Posts Tagged ‘Opening Day’

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Arizona Diamondbacks

The full glory that is Opening Day is here again, and with such beginnings, an expectation towards the end is already in play. Over the past two weeks, I have produced division-by-division previews from the ceiling to the floor of each team and how I feel about their chances for this summer. All manners of things can happen in-between now and the 161 games that follow from today onwards, from injury to simply over-achievement made good on (see the reigning World Series champs), and getting a grasp on exact where it all will play out is more often than not an exercise in calculated futility.

However, it’s the fun type of futility that everybody is invested in this time of the year, because for the most part, hopes spring rightfully eternal as the season opens up. With advent of the extra Wild Card spot and play-in game, more teams than ever have finished in range of the postseason—and not at the expense of quality of competition. The average win total of the two teams that have emerged from the Wild Card game in its first two years of existence as been 91 wins; a clear indicator of worth level of championship level competition. And while one as yet to reach the World Series, that day is coming—and it could be nigh.

Here is my best take on how the MLB season to come could play out, including a few bonus Award favorites in each league as well—and a few other random tidbits to come.

 

The Postseason

NL Wild Card Game—Pittsburgh Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants

Landing a Wild Card spot will tough in the NL this year, but I like what the Giants have done to address their lineup deficiencies and their starting staff is deep and experienced as well. The Pirates on the other hand could have the type of the team that puts up a win total that could win some divisions, but falls short within their own. Winner: Pirates

AL Wild Card Game—Tampa Bay Rays vs. Kansas City Royals

In what could be an intriguing matchup of two teams playing at the peak of their competitive window, both clubs are poised to take the long way to capitalizing on it. The Rays should reach their second straight Wild Card contest, while the Royals are within a stones toss of their first postseason in nearly 30 years. Winner: Rays

 

Division Series

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

A rematch of what is sure to be a year-long power struggle, as well as a repeat of the best divisional series match up of a year ago, the Caridinals will face another tight challenge to start the postseason. In the end, the Cardinals growing experience with their young arms (as well as an active Shelby Miller this time around) pulls them ahead again in the matchup. Winner: Cardinals

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals

This is a tight showcase of two teams that are fairly evenly matched. Both have great staffs and lineups that are as stacked as NL 8-man order can be. But the presence of Kershaw twice in a series is tough to bet against, I won’t today either. Winner: Dodgers

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Look familiar? This dance was had last fall when the Rays headed to Boston as the freshly rewarded Wild Card winners. They stand to be an improved club this year with more experience for their young staff. The Sox have the experience, but I see the edge for the Rays this time around. Winner: Rays

Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A’s

Can the third time be the charm for Oakland? Each of their previous two seasons have ended at the hands of the Tigers, and more specifically, at the hands of fantastic efforts from Justin Verlander. The third time does not seem to be much more of a charm either, and the Tigers are in line to reach a third consecutive ALCS. Winner: Tigers

 

League Championship Series

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

A repeat in the NLCS is ahead of us, only this time the home field advantage swings to the Dodgers way. The Cardinals have made a routine of making it to this point, while the Dodgers are beginning to hit their peak. If they are both at full strength, this could have the intensity of a World Series contest, but in the end, the Cardinals seem to have an edge in the pitching depth department that can swing in their favor. Winner: Cardinals

Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

A couple of Verlander/Price matchups in the ALCS could be worth the price of admission, but it’s the depth of a rotation that can tell the story here. The Rays are the better team in regards to lineup depth and impact, but the Tigers front end pitching is more impressive. In a series that will be defined by depth and bullpen potency, the Rays make the leap over the Tigers and reach their second World Series in franchise history. Winner: Rays

 

WORLD SERIES

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Two very similar teams would face off here: balanced lineups that deploy a variety of approaches and a complete pitching staff, headlined by one of the game’s best pitchers. Matchups of this type usually come down to the moment and experience in it making the difference, and in that department, the Cardinals are unmatched in recent years and it will be the deciding factor in 12th World Series title. Winner: Cardinals

 

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Detroit Tigers

As a capper to this preview exercise, a few award picks as well:

NL Most Valuable Player

1. Freddie Freeman—Braves

2. Yadier Molina—Cardinals

3. Ryan Braun—Brewers

4. Andrew McCutchen—Pirates

5. Paul Goldschmidt—Diamondbacks

AL Most Valuable Player

1. Mike Trout—Angels

2. Miguel Cabrera—Tigers

3. Evan Longoria—Rays

4. Adrian Beltre—Rangers

5. Robinson Cano—Mariners

NL Cy Young Award

1. Clayton Kershaw—Dodgers

2. Stephen Strasburg—Nationals

3. Adam Wainwright—Cardinals

4. Madison Bumgarner—Giants

5. Cliff Lee—Phillies

AL Cy Young Award

1. Justin Verlander—Tigers

2. David Price—Rays

3. Felix Hernandez—Mariners

4. Jered Weaver—Angels

5. Chris Sale—White Sox

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Billy Hamilton—Reds

2. Chris Owings—Diamondbacks

3. Gregory Polanco—Pirates

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Xander Bogearts—Red Sox

2. Nick Castellanos—Tigers

3. Taijuan Walker—Mariners

NL Comeback Player of the Year

1. Starlin Castro—Cubs

2. Johnny Cuerto—Reds

3. Matt Kemp—Dodgers

AL Comeback Player of the Year

1. Albert Pujols—Angels

2. Grady Sizemore—Red Sox

3. Michael Pineda—Yankees

 

Well, that’s about it and that’s about as much ground as I can ground as I can fly without my crystal ball. For the on the run Opening Day info, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Yadier-Molina

Yet again the National League Central was home to one of the most diverse pennant races in the game a year ago. The Pittsburgh Pirates came out the gate with their best (and longest) runs in nearly 20 years, as they sat in first place at the All-Star Break, in front of the Cincinnati Reds and defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Yet, that grasp on the division didn’t last in the second half, a part of the year where the Milwaukee Brewers put together an assault on pushing into the postseason picture. But in the end, the Reds made the regular season their own down the stretch, winning the Central by nine games, the largest division title margin in either league. Yet, in the end, it was the St. Louis Cardinals who pushed their season the furthest from the Wild Card spot again, finishing one game away from a second consecutive World Series.

2012 Finish

1.                   Reds (97-65)
2.                   Cardinals (88-74)**
3.                   Brewers (83-79)
4.                   Pirates (79-83)
5.                   Cubs (61-101)
6.                   Astros (55-107)

This season, it’s a new division in where in the fact it’s a smaller division. Gone are the Houston Astros, who joined the Chicago Cubs as one of two 100 loss teams in the Central. That subtraction will make the fight for the division rougher in and of itself. The Reds are bringing in perhaps their most complete team of any season. The Cardinals loom constant in the division, as the most clutch team in baseball in the last two pennant chases. The Brewers and Pirates are both just outside the hump of the Cards/Reds, but both have shown plenty of fight and have made the changes needed to cut the division down. Meanwhile, the Cubs rebuilding continues, and they could be in position to spring a rise as well. So who’s the best in the revamped middle of the NL?

All Division Team

Catcher: Yadier Molina-Cardinals

First Base: Joey Votto-Reds

Second Base: Brandon Phillips-Reds

Third Base: Aramis Ramirez-Brewers

Shortstop: Starlin Castro-Cubs

Left Field: Ryan Braun-Brewers

Center Field: Andrew McCutchen-Pirates

Right Field: Jay Bruce-Reds

McCutchen took a huge step forward in 2012: his 194 hits led the NL and he gathered his first Gold Glove.

McCutchen took a huge step forward in 2012: his 194 hits led the NL and he gathered his first Gold Glove.

Starting Pitcher: Adam Wainwright-Cardinals

Starting Pitcher: Johnny Cuerto-Reds

Starting Pitcher: Yovani Gallardo-Brewers

Starting Pitcher: Mat Latos-Reds

Righty Relief: Mitchell Boggs-Cardinals

Lefty Relief: Sean Marshall-Reds

Closer: Aroldis Chapman-Reds

Top 10

  1. Ryan Braun, Brewers
  2. Joey Votto, Reds
  3. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
  4. Yadier Molina, Cardinals
  5. Aroldis Chapman, Reds
  6. Matt Holliday, Cardinals
  7. Brandon Phillips, Reds
  8. Jay Bruce, Reds
  9. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
  10. Starlin Castro, Cubs

Lineup

  1. Cardinals
  2. Brewers
  3. Reds
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs

The Cardinals led the NL in hits a year ago, and finished in the top 5 in average, runs scored and total bases. With Jon Jay atop the lineup for a full season, those numbers could each increase. Meanwhile, sparked by Braun and a resurgent Aramis Ramirez, the Brewers seven of the eight everyday players reached double digits in home runs.

Cincinnati's All-Star tandem of Bruce and Votto combined for 79 doubles and 48 homers in 2012

Cincinnati’s All-Star tandem of Bruce and Votto combined for 79 doubles and 48 homers in 2012

Heart of the Lineup

  1. Reds (Votto/Ludwick/Bruce)
  2. Cardinals (Holliday/Craig/Freese)
  3. Brewers (Braun/Ramirez/Hart)
  4. Cubs (Rizzo/Soriano/Castro)
  5. Pirates (McCutchen/Jones/Alvarez)

The re-emergence of Ludwick (26 home runs, 80 RBI) gave the middle of the Reds line up some much needed right handed power. Votto had another now-standard type of season for him (.337 average, 40 doubles), despite missing over 50 games. Alfonso Soriano had a career-high 108 RBI and topped 30 homers for the first time in 5 years.

Table Setters

  1. Reds (Choo/Phillips)
  2. Cardinals (Jay/Beltran)
  3. Pirates (Marte/Walker)
  4. Brewers (Aoki/Weeks)
  5. Cubs (DeJesus/Schierholtz)

There’s a diverse group of lineup lead offs in Cincy. Choo and Phillips are both 20 homer/20 steal candidates, while Carlos Beltran is an early indicator of the big bats up and down the Cardinals lineup (32 homers, 97 RBI). Norichika Aoki had made a big debut, stealing 30 bags and adding 50 extra base hits as well.

Bench

  1. Pirates
  2. Brewers
  3. Cardinals
  4. Reds
  5. Cubs

Pittsburgh is taking to the strength in numbers approach. With Travis Snider, Jose Tabata and Gaby Sanchez all rotation in and out of the starting linup, there’s always going to be at least two impact bats in reserves. Add in John McDonald, and that’s a deep offering. The Cardinals depth is lead by the presence of a couple of Matt’s (Adams and Carpenter) that will offer various impacts for both resting and alternating lineup approaches.

Rotation

  1. Reds
  2. Cardinals
  3. Brewers
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs

The Reds had a coming of age in their rotation a year ago. Four of their five starters reached double digits in wins to go along with ERA’s under 4.00; a result strong enough for the team to resist putting Aroldis Chapman in the rotation. The Cubs have boosted their rotation with Edwin Jackson, but the health of Matt Garza and return of Scott Baker are key to if this team can actually surprise the rest of the pack in the Central, which they have the potential to do.

Wainwright won 14 games and struck out 184 in nearly 200 innings in his return from Tommy John surgery.

Wainwright won 14 games and struck out 184 in nearly 200 innings in his return from Tommy John surgery.

1-2 Punch

  1. Reds (Cuerto/Latos)
  2. Cardinals (Wainwright/Lynn)
  3. Brewers (Gallardo/Lohse)
  4. Pirates (Burnett/Rodriguez)
  5. Cubs (Garza/Samardzija)

Johnny Cueto won 19 games with a 2.78 ERA last season, and continued his accent up the ranks of most underappreciated hurlers in baseball. Lance Lynn won 18 games in an up and down first season as a starter, and Adam Wainwright had a gradual yet impressive, 14-win return, from Tommy John surgery as well. A return completely from him gives the division a legitimate Cy Young front runner candidate.

Bullpen

  1. Reds
  2. Cardinals
  3. Cubs
  4. Brewers
  5. Pirates

The back end of the Reds bullpen is a nightmare. Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton are among the best left-right setup combos in baseball, and Chapman waits in the wings as arguably the best power pitcher in baseball (a record 15.3 strikeouts per nine innings). The Cardinals bullpen took a hit when Jason Motte was shutdown indefinitely with an elbow injury. He tied for the NL lead in saves with 42 a year ago.

Defense

  1. Reds
  2. Brewers
  3. Cardinals
  4. Cubs
  5. Pirates

There’s a trio of Gold Glove worthy centerfielders in the Central, with McCutchen, Jon Jay and Carlos Gomez. But there’s only one award to go out, and The Cutch took it home a year ago. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto are among the elite defensive infielders in the game, while Yadier Molina (five consecutive GG’s) is among the greatest defensive catchers ever.

While the power in Milwaukee gets the headlines, the trio of Braun, Gomez and Aoki combined for 97 steals as well.

While the power in Milwaukee gets the headlines, the trio of Braun, Gomez and Aoki combined for 97 steals as well.

Speed

  1. Brewers
  2. Pirates
  3. Reds
  4. Cardinals
  5. Cubs

With the exception of Milwaukee, it is not a very fast division. The Brewers outfield of Braun, Gomez and Aoki each topped 30 steals, with a total of 97. Pittsburgh has an aggressive, quick team with Sterling Marte, Josh Harrison and McCutchen topping five triples.

Manager

  1. Dusty Baker, Reds
  2. Ron Roenicke, Brewers
  3. Mike Matheny, Cardinals
  4. Clint Hurdle, Pirates
  5. Dale Sveum, Cubs

Baker has pulled the Reds to two consecutive division championships, while the Cardinals as a team have reached the previous two National League Championship Series, which Matheny did as a rookie manager last year. Hurdle has the Pirates on the verge of snapping their record losing season streak, and received a two-year contract extension to do so.

Finances

  1. Cubs
  2. Cardinals
  3. Reds
  4. Brewers
  5. Pirates

The Cubs are in the midst of an intentional rebuilding run, but if they wanted to go all in immediately to fight into the picture, the funds are there. Team president Theo Epstein is just biding his time by building within, before inevitably releasing the okay to make the type of additions that no other team in the Central has the resources to match. The Cardinals shored up their final questionable contract situation for the foreseeable future by reaching a $97.5 million extension in March.

Impact Additions

  1. Shin-Soo Choo (Reds from Indians)
  2. Kyle Lohse (Brewers from Cardinals)
  3. Edwin Jackson (Cubs from Nationals)
  4. Randy Choate (Cardinals from Dodgers)
  5. Kyuji Fujikawa (Cubs via Japan)

Acquiring Choo, who is pending free agency, was a win-now move for the Reds who are looking to find a way to carry their regular season runs into October. After what felt like the longest, coldest winter ever, Kyle Lohse found a 3 year home in Milwaukee, in a move that could tilt the balance in the Central some.

In less than a year, the powerful Rizzo has become one of the biggest rebuilding pieces on the North Side.

In less than a year, the powerful Rizzo has become one of the biggest rebuilding pieces on the North Side.

Leap Forward Candidates

  1. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  2. Todd Frazier, Reds
  3. Trevor Rosenthal, Cardinals
  4. Michael Fiers, Brewers
  5. Jeff Sarmardija, Cubs

Rizzo has raw power to spare, and as soon as he touched Chicago a year ago, he became the guy they built their lineup around. He hit 15 homers in his Cub debut, and shows the type of profile to become an All-Star as soon as this year. Frazier stepped when Votto went down last year and hit 19 homers as third and first baseman, as well as some outfield.

Rookies/Prospects to Watch

  1. Oscar Tavares (Cardinals, Outfielder – AAA)
  2. Shelby Miller (Cardinals, Pitcher –MLB)
  3. Starling Marte (Pirates, Outfielder—MLB)
  4. Billy Hamilton (Reds, Center Field—AAA)
  5. Garret Cole (Pirates, Pitcher—AAA)

The Cardinals top two prospects are ready to burst into the MLB scene, but only one has a clear path. Tavares hit like he belonged in the spring, but Miller will get his day in the sun first, as he made the club as fifth starter. Hamilton has stolen 258 bases the last two years in the Reds system, and as soon as he finds a position, he’ll be among the elite speedsters in the MLB too.

2013 PREDICTIONS

  1. Reds
  2. Cardinals
  3. Brewers
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs

While 2012’s Central was the scene of the biggest gap between the best and worst in baseball, which is a thing of the past. There are four legitimate contenders for the postseason bunched together, and if everything plays out as it forecasts, it will be the toughest division to get out of in baseball. While it has produced three of the last six Wild Card winners, winning this division will never have been more important, because the chance to rack up wins, without a title, is going to be difficult.

One thing is certain, is that every team can hit in the division, so the margins of who can keep their red flags flying the lowest is of the utmost importance. The two-time runners up in St. Louis have the talent to win the division, but have the challenge of staying healthy in front of them, as well as a lot of “ifs” regarding their pitching staff. The Brewers can hit, and worked on their pitching some, but the staff as whole is still a cut below St. Louis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Winning it one way will be tough. As for the Cubs, they are quietly improving, but it’s going to be closer to two years off before they have everything in place to factor back into the race.

That leaves the Reds in a similar position. They have the bats, pitching and ballpark to shape the division in their favor. The decision to leave Chapman in the bullpen gives them the most dominant unit of any team in the division via their pitching staff. They can play defense behind them, and get the runs to support their effort consistently. If Joey Votto’s knee is healthy, Shin-Soo Choo can be steady enough in the field at his new position in center and health continues to be their ally (only two non-rotation starts in all of 2012), they will hold off the pack, and take their third consecutive Central title. But what happens from there…is still uncertain.

For more on the season to come, and everything Opening to closing Day related, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

Didn’t I just do this? This “second” edition of the Power Poll is both puts this in its correct Monday time slot & shows how the first weekend of the baseball season played out.

As for the actual listing below, this is a balancing act between expectations, matchups & results. It’s far too early to make any type of judgement on shortcomings, or overachievement, of any team. The Rays & Brewers will win a game at some point this season, just like the Royals & Pirates will most likely lose more series than they win. But seeing what is out there already still shows some set up for how the game is so far. So without further ado…..week 1, continued.

Oswalt's first outing against his former employer put an exclamation point on the Phillies weekend...and their potential.

1. Phillies (2): The debut go around for the top 3 of their big 4 showed there is much do about something in Philly. In Halladay, Lee & Oswalt’s first go around, 19 innings pitched, 23 strikeouts & 1 walk. Most importantly? 3 Philly wins.
2. Rangers (6):
The AL Champs picked up where they left off, absolutely pounding the ball all weekend (26 runs) & more importantly, showing the Red Sox that they won’t be handing their crown over without a lot of fight.
3. Yankees (3):
Behind a tremendous debut for Mark Teixeira, the Yanks pounder their way to a 2-1 to the year against a powerful Tigers squad.
4. Reds (7):
Last year’s NL Central champs got out to a quick start against a Milwaukee club that is primed to be a challenge all summer. Nothing like making a 3-0 statement early to set a pecking order.
5. White Sox (4):
The Sox put up 15 runs on Opening Day, yet needed nearly everything they got all weekend, as their pitching made them need every bit of their constant offensive onslaught. Luckily Carlos Quentin & Adam Dunn were up for the job.
6. Red Sox (1):
After getting swept in Texas to start off the season (and in an aggressive fashion…), the Sox are going to have to come together on the field as well as they did on paper.
7. Dodgers (16):
Taking 3 out of 4 from the World Champs is a good way to start for new manager Don Mattingley.
8. Braves (9):
The Nationals didn’t pose much of a challenge to the Braves, as they took 2 out of 3 & had both an Opening Day shutout & an 11 run outburst on Sunday.
9. Orioles (20):
Baltimore’s new bats have gotten the headlines, but it was their pitching (3 total runs surrendered for the series) that put in the most work in their sweep of the Rays.
10. Blue Jays (19):
More of the same & something new from the Rays. The same? 7 total home runs, including 2 from Jose Bautista & JP Arencibia each. The new? They pitched well enough to support them (outscored the Twins 22-8).
11. Royals (29):
A flare for the dramatic (2 walk-off wins) pushed the Royals to the top of the AL Central with a 3-1 mark.
12. Rockies (12):
The Rockie split their first two games of the season, and Carlos Gonzalez (.444 avg) continued to carry the load.
13. Padres (23):
An up & down weekend for the retooled Padres, opening with a non-stop barrage against the Cardinals early in the series (16 runs in two wins), before being shutdown (literally) in-game three.
14. A’s (11):
Strong starting pitching from Brian Anderson, Trevor Cahill & Gio Gonzalez was not enough, as their bullpen blew two wins late.

15. Giants (5): Rough start for the defending champions, dropping three of four to their rivals in LA. They straighten out and get it together, but the bullpen and the lineup can’t waste strong starting efforts as they most got, and did, this weekend.
16. Tigers (13):
It’s tough to start off any season against the Yankees, as they dropped two out of three to the Bombers. They didn’t go down easy though, and Mariano Rivera was bout the only thing that could stop them in the end, can’t hold that against team.
17. Mariners (26):
The Mariners rose to face the challenge of the A’s, and beat them at their own game: winning the series with pitching. For a change, it wasn’t just Felix Hernandez doing it either (although his complete game, five hit debut was a great way to kick things off).
18. Mets (21):
Ike Davis’ hot start, combined with some solid efforts from the starting rotation, led the Mets to season-opening series win over the Marlins, who they will be in close contention with all summer.
19. Brewers (8):
They lost some heartbreaking matchups this weekend, but most alarming is how they happened: a 3-run lead blown by closer John Axford in the bottom of the ninth and a 12-3 beating to round the series out against a Reds team they are expected to challenge all summer.
20. Pirates (30):
Timely hitting (a Neil Walker grand slam) and solid pitching (a new concept in Pittsburgh) led the Bucs to a series win in Wrigley Field. The Pirates with a winning record? Whoa.
21. D’Backs (25):
Bad April weather in Denver (who’d have thought that possible…) forced their series to be held to only two games, which they split. The win came on a wild pitch in the 11th inning, which gave new closer J.J. Putz his first chance to shut the door, which he did in strike (13 pitches, 2 K’s).
22. Cubs (18):
Rocky start for the Cubs has a team, losing their home opener to the lowly Pirates. Youngster Starlin Castro did his part however, with two triples in an eight hit weekend.
23. Cardinals (15):
The pitching woes (a Ryan Franklin blown save and a Saturday afternoon bullying of Jake Westbrook) got the Cardinals season off to rough start, before Jaime Garcia tossed a four hit shutout on Sunday to salvage the start to baseball in St. Louis. Off the field, an emergency appendectomy for Matt Holliday kept the rollercoaster that is Cardinal baseball in 2011 going full speed in the wrong direction.
24. Angels (17):
Torri Hunter (2 home runs) is off to a big start, but dropping three of four to the Royals to start off the season does nothing to provide any sense of comfort to the Angels hope for a rebound before Kendrys Morales returns.
25. Rays (14):
Evan Longoria is a candidate for worst week ever. First his spring training home is vandalized, then the Rays muster only 3 runs across three games to start the season while being swept by the Orioles at home, and then ends the weekend on the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. At least he can count on everything get better from here on out….except maybe the Rays offense without him.
26. Marlins (22):
Gaby Sanchez (.462 average, 3 doubles) & Josh Johnson (6.2 innings with 3 hits) showed up to play this weekend, but not much else for the Fish, as they dropped two of three to the Mets while opening up their new digs in Sun Life Stadium.
27. Nationals (27):
Other than John Lannan’s solid Saturday winning effort, not much else to be excited about for the Nats, as they varied between being shutdown and beaten down on the bookend games of the weekend.
28. Twins (10):
Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano combined to give up 11 runs in just over eight innings as the Jays assaulted the Twins, who couldn’t answer back at the plate either while losing their opening series of 2011.
29. Indians (28):
Until Sunday’s 7-1 victory authored by Justin Masterson, the Indians looked like they were throwing underhand to the White Sox, giving up 23 runs in their first 18 innings of baseball this year.
30. Astros (24)
: The Phillies rotation is going to drop a lot of teams down this list this season, and the Astros are just the first victims of them. However, Brandon Lyons’ blew their only chance at a highlight this weekend, when blew Brett Myers’ bettering of Roy Halladay (not often you can say that either) in the ninth inning on Opening Day.

M-V-ME: My picks for the best of the best in each league, week-to-week. (All stats through noon of today)

N.L.: Ryan Howard-Phillies (.538 avg, 1 home run, 6 RBI)

Even without Chase Utley in the mix yet, Howard is beating the ball all around Citizens Park. Whether he continues to see many chances to do it in the depleted Phils lineup, remains to be seen. (Runners Up: Matt Kemp, Starlin Castro)

A.L.: Mark Teixeira-Yankees (.333, 3 home runs, 7 RBI)

Tex is a notoriously slow starter, but always finishes amongst the league leaders in everything. If he keeps up this pace early, some huge numbers could be being posted by the Yankee first baseman. (Runners Up: Carlos Quentin, Ian Kinsler)

Tex become the first Yankee to ever to open a season with a homer in each of the first three games since Dave Winfield in 1985.

ARMED AND READY: My picks for the best on the hill in each league, week-to-week

N.L.: Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 9 strikeouts)

He spoiled the party and woke up Giants fans from any type of World Series hangover with his dazzling work on the hill on Thursday night to open up the season. Only five batters were fortunate enough to reach base the entire night. (Runners Up: Jaime Garcia, Roy Halladay)

Kershaw outdeuled a two-time Cy Young winner in Tim Lincecum to open up the season on an upset note for the Dodgers.

A.L.: Felix Hernandez-Mariners (1-0, 2.00 ERA, 5 strikeouts)

More of the same with him, and that means singlehandedly carrying the Mariners to wins. He went the whole way in his first start of 2011, and after giving up a two-run homer in the first inning, he allowed 3 hits over the next eight innings and cruised to his first victory of the season, and first complete game of the year in baseball. (Runners Up: Jared Weaver, Jeremy Guthrie)


MLB Power Poll – Week 1:

Posted: March 31, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I see a bunch of these everywhere, but I think it needs a definitive approach (which of course is mine), so here’s how it’s gonna go.

I’m doing a weekly Power Poll to drop each Monday to reflect where the Major Leagues are at. I’ll try to present an accurate mixture of Standings, streaks & statistical placement. But division leaders aren’t guaranteed to dominate the top 6 spots, because in a lot of instances Wild Card leaders are better teams (i.e. The ’10 Yanks vs Twins). Also, I’ll do bi-weekly updates on how I see the MVP, Cy Young & Rookie of the Year races going as well.

Keep sitting in the CHEAP SEATS, you’ll never get to far away from all the action.

POWER POLL #1

1. Red Sox: The weight of the world is in their expectations, but with the diversity of their lineup & the deepest overall pitching in the game, they can get it done.

2. Phillies: Injuries will keep the lineup from being at full strength for a while, but with Halladay/Lee/Oswalt/Hamels on the rubber, they won’t need a lot of runs to win.

3. Yankees: The game’s best lineup still makes them a force to be reckoned with despite uncertain starting pitching. In the end, Mariano is still lurking, so everything that’s well WILL end well.

4. White Sox: Adam Dunn brings even more power to town & should feast on AL pitching in his first bat-only season.

5. Giants: The unlikely champs will have to battle all summer with a target on their backs, but with Lincecum, Cain & company on the hill, they’ll still be a world of trouble to crack.

6. Rangers: The pitching worsened with Cliff Lee’s departure, but the lineup in improved with Adrian Beltre in the mix. I say they offset & break even.

7. Reds: The Reds youth will improve overall, and they still have a deep well of young arms to pull on to fight off multiple contenders in the NL Central.

8. Brewers: Once Zack Greinke is back healthy & joins Yovani Gallardo & Shaun Marcum, the Brewers will finally have a rotation that matches their dangerous lineup in potential.

9. Braves: An intriguing mixture of veterans, youth & guys at new positions make Atlanta a high risk, yet high reward club.

10. Twins: How effective Joe Nathan & Justin Morneau can be will tell a lot about if the Twins can make a run to hold off the White Sox & Tigers in the Central.

11. A’s: They boast the deepest pitching staff in all of baseball, and could be prone to upset both the AL West race & the Wild Card scenario.

12. Rockies: A team that underachieved last season, but could make up for it this summer if consistency they couldn’t find last year stills around this year.

13. Tigers: Victor Martinez gives the offense a spark, and if Max Scherzer can perform for a whole season like he did in the second half along with Justin Verlander, the Tigers have two top notch arms to work with.

14. Rays: They lost a lot from their lineup, but MVP candidate Evan Longoria is still in tow, as is Cy Young runner up David Price, so they are from an after thought.

15. Cardinals: They are hoping the defensive sacrifices they made to boost the offense (Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot) are enough to change their fortunes. However, it looks like a much bigger risk now that ace Adam Wainwright is sidelined to til next April.

16. Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw may be the the best young arm in baseball, but how Matt Kemp & Jonathan Broxton perform on a nightly basis means everything to the Dodgers potential.

17. Angels: Their full potential for a rebound campaign won’t be clear until slugger Kendrys Morales finally returns from a broken leg suffered last summer.

18. Cubs: The Northsiders boast an impressive collection of pitching, but stll have no semblance of a leadoff hitter to set the table for their big contract hitters.

19. Blue Jays: Travis Snider, Adam Lind & Aaron Hill all are primed for rebound seasons, and they have a solid group of pitchers. However they still suffer from being in a division with two of the top 5 teams in the AL.

20. Orioles: Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee & Mark Reynolds give this young club new experience & should raise production, but their pitching is still questionable.

21. Mets: Johan Santana, Jason Bay & Carlos Beltran could all miss Opening Day. The Mets only hope is at least a few of them make a rare trip off of it soon to help in Citi Field.

22. Marlins: They made a lot of smart veteran additions, but their defense didn’t improve along the way to help out the strength of their attack: pitching.

23. Padres: The departure of Adrian Gonzalez makes last year’s surprise out west a lot more vulnerable. They still have a strong pitching group to keep games close & not demand a lot from the offense to pull off a win.

24. Astros: The Houston rebuilding process in underway, but a good year from a few of the hold overs, such as Carlos Lee & Hunter Pence, would make the process a lot easier to go along with.

25. D’Backs: Another rebuilding project, however Zona has a solid offense intact that just needs to make more contact to find quick success.

26. Mariners: Ichiro & Felix are about all there is to get guatanteed excited about, but youngsters Michael Pineda & Dustin Ackley could provide reason to believe in a Mariner reboot soon.

27. Nationals: They spent big money to land Jayson Werth to ignite a change in DC, but watching the progress of Bryce Harper in the minors may give more hope than anything in the Majors.

28. Indians: If (once again) Grady Sizemore can get back on the field, and join Shin-Soo Choo & Carlos Santana, the Indians may put on a few interesting performances. But not enough to be a threat.

29. Royals: They are on the verge of something big, with many of the top prospects in baseball a step away from doning the Royals cap, but right now the verge doesn’t forecast for many wins in the time being.

30. Pirates:
They haven’t had a winning season since the first year of the Clinton Administration. The “Curse of the Bambino” got the most headlines, but the “Curse of the Ghost of Barry Bonds” sure is being more brutal in Pittsburgh.

See the final MLB Preview from yesterday for my current MVP, Cy Young & top rook nods.