Saturday, April 05, 2003
So, you wanna be a major league catcher, huh?
Los Angeles (Nomo) -130 over San Diego (Lawrence)
Detroit (Maroth) +230 over Chicago (Buehrle)
Cleveland (Sabathia) +105 over Kansas City (Hernandez)
Toronto (Halladay) +110 over Minnesota (Rogers)
Total to date: - $95
W/L record: 11-11 (2-2 yesterday and one of the wins was against the Twins, which wasn't so much fun)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Friday, April 04, 2003
A Royal butt whoopin!Thursday is my "long" day of classes and I didn't get back to the dorm until 4 o'clock. In between classes, I listened to the Twins beat the Tigers to improve to 3-0. I also taped the White Sox/Royals game, which started at 1 pm, so I could watch it when I got home.
I got home at 4 and figured the game was either recently over or still going on, so I decided I wasn't going to turn the TV on and would wait a little while, so I could make sure it was over, and then watch the tape of the game in it's entirety. Well, after about 30 seconds of waiting I realized I don't have the necessary patience to do that, so I turned on the TV and found myself right in the middle of a key spot.
Bottom of the 8th inning, Chicago up 6-5, 2 outs. There were runners on 2nd and 3rd when I turned on the TV, but seconds later Desi Relaford walked to load the bases and Chicago manager Jerry Manuel decided to bring in his closer, Billy Koch.
Twins fans (and Oakland fans) may remember Billy Koch as the guy that gave up the homer to A.J. Pierzynski in game 5 of the ALDS last year. They may also remember him as the guy who mouthed off during the off-season about how the Twins were just lucky last year and how he wasn't worried about them in 2003.
So Koch comes into a 6-5 game with the bases loaded and 2 outs. The first batter he faced was Ken Harvey, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite players (more on this in a minute). Harvey worked the count a little bit and then smacked a line-drive single right up the middle, plating 2 runs to give KC a 7-6 lead. Blown save #1 for Koch. But wait, it gets better.
So now it is 7-6 and there are runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. The next batter he faced was Brent Mayne, he of the career .354 slugging %. Mayne hit the first pitch he saw for a 3-run homer to deep left field, giving the Royals a 10-6 lead.
Koch stayed in the ballgame and the next 4 batters he faced all reached base. He gave up a double, a single and a walk, and Carlos Febles reached on an error by Joe Crede, a play that scored another run for the Royals. Mercifully, Koch was taken out of the ballgame, after letting 6 runs score without recording a single out and re-loading the bases for Rick White, who replaced him and promptly walked in a run to make it 12-6.
I'm big on numbers on this website, so I thought it would be fun to look at Koch's from today:
0 outs recorded
4 runs allowed (2 Earned)
3 inherited runs allowed
4 hits allowed
1 homer allowed
1 blown save
I've never seen a more beautiful pitching line in my life.
Well, one thing about Billy Koch...he might talk a lot, but at least he backs it up with his play on the field. Oh wait, nevermind.
Ken Harvey, the man that drove in the game-winning runs for KC, is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Here is what I wrote about him in my "Top 50 Prospects" article for Baseball Primer:
#36) Ken HarveyI still don't think he's going to be a great player, but he'll be a very nice DH for a long time and he'll be a lot of fun to watch. He takes a massive cut at the plate and seems to like pitches that are forehead high.
As you can probably guess, everything is pretty nice in Twinsville right now. Well, except one thing.
I wrote this the other day:
Luis Rivas, always wanting to impress me, singled to center in the top of the 8th and then advanced to 2nd on a Jacque Jones bunt. Then Guzman hit a little pop up into center field and Rivas, who apparently forgot their was only 1 out, just starting running ("I was running..."). Kingsale easily made the play in CF and tossed the ball back in to second base to double-up Rivas. Along with bad offense and bad defense, we can now add "baserunning mistakes" and/or "brain cramps" to Luis' resume.Apparently Ron Gardenhire was a little upset about Rivas' baserunning blunder too and was also not pleased with his 0-4 with 3 strikeouts performance on Tuesday, so he benched him for yesterday's game and played Chris Gomez at second base.
Rivas getting benched for baserunning mistakes and not poor hitting and defense isn't quite what I was hoping for, but I'll take what I can get at this point.
By the way, The Official Trapped on the Bench Player of Aaron's Baseball Blog, Bobby Kielty, saw his first action of the season yesterday and went 1-4 with an RBI single. Not really breaking news, but I'm not sure when he'll play again, so I figure I'll mention it.
The nice thing about facing the Tigers to start a season is that your pitching staff gets a nice head-start on their ERA.
Here are the combined totals for Twins pitchers right now:
IP ERA SO BB HR OAVG OOBP OSLGThat'll keep the ol' team ERA looking good for a while.
I got the following email yesterday that made me realize I have been talking about 4/5ths of the AL Central quite a bit the past few days, without any sort of mention of the other 20% of the division (that would be me showing off my math skills!):
"Do you have any sort of comment on the Indians? I'm sorry to keep going on and on about them, but I can't find any good commentary on them. Would you comment on any of these things?:Since I aim to please here at Aaron's Baseball Blog, I will gladly touch on those 4 subjects.
Sadly, Mr. Hafner went 0-3 last night to drop his batting average to .364. This means he no longer is projected to get 450 hits this year, which could definitely keep him from winning the AL Rookie of the Year, since Ken Harvey is currently projected to get about 350.
But seriously folks (you ever notice that when a comedian says a joke that he realizes no one thought was funny, he almost always starts the next sentence by saying, "but seriously folks...")...
I really like Travis Hafner, and not just because he got 3 hits in his first 4 at bats this season. I liked him all the way back in January, when I ranked him as the 21st best prospect in baseball and said the following:
#21) Travis HafnerActually, now that I think about it, that comment about Hafner covers 3 out of the 4 topics I was assigned by the email. It discusses Travis Hafner, who is also a "prospect," and it also touches on Mark Shapiro, who, judging by what I said about his acquisition of Hafner, is not hated by at least one person at Baseball Primer.
What does that leave us with? Well, Ricardo Rodriguez. However, I don't want to use up all of my Indians comments in the first week of the season, so I'll leave that subject for another day!
San Francisco (Ainsworth) -150 over Milwaukee (Ritchie)
Montreal (Ohka) +105 over New York (Cone)
Toronto (Sturtze) +155 over Minnesota (Reed)
Arizona (Kim) -120 over Colorado (Chacon)
Total to date: - $130
W/L record: 9-9 (I am starting to think I have the ability to jinx the White Sox by betting on them...)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, April 03, 2003
Too early for a magic number?I got home from class yesterday and flipped on the White Sox/Royals game. As you can probably guess, I was rooting hard for Kansas City and I felt pretty good when Joe Randa deposited a Rick White breaking ball over the fence in straightaway centerfield to give the Royals a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the 7th.
The Royals held on to win the ballgame, which means:
1) The White Sox have lost 2 in a row to Kansas City to begin the season.
2) Kansas City CF Carlos Beltran is on the disabled list.
3) The White Sox started their "pair of aces," Mark Buehrle and Bartolo Colon.
For a Twins fan, it doesn't get much better than that. If the White Sox are going to win the AL Central division this year, they are going to need to go about 50-20 in the 70 games Buehrle and Colon combine to start. After that, their rotation gets real shaky and the fact that the Sox are now 0-2 when Buehrle and Colon start and the 2 losses have come against one of the worst teams in the league, playing without one of the best players in the league, well, it is almost as good for the Twins as their own 2-0 start.
Jeremy Affeldt was very impressive for Kansas City. He's a member of one of my two Diamond-Mind keeper league teams, so I was happy to see him start the year with a solid outing. He tossed 5 2/3 innings, striking out 4 and allowing 3 runs off of 5 hits and 2 walks. His stuff was (in my opinion) more impressive than the actually results. He's a big lefty and was consistently throwing his fastball in the mid-90s and mixing in a nice curve ball. After seeing Affeldt pitch well in his first start, against a very good lineup, I was happy I made this prediction prior to the season:
"Jeremy Affeldt will lead the Royals in wins and innings pitched."That may sound like damning with faint praise and it could be, but I think he'll be a very good pitcher this year and he's off to a good start.
Adding to the pleasure of seeing Affeldt pitch well against the White Sox was the fact that White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson referred to Affeldt as "Jeremy Aflac" at least 3 times during the game. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm not sure if he was confusing him with the duck or the guy married to Jennifer Lopez. I also enjoyed hearing the very low-key and sad "you can put it on the board" after Randa went deep with the game-winner.
KC rookie closer Mike MacDougal came on to shut the door in the 9th and the Royals held on to win 5-4. MacDougal has really impressive stuff - he gets the fastball up in the high-90s and has a nice slider too. He looks really awkward on the mound though. He's like 6-4 and weighs about 85 pounds, plus he has extremely long limbs and a pitching motion that could best be described as "loose." I imagine he will be very dominant at times this year and extremely bad at others, and I think it will all depend on his control that particular day.
His control against the ChiSox was awful. He walked the leadoff man in the 9th and started 2-0 to the 2nd guy he faced, Tony Graffanino. It was looking pretty ugly. Then the White Sox and Graffanino decided to help MacDougal out. Graffanino proceeded to attempt and fail to get a bunt down 3 times, the final time on a 3-2 pitch, resulting in a strikeout. The next batter was Frank Thomas, who took the first pitch for a ball and then grounded into the game-ending double-play.
With appologies to everyone in Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit, this is what the AL Central standings look like:
Team W L GBNot too shabby after only 2 games!
The Twins played the Tigers and went up against Jeremy Bonderman, a 19 year old rookie making his MLB debut. At times Bonderman looked pretty good. He has a good fastball and some really nice breaking stuff, but his overall performance was poor and the Twins got him for 6 runs in 4 innings.
Bonderman gave up 1 run in the top of the first, but it could have been a lot worse. Then Jacque Jones hit a massive 2-run homer in the 2nd, to give the Twins a 3-0 lead. Eric Munson took Joe Mays deep in the bottom of the 3rd to cut the lead to 3-1.
A.J. Pierzynski hit a double in the top of the 4th and then advanced to 3rd on a balk by Bonderman. Luis Rivas struck out and Jacque Jones stepped to the plate again. I am sure Bonderman still had the tape-measure homer from Jones' last AB on his mind, but Jones surprised everyone and laid down a picture-perfect drag bunt and easily beat the throw to first, allowing Pierzynski to come in from third to make it 4-1. The next batter was Cristian Guzman and he singled and then scored (along with Jones) on Torii Hunter's 2-run triple to deeeeeep center field. As soon as Torii hit it, he thought it was gone and so did I. It went right over the head over Detroit centerfielder Gene Kingsale, who actually turned completely around and did an all out sprint, but still couldn't catch up to the ball. Hunter made it 6-1 Twins and it was smooth sailing from there.
The one negative from the game was that Corey Koskie, who was held out of the opener because of a groin injury, left in the fourth inning and was replaced by Denny Hocking at third. Koskie already had 2 hits and it didn't look like he injured himself, so hopefully it was just a preventative measure taken with an injured player on a cold night. The amazing thing about Minnesota's depth is that they could lose Koskie for a while and plug Michael Cuddyer in at third and replace him with Bobby Kielty or Dustan Mohr in RF and not miss a beat, at least on offense.
Speaking of the right fielders, the Twins ran a "Virtual Manager" poll during the game that asked fans to log onto their website and vote on "Who should be the Twins' everyday right fielder in 2003?" The results? Dustan Mohr won in a landslide, with 53%. Cuddyer came in 2nd with 23% and Kielty managed only 20%. (They were the only 3 candidates, so don't ask me why it didn't add up to 100%). I am not sure what this says about Twins fans, other than their opinion of Mohr and Kielty is a lot different than mine.
Joe Mays looked great for the Twins. He was on a strict pitch-count because he is still coming back from an elbow injury and had experienced some elbow soreness in spring training.
Mays only needed 69 pitches to get through his 5 innings and he was going along so smoothly that I think he could have easily pitched 7 or 8 innings. He basically made 1 bad pitch the entire night, the homer he served up to Munson. The thing I was happy to see was that his velocity was back up in the 88-90 range, which is good for him. Mays didn't walk anyone and actually struck out 4 batters in the 5 innings, which is a great number for him. He gave up a total of 2 hits.
Mays was replaced by The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog, Johan Santana. Santana was, of course, absolutely filthy. He had 2 strikes on the first batter he faced, Gene Kingsale, and then made him look silly on a changeup that Kingsale popped up to third base. Johan then got Omar Infante to strike out swinging and finished the inning striking out Dmitri Young the same way.
Similar to the first game of the year, this was a very nice, clean, crisp win for the Twins. Their offense had a very good night, although they faced 4 pitchers (Bonderman and 3 Rule V guys) who were making their MLB debuts. And the pitching was very solid.
The only thing that frustrated me was Jacque Jones' at bat in the 8th inning. He had runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out and had worked the count to 3-0 against a very wild pitcher making his MLB debut. He swung at the 3-0 pitch, who would have been ball four, and popped it into left field, where Dmitri Young caught it. Now, it scored the run from 3rd base, so it wasn't all bad. However, Jones has been doing a lot of talking lately about how he wants to be more patient at the plate and how he is really working at it. Yet he swings at a 3-0 pitch that is outside the strike zone, against a pitcher that can't find the plate and is making his MLB debut? Talk is cheap Jacque, I'll believe it when I see it.
I don't want to end on a negative note, so let me say that I thought Michael Cuddyer looked much improved out in right field. He looked downright awful out there during the playoffs last year, but he looked very comfortable last night and made a couple of nice plays, including a catch near the warning track for the final out of the game. He's a good athlete and I have always said I think he will eventually become a good corner outfielder, and it looks like it may already be happening. Jacque Jones is still the best defensive left fielder in baseball and if Cuddyer can show the same type of range and instincts he showed tonight, the Twins will have a superb outfield defense (not that they didn't already).
After the Twins game ended, I flipped over the ESPN2 to catch the end of the Mets' win over the Cubs.
If you read my entry about the opening day games, you may remember this comment about Roger Cedeno's defense in centerfield:
"Roger Cedeno proved once again that he should never be allowed anywhere near center field. On one of Patterson's homers, Cedeno looked like had no clue where the ball was going and just seemed to be heading in the general direction of where he thought the ball could possibly end up. And then Mark Bellhorn hit a flyball out to center field that Cedeno proceeded to play into a 3-run triple."Well, in the top of the 9th last night Moises Alou hit a flyball into center field and Cedeno decided that he would circle around it and then try to make a diving catch. He missed and the ball ended up bouncing off the ground and hitting him in the face. Alou ended up with a double on a ball that should have been a routine out.
The Mets fans concurred with my assessment of the play and seem to be in agreement with me on Cedeno's defense, because they immediately started a chant of "TIMO...TIMO...TIMO..." "Timo" being Timo Perez, a good defensive center fielder that was on the bench last night.
Some guy in the upperdeck at Shea Stadium even had a sign that said: "FREE TIMO," which is okay with me. I can add him to the list that includes FREE BOBBY KIELTY and FREE RAMON CASTRO. The list has a spot available for Timo because FREE ERUBIEL DURAZO is now freed and playing everyday in Oakland.
Congrats to The Official 2002 American League MVP of Aaron's Baseball Blog, Alex Rodriguez, who hit his 300th career homer yesterday. ARod became the youngest player in the history of baseball to hit 300 homers, beating Jimmie Foxx by about 3 months.
After ARod smacked his homer, I got curious about who the "age leaders" for home runs were. Who had the most homers through the age of 21? 25? 30? Well, luckily I can look up such info by using Lee Sinins' Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia!
Here are the leaders for each age (using their "seasonal" ages, not exact dates):
18 = Phil Cavarretta - 9
19 = Tony Conigliaro - 24
20 = Mel Ott - 61
21 = Mel Ott - 86
22 = Mel Ott - 115 (ARod 106)
23 = (tie) Mel Ott/Eddie Mathews - 153 (ARod 148)
24 = Eddie Mathews - 190 (ARod 189)
25 = Alex Rodriguez - 241
26 = Alex Rodriguez - 298
27 = Jimmie Foxx - 302
28 = Ken Griffey Jr. - 350
29 = Ken Griffey Jr. - 398
30 = Ken Griffey Jr. - 438
31 = Jimmie Foxx - 464
32 = Jimmie Foxx - 500
33 = Jimmie Foxx - 519
34 = Jimmie Foxx - 527
35 = Babe Ruth - 565
36 = Babe Ruth - 611
37 = Babe Ruth - 652
38 = Babe Ruth - 686
39 = Hank Aaron - 713
40 = Hank Aaron - 733
Hammerin' Hank is also the leader for ages 41 to infinity.
If ARod has a similar 2003 as his 2002, he will easily pass Foxx for the most through age 27 and will probably already pass Griffey's age 28 mark this year too. Projecting a guy with less than 500 homers to break Aaron's record is dangerous (just look at the age 28-30 leader), but I really think ARod has a great chance of not only breaking Hank's record, but shattering it. Of course, that assumes it will still be Hank Aaron's record by the time ARod is ready to seriously approach it, which it may not be (Bonds is at 614, Sosa is at 499).
Chicago (Prior) -115 over New York (Trachsel)
Philadelphia (Padilla) -130 over Florida (Redman)
Chicago (Garland) -150 over Kansas City (Asencio)
San Diego (Peavy) +135 over Los Angeles (Ishii)
Montreal (Vazquez) +130 over Atlanta (Ortiz)
Oakland (Mulder) -150 over Seattle (Pineiro)
Total to date: - $65
W/L record: 6-6 (After losing all 3 games on Monday, I won 3/4 yesterday).
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
My Lucky DaySome days, you just need to a catch a break.
I was up until 4 am yesterday working on a paper that I had due at noon. I finally got it finished, got about 4 hours of sleep and had to wake up and go to class until 4 pm. Sleep really is important. I didn't get any of it and I have to say that I have never struggled so much to get through a day of classes in my entire life. I had absolutely zero attention span, my body wanted to take a nap at all times and I was just basically in a crappy mood all day long.
I finally got done with classes and then I had to wait a half hour for the 2 different buses that take me back to my dorm. I finally get myself upstairs and back into my room. I'm tired and hungry and just sick of doing "stuff." What do I immediately think of doing? Watching baseball, of course. So I check out the TV schedule for the night and guess what? Not a single baseball game on TV today. I damn near jumped out the window.
What was on TV was the Gophers NIT semi-final game with Georgetown, which I decided would suffice. I watched about 30 minutes of it and quickly realized why I had grown so sick of this team throughout the season. They play sloppy offense and no defense. They are extremely tall, but don't rebound. They have some very skilled individuals, but absolutely no teamwork. And they were getting spanked by Georgetown.
I quickly decided that I would rather take a nap than watch any more of the 2003 Minnesota Gophers basketball season, so I did. I slept until about 9 o'clock and then woke up. What did I think of right away? That I really wanted to watch a baseball game. Sadly, I remembered that no baseball games were on TV here, but I suddenly remembered that last year, at the beginning of the season, cable subscribers (which is what I am at the dorm - I have DirecTV and the baseball "package" at home) were given a "free preview" of the MLB Extra Innings package.
I've never found a TV remote quicker than I did at about 9:15 last night. I turned on the TV and frantically searched through the channels. 10...50...100...200...300...400...it wasn't looking good. Then - BOOM - channel 867: "MLB BASEBALL - Seattle Mariners at Oakland A's." 7 words never looked so good.
I usually "post" the day's entry at about 12:05 am (just after midnight, which is as soon as the "day" changes). Today is no different, which means I just finished watching the A's put a whuppin' on the M's.
I also watched some of the Red Sox finally defeating the Devil Rays after 16 innings (Channel 869), the Angels beating the Rangers for their first win of 2003 (Channel 868), and the Diamondbacks scoring a run in the bottom of the 10th to win one against the Dodgers (Channel 870).
Some notes from my wonderful (and much needed) evening of baseball...
I would say Erubiel Durazo has officially arrived in Oakland and people can probably see now why so many "statheads" have been clamoring for him to get a full-time gig for so long. Durazo smacked a 2-run homer off Freddy Garcia in the 2nd inning and then hit a bases loaded double off the top of the wall in left-center in the 5th inning, scoring 3 more runs and giving him 5 runs batted in on the night (Oakland won 5-0).
I made some miscellaneous predictions for individual players on Monday and here is what I said about Durazo:
"Erubiel Durazo will have a monster year in Oakland - think .270/.400/.540 with 30 homers and 100 RBI."In 20 years, when people look back on Durazo's career numbers, the first thing they are going to ask is, "Why in the world didn't he get a full-time job until he was 29 years old." A 40 year old Aaron Gleeman (hopefully one with a job and a supermodel for a wife) will quickly answer, "Because no one would listen to me back then either!"
Freddy Garcia continues to just "not look right." He had a poor year last season, giving up 30 homers and posting a 4.39. At times he looked like Freddy Garcia, but more often than not, he just didn't look right. He was a member of my Diamond-Mind keeper team throughout last year, so I followed him closely. He pitched like "normal" throughout the 1st half (11-5 with a 3.44 ERA) and then just completely fell apart in the 2nd (5-5 with a 5.66 ERA). His K rate went down, his walk rate went up and he served up 13 homers in only 95 innings - and batters hit .304 off him, which should never happen.
It was more of the same last night. Erubiel and the A's got him for 8 hits and 5 runs in 4 2/3 innings and worked him for 96 pitches. He wasn't making anyone miss, his control wasn't great and he was giving up some hard hits (mostly to Durazo). I traded Garcia this off-season because I just felt like something was wrong him, either physically or mechanically or something. Last night's performance certainly didn't change my mind.
On the other hand, Oakland starter Tim Hudson looked great. His offense gave him a couple of runs to work with early and he pitched like a guy with the lead - making people put the ball in play and keeping his pitch count low. Hudson gave up only 5 hits (and no runs) in 8 innings of work and 3 of them were to Randy Winn! He walked 2, struck out 4 and, most importantly for him, got 16 ground ball outs.
Last night was a perfect example of why I am picking the A's to win 100+ and the AL West division. 3 out of every 5 days, they have a guy on the mound that is probably going to pitch 7+ innings and limit to opposing team to less than 3 runs. And I think the A's offense, with the addition of Durazo and presence of Tejada, Chavez and a healthy Dye, will be able to score enough runs to consistently win.
It was kind of fun watching the Devil Rays play well against the Red Sox and stretch them to the max before finally losing it in the 16th inning. At the same time, I felt sort of bad for the Red Sox, just because I am pretty sure this isn't quite how Theo and the boys expected things to start this season and I want them to be successful. They'll be okay in the long run, I am not worried. Having a couple of tough games against the D-Rays to start the season isn't the end of the world, because, as the great Sidney Deane once said, "Even the sun shines on a dog's ass sometimes."
The Red Sox came about an inch from scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the 15th, but Rocco Baldelli threw a laser from center field and cut down Trot Nixon at the plate. I thought Nixon got his foot under the tag, but it was close enough that it could have gone either way. I had heard reports that Baldelli was an impressive fielder and he certainly showed that his arm is for real last night. He also showed his incredible speed and got 3 infield hits!
Then, in the top of the 16th, Kevin Millar (pinch-hitting for Damian Jackson, who had pinch-run for Manny Ramirez) went deep to give the Sox a 9-8 lead. I guess this is why they spent like 3 months trying to get him, huh?
You gotta love this part of a boxscore:
Pitcher IP PITOkay, everybody out of the bullpen!
In the Arizona/LA game, Mark Grace entered as a defensively replacement in the top of the 10th inning and then doubled with 1 out in the bottom of the 10th to start the game-winning rally. After Grace hit the double, the following exchange took place:
Thom Brenneman (play-by-play guy): You know what Gracie just did?
Steve Lyons (color guy): Hit his millionth double?
Thom Brenneman: Mark Grace just passed Babe Ruth on the doubles list with his 507th career double!
I don't know why exactly, but there was just something cool about a guy leading off the 10th inning with a double and passing Babe Ruth on the all-time list. Say what you want about the quality of Mark Grace's career, but the man has hit a ton of doubles.
Philadelphia (Wolf) -120 over Florida (Pavano)
Chicago (Clement) +120 over New York (Leiter)
Los Angeles (Brown) -120 over Arizona (Dessens)
New York (Mussina) -140 over Toronto (Hendrickson)
Total to date: - $265
W/L record: 3-5 (Lost all 3 yesterday, but luckily they were all underdogs, so it only cost me $100 (pretend) dollars per).
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Mmmmmm, baseballLike a man wondering the desert for 50 years that suddenly finds a drinking fountain, I turned on my television set yesterday at noon and watched 10 consecutive hours of major league baseball.
I had class until 12:15 yesterday, so I couldn't catch the very beginning of the Twins game on TV (it started at 12:05), but I listened to it while I walked back to my dorm. The first thing I heard when I flipped on my walkman? "Here's the first pitch from Maroth...Jones swings and hits it right back to the pitcher..."
You can learn a lot of things from one sentence. First, Jacque Jones is leading off against a lefty, which I had held out hope wouldn't happen (as much) this year. Second, Jacque is still hacking away. Now, last year he hacked away and hit the 2nd pitch of the season for a home run, but that was against a right-handed pitcher. You'd think that in the first at bat of the season, against a lefty, he might take a few pitches. Nah.
In fact, the entire top half of the first inning took exactly 7 pitches! I love the Twins and I know swinging away is more fun than talking pitches, but sometimes I wish they would just work the counts a little bit more. Not necessarily walk more, just work counts more and try to get better pitches to hit. We'll see. It was, after all, just the first inning of the whole season.
Just as I was getting to the dorm, the Tigers started their half of the first inning. Leadoff man Gene Kingsale reached on a bunt single (which I later saw a replay of - he should have been out) and the crowd in Detroit sounded like they had just won the World Series. Of course, the Tigers are still the Tigers, so Kingsale got thrown out trying to steal second and the next two batters made outs. By the way, I think Kingsale could have a nice little Dave Roberts-type season this year for Detroit.
I went into the cafeteria to get a quick bite to eat before going to my room to watch the game. I was wearing my Twins hat (as I almost always am) and the guy scanning the university ID cards at the door intiated the following exchange with me:
Guy: Hey, the Twins are playing today, aren't they?
Me: Yeah, they are on TV right now.
Guy: Who is pitching for us?
Me: Brad Radke.
Guy: Never heard of him, is he new?
Now, if you (presumably) care about the Twins enough to a) know that they begin the season today and b) see a stranger with a Twins hat on and start a conversation about the Twins with him, don't you think you should know who Brad Radke is?!
He has been the Twins' opening day starter for 5 straight years and 7 times in his 8 year career! I wish I would have thought to ask him what pitchers he did know of. He's probably a big Tony Fiore fan.
Some other notes on the Twins game...
Despite having a horrible first at bat against Mike Maroth, Jones did hit a nice double against him in his 3rd AB. I know it is only one hit and Mike Maroth aint exactly Randy Johnson, but Jacque only had 8 doubles in 160 ABs against lefties last year, so it's nice to see.
Al Newman continued to make some questionable decisions as third base coach. I was a little "down" on Newmie as 3B coach last year and what he did in the 6th inning yesterday didn't change my opinion. Jones led off the inning with that double and then Cristian Guzman hit a single up the middle. Now, I think that a fast runner on second base should always be able to score on a solid single up the middle, but Newman held Jones and Detroit's CF, Gene Kingsale, ended up double-clutching his throw anyway. So with Jones on 3rd instead of in the dugout after scoring a run, Torii Hunter hit a grounder to third, Jones went home and was thrown out at the plate by 10 feet. The next batter hit into a double-play and the Twins got ZERO runs out of a double and single to start the inning. It definitely had me shaking my head.
Bobby Higginson got moved from left field to right field this year, but he plays great D no matter where he is. He robbed Matthew LeCroy of a double in the 4th inning with a diving grab.
The Tigers moved the left field fence in during the off-season and it paid off immediately...for the Twins. Dustan Mohr hit a line drive right over the top of the newly moved in fence for the first homer of the year. It would have been a double last year.
Cristian Guzman's arm looks a lot better than it did last year, but he is still making what I would call "silly mistakes." Omar Infante hit a ball to him in the 4th inning that Guzman should have caught - and did for a moment - but dropped. He then ran over, picked the ball up and slung it to first base, in time to get Infante. The reason Guzman was able to take about 20 seconds and still get the out? Infante stopped running as soon as the ball hit Guzman's glove and then couldn't restart and get to first fast enough to beat the throw. The lesson in all of this? JUST RUN! It's the very first game of the entire season for god's sake! If you can't hustle now, when are you going to? If Infante, who is a fast runner, would have just run normally he would have beaten the throw easily. Instead, it's an out and he'll probably got yelled at by Alan Trammell after the game.
Michael Cuddyer got the start at third base for the injured Corey Koskie. I like Koskie a lot and hope he comes back from the injury soon and has a great year. However, I would eventually (like in 2005 or so) like to see Cuddyer be the everyday third baseman. Koskie is already 30, so maybe he could play 1 or 2 more years at 3B and let Cuddyer take over. That said, I am not real sure the Twins feel his defense is good enough at third, because he was taken out of the game in the 7th inning and replaced by Denny Hocking at 3B! What does it say when you take a guy out on opening day, in the 7th inning, against Detroit, because you want to put a better defender at 3B?
Brad Radke looked awesome. He needed 36 pitches (26 strikes) to get through the first 4 innings. And remember that leadoff bunt single that Kingsale had in the first inning? Well, that turned out to be the only hit Radke gave up in the first 6 1/3 innings! He gave up the bunt "hit" to Kingsale and then retired the next 18 batters in order, before Omar Infante hit a clean single to right field, which finally got the ball rolling for Detoit.
Dmitri Young then hit a ball about a foot from home plate and got thrown out at first and then Bobby Higginson walked, putting runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs. Dean Palmer came up and Radke got ahead of him 0-2, but Palmer hit a squibber down the third base line and Denny Hocking (who just replaced Cuddyer at 3B) couldn't make the play fast enough. Palmer beat Hocking's throw to first and then Infante came flying home and beat Mientkiewicz's throw (he double-clutched) home to score the 1st run for the Tigers.
And just like that, Radke's day was over. He was cruising along for 6+ innings, gave up a single, a walk and a squibber down the line and he got yanked in favor of J.C. Romero. Romero, a lefty, came into the ballgame and Detroit did something very "interesting." They pinch-hit for Carlos Pena, also a lefty, with Craig Paquette, who proceeded to make the third out of the inning.
I'm all for getting platoon advantages and all that, and Romero is good against lefties, but Craig Paquette sucks against everyone and Carlos Pena is probably their best hitter. To make matters even worse, Pena was actually very good against lefties last year (.265/.333/.538) and Paquette hit .271/.306/.339 against them.
So the Tigers made it a 2-1 ballgame without really doing a whole lot. No matter, A.J. Pierzynski led off the top of the 8th against sidearming lefty Jamie Walker and hit the 1-2 pitch about 30 feet over the fence in right field to make it 3-1 Twins. A.J. slugged .393 against lefties last year and .167 (yes, .167!) against them in 2001, so it's beyond great to see him yank one out against not only a lefty, but a sidearming lefty reliever!
Luis Rivas, always wanting to impress me, singled to center in the top of the 8th and then advanced to 2nd on a Jacque Jones bunt. Then Guzman hit a little pop up into center field and Rivas, who apparently forgot their was only 1 out, just starting running ("I was running..."). Kingsale easily made the play in CF and tossed the ball back in to second base to double-up Rivas. Along with bad offense and bad defense, we can now add "baserunning mistakes" and/or "brain cramps" to Luis' resume.
Earlier in the game, Twins play-by-play man Dick Bremer talked about what "A GREAT JOB" Luis Rivas has done as the Twins' second baseman. I nearly lost my lunch. You may think a lot of things about Rivas and you may not agree with my fairly negative opinion of him, but one thing I think is painfully obvious is that he has not been great.
Romero stayed in to pitch the bottom of the 8th and faced left-handed Eric Munson to lead off the inning. Munson was allowed to hit, despite the fact that Trammell had just pinch-hit for Pena an inning earlier. Now, I understand that there were guys on base when Pena came to the plate, so getting a hit there was more important, but Pena is actually a good hitter against lefties and has shown that in the major leagues, while Munson is...well, we don't know yet.
Along with being really good relievers, J.C. Romero and Eddie Guardado lead all major league duos in "times adjusting protective cup per inning."
Franklyn German looked nasty. He came in and pitched the top of the 9th and was a little wild at first, but was throwing 95 MPH fastballs. Then he got Torii Hunter to swing through a 3-2 breaking ball. Matthew LeCroy yanked a single into left field against him, at which point Dick Bremer mentioned that LeCroy (whom I lovingly refer to as "Fatty LeCroy") lost 20 pounds this off-season. Because the game was on TV and my eyes still work, I would say that is a lie. German then got Denny Hocking (batting for Cuddyer) to ground into a DP and the Tigers got out of the half-inning down only 3-1. German actually reminds me a little bit of Armando Benitez, which would be pretty nice for the Tigers. I'd be surprised if he isn't closing games for them by mid-season.
By the way, that 7th inning move of Hocking in for Cuddyer didn't work out all that well, did it?
Eddie Guardado came in for the bottom of the 9th and put the Tigers down 1-2-3 for his first save of the 2003 season. All in all, a very good, clean, crisp first game. I would've liked a little more offense considering who were playing and who was pitching, but you gotta love the pitching and it was nice to see A.J. go deep against a lefty.
Radke's final line:
6 2/3 IP
With the Twins game over, I flipped to WGN just in time to see Ken Harvey smack a double down the left field line to put Royals at 2nd and 3rd with no outs in the 2nd inning against Mark Buehrle. Angel Berroa came to the plate and I, sitting alone in my room, literally said, "C'mon Angel..." Berroa listened to me and hit a single past the diving D'Angelo Jimenez and into right field, scoring Brandon Berger from 3rd base.
Amazingly, Runelvys Hernandez limited the White Sox to 2 hits and 0 runs over 6 innings, before turning it over the Jason Grimsley and then Mike MacDougal, who kept the shutout going.
So, after one day, the Twins are a game up on Chicago. You gotta love that!
In other games...
Chris Berman and Rick Sutcliffe did the Mets/Cubs game for ESPN. I know that a lot of people like Berman (although I've never met one), but I think he is an absolutely dreadful baseball announcer. And Rick Sutcliffe makes him look like Vin Scully. I am glad the Twins game was on at the same time so I didn't have to listen to more than 3 minutes of them at a time.
Chicago put a 15-spot on the Mets!
Corey Patterson went 4 for 6 with 2 homers and 7 runs batted in! I think Patterson will have a much better year than he had in 2002 (it would be hard to be worse), but I wouldn't get too excited about yesterday's performance. Patterson went 2-3 with a triple and 2 walks on opening day last year and followed that up a 3-4 with a double and a walk in the 2nd game. So, after 2 games, he was hitting .714/.800/1.143 with 3 walks. He went on to hit .247 the rest of the year and walked a total of 16 times in his final 618 plate appearances!
Juan Cruz also had himself a nice afternoon, coming on in relief and striking out 6 straight Mets. I will be shocked if Shawn Estes doesn't give up his rotation spot to Cruz at some point this season.
Heck, when you win 15-2, everyone has a nice afternoon. Hee Seop Choi went 1-3 with a double and 2 walks. Moises Alou went 2-3 with a double and 2 walks. Mark Grudzielanek went 3-3 with a walk. Even Kerry Wood had a hit and an RBI!
For the Mets, Roger Cedeno proved once again that he should never be allowed anywhere near center field. On one of Patterson's homers, Cedeno looked like had no clue where the ball was going and just seemed to be heading in the general direction of where he thought the ball could possibly end up. And then Mark Bellhorn hit a flyball out to center field that Cedeno proceeded to play into a 3-run triple.
I feel bad for Mike Bacsik, because he already had 2 outs before the Cedeno misplay and he ended up giving up 9 runs (all earned, since Cedeno didn't get an "error" on the play) in 2 innings, which is good for a 40.50 ERA.
The Orioles beat the Indians in the 10th inning when Gary Matthews Jr. hit a flyball into center field with the bases loaded and 2 outs and Cleveland CF Milton Bradley broke in on the ball, started to go back on and it and then basically said, "Screw it" and let it drop for a hit. Not the best effort I've ever seen.
Pedro Martinez pitched incredibly against Tampa Bay, allowing 1 unearned run and 3 hits in 7 innings of work. He turned a 4-1 lead over to the bullpen and watched as Alan Embree and Chad Fox combined to give up 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th, including Carl Crawford's walk-off 3-run homer.
As you probably know, the Red Sox are going with a bullpen without a closer this year, which some people are calling "closer by committe." That's not really true, in that they are really going with no closer, because they don't think the save stat should affect the way a bullpen is run.
Anyway, this is about the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, because now the media, who has been waiting to rip this "new idea" to shreds can get an early start. I already heard the guys on Baseball Tonight talking about how the Red Sox need to have a plan B and "maybe they'll go out and get a veteran closer, like Kelvin Escobar or Matt Anderson." That is what I like to call completely missing the point.
The Red Sox realize that there is nothing particularly special about guys like Kelvim Escobar or Matt Anderson. They are just good relievers that are given the chance to rack up a certain stat. I guarantee you the Red Sox do not trade for a crappy "established closer" this year and I think the bullpen will ultimately be very effective for them in 2003.
Jim Thome made his NL debut by going 3-4 with a walk and an RBI. The Phillies' offense, which I have predicted will be one of the top 3 in the NL this year, scored 8 runs. And the Marlins' running game, which I predicted would lead MLB in steals by a huge margin, stole 3 bags today.
Randy Johnson got pounded for 9 hits and 5 runs against the Dodgers. If you remember, last year Randy started the season at 6-0 after 6 starts and he had a 1.37 ERA! Definitely something to keep an eye on, but I wouldn't be too worried.
Superman went 0-3 (with 2 walks, of course) in his 2003 debut and the Giants won 5-2, behind solo homers by Ray Durham, J.T. Snow and Benito Santiago.
The last game of the day was Yankees/Blue Jays. The game took a sad turn when Derek Jeter separated his shoulder sliding into 3rd base, as Toronto catcher Ken Huckaby came crashing down on him (Huckaby was covering 3rd and taking the throw from across the diamond). No doubt Yankee fans will think it was a dirty play or something, but it really wasnt. Hopefully Derek is only out for a couple of weeks.
I did think it was funny that Karl Ravech (on Baseball Tonight following the game) said, "Our thoughts will be with Derek Jeter tonight." I think that is just a tad over the top. I mean, the guy hurt his shoulder, he didn't get paralyzed or anything. And since when is Jeter the first guy ever to suffer a semi-serious injury? Do you think Karl Ravech would have said the same thing if Nomar had separated his shoulder yesterday against the D-Rays? I doubt it and I think that is why a lot of people aren't the biggest Derek Jeter fans.
Seconds after Ravech said that, Peter Gammons said the following: "A lot of people come up with stats saying how Jeter isn't a great player, but none of that matter, he is one." I have one question...what stat is there that says he isn't a great player? People need to learn that a player can simultaneously be great and overrated at the same time. Or even more importantly, can be great and still have major flaws (for example, defense).
In other news...
Kent Williams from the Batter's Box went to SkyDome to watch the Blue Jays' open batting practice and actually got to meet (and take pictures with) GM J.P. Ricciardi. I have to say that I am extremely jealous of this, plus the fact that J.P. says he reads Batter's Box every day. I'm still waiting for an invitation to meet my team's GM, Terry Ryan, but I think I probably shouldn't hold my breath.
Toronto (Lidle) +125 over New York (Pettitte)
Texas (Park) +110 over Anaheim (Callaway)
Los Angeles (Perez) +190 over Arizona (Schilling)
Total to date: $35
W/L record: 3-2 (won 3 and lost 2 yesterday, but one of the losses was the -170 on the White Sox, which I was glad to lose!)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, March 31, 2003
The smiles are returning to the faces
"Here Comes the Sun"OPENING DAY IS HERE! ("It seems like years since it's been here")
I started this blog way back on August 1st of last year, which means tomorrow marks the 8 month anniversary of this website. Over the weekend the visitor total went over 50,000, which is pretty cool.
Here's what the month-by-month visitor count looks like:
Month VisitorsThat's a pretty steady climb, which is awesome - especially considering most of this blog's existence has been during the off-season!
I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for coming to this website and reading what I have to say about baseball. When I wrote that first entry back in August I never expected anything like this and it is really one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I hope you will all continue to visit here during the season, because I think it's going to be a lot of fun documenting an entire season with daily entries.
I opened up the "1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest" a while back and I am proud to announce that I received a total of 85 entries for the contest, not counting my own.
Here is my official "1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest" entry (and yes, I am eligible to win my own contest!):
AL EAST:Not a whole lot of surprises, I suppose.
There are 3 truly elite teams in baseball right now - New York, Boston and Oakland. Coincidentally they are all in the American League and 2 of them are in the same division. I think all 3 of those teams will win 100 games this year. In the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins aren't going to be quite as good as most people think. Because of that, the division race will be a very close one with Chicago, although I do think the Twins will win it.
During the regular season, I think the Philadelphia Phillies will be the best team in the National League. However, once the post-season starts I am going to go with the Arizona Diamondbacks and their 1-2 punch of Randy and Curt, simply because they can start 5 or 6 games in a given series and that is huge.
Here are a few more of my thoughts on the 2003 season:
Hideki Matsui will prove all of the idiots that say he won't hit for power in the United States completely wrong. The idiocy behind the "logic" used regarding Japanese players is incredible. When Ichiro! got here, all the experts were saying that he wouldn't succeed because he was too small and weak to hit major league pitching. Now, after he has established himself as one of the best players in baseball, those same experts are saying that Hideki Matsui won't succeed here because his power won't translate well in the states.
Let me get this straight? Ichiro! was too small and weak, but Hideki Matsui relies too much on power? Yeah, that makes sense. A great player is a great player, whether he is born in Nebraska, Tokyo or Santo Domingo. You have to wonder how many more players have to come over here from Japan and have success before guys like Dan Gladden and Rob Dibble will realize we don't have some special potion that makes American ballplayers superior to everyone else.
Matsui will have a tremendous season and will be one of the best outfielders in the major leagues. Some people have compared his offensive game to Brian Giles'. While I think that comparison is a decent one, I don't think he will walk as much Giles does (135 BBs last year), so I think a better comp would be Ryan Klesko.
Since coming to San Diego, Klesko has had batting averages of .283, .286 and .300, on-base percentages of .393, .384, .388 and slugging percentages of .516, .539 and .537. Those are the types of numbers I think Matsui will put up in 2003. I'll officially say .290/.390/.525, with some pretty good defense in left field.
Next year, when Kazuo Matsui (the next big star from Japan that is likely coming here) is questioned by the same people that have questioned Ichiro! and Matsui, just remember how ridiculous these people sounded after Ichiro! and Matsui's rookie years. I can just hear it now, Dan Gladden will say that he doesn't think Kazuo Matsui will have success here because, unlike Hideki Matsui and Ichiro!, he plays an infield position. Or some other crap like that.
I also think fellow AL rookie Mark Teixeira will have an incredible first season. I rated him as the #1 prospect in all of baseball and I think he will be an impact player right away. I wouldn't be surprised if he hit .280-.300 with 30+ homers this year (if he gets 500+ ABs), which would normally guarantee him the Rookie of the Year award, but probably won't be enough to win it this year.
Another rookie hitter I really like is Travis Hafner. I expect Hafner to be one of the top 5-6 first basemen in the AL this year, which would also normally get him the ROY, but will probably only be good for 3rd place this year.
And then you have Francisco Rodriguez, whom I expect to have an Octavio Dotel-type season (100 IP in relief, 2.50 ERA). Last but certainly not least is Twins rookie Michael Cuddyer, whom I think would also win the ROY in most "normal" years. I expect Cuddyer to hit about .280 with 20-25 homers for the Twins in 2003.
In all, it is an incredibly strong crop of rookies in the AL this year. The NL group isn't nearly as strong, although I do like Marlon Byrd and Hee Seop Choi quite a bit.
Mike Mussina had an ERA of 4.05 last year and I expect him to slice at least 20% off of that for the 2003.
Manny Ramirez will have a huge season hitting in a lineup full of guys that get on base and will lead the AL in runs batted in.
Casey Fossum will surprise a lot of people and have a great season in the rotation, despite an awful spring.
Josh Phelps will have a monster season and will be the best DH in the AL.
The Devil Rays will have the fewest walks by any team in the last 35 years (click here to read more about that).
Cristian Guzman and Doug Mientkiewicz will each have bounce back seasons for the Twins.
Joe Mays will either suffer a serious injury or will have an ERA over 5.00 (or both).
Frank Thomas will have a tremendous year and will be in the top 10 in the AL for batting average, RBIs and homers.
Bartolo Colon's ERA will rise at least 25% from what it was last year (2.93).
Casey Blake, a completely unknown minor league veteran, will have a nice little season as Cleveland's starting third baseman.
Jeremy Affeldt will lead the Royals in wins and innings pitched.
Erubiel Durazo will have a monster year in Oakland - think .270/.400/.540 with 30 homers and 100 RBI.
Keith Foulke will have a much better season than the guy he was traded for, Billy Koch.
The Anaheim Angels will not make the post-season and everyone will blame it on that damn Rally Monkey.
Alex Rodriguez will once again be the best player in the American League, but the Rangers will continue to stink and ARod will continue to get the shaft from MVP voters.
Mike Hampton will be very bad for the Braves in 2003 and the Braves will not make the playoffs for the first time in like 58 years.
Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla and Randy Wolf will combine to win 55 games in 2003 and the Phillies will be one of the top 3 offensive teams in the NL.
The Marlins will lead MLB in stolen bases and will score the fewest runs in the National League.
A.J. Burnett will suffer a serious injury at some point and Jeff Torborg will have no idea why.
Jeff Kent will have an incredible offensive season - something along the lines of .330 with 40 homers and 130 RBI, but he won't win the MVP because that Bonds guy still plays in the NL.
The Reds' outfield will lead all of baseball in outfield homers and Dunn, Kearns and Griffey will each hit at least 35.
Sammy Sosa will hit 50 homers and will drive in 98 runs because no one gets on base in front of him.
Arizona will have 3 pitchers among the top 10 NL leaders in strikeouts (Byung-Hyun Kim!).
Barry Bonds will have twice as many walks as hits and will set the major league record for walks in a season for the 3rd straight year. He will also increase his OPS for the 5th straight season.
Kevin Brown will be one of the best 3-5 pitchers in the National League; Odalis Perez will not.
Jose Hernandez will lead all non-ARod shortstops in slugging %.
Okay, enough with all the predictions and previews...LET'S PLAY SOME BASEBALL!!!
Oh, one final thing...
I enjoy betting on sporting events (hypothetically, of course), but since I don't have the disposable income (or any income) to do so, I thought it might be fun to forego actually betting on them and simply make my picks on this blog everyday and keep track of the hypothetical winning and losing.
For those of you unfamiliar with gambling on baseball games, here is how it works:
Say you have two teams, New York and Chicago.
The "betting line" for the game will be something like this: New York -150 vs. Chicago +140
What that means is that if you bet on New York to win, you would need to bet $150 dollars to win $100. And if you bet on Chicago to win, you would bet $100 to win $140. Pretty simple, right?
So here's how I will do it...
Whenever the mood strikes me (probably every day, but I'm not guaranteeing it), I will make a few "bets" on baseball games. I'll keep track of the wins and losses and we can all have a good laugh at the end of the year when I end up losing thousands of hypothetical dollars. Every bet will be $100, which will makes things easy to keep track of. And I'll list the teams, along with the starting pitchers, so you can get a feel for why I am making the picks.
Cubs (Wood) +105 over Mets (Glavine)
Phillies (Millwood) -110 over Marlins (Beckett)
Twins (Radke) -175 over Tigers (Maroth)
White Sox (Buehrle) -170 over Royals (Hernandez)
Blue Jays (Halladay) +110 over Yankees (Clemens)
Total to date: $0
W/L record: 0-0
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Sunday, March 30, 2003
Aaron's Baseball Blog 2003 Season Preview: AL CentralOther Previews:
American League East
American League West
National League East
National League Central
National League West
Last year's standings:
AL Central W L Win% GBThis year's prediction:
I started to write previews for all the AL Central teams when I realized 2 things: 1) I have already written a combined 25,000 words on the Twins and White Sox for BaseballPrimer.com and 2) there is absolutely no chance that a team other than those 2 ends up even competing for this division or the Wild Card.
So, check out the abbreviated AL Central preview and make sure to go read my gigantic, in-depth previews that I wrote on the Twins and White Sox for Baseball Primer.
Looking Forward to 2003: Minnesota Twins (by Aaron Gleeman)
Looking Forward to 2003: Chicago White Sox (by Aaron Gleeman)
1) MINNESOTA TWINS
94-67 (.584) | 1st Place
768 Runs Scored (9th) | 712 Runs Allowed (6th)
I am not even going to attempt to say anything new or interesting about the Twins' 2003 season because I have already written 15,000 words on them for Baseball Primer and how much more could I possibly have to say?
If you haven't already, I urge you to check out my Twins preview. I put a lot of work into it and I think you'll enjoy it quite a bit:
Looking Forward to 2003: Minnesota Twins (by Aaron Gleeman)
2) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
81-81 (.500) | 2nd Place (13.5 GB)
856 Runs Scored (3rd) | 798 Runs Allowed (8th)
Ditto with the White Sox. I wrote a nice little 10,000 word preview for them over at Baseball Primer that I would love for everyone to check out.
Looking Forward to 2003: Chicago White Sox (by Aaron Gleeman)
3) CLEVELAND INDIANS
74-88 (.457) | 3rd Place (20.5 GB)
739 Runs Scored (10th) | 837 Runs Allowed (10th)
The AL Central is very clearly in a 2-1-2 alignment, much like the AL East. I don't see any circumstance where Chicago or Minnesota would finish outside of the top 2, Cleveland would not finish 3rd and Kansas City and Detroit would not finish 4-5 in some order.
I suppose it could happen, but I just don't see it.
I really like the rebuilding Cleveland has done with their farm system and I could definitely see them seriously contending by about 2005, but their rotation this year is a complete mess (Brian Anderson and Jason Bere!) and I don't envision their offense performing like the 1927 Yankees or anything. Still, they're good enough that they shouldn't have to worry about KC or Detroit catching them anytime soon.
Prediction: Travis Hafner is going to have a big season, so keep an eye out for him.
4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS
62-100 (.383) | 4th Place (32.5 GB)
737 Runs Scored (11th) | 891 Runs Allowed (13th)
The Royals are the best of the worst, which isn't saying a whole lot when their competition is the Tigers.
Carlos Beltran is starting the season on the DL and if he stays there for a long time I could see the Royals finishing in the cellar, but otherwise they should beat Detroit by at least 5 games.
5) DETROIT TIGERS
55-106 (.342) | 5th Place (39.0 GB)
575 Runs Scored (14th) | 864 Runs Allowed (11th)
Detroit walked 363 times last year (the fewest by a team in like 30 years) and scored the fewest runs in MLB. And yet their offense might just be a little worse this year.
They got rid of 2 of their top 3 hitters from last year, Randall Simon and Robert Fick. Now, those 2 guys are no great shakes, but they were still 2 of the most valuable Tigers last year. The good news is that the fences at Comerica have been moved in, which should help their raw offensive totals and at least make it seem like their offense is improved over last season. Still, they could move the fences into the infield and Detroit would have a hard time scoring 700 runs.
Right now their rotation includes a grand total of 18 career major league wins, which is the 4th fewest for an opening-day rotation since 1902 (thanks to Rob Neyer's most recent column for that tidbit).
The good news for me in all of this mess is that the Twins get to open the season against the Tigers, in Detroit. Anything less than 2 out 3 will probably have me ready to cancel the season, so the Twins better take care of business.
Okay, that's it for the division previews. I hope you all enjoyed them and I want to thank everyone that sent me emails with their own thoughts on the divisions. Make sure to check back tomorrow for a very special opening day entry.
By the way, did I mention TOMORROW IS OPENING DAY?!?!?!? I'm kinda excited, can you tell?
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****