Rotations, Rotations – The odd reason the Nats have the best rotation in baseball

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On opening day, there were no questions about the rotation. Now, there are, and they aren't that bad.

On opening day, there were no questions about the rotation for the Nats. Now, there are, and they aren’t that bad.

Ever since the end of the steroid era, pitching has been the key element of most teams. If they haven’t developed their own ace rotation, they’ve signed one. And at this moment, it’s seeming like they’re only getting more important and bigger contracts.

Clayton Kershaw is going to be payed roughly $147,000 dollars per inning he pitches for the next seven years. Justin Verlander is commanding 180 million for the next five or six years. Felix Hernandez has also gotten a huge seven 7 year deal. Rookies like Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Michael Wacha and players before their fifth year or not free agents yet like Stephen Strasburg & Jordan Zimmermann are expected to get about as much. Unfortunately, one pitcher does not win a world series.

The four men behind the ace are just as important, if not more. If you only had one reliable winning pitcher, you would win around 1/5 of your games. Having three good pitchers has always been considered acceptable. However, baseball has probably never seen a time like this in which the rotations are so strong for so many teams.

But who’s rotation is the best heading into this season?

While I love what the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers, A’s and Cardinals have, I think that it is the Nats. And not for the reason you may think.

As a Nationals fan last year, I learned something very important. There is a need for more than five pitchers in a rotation. You need that number six and seven as much as you need your ace. Last year, the Nats were supposed to be dominant with everything. However, they surprised everyone, starting the year in a slump and with really only two reliable pitchers. While they finished off better than they started, it was an annoying year. Strasburg was hurt for about a month, and Ross Detwiler barely played half a season. They called up players from Triple-A, but it wasn’t the same. While Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark held things up for the most part, the Nats realized that not having a sixth starter in the lineup killed them, or at least partially. (Not hitting until September also probably hurt.)

This year, they have too many problems with that. There is an argument over who will have the number one slot, but I think everyone knows it’s Strasburg’s to lose. This is the year he needs to prove he is an ace. Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Fister were all very good last year, but the number five slot is a curious thing. Some people say that Taylor Jordan or Tanner Roark should take it, while normal number five Ross Detwiler can move to the bullpen as a power lefty. I disagree, and say keep the National Det in the rotation, and have Jordan and Roark as backup. But it really comes down to what new manager Matt Williams sees in Spring Training.

The Red Sox & Cardinals probably have the best depth with players like Lester, Buchholz, Wainwright and Wacha, and the Tigers have probably have the better rotation, but the depth nor the rotation is as complete for any one of them is as good as the one in our Nation’s Capitol.

However, offseason predictions aren’t always correct. Who had the Red Sox winning the world series last year? (Hint: Literally nobody)

But even with the unreliability of predictions, I still like the Nats’ chances.

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The offseason report – The teams doing the right thing – and the teams that aren’t.

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I am self-admittedly a mess without baseball. So as the winter meetings end, we begin to reach the mid point of the offseason, with only 2 months until pitchers and catchers report, or roughly, at least. That’s kind of a long time. However, it doesn’t mean we can look at some teams this offseason that have stood out, in a good or bad way.

The Good

Oakland Athletics

Top prospect from a great team? Check. Stealing a closer for not that much? Check. Great people and bench players? Check. Oakland has had a well rounded and not-too big offseason, which is exactly what a team in their position needs.

Boston Red Sox

Jacoby who? That’s what Ben Cherington is hoping he got right this offseason. Instead of re-signing the official spark plug and All-Star Jacoby Ellsbury, he went with the in house option – Jackie Bradley Jr. He (Jackie) has shown spots of talent, but not held a consistent spot on a Major League Roster. However, they made a few key additions themselves, signing A.J. Pierzynski and Edward Mujica while letting Jarrod Saltalamacchia go, who was good but never what the Red Sox expected him to be. They also re-signed official beard-man Mike Napoli.

Washington Nationals

What do you do when you don’t have that much to do? Fill in the blanks. While last year, Denard Span and Dan Haren were supposed to fix all the problems, they clubhouse guys like Mark DeRosa walk, and when he left, the Nats clubhouse kind of fell apart. Clubhouse man Nate McLouth will hopefully fix the problem Mark Derosa left, Doug Fister, a just overall great pitcher came for very little and one of the left handed relievers that were missing from last year’s flop season has come on, Jerry Blevins. The only two things they need to do now? Extend Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, and get Eric O’Flaherty.

San Fransisco Giants

It’s an even numbered year, and you know what that means… the Giants are going to be a contender. Okay, maybe not. But they have gotten another great starter in Tim Hudson, and another great clubhouse man the Nats let walk, Michael Morse, plus re-signing key players like Vogelsong and LIncecum.

The Bad

New York Mets

Unfortunately, a 40 year old veteran does not replace the next big thing in pitching. With Matt Harvey out for next season, Bartolo Colon was brought in to be the front(?!) of the staff. While they stole a great center fielder from their cross-town rivals, this just wasn’t the year to do it. Another two years until the Mets contend for the NL East, minimum.

Seattle Mariners

I know what you’re thinking. Cano. Hart. Yeah, that’s not really enough. Let’s look back at history. 2012 Miami Marlins: Fail. 2012 Los Angeles Angels: Flop. 2013 Toronto Blue Jays: No chance. 2013 Los Angeles Angels: Still a flop. You can’t buy a championship with big name free agents. You just can’t.

Completely Boneheaded GMs

Chicago White Sox

This just did not make sense. After signing Abreu, he trades for Adam Eaton and signs Felipe Paulino – after he unloaded Rios, Peavey and Matt Thornton. So in other words, you are admitting the strategy stunk, and now you’re trying it again. Rebuild. Take a year.

Houston Astros

This is not a team that will contend. They just aren’t good enough. Yet they went out and got Dexter Fowdler and Scott Feldman. I can’t emphasize this enough – until you are a legit contender to finish above .500, you just don’t go for outside talent and use your homegrown talent.

Miami Marlins

Pretty much exactly what I wrote for the Astros, except replace Fowdler and Feldman for Saltalamacchia, Furcal and Garrett Jones.

September is going to be wild

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Playoff berths. Division titles. Tension. Wild Card races. Batting title races.

All those only can all happen in one month. September.

We’re fast approaching the best month of the regular season, and this one is looking stacked with story lines. Wild Card races are much tighter than usual, some divisions will go to the final day, and a race for stats are just some of the big things that will happen. Here are my top ten stories going into the month.

10. The Braves’ fairytale season – will it continue into the postseason?

The Braves have had a season to remember, and are pretty much a lock to win the NL East. However, there are some lingering questions entering the final month of the regular season and looking to October. Injuries have started to show up, with players like Tim Hudson and Jason Heyward both hurt, as well as many more. It won’t be enough to get the Nats past them, but it raises worries for the Atlanta faithful, especially after a dominant series win by St. Louis a few days ago.

9. The AL West

This, once again, is a two team race. Once again, the Rangers have the better record, and have 2.5 games on the A’s. The season doesn’t end with them playing each other, but unless one team goes crazy, it might as well be that. I honestly don’t know who will take this, and is one of the most underrated stories this year.

8. Biogenesis and A-Rod

It’s the problem that was revealed in January, then confirmed in July. Many players have already admitted to it, like Ryan Braun, or haven’t protested it. (Props to the Brewers for giving his salary back to the fans). However, A-Rod, being A-Rod, protested his ruling. Nobody believes him anymore. So when he finally gets his ruling, it’s going to be a victory for every baseball fan.

7. Chris Davis and the search for 60

Chris Davis can still get 60 home runs. That is still completely possible. However, there are a couple questions with that. After slugging 37 in the first half of the season, while still producing hits and runs, is (in comparison) in a home run slump. However, the magic number, 60, is still possible. It would be extremely hard, hitting 13 home runs in a month or so. It has been done before, but the home run category, the only one Miguel Cabrera doesn’t have, would hold him from the triple crown. (More on that later).

6. The (possibly) late surging Nats

At the beginning of August, everyone who picked the Nats for the world series was pretty down. It didn’t look like they would even make the playoffs this year. However, after salvaging one from the Braves, the Nationals have won 7 of their last 9, and are starting to gain ground on the wild card. They have a cushy schedule until the end, with two must win series against the Cardinals and Diamondbacks. It would require one NL Central team to lose their spot (in all likelihood, the Reds). They are running out of time, but the Nats are starting to look like the team they were predicted to be.

5. The Red Sox – what changed?

This year, I don’t expect a meltdown from the Red Sox. And I’ll tell you why. They haven’t been amazing, like the Dodgers. They’ve been consistently good, sometimes great, but usually, just good. Which means they haven’t truly peaked yet. But the question I’ve had this whole season, is what changed? And here’s what I basically got it down to. They brought in clubhouse guys, and really only retained the players who were good guys. The new atmosphere created chemistry that simply wasn’t there in 2011. Now, I’m not saying they didn’t overpay for some of these guys, but it worked. This team is as much of a group of idiots as there was in 2004. Plus, the fans are back in it. Chants and general happiness are propelling the fans, and the Red Sox are playing better than ever. And really, that’s what matters.

4. The AL/NL Wild Card Race

This is possibly the best wild card race I have seen ever. In the AL, everything is insanely close, and no team is ever out. 4 teams are less than 7 back, and you never know what could happen. It’s just so much fun to watch, and not to mention some teams might move into the division lead…. it gets better every day. In the NL, it’s pretty much down to 4 teams.  A NL Central team, the Reds, the D-Backs, and the Nats. Some teams look like they might blow it, others are just starting to power full steam ahead – wild card doesn’t get better then this year.

3. The Dodgers’ magical run

It’s kind of ridiculous, isn’t it? They were in a slump. Money wouldn’t win. Then Puig came up, and everything changed. All the sudden, they are the hottest team in all of baseball. Kershaw and the staff have been dominant, the hitters figured things out, and the NL West looks like a guarantee. The run has been just win after win after win. While a couple questions linger about Puig and his attitude or if they might collapse, since they might have already hit their peak do linger, but they will most likely make the playoffs, and if they win the whole thing – whoa.

2. The NL Central

When was the last time you saw three teams insanely competitive for one division? Not for a long time, that’s for sure. The Pirates, making their first bid at a division with a winning season since who-knows-when, are the team I want to win it. However, the Cardinals, who somehow are just always in the race are making their case to take the division title. The Reds, the least likely candidate of the three to win the division, still look like they have a chance to take it if they can get a few things going for them. If you don’t have a game to watch one night, than either watch this, or…

1. Miguel Cabrera looking for his second straight Triple Crown

Miguel Cabrera. The first triple crown winner since Carl Yastremski last year, might make history by being the first player to ever win the Triple Crown – in back to back years. He has everything but home runs, where he is 4 back of Orioles slugger Chris Davis. However, if he beats him out, he could also win the even more rare Sextuple crown, which includes HR, Hits, OBP, RBI, Slugging, and Batting Average. The last person to win this was Carl Yastremski – Cabrera would be only the 6th ever. This is history in the making, so if you get a chance to watch, I highly urge you to. Because really, what baseball fan would miss this?

 

 

 

A failure of an era: Gonzalez, Crawford, Beckett, Punto off to LAD – but at what cost to both teams?

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The deal that all of New England, California, and Red Sox nation have been on the edge of their seats about is done. As well as an era, or an era that Boston tried to create. Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto are members of the LA Dodgers.

Now, don’t get me wrong, something seriously bad was happening in the clubhouse of Fenway Park. Josh Beckett, the supposed leader of the beer and fried chicken brigade, was an obvious move out. Crawford, injury prone and when he was playing was not worth the millions he was paid. But the scariest thing for Boston is the loss of Adrian Gonzalez. It adds so many questions, and so many regrets.

Adrian Gonzalez could’ve been a serious candidate for MVP had the first half of the season gone better. He is a vital piece to the Red Sox success, and his RBI may be irreplaceable. While a first baseman from the Dodgers (James Loney, a career .284 hitter) was sent, he is not a real replacement, at .254 this season with 33 RBI, compared to Gonzalez’s .300 and 86 RBI.

But this was a deal that had to be made. Beckett and Crawford had to be taken off of Boston’s shoulders connected to their quality of play and injuries, as well as the salaries and bad memories that were connected to a failure of an era. But the Dodgers would not take on these players without a sweet spot in the deal. Nick Punto was a pawn in this trade, as a little bait. But they got to the big bait – Adrian Gonzalez, whose quality of play could make up for the others.

The Red Sox lost one of their best hitters and leaders. Adrian Gonzalez was not something they wanted to give up. Even so, they ended up doing just that. But the Dodgers didn’t get off of here worry free. Crawford and Beckett at their bests are incredible and at their worst are absolutely dreadful. The Dodgers will have to recreate them or get rid of them fast, because otherwise, those guys are just taking up space in the clubhouse.

Both teams came out losing and winning at the end of this deal.

Is Valentine the answer?

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VALENTINE:

val·en·tine/ˈvalənˌtīn/

 
Noun:
  1. A card sent on St. Valentine’s Day, February 14, to a person one loves or is attracted to.
  2. A person to whom one sends such a card or whom one asks to be one’s sweetheart.
  3. The number one topic of conversation in Boston right now.

This might be a short question. But it’s the one that has created the most conversation. Should the attention be on or off the field? Books and movies like moneyball might say yes. But when the score of the game is in your favor, this wasn’t the manager playing. 

But even so, I might argue that the countless hours put in from the coaches to fine tune these players might be a key to success. 

Right now, the Boston Red Sox are a sinking ship. At the bow of this ship is Bobby Valentine. The crew that once worked in harmony is rioting. But nothing can happen until an agreement can be made. Until then, the water will continue to fill the boat. 

I don’t necessarily think that this can be blamed on anyone. This, honestly, is a thing where a team needs to be a team. The Red Sox are a prideful organization – with 7 world series to their name and (or were) the prime location for many free agents. 

The mindseton the team may be hard to go through though. The team has shown large proportions of disrespect. They hadn’t really given Bobby a chance. And while things may look bleak, right now, there is no answer. Except for this; Win today, because yesterday is done.

 

THE WEEKLY: Sox and Nats – Hold on to Your Hats; Spain is Special; and MLS and more

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Hi Everybody!

 

Welcome to a new segment called The Weekly! This is a post covering interesting topics from this week

 

RED SOX AND NATS, HOLD ON…

The Red Sox got rid of Kevin Youkilis.  Good Move.  In return, they got players batting around .215.  Bad move.  But, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez are making up for them.  At 399 home runs in his career, David Ortiz is on pace to go over the 400 mark, and then some.  The pitching hasn’t been perfect, but an offense that is at the top of the list in baseball gives them room to work with and then some.  If they can continue at this pace, the team everyone counted out at the beginning may be in the chase at the end.

The Nats are playing incredibly. But unless you live in NY, ATL, MIA, or PHI, you haven’t been paying attention lately.  You should.  A best-in-baseball pitching rotation with an offense that has shown the capability to explode.  The problem is not a lot of people know.  They need to notice or they are in for a deadly surprise in October.  

SPAIN IS SPECIAL

If it’s something in the water, I’d love to drink it.  Whatever it is, this generation of soccer seems to belong to Spain. 

With Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, and Cesc Fabregas leading the way, Spain already has won two major tournaments in the past five years, and may make it three.  They are always met with high expectations, but this group has gone above and beyond.  This is a Spain group that is very, very special.

MLS – MORE AND MORE

The most unsung league in the US is MLS.  That seems to be changing.  It really started last year when the Galaxy made LA look up and notice.  Soon, ESPN move the game of the week from ESPN2 to ESPN.  Rivalries have been established, traditions made, and supporters have been loyal.  While LA has fallen to the bottom of the table, it’s spreading the glory to cities who haven’t noticed their MLS teams, like Houston and Philadelphia.  And new teams have been added like Portland and Montreal.  The MLS is growing — which can only be a good thing.

[TRANSCRIPTION NOTE: since the post was mailed to the transcriber, Spain indeed triumphed over Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 finals, sealing the deal for Spain’s argument to be considered among the best teams ever.  Also Will Middlebrooks got hurt, leaving the Red Sox missing Youk, just a little, against the A’s]

A reality check for three teams – good and bad.

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REALITY CHECK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

3 teams just were handed losses today – some of them one of their first, one of them their fifth. Does the pain actually help? Maybe.

The Tigers were undefeated in 5 games before today. Justin Verlander was pitching, which seems like a pretty secure win to most teams. And it was a good game for him, at least until the top of the ninth. After giving up a run and getting two batters on board, it was time to leave. Unfortunately, Tigers relief couldn’t close it out, and they lost to the Rays. Which may be just what the doctor ordered for the Destroyers from Detroit. Why, you ask? Simple. A team that good, needs a good reality check about 79 times a year. Being good isn’t enough for teams in this league, you have to be better. And it proves – the Red Sox weren’t taking that reality check last summer, and collapsed at the end because they decided they didn’t need to keep working.

Now, for the Mets, since they were (past tense) undefeated and then lost two games to the Nationals, that’s a serious reality check. In the division they reside in, good isn’t good enough. Great isn’t good enough. Now, while this goes for every division, it really matters in the NL East. In all likelihood, there will be three NL East teams in the playoffs, and the Mets are a bit of a long shot. A loss makes them realize they are, still, the Mets. Which means they don’t have a leadoff batter. Or power hitter. Or shortstop. So, if anything, those losses were a reminder – if they want to finish even scarcely close to a playoff spot, they have to work harder than any other team in that division, even though they may not be the best.

The Red Sox have just been handed their fifth loss. In May, that’s incredible. In April – that’s horrible. The one game they win, is against Toronto, which is a fourth place in the division team. Not the best win, but they’ll take it. Losing to the Tigers doesn’t worry me, the Tigers are good. Losing two of three to the Jays, that does worry me. The Red Sox need to get back up and prove they aren’t knocked down with one punch, because at the end of last year, it seemed like it. The Red Sox need to wake up, and realize that last year was a dream turned nightmare. Getting back up and getting a playoff spot is a must for them. But trying so hard, they haven’t done much. They have to outlast the competition, and play very hard – until the end of October, because they forgot to do that, and guess what happened….