Tuesday, April 25

Early Series Mini-miniature Capsules: 4/25 to 4/27

As always, same ranking theories as before. Work's the same, and while this is slightly later than I'd like it to be, it is technically before the first Tuesday game. I'll deal.

1. Boston (previous series 1-2, W1) @ Cleveland (previous series 1-2, L2) - Matchup du Jour

It's not an exciting week for matchups (at least during the week). Howver, this pairing would be exciting no matter what. Cleveland is coming off a surprise series loss to the Royals (everyone regresses to the mean sometime, I guess). Any way you break it, this will be a good series - good pitching and better hitting. Expect 2 blowouts (one by each team) and a close game in the 4-3 range.

2. Tampa Bay (previous series: 0-3, L3) @ New York (AL) (previous series: 2-1, W2) - Redemption (?)

Don't look now, but the Devil Rays were 11-8 last year against the Yanks. Bet that leaves a mark. Aside from the Damon pickup, not much has changed with either team. As always, if the Yanks can score, then they'll probably win. On paper, it's all Yankees - but we said that last year, too. Who knows?

3. Cincinnati (previous series: 3-1, W1) @ Washington (previous series: 1-1, L1) - Doctor's Orders

Hey, it's another bad pitching staff for the Nats to beat up on. Of course, it comes with a good offense, too. This will probably be as close to an offensive bonanza as anything in RFK will ever get; in other words, expect some 8-6 games. The Nats have the definite upside advantage, though, as their pitching usually isn't this bad.

4. Colorado (previous series: 2-1, W1) @ Philadelphia (previous series: 1-1, W1) - Next Best Thing to Home

It's not Coors, but it's not far off. Maybe the Rockies will believe it. That'd be the major way to avoid problems on the Rockies' end of things. For the Phillies, they can probably shut down the Rockies' offense, especially absent Todd Helton, who has some vaguely described stomach ailment.

5. Baltimore (previous series: 1-2, L2) @ Toronto (previous series: 2-1, L1) - Second Level Competition

Obviously, neither of these teams are bad, really. They just default out to the second level of teams in the AL East. Noting wrong with that. However, look for a significantly better offense (Toronto's) to be the deciding factor. Baltimore wil probably take a game in the series, but expecting more than that might be border slightly on outright folly.

6. Atlanta (previous series: 1-1, W1) @ Milwaukee (previous series: 1-3, L1) - Super-Delayed Homecoming

Of course, whenver Atlanta goes back to Milwaukee, someone has to bring up that the Braves used to play there. Getting back to modern times, both teams are having minor pitching issues. Atlanta still needs a serviceable 5th starter, and the Brewers are wondering what's going on with Doug Davis. Look for the Brewers' hitting to carry them over the slightly injured Braves.

7. Oakland (previous series: 1-2, L2) @ Texas (previous series: 3-0, W4) - Divisional Mediocrity

Both teams are still somewhat struggling and are better than their records indicate. While this matchup is close, it's only close because it's in Texas, where Oakland's pitching superiority isn't as easily exploited. However, Oakland's offense should do well against the substandard Texas pitching, which will account for the difference.

8. Florida (previous series: 1-1, L1) @ Chicago (NL) (previous series: 1-2, W1) - Struggles

Chicago's still adjusting to life without Derrek Lee while Florida isn't very good. This series should be a positive thing for both team's offenses, especially if the wind blows out. This should be one of the times where the Cubs don't miss Lee; they don't need him here for one, and they should take two here.

9. Los Angeles (previous series: 2-1, W1) @ Houston (previous series: 3-0, W3) - Playing Field

The field is again a factor. This time, it's nullfying Los Angeles' pitching advantage. Unfortunately for them, Houston's pitching isn't as bad as expected, and even a more potent than normal offense might not be able to score enough runs to keep up. While these teams are close, close does not necessarily mean interesting in this case.

10. Minnesota (previous series: 0-3, L4) @ Kansas City (previous series: 2-1, W2) - Battle of Who Could Care Less

On one hand, you've got a team that consists of Johan Santana, Joe Nathan, a couple of decent hitters, and not much else. On the other hands, Kansas City wishes they had that much. Feel the excitement! WHen someone says that interleague matchups aren't exciting, neither is this series.

11. Pittsburgh (previous series: 0-3, L4) @ St. Louis (previous series: 2-1, L1) - Divisional Boredom

Seriously - we saw this in Pittsburgh last week. What's changed? Nothing. Well, maybe Pujols isn't as hot, but that's it. This might qualify for the Unexciting Sweep of the Week, as each team probably already knows its fate - and nobody else has a lot of reason to care.

12. Detroit (previous series: 3-0, W5) @ LA Angels (previous series: 2-1, W2) - Gatecrashers

Don't look now (hey, I said that again), but Detroit hasn't done badly on their West Coast jaunt. Is this an early-season mirage or a sign of things to come? This will be a tougher test for the Tigers, as while the A's struggled compared to expectations, the Angels have not.

13. Chicago (AL) (previous series: 3-0, W6) @ Seattle (previous series: 0-3, L3) - Cakewalk

This should be easy pickings for the White Sox, as they're a fair amount better than Seattle. LIke most of the early series this week, there's not a whole lot more than that, it would seem. Felix isn't pitching for the Mariners, but they'll probably take a game. Don't hold your breath waiting, though.

14. Arizona (previous series: 1-2, L1) @ San Diego (previous series: 2-2, W1) - All-Ugly Award Winner

Seriously. You get Peavy this series, so enjoy it. The rest of this series should be hideous. Bad pitching in a pitcher's park is fun for the whole family. So why do I pan this series and like the Cincy/Washington matchup? I'm a Nats fan. Let's hear it for personal bias!

15. New York (NL) (previous series: 2-2, L1) @ San Francisco (previous series: 1-2, L1) - Thank You, Drive Through

New York is looking like they have a team this year. San Francisco consists of Barry Bonds and some young pitchers. Sounds like an even matchup. Oh yeah, Barry hit a HR in Coors. I think ESPN covered it in passing.

Friday, April 21

Late Series Mini-minature Capsules: 4/21 - 4/23

So, the basic ranking method can be found here. Same as before.

1. Baltimore (previous series: 2-1, W2) @ New York (AL) (previous series: 1-1, W1) - "Strength" v. Strength

The good news for Baltimore is that their better arms are going in this series (notable exception: Eric Bedard). The only problem with that is the Yankees' offense is solid; they'll be tested. Mazzone's starting to work, but the real key for Baltimore may lie in their ability to get to the non-Rivera part of the bullpen.

2. Atlanta (previous series: 2-1, W2) @ Washington (previous series: 2-1, W1) - Struggles to Riches

Atlanta's pitching is slowly starting to round into shape; so are the Nationals' pitchers. Again, the key to this series may be each team's ability to generate offense. These team match up better than you'd think, especially given any National momentum at likely getting a new owner.

3. Florida (previous series: 1-2, L1) @ Philadelphia (previous series: 1-2, L1) - Offensive Continuation

Philadelphia gets a younger and more suspect staff than Washington and a worse bullpen. Florida gets a tougher staff, but a slightly weaker opposing offense. Still, there's no reason that the Marlin offense can't roll out 5 a game. The question for them is they can allow less than that.

4. Boston (previous series: 2-1, L1) @ Toronto (previous series: 1-1, L1) - Momentum Declaration

The winner of this series takes the momentum drivers' seat in the AL East. Until the Yankees wake up, one of these teams will rule the AL East. Honestly, these teams match up well; Boston is slightly strong, but Toronto has the homefield advantage.

5. Cincinnati (previous series: 2-1, W1) @ Milwaukee (previous series: 1-2, W1) - When Hitting Collides

While Cincy has a better lineup, Milwaukee's lineup is by no means bad. In addition, Milwaukee's pitching is strong enough to at least partially stifle Cincy's bats. Cincy's pitching? Not so much; figure on one game where they silence the Brewers, but more than one would be surprising.

6. Tampa Bay (previous series: 1-2, W1) @ Texas (previous series: 2-1, W1) - Ineffective Pitching Defined

Neither team has had terribly effective pitching so far. The main difference is that Texas' offense is much better than Tampa's; in addition, Texas' pitching is at least incrementally better than Tampa Bay's. The Rangers don't have an appreciable advantage, but they have engouh small advantagees across the board to make a major difference.

7. Pittsburgh (previous series: 1-2, L1) @ Houston (previous series: 2-1, L1) - Strength in Home

Three majoe advantages for Houston: they're at home, their ace (Oswalt) pitches on Sunday, and the Pirates simply aren't very good in the first place. The only major mitigating factor for the Pirates is that Houston's staff really only runs two strong, and they'll have their shot against Wandy Rodriguez and Taylor Buchholz. As long as their staff keeps them in the game, they should be able to snake one.

8. Cleveland (previous series: 1-2, L2) @ Kansas City (previous series: 0-3, L3) - Wanton Slaughter

Poor Royals. First they get the defending World Series champions, and now they get the pissed-off Indians. The good news for them is that they should be able to score a few runs; if they can luck out and hold the Indians down, they could steal a game. The bad news is that's probably just theoretical; when your lifeline is "what if they suck?", that's when you know you have problems.

9. Chicago (NL) (previous series: 2-1, W1) @ St. Louis (previous series: 2-1, W1) - Life Without Lee

Ouch. On one hand, the Cubs throw Maddux on Sunday and get a shot against Ponson on Saturday. On the other hand, they just lost Derrek Lee for at least 2 months, and Rusch is going against Sir Meatball. At least they won't face Carpenter, but they should win one here.

10. Minnesota (previous series: 1-2, L1) @ Chicago (AL) (previous series: 3-0, W3) - Divisional Crackdown

Chicago had it easy this week. If the White Sox can keep pitching, they sweep, especially if Johan's not slated to start. Unfortunately for them, he's going on Friday. That means that Minnesota can easily sneak out with a couple of 2-1 or 3-2 victories.

11. San Francisco (previous series: 2-2, W1) @ Colorado (previous series: 1-2, L1) @ Repeat!

This is pretty much the same basic idea as the San Diego / Colorado and San Francisco / Arizona matchups from earlier in the wek, except San Fran has better pitching than San Diego. Two storylines are Colorado's struggles at home so far this year and - of course - Bonds at altitude.

12. LA Angels (previous series: 2-1, W1) @ Oakland (previous series: 1-2, L2) - Race to 3 Runs

Both these teams have loaded pitching staffs and solid bullpens. Expect all these games to be tightly contested affairs dominated by excellent pitching. Oakland holds a slight advantage due to having the homefield advantage and a slightly more solid lineup; plus, the Angels just lost Bartolo Colon.

13. Detroit (previous series: 2-1, W2) @ Seattle (previous series: 1-2, W1) - Fishmarket

Neither team has been doing particularly well; Seattle's still struggling, and there's not a lot going on in Detroit outside of Chris Shelton. This certainly has the makings of the All-Ugly Series of the Weekend, as the only things to watch for in this series pitch on Sunday (Verlander for the Tigers, Felix for the Mariners).

14. New York (NL) (previous series: 1-2, L2) @ San Diego (previous series: 2-1, W1) - Reverse Homecoming

Even thoguh the big names went from New York to San Diego, the first series of the season between these two teams comes in Petco. San Diego is coming off a series win in Colorado. Look for the Mets to strike hard against the Padres' pitching, as their bats didn't do much against Atlanta.

15. Arizona (previous series: 2-2, L1) @ Los Angeles (previous series: 1-2, L1) - Nullified Disadvantage

You'd think that the Dodgers would manage to put up a lot of runs against the Arizona pitching staff, but as it turns out, that's not actually the case. Blame Chavez Ravine. It gives the D-Backs more of a chance than they would have otherwise.

Tuesday, April 18

Early Series Mini-miniature Capsules: 4/18 to 4/20

Okay, before I get to this, I decided to make yet another number-based system to sort teams. I like doing that sort of thing, evidently. Already have done one major chart of most of the MRs in baseball and a host of other rankings that aren't online, but trust me, I've done them. Anyway, the sliding scale is a base-10 system. Basically, there are 10 points that I associate with any series, and they're split up between both teams - normally not equally. The more points you get, the more likely you are to win the series. It's rough, but based on a 3-game series, these are the breakdowns I'm going off of:

team >= 8: 3-0
8 > team >= 5: 2-1
5 > team >= 2: 1-2
team <= 2: 0-3

So yes, any rankings of 5 really just mean "I have no idea." Change it how you want for 4-game series or 2-game series. Those should be a little more evident.

1. Cleveland @ Baltimore - Youth v. Youth

Cleveland has the young hitting, Baltimore has the young pitching. Based on the park factors, this would seem to favor Cleveland slightly. Factor in Cleveland's youth is more experienced and the advantage shifts even more to Cleveland. Baltimore's main advantage is Chris Ray.

2. Tampa Bay @ Boston - Ouch City

At least Tampa Bay shouldn't have to worry about their closer. Orvella's back, but it won't matter; Boston is so much better than Tampa Bay across the baord. The Devil Rays' main advantage - if you can call it that - is their young hitting. Maybe they can work Wily Mo Pena to exhaustion.

3. St. Louis @ Pittsburgh - Divisional Slam

Zach Duke finally woke up for the Pirates; that gives them one pitcher and two hitters (Craig Wilson and Jason Bay). Duke won't pitch in the series. Ouch. As for the Cards, they're still rounding into shape, Pujols is pounding the ball, and everything else, while it might not be clicking perfectly, is certainly clicking well enough to where it won't matter anyway.

4. Washington @ Pittsburgh - First to 10 Runs Wins

Washington is finally getting non-horrible starts from its staff and is riding a 2-game winning streak as a result. The Phillies just won 1-0 in Coors. Don't expect this to continue. Of interest for the Nats is who pitches for Drese and how Livan does, but expect the runs to be free-flowing.

5. New York (AL) @ Toronto - Harbringer

Closer matchup than you'd think. The Yankees' lineup is loaded, while the Toronto lineup (to up and including Alex Rios) hasn't been that bad. This ends up a matchup of strength v. strength, and should be an exciting showdown, especially for so early in the year.

6. Florida @ Cincinnati - Cue the Crickets!

Cincinnati's opened the season strong (surprising). Florida hasn't (not surprising). About the only major question in this series is when the Reds will fall back to earth. Of secondary importance is what the Fish will do in absence of Hermida; this ballpark and the Reds' staff is a perfect place to get some inflated numbers for his replacement.

7. Atlanta @ New York Mets - Force Meets Wall

The Mets have opened up the season on an absolute tear. There's no reason it shouldn't continue; the Braves have struggled out of the gate, and now their right half of the infield is injured, too. However, they've had the Mets' number over the last few years; they get up for these games.

8. Kansas City @ Chicago (AL) - Forecast Calls for Pain

Simply put, a mismatch; Kansas City has no appreciable advantage - even potentially - over the White Sox. If the Sox fail to show up for a game, then they Royals might steal one, but even that's debatable.

9. Milwaukee @ Houston - Return / Resurgence?

The Brewers have started hitting, and Ben Sheets is back for them. All signs point to Milwaukee rolling all over Houston, but keep in mind two things: Houston hasn't been hitting poorly themselves, and Andy Pettitte has performed badly so far; that won't last. Even if it does, the Astros' bullpen is still great.

10. LA Angels @ Minnesota - When Pitching Collides?

Both teams have excellent pitching with a couple of early-season question marks. For the Angels, it's K-Rod and Escobar / Weaver. For the Twins, it's Radke and Santana (early struggles). Of course, watch Murphy's Pitching Corollary in effect; it's either 3 low-scoring games or 3 offensive explosions.

11. San Diego @ Colorado - Crapshoot

Two teams without obvious strengths. San Diego's slightly better pitching is nullified by Coors. Colorado's slightly better hitting is nullfied by their substandard pitching. In other words, it's business as usual in Denver.

12. San Francisco @ Arizona - Dichotomies

We just saw this series in Colorado. The same basic ideas are in play here, except the Giants' pitching is better than the Padres', and Arizona doesn't have much going for them outside of Brandon Webb and Chad Tracy. This might be the winner of the All-Ugly award, especially if Bonds continues to suck.

13. Detroit @ Oakland - Momentum?

While Detroit has cooled off after a blistering start (Chris Shelton has not), Oakland is still riding strong behind their pitching. This is more a matchup of young pitching than you'd think between these two. Detroit has Bonderman, Robertson, Maroth, and Verlander; Oakland has Harden, Harden, and Blanton.

14. Texas @ Seattle - When Flounders Collide

Both teams have struggled early on. They're both better than indicated, although the ceiling for Texas is higher than the one for Seattle. Watching King Felix to see how he responds to getting hammered in his last start.

15. Chicago (NL) @ Los Angeles - Steamroller

The good new for Chicago? Their pitching isn't this bad. The badnews? The Dodgers are on a roll. Chicago's performance in the series hinges on Zambrano's performance - and he's due.

Sunday, April 16

6 Bigger Things: 4/16/06

This is more or less ripping off of my previous post. I don't think it counts as plagarism if you use yourself as a template, right? I hope not.

1. Old Man's Revival - New York Mets / Chicago Cubs

This is the tale of two former Braves who - at least for now - are enjoying a pretty thorough revival of their former selves. Tom Glavine struck out 11 against the Brewers on Friday, April 14, and while that sounds pretty impressive, remember that the Brewers lineup is mostly comprised of youngsters. Not saying that it's not an impressive accomplishment - moreso for Glavine, given his age and his "I might be washed-up"-ness, but Glavine hasn't seen those kind of K numbers since he was getting those pitches 6 inches off the outside corner called as strikes. Factor this recent showing with a surprisingly strong second half of 2005 and a new outlook on how he pitches, and this could get really interesting really quickly for Glavine. Hasn't hurt his cause that the Mets have opened up red-hot, either.

On the other hand, Greg Maddux has been lights-out for the Cubs simply because he has to be. Nobody else on the staff has produced anything of consequence (see my previous post) other than headaches. It's still debateable at this point - much like Glavine - how long Maddux can keep this up. My guess is he's performing at a higher level simply because nobody else on his team is doing so, and once they start picking it up, Maddux will back off some.

2. Ryan Klesko Pulls a Wally Pipp - San Diego Padres

If the Padres hadn't tried to move Adam Eaton, we would never have seen this. As it stands, Adrian Gonzalez took over at first (coming over from the Rangers in the Eaton deal) when Ryan Klesko got injured, and Adrian shows no sign of slowing down. Those that have followed him don't find this terribly surprising - he was blocked by Mark Teixiera, so it's not really that bad to say you can't break camp as the starter when he's in front of you. As of now, he's a high average, decent power kind of guy with a plus glove. This year - even with this showing - will be more than likely a growing year for him; expect the occasional slump as he adjusts to major league pitching. On the whole, though, the Padres have found a long-term answer at first.

3. Turnabout - Washington Nationals

Someone forgot to tell these guys they needed to pitch. They were supposed to have problems hitting. However, utter ineffectiveness all across the board on the pitching staff has placed an undue burden on the hitters. The ironic thing about this is that so far, the offense has stepped up; they've performed significantly better so far than they did last year. If the pitching held up their end of the bargain, the Nats would probably already have 2 more wins.

The only good news on the pitching side of things is that the loss of Luis Ayala isn't being felt that bad yet. Jon Rauch looks like he's stepped into that superman reliever role - which he can do, given that could be a starter as well. Matter of fact, with Ryan Drese's recent injury, he might be that, too.

4. When Everything Fails - Texas Rangers

The anti-Washington Nationals were supposed to be able to crush everyone offensively. Two weeks in and their offense has sputtered, relatively speaking. Brad Wilkerson is certainly one of the main culprits, although production is down across the board.

However, unlike the Nationals, the pitching has not risen to the occasion. New ace Kevin Millwood has been rocked whenever he's taken the mound, and the main acquisition from the Chris Young / Adrian Gonzalez deal - Adam Eaton - is already on the DL. The good news here is that while the team is bad now, the offense is too good not to rise to the occasion and Millwood won't remain as bad as he's been so far.

5. Dogfight - AL Central (except the Royals)

What will probably be a hotly contested division all year has begun that way as well. Detroit has fallen back to the pack after a blistering start, and as of now (4/15), the Indians and the White Sox are tied at the top, while the Tigers are tied with the Twins. Look for this trend to continue.

Honestly, look for these groupings to continue throughout the year. Figure that the Indians will spend most of the season in close contention with the White Sox, and the Tigers will fight with the Twins for third. The AL Central is probably the most obviously tiered division in baseball; it's odd that it seems to have already reached its natural balance so soon.

6. Unbalanced Closers - Baltimore / Boston / Tampa Bay

Closer problems?

Baltimore - So far, Chris Ray has performed well. There were questions going into the season about his performance, but so far, so good.

Boston - Foulke's gone. In his place, Papelbon is in. He's done well in the role, although it is early in the year. While most people don't doubt his ability to perform under pressure (I don't doubt it myself), it'll remain to be seen how well he'll do later.

Tampa Bay - This, not surprisingly, is a mess. Life after Miceli is debatable until Chad Orvella finally makes it back to the big leagues. At this point, he's unquestionably (barring trades) the closer of the future. Right now, it's anybody's guess as to who the closer of the present is. If you know, could you tell Joe Maddon, please?

Thursday, April 13

12 Quick Hits: 4/13/06

First off, it's two weeks in. I'm not finishing the capsules. That kind of annoys me, but it's my procrastination, hence it's my fault. I'll start earlier next year. Anyway, onto this.

1. Round 2 of the Beanball Wars - Mets @ Nats

So after last week's beanball extravaganza, the Nats and Mets have met for another 3-game series, this time in Washington. Granted, MLB did tell them to back off, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will. Matter of fact, pretty much the only thing that we've learned from this series is that the Nationals pitching has sucked so far. Even Livan couldn't bail them out today. (Just imagine there's a link to the pasting the Nats got delivered today where the "for" two sentences up is, okay?)

2. Injury Train Rides Again - Los Angeles Dodgers

Yikes. Talk about a potential trainwreck. Gagne might be out for the season (again), Nomar's already on the DL, Kenny Lofton's on the DL, and Olmedo Saenz and Kent are day-to-day. This right here is why I'm not a huge fan of the Dodgers - too many injury risks. One thing that the Dodgers were smart in doing that the Giants weren't is that they thought ahead to actually sign an ex-closer (Danys Baez) to close in case Gagne went down again. At least Nomar was largely an experiment, too.

3. Whither Pitching? - Chicago Cubs

So we already knew Prior was injured along with Wood. That's not a surprise. Where the surprise lies is that everyone else has sucked. Well, and Maddux is pitching out of this world so far- all the way back to the mid-90's. What wasn't expected was that the rest of the rotation would suck this badly. When Zambrano's struggling, that's when you know you have problems.

4. Tigers on Top? - Detroit Tigers

Blame Chris Shelton. 7 HR already? I mean, they're still probably the third-best team in the division behind Chicago and Cleveland, but didn't we say the same thing about Chicago last year? Could be interesting, and at the least, Shelton's hot start deserves some mention. What's also playing into the Tigers' favor is do they know they're not supposed to be this good? This is a young team, after all.

5. Wait 'Til Next Year - Tampa Bay Devil Rays

They knew the pitching was going to be bad, but this bad? Kazmir's not horrible, but the rest of this staff is dreadful. Textbook example: Mark Hendrickson ...well, kinda sucks, but he did throw a three-hit shutout against the Orioles. Of course, after that he promptly goes on the 15-day DL. Now Aubrey Huff is injured, too. Great. At least Chad Orvella is back with the team.

6. The Mazzone Experiment - Baltimore Orioles

Two weeks in, Eric Bedard has performed better than he had last season. As for Daniel Cabrera, he doesn't seem to be as quick to catch the information presented to him by Mazzone; while he has a ton of strikeouts, he also issued 8 walks in his last game. Hoo boy. Evidently he was also not working batters like Mazzone prefers. Consider this a recording for posterity.

7. Beginning/Ending - Boston Red Sox

Hey, look, a team I haven't covered yet! Well, Keith Foulke was supposed to be the closer, but he's struggled. Jonathan Papelbon, though, hasn't. Better performances, better numbers, but more youth. Statistically speaking, there's no reason that Papelbon shouldn't be the closer; non-statistically, you can look at youth and loyalty. My guess is that it'll change fairly soon, in a month or two.

8. What Centerfield Savior? - Texas Rangers

Oops. Evidently Brad "Mendoza" Wilkerson wasn't the savior the Rangers are looking for. The only real mitigating factor is that everyone has sucked offensively for them so far. Ironically, Alfonso Soriano has rocked the house - relatively speaking - so far for the Nats. This probably won't last, though.

9. Help Your Cause - Cincinnati Reds

Alternatively, this could be entitled "Arroyo owns Rusch." Arroyo's got 2 HR already, both off of Rusch - both games were Reds wins, too. Ironically, the questionable decisions of giving Rich Aurilia and Tony Womack regular playing time have worked out, god only knows how. Freel's getting regular playing time thanks to our favorite injury-prone player, Ken Griffey, Jr.

10. The Sosa Surprise - Atlanta Braves

So Jorge Sosa had a surprisingly good season last year, so much so that the Braves were counting on him at the tail end of the rotation. That's worked - to the tune of a 11.37 ERA. Ouch. This could get nasty; bet the Braves never thought Horacio Ramirez could be their savior.

11. Michael Barrett >> You - Chicago Cubs

Joining Chris Shelton on the All-First-Two-Weeks Team is Michael Barrett, who's been rocking the cover off the ball since Opening Day. Not that he sucked in the first place, but he's just really good now. This is probably just an April spurt, but we said the same thing about Derrek Lee last year.

12. Next Verse, Same as the First - San Francisco Giants

So the Giants are still old, still have a questionable offense, and still have an injured closer. Armando Benitez should be back somewhat soon, but in the meantime, it's that damn closer by committee thing again. You'd think that they would make a change like the Dodgers did and bring in someone worth a damn who's done this before, but not so much on the forward thinking.

Thursday, April 6

Cleveland Indians: Youth Movement

Head back to the home discussion

Starting Pitching:

Ace: Jake Westbrook
2nd: Cliff Lee
3rd: C.C. Sabathia (injured)
4th: Paul Byrd
5th: Jason Johnson

5 questions:

  1. Will Sabathia ...well, for one, return well from injury, and two, perform at the level of effectiveness he had last season?
  2. How will the rotation cope with the loss of last year's ERA king, Kevin Millwood?
  3. How deep is the rotation? Newcomers Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson will be at least serviceable, but beyond that?
  4. Along the same lines, how will Byrd perform in the rotation?
  5. Will the rotation perform well enough to allow the offense to compete with the White Sox?
More information:
Jake Westbrook
C. C. Sabathia

Bullpen / Closer:

Closer: Bob Wickman
8th: Rafael Betancourt
7th: Guillermo Mota
Sit. Right.: Fernando Cabrera
Sit. Lefty:
Mop-up: Danny Graves

5 questions:
  1. Danny Graves? Really, Danny Graves? Is the bullpen that hard up for help?
  2. Will Wickman fall apart this season?
  3. How will the young guys (Betancourt, Cabrera) perform given increased responsibility?
  4. Will Mota improve back to his '04 levels now that he's performing under less pressure - and more health - than he was in Florida last year?
  5. How are they getting lefties out?
More information:
Fernando Cabrera


C: Victor Martinez
1B: Ben Broussard
2B: Ronnie Belliard
SS: Johnny Peralta
3B: Aaron Boone
DH: Travis Hafner

5 questions:
  1. Whither Andy Marte? How long will it be before he comes up?
  2. How much will the young kids improve / rake it?
  3. Will Hafner's health have a significant impact on their offensive performance?
  4. Can Boone perform at all close to what he's done in the past?
  5. How good can V-Mart and Hafner be in the middle of this lineup? Yikes.
More information:
Johnny Peralta
Travis Hafner
Andy Marte

RF: Casey Blake
CF: Grady Sizemore
LF: Jason Michaels

3 questions:
  1. How will the outfield play with the loss of Coco Crisp to the Red Sox?
  2. Is there any speed here outside of Sizemore?
  3. How will Jason Michaels perform given an everyday role?
More information:
Grady Sizemore
Jason Michaels

Extra Stuff:

I'll be honest - I like the Indians for the wild-card. They've got enough youth and offensive prowess to win more than their fair share of slugfests, and their pitching should keep them in close games. Mind you, the World Champion White Sox might not have happened last year had the Indians not bit it late last year. Food for thought.