Minnesota Twins-New York Yankees Series Preview

Twins-Yankees playoffs

The history in the Minnesota Twins-New York Yankees matchup may not be long, but it is storied. [Read more…]

AL Cy Young Watch

Cy Young award

The Sports Bank’s AL Cy Young Watch is back for installment number two, and perhaps some things could be learned from each of the original five contenders that were listed in the July edition: [Read more…]

AL Cy Young Watch

2010 has been a year unlike any other in Major League Baseball, particularly on the pitching side of things.

As we were witness to on Monday night, we are truly seeing another year of the pitcher.   [Read more…]

Cabrera’s injury latest symptom for Cleveland “platoonism”

asdrubal-cabrera-indians

When Cleveland Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera fractured his arm on Monday night, it added injury to injury — the Tribe suffers from “platoonism.” Look at Cleveland’s day-to-day roster and you’ll find few regulars taking to the fresh-cut grass every day. And that is a dangerous place to be for the Indians.

By Kevin Hunt

[Read more…]

With the Divisional Series upon us, everyone has a prediction…including me

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By Jake McCormick

Most people have a favorite time of year for sports, and it usually revolves around the end of one and the start of another. Being a self-admitted XBox 360 freak, I also judge those things by my desire to play a sports game. For example, I’m in a mood to finish up my MLB 2k9 season the way it ought to be: the Milwaukee Brewers in the World Series and Ryan Braun collecting a .403 batting average with 85 home runs and 170 RBIs, and I’m revved up for some Madden. Any gamer knows what I’m talking about. Clearly September and October are the best months out of the year for sports, at least from where I stand.

The NFL is just starting, NCAA football has finished the non-conference season and the Badgers start playing their regular rivals, and perhaps most of all, the 162 game marathon that is the MLB regular season gives way to the unpredictability and sometimes freezing cold temperatures of the postseason.

Baseball’s postseason holds a special place in my heart not because it is my favorite sport, but because every game is seen as the potential end to a team’s season and the MLB doesn’t let half their teams into the competition. It only takes a month, and even casual baseball fans will tune in. So in honor of my favorite playoff structure and favorite sport, I will be gracing you with the 100% (possibly) correct outcome of each matchup. I’m basing my predictions on team health, overall play over the last month of the season, playoff experience, and random X factors. Sounds normal, right?

National League Divisional Series:

saint_louis_cardinals_logoDodgersSt. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers

Prediction: Cardinals in four

Why: The Cardinals boast the soon to be MVP (Albert Pujols) and two possible Cy Young winners (Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, who was just awarded Comeback Player of the Year honors as well). When was the last time a team had two pitchers competing for the Cy Young? Correct me if I’m wrong, but my guess would be the 2001 Diamondbacks with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

Although this would seem like the marquee matchup in the National League on paper, both teams finished September/October with average records (13-13, 15-12, respectively). But then again, both Tony La Russa and Joe Torre have experience guiding teams that back into the playoffs all the way to the World Series, so that shouldn’t matter too much.

Both teams have extensive playoff experience, but I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to a team that has no injury problems, the best player on the planet, and a better pitching staff.

RockiesphillieslogolrgColorado Rockies at Philadelphia Phillies

Prediction: Phillies in five


Why:
Most people would expect to see an average of 15 total runs in each of these games, but when these teams faced each other in the NLDS two years ago, there were only 24 runs scored combined in three games (Rockies swept, by the way). I would argue that both teams have much better pitching staffs than they had in 2007 as well, except the loss of Jorge de la Rosa is a huge blow to Colorado. Both teams have experience in the postseason and ended the season on high notes.

The Rockies may be the hotter overall team at the moment, and it’s hard to bet against them given the run they put together two years ago, but Philadelphia is great at scoring late game runs and has the ring to prove it. I’ll take the defending World Series champions in this matchup, although it will probably be the most entertaining to watch. Who can say no to two teams with great pitching that play in hitter’s ballparks, especially when you have Byung Hyung-Kim, I mean Brad Lidge, pitching in later innings?

American league Divisional Series:

twins-logoyankees_logoMinnesota Twins at New York Yankees

Prediction: Yankees in four


Why:
I was at the Twins game Saturday and Michael Cuddyer’s eighth inning go-ahead home run gave me flashbacks to Ryan Braun’s similar eighth inning shot against the Chicago Cubs in the Brewers’ second to last regular season game of 2008. The Twins’ last six games were also very similar to those of the 2008 Brewers, and unfortunately, their playoff run will mirror that of Milwaukee’s as well.

The Twins find ways to win in almost a video game-like fashion, but they went 0-7 against the Yankees in the regular season and Ron Gardenhire is 2-23 as a manager when visiting New York. Overall, the Yankees are the best team from top to bottom in either league, and although I expect Minnesota to play them tough, they just don’t have the pitching to win more than one game.

angels_logoboston-redsox-logo1Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels

Prediction: Angels in five


Why:
This match-up is the most even on all fronts. Both teams are entering the ALDS on winning streaks, with the Angels winning three in a row and going 7-3 in their last 10 games and the Red Sox winning four in a row and going 4-6 in their last 10. Los Angeles took the regular season series 5-4, but have not had much success against the Boston in the playoffs under Mike Scioscia. I think this is the year they do it, but it won’t be easy.

Boston has a better bullpen and more experience going deep into the postseason, but Los Angeles led the American League in ERA in September (2.96) and led the entire MLB in regular season batting average. The Angels have triumphed over early season tragedies (Nick Adenhart) and injuries to their pitching staff, but John Lackey, Scott Kazmir, and Jered Weaver hitting their peaks at the right time. With Josh Beckett injured, rookie Clay Buchholz floundering late in the season, and Daisuke Matsuzaka still finding himself after an injury, the balanced Angels lineup has a golden opportunity to steal the series. Besides, would you rather see another boring Red Sox-Yankees postseason matchup, or a Los Angeles vs. Mark Teixiera tilt? I’m probably in the minority, but I’ll take the second option because it’s a storyline that spans both coasts.

FIN

Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be here all MLB postseason, including specific coverage of the St. Louis Cardinals and their failures/triumphs.

The MLB Draft: Love It or Hate It?

stan-van-gundy

By: Melissa S. Wollering

You can either love it for transforming losing teams like the Milwaukee Brewers into power-hitting playoff contenders or you can hate it for its reoccurring signing flaws and tortuous free-agent compensation system. Either way, we’ve spent some time picking apart the MLB Draft process and decided it needs a makeover as much as Stan Van Gundy’s frazzled hair, collarless shirts and pear-shaped sportcoats.

Doug Melvin and the Milwaukee Brewers make a perfect case study when exploring the challenges the MLB Draft creates for many teams. No other team has poured its concrete foundation using the draft quite like the Crew; with six of the team’s eight everyday pitchers and two of its current starters being products of it. You can also think Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks.

braunflowchart

Problems begin with the time and effort spent on signability rather than athletic ability. Take the NBA or NFL drafts.  Organizations within don’t worry about the likelihood a player will sign.  Each prospect has limited options. As the Milwaukee Brewers began pre-draft strategy discussions last week, GM Doug Melvin expressed frustration over the focus on how much effort and money it would take to sign individuals.

“We went through three or four players today in our meetings and when [the scouts] got done, they said he won’t sign unless he’s a first-round pick,” said Melvin.

Problems multiply exponentially as we study team compensation for the loss of free agents. A small-ball club may lose its highest quality player to the deep-pocketed New York Yankees and receive nothing more than a second-round selection in tandem with a supplemental pick between the first two rounds.

Brewers Pirates Baseball

After the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia netted the Brewers the 39th selection instead of the 25th pick overall.  Thank you statistical rankings! Ben Sheets never lived up to his free-agent potential courtesy his arm injury. He earned the Crew nothing. To make bad worse, Brian Shouse provided the Brewers with a compensation pick that mocked the CC situation—they’ll nab a prospect only eight picks beneath CC for Shouse. Yep.  Shouse, Shouse, let it all out.

As a result of the NLDS birth, the Brewers will not draft until the 26th pick in the first round this year. That makes it nearly impossible to predict who Milwaukee will take, especially as the organization factors in the desire many prospects have to be selected in the first round “or else”.

San Diego State poster boy Stephen Strasburg will go first, complete with ‘best pitching prospect ever’ hype. After the No. 1 selection, it’s anyone’s guess. The bad news for the Brewers: since 1977, when the 26th pick first came in the first round, only three players selected in that spot became significant contributors in the big leagues. The good news: Dan Plesac was Milwaukee’s 26th selection in the 1983 draft.

mil_dan_plesac

Here’s to the Dan Plesac’s of the world. The rest of you?  Don’t consider the second round “beneath you” and when you become a free agent, we hope Major League Baseball has given its stat evals and compensation structures makeovers. Stan Van Gundy? Well he can’t wait that long. So someone at least get the man a tailored suit this week.

What’s Brewing in ’09: The $90M Mark, Blood Sacrifice & Child Smuggling

By: Melissa S. Wollering

 

When we saw everybody at the fan event [in Milwaukee last month], we were still at a bit of a discomfort point [with the pitching]. Now, I’m at a little bit of a discomfort point on the payroll.” –Mark Attanasio

 
Reporters chuckled, but here’s the sobering truth: one of baseball’s smallest payrolls is pushing $90M. That becomes reality should Gagme make the team and he and other players become eligible for their negotiated incentives.

 
Or it could pay off. Picking up CC Sabathia and Ray Durham last season pushed them beyond $90M but gave the team a NL Wild Card birth. It also fueled ’09 ticket sales. 1M+ are gone—the earliest date in franchise history. Plus, the org set a new single-day sale record on Saturday. That’s Guns N’ Roses-sellout-style.

 

 

 

 
One concern is over the Brewers’ portion of MLB revenue sharing, which is expected to tank like Derrick Turnblow’s pitching in ’07. One possible replacement: Gov. Jimmie Doyle’s proposal for a special team license plate. Just shell out cash to the DOT and a portion pays off the Miller Park stadium debt.  Bonus = you could pick the “M” or the ball-in-glove logo. I’ll take retro, please in honor of the Eau Claire native who designed that logo. It’s been named among top 5 sports logos of all time by some.

 

 

There may have been no life raft for the payroll had Milwaukee successfully courted Sabathia for ’09. Attanasio’s brilliant plan: “We were going to buy a small, regional bank and apply to the government for federal aid. All that TARP money could have helped us.”

No amount of TARP money could have bought you a spot at the front of the line last Saturday. That’s when single-game tix went on sale at Miller Park, half-naked fans braved the cold days prior and hot dogs get passed out to lucky dorks at what they call the Arctic Tailgate. If you didn’t get what you were looking for because opening day has been sold out for centuries, you can shed blood for tickets. I’m not kidding.

 

 


The BloodCenter of Wisconsin location near Wausau is entering donors into a drawing for two Opening Day Cubs/Brewers tickets. Seriously, if you’re willing to sacrifice blood for just a chance at getting in, I cannot do anything but honor your dedication and then vomit in my mouth.

 
More feel-good news: the US Airways Flight 1549 co-pilot, Jeff Skiles, will throw out the first pitch opening day. He’s from the village of Oregon, near Madison, of which I shall soon reside. Glad I have someone famous in my town despite the fact it is named after a state. By the way, they should give him a cameo on Lost as a pilot of yet another plane going down on that island.

 
Fine, I’ll talk real baseball. In Spring Training, we’re seeing more Mike Rivera and less Jason Kendall. This will hold true for regular season as well. Macha says he wants to the give the Incredi-Kendall more rest, considering he contributed to a franchise-record 149 games last season.

 
Corey Hart has left his ’08 September stats in the dust and is all-of-a-sudden red-hot. This Monday, he went 3-3, including a 2-run homer. Brad Nelson’s getting a look in the outfield. Chris Duffy seems to have the one-up on Trot Nixon if Macha can only take one of the two. And Counsell changed his batting stance and is commanding positive results.

 
Speaking of Craig Counsell, he recently pulled rank like Colonel Potter on M.A.S.H. He took Vinny Rottino’s semi-broken-in infield glove and commandeered it like Jack Sparrow to a French vessel in the Caribbean. Apparently, Alcides Escobar has two of JJ Hardy’s old gloves because he likes the softness as well. I’m told these guys slather them in conditioner from time to time – no joke. That’s a Pantene commercial in the making.

 

 
In week 2 of “Ace’s Corner,” Macha set the exhibition rotation as Suppan, Gallardo, Parra, Looper and Bush, although Looper’s going to miss a start now due to tightness in his left-side. Many think this could be the start-of-the-season lineup too, designed to take pressure off Gallardo and give the home crowd the opportunity to cheer for Looper on Opening Day at Miller Park. Gallardo’s record could also benefit from facing lower-caliber opposing starting pitchers.

 
Danny Knobler at CBSSports is flattering us. He thinks Gallardo has Cy Young potential this season. However, Gallardo’s the last on the 40-man roster to not yet agree to terms for the ’09 season. Get a move on it, Yo-yo.

 
Omar Aguilar is an underdog for a bullpen spot, but the RHP reliever is turning heads in Spring Training. Chris Narveson is playing B games and won’t make the roster, but did pitch a 3-inning no-hitter Monday. And Trevor Hoffman pulled a CC gesture of gratitude, by taking out a full-page thank you ad in the San Diego-Union Tribune. Stay classy San Diego.

 
By the way, CC made headlines for smuggling a small child into spring training. This needs no explanation.

 

 

 
In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” apparently teams approached the baby bears about trading for Kosuke Fukudome, although get this: ONLY IN TRADES where GM Jim Hendry would have had to take back BAD CONTRACTS. The Mariners, which have been trying to pawn pitchers Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard, are rumored to have been among them. “Hontou desu ka” is how you ask really? in formal Japanese.

 
In “Just a Bit Outside,” I share with you the first Uecker line of the season at 2:22 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25th versus the Oakland A’s. Brewers execute a double-play to end the inning and Cory Provus shares a Bob-on-a-fishing-boat story complete with Bob’s big catch. Ueck says, “Actually, that took place underwater as I held onto the big catch for dear life, hoping one of them would pull me to shore.” Ah…it’s good to hear that voice again.

 

 
And because you crave more “Chart Magnificence,” this week I bring you the JJ Hardy-Carlos Quentin Bar Graph courtesy of our friends at Beyond the Box Score. Of course we salute Soxman in this Chart edition. If you’re wondering why it’s comparing a LF to a SS, they looked down the list of ’08 WAR and picked players of similar value where public perception was different. Now they want to see if Carlos could rebound fielding-wise in what they considered a more “constrictive” ballpark. Geeky…but so wonderful.

Stay tuned for more Spring Training insight and Brewers Worth Fantasizing About for your fantasy rosters next week…