICTION: Yankees in six, however… if it goes to a seventh game, all bets are off and I give the Rangers the nod.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Here at It's Outta Here!!! we are a member of the New York chapter of the NL Baseball Bloggers Alliance. The BBA has a number of Chapter polls (we did one for All-Stars back in July). With the regular season over, we have to put in for our National League Awards. The breakdown is:
The Connie Mack Award (NL Manager of the Year)
The Willie Mays Award (NL Rookie of the Year)
The Goose Gossage Award (NL Reliever of the Year)
The Walter Johnson Award (NL Cy Young Award)
The Stan Musial Award (NL MVP)
Now, the voting procedure is a little different than just picking one player per award. The way we do it is that the Mack, Mays and Gossage awards require 3 players. (The votes go: 5 pts for first place vote, 3 pts for second and 1 point for third). The Johnson Award requires 5 players (votes go as follows: 7 pts for first place, 4 pts for second place, 3 pts for third place, 2 pts for fourth and 1 pt for fifth) while the Musial Award requires 10 players on the ballot (voting goes 13 for first then 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, etc, etc).
We send in the ballots to our Chapter President Steve Keene (who has guest blogged here a number of times. Steve runs the great blog : The Eddie Kranepool Society) but I also wanted to post my full ballot for the BBA Post Season Awards here for you all to see.
Connie Mack Award (NL Manager of the Year):
1. Dusty Baker
2. Bruce Bochy
3. Bobby Cox
Willie Mays Award (NL ROY):
1. Buster Posey
2. Jason Heyward
3. Ike Davis
Goose Gossage Award (NL Reliever of the Year):
1. Brian Wilson
2. Heath Bell
3. Billy Wagner
Walter Johnson Award (NL Cy Young Award):
1. Adam Wainwright
2. Roy Halladay
3. Ubaldo Jiminez
4. Tim Hudson
5. Josh Johnson
Stan Muisial Award (NL MVP):
1. Joey Votto
2. Albert Pujlos
3. Troy Tulowitzki
4. Carlos Gonzalez
5. Aubrey Huff
6. Ryan Zimmerman
7. Matt Holliday
8. David Wright
9. Adrian Gonzalez
10. Jason Heyward
Monday, October 11, 2010
Sometimes things just never change.
So the New York Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins in the first step towards a possible repeat as World Series Champs, and is anyone REALLY that suprised?
The only game the Twins really had a shot in winning was the first game, where C.C. Sabathia was not very effective and the Twins had held a 3-0 lead until the Yankee bats woke up and stormed forward with four runs in the 6th. Games two and three had fairly little drama, and once again the team that could, just didn’t.
Next up is either the Rangers or the Rays. Tampa Bay looked fairly listless and overmatched in the first two games of the series, but has looked like the team everyone expected in games three and four. Now game five will reveal foe the Yanks who they are facing, but whomever team it is, the Yanks will certainly have an advantage since team aces Cliff Lee and David Price will face off in a “win or die” elmination game, thus leaving another pitcher to face off against Sabathia in Game One of the American League Championship Series.
That also means that odds are you’d see Sabathia in games 1, 4 and 7 but the Rangers or Rays would only have a chance to use their best pitchers twice.
Of course, there is always the chance the situation could wind up helping those teams if one of the two aces got to face off with regular rest against a twice short rested and perhaps overused Sabathia in a deciding game seven.
In any case, what seemed to be a bit of a climb for the Bronx Bombers seems a little bit easier this morning. That is not to say the ALCS will be a cake-walk no matter which team they face, but a well rested rotation can do nothing but benefit the Yanks.
As for the Twins, it’s time to go home again and wonder just why in the Baseball God’s Name does every playoff series vs. New York end the same. For a team that looked so strong going into the playoffs, the Twins looked fairly overmatched, being outscored 17-7 in the three games. The offense struggled mightly and the absence of their all-star/MVP first baseman (Justin Morneau) was glaring. In the end, the terrible play of the last three weeks of the season didn;t seem to affect the Yanks at all, and the road to another Championship became a little less cluttered.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
This is looking awfully familiar.
Game One in the Yankee/Twins ALDS went by the typical Yankee script. The Yanks got around on Twins starter Francisco Liriano and scored four times in the sixth; C.C. Sabathia pitched a decent, if unspectacular, six innings; Mark Teixeria broke a 4-4 tie with a booming home run; and Mariano Rivera closed to game down with a 4-out save.
Like I said, familiar.
The Yanks didn’t pitch particually well. C.C. Gave up four runs (3 earned) in 6 innings and Kerry Wood got in some trouble in the 8th and Rivera had to come in for the extended save. However they pitched well enough to win and the offense put up a six spot (amusing enough they averaged roughly six runs a game in Sabathia’s starts this season).
For the Twins, who seem to always be just a little short in the winning department against the Yanks in the playoffs, it’s got to be frustrating. Tonight’s game will go a long way towards seeing if this is going to be a real series or not. The Twins likely cannot go into Yankee Satdium and expect to win two in a row there, so they REALLY need to win this game if they are going to have a chance to win this series.
It’s ironic again that the Yanks will face Carl Pavano here. To say Pavano was a bust in a Yankee uniform is an understatement. Most Yankee fans would likely decribe Pavano as a thief, seeing he made a boatload of cash and gave the team noting but injury after injury with a few poor starts mixed in. However, since leaving the Bronx, Pavano has found the ability to pitch that got him that huge contract in the first place and finished this year with 17 wins. Andy Petitte will look to show that he’s healthy enough to be the rock in the playoffs he’s expected to be.
The Twins need this one or this series will just be a mirror of their last two playoff series against New York. The Yanks have won seven straight against Minnesota in the playoffs. Tonight is as big as it gets for this team right now.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Yesterday I looked at the ALDS and made some obversations and predictions. Today, let’s take a look at the National League Division Series.
NLDS: ATLANTA BRAVES VS. SAN FRANCISCO
For a while there there was some doubt that either of these teams would make the playoffs. The Braves, who once had a pretty decent lead (at one point it was 7 games) over the Phillies in the NL East, gave it all up and finished 6 games in back of them. They also then coughed up the Wild Card lead a few times in late Sept and on the 2nd to last day of the season before winning it on the last day. The Giants also flirted with both 1st place in the NL West and the Wild Card lead a few times in September before manging to take control in the last week and then almost coughing it up and the Padres (needing a sweep in the last series of the regular season against SF) won the first two games and held their destiny in their own hands before the Giants prevailed with a 3-0 win on the last day of the season.
Both teams have very simular characteristics. Both pitch very well. Both have strong bullpens. Both struggle at times to hit and score runs. Both have highly touted rookies (Buster Posey and Jason Heyward) that are big parts to their offenses.
The Braves have had two huge injuries that create some stress on their lineup. First they lost the face of their franchise in 3rd Baseman Chipper Jones to a season ending injury over the summer, then they lost All-Star Martin Prado in September. Without either one of them, the Braves really have some serious offensive holes. Basically they have to mostly rely on Heyward, thrust into his first postseason in his rookie year as basically “the man” and All-Star catcher Brian McCann. The Braves added a few bats at the trade deadline (and after) in outfielder Rick Ankiel and 1st Baseman Derrek Lee but besides a few nice hits here and there, neither has really gotten hot. It’s not hard to pitch around the Braves lineup.
The Giants aren’t too much better off at first glance. 2009 phenom Pablo Sandoval couldn’t seem to hit anything but buffet tables, Aaron Rowand continued his downward spiral since he signed as a free agent, and Freddy Sanchez has no power and seems to be able to only hit fastballs. However, Posey was brought up and hit almost immediately, Aubrey Huff found he liked the NL much better than the AL and refound his power stroke, Pat Burrell suddenly remembered how to hit again and Andres Torres’ bat control and power helped the Giants hit 39 more home runs in 2010 than they did in 2009.
Both teams have solid starting pitching. The Braves won’t be able to pitch team ace Tim Hudson until game three (as they needed him to get them INTO the playoffs) but Derek Lowe has been spectacular in September and Tommy Hanson has improved his control enough this year to be a solid top of the rotation guy, even if baserunners are able to steal at will off of him. The Giants had a scare from ace Tim Lincecum who struggled early in the season and then had a horrific August (0-5 with a 7.82 ERA, with NL hitter getting a .415 batting average off him) but he recovered to have a strong Sept (5-1 with a 1.94 ERA and a .242 average against) . Matt Cain has #1 stuff as well and youngster Jonathan Sanchez is solid. Both closers have put in good years, with Brian Wilson leading the NL in saves and Billy Wagner returning to an overall strong season despite some mid-season struggles.
Like the Rangers and Rays in the ALDS, these two teams are very evenly matched. Unlike those two teams they have the same weaknesses and strengths so it will be interesting to see how they counter each other. The Braves biggest concern is their offense and unless McCann and Heyward are lights out they will seriously striuggle to put runs across the plate. They need Omar Infante, Matt Diaz and/or Lee to step up. The one-two punch from Lincecum and Cain is almost as good as the one-two punch of the two Roys over in Philly. That and a stronger offense in the end will really be the difference here.
KEY PLAYERS: TIM LINCECUM, JONATHAN SANCHEZ, DERRICK LEE, OMAR INFANTE
WINNER: GIANTS IN FIVE
NLDS: CINCINNATI REDS VS. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
At first glance this seems to be the most lopsided of the four Division Series. The Phillies recovered from injuries to Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard to have a great second half and finish with the best record in the MLB. They have been to the World Series twice in the last two years (winning it once) and added an ace (Roy Oswalt) when they already had one (Roy Halladay).
However, while the odds are certainly in the Phillies favor, the Reds are no pushovers.
The Reds have a formidable rotation themselves. Edinson Volquez has electric stuff, had a great September (a 1.95 ERA) and is very rough on lefthanded hitters like the Phillies Utley and Howard. Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto both had solid seasons. The Phillies, however, have three guys who are just pitching lights out right now. The two Roys and #3 Cole Hamels were a combined 13-1 in the last month of the season. The Phillies don’t have a #4 they can rely on, but in a short series they don’t need one. Their 1-2-3 punch is the best in all of MLB and should throw a serious scare into any opponent.
Both teams can certainly hit. The Reds are led by likely NL MVP Joey Votto who not only tore up the NL, but also was murder on the Phillies this season going 11-for-28 with three home runs and six RBIs in seven games. Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce round out an offense that lead the NL in runs this season so while the Phils may look to pitch around Votto they don’t exactly have a creampuff lineup behind him. The Phillies had an off season from Utley and Jimmy Rollins’ health is in doubt which is a factor for a team that boasts an almost AL worthy lineup, but they have enough weapons to have a possible different hitting hero each night.
While neither team’s bullpen is lights out, the Reds closer is a major weakness. Philly closer Brad Lidge seems to have found his way again and looked much stronger in the second half than he looked earlier or all of last year. Francisco Cordero blew eight saves and had an ERA bordering 4.00 for a chunk of the season. The Reds’ not-so- secret weapon in Aroldis Chapman, who hit as high as 105 MPH on radar guns might be just what the Reds need if Cordero falters, which I think he will.
The Reds can hold their own, and are a strong team and would likely have been a favorite against the other two NL playoff teams, but the Phillies 1-2-3 rotation punch and their offense and playoff experiance will be too much to overcome.
KEY PLAYERS: EDINSON VOLQUEZ, FRANCISCO CORDARO, JIMMY ROLLINS, BRAD LIDGE
WINNER: PHILLIES IN FOUR
Monday, October 4, 2010
Well, the 2010 MLB regular season is over. It was a wild year where a number of teams in playoff positions at the halfway point of the season (the Red Sox, Padres, Mets, Tigers) fell out of contention and failed to make the playoffs. Where a team blew a sizeable lead in their division and then in the wild card, only to resecure the wild card on the last day of the season (the Braves). Where two teams regarded as the two best teams in the AL seemed to not want to win their division (The Yankees with an 8-12 record in the last three weeks and Rays with a 10-11 record in those same 3 weeks) and a team that was in third place at the halfway point of the season (The Phillies) and suffered injuries to three of its biggest players at points during the season (Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard) finished with the best record in baseball.
So despite the fact we were VERY close to having a three way tie that would have resulted in a double-playoff elimination set of games (Giants vs. Padres for the NL West crown on Monday, with the loser playing the Braves for the NL Wild Card on tuesday) the team and matchups are set. Let’s take a look at the first round of each playoff series and I’ll give you my thoughts on each. We’ll start with the American League and do the National League tomorrow.
ALDS: TEXAS RANGERS vs. TAMPA BAY RAYS
This is most likely going to be the best of the first round matchups. You have two powerful teams here that actually have different strengths to a point. The Rays have excellent pitching and defense, yet struggle to hit the ball. The Rangers have a killer ace in Cliff Lee but the drop off from there is kind of significant but they score runs by the busload. This is going to be a heck of a series. The Rays finished towards the bottom of the AL in batting average, yet finished third overall in runs scored in the Majors. This is basically attributed to their ability to get on base via the walk (1st in the AL) and then steal bases once they are on (again, 1st in the AL). This, plus their strong showing against left handed pitchers (they were 3-0 against Cliff Lee this season) gives them an advantage, if a slight one. Evan Longoria is really the most dangerous bat in the Rays’ lineup but there isn’t a lot of power other than him and 1st baseman Carlos Pena, who is almost as likely to strike out as he is to hit one out. The Rays will need someone else to step up and swing a hot bat. The Rangers have a lot of power, from likely AL MVP Josh Hamilton (recently back from broken ribs which may play a factor here), Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler. While Vald Guerrero’s resurgence has suffered in the last six weeks of the season, he’s still a bat to reckon with.
With David Price and Lee, both teams have a Cy Young caliber starter but the Rays starters are more solid overall. The Rangers will rely on C.J. Wilson to continue a promising year, but overall the Texas starters have some issues.
Both teams have excellent bullpens. The Rays have a near devistating one-two punch in Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit as their closer and set up man. The two have been near unbeatable and have been complimented by solid work from Grant Balfour and Randy Choate, but the Rangers’ bullpen won a whopping 32 games (best in the AL). Neftali Feliz has had an amazing rookie season and could very well be the 2010 Rookie of the Year. Darren O’Day and Darren Oliver have had incredible seasons.
This is likely to be an epic series and it’s doubtful either team will come out and dominate the other. Either one of these teams could find themselves in the World Series. The winner of this one will be the team that keeps its mistakes to a minimum. Out of all the first rounds series, this is the hardest to pick.
KEY PLAYERS: C.J. WILSON, VLAD GUERRERO, JAMES SHIELDS, B.J. UPTON
WINNER: RAYS IN FIVE
ALDS: NEW YORK YANKEES vs. MINNESOTA TWINS
Well this looks familar doesn’t it? Another first round matchup and another where the Twins will not have their slugging firstbaseman in Justin Morneau. They don’t have a prayer, do they?
Well, let’s not be that fast. The Twins are a stronger team this year than last year. Francisco Liriano was one of the best pitchers in the AL this year, Jim Thome found the fountian of youth and murdered the ball this season over the second half and Joe Mauer is still one of the best hitters on the planet. Does that mean they have a chance against the mighty Yankees? Well, seeing on how the Yankees have some serious questions themselves, there is a chance here, even if it’s not a huge one.
The Yankees had a rough finish to the year, losing 18 of their last 26 games. Andy Pettite looked very shakey in his last few starts and AJ Burnett pretty much pitched his way out of a start in the first round (and maybe the 2nd round as well). The health of Mark Teixeria is still in doubt and Derek Jeter has certainly taken a decent sized step backwards in production this year. The bullpen is still in unrest, despite Kerry Wood becoming a very viable 8th inning guy.
Despite all of this, it’s pretty hard to pick against the Bombers. They finished first in the AL in runs scored and still have a lineup to be wary of. Despite some struggles in the last month of the season, Mariano Rivera is still near impossible to defeat. C. C. Sabathia has proved he can pitch with the best of them on short rest and the Yanks will go with a three-man rotation for this first round series.
For the Yanks, the starting pitching is likely the biggest thing that could unhinge them, but in the end, missing Morneau and having a closer with no playoff experiance (Matt Capps) will hurt.
KEY PLAYERS: CARL PAVANO, MATT CAPS, ANDY PETTITE, PHIL HUGHES
WINNER: YANKEES IN FOUR
In a move that really should surprise no one, the Mets annouced today that Vice President/General manager Omar Minaya and Manager Jerry Manuel have both been dismissed from their posts.
These were moves that, frankly, I felt should have been made last year, but the tremendous amount of injuries the team suffered in 2009 bought both men an extra year, and the very good first half of the 2010 season made things look like they could work out. On July 4th weekend, officially one game past the mid-point of the season, the Mets had a record of 46-36, were 2 games out of first place and held a 1/2 game lead in the wild card. Everything pretty much went wrong after that. They suffered a bad series to the Braves (losing 2 out of 3) just before the All-Star break, then stumbled out of the gate after the break going 5-11 in the remainder of July and going 17-27 through the end of August. Throughout the rest of the season, injuries to Jason Bay, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez and Bobby Parnell, as well as in the inability of Carlos Beltran to get himself going all contributed to the rough ending in which the Mets seemed like a totally different ballclub than they were in the first half.
So where do the Mets go from here? Well, like everone is saying, the Mets need a strong presence in the GM chair. They need an experianced guy with thick skin and a deep rooted history. They need someone who can be straightfoward with ownership and in the ned the new GM MUST be someone with extensive baseball knowledge. This sounds almost like a given, but some times it is not.
The team needs someone to take hold of the reigns and steer this ballclub (and the organization as a whole) in a totally different direction. I also feel (very strongly) that the entire Public Relations Department needs to be let go. Those jokers have been part of the problem as well.
In the weeks ahead we’ll expore the moves the Mets need to make to create a winning environment in which the club can contend and wash the stench of “joke” off.