Monday, September 30, 2013

Complete Postseason MLB Predictions

Well, what can you say about the 2013 Major League Baseball season other than WOW? Not only do we have the two wild card play in games. We have a play-in game for the play-in game in the American League. I will give you my complete predictions for the entire postseason in this article, complete with how each series will end and some analysis behind my decisions.

AL Play-in Game- Monday 9/30 on TBS Tampa Bay Rays at Texas Rangers
David Price vs. Martin Perez

GAME 163. Last time we had a game 163 it was in 2009. The Twins beat the Tigers in 12 innings on Alexei Casilla's walk off single. That was for the AL Central crown. Four years later, we have another game 163, this time it's for a chance to play in the AL Wild Card Play-in game. David Price's numbers are not good in Arlington, he has gone 1-2 and 10.26 ERA, but he is a big game pitcher, he is the reigning Cy Young Award winner, and he is a better pitcher than who Texas is throwing out, (Martin Perez.) Although the game is in Texas, I Believe that Tampa will in 2-1 in another instant classic getting themselves a date with the Red-Hot Cleveland Indians.

AL Wild Card Play-in Game- Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians Wednesday 10/2 on TBS TB-TBA CLE- Danny Salazar

With Tampa beating Texas in game 163, they will get a chance to play at "The Jake" just kidding Progressive Field for a chance to play the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. I do not think they will be able to defeat Cleveland. Cleveland is hot coming in winning 10 in a row. Yes, they have a rookie starting in Danny Salazar, but Danny Salazar has GREAT stuff. A power fastball ranging anywhere between 95-98. If they get five or six out of him, then they will be in good shape. Justin Masterson (who was the ace coming into the season) is going to close for them throughout the postseason. I just see this club as one of those teams who shouldn't be here but they are. They have great chemistry much thanks to Nick Swisher who is never without a smile. No one picked Cleveland to make the playoffs this season. They all kind of scratched their heads at the moves made i.e. Swisher, Bourn. But somethings have fell into place that no one could have predicted. Ubaldo Jimenez has found his form, and so has Scott Kazmir, yes, SCOTT KAZMIR. Cleveland takes this one in front of the home fans, (should be a good crowd.) 5-2.

NL Wild Card Play-in Game- Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates 10/01 on TBS CIN- Johnny Cueto PIT- Francisco Liriano

RAISE THE JOLLY ROGER! The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the playoffs for the first time in my lifetime. Wow, I'm 19, and its been 21 years. If you couldn't tell where I'm leaning on this one, I'm going with the Buccos. For a few reasons, 1. The home field advantage. These fans have been itching for a playoff game in Pittsburgh for 21 years and now they've got one. Also Francisco Liriano is 8-1 with under a two ERA at home. Pittsburgh gets enough offense and "Shark Tank" finishes it out with Jason Grilli "Cheese" closing it out. 6-3 Pittsburgh.

ALDS Cleveland Indians at Boston Red Sox- Tito vs. the Sox.

Is there a better first round match up to be had? Terry Francona gets the boot from Boston and his replacement was gone after a year? Now Tito's back in the playoffs with Indians with a chance to show the Sox what they are missing. Well, it took them one more managerial change for them to see what their missing. John Farrell to the Red Sox is one of the best trades no one talks about. Yeah, he was traded from the Blue Jays to the Red Sox. From worst to first. GM Ben Cherington brought in some good "clubhouse" guys. Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes, Mike Napoli. If you've payed attention to anything in this article you know I'm all about good chemistry in clubhouses, I think that a good clubhouse can breed a good winning environment. This is why this might be one of the harder series for me to pick. Both teams have great chemistry. But, as much as it pains me to do this, I'm going with the bearded men in Boston in hard fought five game series. BOS 3-2

ALDS Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics Friday 10/04 TBS or MLBN- Revenge for the Swingin' A's.

A rematch for the ages to start in Oakland on Friday. In a series where no one thought the lowly A's would be able to compete with the Tigers, the A's took them to five games. This year I think the A's will get them. I know how can I pick against the Tigers? The best pitching staff in the postseason and one of the best offensives as well. The A's to me are interesting because I think they like to be the underdog and they relish the fact that people think the same as they did last year. There are two differences from last years team though. 1. Bartolo Colon. They didn't have Colon last year due to a PED suspension. Now this year he has continued his dominance. And 2. The young guys have a little more experience now. Jarrod Parker, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, A.J. Griffin and others have now had a postseason under their belt. Plus this year they have another young stud, hard throwing Sonny Gray. Whether they use this kid in the rotation or the pen, he flat out throws gas. Oakland wins this one 3-1.

NLDS Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals. 10/03 on TBS- The Jolly Roger is Raised Again.

Yeah, I'll admit it, I'm on the Pirates bandwagon. You know this because I just picked against one of the best postseason teams over the past few years. St. Louis has the all the inner workings of a championship caliber team, but I just think Pittsburgh wants it more than everyone else in the postseason. If they were playing a different team, I might have picked a the opposing team. But because they are playing the Cardinals, a division foe who they have played 18 times this year it's a good match up for the Bucs. The pitching is where I have to give the edge to Pittsburgh, only because St. Louis' closer role is up in the air right now. Edward Mujica who has been great all year is all of a sudden in a funk. I know Trevor Rosenthal is most likely going to be the new closer, but his age will catch up with him in this series. (he's only 23.)
Pitt wins this in five- 3-2.

NLDS Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers. 10/03 TBS- Puigmania Prevails.

Probably on paper the Best matchup in the postseason. Two teams that have been called the best team in their league for the most of the year. The Braves held the best record for most of the year, but scuffled at the end and now will open the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. The last arriving and early leaving dodger crowd won't be able to leave their seats during this series, because it's going to be all Dodgers. The Dodgers are one of the, if not the most talented team left. They have best starting two-some with Kershaw and Greinke. Oh, and don't forget about Ryu, and Nolasco. Plus there's those guys, Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, and Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of that lethal lineup. All Dodgers in this one even without Matt Kemp. LA sweeps the Bravo's 3-0.

ALCS Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox- Saturday 10/12 FOX- Beards vs. Beards

I couldn't tell you who would win in a beard growing contest, but I can tell you who will the ALCS and punches their ticket to the World Series. Pitching is even, offense has to go to Boston, and bullpen is a push as well. Grant Balfour is one of the better closers in the game, but Koji Uehara has been tremendous. I think the X-Factor in this whole postseason is Clay Buchholz who when healthy is one of the best pitchers in the game. Couple him with Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and a rejuvenated, healthy John Lackey. I give the edge here to Boston. They will advance to their third World Series in the last nine years. Boston wins this one in six 4-2.

NLCS Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers- Friday 10/11 TBS- The Dodgers Keep on Rolling.

This one was particularly hard to pick. As I've said before the I've jumped on the Pirates bandwagon. But the Dodgers just have too much for the Pirates to handle. LA's pitching is too great for a slightly above average Pittsburgh offense. The city of Pittsburgh will have gotten a great run from their boys, and they have shown that they are here for the long run. The Dodgers will finally get Donnie Baseball to his first World Series. They win this one in five 4-1.

109th World Series Los Angeles Dodgers at Boston Red Sox- Wednesday 10/23 FOX- The Match up Everyone Wanted.

Yes, sadly I picked the same match up as most will. I usually don't like to pick the favorites to get there but, this year I have. The only reason is because I truly believe these two teams will have the best shot to make it here. They have all the pieces, they have the pitching, the offensive, the bullpen, and most importantly, the chemistry. This is the best match up for baseball as a whole. They have two of the biggest markets in the game in the World Series. This will attract the casual baseball fan as well as the diehards. Now for my pick on who will win the 109th World Series. It will be... the Los Angeles Dodgers! I give them the edge because of their pitching. They literally have two of the best pitchers in the game on their team. Also one of the guys they got from the Red Sox in that mega deal, Adrian Gonzalez. As well as Hanley, Puig. This will go seven games and will be an Epic World Series and one for the ages. Thank you for reading this, and I hope you enjoyed it! Enjoy the postseason!

Follow me on Twitter- @TheDonnyFinkle

Friday, September 20, 2013

Thoughts and Musings about the New York Giants 0-2 Start

The title is pretty self-explanatory. Thankfully for the Giants, the rest of the NFC East is pretty mediocre. It is a very safe bet to say the NFC East Division champ is the only team that is going to make the playoffs. The Eagles lost, putting them at 1-2, and if the Giants win and Cowboys lose, the Giants are tied for first at 1-2. But, here's some thoughts, musings and suggestions on the team, including how to improve the linebackers.

  1. Eli Manning is both great and awful. Great: he is near the top of the league in deep pass completions. Eli's arm has never been talked about as one of the elite in the league - his deep passes aren't pretty and are quite wobbly, but he rarely under-throws them. But, Eli, those interceptions are killer. I've said Eli has been very unlucky with a majority of his INT's (I mean, the INT off the defender's foot? Did he walk by a black cat? Jeez..) but some of his decision making has been poorer than in years past, like throwing to Cruz in the end zone with 3-4 defenders around him. Gotta cut those down.
  2. Run the ball more. Please feed the ball to David Wilson. Look, 2 fumbles in the first game is unacceptable, but if the Giants are going to pass 40 times a game, there has to be a valid running game. We can see in Denver, the passing game sets up the run game; the Giants can do that too. Wilson is an electric talent, we saw that in the last 5 weeks of 2012. He needs the ball: a game changer. The backlash he got was deserved out of frustration, but it's Coach Coughlin's job to address it, not the media or the fans. I also give Wilson credit for adjusting his carrying style, but he needs to get 20 carries a game.
  3. Why the hell did the Giants bring Brandon Jacobs back over Willis McGahee? McGahee is gonna start in Cleveland soon and had a 1,200 yard season 2 years ago. He averaged 4.4 yards a carry last year. Out of his 10 year career, he's only started full time 5 years. He's a much better back than Jacobs. Everything I hated about Jacobs as a Giant: could not convert short yardage, being an absolute jerk when he doesn't need to, all still there. Don't let the fans make the decisions. 
  4. The Giants are lucky they have three legit WR's. I love the 3-WR sets. But Kevin Gilbride, for the love of god, what the hell are you doing? His play calling is just mind boggling at times. Call the deep ball more and stop using these awful screen passes to the running backs and horrible sweep run plays.
  5. The interior offensive line play is been atrocious. Wow. Will Beatty is by far their best offensive lineman and has played a solid LT. Justin Pugh has had his rookie moments at RT, but he looks to be worlds better than David Diehl's awfulness. But, Chris Snee is getting old. He's gonna start until he retires because he's Coughlin's son-in-law, and quite frankly, I would avoid awkward dinner conversations at Thanksgiving and Christmas, too. I didn't like the David Baas signing when it happened and I don't like it now. Kevin Boothe has been mediocre too. Time for a change.
  6. I don't think Jason Pierre-Paul is anywhere near healthy. The 2011 Pierre-Paul was all over the field. I think the Giants should have put him on PUP list and let him rest and rehab. An explosive Pierre-Paul for 10 games, especially helpful in December or a mediocre, not totally healthy Pierre-Paul for 16? I'd rather he was explosive for the last 10 games.
  7. Spencer Paysinger, Keith Rivers, Jacquan Williams and Mark Herzlich are absolutely atrocious. The worst group of linebackers in the league. Phil Simms during Sunday's game said Paysinger and Williams are two of the better/faster coverage LB's in the league but they cannot tackle. I mean literally, they cannot tackle without assistance. They're linebackers, they should be menacing and run-stifling. I'd rather they drop 20 pounds of muscle and make them DB's. The Giants brought in Leroy Hill for a tryout: he should be signed and starting at MLB Sunday. The rest should be special teamers only and Herzlich cut - he's the worst.
  8. My creative way how to improve the LB's: stay in nickel formation most of the time with Terrell Thomas on the field and for the two LB's? Damontre Moore and Cooper Taylor. I get it: they're rookies and technically a DE and a SS. Here me out: Moore is undersized at DE, a pass rusher purely. In a 3-4, he's an OLB at 250 pounds. He's got speed and more upper body strength to tackle. Taylor is listed at SS/OLB (at least in Wikipedia) and he's a big, big dude at 6'4". He hits hard (check his U-Richmond tape). I want hard hitters: give them a shot.
  9. How awesome has Terrell Thomas been? 2 years of torn ACL's in a row after a fantastic 2010 season of over 100 tackles and 5 INT's. He's covered well and he goes after the ball carrier. I'm so glad he's back and playing well.
  10. Nit-picking but Steve Weatherford hit some very poor punts on Sunday. I understand directional punting is needed, but send it deep.
I'm done. I will still root for the Giants and the rest of the season is still open for taking, as is the NFC East, but changes are needed. Go Giants!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Brendan Ryan? A Keeper?

The defensive wizard Brendan Ryan might have found a home in the Bronx. As my colleague Justin, has pointed out Ryan is a very viable option for the Yankees at Shortstop for the 2014 season. His offensive numbers are less than sub-par. A career .238 batting average and a .300 on base percentage, Ryan's numbers don't translate into what Yankees fans are used to see out of the shortstop position. Justin believes that Ryan can be helped by Kevin Long. I on the other hand do not think so. The highest he's ever hit was .292 in 2009 with the cardinals, that was in 129 games. I think Ryan could help out this team but as a backup shortstop/super utility man. I also think that there are other more proven viable options in the free agent market i.e. Jhonny Peralta and Stephen Drew.

Drew finally stayed healthy this year hitting .245 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI's. Peralta on the other hand has been suspended by MLB as a part of the Biogenesis scandal, which makes him an interesting fit. He had 11 home runs and was hitting .305 before being suspended in 104 games. Peralta can also play third as opposed to Drew who is primarily a Shortstop. Plus, last year the Yankees offered Drew a contract and he declined because he wanted a guaranteed starting spot. The same will be true this year and the Yankees cannot give him a guarantee, they don't know how Derek Jeter will come back. He could be the Derek Jeter of 2012 again, or maybe a something even remotely close to that. Peralta, since he is coming off a suspension will be looking for a one year deal to prove that he can play well when he is, "clean." Drew will probably look for a multi year deal and might get one.

I think that both of them are more viable options than Ryan is at this point. Only because of the question marks surrounding the Yankees next year. Is Texieria going to be Texieria? Or is he going to continue to regress as he ages. Is A-Rod even going to be playing next year? And who the hell is going to be the starting Catcher? As all of you know, no one wants it to be Chris Stewart again. I can't be wasting my time with a project like Ryan, when there are more viable and consistent options out there. If Ryan could hit .265 I could entertain the idea of him playing Shortstop and batting 9th but thats too many question marks for my book.

Follow Me on Twitter- @TheDonnyFinkle

And give some sort of debate here!

Should the Yankees keep Brendan Ryan at SS for 2014?

As Yankee followers have noticed, former Mariners and Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan has taken over the everyday duties for the Yankees after his acquisition a few weeks back. Ryan is known as a defensive wizard, with an elite glove and exceptional range. Yet, Ryan has not hit since his first full season with the Cardinals in 2009, when he hit .292. He has then posted batting averages of anywhere between .196 and .248.

Shortstop Derek Jeter, the Yankees SS since 1996, has been criticized for his shortcomings defensively, but that argument is another blog post at another time. Anyway, with Jeter entering his 40th year as a human being in 2014 and his impending potential free agency and/or retirement, the Yankees need to consider a full-time replacement and making Jeter the designated hitter. After all, Jeter showed in 2012 he can still be an offensive force, but his ankle injury and loss of nearly all of 2013 shows he should not be in the field any longer. The question is: should the Yankees keep Brendan Ryan, an impending free agent or go after other free agent SS such as Jhonny Peralta or Stephen Drew? Let's examine:

If the Yankees retain Brendan Ryan, they have to do another round of moves to compensate. To keep a hitter of Ryan's ineptitude in the lineup to make up for his defensive capabilities, the rest of the lineup has to be well above average. This means a healthy Gardner and Teixeira, a non-suspended A-Rod, a re-signed Robinson Cano, a productive Alfonso Soriano and a new RF, C and DH. Only then can you be happy with Brendan Ryan hitting 9th. If the Yankees are gonna skimp by just keeping Zoilo Almonte, Ichiro, Vern, Murphy/Romine/StewVelli and not get legitimate upgrades, then they need to over after an offensively capable SS in Stephen Drew, who has finally stayed healthy and put up numbers resembling his Arizona D-Back days or Jhonny Peralta, coming off a suspension, but with the better track record of health and offensive production and the capability to play 3B too if A-Rod is suspended.

But, if you have watched the Yankees telecasts over the last week, you have certainly heard Michael Kay note in a conversation he or somebody had with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long, that K-Long said (paraphrasing here) that he can 'fix' Ryan's swing. Ryan's swing has been adjusted too much, thus not improving his swing at all. If Long can fix his swing this offseason to make him a better contact hitter (he's a no-power type, so if Ryan can hit .260 out of the nine hole, that's amazing for him and great for the defense), then Ryan might be the best option. Just something to ponder.

Follow me and debate me on Twitter @JMFlorio

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Could the Astros have a legitimate lineup in 2014?

Yes. But please, continue on. The 2013 Houston Astros have endured another tough season. After finishing 55-107 last year, they are on pace to finish with the same record again this year. Additionally, fans have not rushed to Minute Maid Park, averaging around 19,500 fans per game. Neither have they rushed to the television screen. Get this: reports surfaced this weekend that only 1,000 people watched the Astros game versus the Mariners on Saturday. Ouch. The pitching staff has been nothing short of awful: last in ERA at 4.81, last in WHIP, and sitting in the high twenties in BAA and Quality Starts. Not pretty.

But, hope is on the horizon. The offense did show some signs of productivity. A number of note: 19th in runs. Considering they are universally thought of as being the worst team in the league, that's not too bad. I believe that the Astros could have a legitimate lineup that finishes in the top half of the league in runs scored. There is drastic improvement to be made: they hardly take walks which reduces the amount of base runners per game which equals less runs. Nevertheless, lets examine what can be hope for this team's future.

The Cornerstones
Jose Altuve - You already are familiar with All-Star Jose Altuve: the diminutive second baseman leads the team in average (.287), hits (165) and stolen bases (35). Altuve has put together a very solid .287/5 HR/52 RBI line. He is the face of the franchise and is well worth his 4 year/$12.5 million contract (a bargain!).
Jason Castro - A first round pick in 2008, has finally lived up to his potential and made the All-Star team as a reserve. Castro leads the team in doubles (35), runs (63), on base percentage (.350) and for you sabermetric followers, WAR (3.9). Castro is flawed (only .242 versus lefties) but a drastic uptick in walks post-AS break is a positive sign.

The Building Blocks
Robbie Grossman - Grossman will probably move over to left field with uberprospect George Springer coming up to play center, but there's a lot to like about Grossman. He's a solid outfielder and in the second half of the season, has hit .322. He's a likely .270 hitter or so moving forward, but retains value as a solid switch hitter who can be an MLB regular.
Matt Dominguez - Dominguez is second on the team in home runs with 20 and RBI with 75. His plate discipline leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the batting average department at .242. But, with some improvement, a .260 hitter with 25 home run, 90 RBI potential at a premium position is a solid player, which is what Dominguez can amount to.

The Intrigues
L.J. Hoes - Hoes came over from Baltimore for Bud Norris. He's a contact, limited power type. He prides himself on excellent plate discipline: rarely k's and walks semi-frequently. Ideally, he fits in the 2 or 7 hole and could cement himself as a building block.
Jonathan Villar - He's come on fast in August and September. Over the entire year, his stolen base production would equate to about 52 stolen bases. He only has one home run this year, but has shown 15 home run power in the minors. He's an intriguing piece moving forward and a solid sleeper for middle infield in fantasy.

Thou Shalt Turn It Around
JD Martinez & Chris Carter - I am not a Carter fan. But, he has power. Lots of it. He would be a solid platoon partner, but I imagine he starts off as the first baseman at least in the first half of the season. Martinez has a lot of untapped potential. The tools are there to succeed, but he needs to put it together. I think hitting lower in the lineup will help him.

The Rookies
George Springer - He had an unbelievable year in AA and AAA. His combined stats? .303/37 HR/108 RBI and 45 stolen bases. He's an extraordinary talent (and from CT! Ha-ha! We have talent!). His high K rate worries me going forward but the 2014 favorite for AL ROY for sure.
Jonathan Singleton - The team's other big offensive prospect had a rough year in AAA: hitting only in the .220s. He's a future talent, but I imagine they will not rush him with Carter around to start off.

April's Starting Lineup:
SS Jonathan Villar
2B Jose Altuve
C  Jason Castro
1B Chris Carter
3B Matt Dominguez
CF George Springer
LF Robbie Grossman
DH LJ Hoes
RF JD Martinez

I think there is potential here. I also believe Springer moves up as the year goes on, but they won't force him up top immediately. There is potential for 80 stolen bases between Villar and Altuve and close to 100 home runs between the 3-6 hitters. Feel free to debate me on Twitter: @JMFlorio

(Stats courtesy of ESPN and Baseball Reference)