Monday, March 31, 2008

Player of the Day: Tim Hudson

Usually, the POTD will be about one which helped his team win, but we begin the 2008 season with an outstanding effort by Braves' pitcher Tim Hudson which allowed his team to stay in the game, eventually tie it and ultimately lose it in the bottom of the ninth inning, when Ryan Zimmerman clocked one out to center field, giving the Nationals a hard-earned win in their inaugural game at Nationals Park.
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Hudson, however, was flat out superb from the 2nd though 7th innings. After allowing two runs on three hits in a shaky first inning, he set down the next 19 batters in order, keeping the Braves within a run after Chipper Jones belted a solo shot in the 4th. Final score: Nationals 3, Braves 2, Hudson, Player of the Day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

MLB Previews: Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers Last season: 75 -87, .463, 19 GB, last in AL West 2008 Outlook: There aren't enough good players to go around to produce a contender out of the Rangers and the team's off-season moves were more negative than positive. Last place looks again likely for a Texas team that's consistent in one regard: they're usually out of the race before the All-Star break. Biggest Changes: No Mark Teixeira at first, no Sammy Sosa in the outfield, but the Rangers signed free agent Milton Bradley from the Dodgers, though he's still recovering from an ACL injury. Ben Broussard will take over at first base, while Jason Jennings moves over from Houston to join the starting rotation and steady Eddie Guardado shifts into the bullpen and possibly the closer slot. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Josh Hamilton will probably be the team's everyday center fielder after playing 90 games with Cincinnati last season and posting solid numbers: .292, 19 HR and 47 RBI. Starting pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Kason Gabbard seem to be going in different directions. McCarthy, who's been ineffective in three seasons (12-19, 4.58 ERA) is probably going to start the season on the DL, while Gabbard (7-4, 4.37), who was traded to the Rangers from Boston last season, seems to be making progress and could emerge as one of the better starters after Kevin Millwood and Jennings.
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Best fantasy bets: The Rangers actually have some solid position players like Hank Blalock, who only played in 58 games last season, but finished strong and could hammer 25 HRs and 100 RBI. If you can't get one of the premium shortstops, Michael Young could be your guy. He's one of the most consistent hitters in the game, having hit .331, .314 and .315 in his last three seasons. Another interesting choice is second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is beginning his third season. Kinsler stole 23 bases last season, while batting .263. He knocked a surprising 20 homers and scored 96 times. A solid pick for a speed guy. Three Excellent Links: George W. Bush Timeline with the Texas Rangers Dallas Morning News Sports page Lone Star Ball: A Texas Rangers Blog Next: Oakland A's

Monday, March 10, 2008

MLB Previews: Seattle Mariners

Seattle Mariners Last season: 88-74, .543, 6 GB in AL West 2008 Outlook: After falling just short in 2007, the Mariners addressed their biggest need - starting pitching - by acquiring a pair of starters, Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva. Whether that will be enough to catch the Angels is suspect, as the rest of the rotation isn't that great. The Mariners best hope is for a wild card unless the Angels stumble badly. The lineup includes bashers Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson, Ichiro, and a cast of otherwise uninspiring regulars. Biggest Changes: Bringing Bedard over from the Orioles gives Seattle a top line starter. Brad Wilkerson may become an every day player with the departure of both outfielder Jose Guillen and first baseman Ben Broussard. Wilkerson can handle either position.
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Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: The Mariners let their top prospect, Adam Jones, loose in the Bedard trade, and that leaves the cupboard fairly bare. Brandon Morrow may get a shot at spot starter or long relief, but otherwise, this lineup is set with veteran players. Best fantasy bets: Ichiro Suzuki will be near the league lead in hits, average, runs and should steal 30 or more bases. Erick Bedard should contend for the strikeout title, which he won easily last season, and he could be a 20-game winner with a tiny ERA. Catcher Kenji Johjima could be a real sleeper after a productive 2007 season (.287, 14 HR, 61 RBI in 135 games). Three Excellent Links: All Seattle Mariners players list Ichiro Suzuki career stats Seattle Post-Intelligencer Sports page Next: Texas Rangers

Sunday, March 9, 2008

MLB Previews: California Angels

California Angels Last season: 94-68, .580, won AL West, lost in ALDS to Red Sox 2008 Outlook: The Angels had the best home record (54-27) in the majors and will try to build on that with solid pitching and power hitting. The additions of Jon Garland, who was acquired from the White Sox for shortstop Orlando Cabrera, and Torii Hunter (from Minnesota via free agency) add to their potent lineup. The Angels are the choice to win the AL West title again. Biggest Changes: Putting Hunter in center field gives the Halos plenty of options with outfielders Gary Matthews Jr., Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson rotating in the other outfield positions. Vlad and Anderson will get more DH time. Garland replaces Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Juan Rivera could be odd-man-out in the congested outfield, or he may edge past Matthews and get some deserved playing time. Either Erick Aybar or Maicer Izturis will end up the everyday shortstop. Best fantasy bets: Vladimir Guerrero is coming off a sub-par year in terms of home runs (27), though his 125 RBI were the third-best of his career. Expect similar production from this fantasy fixture. Torri Hunter should have a banner year in all offensive categories. John Lackey may not have the greatest stats, but he'll produce 15-21 wins. Chone Figgins batted .330, stole 41 bases and scored 81 runs in just 115 games in 2007. Three Excellent Links: Angels Fan Forum Halos Heaven Blog Nolan Ryan: the Angels Years Next: Seattle Mariners

Friday, March 7, 2008

MLB Previews: Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals Last season: 69-93, .426, 27 GB in AL Central 2008 Outlook: The Royals are one of the most consistently bad teams in the majors. If they beat the White Sox for 4th place in the division, it would be a major accomplishment. Biggest Changes: Jose Guillen should be a starter in the outfield, but the Royals gave up some of their best players: outfielders Emil Brown, Reggie Sanders, DH Mike Sweeney and pitcher David Riske are all gone. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Pitcher Zack Greinke and infielder Alex Gordon get most of the press, but there's not much there. Best fantasy bets: None, none and Mike Teahen, maybe. Three Excellent Links: George Brett's Baseball Hall of Fame Page Royals Authority | MVN Blog Kansas City Steakhouses Next: California Angels

Thursday, March 6, 2008

MLB Previews: Chicago White Sox

Chicago White Sox Last season: 72-90, .444, 24 GB in AL Central 2008 Outlook: The Sox finished last in the AL in runs (693) and batting average (.246) in 2007 but did little to improve on those numbers. World Champions in 2005, the Sox have deteriorated badly the past two seasons. Manager Ozzie Guillen will be fighting for his job in 2008. Biggest Changes: Orlando Cabrera replaces Scott Podsednik at the top of the lineup. Carlos Quentin and Nick Swisher will get plenty of time in the outfield or as DH. Relievers Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink were paid handsomely to shore up the bullpen. Jon Garland was traded away, as well. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Josh Fields may take over full time at third base, depending on how well Joe Crede recovers from back surgery. Danny Richar may be the starting second baseman, but he's very unproven. Best fantasy bets: Jim Thome and Paul Konerko are the 3-4 hitters and should both knock 35. Jermaine Dye is the best all-around position player and could be valuable in the outfield. There aren't any pitchers worth recommending as the bullpen is still shaky. Three Excellent Links: Eight Men Out, movie about the Black Sox scandal Chicago Sun-Times Sports Lou Malnati's Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizzerias Next: Kansas City Royals

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

MLB Preview: Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins Last season: 79-83, .488, 17 GB in AL Central 2008 Outlook: The Twins made wholesale changes before Spring Training. Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and catcher Joe Mauer remain the heart of the lineup, but there are lost so new regulars and the pitching staff will have many new faces. Thus, the Twins are rebuilding and not likely to finish much better than .500 in '08. Biggest Changes: No team made more changes in the off-season. Johan Santana is no longer the #1 starter, after his off-season trade to the NY Mets. That's huge. The Twins also failed to sign their best position player, Torii Hunter, who skipped to the LA Angels. There are so many changes, the easiest way to note the slew of them is this list of additions: Brendan Harris, 2B, Adam Everett, SS, Mike Lamb, 3B, Craig Monroe, OF, Delmon Young, OF, Carlos Gomez, OF, Livan Hernandez, SP, Philip Humber, SP; and departures: Jason Bartlett, SS, Jason Tyner, OF, Rondell White, OF, Carlos Silva, SP, Matt Garza, SP. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Gomez, Lamb, Young, Everett and Harris are all projected starters, but watch for Craig Monroe to emerge as a power threat, and crack the lineup if he can cut down on his Ks. Francisco Liriano joins Scott Baker as the top two starters. Prospects Kevin Slowey and Nick Blackburn could eventually be starters. Best fantasy bets: Justin Morneau is easily the best power hitter on the team. Craig Monroe might be a great late draft round pick or free agent pick up. one could take a shot with Nick Blackburn when and if he becomes available. Joe Nathan is a quality closer, but one wonders how many changes he'll get. Three Excellent Links: Twins news via Topix.com Nick & Nick Twins Blog Nick Blackburn career stats Next: Chicago White Sox

Monday, March 3, 2008

MLB Previews: Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers Last season: 88-74, .543, 8 GB in AL Central 2008 Outlook: After fading in the second half of the season last year, the Tigers decided to bolster their already-power-laden lineup even further by adding free agent Miguel Cabrera at third base. They also added Edgar Renteria at short and enticed Dontrelle Willis over from the Marlins. The Tigers should challenge for the Central Division title again this year. Biggest Changes: As mentioned, Cabrera, Renteria and Willis are the major additions. In exchange, the Tigers only lost prospects, so the lineup will still include 2007 starters Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez. That's LOADED. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: None, really. They've all been traded away. This season for the Tigers is "now or never." Best fantasy bets: You really can't go wrong with Magglio Ordonez, who would have been the AL MVP if there wasn't some guy named Rodriguez playing in New York. Carlos Guillen is the best sleeper pick at first base. Miguel Cabrera is a top choice at third, if you can get him, and he's reunited with former Marlin and World Series hero, Renteria. With all that hitting, the pitching is not great, though Justin Verlander could have a huge year in '08. Three Excellent Links: Detroit Free Press Sports Al Kaline bio, records, achievements Detroit restaurants and bars near Comerica Park Next: Minnesota Twins

Sunday, March 2, 2008

MLB Previews: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians Last season: 96-66 .593, won AL Central, beat Yankees in ALDS, lost to Boston in ALCS. 2008 Outlook: For a team that accomplished so much in 2007, the Indians made very few off-season moves, though they lost two veteran role-players, Kenny Lofton and Trott Nixon. Lofton was particularly effective in the playoffs, and the Indians haven't done anything to replace either his speed or experience. Great pitching and timely hitting were cornerstones for Cleveland last season and the big two starters, C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona should keep them in the hunt throughout. Jake Westbrook could also have a splendid year, after spending much of 2007 on the DL. The middle relief is probably the best in the majors. The Indians will vie for a repeat win of the Central and another shot in the playoffs. Biggest Changes: None to speak of, except David Dellucci in left and Franklin Gutierrez in right, flanking all-star Grady Sizemore. The Indians may be looking around to make a trade for a top-flight outfielder after letting Lofton go. Rookie/Free Agent Prospects: Reliever Masahide Kobayashi was signed out of Japan to a nice contract, ostensibly as an insurance policy should closer Joe Borowski stumble. Jeremy Sowers, who finished last season in AAA Buffalo, will likely make a re-appearance as a regular starter. Best fantasy bets: Travis Hafner hits for plenty of power, but his whiffs are high and his batting average is average (.266). Grady Sizemore is a better pick, as he matched Hafner in homers (24) and his 118 runs and 33 steals more than make up for the difference in RBI (100 for Hafner, 78 for Sizemore). Sabathia and Carmona are top-line starters, but the real steal could be Jake Westbrook. Three Excellent Links: Wikipedia entry on Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field) Cleveland.com and Cleveland Plain Dealer Tribe news, updates, opinions, blogs. Larry Doby's Hall of Fame page Next: Detroit Tigers