Friday, April 01, 2016

2016 Baseball Predictions

Here are my 2016 MLB predictions. 

AL East
1. Toronto
2. Boston
3. New York
4. Baltimore
5. Tampa Bay

Toronto – The Blue Jays made it all the way to the ALCS last year after having not been to the post season since 1993.  They look pretty solid this year as well. What is not to love about the Blue Jays offense?  With Joey Bats, a full year of Tulo, the reigning MVP Donaldson and Encarnacion all smacking the ball around they will score plenty of runs.  The pitching is another matter.  At the top Stroman and Marco Estrada appear to be fine.  The depth after those two is what worries me.  The pen is quietly underrated with Roberto Osuna set to close out the games.  They got a taste of the postseason last year and I think they head back again.

Boston – I kind of don’t want to pick the Red Sox to succeed because there is a lot about this team that I don’t like.  Kung Fu Panda is eating himself right out of the league and I for one think Hanley at first could be really bad.  But, they do have a lot of young talent ready to bust out.  Betts, Bradley, and Castillo could be the best outfield in the AL if they all play to their potential.  They also have to hope Big Papi has one more year of usefulness in him.  The rotation gets a tremendous boost in David Price.  Did they overpay for him, yes.  But they needed an ace at the top of the rotation and he fits the bill. After Price, they look for a bounce back from Porcello and hope Clay Buchholz can round back into form.  The pen looks to be really solid with Kimbrel, Carson Smith, and Uehera at the back end.  They need to get off to a good start as other than the 2013 World Series year, they have underachieved the last 5 seasons.

New York – Ah, the Yankees, you either love or like most people hate them.  Last year they found the fountain of youth and got some good years from some of their aging stars to make a run to the wild card.  This year however, you have to wonder if father time hasn’t caught up to them.  They are going to need solid years from, Beltran, Texeria, A-Rod, Gardner, and Ellsbury.  That is asking a lot.  Could it happen, sure, is it likely no.  For the first time in eons the farm system does look strong for the Bombers so maybe they get some help during the season.  The rotation is very suspect in my humble opinion as well.  Tanaka hasn’t been able to stay healthy.  Neither has Pineda.  CC is coming back from rehab and you have to wonder at his advanced age what he has left.  Maybe the kid Severino is the real deal, they are going to need him to be.  The bullpen is a humongous strength. If the Yankees have a lead after 6 they are going to be very tough to come back on.  With that said, I just don’t think they will get the same production from their veterans this year as they did last.

Baltimore – I think the Orioles will hit a bit but I also see a lot of solo home runs and a pitching staff that is very suspect.  The birds have power up and down the lineup. Manny Machado may be the best player no one talks about.  And when you have Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis in your lineup you will hit the ball over the fence.  The issue to me is they have a lot of low .OBP guys.  I also must add the Chris Davis contract will come back to bite them in the ass.  They overpaid for a guy who while he does hit homers does little else and you have to wonder how long he will continue to hit for the power he has shown.  The rotation is going to be a huge question mark.  Which Chris Tillman are they going to get?  They better hope it is the 2014 version.  Gallardo wasn’t a bad pickup but you have to wonder about the millage on his arm.  After those two you have to really start looking hard.  Jimenez hasn’t been anything more than an average MLB pitcher at his best in the last five years.  I do like Britton closing games and think O’Day is a good setup man.  With Buck leading the way you never know maybe he hits all the right buttons and the O’s contend but I don’t see it happening.

Tampa Bay – For the Rays it is simple.  Will they score enough to be competitive?  The pitching on paper appears to be in good shape.  But, man that lineup is weak. Evan Longoria has regressed.  He is still a nice player but isn’t the stud he once was.  I am very suspect of the numbers Corey Dickerson will put up outside of Coors Field.  Kevin Kiermaier is an outstanding defender he can’t hit a lick. So, that means they are going to have to win a lot of close low scoring games, which they could do with their staff. Chris Archer has turned into an ace.  Jake Odorizzi has nasty stuff. They key is if Matt Moore can ever stay healthy and harness the tremendous potential he once showed.  Also, if they get anything from Alex Cobb that would be a huge bonus to the staff.  They have a good mix and match pen as well.  If they hit they will be a lot better then I think, but I just don’t see it happening.

AL Central
1. Kansas City
2. Detroit
3. Cleveland
4. Chicago
5. Minnesota

Kansas City – I am never picking against the Royals again until they prove they don’t deserve to be picked.  I will be honest, they have flaws, but their core is still pretty much intact from last year. Hosmer, Moustakes, Gordon, Cain and Perez is a solid nucleus. But after that the rest of the lineup is kind of dreadful. The rotation doesn’t exactly blow you away either. Yes, Ventura can be special.  But after him you look up and see Volquez, Ian Kennedy, Chris Young and Kris Medlin.  That is not exactly the 1971 Orioles out there. The strength of course of the team is their shutdown bullpen.  And it is still very good on paper even with Greg Holland injured. If they get a lead on you, chances are they hold it.  This is a team that the sum is better than its parts.  They play NL ball in the AL and they defy all analytical models.  They have a dolt in the dugout in Ned Yost but despite it all they win.  So, I will go with them even though I kind of don’t see it. But I have never seen it from this group so, that shows you what I know.

Detroit – The Tigers are an interesting team.  They fell flat on their ass last year after getting off to a torrid start.  Somehow Brad Ausmus kept his job and that is truly a head scratcher. With that said, I kind of like the Tigers and if everything falls into place they might compete for a playoff spot.  This team is very right handed so, it is going to need Victor Martinez to have a good year from the left side.  I think the Upton move was a good one and you put him in a lineup with Miggy, Kinsler, JD Martinez, and the aforementioned Victor Martinez they have the potential to score some runs. However like with Baltimore they need guys to get on base ahead of those dingers so, Anthony Gose needs to have a good year if indeed he hits at the top of the order.  The Jordan Zimmerman deal is another I like and if Verlander pitches like he did at the end of 2015 they have the makings of a decent rotation. Anibal Sanchez also needs to rebound from a down season.  The pen which has been a problem for what seems like forever got much better with K-Rod there to close games out.  The Tigers could finish first and they could finish last.  Something tells me this team is better this year and if they stay healthy which is a key as they don’t have a ton of depth, I think they give KC a run for their money.

Cleveland – For the Tribe the key is getting off to a good start.  The last couple of seasons they got off to brutal April’s and had to play catch-up the rest of the season. No one noticed but from August on they were the best team in the AL last year record wise.  The Indians are going to have issues at least on paper scorning runs.  Their outfield is in a word bad.  And when you are counting on Juan Uribe at 3rd base to start that is a problem. They need Jason Kipnis to have another good year and Carlos Santana to bounce back and be healthy. Lindor looks like the real deal and the key to it all is having Michael Brantley get back sooner rather than later. As suspect as the bats are the rotation might be the best 1-5 in the AL.  Kluber at the front is an ace.  Carrasco and Salazar have nasty stuff. And with Bauer and Tomlin at the back end they look to be in great shape.  The pen is also solid with Cody Allen there at the end.  You have to wonder if at some point they trade from their strength in pitching and go get a bat. This team could be a sleeper if they hit at all.  But I just can’t pick them with the way they are assembled now.

Chicago – Are they going to hit better than they did last year, sure.  But then again how could they be worse?  Yes, the lineup is better, but is it going to score enough?  I see a lot of the same problems they had last year.  They have no OBP guys in their lineup and that is a problem. Frazier is a huge upgrade then again a rosin bag would be an upgrade at 3rd base from what they got last year.  I like him, but you can pitch to the guy and changing leagues sometimes affects certain hitters.  Lowrie was a nice pickup but Austin Jackson is an out machine.  Jose Abreu is a special hitter but other than that a lot of just average to below average hitters.  The pitching staff is top heavy. Sale, is one of the best pitchers in the game.  Qunitana is one of the most underrated guys in all of baseball.  Rodon looks like he is the real deal so the top three looks great.  The bottom of the rotation is not very good and the White Sox have to hope Latos or Danks has a surprise season in them. The pen should be ok, though Robertson did blow a lot of saves last year in the second half. I like Robin Ventura.  I think he is nice guy and a good man.  But, is he a good field manager, I am not so sure.  The biggest issue to me with the Sox, (and yes I am a Cub fan but I don’t hate the Sox) is that they keep making the same mistakes.  In 2005 they hit the lottery with a number of mid level free agents (Dye, Everett, Hermanson, Iguchi, AJ).  I think they thought that they stumbled onto a secret winning formula.  But since then it really hasn’t worked.  They keep signing over the hill free agents and hoping to strike lightning twice.  In ten years since 2005 it really hasn’t worked. They have not developed a position player of any value since Ordonez.  And that is the biggest problem with them.

Minnesota – The Twins played way over their heads last year and were in the thick of the wild card race until the bitter end.  I just don’t see that happening again.  The good news is the Twins have a great farm system and should be ready to be competing for a division title as early as 2017. I just think they take one step back this year before moving  two forward next.  Joe Mauer is still here.  Miguel Sano is a beast in left.  But other than that it is a lot of replacement level bats throughout the lineup.  Byron Buxton is a major prospect who fizzled last year in his first call up.  The ceiling is still high so he might be someone to watch.  When Phil Hughes is looks to be your ace, you have issues. Ervin Santana is back for a full year but all in all this is a very pedestrian staff.  The bullpen has a chance to be special, but needs Glen Perkins to stay healthy.  If he does you can team him with Jepsen and you have a nice late inning tandem.  Paul Molitor worked some serious magic last year to get this team to play above .500.  I just don’t see it this year but their day is coming soon.

AL West
1. Texas
2. Houston
3. Oakland
4. Seattle
5. Anaheim

Texas – The Rangers have a nice young core to go with some veterans to make a nice balance.  The lineup still features Adrian Beltre who is entering his 18th season yet is only 36.  He can still hit.  They will need another big season from Prince Fielder as well. Youth will be served in the form on Odor at 2nd and Deshields in center.  I am not crazy about Ian Desmond in left but other than that they have a solid lineup.  A full year of Cole Hamels should benefit the pitching staff.  The key here is what they get if anything from Yu Darvish coming off a TJ surgery.  If he is even serviceable he makes the whole staff better.  It is a not a deep rotation but it is competent enough to keep this team in games.  The bullpen doesn’t have a lot of big names but does have talent.  Shawn Tolleson is the closer and he did notch 35 saves last year.  They have some arms in the pen that throw gas and that is always a good thing.  I have been flip flopping all off season between picking the Rangers or Houston to win the west.  It should go down to the wire but I like the Rangers in a squeaker.

2. Houston – The Astros arrived a year early and made into the playoffs in 2015.  So, big things are expected this season.  The lineup has some serious thump.  Correa is a stud at short.  Altuve, Springer, Rasmus, and a full season of Carlos Gomez looks like a solid lineup.  They do have some holes at first, DH and catcher however.  Dallas Keuchel leads the pitching staff and he showed last year that he can be an ace.  After him there is a pretty big drop off however.  Maybe Doug Fister has a solid year for them and that would be huge.  They made a trade for Ken Giles who is a good closer but maybe gave up a little too much for him.  Still the Astros have a deep farm system so, they can use that if needed to bolster the team should they need to in July.  This is a team that could win the division and should challenge for it all year.


3. Oakland – Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the A’s last year.  But on paper and according to run differential they should have been better than they were. A lot of that can be traced to their record in one run games.  So, if they can at least be passable there they should in theory improve.  The problem is as always they have to build a team on the cheap.  With that said Billy Beane is the master of doing just that.  On offense they are going to need Josh Reddick to carry the load which while he is a fine hitter I am not sure he is capable of that.  Maybe Yonder Alonso cashes in on the potential he showed in the minors but he is on his 3rd team so it is time to get going.  I do like the Kris Davis pickup as he gives the team some pop.  Sonny Gray is an excellent pitcher who should anchor this staff.  After Gray it really is a ton of question marks.  Rich Hill was brought in, while Hill was really good in the 9 starts he made last year, the issue is it was only 9 starts.  Jessie Hahn, and Chris Bassitt have potential so they might pitch better than advertised.   A full season from Sean Doolittle in the pen will surely help things as well.  I don’t understand the Ryan Madson pickup but then again Beane has made moves like this before that have surprised.  I kind of wanted to pick the A’s as one of my surprise teams and most don’t have them even finishing this high.  But the A’s have a history of surprising just when you count them out.  I don’t think they make the playoffs but I do think they will be better than last year.

4. Seattle – Last year at this time the Mariners were the darling pick to end their playoff drought. They missed out by one game in 2014 so it looked like they were on the verge of breaking through.  Instead they went out and laid an egg.  Maybe this year they get the ship back on course.  There are a lot of unknowns with this team.  It seems like for years the issue has been they haven’t really hit.  And on paper it looks like they still may have those issues.  Robinson Cano is very good but had a bad first half last season and needs to carry this offense for the whole year.  Seager at 3rd is legit and I like the Adam Lind pickup.  The problem is they have no power what so ever in their outfield so, they will need Nelson Cruz to hit close to 40 again.  If he does they might be ok but that is a big if.  You worry that they have wasted the best years of King Felix.  He arguably had his worst season as a pro last year.  But he is still the King so maybe he finds his groove this season. After Hernandez there is a lot of filler and not much else in the rotation.  They are handing the 9th inning to Steve Cishek who bombed last year in Florida and that is scary.  All in all I just don’t think the M’s will be able to sustain enough offense and the pitching isn’t good enough to cover up their lack of pop.

5. Anaheim – I don’t like the Angels as evidenced where I am picking them.  This is the team with the worst farm system in baseball and it has some major issues.  First the positive, Mike Trout is the best all around player in baseball whose first four years in the game stack up with anyone’s.   After that, there is a lot not to like.  The lineup is dependent on an aging and eroding Albert Pujos.  His contract might be the worst and most unmovable in baseball.  And it is not like they didn’t know this was coming when they signed him.  Albert at this point is basically a DH who is hurt all the time.  Trout is a stud but other than him the lineup leaves a lot to be desired. Simmons at short is a wizard with the glove but can’t hit.  Escobar at 3rd might be ok and Calhoun in right has some pop.  Their leftfield situation is a joke.  Matt Szcur would start there for them.  On the mound, Garrett Richards if healthy is a quality arm.  After him it is very thin.  CJ Wilson is toast. Jerad Weaver tops the gun in the low 80’s right now.  Maybe Hector Santiago pitches more like he did in the first half then the second but that is a big if.  The pen is actually decent and Houston Street is a quality closer even if he is a tad long in the tooth. The worst part of the Halo’s is with the system as bad as it is, they really can’t go out and make a trade to improve their lot.  It could be a long year in southern California for the Angles.

NL East
1. Washington
2. New York
3. Florida
4. Philadelphia
5. Atlanta

1. Washington – Last year it was all lined up for the Nat’s to win the east and a then a funny thing happened.  They dealt with some injuries and infighting totally derailed them.  They also had Matt Williams there to run a sure thing into the ground like few others could.  They have brought in Dusty so a collapse is still a possibility but he does have some talent to work with.  The best player in the NL is Bryce Harper.  He is special.  If Rendon can bounce back and stay healthy he is also a damn fine hitter.  They will need Daniel Murphy to be at least competent and ether Ryan Zimmerman or Jason Werth to find the fountain of youth.  The pitching staff on paper is still pretty solid.  Max Scherzer has nasty stuff.  They still have Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez here as well. While both have had their ups and downs they aren’t that old and still have great stuff as well.  Joe Ross is a promising youngster.  The rotation has a chance to be pretty damn good with all those pieces.  Papelbon is the closer and while he is a complete whack job and a clubhouse cancer he can still be effective.  The rest of the pen sets up nice.  Something tells me the Nationals put it together and eek out the division over the Mets.   Yes Dusty in the dugout scares me but he usually implodes once he gets his team in the playoffs. 

2. New York – The Mets came out of nowhere and made an improbable run to the series.  This is a team that has loads of talent in the pitching staff.  But something tells me they won’t repeat it.  They brought back Cespedes and while I like him in no way do I think he puts up the numbers he put up in the 2nd half last year.  Neil Walker is a nice pickup and a full year from Conforto in left will be a boost.  But, there are some weak spots in their lineup and it can be pitched to.  The rotation is obviously the strength of the Mets.  They have a great young staff lead by Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom.  The only thing that worries me with young pitching is will it break down?  These guys are strong and you can’t predict injuries but man they have a lot of power arms that need to stay healthy.  The pen has a good closer in Familia but last year the way to beat the Mets was to get to their middle relief which is still in my mind a question.  With all that said, this is a very talented club that should challenge for a playoff spot in the NL.
3. Miami – When your biggest offseason moves are a new manager and batting coach that is usually not a good thing.  The Marlins are a curious team.  They have some serious young talent.  But they also have some gaping holes.  This is a team that should have a better farm system but the well is actually kind of dry.  Giancarlo Stanton is the big stud in right field.  He has tremendous power. Yelich in left is a nice hitter and Dee Gordon won a batting title last year and is probably the best base stealer in the league.  Justin Bour at first quietly hit 23 bombs last year in only 129 games.  So, they might actually hit.  They need Marcell Ozuna to be a productive player in order to be consistent however.  The rotation is where there may be issues.  Jose Fernandez at the top is as good anyone in the game.  After him there is a steep drop off. Chen is nice but nothing more than an innings eater.  After him it is very young and green arms. Maybe someone breaks through, but the odds are long.  The pen isn’t much better.  A.J. Ramos is a competent closer but they are going to be depending on a lot of young arms. I like the Don Mattingly hire.  This team really needs some stability on the field. I don’t see them competing this year but they won’t be awful and they may play a lot of high scoring games on the days Fernandez doesn’t start.
4. Philadelphia – The Phillies will not be very good this year.  But at least they finally fired Ruben Amaro  and have embraced a rebuild.  They still have the corpse of Ryan Howard at first base.  But other than that they have some young talent coming up and made some shrewd trades in the last year.  Maikel Franco has a chance to be a pretty good hitter and should be the first player to build around.  The pitching staff is really bad.  Aaron Nola is slated to be their opening day starter.  After him it only gets worse.  The bullpen is also a junk pile. They traded away both Ken Giles and Papelbon last year and they got some good prospects for the future. However, for the here and now the pen looks to be a tire fire.  This rebuild will take some time but the Phillies at least have some light at the end of tunnel.  But the fans patience will be tested.
5. Atlanta – The Braves in my humble opinion will be the worst team in baseball.  However, they have made some nice trades and have gotten younger.  They are a couple of years away but they will be back. With that said, the team they are going to put on the field this year will be hot garbage. Freddie Freeman is still here.  He is a nice player. Ender Inciarte is a guy you can build around as well.  Nick Markakis makes a lot of money for not a lot of production.  Julio Teheran is a possible trade candidate come mid season.  He is a young cost controlled pitcher who while not overpowering isn’t bad.  After that the rest of the staff is weak.  Jason Grilli was an all star closer in Pittsburgh three years ago.  There are worse out there so at least if the Braves get a lead they might actually hold it.  Vizcaino is also a nice arm and gives the Braves pen a chance to be decent. It is going to be ugly but this is exactly what a rebuild looks like.

NL Central
1. Chicago
2. Pittsburgh
3. St. Louis
4. Cincinnati
5. Milwaukee

1. Chicago – Yes, I am drinking the Kool Aid and yes I am all in.  But there are reasons for this.  The Cubs are a deep, solid team with very few flaws.  And trust me, I am a Cub fan so, I tend to tread with caution.  But, this team has the look and feel of a champion.  The offense is crazy good.  1-8 there is no rest for the pitcher.  It is led of course by Rizzo and Bryant.  But the additions of Heyawrd and Zobrist help in the one area the lineup had issues with last year and that is strikeouts. This lineup will grind out at bats and get pitch counts up.  That forces the other team to dip into the middle relief corps and that is when the Cubs can really do some damage.  The starting five in my mind is in good shape.  Jake Arrietta is the reigning Cy Young champ.  He is filthy.  Jon Lester wasn’t bad last year and I think he will be better in 2016.  Jon Lackey was a nice pickup as a 3rd starter and Hendricks and Hamel are fine at the back end.  The pen is deep and Maddon knows how to use the arms he has.  Hector Rondon is the closer and while some worry about him, other than a rough late May he was actually pretty damn good the rest of the season.  This team is deep and has the resources to go out and acquire an arm if need be at the deadline.  If I have to nitpick the defense in left isn’t great and if the rotation suffers injuries then they could be in some trouble, but you could say that for any team.  I’d worry about things a lot more if Joe Maddon weren’t running the ship but he is and I truly believe he helps this team stay focused. 

2. Pittsburgh – The Pirates have a very solid team that should challenge the Cubs all year.  With that said, I am not sure they are as good as they were last season.  Their outfield might be the best in all of baseball.  McCutchen, Marte, and Polanco are all really nice hitters and can go get the ball in the field.  In the infield they need Jung Ho Kang to come back and be healthy.  Josh Harrison slides over to 2nd and they picked up Cub killer David Freese to play 3rd.   This team should hit.  On the mound they still have Garret Cole and he only seems to get better each season.  After him it gets a tad dicey.  Francisco Lirano put together a solid season last year, so they have to hope he repeats it. They picked up Jonathan Niese from the Mets and they need him to be better than he was last year.  The back end has some question marks.  What does not have any question marks is the secret weapon of the Buc’s and that is their pen.  Mark Melancon was nearly perfect last year.  Tony Watson is a shut down lefty who usually pitches the 8th.  If this team gets a lead on you that usually spells doom.  The Pirates have been jobbed the last two years as they made the playoffs only to go up against two aces in the wild card game and get shut out both times.  It isn’t fair but that is the baseball playoff system as it stands.  I think a 4th straight one game wild card appearance is on the horizon.
3. St. Louis – The Cardinals are like herpes.  Just when you think that it is gone it flares up again.  On paper they don’t look that great.  But they always have this maddening ability to find some unknown 76th round pick out of nowhere who comes up and plays lights out.  Or they sign some mediocre free agent who puts on that uniform and becomes an all star.  Then you have to hear that the reason for this is because the fans there are so great the players want to play their best for them and I swallow my own vomit.  Anyway,  they are dependent on a 36 year old Matt Holiday and the kids that they called up last year who hit their asses off in Stephen Piscotty and Randall Grichuk.  If those guys hit like they did last year they will be fine.  If not they could be in trouble.  Peralta is hurt and Molina is coming back from surgery on his thumb and they will need both at some point in the season I would think.  The pitching despite losing Lynn to injury and Lackey to the Cubs is still pretty good.  Getting Adam Wainright back will be huge. I think Carlos Martinez has some of the nastiest stuff in the game.  Michael Wacha might be falling back to earth however.  I am not a huge Mike Leake guy but watch him go off now that he is in St. Louis.  Rosethal is a great closer and Waldren and Siegrest are more than capable arms in the pen as well. On paper this is the 3rd best team in the division.  They had no business winning 100 games last year.  They will still be good and will challenge for a playoff spot. But, maybe just maybe this is the year they at long last regress. One can only hope.
4. Cincinnati – The Reds are going to be bad.  They are in a rebuild but the thing is the pieces they were able to trade off they didn’t get a whole lot in return.  Joey Votto is still here and while his is still a surly ass he is also a tremendous hitter.  Jay Bruce is in right but he looks to be the next piece that will move.  For some reason Brandon Phillips turned down a trade to Washington which is a total head scratcher and really kind of burned the Reds, so they are stuck with him.  I like the Suarez kid at 3rd and there are actually enough remnants remaining to at least think the Reds can score some runs, but not nearly enough to offset what they will give up.  The Reds started nothing but rookies on the mound  from August on.  Some of those kids looked good others did not.  Raisel Iglesias has great stuff.  Anthony DeScalfani showed flashes last year.  They brought back Alfredo Simon as an innings eater.  After that it is barren until Homer Bailey gets back.  The loss of Chapman really stings in that they not only lost him but got virtually nothing in return.  J.J Hoover steps into the closer role.  The rest of the pen is going to have to hope for some magic in some young and retread arms.  The Reds had a nice little run but my man Dusty fizzled it away and now they are left with scraps and look to be embracing a rebuild.  They have no chance this year and could trade the few viable pieces they do have come July.
5. Milwaukee – Mediocrity thy name is the Brewers. For the better part of two decades the Brewers were totally irrelevant in Wisconsin.  Then in 2008 they actually started to play good ball and had a nice little run with a couple of post season appearances. This got all the fair weather fans back in the park.  But dark times are back in the beer town and with it the crowds will go back to pre 2008 levels.  They are going to be really bad.  They have the non-juiced, oft injured Ryan Braun still, who is making too much money to move.  They need Jonathan Lucroy to at show he is healthy and then move him in July and get some prospects in return.  Other than those two this lineup is AAA material. Jimmy Nelson is an average MLB pitcher.  He is slated to be the Brewers opening day starter.  And yes, Matt Garza is still there for some reason to be a total D-bag in the clubhouse I guess.  Maybe Taylor Jungmann who showed some potential last year follows up on it.  The bullpen is hot garbage and that may be an insult to hot garbage. Combined saves from the bullpen last year from guys that are on the roster this year, 1.  Yikes.  I do think unlike the Reds the Brewers got some decent prospects and they totally fleeced Arizona in the Segura trade.  So, the rebuild has begun and at least they have something to show for their moves. 

NL West
1. San Francisco
2. Los Angeles
3. Arizona
4. San Diego
5. Colorado

1. San Francisco – The Giants winning the last 3 World Series in even years is a coincidence nothing more. With that said, they look to have a pretty stacked team heading into 2016. The bats are led by their catcher who is without a doubt the best in the game in Buster Posey.  The infield is in great shape, with Duffy, Crawford, Panik, and Belt.  Who are all home grown talents as well.  They signed Denard Span and if he is healthy could be a nice spark plug at the top of the lineup.  The pitching staff is led by the superhuman Madison Bumgarner.  They went out and signed Cueto and the Shark as well. I like the Cueto signing and think he makes a good number 2.  I am not as high on the Jeffo pickup.  He struggled bad last year but maybe going back to the NL helps him.  If they get anything out of Matt Cain look out this team could be lethal.  The pen sets up nicely with Sergio Romo setting up Casilla who saved 38 games last year.  The Giants are top to bottom a solid club that builds a team the right way.  This might be their best team yet which is truly scary.

2. Los Angeles – A lot of people love the Dodgers.  I am not one of them.  I think they took a step back and will sorely miss Zack Greinke. I also don’t get firing Mattingly and replacing him with Dave Roberts but I trust they know what they are doing.  A full year from Corey Seager at short should be a boost to the offense.  But I do have questions.  Puig was great but it feels like he has regressed.  Adrian Gonzalez still mashes the ball but he is getting up there in age. They need something out of Carl Crawford at least until Andre Either comes back.  They do boast one of the best if not the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw.  He is on another planet.  After him the rotation is very thin.  Scott Kazmir is already hurt and they are going to have to depend on a lot of unknown quantities going into the season.  Kenley Jensen is pretty effective closer and they have some decent if somewhat unknown arms in the pen.  I could be wrong and the Dodgers could be better then I think.  But something tells me unless they get some pitching from an unlikely source other then Kershaw they might fall just short of the post season.

3. Arizona – The Diamondbacks were the darlings of the offseason having “won” the hot stove.  Well, I am not buying it at all.  Yes the Miller and Grienke moves were good but they overpaid for one guy and got fleeced acquiring the other.  This isn’t a bad team but it is a flawed one.  GM Dave Stewart and his continued stubborn ignorance of advanced metrics just boggles the mind.  The team has some talent in the lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt.  In my opinion he is the most underrated player in the game. Year in year out this guy puts up video game numbers and not a lot of people outside the baseball diehards know him.  A.J. Pollock put up a real nice year last season and appears to be legit.  Other than those two I do see some question marks. Will David Peralta and Wellington Castillo put up the same numbers they did last year? The rest of their infield is very suspect.  Right now they are planning to bat Jean Segura in the lead off position.  Last year his OBP was .285. That is Nefi like.  The rotation at the top is very good. Grieke is a top end pitcher who can anchor a staff.  Shelby Miller is a great number 2. If Patrick Corbin is healthy they have the makings of a pretty decent starting staff.  The issue is they lack depth so they need their starting 5 to make their starts.  Brad Ziegler holds down the 9th inning and very capable.  They brought in Tyler Clippard to setup and along with Daniel Hudson form a pretty solid backend of the pen.  The D’Backs made some nice moves but man did they get fleeced in the Miller deal.  Maybe not this year but that deal is going to haunt them.  Could they compete for a playoff spot of course they could but I am not in love with the moves as much as many others are.

4. San Diego – The Padres went for it last year. And well, it just didn’t work out.  On paper it looked good but on the field the team just didn’t mesh.  So, they smartly started a rebuild.  One that is ongoing. I think the Padres will be the most active sellers this year, in particular if they get off to a bad start. Matt Kemp was brought in and stunk up the joint in the first half.  He came back in the second but it was too little too late.  Will Myers moves to first and it is beginning to look like this super prospect will be nothing more than an average major league hitter.  They are starting Melvin Upton and John Jay so, this could get ugly.  On the mound the Padres actually have a decent enough staff.  James Shields has thrown a lot of innings but wasn’t brutal last year.  Tyson Ross is one of the best young hurlers in the game.  Andrew Cashner while often hurt can be effective when he does pitch.  The backend is a bit rough but there is potential there.  The bullpen on the other hand could be a mess.  With the trade of Craig Kimbrel that left a huge hole in the 9th inning.  They went out and signed the gas can Fernando Rodney to close. That may not work out.  The rest of the pen is not that great either.  So, this may be a team that blows some late leads and that is never a good thing.  The Padres went for it last year and it didn’t work out.  They smartly reassessed the situation and changed course.  There is nothing wrong with that. This year however doesn’t look to promising. 

5. Colorado – Do you know what the Rockies are doing, because I sure don’t?  This is a team that has had the same issues since their inception.  They hit like the ‘27 Yankees at home and like a minor league team on the road and they can’t pitch anywhere.  CarGo is still there for some reason.  He could be moved should the Rockies stumble out of the gate.  Charlie Blackmon is a nice piece and Nelson Arenado at 3rd is one of the few hitters who doesn’t need Coors Field.  They stole DJ LeMaheiu from the Cubs and is another nice piece.  They have a kid at short in Trevor Story who could be the rookie of the year so there is some hope with the everyday lineup.  But the pitching staff is another story.  They might be better just throwing the Jugs machine out there. They are “led” by Jorge De La Rosa who would be a number five starter on most teams.  The rest of the staff is retreads and kids with limited potential.  The Rockies have always needed pitching, that train is never late.  They went out and traded for Jake McGee who is a good pitcher whose talents will be wasted on this team.  He is set to close.  Nice guy Jason Motte is also here but is already hurt.  Actually the pen might be ok if not spectacular.  But by May they might already be overworked.  The Rockies have after over twenty years as an organization, still not figured out how to win consistently in the thin air.  They have tried signing free agent pitchers and that blew up in their face.  They are going to have to start developing guys with stuff that won’t be as effected at Coors. Come up with a game plan already otherwise it is going to be the same old story.

Playoffs
AL Wildcard
Boston over Houston

ALDS
 Toronto over Texas
Kansas City over Boston

ALCS
Toronto over Kansas City

NL Wildcard
Pittsburgh over New York

NLDS
San Francisco over Washington
Chicago over Pittsburgh

NLCS
Chicago over San Francisco

World Series
Chicago (yes I am all in) over Toronto

Other predictions
AL
MVP – Lorenzo Cain KC
Cy Young – David Price Bos
ROY – Joey Gallo Tex
MOY – Bob Melvin Oak
First manager fired – Robin Ventura Chi
Biggest surprise team – Oakland
Biggest flop – Anaheim

NL
MVP – Bryce Harper Wash
Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw LA
ROY – Corey Seager LA
MOY – Bruce Bochy SF
First manager fired – Walt Weiss Col
Biggest surprise team – Miami
Biggest flop – Arizona  


Thursday, March 10, 2016

50 Reasons Baseball is better then Football

I said I could list 50 reasons why baseball was better than football in a facebook post awhile back.  I was then challenged on that.  Not one to back away from a good challenge here goes.  Here are in my opinion fifty reasons why baseball is better than football.
1. Weather - Let’s start with the most obvious one.  Baseball spends the bulk of its seasons being played in the beautiful summer months. Sunshine, warm temps, it just puts you in a better mood. Football plays in late fall and winter where if you want to go to a game you sit there freezing your ass off if you happen to live in a cold weather city.  The only option is they could play under a dome which in my opinion is even worse. 
2. No clock to run out – Not just in football but in every other sport you can run out the clock.  Not in baseball.  How many times do you watch a football game and whatever team has the ball last wins.  You run out the clock you take a knee whatever it is.  You cannot do that in baseball.  You have to get that elusive 27th out.  To me that is what makes the game all the more exciting.  And I don’t care what you say knowing you have to finish off the other team by getting that last out adds drama to any game.
3. The thinking man’s game – Baseball always has been the thinking man’s game. This may sound elitist as all hell but football is for morons.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of strategy in football.  But it does not compare to baseball.  I love when people try to tell me baseball is boring.  Football games take three hours and there is an average of eleven minutes of action.  There are around 120 offensive plays ran in a game.  In baseball there are on average 300 pitches per game.  And on each pitch there is a strategy involved.  Each player in the field must position themselves based on the count, what kind of hitter is batting which many a graph is studied to figure out.  You need to take into account the situation, are there runners on base.  If you are in the field you should be constantly thinking where do I throw the ball if it is hit to me.  If you are catching or pitching you have to think about pitch selection and location.  I am just reaching the tip of the iceberg here. I won’t bore everyone but if you really watch the game and know it there is so much going on that if you do fancy yourself someone who loves strategy  then baseball has it in spades. 
4. Hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports – This one is not even up for debate.  Hitting a round baseball with a bat is the most difficult thing in all of sports to do.  It’s a talent that few on this earth have.  The hand eye coordination it takes is simply mind boggling.  And to all those morons who think it doesn’t take guts to play baseball I guarantee they have never gotten in a batter’s box and faced a 95 MPH fastball.  Then when you are geared up for that a pitcher can throw you an off speed pitch and make you look foolish.  Even a .200 hitter in the show has an amazing ability. 
5. Any person no matter their size can play – I grew up a small skinny kid.  Football was out of the question growing up. I mean have you seen Lucas?  Baseball however, I could still play.  It does not matter how big you are.  If you can play the game you can play.  Or you can be an out of shape tub of goo and still be a stud.  Babe Ruth is still for my money the single greatest baseball player of all time.  He ate hot dogs by the case, smoked Cuban cigars and drank booze like it was water.  He was only in shape if you consider round a shape.  Yet, he still had that ability to hit the baseball like certainly no one before him and few after him. Many will say the NFL has better athletes and that is fine.  I much prefer a sport where I see normal sized people playing it.
6. You cannot substitute in and out of the game – Baseball is the only sport where once you are out of the game you are out.  Thus, you have to choose when to pinch hit and run and when to take a pitcher out with much more caution.  In football you run ten yards and you get substituted out for a play.  You cannot take off plays in baseball. But I forgot football players are more rugged, spare me.
7. The Parks – People in the summer plan family vacations around visiting baseball stadiums.  There is a reason for this.  They are beautiful.  Baseball is played in parks and football is played in stadiums.  It’s played in the summer and with the exception of Toronto and Tampa, on grass.  The smell of a baseball park is one of the best that God has created.  Football is a game best seen on TV.  That is why it is so popular in that format.  Baseball is fine on television but nothing compares to being at a game.  The crack of the bat, the excitement of the crowd, the smell of steamy weenies on the grill, you cannot duplicate that.  I have had some of the most miserable times of my life sitting at Solider Filed watching a Bears game.  You could not pay me to go and watch a live football game in December. 
8. Each Park is different – No two stadiums have the same dimensions.  Think about that for one second.  It is the only sport where you alter your game based on what park you are playing in.  Is it is hitters park, is the wind blowing out?  Is there a hill in centerfield?  You have to alter your game based on conditions and location.  Sure football has bad weather but each field is a hundred yards long.  
9. Baseball is also the only game where the defense has the ball- If you have the ball that means you control the pace of the action, and you control the game.  Baseball again is the only sport where this occurs.  In every other sport including football, you are reacting to what the offense does with the ball.  In baseball as a hitter you have to react to what the pitcher is throwing you. 
10. You have to play offense and defense – I am going to limit this to the far superior brand of baseball they play in the National League where they don’t use that abortion of a rule called the designated hitter.  You cannot hide a deficiency, you have to be able to not only hit but also be able to play the field.  No one plays both sides of the ball in football anymore.  You could be an awesome power hitter but if you have stone hands in the field you can’t be hidden you still have to go out there and play the field.  I love that about the game.  Conversely, you could be a wizard with the glove but if you can’t hit a lick you won’t be an everyday player.  And since there again is no substituting in and out of the game you have to be somewhat adept at both parts of the game.
11. The 7th Inning Stretch– Simply put there is nothing like the tradition of baseball.  The 7th inning stretch where fans get up and sing in unison to take me out to the ball game is not only a bonding moment for the home fans, but a tradition that goes back decades.  Tell me what the equivalent is in football? 
12. The Announcers - Baseball has revered announcers, Vin Scully, Jack Buck, Harry Cary, Jack Brickhouse, Mel Allen, the list goes on and differs on your home team and where you grew up.  Listening to a baseball game on the radio on a summer night, seriously to me nothing like it.  Name me one famous football announcer, John Madden would be the only one I would give you and he was vastly overrated. 
13. Opening Day - Opening Day in baseball, with the bunting and the pomp and the first pitch being thrown out by some dignitary, I get goose bumps just thinking about it.  There is nothing else like it in any other sport.  Yes, people get up for the beginning of the season in football, but it doesn’t even come close to comparing it to the pageantry and tradition of opening day in baseball.
14. The Numbers –In no sport is a mere number so important.  Every baseball fan knows Joe DiMaggio had a 56 game hitting streak that still stands.  Can you tell me the longest touchdown streak in football without looking it up?  3,000 hits, 500 homers, 300 wins, and 3000 strikeouts those numbers mean something in a career, what is the equivalent in football?  Babe Ruth hit 714 homers everyone knows that.  Roger Maris hit 61 homers in 1961 everyone knows that as well.  Quick someone tell me how many TD’s Bret Favre threw or for that matter who had the record before he broke it? 
15. Analytics – In the last 15 years new math and new metrics has simply changed baseball. I won’t bore you with statistical analysis and even if you don’t fully buy into the new school approach it is pretty cool that it is there and available.  You just can’t measure football that way. 
16. Whiffle ball– There are so many variations of the game itself.  For my money nothing on god’s green earth is better then whiffle ball. You have to go O.G. here and get the thin plastic yellow bat and the official ball.  I can throw curves and sliders with that thing like I am a real major leaguer.  Yes, there are Nerf footballs but let’s face it they are kind of lame.  A great game of whiffle, there is nothing like it.
17. Less concussions – Sure you can get a concussion playing baseball.  But it is much more prevalent in football.  Watching some of these old timers struggle after their playing days are over is downright sad.  We are just now starting to realize the after effects a pretty good chunk of players deal with after their career are over. 
18. Longer playing career – The average playing career for a football player is 3.3 years.  For a baseball player it is 5.6 years.  But that does not tell the whole story.  You can still play baseball into your late 30’s and while you might not be what you once were you can still hold down a job. John Lackey just got a 32 million dollar deal at age 37.  At age 37 only an elite QB is still going to be able to play.  If you have the choice, it is a no brainer play baseball and you will have a much longer shelf life.
19. Cheaper to go to the game – The average price for a ticket to a baseball game is $28. The average price for a ticket to a football game is $79.  I am sorry but that is nuts.  I get it that there are only 8 home football games as compared to 81 for baseball.  With that said, you want to take the wife and kids to the ball park you can still afford to do so.  You want to take them to a football game you better get a bridge loan.
20. Movies – Again this is opinion but I am sorry baseball has far superior movies.  The Pride of the Yankees, Field of Dreams, The Sandlot, The Natural, Bull Durham, Bang the Drum Slowly, Moneyball, The Bad News Bears, Major League and hell even League of their Own all great flicks.  For football I will give you the OG The longest Yard and Friday Night Lights.  That is about it. 
21. Less outdated macho crap – I loathe the what I like to call it, the football mentally, where it is cool to browbeat a kid into submission with screaming tirades of outdated nonsense clichés. You’ve got to want it more, be a man, winners never quit, losers like losing, and on and on.  Not that there isn’t some form of that in baseball but the testosterone factor is 1/10th what it is in football.
22. Differences in the Leagues – In football there is really no difference in the NFC or the AFC. It is the same game with the same rules.  But in baseball the two leagues are very different.  The DH factor obviously is the biggest reason for this.  While I am a tremendous supporter of the pitcher hitting, I know that there are others out there who are not.  So, they can watch AL ball if they want to while I can revel in the beauty and strategy of the NL game.  It really is the best of both worlds.
23. Baseball is international – Currently baseball is being played in all over the world.  Football by and large is an American game.  They play it in Canada (with slightly different rules) and that is about it.  You have players from all over the world currently playing in baseball. Again, football is pretty much the good old USA.  I for one like the international flair.  I like that there are different looking people and different traditions based on one’s country of origin.  No matter how much they try the NFL while watched in other countries is rarely played there.
24. NFL has no idea what a catch is – Someone anyone, please explain to me what a catch is in football?  Because, seriously I don’t think the NFL even knows anymore.  I will be watching a game.  A receiver will make what looks to be a perfectly good catch and yet somehow it will be ruled incomplete. It is completely illogical. Baseball has a pretty simple rule.  If you get your glove under the ball before it hits the ground it’s a catch. See how easy that is.
25 Hot Stove – Yes, football now has free agency but trades are very rare in the NFL.  In baseball trades, in particular in season trades are a common occurrence. It keeps things interesting and the hot stove heated up.  Also, in the NFL a team can just slap on the dreaded franchise tag on a player and then they are stuck where they are for what could be two more seasons forfeiting two years of free agent money.
26. No neutral sites – You play all year you finally make it to your sports ultimate prize, the Super Bowl and your fans don’t even have the chance to go to the game in their own city.  I get it that football has to have a neutral site Super Bowl.  But, to me it is much cooler to watch a fevered home crowd that is enjoying a home World Series game.  As a fan you live and die with your team all year and then if it should be so lucky to get to the series, you get the pay off by hosting games at your home park.  In the NFL, get a plane ticket and book an expensive hotel room and hope you can find a seat. 
27. All Star Game is much better – If you watch the pro bowl you seriously have issues. This year almost 50 players dropped out of the game.  No one wants to go.  While baseball’s all star game does have issues (I hate that home field in the world series is based on who wins the game) it is still an actual baseball game.  Sure a few players have to drop out but nothing like the pro bowl.  The two don’t even compare.
28. Keeping Score – I know I am a fossil but yes, I still keep score when I go to the ballpark.  There is something about it that just brings out my inner baseball geek.  I get in, go right to one of the surly old men at Wrigley who have worked there since Jack Brickhouse was still doing the games and get my pencil and scorecard.  There is no equivalent to that in football or any other sport other then bowling for that matter.
29. No hitters and perfect games – There is nothing in any sport more exciting, during the regular season then a pitcher throwing a no hitter or better yet a perfect game. I cannot think of anything in football that even comes close.  The drama when a pitcher gets through the first 6 to 7 innings with a no hitter sets up the dramatics.  I’ve been in the park with a pitcher taking a no-no into the ninth and let me tell you the excitement is off the charts.  A couple of years back when Mark Buerhle of the White Sox was throwing a perfect game I was at work, and was rooting for him, big time even though I am not a Sox fan.
30. No Cheerleaders – Now listen, I enjoy the female forum as much as the next guy.  However, baseball doesn’t need the distractions of half naked women shaking their moneymakers to make our game interesting. 
31. Hot Dogs – I can’t go to a baseball game without getting a hot dog. To me that smell when you walk into the park and get hit with that aroma of steamy weenies, there is nothing like it.  I know you can eat a wiener at a football game.  However, you usually are having to eat them with gloves on freezing your ass off and nothing is worse than a half cold hot dog.  And, let’s face it baseball and hot dogs are what goes together and everyone knows it.
32. Baseball doesn’t need gambling to be popular – Let’s get real here.  The main reason why the NFL is more popular then baseball, is gambling.  It is much easier to place a bet on a football game then a daily baseball game. Even the worst teams in baseball are still going to win 62 times a year. So, on any given day even the crapiest squads out there can go out and win a game.  Football only plays 16 games and point spreads are much easier to decipher then your standard baseball line. I’m not saying there isn’t gambling on baseball but it is far less prevalent.  Football comes out with that injury report on Thursday for a reason. 
33. Parity – Jason Stark wrote a great piece on parity in the NFL vs. baseball here http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/14713796 Trust me it is worth a read and proves baseball has much more parity then the NFL. My favorite nugget in the last 5 years only 6 teams have failed to make the postseason in baseball.  That is pretty remarkable if you think about it.
34. You can sit right up near the action – You can if you have the means sit, right behind the dugout and this affords you the luxury of being right in on the action.  With sidelines and end zones in the NFL you simply cannot sit that close to the actual live game.  And if you have ever sat that close at a baseball game you know there is nothing quite like it.  You have to be on your toes for foul balls and you literally feel like you are part of the game.
35. Ball Caps – I love me a baseball hat.  Sure you can buy a cap of your favorite NFL team but that is not what they are wearing on the field.  I probably have 30-40 Cub hats in my possession and my favorite is still the classic blue Cub hat with the capital C on it just like the players wear.  There is something cool about wearing the same model cap as the guys on the field.
36. Managers wear uniforms – Baseball is the only sport where the managers and coaches still wear the team’s uniforms. No suit and ties, no friggen hoodies, or Cosby sweaters.  Managers still wear uni’s, have numbers and it is awesome.
37. Umpires are actually full time employees – NFL Refs, are actually part time employees.  I get it they only have to work 17 Sundays a year and then a couple crews get to work playoff games.  But still to have 60 year old lawyers running around trying to keep up with NFL players is ludicrous. I have my own issues with MLB umpires but by and large I will still argue it is the best officiated sport and way better then the NFL. 
38. Baseball Hall of Fame – The baseball hall of fame is still by far the hardest to gain entrance to.  Now, yes have some borderline guys been elected over the years of course. But it is still much more difficult to gain entry.  The Hall of Fame should be reserved for the truly greats of the sport.  Some may argue that the baseball hall of fame is almost too rigid, which I find ludicrous.  On top of all that I have been to both Cooperstown, and Canton and trust me the experience in Cooperstown is ten times cooler than that in Canton. 
39. Classic Postseason Finishes – Joe Carter, Kirk Gibson, Bill Mazerowski, Bobby Thompson, Carlton Fisk, Luis Gonzalez, and the list goes on.  And with each name if you are a baseball fan you know exactly what moment I am talking about.  In football simply put there are not finishes in the history of the game that even compare. Adam Vinateri kicking a game winner in the super bowl is good and all but it does not compare to a moment like Gibson or Joe Carter had.  Not even close.
40. Spring Training – Baseball’s spring training is very unique in that it takes place depending on your favorite team in either Florida or Arizona. And many fans in cold weather cities make vacation plans each March and head on down to where their favorite team plays.  No one is going to Bourbonnais to vacation.  Going to Arizona or Florida and traveling from city to city to see different teams is something you can only do in baseball and is pretty damn cool if you ask me.
41.  Baseball doesn’t try to fleece their fans into buying two preseason games in order to buy season tickets.  Nothing and I mean nothing is more boring than a pre-season football game. Yet in the NFL if you want to buy season tickets they make you purchase the two preseason games as well as the eight regular season contests.  It is pure larceny as no one wants to sit through a game of 3rdand 4th string guys who will be pumping gas in a couple of weeks.
42. Minor Leagues – Football has a minor leagues it’s called the NCAA.  And, it has reaped many a reward by not having to have a minor league feeder system of their own that they have to pay for.  If you have never attended a minor league baseball game you really should try to hit one, it’s cheap and it is fun.  The great thing about baseball is that you can follow prospects and get attached to them and follow their progress along the way.  Sometimes it works out (Kris Bryant) sometimes it doesn’t (Corey Patterson.)  Either way, it is something that football does not allow you to do.
43. The Writers – Baseball has legendary scribes.  Peter Gammons, Roger Angell, Roger Kahn, David Halberstan, Peter Golenback, Hal McCoy, Keith Law, Rob Neyer, I could go on.  Football has Peter King and Adam Schefter two of the biggest buffoons on earth. There is a reason the best writers gravitate to baseball.  It is a much better game to write about.
44. Foul Balls – There is something about bringing your glove to the game hoping to snag a foul ball (or a homer if you are sitting in the bleachers.)  Sure you might occasionally get a football tossed into the stands, but there is nothing like the thrill of going after a ball in the stands and snagging one.
 45. Longer season means no fluky playoff teams – The NFL season is 16 games long. The baseball season is 162 games.  In football you don’t even play all the teams in your conference.  So, you may be trying to get into a wildcard spot against a team that has played a much easier 16 game schedule.  It is easy to see how a fluke crappy team (say this year’s Washington and Houston teams) can sneak into the playoffs.  Over the course of 162 games the weak teams get weeded out. Yes, I dislike the 2 wild cards but I get that it had to be done.  Even, with the wild cards now, you still have to prove yourself over the marathon that is the baseball season.
46. No flags – Is there anything worse than seeing a long pass get completed only for it to be brought back on a holding call.  Also, the rules are so arbitrary.  Pass interference is a judgment call of the ref’s and we’ve all seen calls that were tick tacky in that regard. Actually all penalties in football could be considered judgment calls really. In baseball, there are no do over’s.  If a batter hits a homer there is no chance of it getting called back.
47. Football is basically who commits the least turnovers – Teams that win the turnover battle in football win 76% of the time.  So, all the other nonsense that goes into planning, and all the over coaching (and man is there over coaching in football) pretty much boils down to this.  Force turnovers and limit your own you win. Have I over-simplified things, maybe but the numbers don’t lie. 
48. Batting Practice – Getting to a ball game early to see hitters park balls into the bleachers is truly a fun and different experience.  You get to a football game early and you can see the punter practice putting balls inside the 20 an guys stretching.  That is fun.
49. No boring halftime – Baseball is the only sport where there are no breaks between the half or periods.  And there is nothing worse than sitting through a football halftime show.  In baseball, you don’t get that downtime where you are left to watch a clock wind down to zero.
50. 25 man roster in baseball as opposed to 53 man in football – You know every player on a baseball roster from the starting first baseman to the backup catcher.  You know them because with the roster being smaller it is much easier to recall the player and have a recollection of them.  When a guy is either on the mound or at the plate it is a one on one match up and it is easy to form a connection with that name. In football, how many people really know who the third string safeties are?  . They might get on the field for special teams and during the season get their names called maybe 3 times the whole season. Sure, the hardcore football junkies will know the backup guards name but the casual fan will have no idea.  But even my girlfriend knows who David Ross is.


Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 Baseball Predictions

Here are my predictions for the 2015 season. Last year I picked a Dodgers and Rangers World Series.  The Rangers finished in last place so, take these for what they are worth.

AL East
1. Toronto
2. Boston
3. Baltimore
4. New York
5. Tampa Bay

Man has the AL East gotten really weak I don’t like any of these teams but I have to pick someone I guess. I love the trade for Donaldson by the Blue Jays and think he makes a good lineup better.  My only question is will they get enough pitching.  The Stroman injury really hurts but I still think they can squeak it out.  The Red Sox tanked last year but I like a lot of the improvements they made in the offseason in adding an innings eater in Porcello and an underrated Wade Miley.  I don’t like the Panda signing in the long term but for this year it might work out.  The Orioles did it with mirrors last year and I just don’t see them getting all the breaks again.  But, Buck Showalter is a great manager who gets the most out of his talent. However, that pitching staff is very thin.  The Yankees finally got old.  Their starting five man rotation looks really bad.  The lineup is depending on guys who are on the wrong side of thirty.  Just don’t think it is in the cards for them this year.   The Rays may finally have run out of the magic.  With that said I can see a scenario where they compete for the division title.  The basic problem is we don’t know what they will get from Alex Cobb and Matt Moore two very good young pitchers who are coming off injuries.  The bullpen is not good either and I don’t know how they will score runs but this team often has defied the odds but I just don’t see it this year.

AL Central
1. Cleveland
2. Detroit
3. Chicago
4. Kansas City
5. Minnesota

I could see a scenario where any of the top four teams win this division.  It should be a close race all year.  The Indians need to get off to a good start.  They have finished strong the last two seasons but got off to such poor starts that it necessitated their good finishes.  I like their starting rotation with Kluber at the top.  Lineup is very balanced and with Francona’s leadership I think they squeak it out.  The Tigers could win this yet again.  However, I think they lost too much in the off season and will have a rougher time this year.  The rotation is still solid with Verlander and Price at the top.  The lineup can still mash but is getting a little long in the tooth.  What really scares me is their pen.  If they can solidify it they will be fine, if not then they could miss the playoffs all together. I like the moves the White Sox made in the off season.  However, they still have some holes at the back end of their rotation and getting the ball to Robertson.  I also wonder if Abreu can duplicate his rookie year.  And I know you can say this for all teams but if they get any injuries they really lack any sort of depth.  But if everything goes right they might sneak in there.  I have a hard time believing the Royals were as good as they were last year.   I know Shields was hittable in the post season but he is still a horse and they did not really replace him or Butler for that matter.  I think a lot of things went right for them and they will regress this season.  The Twins are coming, just not in 2015.  Byran Buxton looks like he might be a star in the making and their system as a whole is very good.  But for this year, a thin rotation and a very pedestrian lineup could spell doom.


AL West

1. Seattle
2. Los Angles
3. Oakland
4. Houston
5. Texas

Times have changed the west is clearly the best division in the American League. The Mariners missed the playoffs by one game last year.  I think they will use that as motivation to get them over the hump this year.  I love the Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith pickups.  The lineup finally should score some runs. When you have King Felix anchoring your staff you are in good hands.  After him you have solid starters and a nice pen.  The Angles got it to work last year and won the division only to get bounced in three games by the Royals in the post season.  I can’t say I understand the Kendrick deal but even with that loss they still have a pretty good offense and if Garret Richards comes back the rotation is solid.  They should get in with a wild card.  The A’s went for it last year and it did not work out as they lost the wild card game.  They then had to kind of gut the team that got them there.  So, it is hard to try to gage what they will do this year.  I still like their pitching staff but I really wonder how they are going to score runs.  That is why I have them third.  The Astros are on the cusp on contending. George Springer and Matt Dominguez lead a good young offense.  The pitching will eventually come around and I think by 2016 they will be a team to watch out for.  But for this year still it would be a stretch to think they will be above the breakeven point.  The Rangers might be in some trouble.  With Darvish out for the year it leaves a thin rotation even thinner.  I do not like the Gallardo move at all. In that park he will give up some long balls.  They still will score runs so, if they do get some pitching they might surprise me but I really doubt it.

NL East

1. Washington
2. Florida
3. New York
4. Atlanta
5. Philadelphia

This division was the easiest to pick of them all. The Nationals are clearly the class of the east.  That pitching staff is stupid good.  Any of their first three pitchers would be a number one starter on most teams.  Gio Gonzalez is their fourth starter for god’s sake.  This is an embarrassment of riches.  If they score any runs at all and stay moderately healthy they should cruise to a title.  I like what the Marlins did.  While I think the Stanton contract is ludicrous money and time wise, it will pay off in the beginning years of it.  This team has a pretty good pitching staff of their own headlined by Jose Fernandez.  A nice young nucleus of talent throughout their lineup as well, means they should be completive all year. The Mets are an interesting team.  If Matt Harvey comes back and is his old self they will have a formidable rotation.  The problem is they really lack any kind of offensive fire power and that should hold them back.  The Braves took a step back in my opinion.  I do not understand the Markakis signing at all.  Then you have Upton who has been a major bust since they signed him.  Their bullpen is solid but the rotation is just ok.  I think they struggle all year.  Poor Ryne Sandberg, he just has nothing to work with.  The Phillies have an aging roster and bad contracts all over the place.  Ryan Howard is officially done.  Chase Utley has just had too many injuries.  They should trade Hamels sooner rather than later and get some prospects for him. This team really needs an infusion of youth. 

NL Central

1. Pittsburgh
2. St. Louis
3. Chicago
4. Milwaukee
5. Cincinnati

I could make a case for any of the five teams to win this division.  With that said I think this is the year the Pirates take the crown.  They have a very young and balanced lineup with McCutchen leading the way.  Also nice young arms in Locke and Cole mixed with the veterans Liraiano and Burnett. This is a solid team.  There is just something about the Cardinals that doesn’t sit right with me.  I do not like their depth in the rotation at all.  If Wainwright breaks down they are toast.  Matt Holiday is not getting any younger and I am not sold on the Heyward move.  But still they are a good team and will be in the hunt in September. I am drinking the Kool Aid with the Cubs.  If they get the kind of pitching I think they can get they can contend this year.  Also, a very solid and underrated bullpen could be the secret weapon. The question is will the kids Soler and Bryant be able to carry them this year.  I don’t know but it could be a very interesting season.  The Brewers played over their heads all of 2014 and it caught up to them in September as they nose dived.  There is no way Lucroy has the year he had last year and the pitching is very thin.  They can still score runs but they are going to have to.  I am not sure what to make of the Reds.  I love Cueto at the top of the rotation but after that it gets thin.  They have a great closer in Chapman but getting the ball to him will be a challenge.  They do have some nice hitters but also have some serious holes in the lineup.  It is a tough division and someone has to finish last. 

NL West

1. Los Angeles
2. San Francisco
3. San Diego
4. Colorado
5. Arizona

The West looks pretty top heavy as the bottom two teams are really bad.  The Dodgers appear to be the team to beat in the division again.  When you have Kershaw and Greinke at the top of your rotation that is tough to beat. I like the Kendrick and Rollins moves and they still have Puig and Gonzalez.  This team looks to be pretty solid.  I worry about the carry over effects of the post season the Giants had.  For as amazing as Baumgartner was (and that was a performance for the ages) he pitched a lot of innings last year.  The rest of the rotation is very average unless Cain can make a comeback.  They did not replace Sandoval and his loss weakens their lineup in a big way.  Still, this team always finds a way to be completive.   The Padres made a ton of off season moves.  I like the Shields signing to anchor an already solid staff.  The Kemp and Upton moves I am not as big of a fan of.  Maybe it all works out for them but I just don’t buy it.  I am not as high on them as a lot of others are.  If everything goes right they could challenge for a playoff spot.  The Rockies are a bad baseball team.  And it is the same issue as it always is for them, not enough pitching.  I understand they have a unique situation with their home park.  But, you have to at least try to assemble some pitching.  Tulo and CarGo are still there for now, but if things go south they might be traded at the deadline and then they will really start to tank. The Diamondbacks might be the worst team in baseball.  Paul Goldschmidt is about the only player on that team.  Dave Stewart their GM thinks sabermetrics is overblown.  Ok, dude we will see when you put that AAA team you have assembled on the field.  A total mess top to bottom.  They have no idea what they are doing.

Post Season
AL
Los Angeles over Detroit
Cleveland over Toronto
Seattle over Los Angeles
Seattle over Cleveland

NL
Miami over St. Louis
Los Angeles over Pittsburgh
Washington over Miami
Washington over Los Angeles

World Series
Washington over Seattle








Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Runs Ranked

I will have run in 22 races over the last calendar year.  Even I was surprised at that number.  Below I will list my favorite runs to my least favorite I did during the year.  I consider, swag, price, organization, ease of packet pickup into my rankings.
1. Chicago Marathon - Yes, it is expensive and the shirt that they give you is brutal, but still nothing like it.  Training for it sucks but race day is a total experience.  The Expo the day before is equally fantastic and they have a lot of good swag you can buy but I also cleaned up on the free crap.  Race itself is really run well and they have plenty of water stations and medical help along the way.  It will test you but there is nothing like the feeling at the end when you finish.
2. Chicago Big Ten 10K- I was totally surprised by this one.  I did not go to a big ten school but got hooked by the swag.  I got the Northwestern shirt and Nancy got the Illinois.  The turnout for these schools is enormous.  The race itself is a blast but the tailgate after party is what really sells it.  Race is at Soldier Field and at the party I got a sausage sandwich, ice cream, chocolate milk, and other trinkets.  Plus they had some big ten celebs walking around at each schools tent.  Also had some football drills games in the parking lot.  Gear Check was a mess but that was the only negative.
3. Big Game 10K – Ran on Superbowl Sunday.  Did it for the first time this year and it hooked me.  Takes place at Soldier Field.  Before the race you are inside the stadium warm in the luxury box section. You then go run the race and finish with an after party in those same boxes.  Only time you are exposed to the elements is during the actual run.  Our winter was brutal, but they had the entire path cleared.  After party also includes a free hot dog and drink, you really can’t beat it.
4. The Quarryman – This run is a beast.  Run through the hills of Lemont it is not for the faint of heart.  A very inexpensive race that features free pizza and a beer afterword if you are so inclined.  That ten mile run through the streets of Lemont however, is a challenge.  To say there are hills is an understatement.  You are rarely on flat ground.  Going downhill is almost as bad as at one point you are running and you cannot stop, the inclines are so steep.  It is a challenge but it is also fun and a race I plan on running again.
5. The Palos Turkey Trot – I have been running this Thanksgiving Race every year for the past 5 years.  I love this one.  It goes through the neighborhoods of Palos Heights and you have to deal with thirteen hills throughout the four mile course.  You always get a nice either hoodie or running jacket.  It’s a local race and one that I will run every year.  I have never had a bad time at this one.
6. The Ditka Dash – While, I am not a Mike Ditka fan I must say the race that they run for him is really outstanding.  Any race should be about fun and the Ditka Dash is definitely that.  Another that takes place at Soldier Field it has a great after party and good swag that they give you and even more that can be purchased. 
7. The Roselawn Cemetery 5K – I’ve done this one three years in a row and I love it.  It is pretty inexpensive and casual.  Takes place at night and runs throughout one of the coolest cemeteries in Chicago at night.  The course is lit up with candles and is a fun time. A glow in the dark shirt is your swag that is pretty cool.  I usually just walk the path as it is a tad treacherous at night and with a lot of dips and loose gravel.
8. The Lockport High School 5K – I dig this one because the funds go to the school. Starts and ends at the Lockport High. Not a ton of runners so the course is not too crowded.  We got a decent shirt and some popsicles after the run.  Very low key but was very organized. Course is also somewhat of a challenge as there are some hills.
9. Race to Wrigley – Still a very cool run.  I have run it the last five years or so.  My only complaint is they keep moving the date. When it was in May it was awesome.  Last year they had it in early April for some reason and it is a tad on the chiller side.  Course itself I love and finishing through Wrigley at the end is still awesome. It is not a cheap one and you don’t get much swag other then the shirt but I still like it.
10. Get Lucky 7 Miler – Ran this for the first time this year.  Team Ortho events are always interesting.  They have great swag and the Get Lucky was no different as we got a great hoodie.  But, the prices are high and the organization is always lacking. Still, I liked this path as it was on the south side in Jackson Park and there are not a lot of runs there.  It was muddy but overall still was fun and I would do it again.
11. The Bucktown 5K – Bucktown is still one of my favorite runs. It is scenic and the run itself I love.  It is a great neighborhood that the course really explores and lets you enjoy it. The swag is also really nice.  This year we got a great pair of running sweats but in past years we got really nice jackets.  The parking sucks and the after party is really lacking booths but overall still it.
12. The Warrior Dash – I always have fun at the Warrior Dash. The obstacles have gotten weaker but I did like the Goliath they added this year. The swag is lacking but they do offer you cool stuff you can buy.  And the after party is fun.  The chance of injury is always there but, I do still enjoy it.
13. The Super Bears 5K – This would be way higher up on my list if it was better organized.  The price, the swag, and the race itself I loved.  Really cool looking Bears tech shirt as your swag and a great after party. But the organization before the race was a joke.  No one who knew what they were doing and trying to get my packet was a total train wreck.  I hope they fix this for next year.
14. Original 5K – A really fun race.  Swag was lacking as all you got was a pair of tube socks (Which really sucked to run in.) The race itself was a total blast and saw some really cool people dressed up in their best 70’s gear.  It has potential to be even better but they need to step up the swag.
15. The Hot Chocolate 15k – The good is that the swag is awesome.  I got a great hoodie that I will wear the heck out of. The medal also is really cool.  However, it is really crowded. 40,000 people signed up and if crowds bug you then this is not the race for you.  The “expo” is also very lame. Packet pick up is at the Merchandise Mart, which I do not mind but the expo was really tiny and shoe horned into a very small space.  It is also a tad overpriced.  But you do get a lot for it so, it is one of those I still like but is not perfect.
16. The Rock and Roll Half Marathon – This used to be one of my top 5.  That was until this year.  Ok, you cannot beat the expo. There are a ton of tables and a ton of free swag. The shirt is alright but the medal is usually really cool.  The best part of this race is the bands playing at each mile.  However, this year the lack of bands was staggering.  I did not hear any music until mile six.  There were stages setup with no music being played.  The race organizers blamed the city but I am not buying it as there were bands there the last two years I ran it. Someone dropped the ball on that. Also, I know I ran more than 13.1 miles.  Everyone said the mileage was off and again they dodged this saying it was right.  But, anyone that ran it will tell you it was longer.  I am still going to sign up next year but let’s hope the issues have been fixed for 2015.
17. The Glo Run – I like the Glo Run, but, not in love with it. Shirt was very generic as was the rest of the swag.  Run itself at night was fun and it was very inexpensive.  The after party was also kind of lame. They certainly try hard and it is not a bad time but there are better runs out there.
18. The Pumpkin Run – I actually enjoyed this run for the first two miles.  It was that third mile that I got angry.  It said it was though a maze, so I did know that going in.  I just didn’t like it. Was muddy as hell and once you got in that maze you were at the mercy of the speed of the runner in front of you as you could not pass.  It is fun and organized well, and I love the shirt and the pumpkin I got. I would do it again but know what to expect this time around.
19. The Color Run – The race was fun and relatively inexpensive.  But the organization before the race left a lot to be desired. The line to pick up your packets was insanely long.  We got there early thank god but people were still waiting in line as the race started.  The shirt we got was very generic but I guess it has to be as it is about to get bombed with color dye.  It is not really a 5K nor is it really a run.  It is very different and it is a fun event.  Just need some better organization before the race.
20. The Monster Dash – I have a love hate relationship with Team Ortho. I love their swag but they are never organized, and always make decisions that leave me scratching my head. There was no store at the Monster Dash this year and when I asked no one seemed to know why.  The path is as usual was crowded and thin in a lot of areas.  The jacket we got was really nice but that is all you get and their races are not cheap.  I have emailed them about things in the past and I never hear back.  So, yes I like their races but would not miss them if I did not run them either.
21. Michelob Ultra Half Marathon – Now this one is more my fault then the race organizers. The race is organized and people are nice working it.  But man is that path boring.  No one is out cheering you on and running 13 miles that can mentally get to you after awhile.  The after party is fun and they do have a free pizza waiting for you at the end.  The medal was just ok but the main issue for me was I had some nipple chaffing issues. I learned a lesson with this one and always lube up now before any big run.

22. The New Years Day 5K- I was never more miserable for a race in my life.  I know it is January in Chicago, and they cannot control the weather. But it was just nasty out.  The shirt you get is alright, but other than that really no other swag. No warming tents and nowhere to conglomerate after the race.  I can’t speak to the path as it was all snow covered when we attempted to run it.  Somehow, I was talked into this one again for 2015, let’s hope for better weather.