Tag Archive | "Detroit Tigers"

Do You Trust Your Closer?

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Do You Trust Your Closer?

Posted on 30 May 2013 by Jennifer Gosline

Every position in baseball is important. Every pitch. Every catch. Every play. Once the starting pitcher has exhausted, he counts on his relievers to carry some weight for the rest of the game, and then the final touch must be executed with extreme precision by the closer.

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The closers role is glamourous yes, but the amount of pressure that lays upon them is intense. They are there for that final inning. They are responsible for finishing a game that the rest of the team has worked long and hard for. They face the final three batters. Well, hopefully just three. The opposing team’s batters have an extra exuberance for one last chance at taking the lead in a game. They have more adrenaline for the last shot at being the hero. Even though every out in every inning matters, the closers seem to have a heavier job to do.

Not every reliever can handle the pressure and stress of this responsibility. A lot of closers get demoted to the set-up guy if they struggle too often. Some even get sent down to the minors to work on their pitches, or even get released.

Detroit Tigers, Jose Valverde, was mercifully given another opportunity with the team this year. After initially releasing him to free agency, no other team wanted the veteran on the back-end of their bullpen. He then agreed to sign a minor league contract with the Tigers organization, and was eventually called back up and given another chance to prove he deserves his former closing role.

Last season, Tiger’s fans would cringe when Valverde was given the ball in the 9th. They never knew what would happen. But one thing for sure was that he would make it interesting. At times he would pitch a flawless inning. Three up. Three down. But more often, the 9th inning would seem just as long as the first 8 innings combined. As Tiger’s fans would shake their heads in disgust, Valverde would still be trusted by his skipper and continue to pitch the painful, what should have been, final inning.

But he was not always unreliable. In 2011, he amazed baseball fans everywhere for completing 49 saves out of 49 tries, being one of the best closers in the majors. So, how can someone with such a solid record do so much damage in 2012, and lose the faith of most of the fans?

Closing a game is not easy.

The Tigers see something in Valverde that the fans right now, are not. And they decided to give him another chance at becoming the phenomenal pitcher that he has been before. Tiger’s fans, and maybe some of the players themselves, are now on the edge of their seats, waiting to see which type of pitcher Valverde will be this season. He has 4 saves, and has blown one so far in 2013.

There is a weakened bond between the fans and Valverde, but then there are other closers such as Phillies, Jonathan Papelbon, who has the trust of most of the entire crowd to be able to finish games. His career numbers prove his worth with a career ERA of 2.30 and WHIP of 1.01. He has 8 saves so far this season and none blown, but last season he had 4 blown saves which was only one less than Valverde in 2012. But for the fans to have faith in their closer, they want that 1-2-3 final inning. Valverde is not that type of closer. But the difference between a much loved Papelbon and a oh-no-here-he-comes Valverde, is consistency.

Another loved closer is Rangers, Joe Nathan. He has 13 saves already this season and not one blown save yet. He has pitched 17 innings and has 16 strikeouts. Nathan has been highly reliable, finishing last season with 37 saves, an ERA of 2.80 and 78 strikeouts. Much like Papelbon, Nathan is dependable. When he is handed the ball in the 9th, the fans are a little more relaxed. And if he fails, they are more likely to be forgiving. But if a closer gets that reputation for being unpredictable like Valverde, he is likely going to have everyone clenching their jaws until the final out.

Valverde has a chance at gaining back the confidence of the fans. His charismatic off-the-wall personality will help soften hearts, but ultimately it is what he does on the mound that will determine the patience and belief of the crowd.

The fans want their closer to succeed. Not only because they want their team to win, but they want that connection between pitcher and fan. That feeling where they know the team is in good hands, so they can sit back and enjoy the rest of the game. But fans do expect pitchers to mess up sometimes. Every now and again, closers are going to give up hits, runs, or blow a save. That is understandable.

Fans are forgiving as long as they do not have to forgive every single game.

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The Longest Game

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Chris Caylor

baines_original_original_crop_exactOne of my favorite things about baseball is that you never know what could happen on a given night. You could see a perfect game, a 15-14 slugfest, an inside-the-park home run, or other feats too numerous to list here. You could even see an extra-inning marathon that would go into the record book for all time. On Tuesday, May 8, 1984, that is exactly what the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago White Sox provided for fans.

Like so many epic baseball happenings, this one started out as just another early-season game. The White Sox, defending champions of the American League West division, were trying to regain the form they showed the previous season. The Brewers, like the rest of the American League East, were staring up at the scorching Detroit Tigers. Chicago sent 23-year-old lefty Bob Fallon to the mound, while the Brewers countered with grizzled 39-year-old righty Don Sutton.

The two very different starters put up matching zeroes on the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth inning. White Sox first baseman Greg Walker hit a one-out single, stole second, then Sutton walked Harold Baines. Tom Paciorek, who had replaced Ron Kittle (1983’s Rookie of the Year) in the 4th inning, lined a single to left to score Walker.

In the top of the 7th, Fallon walked Randy Ready and manager Tony LaRussa went to the bullpen for right-hander Salome Barojas to face right-handed hitting catcher Jim Sundberg. The percentage move backfired, as Sundberg and Robin Yount both singled to tie the game 1-1. As would prove to be his career-long tendency, LaRussa immediately went back to the pen and summoned lefty Britt Burns, who escaped the 7th with no further damage done.

The game remained tied until the 9th, when Yount again factored in the scoring. He doubled to left, then stole third and scored thanks to an errant throw from Burns. Ted Simmons immediately singled and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. Ben Ogilvie’s single scored Simmons and the Brewers led 3-1. With Rollie Fingers (another future Hall of Famer) coming in, the game should have been over.

Instead, catcher/right fielder (never see that combination anymore, do you?) Charlie Moore botched a Paciorek fly ball that resulted in a two-base error. Fingers retired the next two batters. Then shortstop Julio Cruz, who sports a lifetime slugging percentage of .299, doubled to left to score Paciorek. Rudy Law (who stole 77 bases in 1983) followed with a single. Cruz beat Ogilvie’s throw home to tie the score 3-3. It was time for free baseball.

Little did the fans know how at the time just much free baseball they would get.

The game rolled on and on, remaining tied at 3 through 17 innings. In those eight innings, only the White Sox mounted a serious threat to score, leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the 14th. Finally, at 1:05 am, the umpires had to suspend the game due to the AL’s curfew rule. The teams had played for six hours, used 10 pitchers and – in Chicago’s case – used nearly every player on the bench (which would become a factor). Yet nothing was decided.

When the game resumed the next day, the White Sox immediately threatened in the bottom of the 18th. Brewers pitcher Chuck Porter wiggled out of the jam by striking out Carlton Fisk with the bases loaded, however, and the game continued.

In the top of the 21st inning, 41-year-old right-hander Ron Reed relieved Juan Agosto. All Agosto did in this game is toss seven shutout innings. After retiring backup catcher Bill Schroder and Yount, Reed surrendered a single to Cecil Cooper and a walk to Simmons before Ogilvie smacked a three-run home run to put Milwaukee in front 6-3. At that stage of the game, Baseball Reference listed the Brewers’ win percentage at 96%.

The remaining 4% is what happened next.

It started with an error by third baseman Ready, against the red-hot Rudy Law. Next, Fisk redeemed himself for his bases-loaded strikeout three innings earlier by singling in Law. Marc Hill followed that with another single. After whiffing Dave Stegman, Baines walked to load the bases. Porter remained on the hill for Milwaukee. Having used five pitchers the previous night and with that night’s regularly-scheduled game still to go, it appeared Brewers manager Rene Lachemann was sticking with Porter, regardless of the outcome. Paciorek stroked a single to center, scoring Fisk and pinch-runner Richard Dotson to knot the game once again, 6-6.

As the 22nd inning began, some unusual changes took place on the field for the White Sox. Thanks to LaRussa’s decision to have Dotson, a starting pitcher, pinch run for first baseman Marc Hill, Paciorek had move from left field to first (their fourth first baseman of the game). Then Stegman, the designated hitter, had to go in and play left. Under the AL rules, when a player serving as the DH goes in to play the field, that team loses the ability to have a DH and the pitcher has to bat. Note: This was 13 years before interleague play started, so American League pitchers never batted during a game.

The Brewers, on the other hand, made minimal changes compared to the White Sox. Rick Manning replaced center fielder Bobby Clark in the 12th, Schroeder replaced Sundberg at catcher in the 13th, and Dion James and Mark Brouhard played right after Charlie Moore after his 9th-inning gaffe opened the door for the White Sox to tie game the first time. That’s it for personnel moves for the Brewers. Their DH, Cecil Cooper, racked up a game-high 11 at-bats.

In the 22nd, Ron Reed kept the Brewers off the scoreboard, then had to bat 3rd in the bottom of the inning. At least it wasn’t a foreign concept to him – he had spent his entire career prior to 1984 in the National League. He grounded meekly to the pitcher to end the inning.

In the 23rd, the White Sox threatened Reed again, as Cooper singled and Simmons walked. LaRussa pulled Reed for Floyd Bannister, another starter. He retired Ogilvie to end the threat. During the bottom half of the inning, the White Sox had two on and nobody out against Porter, but ran themselves out of the inning with some spotty baserunning. The score remained 6-6.

The 24th was uneventful, other than Bannister’s first major-league at-bat since 1978, when he was with the Houston Astros. He grounded out to short.

The 25th inning saw 39-year-old Tom Seaver, in his initial season in the AL, take the mound for Chicago. Seaver was three seasons removed from a 14-2 season for Cincinnati and a second-place finish in the Cy Young voting. He also was the scheduled starter for that night’s regularly-scheduled game. What would LaRussa have done for a starter in that game if the current one had gone another 5-10 innings? As it was, the only White Sox player or pitcher who didn’t appear in the game was starter Lamarr Hoyt, who had pitched the game before this epic. LaRussa had to be wondering the same thing. In any event, Seaver worked around a leadoff single by getting Yount to bounce into a 6-4-3 double play.

As that half of the inning ended, it marked a first in baseball history: the first game that lasted eight hours. Fortunately, for both teams, it wouldn’t be much longer. Mercifully, in the bottom of the 25th, Harold Baines launched a one-out solo home run off Porter to end the game and give Chicago a 7-6 victory. Seaver was credited with the win. Porter, who did yeoman’s work by pitching 7 1/3 innings in preserving the Brewers’ bullpen, took the loss.

After the game, LaRussa was quoted as saying, “Hallelujah! Nice game. I don’t know.” I think he can be forgiven for being speechless at such a game.

 

Epilogue

Baines’ home run answered the question of who would start the scheduled May 9 game. Seaver not only started, but pitched 8 1/3 innings and – in a first in Tom Terrific’s career – won his 2nd game of the day.

The day the game started, Tigers first baseman (and former Brewer) Prince Fielder was born.

Rene Lachemann only lasted one season as Brewers manager and would not manage again until the expansion Florida Marlins debuted in 1993.

Tony LaRussa was fired by the White Sox in the middle of the 1986 season. In an unusual move, the Oakland Athletics scooped him up a few weeks later and he led them to a 45-34 finish that season. He would go on to manage the A’s through 1995, reaching three consecutive World Series between 1988-90 (winning it all in 1989). His greatest success came with the St. Louis Cardinals; there, LaRussa would win the 2006 and 2011 World Series and reach the postseason nine times in his 16 seasons as manager. LaRussa and Sparky Anderson are the only managers to win a World Series title in each league.

Ironically, Anderson would achieve this feat in 1984 by leading the Detroit Tigers to the 1984 World Championship, swamping the San Diego Padres in five games.

Rollie Fingers, who played for the Padres before joining the Brewers, would save 23 games for the Brewers in 1984. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992 after finishing 709 games in his career, being credited for 341 saves. In his debut season with the Brewers in 1981, he won the MVP and Cy Young awards.

Tom Paciorek, who had five hits during the game despite not starting, played 18 MLB seasons with an OPS+ of 103. He made the All-Star team with Seattle in 1981. After his playing days, he became a color commentator, most notably with the White Sox.

Ben Ogilvie led the AL in home runs with 41 home runs in 1980 and was a fearsome part of “Harvey’s Wallbangers”, the slugging bunch that reached the 1982 World Series.

Randy Ready, whose throwing error in the 21st inning led to the second game-tying rally by the White Sox, was a 24-year-old in his second major-league season. He was in the lineup in place of Paul Molitor. Ready is currently the manager of the Gwinnett Braves, Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.

Juan Agosto, who pitched the final four innings the first night and the first three innings the following day, spent his entire 13-year career as a reliever. The 7-inning scoreless outing was the longest of his career, as well as the best overall pitching performance of the game.

Chuck Porter started 34 games for the Brewers and appeared in 20 others between 1981 and 1985. His most extensive playing time was in the 1983-84 seasons. His primary claim to fame remains the home run he surrendered to Baines to end the game.

Ron Reed’s final season was 1984, when he saved 12 games for the White Sox. After being a league-average starter during the first half of his career, he became an effective reliever for the Phillies. He won 146 games and saved another 103 during a 19-year career.

Floyd Bannister was the #1 overall pick in the 1976 amateur draft. He never lived up to that billing, however. In his 15-year career, he made the All-Star team once, with Seattle, during a 1982 season in which he led the AL in strikeouts with 209. His son, Brian, also reached the majors, pitching for the Royals and Mets from 2006-2010.

Seaver would go on to win 33 games with Chicago between 1984-86. His final game occurred on Sept. 19, 1986, after being traded to Boston. He would be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1992, with the highest first-ballot total of all time (98.8%). He won 311 games, three Cy Young award, the 1967 Rookie of the Year and boasts a lifetime ERA of 2.86 (and a park-adjusted ERA+ of 127).

Milwaukee starter Don Sutton pitched until 1988, when he was 43. He was a reliable starter for manh contending teams and reach the postseason four times. Never a dominating pitcher, he nonetheless amassed 324 wins and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998. He has done color commentary for Atlanta Braves games for many years.

Bob Fallon’s final appearance in the majors would be 13 months later, on June 23, 1985. But for one night, he matched a Hall of Famer pitch-for-pitch for six innings.

The attendance for the Brewers-White Sox game was 14,754. There is no record of how many of those fans stayed for the full 17 innings the first night, nor how many came back for the final eight innings the following afternoon. But those fans who did witnessed a piece of baseball history that has not been replicated in the 29 years since.

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Triple Play: Miguel Cabrera, Mitchell Boggs, Roy Oswalt

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Triple Play: Miguel Cabrera, Mitchell Boggs, Roy Oswalt

Posted on 06 May 2013 by Chris Caylor

In this week’s edition of the Triple Play, we look at the most consistent hitter in the game, a closer banished to the minors and more. Off we go:

Miguel Cabrera

Who’s Hot?

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

Talk about en fuego. In the past week, he smashed four homers, drove in 13 runs and punished opposing pitchers to the tune of a .461/.562/1.038 batting line. Prepare to roll your eyes: Cabrera is on pace to drive in 201 runs. While that obviously isn’t happening, what is happening is that the 30-year-old is continuing to prove he is the most consistent hitter in baseball. For the season, Cabrera is hitting .389/.467/.627, with six home runs, 36 RBI and 26 runs scored. If you drafted Miggy with your first-round pick in your fantasy draft or you spent the big bucks required in your auction league, you are likely having no buyer’s remorse pangs. Credit must be given, of course, to Austin Jackson for doing a terrific job getting on base in front of Cabrera (30 runs scored already) and to Prince Fielder hitting behind Cabrera. Going into Sunday’s games, the Jackson/Cabrera duo had scored 56 of the Tigers’ 155 runs, while Cabrera and Fielder have teamed up to drive in 64 of the team’s 152 RBI. The key to it all, though, is Cabrera – the best hitter in baseball (including fantasy baseball). Period.

Who’s Not?

Mitchell Boggs, St. Louis Cardinals

I hate to pile on Boggs here, but my goodness, has he ever been awful. After a 2012 season in which he was one of the best setup men in baseball, Boggs has cratered. In his first 10 appearances, Boggs tallied two blown saves, two losses, and a 12.66 ERA. He allowed a ghastly 30 baserunners in just 10 2/3 innings. The final straw came last Thursday, when he walked the only two batters he faced against Milwaukee. With usual closer Jason Motte now facing Tommy John surgery and out until midseason 2014, Boggs was supposed to provide stability in the Cardinals bullpen. He did not. The instability was further compounded when left-hander Marc Rzepczynski was demoted last week as well. It is fortunate for St. Louis (and fantasy owners) that Edward Mujica has stepped up to fill the void at closer. As the Cardinals try to rebuild their bullpen on the fly, it is worth remembering that the same thing happened in 2011. If Boggs is trying to find a bright side in his demotion, perhaps this will help: Boggs was last sent to the minors in 2011. When he returned, he was a key cog in the retooled bullpen that helped propel the Cards to their 11th world championship in 2011. General manager John Mozeliak hinted that Boggs’ stay at Triple-A Memphis would be short. Cards fans and fantasy owners hope that Boggs can return and be the pitcher he was in 2012.

Playing the Name Game

Player A: 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 0.58 WHIP, 12 IP, 16/2 K/BB ratio
Player B: 1-0, 1.63 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 11 IP, 13/4 K/BB ratio

Player A is Reds’ rookie pitcher Tony Cingrani. Player B is the Marlins’ own rookie, righty Jose Fernandez. What a pair these two are. Cingrani has been everything the Reds expected and then some in his four starts in 2013. His six-inning, 11 strikeout performance against the Nationals was nothing short of dominating. I don’t see how the Reds can justify sending their prized southpaw back down to the minors even when Johnny Cueto returns from the disabled list. He has proven he belongs. Meanwhile, in Miami, Fernandez, who was born the year before the Marlins came into existence, is becoming the only reason to watch the Marlins while Giancarlo Stanton is injured. After scuffling his past three starts, Fernandez was brilliant over the weekend in earning his first career victory. He struck out nine Phillies, allowed one hit and one walk during seven shutout innings. At age 20, Fernandez is likely to be strictly monitored this season, but the strikeout potential is there for fantasy owners if you can live with the shorter outings and occasional spells of inconsistency. If he’s available in your league, he’s worth a look.

Player A: 4-2, 1.59 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 51/7 K/BB ratio
Player B: 3-1, 1.61 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 42/8 K/BB ratio

Player A is Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. Player B is his teammate Hisashi Iwakuma. It’s no secret that I’m a big Iwakuma fan. The numbers above illustrate why. Iwakuma is King Felix Lite. You can pay big auction dollars or use an early draft pick on Hernandez and be satisfied with the numbers he provides. Or, you could have spent that early pick/auction cash on a hitter like Prince Fielder and then picked up Iwakuma many rounds later and enjoy the similar stats at a bargain-basement price. Obviously, it’s early in the season and Iwakuma does not have King Felix’s track record. But don’t dismiss this as a fluke. Iwakuma has great stuff, doesn’t walk many batters and pitches in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game. I believe he’s the real deal

Random Thoughts

News: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Chris Carpenter thinks the nerve pain in his throwing arm has improved enough that he wants to try to come back as a reliever. Views: If anyone can do it, it’s Carpenter. But the man has nothing to prove to anyone. He was as fierce a competitor as anyone you’ll ever see.

So, Roy Oswalt signed a minor-league contract with the Rockies. This tells me two things: 1) that ol’ Roy isn’t looking for the best chance to win, but rather a team that would stick him in the rotation as soon as possible, and 2) his pouty antics last year in Texas really damaged his reputation. I find it very difficult to believe that Oswalt couldn’t have hooked on with a better team than the Rockies if he hadn’t been such an unprofessional whiner with the Rangers. If he hadn’t acted that way, doesn’t it seem reasonable that teams like the Yankees, Angels, or Mets (all teams in dire need of starting pitching depth in spring training) might have kicked Oswalt’s tires if they thought he would do his job like a pro and not complain to the media constantly like a prissy NFL wide receiver?

Congratulations to Scott Kazmir, who earned his first major-league win since September 2010 this past Saturday. The lanky lefty is only 29. It would be a major, if unlikely, boost for the Indians if he could recapture the success he enjoyed with Tampa Bay. Still, he’s not going near my fantasy team’s roster.

Yu Darvish is receiving in tons of accolades in Texas, but let’s not lose sight of what Pirates starter AJ Burnett has done so far this season. The 36-year-old Burnett has whiffed 57 batters in 42 innings so far this season with a 1.12 WHIP.

Speaking of the Pirates, they’re going to be a real handful for everyone once Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker start hitting. McCutchen is off to a .259/.319/.444 start, while Walker is hitting (or should I say, NOT hitting) .253/.352/.342. Meanwhile, left fielder Starling Marte is putting up McCutchen-like numbers (.328/.394/.513, while leading the NL with 10 steals).

Wainwright Walk Watch: In 49 2/3 innings pitched this season, Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright has walked three batters. Or, about what the Padres’ Edinson Volquez averages per inning of work.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions

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Tis The Time For Bold Predictions

Posted on 25 March 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In the last week, the sports world has seen its fair share of bracket fever and the only cure is more predictions! The World Baseball Classic bracket tournament concluded with the Dominican Republic being crowned champions after going undefeated throughout the tournament. Congratulations to them. Also this week, the office pool of all office pools, the NCAA basketball tournament has tipped off with everyone and their mother filling out a bracket. Some brackets are filled out with knowledge and expertise; others are filled out with hopes and sheer guesses. But no matter what, the spectacle is a fun and exciting time.

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Being in the prognosticating zone and Opening Day just over a week a way, it is a good transition to some Major League Baseball season predictions. This week will be the American League 2013 preview.

Starting in the American League East, I am anticipating this division being the best division in baseball this season. All five teams will be ultra strong and all have visions of the post season. Sadly, one team will finish in last and it may be the New York Yankees turn. Injuries and an older roster may finally catch up to the Bombers and bring up the rear in the East. The Baltimore Orioles may also have a set back year compared to last year, finishing fourth and the Tampa Bay Rays, while pesky, in third. The Boston Red Sox will have a bounce back year (hard to have a worse year), and finish in second. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are pitching great thus far this spring. The new Toronto Blue Jays will be division champs this season. The roster is fully balanced after off season moves and will narrowly come out on top.

In the Central, the Detroit Tigers will repeat as division champions. In the division they have the best pitcher and best position player that should keep them on the top line of the standings. The Chicago White Sox will be runners up again but compete for a wild card spot. Both the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals are improved and could be major thorns in the sides of other clubs. The Indians were well represented in the WBC that could lead to an improving campaign and the Royals made one of the boldest off season trades this past December trying to spark the franchise. The rebuilding Minnesota Twins will finish in fifth.

Out west, the Los Angeles Angels are heavy favorites and will win the division by the widest margin of any of the six division winners. That will be aided by playing the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros several times during divisional play. Houston is making their inaugural season in the American League and on paper appears to be heading toward a difficult season in the wins category. The Texas Rangers lost a lot of fire power this off season and are not quite the same team that has had recent playoff success. They will finish in second while the Oakland A’s will finish in third. Oakland, like Baltimore will fall back a bit after a surprise 2012 season. In fourth, will be the Seattle Mariners, who while trying to make some improvements still cannot quite compete for a full season compared to the other ball clubs and the Astros will be a distant fifth place.

Come October, the Wild Card match up will feature the two Sox teams – Red versus White. Winning the one game playoff will be Boston and advancing to the Divisional Round.

In the Divisional Round, the Red Sox will show some fight but in the end be defeated by the Angels while the Blue Jays will take down the Tigers. The American League Championship will showcase the high power offenses of the Angels and Blue Jays. In five games, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and company will put the Jays into a halo effect and advance to their first World Series since winning it back in 2002.

Come awards season, the American League Most Valuable Player will be the man who was runner up a season ago. Mike Trout has all of the talent and the ultimate protection to post video game like numbers for the second straight season. The CY Young, boldly will be handed to Jon Lester. Lester has CY Young talent and perhaps with a new coaching staff in place, this will finally be the year he puts it all together. The Manager of the Year will be awarded to Robin Ventura of Chicago. I believe he should have won the award last season, but with a possible second solid year in a row, this could be his. With the line up and high expectations, Mike Scioscia of Los Angeles may cancel himself out. Finally the Rookie of the American League will be Dylan Bundy of Baltimore (not Polk High). A young talent on the mound, Bundy will see a lot of innings and post good first year numbers.

Next week, predictions on the National League. May your brackets be good to you!

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Fantasy Forecast

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Fantasy Forecast

Posted on 22 February 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In Florida and Arizona all spring training camps are now kicked into gear. Along with that, Fantasy Baseball leagues are forming and drafts are being prepped for.

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This year, my fantasy career becomes a teenager. I have been competing in various fantasy leagues since the year 2000, and with that I have managed several championship teams, have also had a few down teams, and a whole bunch in the middle with heartbreak and triumph.

For me, fantasy football and baseball leagues have always been about fun. The chance to have bragging rights over friends, maybe win a few bucks, and watching the games from a different perspective is a great learning tool. I can still remember having those drafts in friend’s basements and jokingly hearing from the peanut gallery that every player would be a bust. Or, making a draft day trade that was crazy ridiculous, yet still managing to win a championship that same year. Gathering around big boards with magazines fanned out and a dozen pizzas ordered, hoping that you will create that winning club for the upcoming season are like mini Christmas’ for some.

With that in mind, here is a little forecasting to hopefully set the 2013 season off on the right track. For me, the top pick overall this season has to be a guy that has yet to play on an Opening Day. The Angel’s Mike Trout is the guy this season. His rookie season was one of the best seasons in history and not just by a rookie. He is a five tool player. Trout edges out the Detroit Tigers’ Triple Crown man, Miguel Cabrera. Rounding out my overall top 5 would be Robinson Cano, Albert Pujols, and Andrew McCutchen.

Next on the clock, the top pitcher would be Justin Verlander of the Tigers as well. He just turned 30 but he is a true ace. He wins games, eats up innings, and dominates the strike outs. Two other aces to headline a staff would be the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw or the Rays’ David Price. Stephen Strasburg, while he is a star attraction, is not quite a top three pitcher just yet. Personally, I still have questions about his arm. Coming out of college I suspected that he may be prone to a major surgery and that is what happened a few seasons ago. After last year’s well publicized inning limit he should have a solid season and hopefully will pitch a full year. The top catcher would definitely be the Giants’ Buster Posey and top closer to rack up saves would be the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel.

Many times, seasons are won and lost on those draft day risks and reaches. The sleepers or rookies you hope will pan out because you want to jump at them first before the guy on his ninth slice of pizza does. These picks may have you booed into the next beverage run, but they could also lead to a victory dance at the end of the season too.

ChrisSale

On the mound, sleepers may include the White Sox Chris Sale who last year was a starter, then closer, then starter again and turned in a heck of a season. This year he will likely be the ace and have another good season while many still may have doubts. Also, Madison Bumgarner continues to develop and improve out by the bay. He is overshadowed by others out there but his talents and skills are right up there. Mike Minor in Atlanta could also put together a nice season as well.

Offensive sleepers include the Houston Astros Jose Altuve. When it comes to the Astros, there are not very many good things but Altuve is one. From another club that could struggle all year is the Colorado Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario. Finally, it may be my turn for the drink run, but Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs will be a guy to get dibs on. I am confident in that. Let the big names go early, sit back, wait, and grab Rizzo mid draft.

The top rookie on draft day will likely be the closer of the Tigers, Bruce Rondon. He is a young flame thrower and will surely get plenty of chances with that offense in support. Also, likely making a debut this year will be the New York Mets top prospect pitcher Zack Wheeler.

As draft days near, may the force and luck be with you. Best of luck constructing that winning club, but most importantly have fun! The best thing about baseball is that it is everyday for 162 games and the weather is mostly sunny.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts for draft strategies and Play Ball!

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