2014 MLB Preview

March 30, 2014

I’ve been wanting to do one of these for a while, and this year I finally decided to do one. I was only able to give a full team preview for the AL teams due to time restraints, but next year I promise I’ll be doing a full team preview for NL teams as well. Here’s the link to it: 2014 MLB Preview. Here’s the Drop Box link to it.

Feedback is appreciated!

A Review Of “How Bout Dem O’s”

March 24, 2014

Back in 2009, an enthusiastic group of Orioles fans wrote a song about the Orioles. You can listen to the song below

I promised myself back in 2009 that I would look back 5 years later and see who remained. The results were astounding, hilarious, and kind of sad in a comical way.

Well we got Roberts(Um… awkward… he signed with the Yankees…) and Markakis (YUP WE STILL DO! AND HE STILL HASN’T SMILED ONCE SINCE THIS SONG WAS WRITTEN!), Adam Jones (YES WE DO!) and Cesar Izturis(Actually we don’t, he was recently released by the Houston Astros)…
We got Guthrie (Nope, we traded Jeremy Guthrie for Jason Hammel. Currently pitching for Royals), Uehara (traded to the Rangers for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter, currently pitching for the Red Sox), Aubrey Huff (out of baseball, probably hanging out with strippers right now and he might be wearing a golden thong) Luke Scott (plays somewhere in Korea, where I’m sure they love his political views) and Melvin Mora (out of baseball hanging out with his quintuplets)

We got Wiggy (No we don’t, Ty Wigginton signed a minor-league deal with the Miami Marlins in January though), Freel (Ryan Freel barely lasted a month with the Orioles and eventually committed suicide) and Pie (Felix Pie was DFA’d a while ago, currently in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization), Walker (Jamie Walker is out of baseball), Johnson (Jim Johnson is with the Oakland Athletics now, but we have Steve Johnson, does that count?), Chris Ray (out of baseball and probably has a dead arm), and Flat Breezy(Lies, George Sherrill’s with the Royals organization now)
Come on Andy (re-signed/fired/told never to come back) Come on Trembley (when he’s not acting as William Shatner’s stunt double, he’s the third base coach for the Houston Astros)

We got Wieters (THAT’S THREE!), and Rich Hill (This is awkward cause now he pitches for Boston…) and Arrieta (That’s a lie, we traded him for Scott Feldman, but the CUBS can say that they have Jake Arrieta), and Matusz (Hasn’t aged one year since this song was written, and still an Oriole!) and Tillman (Still got him, in fact, he’s our ace! THANKS SEATTLE!)

So yeah. Five Orioles who were mentioned in this song are actually still Orioles. Only 10 of them are even still in baseball.

2014 AL East Preview: Toronto Blue Jays

March 3, 2014

The last entry in my five blog series previewing the AL East teams. Here are my Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, and Yankees previews. I have the Toronto Blue Jays finishing last place in the AL East in 2014.

Off-season summary: In 2013, the Blue Jays had a very exciting off-season, as they traded for Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and R.A. Dickey. This off-season, much to the disdain of Blue Jays fans, was the complete opposite. The only notable signing that the Jays made was signing catcher Dioner Navarro.

Strengths: Their lineup has the potential to be pretty darn good. Reyes and Melky Cabrera, when healthy, are a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the order. The bane of Gary Thorne’s existence First baseman Edwin Encarnacion and annoying person to follow on Twitter star outfielder Jose Bautista are great guys to have in the middle of the order. If designated hitter Adam Lind could figure out how to hit left-handed pitchers, he’d be one heck of a middle of the order bat. Tattooed bro Third baseman Brett Lawrie could be primed for a breakout season. Center fielder Colby Rasmus will be playing for a long-term contract, so he’s obviously a candidate to have a great season. If Navarro can repeat his 2013 season, he’s a great bat to have, especially at catcher. I like the back end of their bullpen if Sergio Santos can stay healthy. 

Weaknesses: The Jays have a very questionable pitching staff. Dickey is a very good pitcher, but he’s the only reliable guy in their rotation right now. Brandon Morrow was having a great season in 2013 before getting injured. His health will be key for the Blue Jays in 2014. When he’s healthy, he’s arguably one of the best pitchers in the league. Buehrle will give you 200 innings, but the quality of those innings probably won’t be good in the AL East. Pitchers who pitch to contact like Buehrle rarely succeed in the AL East. The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation will go to two in a group of youngsters and veterans. I like J.A. Happ and Esmil Rogers to win the fourth and fifth spots respectively, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Marcus Stroman, Kyle Drabek, or Drew Hutchinson do well in spring training and grab one of the spots in the starting rotation. I’m rooting for Drabek because he’s a rarity: a pitcher whose uniform number is a single digit.

X-Factor: Lawrie. If Lawrie has a breakout season, that would be huge for the Jays. I love his upside at the plate. Add a full season of production from Bautista, Encarnacion, Morrow, and Santos, and that would give the Jays an outside shot at the playoffs. 

Biggest Question: Why is your bacon ham? Can you get Jose Bautista to shut the heck up on Twitter? Can the Jays rebound from a depressing 2013 season? Considering that the Blue Jays still have obvious needs and only one of them was addressed over the off-season, I’m leaning towards “no”.

Reasons To Watch This Team: As long as you mute Buck Martinez, the Blue Jays are going to be a pretty fun team to watch. Their lineup is talented. I personally love watching knuckleballers pitch. If you like watching knuckleballers, Dickey’s about as good as any that I’ve ever seen. Morrow is fun to watch if he’s healthy.

Best Case Scenario: The Jays get a full season from Brandon Morrow and the rest of their guys. The Jays exceed expectations by sneaking into the second wild card spot.

Worst Case Scenario: 2013 all over again. Blue Jays fans are forced to watch curling while drinking their extremely inferior whiskey.

Overall outlook: If the Jays were in the AL Central, they’d be contenders. They are comparable to the Royals and Indians. But they are in the brutal AL East, and the AL East is going to prey on their mediocre pitching, especially at the back end of their rotation.

2014 AL East Preview: New York Yankees

March 1, 2014

The fourth of my five part series on the AL East. I’m picking the Rays to finish fourth in the AL East. In case you’re curious, I’ve already done the Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles.

New York Yankees

Off-season summary: The Yankees, having fooled the world into believing in “Mission 189″, did the ultimate heel turn this off-season. They said “YOLO”, gave Mission 189 a huge middle finger a la Stone Could Steve Austin, and became what they were basically every season pre-2013:

A bunch of stuck-up loud New Yorkers

The Evil Empire

THE SECOND COMING OF THE NWO 

The Yankees, coming off a year when people were almost cheering for them, thanks to their face turn (built around the retiring of Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and feuding with noted centaur heel Alex Rodriguez) started to turn their backs on Major League Baseball on December 3rd, signing enforcer of unwritten baseball rules catcher Brian McCann to a five year deal. The heel turn continued as they signed that traitor guilty of treason to Red Sox Nation former Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven year deal and re-signed starting pitcher Huroki Kuroda. After losing some bum who never hustled because he only cared about his inevitable big contract star second baseman Robinson Cano to the Seattle Mariners, they were still preaching Mission 189. They said that they cared about their payroll. We were sheep for believing their vile lies, for on December 19th, they added outfielder Carlos Beltran. HOW COULD YOU CARLOS?!?!?!?! WE BELIEVED IN YOU!!!! Brilliant booking by the MLB on that one. No one saw it coming! To complete their heel turn for the ages, the Yankees added traitor to Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts to replace Cano for a year and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

What happened next is nothing short of vile and disturbing! To ensure that no other team would get any attention from ESPN, Yankee captain and one of the greatest ladies men shortstops of all-time Derek Jeter announced that he was going to retire after the 2014 season. Thus began the current feud of everyone who isn’t a Yankees fan versus the New York Yankees. Should shape up for a great main event at Wrestlemania!

Strengths: The mere thought of Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top of the order scares me. Both are good contact hitters who can work the count well and drive pitchers insane on the base paths. Assuming the Yankees’ top of the order consists of Gardner, Jeter, and Ellsbury, the middle of their order would consist of McCann, Beltran, and Alfonso Soriano. That’s pretty darn good. Jeter might be old and extremely prone to hitting into double plays, but I’ve learned to never bet against him unless the bet involves him not getting to a ground ball. While David Robertson is no Mariano Rivera, Robertson is about as close as you’re going to get to Mo.

Weaknesses: Their rotation has a ton of questions and concerns. Hiroki Kuroda is the Yankees’ ace. He’s a lock for 200 innings and a sub 3.50 ERA. However, he’s the only sure thing in the Yankees rotation. CC Sabathia used to be huge and a great pitcher before having arguably the worst season of his career in 2013. Now he looks like a sick David Chappelle. His drop in velocity is a huge concern. If the Yankees want to have a shot at making the playoffs in 2014, Sabathia must rebound. I don’t like those chances. Masahiro Tanaka is an unknown. Will he be the next Yu Darvish? Or will he be the next Daisuke Matsuzaka? Tanaka has had more success in Japan than those two, but as Dice-K proved, success in Japan means nothing once you’re in the majors. Ivan Nova had a great year in 2013, finishing the year with a 3.10 ERA in 23 games (20 starts). However, he has yet to pitch more than 30 MLB games in any season and judging by his career (albeit small sample size), 2013 looks like it could be a fluke. He’s good, but can he repeat 2013? Or will he regress to his 2012 self? I’m thinking somewhere in the middle (his 2011 self) is the most likely of the three. The fifth spot will be held by Michael Pineda, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011 due to various injuries. Pineda has looked quite good in spring training, but looking good in spring training and looking good during the regular season are two entirely different things.

The Yankees are relying on a good number of players who are either old and declining or who have alarming injury histories. These players include favorite to win the Kentucky Derby first baseman Mark Teixeira, Ellsbury, Roberts, Beltran, and Jeter. When you factor in their lack of MLB-ready prospects, it’s not hard to see how things could end badly. Their bullpen is sort of a question, but they have the most important part of it solved (the back end of it), so it’s not that big of a question.

X-Factor: Gardner and Nova. Gardner is vastly underrated and gives the Yankees elements of speed and defense that they will desperately need to succeed in 2014. If he can be patient at the plate, he’s one heck of a lead off hitter. Nova will be almost as important to the Yankees success in 2014 as CC Sabathia. He has to be a #3 starter at worst, and might be called upon to be a top of the rotation starter.

Biggest Question: Can the Yankees stay healthy? I don’t think they will be able to. Too many huge injury concerns.

Best Case Scenario: Everybody somehow manages to stay healthy, CC Sabathia rebounds from his 2013 season, and the Yankees win another World Series. The 2014 Yankees officially unseat the NWO as best heel stable of all time.

Worst Case Scenario: Much like the end of the NWO in WCW, the Yankees can’t live up to the hype and everybody is too old, too mediocre, or too injured to contribute in 2014.  Actually, that’s a pretty good summary of professional wrestling today!

Overall outlook: The Yankees are the Evil Empire again. They have the most money, and they’re making sure everybody knows it. Despite their big names and big payroll, they have a few too many concerns and holes for me to truly believe in them as a playoff contender. A lot has to go right for them to get into the playoffs. In my opinion, they’re relying on too many old/injury prone/not good players and they don’t have the depth to make up for it. I have them as right around an 87-ish win team. If things go right for the Yankees though, watch out.

2014 AL East Preview: Baltimore Orioles

February 28, 2014

The third of my five part series on the AL East. I’m picking the Orioles to finish third in the AL East. In case you missed them, my Red Sox preview and my Tampa Bay Rays preview.

Baltimore Orioles

Off-season summary: The Baltimore Orioles had a very horrible off-season in which they did absolutely nothing successful off-season that saw them address three of their biggest needs: starting pitching, designated hitter, and outfield. Early in the off-season, the Orioles traded 2013 September hero Danny Valencia to the Kansas City Royals for outfielder David Lough. The rage began to increase as fan favorite Nate McLouth was signed by the Washington Nationals. The off-season rage built up as noted screamer and all-around angry man closer Grant Balfour failed his physical with the Orioles. This was heightened by the fact that earlier in the off-season, the Orioles traded incumbent scapegoat for the 2013 season closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics for Jemile Weeks. The rage built up until February 17th, when the Orioles officially signed pitcher Suk-Min Yoon from Korea and agreed to a 4 year $50M deal with Ubaldo Jimenez. The rage died down. The rage officially died on February 22nd when the Orioles announced a one year deal with PED user witch who should be burned at the stake outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz. With the death to the rage that consumed Orioles fans came the birth of optimism. So in short, the Orioles went from “worst off-season ever” to “awesome off-season” in one week. The Orioles have completed their off-season by trading for utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi.

Strengths: The Orioles lived and died by their lineup in 2013, which is hilarious if you think how much they relied on their pitching (both the rotation and bullpen) in 2012. The Orioles lineup in 2014 will probably be even better. The Orioles now have three guys who will probably hit over 30 HRs: Nelson CruzAdam Jones, and Chris Davis. They should get 20+ home runs from JJ Hardy and Matt Wieters as well, and Manny Machado should build on his strong 2013 campaign.

Another strength of the 2014 Orioles should be their defense. Assuming David Lough and Nolan Reimold split LF duties and Cruz is the full-time DH, 7 of the 8 position players will be plus defenders (only one who wouldn’t be one: Nick Markakis). The infield could be the best defensive infield in the AL, with Wieters behind the plate, Davis at first, Ryan Flaherty at second base, Hardy at shortstop, and Machado at third base.

Weaknesses: Though the Orioles did sign Jimenez and that definitely helps out their starting rotation, their rotation is still a sizable concern. Chris Tillman and Jimenez should be a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. After that, it gets a bit dicey. Holdovers Wei-Yin ChenMiguel Gonzalez, and Bud Norris can all be penciled into the rotation, though there are concerns with each of them. Chen has moments when he looks brilliant, and moments when he looks awful. Gonzalez is a solid pitcher, but has had durability issues each of the past two seasons. Norris allows a lot of home runs and struggles to get through 6 innings. The Orioles rotation might get some help from prospect Kevin Gausman, who will probably start the year in AAA, and super prospect Dylan Bundy, though he wouldn’t be able to contribute until late in the season. If Gausman can develop a more consistent slider and work on adjusting to hitters, I wouldn’t be shocked if he replaces the worst of Chen, Gonzalez, and Norris. I wouldn’t rule out Yoon as a possibility to replace one of them as well.

While the Orioles bullpen should be very good, there’s one lingering question. Who’s the closer? Right now, the front runner is probably Tommy Hunter. There are obvious concerns with Hunter closing, such as his inability to get lefties out and his tendency to allow home runs. With that said, I’ve seen teams find closers from out of nowhere, so hopefully the Orioles will have that luck as well. And I’ve seen far worse pitchers than Hunter wind up being solid closers. The Orioles do have guys like Ryan Webb and Darren O’Day who could also close.

I see two big concerns with the lineup. First of all, Flaherty should probably not be the everyday second baseman, but here we are in late February and he’s projected to be the starting second baseman. Secondly, on base percentage is something that the Orioles don’t do too well. That was an issue last season, and it looks like it will be an issue this season.

X-Factor: Nick Markakis is coming off an injury-ridden 2012 and a very sub-par 2013 (possibly due to injury). If Markakis can return to his 2012 level of production and stay healthy, he gives the Orioles a guy who outright refuses to smile is a very reliable leadoff hitter who can work counts and consistently get on base. Who knows, maybe that could rub off on the rest of the Orioles. @DJC_Sports believes that Nelson Cruz and Ryan Flaherty could be X-factors, and I agree. Cruz could be the missing piece of the puzzle for the Orioles lineup. Flaherty finished strong last year, and considering how bad he was from April to May, it’s a minor miracle that he wound up being a 1 WAR player. If Flaherty can be a 3 WAR player (which is not out of the question with his power and defense), that would mean a lot for the Orioles.

Reasons To Watch This Team: The number one reason to watch the Orioles is their broadcast crew. If the broadcast crew is Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer, you will be thoroughly entertained by the duo. Yes, Thorne has a tendency to mispronounce names and not know what’s going on at times, but he makes up for it with his quick wit and terrific chemistry with Palmer. The Orioles will have a very exciting lineup, so that’s another huge reason to watch the Orioles. If/when the Orioles call up pitching prospect Kevin Gausman, he could be a huge difference maker in the rotation. Finally, you can watch the Orioles attempt to make manager Buck Showalter smile.

Biggest Question: Will the lineup hit well enough to off-set the lack of pitching? From what I’ve seen this spring training, I think that the lineup will certainly hold up their end of the bargain. I think that the pitching is going to be better than most people think. Will their pitching be stellar? No. But it should be good enough.

Best Case Scenario: The lineup improves and the rotation pitches well. The Orioles return to the post-season, and Orioles Magic takes the MLB by storm as the Orioles follow the foot steps of the 2010 San Francisco Giants and win the World Series.

Worst Case Scenario: 2013 all over again. Different cast, same story.

Overall outlook: The Orioles will definitely challenge for a playoff spot and for the division title as well. While the Orioles aren’t as good as the Red Sox or Rays on paper, games are not won on paper, they are won on the field. If the Red Sox and/or Rays falter, the Orioles are in a very good position to take advantage of that.

2014 MLB Over/Under Wins

February 27, 2014

Bovada, an online casino, recently released their over/unders for wins for every MLB team in 2014. Here’s how you can make some easy money betting on them.

Odds

 

OVERS

Baltimore Orioles- It’s no secret that I’m a diehard Orioles fan, but I was shocked to see the Orioles at only 80.5 wins. That’s a very easy over for me. Barring significant injuries, I can’t see the Orioles not winning at least 82 games.

Atlanta Braves- Yes, 87.5 wins is a lot, but I’ll be stunned if the Braves don’t win at least 90. They get the luxury of playing the Mets, Marlins, and Phillies a lot. 90 wins is very realistic. Give me the over.

Cincinnati Reds- 84.5 wins seems low to me. Not as sure about this one as the others, but still, I see them winning at least 86 games.

Boston Red Sox- 87.5 wins is low for them. There’s a very good chance that they’ll finish with over 90 wins.

UNDERS

Toronto Blue Jays- Whoever thinks the Jays are winning more than 79.5 games in the AL East this year must be drinking a ton of that mediocre Canadian beer. Did absolutely nothing to improve upon last year’s team, and their rotation is basically one huge question mark. Not to mention Rob Ford will be rooting for them, and that’s basically a death sentence.

Seattle Mariners- No way are they winning 81.5 games. Cano’s very good, but forgive me if I have a hard time believing that Corey Hart and Logan Morrison are legitimate middle of the order hitters. Not to mention their outfield defense is going to be tons of fun with Morrison, Dustin Ackley, and Michael Saunders. I like their rotation, I think it could be above average, but that’s definitely not enough to get them to 82 wins. Especially not when their bullpen inevitably gives up tons of runs.

Los Angeles Angels- My love for Mike Trout is not a secret. But even the perfection that is Mike Trout is not going to get this team to 87 wins. Their rotation is still one huge question mark, and they’re dealing with Albert Pujols, David Freese, and Josh Hamilton, all of whom are declining. Honestly, other than Trout and Howie Kendrick, nobody else in the Angels’ lineup scares me.

San Francisco Giants- They’re not winning 87 games unless Tim Lincecum starts pitching like a beast again and Ryan Vogelsong starts pitching over his head again. Don’t see either happening. On the bright side, they could be fun to watch because watching Hunter Pence play baseball can be quite entertaining.

Philadelphia Phillies- I know I’ll catch flack for this because I never turn down an opportunity to mock the Phillies, but they’re simply not going to win 77 games this year. Their lineup is outright abysmal, their rotation outside of Hammels, Burnett, and Lee is offensive, and their bullpen is nothing to write home about. The Phillies are going to be bad. REALLLLLLLY bad. Not Mets bad or Marlins bad, but still pretty bad.

2014 AL East Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

February 27, 2014

The second of my five part series on the AL East. I’m picking the Rays to finish second in the AL East.

Tampa Bay Rays

Off-season summary: The Rays typically have very quiet off-seasons, and outside of signing Baltimore Orioles hater and possibly insane madman closer Grant Balfour, the Rays lived up to that. They did some minor additions, like always. They added catcher Ryan Hanigan, infielder Logan Forsythe, and reliever Heath Bell. Knowing the Rays and their love for voodoo magic that makes mediocre relievers great excellent pitching coach and good luck, Bell will probably start pitching like he did in  San Diego again. Their most intriguing off-season move was signing Eric Bedard to a minor-league deal. I think Bedard might have something left in his tank.

Strengths: Their rotation and bullpen were both excellent as always in 2013, and I can’t see that changing in 2014. They swapped out archer disgruntled closer Fernando Rodney for Balfour, so their bullpen will probably be even better in 2014. David Price should contend for the AL Cy Young, Matt Moore is a dark-horse AL Cy Young candidate, Alex Cobb is lots of fun to watch pitch, and the duo of youngsters Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi should help to off-set the loss of Jeremy Hellickson, who will open the season on the disabled list. Another strength of the Rays is that Joe Madden is the man.

Weaknesses: The Rays have never been a high-scoring team. That certainly looks to be the case in 2014. While they do have Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, James Loney, Matt Joyce, and Ben Zobrist, nobody else on the Rays is going to scare anyone with their bat. Even Loney is a question: will he repeat his 2013 season? Or will he regress? Longoria was the only Ray to hit over 20 homers last season. Luckily, the Rays pitching is so darn good that their lineup doesn’t need to be the 1927 Yankees.

X-Factor: Desmond Jennings always seems to be on the verge of breaking out. I think this season might finally be that season. 

Biggest Question: What in God’s name is your mascot Raymond supposed to be? What? That thing’s freaky! Probably would have given me nightmares as a child. But hey, at least he’s not Pierre the PelicanHave you banned those accursed cowbells yet? What? They’re annoying! Oh fine… will the Rays pitching once again be able to off-set the Rays lineup, or lack thereof? I think the answer is yes because the Rays have consistently proven that their pitching is good enough to make up for the lineup’s lack of production. But obviously the answer to that question has to be yes if the Rays want to make the playoffs in 2014.

Non-Roster Invitees: I already mentioned Bedard, but the Rays also extended invites to Wilson Betemit and Jayson Nix. Betemit is intriguing because he might be able to add some offense to the Rays’ lineup, which could obviously use the help. Nix would be more of a super utility infielder, but he is very good defensively.

Best Case Scenario: The Rays’ pitching is outstanding, the lineup does well enough to get by, and the Rays finally bring home a World Series title. We finally find out what Raymond is. Evan Longoria finally finds his hat.

Worst Case Scenario: The Rays rotation is good, but they suffer some setbacks due to regression and injuries. Their lineup cannot compensate for that, which causes the Rays to miss the playoffs.

Overall outlook: The Rays are exactly what they’ve always been: A scrappy team that has great pitching and timely hitting. However, their farm system has become quite barren, so one has to wonder how long they can sustain their success. Can their pitching once again be good enough to overcome the bats of the AL East? It will be even more difficult to do that this year with the Red Sox, Orioles, and Yankees lineups.

2014 AL East Preview: Boston Red Sox

February 25, 2014

After a relatively quiet off-season in 2012, the AL East got bored and decided to start being the center of attention in the MLB again. The Red Sox are the reigning World Series champions, and there’s a good chance they’ll be even better this season. The Orioles, after a much criticized November through early February, have drastically improved over the past two weeks. The Rays managed to avoid trading David Price for another off-season despite endless speculation about David Price being traded. The Blue Jays… uh… Canada beat the USA in hockey twice and poutine is still amazing!

So how’s the AL East going to look after 162 games in 2014? I’ll attempt to guess.

1. Boston Red Sox
2. Tampa Bay Rays
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. New York Yankees
5. Toronto Blue Jays

I’ll do a team a day, and I’ll start with the defending World Series champions.

Boston Red Sox

Off-season summary: They won the World Series, but outside of signing relief pitcher Edward Mujica and douchebag catcher A.J. Pierzynski and bringing back their shirtless bearded fat man who runs around town after winning the World Series first baseman Mike Napoli, the only notable news that came from the Red Sox this off-season was that Jonny Gomes shaved. They also added Grady Sizemore because apparently he hasn’t suffered enough injuries and recently signed pitcher Chris Capuano, who tends to give up a ton of home runs. I’m a little surprised that they were so quiet, especially after they lost center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees.

Strengths: Their rotation and bullpen were their strength in 2013, and that probably won’t change this season. Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Jake Peavy, and John Lackey are back. Yes, the Red Sox did recently lose Ryan Dempster, but he was going to be, at best, their #5 starter. Felix Doubront is the obvious choice to replace Dempster, but even if he falters, they have a number of guys in the minors and bullpen who could fill that role. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Their bullpen got even better after adding former Cardinals closer Mujica. Mujica gives them a closing option in case Koji Uehara stops being awesome. Adding Pierzynski makes it so much more fun to hate the Red Sox, so a terrific move by them.  Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Napoli will be one of the best 3-4-5 combos in the majors.

Weaknesses: Their lineup has a few glaring weaknesses. Will Middlebrooks, owner of an 88 OPS+ and a -0.1 WAR in 94 games in 2013, is currently their starting third baseman. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who had a cup of coffee in the bigs in 2013, will be expected to start at shortstop. In 18 games in 2013, he had an OPS+ of 88 and a 0.3 WAR. Considering the left side of their infield, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Boston brought back Stephen Drew. They are apparently going to see if Mike Carp can play third base. If he can, he might be able to form a platoon with Middlebrooks. Carp is noted for hitting well against right handed pitchers, and if Middlebrooks did anything well in 2013, it was hitting lefties: he had a .782 OPS against them. Boston will be asking Shane Victorino to replicate his 2013 season, but the biggest question in their outfield will be in center field. After losing Ellsbury, prospect Jackie Bradley, Jr will be expected to be the everyday center fielder in 2014. They briefly tried that idea in 2013, and it didn’t go so well.

X-Factor: Daniel Nava. Nava was extremely underrated in 2013. After losing Ellsbury, Boston will be counting on Nava. He is a candidate to replace Ellsbury as their leadoff  hitter. Wherever he hits for the 2014 Red Sox, Nava will be expected to improve on his impressive campaign in 2013. Another X-Factor is John Lackey. He was terrific in 2013. With the loss of Ryan Dempster, Lackey must avoid regressing if the Red Sox want to have a shot at back-to-back World Series titles.

Biggest Question: Why’d you get rid of the fried chicken and beer? Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. TAKE TWO: Jonny Gomes, why did you shave your awe-inspiring beard? What? It’s a legitimate question! OK, TAKE THREE: Who’s going to be the Red Sox leadoff hitter in 2014? Replacing Ellsbury will be difficult, but two candidates stand out: Nava and Victorino. They can’t go wrong with either, but I’d let Victorino lead off and bat Nava second. Victorino has more experience and Nava is simply too good to bat lead off, IMO.

Non-Roster Invitees: Nobody fun except apparently Jose Mijares has not eaten himself yet and Rich Hill is still a thing. Both throw left-handed, so if they can remain healthy, they might be able to add something to the Red Sox bullpen should the need arise.

Best Case Scenario: Middlebrooks, Bradley, and Bogaerts manage to be at least average players. Their pitching avoids taking a step backwards. Napoli and Ortiz continue to be cult heroes as the 2014 Red Sox keep singing along to Victorino’s at bat music (the chorus to “Three Little Birds”) all the way to another World Series title.

Worst Case Scenario: The Red Sox don’t get production out of their young players. Their pitching regresses and their lineup cannot step up to help compensate. Lackey regress back to his worthless, anger-inducing, wife-with-cancer-divorcing, pre-2013 self. Hitters finally solve the mystery of how to hit Uehara’s pitches. The Boston media runs Ortiz out of town and Ortiz trolls everybody by signing with the Yankees or Orioles.

Overall outlook: A very good team, but it’s not hard to see them taking a step back in 2014. On paper, their rotation is easily in the top 3 in the American League, and you could make a decent case that their rotation, from top to bottom, is the best. On paper, their bullpen is about as good as it gets outside of Oakland. But games are not won on paper.

Cruz Lyrics (Parody of Cruise by Florida Georgia Line)

February 25, 2014

Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZ

Yeah, when I first saw that homer swing of him
He’s slammin’ ‘em right out of the Bal’mer Stadium
Thought “Oh, good Cal, he had them big strong arms!”
Couldn’t help myself so I stood up and sung

Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZ
Down Eutaw Street givin’ high fives to the strangers
Tellin’ all the media
‘Bout you
In this brand new O’s shirt with a fresh lid
It looks a heck of a lot better with you wearing it
So Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZ

He was sippin’ on water and hittin’ lots of homers
We were cheerin’ for him through the sweet heart of summer
He stepped right up into the ol’ batter’s box and said
“Pitch me one, let’s go score some more runs!”

Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZ
Down Eutaw Street givin’ high fives to the strangers
Tellin’ all the media
‘Bout you
In this brand new O’s shirt with a fresh lid
It looks a heck of a lot better with you wearing it
So Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZ

When that summer sun fell down to its knees
I cheered for him and he played for me
And he turned on those Eutaw lights and played all night
‘Cause it felt so right, him and I, man we felt so right

I bought some Bohs
And grabbed my best bros
And grabbed a couple dogs
And cheered for the O’s
Nelson you sure got the voice in my throat screamin’
Heck, I can’t get you out of my head

Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZ
Down Eutaw Street givin’ high fives to the strangers
Tellin’ all the media ‘bout you

Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUZZZZZZ
Down Eutaw Street givin’ high fives to the strangers
Tellin’ all the media ‘bout you
In this brand new O’s shirt with a fresh lid
It looks a heck of a lot better with you wearing it, come on,
Nelly you a song you make me wanna wear my orange ‘round, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZZ

Come on Nelson
Skip down Eutaw Street, scream CRUUUUUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZ
Aww yeah

Thoughts on 2014 USA Olympic Hockey Roster

January 2, 2014

Team USA has announced their roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Forwards:

David Backes
Dustin Brown
Ryan Callahan
Patrick Kane
Ryan Kesler
Phil Kessel
T.J. Oshie
Max Pacioretty
Zach Parise
Joe Pavelski
Paul Stastny
Derek Stepan
James van Riemsdyk
Blake Wheeler

There are few noted omissions from Team USA’s forwards: Bobby Ryan  and Kyle Okposo. I’m not going to lie and say that Blake Wheeler is a better hockey player than either of the two- that’s just stupid, as Ryan and Okposo are more talented than Wheeler. However, Wheeler is a far better skater than them, and in the Olympics, that’s what matters. Wheeler is also a more complete player than Ryan or Okposo. Ryan and Okposo are sub-par defensively, while Wheeler is very solid defensively. I’m sort of surprised that Brandon Dubinsky was left off the team, especially with Callahan’s health not being a sure thing. Overall, a very good forward group is going to Sochi. They can score, they can play defense, and they’re physical.

Defensemen:

John Carlson
Justin Faulk
Cam Fowler
Paul Martin
Ryan McDonagh
Brooks Orpik
Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan Suter

This is a very versatile and solid group of defenders. Tons of good skaters and two-way defensemen. I’m glad to see that Fowler got a spot on the team. Didn’t think he’d get one, but I’m glad that the committee thought otherwise. Going with Faulk over Eric Johnson and Jack Johnson is a very bold decision, but I love it. Faulk has been playing better than either of the two, and he can do things with the puck that neither of the Johnsons can provide. I do, however, have a gripe with one selection: Orpik. The selection committee used the “better skater” argument to justify Wheeler over Ryan and Okposo. I couldn’t agree more with them. So why did they select Orpik over Keith Yandle, who is a far better skater? Perhaps it was because of chemistry- Orpik and Martin are teammates after all. I’m not saying Orpik isn’t a very good hockey player- despite having what might as well be a bionic hip, he’s still one heck of a player. He’s a very physical defenseman who can act as a stay at home defenseman if paired with someone like Martin or Carlson. I just think Yandle’s a far better fit for Team USA.

Goalies:

Jimmy Howard
Ryan Miller
Jonathan Quick

No problems here. One could make an argument for Ben Bishop over Howard, but Howard’s the third string goalie. I assume Miller will be the starter because of his 2010 Olympic campaign, but you can’t go wrong with Quick in goal.


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