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2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers

The 2010 season did not pan out the way the Detroit Tigers had planed and that is putting it kindly.

Injury-ridden across the board, it is a miracle within itself that the Tigers managed to finish with an 81-81 record. The Tigers are not a .500 team and going forward

Is 2011 the year of the Tigers? Hey anything it possible, so let’s take a look at Detroit heading into the regular season.

The Positives:

The Tigers off-season easily ranks as one of the most productive in baseball, with the additions of catcher Victor Martinez, RHP Joaquin Benoit and RHP Brad Penny.

The big splash was signing Martinez to a 4-year deal worth $50 million. Martinez is one of the best hitting catchers in the game and in my guess is he will hit fifth, right behind arguably the best hitter in the game, Miguel Cabrera. This is a huge upgrade behind the plate, as Martinez is that good.

The Tigers are looking forward to the return of OF Magglio Ordonez, after he broke his ankle in 2010. Ordonez is the top half of the Cabrera sandwich hitting in the third spot. Ordonez is 37 years old and entering his 15th season, but his first 14 years makes an average season of 38 doubles, 27 home-runs and 111 RBIs. If Ordonez can get anywhere near those numbers, watch out.

Rookie OF Austin Jackson came to the Tigers as part of the Curtis Granderson trade with the Yankees right at the start of 2010 season. Jackson finished second in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting and had a great first season. As the Tigers lead-off expect big things from Jackson, who hit in over a 100 runs, stole 27 bases and finished up with a batting average just shy of .300. Jackson needs to cut down on his 170 strikeouts from 2010, but that will come with time.

Detroit’s infield also has 3B Brandon Inge who is like a fine wine, he keeps getting better over time. Next to Inge at shortstop is Johnny Peralta who is all around solid both offensively and with the bat.

This is a really good group of bats that will compliment the Tigers’ equally talented pitching rotation.

Led by team ace Justin Verlander, who is the definition of an innings eater pitching just shy of 230 total last season. Verlander posted a 3.37 ERA, with 219 strikeouts and an 18-9 record. Max Scherzer, who pitched 195 innings total, with a 3.50 ERA, follows Verlander in the two spot. Rounding out the rotation is Rick Porcell, Phil Coke and Brad Penny. This will be Coke’s first season in the bigs as a starter and his performance could impact the team big time.

Closer Jose Valverde is healthy again and with the Tigers new addition of Benoit to be his 8th inning guy sets Valverde up to get a lot of save opportunities.

The Tigers look good all around and are determined that this is their year.

The Negatives:

The off-field behavior of Cabrera is a great concern, as it should be. Cabrera has had problems with alcohol for quite some time, but after the trouble he caused at the end of 2009 things seemed to be on track. So, at the start of Spring Training it came as quite a shock to hear the Cabrera had been arrested for a DWI again and resisting arrest. The Tigers had no problem letting Cabrera come into camp, which I hope was not for selfish reasons. Cabrera is obviously not well and without professional help, like going to a rehab, it is almost certain he will find trouble again soon.

With the team looking healthy again, the Tigers have to improve their record on the road. Last season going 29-52 is disgraceful, after going the reverse 52-29 at home. If they want to contend they have to win more away from Detroit or they can forget the playoffs. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Detroit Tigers’ »

New York Yankee Rumors: Oliver Perez Going From Queens To The Bronx

The New York Mets finally did what was thought to be the inevitable by cutting ties with pitcher Oliver Perez.

For any team, especially one in a financial mess like the Mets, it takes a lot to sever ties with a player who will still be on the payroll for $12 million.

Perez is actually second Met of the week to be kicked to the curb. Luis Castillo was sent packing just a few days prior, as the Mets are finally doing some spring-cleaning.

This was a long time coming for Perez, as he was literally wasting a roaster spot. Perez had diminished velocity and a complete inability to throw strikes, making him totally ineffective, costing the team wins.

He does throw from the coveted left side, so sending to the bullpen, as a lefty specialist was the last resort. Perez imploded, as lefty hitters crushed everything he threw. Continue reading ‘New York Yankee Rumors: Oliver Perez Going From Queens To The Bronx’ »

New York Yankees Update: AJ Burnett Gets What He Deserves

The New York Yankees skipper Joe Girardi made an important announcement on Saturday and one that was well earned.

The starting rotation starts with Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who will be followed by AJ Burnett and then Phil Hughes.
Anthony Mccarron of the NY Daily News quoted the skipper after this was announcement was confirmed:

“That’s what we brought A.J. here to do, bottom line,” Girardi said. “In 2009, he was very, very important for us and pitched very well for us, playoffs, World Series, you name it. He struggled last year, but we believe he’s going to be back.”

I have touched on the Burnett subject a couple of times and this was the right move. Not only logical, but Burnett has worked his butt off and it shows.

Nothing is more inspiring than to see a pro-athlete, at Burnett’s level to still care with so much determination. Burnett loves the game of baseball and he well deserves to be right the team’s second ace.

I have faith that Burnett will prevail and have a solid 2011 season.

With passing each day, the 2011 Yankees purpose is becoming quite clear. The bad taste lingering from 2009 that Alex Rodriguez talked about at the start of Spring Training is for real.

The players are working their butts off to make sure that 2011 is a season with no regrets in New York. All I can say is I like what is going on down in Tampa.

2011 MLB Team Preview: Atlanta Braves

Not much attention has been paid to the Atlanta Braves this Spring, which is not shocking considering the Braves play in the same division with two drama queens, the Phillies and the Mets.

Please note that this lack of headlines is not covertly saying the Braves are not contenders in 2011. Fact is nothing could be farther from the truth.

Last season, Atlanta won 91 games in the regular season and did not finish the way they had hoped, losing to the Giants in the NLDS. The disappointment stemming from the departure of their beloved skipper Bobby Cox and wanted nothing more then to have him go out on top.

A baseball legend, Cox retired after 28 years as a MLB skipper, with the last 24 serving as the Braves manager. Cox’s presence in the dugout will be sorely missed in Atlanta, and throughout baseball, but he has signed a one-year deal to be a special advisor in 2011, so Cox is not totally done yet.

Let’s take a look at the Atlanta Braves heading in to the 2011 season, in the team’s first year of the post-Cox era:

The Positive:

The Braves claim if any pitching rotation can compete with the Phillies ‘fab-four’ they can. Led by Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, this statement is not far from the truth.

Atlanta’s 1-4 in their starting rotation is impressive, with all easily winning 15+ games and should post an ERA of less then 3.00.

The fifth spot has not been named yet, but it looks to be top prospect Mike Minor. Minor is a 23-year-old lefty who had an ERA just shy of 6.00, going 3-2 over his eight starts in 2010. Minor will either struggle in his first full season or become a hero; he has the potential to go either direction.

The bats will be better than last season, with the acquisition of Dan Uggla from the Marlins. Uggla will be sandwiched in between rookie sensation Jason Heyward and his mini-me, rookie 1B Freddie Freeman who is said to be better than Heyward was last season. That is a nice group of power in the heart of a line-up, as the addition of two-time All-Star and recent Silver Slugger winner in Uggla will be the difference maker.

New Skipper Fredi Gonzalez will take over for Cox, his mentor and the Braves front office only interviewed manager by choice. Gonzalez was the Braves third-base coach for four seasons under Cox, till he became the Marlins manager following 2007. Gonzalez got canned last season for benching Marlins star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for being lazy, which was more then fair. Ramirez threw a fit and Gonzalez took the fall. Gonzalez is glad to be out of that situation and has a bright future ahead of him.

Regardless, Gonzalez believes in hard work ethic, with a smile. Gonzalez is perfect for this job and even though Cox’s shoes will never be filled, this is pretty darn close.

The Negative:

Defensively the Braves have to improve to back-up the pitchers on the mound. There is not one infielder that excels with their glove. The 126 errors in 2010 cannot happen again, as they only had one less then the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is just unacceptable and sloppy form by a playoff team.

The concerns start with 3B Chipper Jones is about to be 39-years-old and almost retired last season after he had to have knee surgery. After Jones, Freddie Freeman is a rookie covering first and Uggla playing at second is not comforting. Uggla brings a lot of talent but catching the ball is not one of them.

Behind the plate is catcher Brian McCann, who has been with the Braves for four seasons. McCann continues to improve his stats each season and is a threat with a bat. He has to stay healthy, as he was clearly worn down last season. Atlanta is counting on McCann’s bat being more productive to add to one of the club’s clear strengths. Continue reading ‘2011 MLB Team Preview: Atlanta Braves’ »

What Is Every Teams Spring Training Nightmare? Injuries.

Spring Training is supposed to be a time for teams smooth out the edges, while players prepare themselves for the demanding 162-game season ahead.

Wins and loses are meaningless; stats posted by key players don’t forecast anything, as guys mindsets change once things start to matter.

There is one thing that counts from the spring that can impact a team’s season, and that is injuries.

Injuries happen in sports, no matter if it is the World Series, Spring Training or playing a pick-up-basketball game with your teammates. It is a harsh reality that bites.

This year is no different, as teams cannot buy luck with the idea of keeping everyone healthy.

A few unfortunate ball-clubs will be leaving Spring Training in worse shape than when they arrived. Regardless if a player is out for the season or has the real possibility of returning, the baseball season will move forward, and crying is not an option.

Below are key five players whose injuries will cause both fans and teammates to have that dreaded Spring Training nightmare:

SP Adam Wainwright – St. Louis Cardinals – biggest blow in Spring Training thus far, as the team’s ace, Wainwright got shut down almost immediately. He had Tommy John surgery a week ago, so he won’t return to St. Louis until 2012.

2B Chase Utley – Philadelphia Philles – Utley missed a majority of 2010 and now might miss 2011, as he hasn’t partaken in a Spring Training game yet. Utley’s has tendonitis in his knee and first it was must-have surgery and now it rehab heavily so the change of story is never a good sign. Phillies are going to missing the days of Jayson Werth, as Howard has no protection without Utley behind him.

SP Zach Greinke – Milwaukee Brewers – Milwaukee will have to wait to welcome their new ace, who broke a rib off the field playing in a pick-up basketball game with his new teammates. Let’s hope Greinke can keep his mental game in tact while on the DL.

Continue reading ‘What Is Every Teams Spring Training Nightmare? Injuries.’ »

2011 Spring Training: Pitching Audition Rumors You Are Not Going To Like

Entering 2011 Spring Training, the New York Yankees had no back end in their pitching rotation, as the four and five spots were wide open.

GM Brian Cashman decided to go with the motto of quantity over quality, which was far from comforting. Names like Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior and Freddie Garcia were the solutions that felt like you had swallowed something and it went down the wrong pipe.

Let’s not forget about Sergio Mitre, who is getting his millionth chance at a starting spot.

Mitre would be the Kyle Farnsworth of the rotation, as he shouldn’t be even considered with his track record.

Luckily for Mitre, his love affair with Joe Girardi has completely blinded the skipper to his true lack of effectiveness as a starter. Over his seven-year career, Mitre has a 13-29 record, with a 5.27 ERA over 64 starts total. Translation is when Mitre is not stinking it up on the mound; he spends an ample amount of time on the DL.

The highlight of the Spring was getting introduced to the Yankee youngsters, who Cashman should feel very good about after all the hard work gone into revamping the team’s farm system since 2004.

Yankees have a herd of talented arms stockpiled in the minors who most fans just got a taste of these last few weeks, watching Andrew Brackman, Delin Betences and the crown jewel Manny Banuelos shine.

Come mid-season Cashman’s phone will be ringing off the hook if the Yankees are in need of a trade but my guess is these three will not be on the table.

This is where rookie Ivan Nova, the best pitcher by a landslide this spring comes into play. Nova is a step ahead of the other three as he pitched nicely in the bigs at the tail end of 2010. Continue reading ‘2011 Spring Training: Pitching Audition Rumors You Are Not Going To Like’ »