Articles By Charlie Miller

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2013 Spring Training camps are open and many players will compete against teammates for jobs before taking on other baseball teams in April. Here are some position battles to keep an eye on this spring.

American League East

Baltimore Orioles
The fifth starter spot is wide open. Candidates include Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter. Japanese pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada, who underwent Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last May, is ahead of schedule in his recovery and could join the fray. Nolan Reimold isn’t ready to concede left field to Nate McLouth. The last bench spot won’t be handed to Danny Valencia. Infielders Yamaico Navarro and Ryan Flaherty and outfielder Steve Pearce, among others, will try to avoid the minors. Executive VP Dan Duquette speaks highly of first basemen Conor Jackson and Travis Ishikawa and has indicated that they could contribute to the big-league club.

Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox aren’t opening too many starting spots to competition. The main area to watch will be catcher. With David Ross already announced as a backup who’ll play more than average, that leaves Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ryan Lavarnway battling for the starting spot. If the former wins, the latter will return to Triple-A. If Lavarnway wins, Saltalamacchia immediately becomes trade bait. The fifth starter’s spot should be a dogfight, too, with Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales battling newcomers like Rubby De La Rosa. The bullpen will be a free-for-all as well, with former dominant setup man Daniel Bard on the outside looking in at the moment.

New York Yankees
It was notable that the Yankees chose David Phelps for a postseason roster spot over Ivan Nova. True, Phelps worked 22 games as a reliever and Nova worked none, but there was no mistaking that the Yankees had more confidence in Phelps to get big outs. Nova was 12–8 in the regular season, but he had a 6.38 ERA after July 1. Phelps flopped in October, losing twice, but he had a solid rookie season and at the very least should challenge Nova for a rotation spot. Michael Pineda, a 2011 All-Star for Seattle, is recovering from shoulder surgery and could be a factor by May or June. Travis Hafner and Eduardo Nunez will compete for at-bats at the DH spot.

Tampa Bay Rays
If super-prospect Wil Myers makes the roster, it’s to play every day. If he doesn’t, four (instead of three) utility spots will be available to contestants Sean Rodriguez, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Roberts, Mike Fontenot and Tim Beckham. Rookies Brandon Guyer and Stephen Vogt will battle Luke Scott for DH duties. An all-out scrum for two of the six bullpen jobs is anticipated, with Cesar Ramos standing the best chance of survival because he’s left-handed and out of options. Most intriguing of all is who, out of at least four serious suitors, will be the fifth starter. Jeff Niemann is the pre-injury incumbent; Jake Odorizzi is the most polished rookie; Chris Archer has the highest ceiling; and the brass thinks it can resuscitate Roberto Hernandez’s star-crossed career.

Toronto Blue Jays
It seemed a little redundant for the Blue Jays to trade for Emilio Bonifacio shortly after signing Maicer Izturis. Both are switch-hitters with little power, and both could start at second base. Izturis has more experience there and is considered a better fielder. But Bonifacio profiles as a better bat and is more of a threat to steal bases. Bonifacio plays more positions, having started at least 17 career games at all three outfield positions and at least 65 at third, short and second. There’s room on the team for both, so expect John Gibbons to use their versatility to mix and match, with a slight edge to Bonifacio as the starting second baseman if he shows enough skill in the field.

American League Central

Chicago White Sox
Carlos Sanchez is ticketed to open the season alongside Brent Morel, Tyler Saladino and Andy Wilkins in the Triple-A infield but could make life uncomfortable for Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez in his first big-league spring. As a switch hitter with speed and strong base-running skills, he could add some balance to a lineup that will lean to the right side without A.J. Pierzynski. John Danks’ health will determine if there are one or two openings for a group of starting pitchers including Jose Quintana, Hector Santiago, Dylan Axelrod, Andre Rienzo, Charlie Shirek, Simon Castro and Nestor Molina.

Cleveland Indians
Backup catcher Lou Marson could be pushed by newcomer Yan Gomes, who hit .328 with the Blue Jays’ Class AAA affiliate last year. If lefthander Scott Kazmir, once one of the most promising young pitchers in the game, has anything left, he’ll get a chance to crack the rotation. Trevor Bauer, Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber should have a hotly contested competition for the last two spots in the rotation.

Detroit Tigers
As might be expected from a team with championship aspirations, there are few job battles in the truest sense of the term. There is still some uncertainty at the front end of the bullpen and the far end of the bench. But the biggest question could be the fifth starter’s job, where Rick Porcello is the incumbent and Drew Smyly the challenger. However, knowing what we know about the attrition rate with pitchers, it is almost certain the Tigers will need both of them at some point.

Kansas City Royals
Two to watch: second base, where Chris Getz and Johnny Giavotella continue competition for the third straight year; and the fifth spot in the rotation between Bruce Chen and Luke Hochevar, who spent last season as the club’s top two starters. Getz was having a career-best season in 2012 until injuries intervened, but Giavotella is generally viewed as having the higher upside. There are other possibilities — Miguel Tejada and Christian Colón — but it’s likely to be Getz or Gio. Either Chen or Hochevar could be traded to fill another need. Otherwise, their battle shapes up as a choice between back-of-the-rotation consistency (Chen) against unfulfilled upside (Hochevar).

Minnesota Twins
Brian Dozier should be a man on a mission this spring. After being named the Twins Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, he had a disappointing 2012 both offensively and defensively. The Twins gave him an 84-game audition at shortstop, and he made 15 errors and posted a .271 on-base percentage. He’ll get another chance to win a starting spot this spring, either at shortstop or second base. Pedro Florimon is the favorite to land the shortstop job, and veteran Jamey Carroll can play either position if the others aren’t ready, so it should lead to some healthy competition.

American League West

Houston Astros
The Astros have no shortage of candidates for the final two spots in the pitching rotation, with lefty Dallas Keuchel and righthanders Philip Humber, Alex White, Edgar Gonzalez, John Ely and elite prospects Brad Peacock and Jarred Cosart among those battling for innings. The outfield also figures to be a battle in the spring. Justin Maxwell is likely to start at one of the three outfield spots, but the other two starters will come from a group that includes Brandon Barnes, Trevor Crowe, J.D. Martinez, Fernando Martinez and Jimmy Paredes or even Rick Ankiel. As expected with a team predicted to lose 100-plus games, there should be plenty of interesting battles from among the youngsters in the bullpen, as well.

Los Angeles Angels
Young righthander Garrett Richards nearly pitched his way into the rotation last spring and seemed poised to step into a spot in 2013. The Angels’ offseason moves, adding veteran starters Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas and Joe Blanton, have pushed Richards out of the picture. He might be in the position of battling a handful of other pitchers for the final spot in the bullpen rather than make a return trip to Triple-A. Offensively, the Angels will have some decisions to make about their batting order this spring, most prominently who gets the enviable task of batting between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols at the top of the lineup.

Oakland A’s
If you trust OPS as the definitive measure of offensive value, then Jemile Weeks was the worst hitter in the majors last season, with a .609 mark that ranked last among qualifiers. Weeks has talent; he was a first-round pick with a brother in the big leagues, and hit .303 as a rookie in 2011. But he also has competition at second base in Scott Sizemore, who tore his ACL last spring but should be healed now. It’s tough to say who has the edge — a player like Sizemore who missed all of last season, or a player like Weeks who performed so poorly. Spring training will decide it, but the early bet is on Sizemore, who has shown more power. Jed Lowrie and Hiroyuki Nakajima will compete for time at shortstop. The odd man out could see some time at second as well.

Seattle Mariners
If Justin Smoak isn’t dealt, he’ll battle Kendrys Morales for first base time and Raul Ibanez and Michael Morse for DH duty. Left fielder Jason Bay needs to show something to make the team. He’s guaranteed only $500,000, and Casper Wells can fill his role. Lucas Luetge shined as a rookie situational lefty, but fellow southpaws Oliver Perez and Charlie Furbush might force him to Class AAA. Luetge might stay if the team keeps only one of the two fireballing righties — Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps. Non-roster invitee Jeremy Bonderman hasn’t pitched since 2010 and will compete for a fifth starter job with Hector Noesi and top minor leaguers.

Texas Rangers
The most interesting question will be what the team does with super prospect Jurickson Profar. He just turned 20 and showed signs last September that may be ready for the bigs, middle infielders Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler are well-established. It wouldn’t make sense to keep the youngster, who has never played at the Triple-A level, as a bench player in lieu of getting him regular playing time at Round Rock. Martin Perez enters camp as the fifth starter. The lefthander has been one of the Rangers’ top prospects almost since the day he was signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela. He’ll be 22 on April 4, and the Rangers are expecting him to deliver on all the promise they have seen. The Rangers want Perez to be in the rotation, but he could pitch himself out of the job if he struggles with his command. It’s not just throwing strikes, but quality strikes. Righthander Justin Grimm, another top prospect who also debuted in 2012, could land the job if Perez slips.

 

 

 

RELATED: 2013 MLB Spring Training Battles: National League

RELATED: Very Early Baseball Predictions for 2013

RELATED: 75 Funny Fantasy Baseball Team Names


 

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Teaser:
<p> Spring Training camps are open and many players will compete against teammates for jobs before taking on other teams in April. Here are some position battles to keep an eye on this spring.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 10:45
Path: /mlb/2013-spring-training-10-storylines-watch
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Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona. Here are a few stories to watch as MLB players sharpen their skills in preparation for the 2013 season, which begins for every team April 1.

1. Canadian Chemistry
The Toronto Blue Jays, seemingly tired of watching the AL East world pass them by, loaded up this winter for a serious summer run at their first postseason appearance since winning the 1993 World Series. They traded for three near-elite starting pitchers and one of the best shortstops in the game. But the most intriguing move is hiring manager John Gibbons for his second stint in the Blue Jays’ manager’s office. Gibbons posted a 305-305 record as Jays skipper from 2004-08, but there is very little even-keeled about the man. He clashed with several players during his time in Toronto, most notably Ted Lilly and Shea Hillenbrand. The latter led Gibbons to threaten to quit if Hillendbrand wasn’t cut, which he was. But Gibbons was fired about halfway through the 2008 season. Now the older — and presumably wiser — Gibbons must deal with even larger egos. The chemistry that Gibbons establishes with the left side of his infield could be the difference between success and failure this season. Shortstop Jose Reyes is an established star accustomed to more coddling than Gibbons will likely impart, and third baseman Brett Lawrie is one of the most emotional and fiery players in the game. Some kind of confrontation is inevitable. How the manager and players respond to that will make all the difference.

2. Super Sophs
Last spring Mike Trout of the Angels and Bryce Harper were two high-profile prospects, deemed not quite ready for the majors. There was little pressure during spring training as both players knew more seasoning at the Triple-A level was in store. Both were called up at the end of April and their lives immediately changed. Now they are established big leaguers who shoulder significant responsibility for their teams’ postseason fate. Neither player is old enough to buy alcohol in most states, and neither had to weather many tough times last season. Most observers close to the situations in Washington and Los Angeles agree that the two are mature beyond their years, but it will be worth watching how these two respond to the pressure that comes when players are no longer rookies.

3. Angels in the Playoffs?
Last winter the Angels made a huge splash with the signing of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. And just when you thought this winter would be much quieter, owner Arte Moreno reeled in the biggest fish in free agency by signing 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton away from division rival Texas. The outfielder joins a roster full of other big-name, big money stars and his positive effect should be huge for Pujols and second-year player Mike Trout. This time last season expectations were high for the Halos, but many thought Texas was still the favorite. No more. Anything less than a division title in Anaheim will be a failure this season.

4. Astros in AL
After 51 seasons in the National League, the Houston Astros are crossing over to the DH league. No more rivalries with St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Chicago. Now fans in Houston must familiarize themselves with Oakland, Seattle, and the Angels in addition to the team up I-45 in Dallas. Still undergoing a massive rebuilding program that saw the Astros produce the two worst seasons in their history, the Astros are likely to lose close to 110 games this season. We’ll see if the new batch of opponents coming to Minute Maid Park this season will be enough to entice fans to visit as well.

5. War on Drugs
Six players were suspended last season for positive PED tests, the most since 2007. Is that a result of more cheating, or more stringent testing? Probably some of both. Drug tests this season that now include blood tests in spring training should lead to a cleaner game. But just when it appeared that renegade labs were under control and whispers about current players juicing had subsided, a Miami newspaper uncovers some disturbing information coming out of Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables, Fla. As the investigation continues into the Biogenesis lab, most certainly more names of baseball players will surface, and more innuendo and denials will follow. It’s one thing for players already having tested positive for banned substances like Bartolo Colona and Melky Cabrera to be connected with the lab, but for names like Gio Gonzalez and Nelson Cruz and Francisco Cervelli, it’s another matter. Some will say it’s unfair to presume guilt by association. And that’s true. Others might argue that this isn’t a court of law and where there’s this much smoke there must be some flames. Gonzalez and Cruz have already issued denials and MLB is investigating. But all players with any presumed or real ties to Biogenesis will have to answer questions all spring. MLB certainly needs to offer fans and the media some confidence that the game is as clean as it has been since the so-called Steroid Era began in the late 1980s. However, MLB doesn’t need another BALCO on its hands either. This investigation must be complete and pretty swift for this not to linger as a major story all season.

6. Old Yankees Won’t Go Away
The New York Yankees will likely have as much support as any team in the competitive AL East to repeat as division champs this season. But keeping an eye on some of their veterans coming back from injury will tell us much more about this team. Shortstop Derek Jeter is recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the ALCS. He has begun running and says there are no lingering issues. But we’ll need to see him moving laterally to field ground balls before we believe him. Closer Mariano Rivera tore his ACL last May in Kansas City shagging flies. Will the best closer the game has ever seen, now age 43, be effective this season? Andy Pettitte is back in camp for at least one more go at this game. The veteran of 44 postseason starts hasn’t appeared in a season more than 21 times since 2009 when he was 37. Now at 40, will he be able to answer the bell for 30 starts? And what about A-Rod, the unending lightning rod for the Yankees. Recovering from knee surgery, the third baseman is staying behind in New York for rehab rather than join the team in Florida. Just how much of the season A-Rod will miss is still a mystery, but it wouldn’t be a shock if he doesn’t return until next spring training.

7. Profar in Texas – Majors or minors?
Jurickson Profar is universally considered the best rising prospect in the game. The middle infielder briefly tasted life in the majors last season when the Texas Rangers called him up in September. By all accounts he is ready for the big time. But how will the Rangers find playing time for the budding star? Shortstop Elvis Andrus is a two-time All-Star and still getting better. Second baseman Ian Kinsler is a linchpin in the lineup. So will Kinsler move to first base? Will he DH? And what about Lance Berkman signed to be the full-time DH? Will the Rangers keep Profar around as a part-time player, potentially retarding his progress? Or will he spend the season at Triple-A getting regular at-bats?

8. WBC Effect
For more than three weeks in the middle of March, spring training will be interrupted for several players who will participate in the World Baseball Classic. For most veterans, this isn’t a big deal. Miguel Cabrera will surely get enough swings in whether he’s working out with Venezuela or the Tigers. But there could be a few issues created by this international event. As mentioned above, new Toronto manager John Gibbons will work during spring training to foster good will among his players. However, R.A. Dickey, J.P. Arencibia, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, Brett Lawrie will leave camp for a spell. Milwaukee will lose both catchers on its 40-man roster when players join their international teams. Jonathan Lucroy will play for the U.S. and Martin Maldonado for Puerto Rico. That’s a lot of bullpen sessions and spring training innings Milwaukee pitchers must work with young catchers rather than developing a rapport with the regulars. Russell Martin, a new catcher to the Pirates this season, will also leave his new club for a while losing opportunity to get to know his new staff better. The impact isn’t all negative. With veterans missing in action for a few weeks, younger players will have opportunities for at-bats to impress their managers. Giants skipper Bruce Bochy will not have the services of Angel Pagan, Andres Torres, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval during the WBC. But Bochy knows what they can do. This may give Bochy a better look at youngsters Gary Brown, Adam Duvall, Ehire Adrianza, Francisco Peguero and even Angel Villalona (if the Giants can get him into the country).

9. Free Agent Effect
Three players not under contract for 2014 bear watching this spring. Robinson Cano of the Yankees, Adam Wainwright of St. Louis and Jacoby Ellsbury of Boston could become free agents at the end of the season. How quickly will their teams move to lock them up long term? Will they investigate trades during the season? It seems unthinkable that the Yankees would not sign Cano to a long-term deal during spring training to avoid his contract situation from becoming a distraction during the season. And Wainwright still must prove that he is completely healthy, but the Cardinals have probably seen enough to get a deal done. Ellsbury’s situation is a little more tricky. Unlike the Yankees and Cardinals, the Red Sox are not expected to be in contention this season, so a trade may make sense at the deadline.

10. Brothers Upton
There’s an unofficial changing of the guard in Atlanta. Remember when the Braves were winning 14 straight division titles? Now that Chipper Jones has left the field for his hunting lodge, there are no ties to the titles in uniform this spring. But there are two Uptons, possibly the most talented pair of brothers to play alongside each other since, well, the Waners in Pittsburgh. Will this new age in Atlanta bring a division title? The Washington Nationals will be tough to unseat in the NL East, but the Braves have the bullpen and outfield that should rival any in the game. We’ll see in spring training how the rest of the team comes together.


 

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Teaser:
<p> Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training camps in Florida and Arizona. Here are a few stories to watch as players sharpen their skills in preparation for the season, which begins for every team April 1.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
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No matter where you stand on the Baseball Hall of Fame debate this year, there really is no winning side. There are those that will never vote for any steroid user. Voting for a player who is connected with steroid use is an affirmation that PED use is acceptable.

There are those voters who argue that we will never know the truth about steroid use and that players must be judged by performance alone, no matter how enhanced that performance may be.

Still there are others that will attempt to be their judge and jury for each individual player. Maybe Player A did a little something but not enough to keep him out of the Hall, while Player B’s use was somehow more egregious.

Still others will send in blank ballots maintaining that the Steroid Era has forever tarnished the game and that any players during this era deserve some kind of punishment. After all, the players union did very little to curtail PED use for more than a decade.

Some writers will argue that baseball — by its own inaction — passively encouraged steroid use. After the strike in 1994 severely damaged the game’s image and the pain was felt at the turnstiles, MLB enjoyed a significant boon in 1998 as artificially pumped up players like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa chased one of the most hallowed records in baseball. As MLB learned, not only did chicks dig the long ball, but so did most fans. So any player performing during this era could be excused for going along with the system at the time and keeping his edge any way he could.

So when the Hall of Fame inductees — if there are any — are announced today, there will continue to be controversy. Because the only real truth here is that the game has been tarnished and there is no going back. There is no giving Hank Aaron his home run record back. Roger Maris will not get his record back. No one will take any Cy Young or MVP awards away. The damage has been done.

Teaser:
<p> Baseball Hall of Fame Voters Face Tough Decisions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 - 09:25
Path: /mlb/very-early-baseball-predictions-2013
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Just as I did a few weeks ago, I once again examine the pennant races as they’re shaping up for 2013. Sure, it’s early, but what else are you going to read about? Bowl games between a bunch of non-BCS .500 teams? Now that some major free agent dominoes have fallen, and some major trades have changed the MLB landscape, here are my early 2013 MLB picks.

AMERICAN LEAGUE
East
1. Tampa Bay Rays

Even after the trade of James Shields, no AL East team can match the Rays’ pitching. Manager Joe Maddon will prevent newcomer Wil Myers from absorbing too much offensive pressure.

2. New York Yankees
The decline of the pinstripes is happening before our eyes, but the roster still includes some of the best players on the planet.

3. Toronto Blue Jays
Will the All-Star rotation and lineup the Jays collected over the past two months equate to a division title? It quite possibly could. The AL East is much more winnable than anytime this century.

4. Baltimore Orioles
Just about every bounce went the Orioles’ way in 2012. There’s been too little work done to bolster the pitching staff to expect any kind of a repeat from Buck’s troops.

5. Boston Red Sox
Now the Red Sox have overpaid two Drew brothers.

Central
1. Detroit Tigers

Keeping Anibal Sanchez, signing Torii Hunter and the return of Victor Martinez are three reasons to believe in the Tigers in 2013.

2. Kansas City Royals
The trade with Tampa Bay for James Shields and Wade Davis will be the difference between finishing second and fourth. Shields is a big-game workhorse.

3. Cleveland Indians
A change of scenery will probably be good for both Shin-Soo Choo (traded to Cincinnati) and Drew Stubbs (received in return). But Terry Francona is the second-most (behind Shields) important acquisition in the division.

4. Chicago White Sox
We were oh so wrong about this team this past summer. Can they surprise us again?

5. Minnesota Twins
Still not enough pitching. Still not enough hitting.

West
1. Los Angeles Angels

So, the Angels once again make a huge splash in free agency. Now the belief is that the Halos can avoid a terrible start and take control of the division early. Now about that bullpen…

2. Texas Rangers
The window is closing. No more Josh Hamilton. No more Michael Young. No more Mike Napoli. The newest wave of rising stars in Texas should carry the mantel well, but not well enough to top the Angels.

3. Oakland A’s
If they could win it with the 2012 roster, they can certainly win this division with the 2013 group. But they probably won’t.

4. Seattle Mariners
So happy to see the Astros join the AL West.

5. Houston Astros
It is possible that the Astros will spend less than $30 million on payroll this year. The dividends better pay off down the road.



NATIONAL LEAGUE
East
1. Washington Nationals

In a close call with the Braves, the Nats get the edge with Dan Haren as a No. 5 starter. But they must find a replacement for Adam LaRoche’s RBIs.

2. Atlanta Braves
B.J. Upton is no leadoff hitter. And who will protect Jason Heyward in the lineup until Brian McCann returns?

3. Philadelphia Phillies
The core group that won five consecutive division titles prior to last season is not ready to fold its tents yet. Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee comprise one of the best pitching trios in the bigs.

4. New York Mets
Trading R. A. Dickey was the right thing to do and the return was nice. But it doesn’t help 2013 when you lose a Cy Young winner.

5. Miami Marlins
True to their name, this franchise now has the appearance of a minor league team in the old International League.

Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals

In this tight division, one major injury, one major trade, one major breakout season can tip the scales. Could the trade be Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to St. Louis? Could the breakout season belong to pitcher Trevor Rosenthal?

2. Cincinnati Reds
Shin-Soo Choo should stabilize the lineup at the leadoff spot, but will his defense in center field be too big of a weakness? If Aroldis Chapman succeeds as a starter, the Reds could run away with this mediocre division.

3. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were remarkably restrained during this winter’s free agency frenzy. Congrats to them for not overpaying for overhyped players. But there’s not enough firepower here to overcome both red teams.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates
Could this finally be the year when the losing streak is broken?

5. Chicago Cubs
Next year. No really, next year.

West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers

What’s not to like about this roster? Oh, the fact that it didn’t challenge the Giants last season. Oh yeah. But give Don Mattingly a chance to have all the stars in the clubhouse from the beginning of spring training and we’ll see how well he learned from his former boss Joe Torre about managing a roster full of superstars.

2. San Francisco Giants
Go ahead and pencil this team in as the host of the wild card play-in game.

3. San Diego Padres
Moving the fences in may propel Chase Headley headlong into the MVP discussion.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks
The pitching should be sound, but where’s the punch in the lineup to protect Justin Upton? Paul Goldschmidt? Jason Kubel?

5. Colorado Rockies
Another winter, another futile search for pitching.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)


 

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Teaser:
<p> Early MLB Predictions for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, January 2, 2013 - 05:00
Path: /mlb/10-greatest-indivdual-games-mlb-2012
Body:

In a season that will be remembered for perfect games, no-hitters and near misses, there were lots of options for this list. Here goes my top 10. Send me yours.

More Year in Review for 2012:
College Football
NFL
College Basketball

Golf

2012 Year in review: Baseball's top 10 individual performances

1. Panda becomes a World Series home run hero
Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval. Those are the four players who have hit three home runs in a World Series game. The Kung Fu Panda struck in Game 1 last October on his way to earning the World Series MVP award. Sandoval performed large on the biggest stage of the season.

2. Josh Hamilton assaults Baltimore pitching
Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers sandwiched a double between four home runs in his assault on Baltimore pitching on May 8. Hamilton hit two homers and the double off Orioles starter Jake Arrieta. He then victimized Zach Phillips and Darren O’Day. Hamilton raised his AL-leading batting average to .406 with his five hits and ended the day with 14 homers and 36 RBIs, both tops in the American League, making him the early favorite for AL MVP.
 

3. Justin Verlander dominates the Pirates
Justin Verlander was honored with two nominations on this list. The most notable was his four-hit, one-walk shutout against the Oakland A’s in the deciding Game 5 of the ALDS. However, his most dominating effort came in May with a one-hit shutout of the Pirates. Josh Harrison bounced a hit up the middle in the ninth inning to break up the no-hitter. Verlander walked two and just two runners reached second base in the 6-0 Tigers win.

4. Raul Ibanez takes over for A-Rod

It took guts for New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi to pinch-hit for star Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning with the game on the line in Game 3 of the ALDS. But Raul Ibanez was called off the bench to hit for A-Rod with the Yankees down 2-1 with one out and facing Baltimore closer Jim Johnson, who had been lights out all season. Ibanez rewarded his manager not once but twice. He took Johnson deep to tie the game, sending it to extra innings. Ibanez struck again in the 12th inning with a bomb to win it, giving the Yankees an edge in the series.

5. Humber, Cain and Hernandez pitch perfect games

As mentioned above, it seemed as if some pitcher was flirting with a no-hitter every couple of nights. So, to honor the perfect games, I present them as a three-way tie for No. 5.

Phil Humber of the White Sox entered the season with a modest 11-10 lifetime record with just 214.1 innings in his 6-year career. But in his second start of 2012, the journeyman righthander tossed a perfect game at Seattle, striking out nine in the White Sox 4-0 win.

Matt Cain, the ace of the Giants, was at his best in a 10-0 whitewashing of the Astros. Cain struck out 14 in his perfect game. He had a three-ball count on just four hitters, striking out three of them in his masterpiece.

Just 11 days after a masterful performance at Yankee Stadium in which Felix Hernandez needed just 101 pitches in a two-hit 1-0 win over the Yankees, he threw a perfect game at home against the Rays. Once again, there was very little run support for King Felix as the Mariners won 1-0. Hernandez whiffed 12 Rays in the 113-pitch effort.

6. R.A. Dickey strikes out the Orioles
The National League Cy Young winner also had two stellar performances seriously considered for our greatest list. After winning three consecutive starts without allowing a run, R.A. Dickey won back-to-back one-hitters over Tampa Bay and Baltimore. He didn’t walk a batter in the win over the Rays, but allowed an unearned run. So, the performance that is officially No. 6 came when Dickey walked just two and struck out 13 in the win over the Orioles.

7. Ryan Braun blows up San Diego

Ryan Braun, the reigning NL MVP, had four of the Brewers’ seven hits and drove home six of their eight runs in Milwaukee’s 8-5 win at San Diego. After hitting home runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings, Braun came to the plate in the ninth inning with an opportunity for a rare four-home run game. He tripled in a couple of runs with a shot to deep right-center.

8. Mike Napoli's 6 RBIs against the Angels

With the Rangers struggling to stay on top of the AL West as the Oakland A’s surged, Texas fell behind the Angels 4-0 in the first inning. It was Mike Napoli to the rescue as he homered in the second and third innings before adding a double in the fifth. His six RBIs helped the Rangers take an 8-4 lead in a game they would eventually win 8-7.

9. Curtis Granderson's 5-hit game

Curtis Granderson joined Josh Hamilton as the only players with a five-hit game in 2012 that included as many as three round-trippers. The Twins led 4-0 after the top of the first, but after two-run homers by the Yankees’ center fielder in the first and second innings, the Yankees led 6-4. He added his third home run of the day in the fourth, then singled in his last two at-bats in search of a fourth dinger.

10. Aaron Cook uses 81 pitches of awesomeness to beat Seattle

This game didn’t get much attention in a season when no-hitters were relatively common, but Aaron Cook’s effort in a 5-0 win over Seattle was among the best all season. Needing just 81 pitches — the fewest for any complete game in 2012 — Boston’s Cook didn’t allow any Mariners to reach second base. He faced just one batter over the minimum as he allowed two singles with both runners erased on double plays. Another batter reached on an error and was stranded at first. Cook had a two-ball count on just three batters the entire game.
 

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie or email him at Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com)

Teaser:
<p> Pablo Sandoval's amazing World Series game makes our list&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /MtRushmore
Body:

Every MLB team should have its own Mt. Rushmore — four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization. Here is one man’s opinion for all 30 Mt. Rushmores from Aaron Cook for Colorado to Babe Ruth for New York. Depending on the organization and how long the franchise has existed, some teams were difficult to find four worthy players. Most teams provided ardent debate.

Below, you’ll find links to all 30 Mt. Rushmores.

 

American LeagueNational League
Baltimore OriolesArizona Diamondbacks
Boston Red SoxAtlanta Braves
Chicago White SoxChicago Cubs
Cleveland IndiansCincinnati Reds
Detroit TigersColorado Rockies
Houston AstrosMiami Marlins
Kansas City RoyalsLos Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles AngelsMilwaukee Brewers
Minnesota TwinsNew York Mets
New York YankeesPhiladelphia Phillies
Oakland A'sPittsburgh Pirates
Seattle MarinersSan Diego Padres
Tampa Bay RaysSan Francisco Giants
Texas RangersSt. Louis Cardinals
Toronto Blue JaysWashington Nationals
 

 


Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /mlb/baseballs-worst-free-agent-signings-ever
Body:

With the news that the Los Angeles Angels just signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract for a reported $125 million, it begs the question: Five years from now, will this be viewed as one of the worst free agent deals in history? If so, Hamilton must “outperform” these big-money free agents from the distant and recent past.

Here's our look the worst free agent signings in baseball history. 

Wayne Garland, Cleveland, 1977
The Indians were determined to make a splash in the first year of free agency. The appeal of Garland was his recent 20-7, 2.67 season in Baltimore. Perhaps they didn’t notice he had just 33 career starts. The 10-year, $2.3 million deal gave the Tribe a 13-19 record in 1977 and a 15-29 mark over the next four seasons, then retirement and five years of the contract to eat.

Dave Goltz, L.A. Dodgers, 1977    
The Dodgers thought Goltz would bolster their rotation and gave him a six-year contract worth upwards of $2.5 million. He was waived in April of 1979.

Mark Davis, Kansas City, 1990
Davis’ huge 44-save season in 1989 and Cy Young award for San Diego was just too enticing for the Royals. Never mind he had just two seasons with more than seven saves at that point. It took only 15 appearances in 1990 to lose the closer’s job for good. His tenure in K.C. began with five saves, four blown saves and a 7.24 ERA, with 11 walks in 13.2 innings.

Carl Pavano, N.Y. Yankees, 2005
Proof that the Yankees can withstand bad contracts is that Pavano made $39.9 million over four years, but made just 26 starts for the Yankees, finishing with a 9-8 record and 5.00 ERA. Adding to the pain is that in 2009, he made 33 starts for Cleveland and Minnesota combined and won 14 games, while earning just $1.5 million.

Carlos Silva, Seattle, 2008
In 2008, $12 million per season was the going rate for a No. 2 starter. Apparently that was what the Mariners thought they were getting with their four-year, $48 million investment. But in four seasons as a full-time starter with Minnesota, Silva was 47-45 while the Twins were 52 games better than .500. The M’s found out the hard way that he wasn’t a No. 2 starter after all, going 5-18 in two seasons prior to his trade to the Cubs for Milton Bradley, perhaps an even bigger problem.

Jason Schmidt, L.A. Dodgers, 2007
The Dodgers grew tired of facing the Giants’ ace for five and a half seasons, so Los Angeles signed the supposedly durable righthander for three years and $47 million. After going 78-37 for San Francisco, Schmidt mustered only 10 starts over three seasons with the Dodgers, finishing 3-6 with a 6.02 ERA.

Edgar Renteria, Boston, 2005
After making the final out of the 2004 World Series, which gave the Red Sox their first championship since 1918, Renteria inked a four-year, $36 million deal with Boston. That was the going rate for top shortstops. After a season of uninspired play, which gnawed at fans and management, the Red Sox paid the Braves to take on the final three years of his deal in exchange for Andy Marte.

Barry Zito, San Francisco, 2007
He won a Cy Young with Oakland at age 24, and signed a seven-year, $126 million deal. But in his first five seasons with San Francisco he was 43-61 with a 4.55 ERA and was left off the 2010 postseason roster. He redeemed himself to some degree in 2012 with a 15-8, 4.15 season. And the Giants won all three of his postseason starts.

Jayson Werth, Washington, 2011
His name is Werth, not worth. Prior to signing a seven-year, $126 million deal with the Nationals, Werth had never hit .300, nor had he ever driven in 100. This came a year after Matt Holliday signed with St. Louis for seven years and $120 million.

Chone Figgins, Seattle, 2010
The Mariners believed they were stealing the division title away from the Angels by taking their leadoff hitter Figgins. The thinking was that Figgins and Ichiro atop the Mariners’ lineup would put immense pressure on defenses. Turns out the pressure was on Figgins. He hit .259 and stole 42 bases his first season in Seattle. Since then, he’s hit .185 and been a non-factor on the bases.

Joe Rudi, California, 1977
In a five-year, $2.09 million pact, the Angels paid for a .285 average and about 80 RBIs and 70 runs. They received a .249 average, about 60 RBIs and less than 50 runs. However, the club packaged Rudi prior to the final year of his contract in a deal with the Red Sox that brought the Angels Fred Lynn.

Larry Hisle, Milwaukee, 1978
Coming off a .302 average and a AL-leading 119 RBIs as a 30-year-old in 1977, Hisle appeared to be a plum signing for the Brewers, at six years, $3.155 million. Even after his first season in Milwaukee (.290-34-115) in which he finished third in MVP voting, the Brewers were thrilled. That’s where the joy ended. For the next four seasons, he totaled 79 games, 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. He played his final game in May of 1982 with almost two full years left on his deal.

Roger Clemens, N.Y. Yankees, 2007
Hoping for one last hurrah from their former ace, the Yankees committed more than $17 million to Clemens in May, knowing they would get less than 20 starts from him. Clemens didn’t provide a boost of any kind. The Yankees lost nine of his 17 starts, and he averaged less than six innings per start, so the bullpen was not spared. In his lone postseason foray in 2007, he lasted just 2.1 innings in a loss to Cleveland.

Bob Horner, St. Louis, 1988
After a year in Japan, the Cardinals believed that the long-time Brave could rekindle his offensive prowess in the States. Injuries, sub-par hitting and horrendous defense are the lasting memories in St. Louis. He hit three homers in 60 games.

Richie Sexson, Seattle, 2005
His four-year, $50 million deal seemed a bit excessive at the time, but he provided good value in his first two seasons. Seattle released him midseason during the fourth year of the contract, eating about $8 million.

Albert Belle, Baltimore, 1999
After a season with 108 runs, 117 RBIs and 101 walks, it appeared that the Orioles’ $60 million investment might work out. Then Belle’s body began to break down, and he suited up just one more season, although he was paid for four additional years after he unofficially retired.

Teaser:
<p> With the news that the Los Angeles Angels just signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year contract for a reported $125 million, it begs the question: Five years from now, will this be viewed as one of the worst free agent deals in history?</p>
Post date: Thursday, December 13, 2012 - 15:06
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, News
Path: /nfl/121212
Body:

As we celebrate 12/12/12 today, the number 12 has been associated with many aspects of our everyday lives — and in sports. We enjoyed “The Dirty Dozen.” We buy eggs by the dozen. We’re familiar with “Cheaper By the Dozen,” and we have a song about “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

But today we recognize the 12 Best Athletes to have worn the No. 12.

1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots
The New England quarterback entered the league as a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 and saw action in just one game his rookie season. He took over the starting job after Drew Bledsoe was injured in Week 2 of 2001 and led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl title. He will leave the game as arguably the best ever at his position.

2. Terry Bradshaw, Pittsburgh Steelers
The No. 1 overall draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970 didn’t wow with stats, but his teams won — and won big. He led the Steelers to four Super Bowl wins in the 1970s, earning league MVP honors in 1978 and was the Super Bowl MVP twice.

3. John Stockton, Utah Jazz
It’s rare to hear the name Stockton without “and Malone” following, as Stockton and Karl Malone formed one of the greatest tandems in NBA history. The crafty point led the Utah Jazz to 19 consecutive playoff appearances. Stockton started 1,300 games for the Jazz and led the NBA in assists for nine straight seasons, a span that included a time when Magic Johnson was at the top of his game with the Showtime Lakers.

4. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The 2011 NFL MVP as well as the Super Bowl MVP after that season is quickly moving up the list of the greatest signal-callers in NFL history.

5. Roger Staubach, Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys drafted the 1963 Heisman Trophy winner in the 10th round in 1964, but due to his commitments to the Navy, Staubach didn’t appear in a Dallas uniform until 1969 at the age of 27. He led the Cowboys to four Super Bowls, winning two, one as MVP.

6. Dickie Moore, Montreal Canadiens
The Hall of Famer led the NHL in goals once and assists once. But he was an impact player with the Habs on six championship teams, including five consecutive Stanley Cups from 1956-60.

7. Yvan Cournoyer, Montreal Canadiens
Cournoyer took over from Moore and continued the legacy of No. 12 in Montreal. The Hall of Famer was part of eight championships with the Canadiens.

8. Jim Kelly, Buffalo Bills
Kelly started 160 games for the Buffalo Bills over an 11-year career in which he led the Bills to the playoffs eight times, including four consecutive Super Bowls.

9. Joe Namath, New York Jets
Broadway Joe learned the game from Bear Bryant at Alabama, and sports fans learned of the AFL from Joe Willie Namath. His brash Super Bowl prediction prior to Super Bowl III remains one of the signature moments in NFL history.

10. Bobby Allison, NASCAR
The racing legend drove car No. 12 to Victory Lane 25 times.

11. Roberto Alomar, Toronto Blue Jays/Cleveland Indians (primarily)
The Hall of Fame second baseman was a 12-time All-Star, won 10 Gold Gloves and finished in the top six in MVP voting five times.

12. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls
The man who made the No. 23 famous wore No. 12 for one game in 1990. On Valentine’s night at Orlando, Jersey donned No. 12 after his jersey had been stolen prior to the game. He put up 49 on the Magic in 47 minutes, but the Bulls lost 135-129.

A Dozen More
Dick Barnett, NBA
Wade Boggs, MLB (Yankees and Rays)
John Brodie, NFL
Lauren Cheney, USA Soccer
Bob Griese, NFL
Thierry Henry, France Soccer
Dwight Howard, NBA
Andrew Luck, NFL
Ryan Newman, NASCAR
A.J. Pierzynski, MLB
Alfonso Soriano, MLB
Ken Stabler, NFL

Teaser:
<p> Celebrating 12/12/12 by looking at the athletes who made 12 awesome</p>
Post date: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /mlb/early-mlb-predictions-2013
Body:

It’s never too early to start thinking about 2013. At least now that the World Series is over. I mean, what else is there to think about? Pitchers and catchers report in a little more than 100 days. Certainly, key trades and free agent signings will tweak these predictions as we get deeper into the offseason. But for now, here’s an early, early look at how the standings might appear next October.

American League
East
1. Tampa Bay Rays
No one in the division will be able to match the Rays’ pitching, and expect Joe Maddon to find an offensive force from an unexpected source.

2. New York Yankees
The decline of the pinstripes is happening before our eyes, but the roster still includes some of the best players on the planet.

3. Baltimore Orioles
After everything, I mean everything, went right for Buck Showalter’s troops in 2012, it’s back down to earth in Baltimore, especially for the pitching staff.

4. Toronto Blue Jays
Will losing manager John Farrell retard this team’s progress?

5. Boston Red Sox
This club has the resources to fix problems quickly with smart decisions.


Central
1. Detroit Tigers
It’s easy to see how Detroit can improve on its 88 wins this season.

2. Cleveland Indians
Somehow Terry Francona will keep this team focused and in the race.

3. Kansas City Royals
How many years now have we been hearing about all the prized prospects the Royals have collected?

4. Chicago White Sox
We were oh so wrong about this team this past summer. Can they surprise us again?

5. Minnesota Twins
Not enough pitching. Not enough hitting.


West
1. Los Angels Angels
Don’t expect this club to suffer through another horrendous start.

2. Texas Rangers
The championship window is far from closed, even without Josh Hamilton.

3. Oakland A’s
Can the Green and Gold win 94 games and the division again? We don’t think so.

4. Seattle Mariners
No more last-place finishes for a while.

5. Houston Astros
This rebuilding road is long and winding.


National League
East
1. Atlanta Braves
The Braves will have the best pitching in the East this season, not the Nats.

2. Washington Nationals
The Nats look more like a solid wild card team, but just a little magic can make them a division champion again.

3. Philadelphia Phillies
With aging stars, injuries are expected, which will keep this team from winning the division.

4. Miami Marlins
This team is talented enough that a strong manager could have the Fish competing for the wild card.

5. New York Mets
Will another championship opportunity come along during David Wright’s prime?


Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
A potent lineup and some young power arms will keep the team in contention.

2. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brew Crew finished the season with a strong second half.

3. Cincinnati Reds
The lineup just isn’t deep enough to stay on top.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates
In a close division, there may not be much separating first from fourth.

5. Chicago Cubs
Better, but not very good.


West
1. San Francisco Giants
Pitching, defense, and don’t be surprised to see the Giants make a free agency splash.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Given this much talent together in spring training, Don Mattingly could become this generation’s Joe Torre.

3. San Diego Padres
The youngsters are developing and the fences are moving in.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks
Will Justin Upton be in a D-Backs’ uniform in Spring Training?

5. Colorado Rockies
It seems like the Rox are starting over every few years, especially with their pitching staff.

Teaser:
<p> Early MLB Predictions for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, December 7, 2012 - 05:45
Path: /mlb/2012-world-series-preview-pitching-pitching-pitching
Body:

The San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers—both of these franchises have been in business for more than 100 years, but the two tradition-laden clubs have never met in the World Series. Detroit has won 11 American League pennants, winning the World Series four times. The Tigers last won the Series in 1984 and lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. Since 1900, the Giants have 19 pennants, appearing the World Series 18 times, winning six, the most recent coming just two years ago when they defeated the Texas Rangers in 2010.

2012 World SeriesThis matchup features two of the best pitching staffs in baseball, especially when it comes to starting pitching. The two ballparks play well for pitchers as does cooler weather. So don’t expect any shootouts in this series.

Having said that, the two players expected to take their respective Most Valuable Player awards — Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey — lead their offenses, but pitching will rule the day.

In 2006, the Tigers swept the ALCS and then had a six-day layoff, which could have played a role in the Detroit offense coming out flat against St. Louis. Manager Jim Leyland tried to keep his troops sharp and their timing down by playing a couple of intrasquad games on Sunday and Monday. If the Detroit hitters come out slow this fall, at least the Tigers’ pitchers are well-rested. Ace Justin Verlander is set to pitch Game 1 followed by Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer.

San Francisco has no time to rest having finished off three pressure-packed games. That could work in the Giants’ favor in terms of keeping the hitters locked in. But the starting pitching doesn’t line up exactly how Bruce Bochy would like. Having to use Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain in Games 3 and 4 is not optimal, but Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum should be up to the task. Having Cain available for just one game is not what the Giants had in mind.

The Detroit bullpen has struggled of late, and the Tigers’ defense could let the pitchers down. San Francisco loves close, low-scoring games, and these games should play out just like Giants manager Bochy relishes.

Prediction: San Francisco in 7

Trivia Corner
There are 16 players on the Tigers and Giants World Series rosters who have played for winning teams in a previous World Series. Can you name the only player in this year’s Classic to have played for two World Series champs? (Answer below)

Buster PoseySan Francisco Giants
Lineup
During the regular season, the Giants relied on Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey to carry the offense. However, in the postseason it’s been table-setters Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro who have established the tone. The Cardinals held Posey and fifth-place hitter Hunter Pence in check, but the damage was done at the top. Lest you think that Scutaro has been some kind of postseason wonder, think again. After the Giants acquired him in July, he hit .362 in 61 games, sparking the most potent offense in the league during the second half. Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford were solid at the bottom of the order in the NLCS.

Rotation
The Giants’ rotation matches up well with any team in baseball. It starts with Matt Cain — a strong Cy Young candidate — and Ryan Vogelsong. Cain pitched the Giants into the World Series with 5.2 scoreless innings in Game 7 of the NLCS. Vogelsong allowed fewer than one baserunner per inning in his three starts with a 1.42 ERA. Former Cy Young winners Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito earned starts after struggling at times during the season.

Bullpen
Even though the Giants lost eccentric and effective closer Brian Wilson to injury very early in the season, San Francisco has a collection of relievers that manager Bruce Bochy mixes and matches to gain advantages. Sergio Romo gets most of the save opportunities, but Santiago Casilla is called on to get tough outs from the right side. Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder will see lots of lefties Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. The four combined for 12.2 scoreless innings against St. Louis.

Defense
The Giants have Gold Glove caliber defense all over the field. Crawford and Scutaro are smooth up the middle, while Posey behind the plate and Belt at first base are stellar. These guys will not beat themselves and will take pressure off the pitching staff. Third baseman Sandoval is the only sub-par defender on the field.

Path to the World Series
The Giants added Scutaro just prior to the trade deadline. Their NL West rival Los Angeles Dodgers added Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and the injured Carl Crawford. After that point, the Giants led the NL in scoring while the Dodgers finished at the bottom of the league. Once in the playoffs, San Francisco seemed to thrive with their backs to the wall. Facing elimination three times against the Reds in Cincinnati, then three more times against St. Louis, the Giants were 6-0 in those games.


Miguel CabreraDetroit Tigers
Lineup
The Prince Fielder-Miguel Cabrera duo provides the Tigers a 1-2 punch among the best in baseball. While Cabrera, who at least one hit in all LCS games he appeared in his career, became the first triple crown winner since 1967, this lineup is much deeper than the two sluggers in the middle. Leadoff hitter Austin Jackson leads the club with five extra-base hits in the postseason. Jhonny Peralta is batting .343 in the playoffs, and ALCS MVP Delmon Young drove in as many runs as the entire Yankees team in the series.

Rotation
Justin Verlander is pitching as well right now as anytime in his career, including a 132-pitch gem in Game 3 of the ALCS. The ace has won all three of his postseason starts this year. Combined, the four starters — Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister — have a 1.02 ERA and 0.87 WHIP in 62 innings against the A’s and Yankees.

Bullpen
Closer Jose Valverde, who was perfect in 49 save situations in 2011, has been anything but perfect in the postseason. In only 2.1 innings this postseason, Valverde has given up seven of the 16 earned runs allowed by the Tigers. Phil Coke, who saved Games 2 and 3 of the ALCS, may be called upon to close games in the World Series. Coke was effective as the closer, but that leaves Drew Smyly, who was a starter all season, as the only other lefthander. Octavio Dotel, who was so good last season during the Cardinals’ magical run, will play a pivotal role, especially against the right-handed Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

Defense
Detroit doesn’t make too many errors, but they don’t do the pitching staff any favors by taking away base hits, especially in the infield. The Tigers’ pitchers are much more effective when they are missing bats because too many balls put in play tend to find holes.

Path to the World Series
Detroit won just 88 games — the seventh-best record in the AL — and took over first place in the AL Central from the White Sox with seven days left in the season. Although they were pushed to a fifth game by Oakland in the ALDS, the Tigers made it look pretty easy in the AL playoffs. The Yankees were a pushover in the ALCS. Detroit outscored New York 19-6 as the Tigers’ pitchers held the Yankees to a .157 batting average. Detroit held the A’s to a .194 average in the ALDS.

Trivia Answer
San Francisco reliever Javier Lopez faced two batters, giving up two hits, for the Boston Red Sox in 2007. He also faced two batters in 2010 for the Giants, retiring both.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Expect low-scoring, close games from Giants and Tigers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 - 09:40
Path: /mlb/st-louis-cardinals-vs-san-francisco-giants-nlcs-preview
Body:

Neither the Giants nor the Cardinals made anything look easy in the NLDS. After losing the first two games at home, the Giants handed the Reds three losses in a row in Cincinnati, the only time the Reds dropped three straight at home all season. The Cardinals — stop me if you’ve heard this before — were down to their last strike twice, down two runs at Washington. Now the last two world champions will meet in a rematch of the 1987 and 2002 NLCS. The teams split six regular season games. The Giants outhit the Cardinals .281 to .247 but the Cardinals hit for extra bases and outslugged the Giants .428 to .389. San Francisco outscored St. Louis 30-22, but that included a 15-0 blowout. Bruce Bochy’s troops win with excellent pitching and just enough hitting. St. Louis relies on a potent offense, which at times struggles with inconsistency. They scored 2, 12, 8, 1 and 9 runs against the Nationals in the NLDS.

Keys for San Francisco
The Giants hit just .194 in the Reds’ series, getting outhit in two of their wins. They managed just three hits in their 10-inning win in Game 3. San Francisco cannot win games that turn into shootouts, but they love close, low-scoring games.

Keys for St. Louis
The Cardinals seem to manage the staff through the first six innings pretty well. Whether it’s Chris Carpenter shutting down teams, or relievers Joe Kelly et al picking up the slack when Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright couldn’t get through three innings. And closing out games can be an adventure, but when given run support, the Redbirds’ pitchers don’t throw away too many games. So getting the offense going will be the difference.

Giants to Watch
The offense revolves around Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey. However, center fielder Angel Pagan provided a huge spark in August and September and was instrumental in the wins at Cincinnati from his leadoff positon. The Cardinals will try to negotiate around the big hitters in the middle. If Marco Scutaro can be effective as a table-setter and Hunter Pence proves he can drive in big runs, the Giants will be tough to beat. It will be interesting to see whether Bochy goes with Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito in Game 4. The Giants have won 12 straight when Zito starts, but he struggled in Game 4 and was bailed out by Lincecum, who looked more like the Cy Young Lincecum than the out-of-sorts pitcher we’ve seen all season. Lincecum was certainly more effective than Zito, but is more suited to coming out of the pen, where he has proven to be a weapon.

Cardinals to Watch
Leadoff hitter Jon Jay is 11-for-18 against the scheduled starters for the first three games. With Jay on base in front of Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Allen Craig, life will be much more difficult for the Giants’ starters. Manager Mike Matheny, who has juggled lineups all season in an effort to keep guys sharp, has stuck with the same batting order in the postseason. But if he needs to change things up, look for Matt Carpenter in the lineup against Matt Cain. He was 4-for-4 this season off the Giants’ ace while David Freese was 0-for-4 with three Ks. However, I don’t see Matheny pulling Freese. Adam Wainwright appears to have hit a wall, not unexpected coming of Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011. So Lance Lynn must step up and be the No. 3 starter behind Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse. Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and rookie Shelby Miller could be instrumental out of the bullpen as reliever Mitchell Boggs is showing signs of fatigue.

SAN FRANCISCO IN 6

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the Cardinals-Giants matchup in the NLCS.</p>
Post date: Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 13:16
Path: /mlb/alcs-preview-tigers-over-yankees
Body:

On Sept. 17, the Tigers lost a make-up game to the White Sox that dropped Detroit three games behind Chicago in the American League Central and not even in the wild card discussion. The Tigers finished 11-5 and flipped the standings ending the season with a three-game lead over Chicago. During that time, the Tigers’ starting pitching found a groove. The Yankees, on the other hand, took over first place on June 11 and built a 10-game lead by mid-July before hanging on over Baltimore down the stretch.

The Yankees won six of 10 meetings during the regular season. CC Sabathia struck out 20 in 21.1 innings and allowed 20 hits in his three starts agains the Tigers this season. Sabathia will face Tigers’ ace Justin Verlander in Game 3 and again in Game 7 if the series goes down to the wire. Both pitched complete games in their respective Game 5s in the Division Series.

Keys for Detroit
The Tigers’ offense begins and ends with the two big guys in the middle, triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and his protection Prince Fielder. But the Tigers will live and die with starting pitching. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez combined to go 12-4 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in September. That level of performance continued in the playoffs. Detroit starters held Oakland hitters to a .176 average in their five-game series. They had 41 strikeouts but allowed just 21 hits and 10 walks. Setup man Joaquin Benoit, and especially Jose Valverde, were horrible in the ALDS. That can’t help Jim Leyland’s confidence in his bullpen, which was so good last season. That will put added pressure on the starters to go deeper in games.

Keys for New York
The Yankees must get their bats going. They hit just .211 in the five games with Baltimore. Manager Joe Girardi was able to push all the right buttons, but the lineup can’t rely on clutch swings off the bench to carry the team through a seven-game series. Girardi, who was dealing with the death of his father, was masterful in the Division Series. Whether it was pinch-hitting twice for Alex Rodriguez with the game on the line or benching his aging star for Game 5, Girardi earned his money with tough decisions. But only Derek Jeter (.364) and Mark Teixeira (.353) hit better than .217 off Baltimore pitching. A-Rod wasn’t the only hitter struggling.

Tigers to Watch
Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister will each get two starts if the series goes six games. Fister won his only start against New York this season, but Sanchez was hit hard, lasting just three innings with seven earned runs in his start. First baseman Fielder didn’t have a good series against Oakland stats-wise, but looking a little deeper into his at-bats reveals that he was hitting the ball well. He was robbed of at least four hits with good defensive plays and backed up Oakland outfielders to the track on more than one occasion. If his line drives begin to find holes, he’ll be tough for New York hurlers to deal with.

Yankees to Watch
Lefthander Clay Rapada will have some opportunities to neutralize Fielder. But he could be used to get more than just lefties out. Players on the Tigers roster are 1-13 off Rapada with the only hit by Quintin Berry. Rodriguez and his fragile psyche will certainly grab media attention whether he is in the lineup and no matter where he is in the batting order. But A-Rod isn’t the only Yankee struggling. Second baseman Robinson Cano, who was so good down the stretch, is just 2-for-22.  

Detroit in 5

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees ALCS Preview</p>
Post date: Saturday, October 13, 2012 - 15:34
Path: /mlb/joe-girardi-pinch-hits-rod
Body:

For two days, Yankees manager Joe Girardi deflected questions about moving third baseman Alex Rodriguez down in the batting order for last night’s Game 3 of the ALDS vs. Baltimore due to A-Rod’s recent struggles.

Girardi explained his decision to keep A-Rod near the top of the lineup by saying trust was a major piece of the Yankees’ success. He reiterated how important it is for him to trust his players and that his players trust him. And after Wednesday night, his players have multiple reasons to trust their skipper.

Two moves the manager made in the Yankees’ 12-inning comeback win over the Orioles give fans, media, and most importantly, his players plenty of reasons to trust the fifth-year manager.

The most notable move was pinch-hitting for Rodriguez with the game on the line in bottom of the ninth inning as the Yankees trailed, 3-2. Girardi called on 40-year-old Raul Ibanez to pinch-hit for Rodriguez. The two players’ history together goes back to Appleton Foxes of the Midwest League in 1994. Ibanez, a 36th-round draft pick of Seattle out of Miami, spent much of his time in the minors behind the plate. His was a slow climb through the minors to the big leagues. Rodriguez, a No. 1 overall selection by Seattle out of Miami in 1993, was on a fast track to the bigs, making his debut in 1994.

But on October 10, 2012, Girardi had more faith in the lefty Ibanez against the Orioles’ premier closer Jim Johnson. And Ibanez rewarded his manager, not once, but twice. His solo home run in the ninth inning sent the game into extra frames. Ibanez, making just $1.1 million this season with no 2013 contract, came up again leading off the 12th inning off tough young lefthander Brian Matusz. Ibanez sent another pitch into the right field seats for a walk-off winner.

The other decision Girardi made? It may be meaningless, but Derek Jeter was not on the field for the final 12 outs. After fouling a pitch off his foot early in the game, Jeter was noticeably limping after singling in the sixth. Girardi called on Jayson Nix to play shortstop in the ninth inning. Last night, the defensive replacement was most likely due to an ailing Jeter. But the door is open for Girardi to replace the future Hall of Famer on defense late in games. Will a healthy Jeter be replaced later this postseason? Maybe not, but Girardi has earned some trust among all his players should he pull the trigger and pull Jeter late in games.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> By pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez and allowing backup shortstop Jayson Nix finish the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi may have opened the final chapter for the Old Guard for New York.</p>
Post date: Thursday, October 11, 2012 - 11:12
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/10-players-most-likely-be-named-national-league-mvp
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the 10 players most deserving of Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors in the National League.

10 MVP Candidates for the National League

1. Buster Posey, San Francisco
With a batting title and more than 100 RBIs, the Giants’ catcher is the unquestioned leader on the NL West champs.
 
2. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
The Brewers’ left fielder finished in the top three of the three triple crown categories.
 
3. Yadier Molina, St. Louis
He led all catchers with 87 assists, and it takes 30 innings for a successful stolen base to happen, but that’s not surprising. He’s fourth in the NL with a .315 average.
 
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
At some point during the season he appeared to be an easy choice. But as the case with the Pirates’ season, the fleet center fielder’s year went down hill too fast.
 
5. Chase Headley, San Diego
He led the NL in homers and RBIs over the second half, finishing with a league-best 115 RBIs. 
 
6. Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee
A-Ram admirably replaced Prince Fielder in the Brewers’ lineup and tied teammate Braun with 80 extra-base hits to lead the circuit.
 
7. David Wright, New York
The Mets’ second half has been so abysmal, Wright’s solid numbers are overlooked. He scored and drove in more than 90 runs for a bad team.
 
8. Allen Craig, St. Louis
The first baseman/outfielder batted .400 in 125 at-bats with runners in scoring position. He has 92 RBIs in just 119 games.
 
9. Martin Prado, Atlanta
He’s made starts at first, second, third, short and left field. He’s been a solid .300 hitter no matter the position or spot in the batting order. He leads the playoff-bound Braves in batting, hits and doubles.
 
10. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati
The fine defensive right fielder is third in the NL in home runs and ninth in slugging.
Teaser:
<p> A look at baseball's most valuable players</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /news/10-players-most-likely-be-named-american-league-mvp
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the 10 players most deserving of Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors in the American League.

10 MVP Candidates for the American League

1. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Triple crown or not, Miggy would have been our man. But we certainly can’t deny a triple crown winner.
 
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles
There have been few sparks like Trout provided the Angels when he was called up in late April. Scoring 129 runs in basically five months is a tremendous accomplishment. But he has 19 fewer extra-base hits than Cabrera.
 
3. Adrian Beltre, Texas
The third baseman has been the most consistent hitter for the Rangers all season. He slugged .661 in August and September. He has been an elite hitter and defender.
 
4. Adam Jones, Baltimore
One reason the Orioles’ record in extra-inning games is so good: Jones’ four homers in the 11th inning or later.
 
5. Josh Hamilton, Texas
The soon-to-be free agent would rank higher if not for the swoon in June and July when he batted just .202.
 
6. Robinson Cano, New York
He’ll win this award one day. He competes defensively and produces runs.
 
7. Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto
The Blue Jays’ DH is all but forgotten in most conversations. But he has 42 dingers, 110 ribbies and a .384 OBP. 
 
8. Prince Fielder, Detroit
The big fella has powered big hits in Motown down the stretch. His .313-30-108 season is overshadowed by Cabrera.
 
9. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
With no previous professional experience outside of Cuba, the rookie center fielder has delivered on his promise after signing a four-year deal.
 
10. Derek Jeter, New York
The future Hall of Fame shortstop led the AL with 216 hits and is fifth in the league in batting. 
Teaser:
<p> A look at baseball's most valuable players</p>
Post date: Friday, October 5, 2012 - 12:18
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/top-6-candidates-baseballs-2012-manager-year
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the six skippers most deserving of Manager of the Year honors in the American and National League.

 
American League
Manager of the Year
1. Buck Showalter, Baltimore
Showalter pieced together a pitching staff that included 12 different starting pitchers and a stellar bullpen with no superstars.
 
2. Bob Melvin, Oakland
The A’s were the best team in baseball over the second half and won the AL West with an Opening Day payroll less than $53 million — considerably less than half of both the Rangers and Angels.
 
3. Robin Ventura, Chicago
The White Sox intimated that they expected 2012 to be a rebuilding year. Ventura had other plans.
 
 
 
National League
Manager of the Year
1. Davey Johnson, Washington
Johnson managed the team amid distractions from the front office that included the Stephen Strasburg debacle and has given the city postseason baseball for the first time since 1933.
 
2. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco
The even-keeled Bochy keeps delivering winners to the Bay Area, even though a certain rival committed an extra $300 million while the Giants lost a key cog to suspension.
 
3. Dusty Baker, Cincinnati
With his superstar sidelined and sketchy starting pitching, Baker and the Reds cruised to the NL Central title.
 
Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 14:52
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/6-players-most-likely-be-named-baseballs-rookie-year
Body:

What a fascinating season 2012 proved to be. A Triple Crown, a division champion having spent just one day in first place and 19- and 20-year-olds taking the league by storm. As postseason baseball begins, it’s time to reflect on the season by showing off what would be my ballot for various awards. Today, I reveal the six players most deserving of Rookie of the Year honors in the American and National League.

American League
Rookie of the Year
1. Mike Trout, Los Angeles
The youngster took the AL by storm and stole 49 bases while getting caught just five times. He scored 129 runs in just 139 games.
 
2. Yu Darvish, Texas
Averaged 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings and just 7.3 hits.
 
3. Yoenis Cespedes, Oakland
He missed 22 games in May, then hit .305 from June 1 on.
 
 
 
 
 
 
National League
Rookie of the Year
1. Bryce Harper, Washington
The young phenom is not a clear choice by any means. However, he has 98 runs and has hit .333 with a .394 OBP and .660 slugging since Aug. 24.
 
2. Norichika Aoki, Milwaukee
Expected to be the fourth outfielder, Aoki made just three starts in April. After he was inserted in the starting lineup on a regular basis May 21, the Brewers were 66-55.
 
3. Wade Miley, Arizona
The lefthander was 14-9 with a 2.85 at the end of August and appeared to have the inside track for Rookie of the Year. He finished 16-11 with a 3.33 ERA.
 
—Charlie Miller
Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 4, 2012 - 14:07
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-sept-17
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week for September 17, 2012.

 1. Nationals — Every game remaining is against a team in the race.

 2. Reds — Huge offensive slump in September.

 3. Rangers — Lost just one series at home in the second half.

 4. Braves — Took the fight to the Nats over the weekend.

 5. Giants — Will have advantage in most postseason pitching matchups.

 6. A’s — Seven games left with division-leading Rangers.

 7. Yankees — Bronx Bombers hanging on for dear life.

 8. Orioles — Face losing teams for the next 13 games.

 9. Angels — Streaky Angels hot once again, but may be too late.

10. Rays — Tampa Bay’s offense doesn’t scare anyone.

11. White Sox — Lost 11 of 16 before sweeping Twins in Minnesota.

12. Cardinals — Chris Carpenter set to pitch on Friday.

13. Dodgers — Couldn’t overtake Redbirds in four-game set.

14. Tigers — Max Scherzer leads AL with eight wins in second half.

15. Brewers — Brew Crew creeping into the wild card discussion.

16. Phillies — Wishing they had Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino back?

17. Pirates — Struggling to finish the season at .500.

18. Padres — Won 19 of their last 25.

19. Diamondbacks — Young pitching staff gaining valuable experience.

20. Mariners — Have 18 chances left to play spoiler.

21. Blue Jays — 11 games remaing with Yankees and Orioles combined.

22. Royals — Youngsters have scored the most runs in AL in September.

23. Mets — Trying to get R.A. Dickey to 20 wins, Cy Young award.

24. Marlins — Jose Reyes leads team in singles, doubles, triples since break.

25. Red Sox — Only team in either league without a shutout since the break.

26. Indians — 5.24 second half ERA is worst in majors.

27. Cubs — Alfonso Soriano earns third 100-RBI season of his career.

28. Twins — Samuel Deduno best pitcher over last two months.

29. Rockies — Rookie Wilin Rosario leads team with 24 homers.

30. Astros — Haven’t lost 100 games — yet.

 

AL Player of the Week

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit—In his pursuit of the triple crown, Cabrera bashed Chicago and Cleveland pitching last week with a .407 average and 1.243 OPS. He had at least one run and one RBI in six of the seven games, finishing with seven of each. The triple crown is possible, but it will take a power surge from Cabrera. He’s one point ahead of Mike Trout in batting average, tied with Josh Hamilton with 123 RBIs, and trails Hamilton by four home runs with three players in between.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Jarrod Parker, Oakland—The 23-year-old righthander won both starts last week against teams fighting for a playoff spot. He defeated the Angels on the road and the Orioles at home. Parker, drafted No. 9 overall by Arizona in 2007, was acquired from the Diamondbacks in a deal that included Trevor Cahill moving to Arizona. In 14 innings last week, Parker allowed 11 hits, three walks and struck out seven.

 

NL Player of the Week

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia—Buster Posey continued his assault on the NL MVP award with another strong week at the plate, but Rollins was even better. Doing what a leadoff hitter should, Rollins reached base at a .471 clip and led the majors with nine runs. He stole five bases without being caught and batted .393. He also hit three homers.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Wily Peralta, Milwaukee—The Brewers have climbed back into the wild card race, ending the week just 2.5 games out. Peralta, who has made just three major league starts, has given a lift to Milwaukee’s rotation. The Brewers won both of his starts last week, defeating the Braves and Mets. Peralta tossed eight shutout innings in the win over New York on Sunday, allowing just two hits and one walk.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, September 17, 2012 - 16:52
Path: /baseballs-half-million-error
Body:

According to the greatest baseball research website in the world, Baseball-Reference.com, MLB and its players are approaching the 500,000th recorded error since 1876. Wow, a half-million miscues.

With 499,982 as of today, Sept. 15, some unfortunate dude will make the milestone mess-up most likely on Sunday, Sept. 16 (or the next day).


Here are our Top 10 candidates to make history:

10. Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies
Rosario is developing the reputation as one of the best throwers in the game behind the plate, and he is second in the majors with 69 assists, despite playing in only 82 games. He also leads all catchers in errors with 11.
How it could happen: After Chase Headley beats the throw to the plate on a single by Yasmani Grandal, Rosario steps up to take the throw and tries to get Grandal advancing to second, but his throw sails wide and into center field, which allows the Padres’ catcher to advance to third.


9. Alex Gordon, LF, Royals
Outfielders aren’t charged with errors often, so Gordon isn’t the odds-on favorite. But he’s in love with his arm and seems to enjoy showing it off, which probably has something to do with teammate Jeff Francoeur in right field regularly gunning down runners.
How it could happen: Maicer Izturis of the Angels foolishly attempts to go from first to third on an Albert Pujols single to left center and Gordon throws a pea to third baseman Mike Moustakas. But even the best of throws can hit runners and ricochet awry, leaving the outfielder with the throwing error. Izturis scores as the ball trickles toward the Angels’ dugout.



8. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
I like Andrus’ defense, but he covers ground, and by definition, shortstops tend to make errors.
How it could happen: In an 8-1 Rangers blowout over Seattle in the Texas heat, Andrus ranges to his left, but can’t corral a grounder by the Mariners’ Trayvon Robinson.


7. Daniel Descalso, SS, Cardinals
With shortstop Rafael Furcal out for the season with an elbow injury, Descalso has become the everyday player at the position. It’s not that he’s sub-par, he’s just not accustomed to playing nine innings at the demanding position every day.
How it could happen: The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp hits a sharp ground ball that handcuffs Descalso with no one on in the sixth inning.


6. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Dodgers
Ramirez topped 20 errors in his first three seasons for the Marlins. He’s steadily improved, and he’s made just two in 32 games at short for the Dodgers this season. But it could happen. Besides, shortstop is demanding and having Vin Scully’s immediate impression is always a bonus.
How it could happen: With runners on first and third, the Cardinals’ David Freese rolls over one and hits a ready-made double-play grounder to short, which should get the Dodgers and Chris Capuano out of the fifth inning with no runs. Ramirez boots it, a run scores and the inning continues.


5. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians
It’s been a long season in Cleveland. It’s tough to maintain concentration this late in a disappointing and frustrating year. If the milestone lasts through the weekend, the Twins will be in Cleveland. And who can concentrate on a Tuesday night during a Twins-Indians game?
How it could happen: Josh Willingham’s harmless grounder eats up Cabrera.


4. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals
Desmond has the worst fielding percentage of qualifying NL shortstops. And we know he’ll be in the lineup every day since the Nationals are in the pennant race.
How it could happen: Michael Bourn of Atlanta hits a chopper to short that Desmond rushes and throws in the dirt, eluding first baseman Adam LaRoche, allowing Bourn to sprint to second.



3. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs
Castro is certainly no stranger to errors or mental lapses. And the Cubs will be hosting the Pirates and Reds during this stretch, two teams that love to put pressure on defenses.
How it could happen: After making an error earlier in the game, Castro makes a nice stop in the hole on a Michael McKendry ground ball, but nonchalants the throw and pulls first baseman Anthony Rizzo off the bag.



2. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates
The slugger has found his swing this season and is providing the Bucs with badly needed pop in the lineup. He takes pride in his defense but tries to make plays at times when he shouldn’t, which is why he leads the majors in errors this season.
How it could happen: David DeJesus chops one down the third base line and Alvarez charges hard, bare hands and makes a wide throw to first. Scoring: Infield hit and error.



1. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
Zimmerman, who owns a Gold Glove and has developed a reputation as a superb fielder, has recently become the latest victim of the throwing yips. He has 10 throwing errors this season.
How it could happen: Chipper Jones hits a routine grounder to third, Zimmerman fields, sets himself, and yip, throws it in the seats. Yep. That’s No. 500,000.


The 1,000-Error Club
They just don’t make errors the way they used to. All four in this illustrious club retired before 1915. Pee Wee Reese, who retired at the end of 1958, was the last player to make more than 400 errors, less than half required for this special club membership.

There are just four players in the 1,000-error club. Herman Long leads the pack with 1,096 errors. Bill Dahlen has 1,080, Deacon White made 1,018 and Germany Smith crept into the club with 1,009.

Herman Long, nicknamed “Germany” and the “Flying Dutchman,” played shortstop primarily for 16 seasons with the Boston Beaneaters. His rookie season in 1889 was spent with the Kansas City Cowboys, for which he made 122 errors in 128 games. He topped 100 boots in two other seasons.

Bad Bill Dahlen was a contemporary of Long’s. He was also a shortstop who was charged with 86 errors with the Chicago Colts in 1895.

Deacon White retired in 1890 after 20 seasons of making errors. In the mid-1870s he put together four miraculous seasons of 51, 56, 60 and 64 errors from his catcher position for the Boston Red Stockings. He finished his career with 444 errors at the hot corner and 399 from behind the plate.

Germany Smith — born in Pittsburgh — was a shortstop who spent 15 seasons in the big leagues before retiring in 1898. He wound up his career with 907 runs and 1,009 errors.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Here are our best guesses</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /rookiepitchers
Body:

Baseball has been filled with great pitchers who started their careers with average performances and slowly developed over the course of several seasons. But for a select few hurlers, success came quickly. Here's our look at the best first-year pitchers in baseball history.

1. Fernando Valenzuela, Dodgers, 1981
Fernandomania spread quickly in Southern California, as the young Valenzuela from Mexico dominated NL hitters with his devastating screwball. In the strike-shortened season, the lefty completed nine innings in each of his first eight starts, five of them shutouts. For the season, he twirled eight shutouts, easily leading the league on his way to capturing the Cy Young award. His year continued with five strong starts in the postseason, including a win in Game 5 of the NLCS and Game 3 of the World Series.

2. Neftali Feliz, Rangers, 2010
Feliz, who has since been converted to a starter, established a rookie record with 40 saves (since broken by Craig Kimbrel). Of the 16 runners he inherited, only one scored.

3. Hideo Nomo, Dodgers, 1995
The Japanese League veteran was 6-0 in June with a 0.89 ERA and opponents batted .143 that month. On the season, he allowed 207 baserunners (hits, walks and HBP) and whiffed 236.

4. Mark Fidrych, Tigers, 1976
The Bird was the greatest box office draw Detroit had experienced in years. In the 19 starts Fidrych made at Tiger Stadium, the average attendance was 33,479. The Tigers drew an average of 15,108 in the other 55 home dates. He led the AL with 24 complete games, going 10 or more innings five times, two of those on three days’ rest. The colorful character would talk to the baseball and manicure the mound with his hands.
 
5. Dwight Gooden, Mets, 1984
In his last eight starts, the 19-year-old Gooden was 7-1 with a 1.17 ERA over 69.0 innings. He struck out 95 while allowing only 49 hits plus walks during that span.

6. Craig Kimbrel, Braves, 2011
Manger Fredi Gonzalez wasn’t shy about using his three young relievers, including Kimbrel, who suffered from overuse. On his way to a record-setting 46 saves, he didn’t allow a run from June 14-Sept 8, a span covering 38 appearances and 37.2 innings.

7. Cy Blanton, Pirates, 1935
Blanton led the NL in ERA, WHIP and shutouts. He made nine starts to begin the season without being relieved, and over a six-day period he had two complete games and a save.

8. Vean Gregg, Indians, 1911
The pride of South Dakota State led the American League in ERA and WHIP, finishing 10th in MVP voting.

9. Don Newcombe, Dodgers, 1949
The 23-year-old led the NL with five shutouts, winning Rookie of the Year honors and finishing eighth in MVP balloting. His first start was a five-hit shutout at Cincinnati with no walks and three strikeouts. On Sept. 24 with the Dodgers just a half game behind the Cardinals, Newcombe pitched a complete game four-hitter over the Phillies on two days’ rest.

10. Kaz Sasaki, Mariners, 2000
A 10-year veteran of Japanese baseball, the 32-year-old converted 37 of 40 save opportunities during his first year in the U.S.

11. Roy Oswalt, Astros, 2001
He had a 2.04 ERA in August and September as the Astros won eight of his last 10 starts.

12. Joe Black, Dodgers, 1952
A veteran of the Negro Leagues, Black broke into the majors at age 28. The rubber-armed righthander once racked up three saves and a win over a four-day period, tossing 8.1 shutout innings.

13. Russ Ford, Yankees, 1910
Somehow his 26 wins, 1.65 ERA or 0.881 WHIP didn’t lead the league.

14. Andrew Bailey, A’s, 2009
Bailey had three wins and two holds before he picked up his first save on May 8. He converted his last 21 save opportunities, with five of them more than three outs.

15. Pete Alexander, Phillies, 1911
The 24-year-old from St. Paul, Neb., led the National League in wins, shutouts, innings and hits/9 IP, finishing third in the MVP race.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports baseball expert Charlie Miller identifies the 15 best rookie seasons ever by pitchers. Remember Fernandomania and The Bird?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 20:40
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /rookieseason
Body:

The Angels’ Mike Trout continues to chase history as a 21-year-old rookie bidding to become just the third rookie to win AL MVP honors. How does his season stack up against the best rookie seasons by a positional player of all-time?

Here’s our ranking:

1. Ted Williams, Boston Red Sox, 1939
The Splendid Splinter burst onto the scene in Boston leading the American League with 145 RBIs and 344 total bases. His command of the strike zone was immediately evident by his 107 walks.

2. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals, 2001
After a meteoric rise in the minor leagues, the 13th-round draft pick started more than 30 games at four different positions in 2001. On a team that included Mark McGwire and Jim Edmonds, the rookie led the Redbirds in runs, hits, doubles, home runs and RBIs.

3. Dale Alexander, Detroit Tigers, 1929
His career was brief — only five seasons — due to a knee injury, but his rookie season was stellar. The Tigers’ first baseman led the circuit with 215 hits and did not miss a game. He won a batting title in 1932.

4. Fred Lynn, Boston Red Sox, 1975
Some of his numbers pale when compared to other eras, but the 1970s were not kind to hitters. The Gold Glove outfielder is one of only six rookies with 100 runs and RBIs, and he led the AL in runs, doubles, slugging and OPS. He was the first rookie to win an MVP.

5. Richie Allen, Philadelphia Phillies, 1964
Later known as Dick Allen, the enigmatic slugger had some difficulty finding a home later in his career. But during his rookie season, the Phillies’ offense leaned on him as he led the NL in runs and triples. He started every game at third base.

6. Mark McGwire, Oakland A’s, 1987
Before his arms blew up like Popeye’s, McGwire was a feared slugger for Oakland. Part of the Bash Brothers with Jose Canseco, McGwire established a rookie record with 49 home runs, which led the AL that season.

7. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners, 2001
Ichiro came to America as the owner of seven batting titles in Japan, not exactly inexperienced. But winning a batting title, a stolen base title and earning MVP honors in his first season in the U.S. is impressive.  

8. Tony Oliva, Minnesota Twins, 1964
Oliva won a batting title and led the American League in hits, runs and doubles. He joined Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Harmon Killebrew to form a formidable lineup for the Twins in the 1960s, leading the team to the World Series in 1965, and to two division titles in 1969-70.

9. Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees, 1936
Joltin’ Joe certainly had a spectacular supporting cast, but DiMaggio began his assault on American League pitching right out of the box. He finished eighth in MVP voting and it marked the only time in his career that he led the league in triples.

10. Carlton Fisk, Boston Red Sox, 1972
Fans most vivid memory of Fisk is the stout catcher waving a home run fair to walkoff Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. But Pudge won a Gold Glove as a rookie and led the AL with nine triples. His OPS+ of 162 that season ranks among the best ever for a first-year player.

11. Johnny Mize, St. Louis Cardinals, 1936
The Hall of Famer had a .400 on-base percentage in each of his first six seasons in the majors. He also never dipped below 30 doubles during that time. He missed three full seasons due to military service during WWII, and wasn’t quite the same player when he returned.

12. Frank Robinson, Cincinnati Reds, 1956
Robinson, who would become the first player to win the MVP award in both leagues, got the attention of National League pitchers quickly in 1956. His OPS of .936 finished second in the NL to Duke Snider, and ahead of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Stan Musial.

13. Nomar Garciaparra, Boston Red Sox, 1997
Nomar led the league in hits and triples during his rookie campaign. He earned a trip to the All-Star Game, finished eighth in MVP balloting and won a Silver Slugger award.

14. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers, 2007
His rookie season was briefer than most since he didn’t make his debut until May 25. But his 34 home runs tied for fifth in the league and his .634 slugging topped the NL.

15. Mike Piazza, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1993
The second of five consecutive Dodgers to win the NL Rookie of the Year, Piazza started 141 games behind the plate. He led the Dodgers in average, runs, homers and RBIs.


Honorable Mentions
Del Bissonette, Brooklyn Dodgers, 1928
Del Ennis, Philadelphia Phillies, 1946
Mitchell Page, Oakland A’s, 1977
Paul Waner, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1926

CHECK OUT BASEBALL'S 15 GREATEST ROOKIE PITCHERS

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports picks the best rookie seasons in baseball history.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 06:29
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-sept-10
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week for September 10, 2012.

 1. Nationals — Pacing majors with 58 runs, 24 homers in Sept.

 2. Reds — Leadoff hitters batting just .207, by far worst in majors.

 3. Rangers — Lead down to 3.5 games with seven left with Oakland.

 4. Braves — Kris Medlen unbeatable for Atlanta.

 5. Giants — Starters have 2.02 ERA in 15 games vs. Dodgers.

 6. Yankees — Tough stretch leaves Yanks in battle for division title.

 7. A’s — Green and Gold just keeps winning; 36-17 in second half.

 8. Orioles — Will miss Nick Markakis, who has broken hand.

 9. Rays — Pitchers have a 0.99 WHIP since the break.

10. Angels — 10 blown saves in second half have impeded progress.

11. Cardinals — Jaime Garcia may be Redbirds’ new ace.

12. Dodgers — Mark and A.J. Ellis batting .345 in September.

13. White Sox — Good to have center fielder Alejandro de Aza back in lineup.

14. Tigers — Miguel Cabrera has outside shot at triple crown.

15. Pirates — 63-56 when Neil Walker starts, 9-11 when he doesn’t.

16. Diamondbacks — Winning mark vs. West, below .500 vs. East and Central.

17. Phillies — Haven’t been above .500 since June 1, but getting close.

18. Brewers — Ryan Braun making strong case for another MVP.

19. Mariners — Best last-place team in the majors.

20. Padres — Chase Headley has 58 RBIs in last 52 games.

21. Mets — Only NL team with worse record since the break is Houston.

22. Royals — Batting respectable .277 in 26 games vs. White Sox and Tigers.

23. Blue Jays — Just 14-26 against top three team in AL East.

24. Marlins — 15-13 vs. three NL division leaders.

25. Red Sox — Only 14 extra-base hits in eight September games.

26. Twins — Joe Mauer batting .385 with two outs and RISP.

27. Indians — Fewest homers in majors in second half.

28. Rockies — ERA has dropped from 5.26 in first half to 4.77 after break.

29. Cubs — Alfonso Soriano has 58 extra-base hits and 94 RBIs.

30. Astros — Fewest runs scored, most allowed in NL since the break.

 

            

AL Player of the Week

B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay—The streaky center fielder has finally given the Rays some pop this season. Last week he had five home runs and batted .400 against division leaders New York and Texas as Tampa Bay battles for the final wild card spot. Upton scored seven times and was successful on all three stolen base attempts.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

James Shields, Tampa Bay—With every game for the Rays now essentially a must-win, Shields gave the club two dynamite starts last week in wins over the Yankees and Rangers. In 17 innings, Shields gave up just seven hits, allowed three walks and whiffed 13.

 

NL Player of the Week

Chase Headley, San Diego—The Padres’ third baseman has taken over the National League lead in RBIs. Last week he began with four consecutive two-hit games as the Padres took two of three from both the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. He batted .321 and led the majors with 13 RBIs. He also homered four times.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Kris Medlen, Atlanta—The Braves’ young righthander finally saw his 40.2-inning scoreless streak come to an end, but he defeated the Mets anyway, allowing just two earned runs over six innings. The Braves have won Medlen’s last nine starts. For the week he allowed nine hits, two walks and struck out 15 in 15 innings.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, September 10, 2012 - 16:56
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-august-27
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week for August 27, 2012.

 1. Nationals — Is there some friction among management?

 2. Reds — Winning one of three vs. St. Louis was enough.

3. Rangers — Adrian Beltre joining Josh Hamilton in MVP race.

 4. Yankees — Powerful lineup has scored just 23 runs in last eight games.

 5. Braves — Bullpen much more rested than this time last season.

 6. Rays — Best record in the majors this month.

 7. Giants — Lead the National League in runs in August.

 8. White Sox — Back-to-back home sweep of the Yankees and Mariners.

 9. A’s — Allowed just 29 runs in last 10 games, winning eight.

10. Dodgers — Pull off biggest blockbuster trade in several years.

11. Pirates — Beginning to leak oil.

12. Cardinals — Begin the week at Pittsburgh, end it at Washington - not easy.

13. Orioles — Finished the week tied with Oakland for second wild card spot.

14. Tigers — White Sox come to Motown this weekend.

15. Diamondbacks — After hosting Reds for three, will play 25 straight vs. NL West.

16. Angels — Sweep at Fenway was nice, but have lost 15 of 24.

17. Mariners — Won eight in a row, then lost three one-run games at Chicago.

18. Red Sox — Traded injured player, malcontent and huge contracts to L.A.

19. Phillies — Won five of seven last week vs. first-place teams.

20. Padres — Beginning to separate themselves from the bottom teams.

21. Mets — Won back-to-back just three times since the break.

22. Marlins — Scored four runs or less in last 11 losses.

23. Brewers — 23 blown saves lead the majors.

24. Royals — Won eight of nine inside division with Det. and Minn. this week.

25. Blue Jays — Averaging fewer than three runs a game in August.

26. Indians — Lost 23 of their last 28 games — crashing and burning.

27. Twins — Scott Diamond: 10-5, 3.04 ERA; rest of starters: 22-54, 6.15.

28. Rockies — Wins leader Rex Brothers has yet to start a game.

29. Cubs — Opponents reaching base at a .357 clip off the bullpen.

30. Astros — Would they really consider trotting out Roger Clemens? Yes.            

AL Player of the Week

Adrian Beltre, Texas—The Rangers are in the business of scoring lots of runs and business has been good. Last week Beltre batted .433 and slugged 1.100. He drove in nine runs and scored seven with nine extra-base hits. He had a three-homer game on Wednesday against Baltimore, then hit for the cycle vs. Minnesota on Friday.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Max Scherzer, Detroit—Scherzer won both of his starts last week, going seven innings and allowing just one earned run in each game. The righthander has now made eight consecutive starts with at least eight strikeouts. The streak covers 52.1 innings and includes 70 whiffs.

 

NL Player of the Week

Allen Craig, St. Louis—St. Louis continues to battle for one of the wild card spots, and Craig keeps on raking. He hit .440 last week with two homers. His nine RBIs led the NL and his eight runs were second. He had three three-hit games and one three-walk contest.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Adam Wainwright, St. Louis—With the Cardinals precariously holding a spot in the postseason, and with the bullpen a bit sketchy, it’s important that St. Louis starters get deep into games. Wainwright shut out Houston and tossed 5.2 innings in a win against division leader Cincinnati. In 14.2 innings, Wainwright walked one and struck out 14.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, August 27, 2012 - 18:09
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-august-20
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week for August 20, 2012.

 1. Nationals — Opponents are batting .210 with runners in scoring position.

 2. Reds — Another weekend, another walk-off win for Cincinnati.

 3. Yankees — Won nine of 12 and now visit Chicago and Cleveland.

 4. Rangers — David Murphy has been team’s best hitter in second half.

 5. Braves — Three sub-20,000 crowds last week during pennant race.

 6. Dodgers — Holding opponents to a .185 average with bases loaded.

 7. Pirates — 11 homers, 22 doubles in 12 games vs. St. Louis this season.

 8. Rays — Matt Moore, David Price in 2nd half: 10-1, 1.53 ERA, 0.96 WHIP.

 9. Giants — Can Giants overcome the loss of their offensive catalyst?

10. A’s — Grant Balfour has allowed 1 ER, 1 extra-base hit in July/Aug.

11. White Sox — Just one game above .500 in second half.

12. Orioles — Won 11 of 15 but can’t gain ground in AL East.

13. Cardinals — Only two home series losses since mid-June both to Pirates.

14. Tigers — Haven’t won a series outside their division in more than a month.

15. Diamondbacks — 14-16 when not playing the Astros in second half.

16. Angels — Crashing and burning with a 6.76 ERA in August.

17. Red Sox — 6-12 in August and fading fast.

18. Mariners — King Felix was perfect, but offense still not so hot.

19. Blue Jays — Struggling Jays batting just .217 in August.

20. Phillies — Seven games against best two teams in NL this week.

21. Mets — 11-24 since the break, only Houston is worse in NL.

22. Marlins — August batting avg.: Stanton & Reyes .313, rest of team .247.

23. Royals — Third place sounds nice, but would be last in other AL divisions.

24. Padres — Batting .179 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

25. Brewers — 13 straight games vs. Cubs and Pirates coming up.

26. Indians — Opponents are batting an even .300 this month.

27. Twins — Justin Morneau appears to be back in top form.

28. Rockies — Bats are alive at .310 in August; opponents are hitting .281.

29. Cubs — Swinging away: 142 strikeouts, 134 hits in August.

30. Astros — Managerial change can’t help in 2012.

            

AL Player of the Week

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit—The Tigers continue to struggle in the AL Central (arguably the worst division in baseball), but Cabrera remains a force and is contending for MVP honors. Miggy had four multi-hit games in a row, batting .476 for the week with a 1.386 OPS and seven runs scored.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Hiroki Kuroda, New York—With apologies to Felix Hernandez and his perfect game last week, Kuroda gets the nod for the award. He was nearly perfect twice. Last Tuesday, he tossed a two-hit shutout against the Rangers and followed that with eight innings allowing just one earned run vs. the rival Red Sox. For the week, he tossed 17 innings and gave up just six hits and two walks.

 

NL Player of the Week

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati—The Reds have certainly taken up the slack left in the lineup when Joey Votto was disabled due to knee surgery, and Bruce has been a huge part of that. Last week he had at least one hit and scored a run in every game. He batted .429 with three homers, seven extra-base hits and led the majors with nine runs.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Chad Billingsley, Los Angeles—As the Dodgers continue to battle the Giants in the NL West, Billingsley gave the team two tremendous starts last week against two teams in the wild card race. The righthander pitched eight shutout innings at Pittsburgh on Tuesday, then followed that with seven scoreless at Atlanta. He allowed just eight hits and three walks in 15 frames.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 15:20
Path: /mlb/mlb-trade-deadline-winners-and-losers-0
Body:

Every summer August 1 is something like New Year’s Day in baseball. General managers around the league work frantically through July 31 to reshape their teams into contenders or sell off spare parts in order to rebuild for the future. It marks the beginning of the pennant drive, with a different look to many lineups.

Many teams’ destinies are defined by decisions made at the annual trade deadline. There was no better example than in 2011. Both the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals rebuilt their pitching staffs, most notably their bullpens, at the deadline, and those key moves proved instrumental in both teams’ pennants.

Every trade deadline presents winners and losers. Here are this year's best and worst.

Winners
Houston Astros
It’s clear that the Astros are going nowhere this season. Painfully clear. However, they are moving to the American League West next season, and the building process is well underway to compete with the likes of the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels over the next five years. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow has done a magnificent job stockpiling talented young pitchers. The 10-player deal with Toronto brought Houston two former first-round draft picks with big upsides in Joe Musgrove and Asher Wojciechowski. The Astros also grabbed a couple of corner outfield types from Arizona in Marc Krauss and Bobby Borchering. The two big swingers strike out too often for Arizona GM Kevin Towers’ liking, but their power should play well at Minute Maid Park.

Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are built to win now. The signing of Prince Fielder over the winter and the subsequent move of Miguel Cabrera to third gave the Tigers a powerful lineup but exposed the team defensively. With a gaping hole at second base, the Tigers were able to bring Omar Infante back to Detroit, and with him came starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who has a no-hitter on his resume. That should be enough to win the AL Central.

New York Yankees
These aren’t the Yankees of the free-spending, wheeling and dealing era, but these are shrewd Yankees who know how to build a winner. New York welcomed former Mariner Ichiro Suzuki to New York at very little cost. Casey McGehee should be a productive right-handed bat off the bench and a solid option at third while Alex Rodriguez is recovering from a hand injury. The pieces are in place for the favorite in the American League.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Witness baseball’s next version of the Evil Empire. The Dodgers are determined to win. They are determined to win back the fans in Los Angeles who were lost during the McCourt regime and prevent the Angels from getting all the headlines. Hanley Ramirez had lost his edge in Miami, but a change of scenery should be just what the doctor ordered. Shane Victorino provides Gold Glove defense in the outfield and can be the leadoff hitter the Dodgers have sorely needed in front of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier this season. The offense, which hit just six home runs in June, has suddenly become a force.

San Francisco Giants
The Giants added Carlos Beltran at this point last season and it wasn't enough to get the team over the hump. In dire need of offense, the team was without Buster Posey in 2011, so the hole was much deeper. Now with Posey in the lineup and Pablo Sandoval expected back soon, adding Hunter Pence is a huge boost for the Giants as they battle the Dodgers and for one of the wild card spots. In his career, Pence has a career .329 average at AT&T Park, not a friendly place for most hitters.

Chicago White Sox
The surprise team in the AL, the White Sox see the opportunity in the AL Central, and the addition of the second wild card certainly made the decision to go for it this season easier. Brett Myers and Francisco Liriano bring depth to a young pitching staff. Myers, especially, should be a welcome presence to a staff that has had as many as seven rookies at one time this season.

Pittsburgh Pirates
It’s not so much what the Pirates did that makes them winners, it’s just that they did more than their NL Central rivals St. Louis and Cincinnati. Wandy Rodriguez can be a huge lift to an already promising rotation. Gaby Sanchez, an All-Star in 2011 has been horrible with Miami this season and was demoted to the minors. He has a chance to revive his season and give manager Clint Hurdle some options at first base.

Losers
Toronto Blue Jays
It’s difficult to see exactly what the Blue Jays are up to. They gutted their farm system for very little in return, especially with such little impact this season. Adding Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Brad Lincoln, J.A. Happ and Steve Delabar deepens the bullpen for sure, but it’s not like those were the final pieces for a championship run.

St. Louis Cardinals
Last season the Cardinals added lefthander Marc Rzepczynski and righty Octavio Dotel and completely changed their bullpen. This season the additions of lefty Brian Fuentes and righthander Edward Mujica should serve the same purpose. But the key that is missing this season is that Edwin Jackson, also acquired last year, made 12 starts and threw 89 innings, allowing Kyle McClellan to move to the bullpen and complete the puzzle. Missing out on another starting pitcher this season will leave the Cardinals short of the postseason.

Cincinnati Reds
While the Reds seemed to have forgotten how to lose, even without superstar Joey Votto, the absence of a true leadoff hitter and big bat behind Votto will haunt the NL Central leaders. The Reds, with the best bullpen in the National League, improved themselves there by adding former Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton from the Kansas City Royals. Now Broxton and Sean Marshall in front of closer Aroldis Chapman really shortens games. But Reds fans are hoping the offense will do enough to get leads after six innings.

Miami Marlins
I don’t blame the Marlins for aggressively selling at the deadline. It makes sense. What’s tough to swallow for fans is that they were such aggressive buyers in the offseason, and even traded for Carlos Lee earlier in the season. Getting 21-year-old righthander Jacob Turner from Detroit should pay nice dividends for the future, but this season has turned into a debacle in South Florida.

Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox
I can understand throwing in the towel and watching the Yankees cruise to the AL East title. But with two wild cards, these teams are competing against the each other, the Chicago White Sox and Oakland A’s. It doesn’t take much to separate from that pack. But these teams didn’t pull the trigger on any opportunities for improvement.

Caught in Between
The Cleveland Indians, Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland A’s were caught in that precarious position on the verge of contending, but reluctant to forsake their futures for this season. All three have players attractive to contenders, but they are in position to contend next season and beyond. With teams ahead of them in their divisions getting stronger, it’s understandable why these three will play out the season standing pat.

Charlie Miller (@AthlonSports)

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Post date: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 11:49

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