Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday links


A quick look at the standings this Sunday morning has almost every American League team relatively close to the.500 mark except the Minnesota Twins.  Parity in sports is something we've come accustomed to, especially lately, in the NFL and NHL, but it's rare to see all these teams so closely bunched up in the AL.

If a true Wild-Card race was going on, the top team, the Yankees, would be leading the charge, with the 10th team on the list, the Chicago White Sox, only 5 games back.

The National League is a little different, with teams like the Phillies, Marlins and Cardinals all with 30 wins or more.  Only the Indians have more than 30 wins in the AL.

If the Wild-Card race was in full effect in the NL, the Marlins would be leading, while the 10th team on the list, the Dodgers, 8.5 games back.

This season, especially in the American League, may just come down to the final week to determine the playoff teams if this parity in the league keeps up.  The one thing that will get in its way is the interleague games that are coming up.  That three week stretch of games may just make or break some of the clubs and decided their fate going forward.

Sunday links:

The Dodgers have a revolving door in left field, according to the Kevin Baxter of the LA Times.

The Diamondbacks are a half game out of first place due to their revamped bullpen.

Where there's smoke, there's fire, like at the Dodgers game last night.

Braves will call up a reliever for the game Sunday night according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Manny Acta and Sandy Alomar Jr see no reason to alter rules to protect catchers, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.

With the Blue Jays struggling at the third base position, calling up Lawrie appears close, according to theScore.com.

It appears that the Mariners are ready to play Franklin Gutierrez every day, according to the Seattle Times.

Reed Johnson and his back issues may require a DL stint, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Tribune reviews the Cubs season to date, and its not very good so far.

Ozzie Guillen wasn't happy after his team couldn't get a hit in extra innings against the Blue Jays Saturday, and he let the media know about it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blue Jays could steal the division

After taking a look at the past seasons for the Blue Jays, this may be the year when Toronto has the best chance to take the American League division crown. 

They are presently fourth in the AL East, but sit only 1.5 games back of the Rays and Yankees.  With the Red Sox and Rays getting off to such terrible starts, and the Yankees going through a seven game losing streak, no team in the division is running away with the East, as was the case in the 2006 season.

Here is how the Jays have looked on this date looking back.

2010:
Tampa Bay: 32-13
New York Yankees: 26-18
Toronto: 27-20
Boston: 25-21
Baltimore: 14-31

The Rays start was remarkable when you look back.

2009:
Boston: 26-18
Toronto: 27-20
New York Yankees: 25-19
Tampa Bay: 23-23
Baltimore: 18-26

The Jays were only 0.5 games back at this point, but ended up 28 games back of the Yankees that season.

2008:
Boston: 31-21
Tampa Bay: 29-20
Baltimore: 25-24
Toronto: 26-25
New York Yankees: 24-25

Tampa won that division that season.

2007:
Boston: 31-15
New York Yankees: 21-24
Toronto: 21-25
Baltimore: 21-26
Tampa Bay: 19-27

Blue Jays were 10 games back on that date and finished 13 games behind at the end of the season.

2006:
Boston: 26-18
New York Yankees: 26-19
Toronto: 25-21
Tampa Bay: 21-26
Baltimore: 21-26

Blue Jays were only 2 games back that season and ended up finishing 2nd in the division in the end, although 10 games back of the Yankees.

So to review, this will be third time in ten years the Jays have been within two games of the division leader on this date, but never have all the teams been so tightly bunch, hence, the Blue Jays best chance at making the playoffs may just be this season.

Review:

Number of games back in the AL East at this point in the season from 2002-present.

2002 - 15
2003 - 5
2004 -  9.5
2005 - 4.5
2006 - 2
2007 - 10
2008 - 4.5
2009 - 0.5
2010 - 6
2011 - 1.5

Oddly enough, the Jays have not been in first on this date over the 10 year stretch.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

ExtraBaseHit: Power Rankings

With most of the teams (except the Twins and Astros) still in the mix for division crowns, the latest Power Rankings show just how tight each division really is, and how all the teams, even the Mariners, have a shot at the playoffs.

*number in brackets is previous rank.

(as of May 22)

1. Philadelphia Phillies (1) - Clearly the best team in the NL and Domonic Brown called up after wrist injury in spring.

2. Cleveland Indians (2) - Still hanging in there as the best team in the league.


3. San Francisco Giants (19) - Team looking the World Series Champs that they are, Lincecum looks unhittable in last 2 games.

4. Florida Marlins (5) - Nunez perfect in save opportunities (16-for-16)

5. St. Louis Cardinals (8) - Pujols still not on track yet, but Berkman and Holliday are.

6. Cincinnati Reds (10) - Need better outings from Edinson Volquez.

7. New York Yankees (3) - Jorge Posada saga behind them, must improve their pitching.

8. Tampa Bay Rays (9) - Team led by David Price and James Shields

9. Colorado Rockies (4) - Fading after great start.  Troy Tulowitzki only with 5 HR's in May

10. Boston Red Sox (21) - Went from worst to first in matter of 2 weeks.

11. Atlanta Braves (18) - Dan Uggla still below the Mendoza line, but pitching a major strength.

12. Toronto Blue Jays (11) - Jose Bautista on pace for 65 home runs.

13. Milwaukee Brewers (16) - Shaun Marcum looking like a Cy young candidate.

14. LA Angels (7) - Vernon Wells still weeks away from a return.

15. Texas Rangers (6) - expecting Cruz and Hamilton back Monday.

16. Oakland Athletics (14) - the pitching still leads the AL in ERA with help from the Coliseum.

17. Detroit Tigers (20) - no consistency with the team, playing NL clubs hurt losing Victor Martinez.

18. Kansas City Royals (12) - Rookie Eric Hosmer lone bright spot.

19. New York Mets (24) - Loss of David Wright to a back injury will hurt.

20. Pittsburgh Pirates (25) - Still have hopes to finish above the .500 mark

21. Arizona Diamondbacks (27) - Respectable record for such a young team.

22. LA Dodgers (15) - Money the main concern, as there may be trouble making payroll this month.

23. Chicago Cubs (26) - Pitching a real concern with Garza, Wells and Cashner all out.

24. Chicago White Sox (22) - Starting to creep closer to the.500 mark.  Jake Peavy looking great.

25. Seattle Mariners (23) - Michael Pineda and Felix Hernandez becoming great 1-2 punch.

26. Baltimore Orioles (13) - hanging in there in the tough AL East, but clearly the 5th best in division

27. Washington Nationals (17) - offence really missing Ryan Zimmerman

28. San Diego Padres (30) - return of Orlando Hudson from DL won't make a difference.

29. Houston Astros (28) - Brett Myers looks like a different pitcher and offence has no pop.

30. Minnesota Twins (29) - No Mauer and Morneau not his old self.

Latest edition of That's Random by theScore: Kevin Youkilis

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blue Jays need Branyan

The Arizona Diamondback released first baseman Russell Branyan to create a roster spot for pitcher Micah Owings.

Normally this is not big news, but in the case of the Toronto Blue Jays, it might be.

With Adam Lind just starting workouts in Florida today, the Blue Jays need for a first baseman has never been more evident than right now.  Edwin Encarnacion's nightmare of a night at first on Thursday, prompted the Jays to use Juan Rivera ever since.  David Cooper, who was sent down to the minors, just isn't ready for major league pitching, wasn't the answer, nor is Encarnacion, but Branyan might just be a fit.

Stuck in a log jam at first this season in Arizona with Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady, the D'Backs decided to release the first baseman, who is better suited for an American League team with the opportunity to be the designated hitter every now and then.

Even though he made 10 errors in the 2009 season with the Mariners as an everyday first base man, the D'Backs signed him to a minor-league deal in the off season for his bat, not his defence, but this is where he struggled the most in 2011.  The Jays don't need someone at first full-time, but it's clear they need help at the position for depth, and a they need a more pop on the bench as well.

Branyan broke his 0-for-22 slump with a hit on Wednesday, but on the season was only hitting .210 with one home run and two RBI.  Last season Branyan followed up on his 31 home run season of 2009 with 25 for the Mariners and Indians.  Clearly, he can hit the long ball, but things just didn't work out in Arizona, as Branyan is the type of player that needs regular at-bats, not just pinch-hit duties.

The Indians, Orioles and Blue Jays will be calling, it's just going to depend on what team he feels is a better fit.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jorge Posada update


In case you missed all the drama in Yankee land last night, about an hour before the game between the Red Sox and Yankees, the Yankees Jorge Posada pulled himself out of the lineup.

At first, it seemed like a normal situation that occurs everyday with players.  Players are taken out of the lineup almost daily with different injuries etc...but in this case, something was different.

Posada was in the starting lineup, but was batting 9th, something he wasn't used to, and something not done since the 1999 season.

Posada would have known this news for a few hours, but must have really thought about things, and it must of bothered him enough to head into Joe Girardi's office and pull himself out of the lineup.  Posada stated that he needed time to "clear his head" and said later that his back stiffened up on him as well.

"The conversation was really short," Girardi said. "He came into my office and said he needed a day, he couldn't DH today. That was basically the extent of the conversation."

In an interview during the game, Yankees general manager, Brian Cashman said that Posada was not injured.

"I don't know why he made a statement during the game. I don't understand that. That's the way he works now, I guess," Posada said. "I think we should have waited for the game to be over to talk to whoever. ... You don't do that. You're not supposed to do that."

Did the Yankees see this coming though?  In spring training this season, Posada hit .217 (10-46) with only one home run.

He started the season with three home runs in the first four games, but has only three home runs since that start (a span of 28 games)

On the season, Posada is hitting .165 with 6 home runs and 15 RBI.  In his career, he is a .273 hitter and has never hit lower than .245 since becoming an everyday player in 1998.

With age a major factor on the Yankees, is this a sign that the dynasty is coming to an end?  It might be the time when you look back and pinpoint when the Yankees took a turn to the bottom of the AL East.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pitching matchups look good on paper

Last night's pitching matchup between the Blue Jays' Brandon Morrow and the Tigers' Max Scherzer looked like it had the potential to be one of the better pitchers duels this season, but it turned out to be anything but that after Blue Jays manager John Farrell decided to pull Morrow after only 3 1/3 innings, as he saw a flaw in his delivery (or arm slot) and noticed a drop in velocity.

Morrow wasn't happy being yanked from the game, showing frustration on the mound and later on the bench, and to make matters worse, Shawn Camp entered the game, only to give up Morrow's runs (five earned on the day) and ballooned his ERA to 4.71. 

Before the game, you might have expected a combined 20 strikeouts between these two fireball pitchers, but instead you got six out of Morrow and five out of Scherzer.  You just never know what you might see at the ballpark, even if the pitching matchups look like it may be an instant classic, they still have to hit their spots and make it happen, which is usually not the case....although...

Tonight in Miami, the Marlins Josh Johnson will go up against the Phillies ace, Roy Halladay.  This is the one instance where a instant classic will be on display, just like on May 29th of last season, when the two squared off in Florida.  That matchup was a perfect night, as in a perfect game for the Phillies' Roy Halladay, and Johnson was on the losing end.  If you like pitching and love baseball, get on a plane right now and head to Miami, because something special is on tap tonight for the few fans that may actually show up.

Roy Halladay (5-1, 2.19 ERA) had been on fire again this season and has faired well against the Fish.  In his career, Halladay has gone 4-2, with a 2.30 ERA in seven career starts.  In Miami, Halladay has gone 3-1, with a 2.57 ERA, and has only allowed two home runs in 28 innings pitched.  And oh ya, Halladay's last visit to Florida resulted in that perfect game.  Can he repeat that performance?  Tough, but he will dominate this game, that's for sure.

Gaby Sanchez is the only current Marlins player to hit a home run off Halladay, and has a .357 career average off him as well.  Sanchez in his last two games has two homers and six RBI, so make him the X-factor tonight.

Josh Johnson, the Marlins ace, will try and match Halladay, pitch-by-pitch, something he has proven he can do.  Johnson on the season is 3-1, with a 1.68 ERA and has only had one bad start all season, that coming though in his last start against the Cardinals.  Johnson on the year has only allowed one home run, a 4th inning homer to the Nationals Jayson Werth back on April 7th.

In his career, Johnson has compiled a 5-3 record with a 3.34 ERA in 11 starts against the Phillies.  Ryan Howard seems to have his number though, hitting .286 with two homers and sevens RBI in his career off Johnson.  The two home runs are the only ones hit by a current Phillies player in their careers off the Marlins ace.

On paper, this one is shaping up to be a 1-0 game, with potential no-hit bids on either end as the game goes on.  Realistically though, it isn't that easy to predict what might happen, so again, the X-factors, Howard and Sanchez, will decide the game in the end.

Other good matchups tonight include:

Ace vs. the Kid: Red Sox Jon Lester vs. Blue Jays Kyle Drabek

Battle of the Young arms: Mariners Michael Pineda vs. Orioles Jake Arrieta

Cy Young vs. You never know: Cardinals Chris Carpenter vs. Cubs Carlos Zambrano

Young stud vs. the No-hit wonder:  Tigers Rick Porcello vs. Twins Francisco Liriano

Unknown vs. Potential no-hit stuff: Padres Clayton Richard vs. Brewers Shaun Marcum

Ex-Yankee prospect vs. The Hair: D'Backs Ian Kennedy vs. Giants Tim Lincecum

Enjoy the games!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

On this day last year

With the Indians being the early success story of the 2011 season, we wondered how team's were doing at this point of the season last year.  If you can believe it, the Rays had the best record and the Astros the worst.  The Red Sox were struggling at 15-15 and the Padres, who remained in contention until the final day, were 18-11.  Check out the records from this year compared to last year.

May 7th 2010 vs. May 7th 2011

AL EAST

Tampa Bay: 22-7 / 18-14
NY Yankees: 20-8 /18-12
Toronto: 18-13 / 15-17
Boston: 15-15 / 14-18
Baltimore: 8-21 /  14-17

AL CENTRAL

Minnesota: 19-10 / 12-18
Detroit: 16-13 / 15-18
Chicago WSox: 12-18 /  11-22
Cleveland: 10-17 / 21-10
Kansas City: 11-19 / 17-15

AL WEST

Texas: 16-14 / 17-16
Oakland: 15-15 /17-16
LA Angels: 13-18 / 19-14
Seattle: 11-18 / 16-17

NL EAST

Philadelphia: 18-11 / 21-10
NY Nets: 16-13 / 14-18
Washington: 15-14 / 15-17
Florida: 14-15 / 19-12
Atlanta: 12-17 / 19-15

NL CENTRAL

St. Louis: 19-11 / 19-14
Cincinnati: 14-15 / 17-15
Chicago Cubs: 14-16 / 14-17
Milwaukee: 13-16 / 13-19
Pittsburgh: 13-16 / 15-17
Houston: 9-20 / 13-19

NL WEST

San Diego: 18-11 / 13-19
San Francisco: 17-11 / 16-16
Colorado: 14-15 / 18-12
Arizona: 14-16 / 14-17
LA Dodgers: 13-16 / 15-18

The Braves started 12-17 but still made the playoffs.

The Giants started 17-11 and won the World Series, the Yankees are the only team to have a 17-11 record this season. (so if history repeats, the Yankees win the World Series)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Power Rankings (as of May 2nd)

Here are the latest Power Rankings as of May 2nd

PR (previous rank)

1. Philadelphia Phillies: (1) pitching still the strength as Halladay throws 60th career complete game.

2. Cleveland Indians: (13) reeled off 13 straight at home, best record in AL.

3. New York Yankees: (4) Jeter (.242 AVG and .308 OBP) looking like the leadoff spot may not be best idea for team.  Robinson Cano early favourite for MVP?

4. Cororado Rockies: (3) only 7-6 at home this season, starting to slow down after hot start.

5. Florida Marlins: (11) might be higher if Hanley Ramirez was hitting better then his .200 average.

6. Texas Rangers: (2) didn't look good against the Blue Jays, pitching a concern

7. LA Angels: (7) Vernon Wells stuck in major slump (.170 AVG, but pitching of Haren and Weaver best in baseball)

8. St. Louis Cardinals: (20) Albert Pujols with 7 home runs, but a .245 AVG, still the team is in first.



9. Tampa Bay Rays: (21) Longoria due back Tuesday and Shields and Price pitching lights-out!

10. Cincinnati Reds: (5) Joey Votto (.357. 5 HR, 16 RBI) looking like a back-to-back MVP candidate.

11. Toronto Blue Jays: (12) Jose Bautista on pace for 59 home runs. Morrow's return a boost to pitching staff.

12. Kansas City Royals: (17) hanging in there (2nd) in AL Central.

13. Baltimore Orioles: (14) after their eight game losing streak many wrote them off.  Not the case though.

14. Oakland A's: (16) pitching not as good as the home ballpark makes them look.

15. LA Dodgers: (9) Andre Either with his 27-game hitting streak is their storyline.

16. Milwaukee Brewers: (6) Braun and Fielder clearly lead this team.

17. Washington Nationals: (26) Jayson Werth leads team with .242 AVG (qualified players)  ouch!

18. Atlanta Braves: (15) Offence not close to how good it can be. Dan Uggla has 5 home runs but a .196 average.

19. San Francisco Giants: (10) Pablo Sandoval out 6-8 weeks and Lincecum can't even beat the Nationals.

20. Detroit Tigers: (18) an all around struggle on offence, defence and pitching. Need Victor Martinez more then they thought.

21. Boston Red Sox: (22) looked to have turned the corner only to come home and lose 2 out of three to the Mariners.

22. Chicago White Sox: (8) Ozzie Guillen suspended 2 games for a tweet.

23. Seattle Mariners: (29) showing some fight in them, unlike last season, as they won their latest series against the Red Sox.

24. New York Mets: (25) Getting Bay back looked like it would spark the offence, but it did for only a few games.

25. Pittsburgh Pirates: (28) team lucky to have the 13 wins they do with the offence not firing on all cylinders just yet.

26. Chicago Cubs: (PR 19) Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano big surprises on the good side, Ryan Dempster, huge surprise on the bad side.

27. Arizona Diamondbacks: (27) Ryan Roberts (ex-Jays player) a big surprise (.328 AVG, 6 HR)

28. Houston Astros: (30) Carlos Lee only has 3 home runs and a .207 AVG

29. Minnesota Twins: (23) on the verge of being out of the playoff race in mid-May. Liriano looks lost on mound and the loss of Mauer behind the plate and at the plate the difference.

30. San Diego Padres: (24) no repeat on the success of last year after the trade of Gonzalez to the Red Sox basically was what they were telling fans in the offseason, and it's true.