Archives for: 2008, week 08

03/02/08

All World All Sports 2008 MLB Predictions: NL West

Permalink 03:45:27 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

During this past week, All World All Sports blogger Digger presented daily 2008 MLB division by division breakdowns and predictions. We conclude with the wild wild NL West.
2007 proved anything can happen, and it did. NL West is up for grabs this year as all five teams will be at war from day one. Last season, the Colorado Rockies won their final 13 of 14 regular season games forcing a one game winner take all playoff game vs Arizona to determine which squad advanced to the post-season. Colorado beat Arizona and then swept their way to becoming National League Champions. The magic ended when they faced a potent Boston Red Sox team. After winning 21 of 22 games, the Rockies were trounced in the World Series by four straight Red Sox victories.

NL West (in order of predicted finish):

Colorado Rockies (Mgr. Clint Hurdle, 90-73 in '07)
Talk about a red hot end of year performance. Hurdle's Rockies won 21 of 22 games to reach the promised land before getting swept by Boston in the World Series. This is a young fearless team ready to take on all competition. While their pitching stats may not end up looking great, it will be their offense which stands above the rest and delivers the division crown.
Starting Pitchers: Front four - Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22) leads the way and will post his fifth consecutive winning season. He's followed by Aaron Cook (8-7, 4.12). Ubaldo Jiminez and Franklin Morales. All need to keep their cool and concentration ... especially during home games in hitting friendly and spacious Coors Field. The final rotation slots will be won this spring between Jason Hirsch, Mark Redmond and Kip Wells. Manny Corpas (2.08, 19 SV) is expected to be the full time closer when following a solid middle relief crew.
In the Field: Timely hitting was key last year. This squad has big bats which produced in the clutch. Colorado must to repeat clutch hitting to win. 1B Todd Helton (.320) owns most Rockie records. His power numbers have faded recently yet this hitting machine still gets it done. 2B in '08 figures to be Jayson Nix. SS is Rookie of the Year runner up Troy Tulowitzki (.291, 24 HR). This kid has the right stuff and will surpass last seasons totals. Garrett Atkins (3B, .301, 25 HR, 111 RBI) proved '06 was no fluke. Colorado's infield left side is the West's best and will deliver again. LF MVP runner up Matt Holliday (.340, 216 H, 50 2B, 36 HR, 137 RBI) will one day replace Helton as all time offensive team leader. He crushes everything thrown his way. If he cuts down on 126 K's then .350 is within reach. CF belongs to speedy Willy Taveras (.320, 36 SB). Brad Hawpe (.291, 29 HR, 116 RBI) returns in RF. This team can outhit just about every NL team. Yorvit Torreabla and Chris Ianetta will split catching assignments. Both should put up better numbers in '08. Colorado's bench is adequate defensively but lacks pop. No worries unless the dl bug appears.
Prediction: Colorado takes 1st place in NL's toughest division.

Los Angeles Dodgers (Mgr. Joe Torre, 82-80 in '07)
Los Angeles is a franchise rich in tradition dating back to their Brooklyn Bums days. They have tried combination after combination recently... now they've brought in a new skipper with a few titles under his belt (Joe Torre) and a new slugging outfielder, Andruw Jones. Will it be enough to finally put smiles on Dodger Blue's? Defensive fundamentals, timely hitting and a healthy pitching staff hold all answers. If yes, LA will be a serious contender. If no, it could be a long year. LA only plated 735 runs while leaving runners on base in key situations all season long.
Starting Pitching: LA used eleven different starting pitchers in '07. Only two started more than 20 games. This is not how division titles are normally won. Brad Penny (16-4, 3.03) is the real deal and would greatly appreciate run support for a change. Derek Lowe's (12-14, 3.88) mound presence forms LA's solid 1-2 punch. Chad Billingsly (12-5, 3.31) started 20 of his 43 appearances and appears ready to become a regular Dodger starter. Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda is being counted on to dominate. I think his 103-89, 3.69 career across the ocean will not translate into major league dominance. We'll see how he adjusts to American baseball filled with big sluggers. Esteban Loaiza and Jason Schmidt will be returning from injury. Schmidt is a former iron horse with nasty stuff. Takashi Saito (39 SV, 1.40) gives batters fits and will shut them down once again.
In the Field: Overall, LA lack of clutch hitting left too many runners in scoring position and cost them dearly. Torre brings a winning attitude and hopes it rubs off. 1B James Looney (.331) showed flashes of greatness last year and steps into prime time duties. 2B is veteran Jeff Kent (.302, 20 HR) who may see time at 1B vs lefties. He's enjoyed a fine 16 year career and will be a Hall of Fame candidate. SS belongs to Rafael Furcal (.270, 25 SB). 3B Nomar Garciaparra hasn't been the same player since leaving Boston a few years ago. He's a fierce competitor but has fallen victim to multiple injuries during his career. Andy LaRoche will back up Nomar and is ready to go when needed. Juan Pierre (.293, 64 SB) shifts to LF making room for slugging CF Andruw Jones. AJ had a miserable time for Atlanta last year and many feel his season long slump was the reason Atlanta finished third. In '05-'06, Jones crushed 92 round trippers and drove in 257 runners. I predict he'll be back in the 30 homer - 100 rbi zone while raising his average from .222 up to .270. RF is a battle between righty Matt Kemp (.342) and lefty Adam Ethier (.284). Russell Martin (.293) squats behind the dish and has become one of the NL's elite backstops.
Prediction: Torre brings a new winning attitude to Dodgertown. A healthy team has enough talent to win this division. As of now, I'll pencil them into 2nd place. Too many starting pitching "if" health factors could transform LA from serious contenders to a team trying searching for healthy arms.

San Diego Padres (Mgr. Bud Black, 89-74 in '07)
San Diego had to be sick to their collective stomachs after losing three straight games to miss last years playoffs. Included is this streak was an epic 9-8 blown 13th inning lead loss to Colorado in a one game winner take all season ending game. Rockies advanced as Wild Card Champs... Padres went home. A solid front three starting staff will keep them in the hunt once again.
Starting Pitching: Cy Young winner Jake Peavy (19-6, 2.56) enters his prime. Odds on favorite to have his first 20 win season. Chris Young (9-8, 3.12) was victimized by 13 no decisions. Opposing batters managed to scratch out a meager 118 hits in Young's 173 innings. Veteran hurler Greg Maddux (14-11, 4.14) returns for his 2nd season in a Padres uniform. He's a future Hall of Fame lock having won 347 career games during a span of 22 seasons. Lefty Randy Wolf joins this staff after 3 injury riddled years in Philly and LA. He's a deceptive southpaw and must stay pain free as a vital cog in SD's rotation. Speaking of injuries, and joining the Friars rotation, is one time phenom Mark Prior. MP is recovering from shoulder carving and appears on track for opening day. This is a tough staff one thru five.
In the Field: Most Padres starters had fine seasons until crapping out in September. 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.282, 30, 100) will continue is the team slugger. 2B was a disappointment in '07 (Marcus Giles). In '08, it's Tadahito Iguchi (career .276) to the rescue. SS Khalil Greene set personal highs in games played (153), hits (155), doubles (44), home runs (27) and RBI (97). However, there was one important career low... .291 OBP... something he and Mgr. Black need to correct. Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B) impressed at times during his first full season. This outfield group (Hairston, Edmonds, Giles) will be excellent defensively but is questionable heading into the regular season. Hairston (.243) has never been an everyday player. Edmonds had back to back injury filled seasons (bad back) but has reported to spring training in excellent shape. Black will give him plenty of days off and needs Jimbo to produce big numbers after two off years at the plate. RF Brian Giles has a sharp eye (career .404 OBP) but has been inconsistant in pitching friendly Petco Park. Team depth (reserves) do not impress me as of now. Players will challenge to make the big league club this spring.
Prediction: NL West is a fight to the finish division. San Diego will challenge all year long. They'll come up just short. 3rd place. Solid and dependable pitching places them just ahead of Arizona.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Mgr. Bob Melvin, 90-72 in '07)
Arizona's division title shocked rivals. Melvin had these guys playing inspired baseball all season long. This is a very solid young team on the rise. However, it will be difficult to repeat in '08.
Starting Pitching: 2006 Cy Young and 2007 runner up Brandon Webb (18-10, 3.01) is just flat out nasty. He goes deep into games and struck out a career high 194 last season. Randy Johnson tries one more time to regain prior magic after being limited to 10 games during his second D-Back stint. No one knows for sure how much he has left in the tank and he represents Arizona's biggest question mark. Dan Haren (15-9, 3.07) arrives from Oakland and has been tagged an elite pitcher. Doug Davis (13-12, 4.25) is back for his second year out west. A career .500 starter who gobbles up innings. Davis must learn to stop giving away free passes (102, 95 in '06/'07). It's the difference between winning and just being average. Micah Owings (8-8, 4.30) enters big league season number two. He's a work in progress with good stuff who needs to keep the ball in the park to guarantee success (20 homers allowed in 152 IP). Middle relievers were very good last year keeping games close. Valverde saved 47 games and is gone clearing the way for Brandon Lyon (73 games, 2.68) to give it a shot.
In the Field: Arizona stood out as a team who delivered when the game was on the line by knocking in key runs game after game. It was a team effort. No single player drove in more than 83 runs. 1B Conor Jackson (.284) is steady but lacks power most other teams enjoy at this position. Same can be said for Arizona's hot cornerman Mark Reynolds (.279). Up the middle, 2B Orlando Hudson (.294) and double play partner SS Stephen Drew (.238). Drew, entering his third season, has been predicted by D-Back brass to be a future star. He's gifted and will mature over time. CF Chris Young smacked 32 homers and swiped 27 bags in his first full season. Once his raw talent is fine tuned (.237 BA, .295 OBP)... then he'll be a regular All Star for years to come. LF Eric Byrnes (.286, 21 HR, 50 SB) plays hard every game and is the team catalyst. Justin Upton enters spring training attempting to win Arizona's RF job. Behind home plate is Chris Snyder (.252) who will start most games.
Prediction: A fun, young and talented team. Expectations around the baseball world seem to suggest repeat. I'm not convinced. Diamondbacks will be very competitve... but, '08 is a new year... and division rivals have bulked up. 4th place.

San Francisco Giants (Mgr. Bruce Bochy, 71-91 in '07)
Bye-bye Barry Bonds. The Giants are finally rid of their clubhouse deterrant and distactor. Bonds is currently without a job while being investigated for Grand Jury perjury. The good news: Giants will finally be able to put his side show behind them and focus on playing baseball. Bad news: How do they plan on scoring runs? Posting wins? They're over matched in baseball's most competitive division. Bochy has his work cut out for him. This will be a difficult year in San Francisco.
Starting Pitchers: Barry Zito (11-15, 4.53) was roughed up from May thru July after signing a lucrative free agent deal prior to '07. His numbers should greatly improve from an ERA standpoint. Lack of run support will have him itching to join a winner before baseball's trading deadline expires. Matt Cain (7-16, 3.65) is very solid and effective. Common theme for Giants starters has them all searching for offensive protection. Tim Lincecum (7-5, 4.00) fanned 150 in 146 innings. He's still learning and has the tools to become a mainstay in SF's rotation. Noah Lowry (14-8, 3.92) continues to impress. The rest of Bochy's rotation is up in the air. Kevin Correa, Jonathan Sanchez and Patrick Misch figure to compete for the final slot.
In the Field: Ugh. With Bonds in '07, SF scored 683 runs (2nd fewest in NL), hit 267 doubles (league worst) and 131 homers (2nd fewest). Without Bonds, run totals and homers figure to get even lower. Dan Ortmeier becomes the new regular on first. Ray Durham returns to second after a miserable '07 (.218, career lowest). SS Omar Vizquel (.246) is already hurt and will be replaced by Kevin Frandsen who was originally slated to start '08 at 2B. Rich Aurilia will cover third. This is the weakest infield in all of baseball from offense to defense. Not only won't they put up runs... they'll give up plenty too. Dave Roberts (.280, 31 SB) shifts from CF and replaces Bonds in LF. Aaron Rowand (CF, .309, 45 2B, 27 HR) is a gifted outfielder who plays at top speed on every play. One has to wonder why in the world he chose to play in San Francisco???? He comes by way of a 5 year, $60M free agent deal. But, why here? RF belongs to Randy Winn (.300, 42 2B). This outfield group will cover a ton of ground in wide open AT&T Park which is one of the very few bright spots heading into '08. With good news comes bad news. Roberts and Winn do not have strong arms at all and runners will exploit this weakness game after game. Benji Molina (.276, 19 HR), of the Molina brothers, is back behind the plate.
Prediction: 5th, dead last.

Stay Tuned for Digger's Playoff and Individual Award Predictions

03/01/08

All World All Sports 2008 MLB Predictions: AL West

Permalink 04:09:26 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

All World All Sports continues our division by division breakdown. Each day this week will feature a different division in order of predicted finish. Part 5, AL West.

Los Angeles Angels (Mgr. Mike Scioscia, 94-68 in '07)
Mike Scioscia must be feeling anxious for opening day to arrive. LA is ready to run away with another AL West crown. No one will stand in their way unless this team get humbled by injuries. Even if a few get banged up, this franchise has assembled a fine bench. Here we go.
Starting Pitchers: John Lackey (19-9, 3.01) has 20 wins in his sights. With an explosive lineup which might just score at will, he'll be back contending for the AL's Cy Young (3rd in '07). 25 wins is within reach. Kelvin Escobar (18-7, 3.40) is expected to miss at least all of April. His arm will be missed. Scioscia will not risk letting him return early. Orlando Cabrera (SS) was traded to Chicago so LA could land former back to back 18 game winner Jon Garland (10-14, 4.23). This guy is a work horse control specialist starting no less than 32 games dating back to 2002. He will flourish in Anaheim. Jared Weaver (13-7, 3.91) is a rising star. Scioscia will keep a close eye on Jared to preserve a sometimes tender arm. Southpaw Joe Saunders (8-5, 4.44) has been victimized by this squads deep rotation over the years. He was bounced back and forth between AAA Salt Lake and Anaheim last year. Once Escobar returns from shoulder tendinitis, Saunders may be knocked out of his current starting role. He has talent and poise. He could see time as a long reliever. When Ervin Santana was on top of his game last year he was tremendous. Unfortunately, he was not consistently on his game (7-14, 5.76) after starting his MLB career 28-16. LA is counting on Ervin to return to previous winning years. Blazing closer Francisco Rodriguez has posted three consecutive 40 save seasons and will be lights out once again in '08 preserving late inning leads.
In the Field: This team is deep and talented as many of these guys are multi-positional players. Casey Kotchman (.296 BA, .372 OBA) returns as the everyday 1B. He has a keen eye (43 K, 443 AB) while snagging everything hit and thrown his way (.995 FP). Howie Kendrick (.322) opens as everyday 2B. He's been an instant fan favorite since arriving on the scene two years ago. Competing for opening day SS honors this spring is Eric Aybar and Maicer Izturis. Izzy would be my everyday selection based on better plate presence. We'll see how this shakes out when camp breaks. Over on third, will be speedster Chone Figgins (.330, 41 SB's). This kid is multi-talented and ready, willing and able to play wherever his name gets penciled into LA's potent attack. Angels are jammed in the outfield. This squad is deep. Starting '08 appears to be veteran Garret Anderson in LF (career .297), newly acquired superstar Torii Hunter (.297, 45 2B, 26 HR) in CF, and Angels free swinging-slugging-cannonball armed Vladimir Guerrero (.324, 125 RBI) in RF. Vlad owns a career .325 BA and has driven in 100+ runners in 9 of the past 10 years. Scioscia has indicated he will be shifting Anderson and Guerrero in and out of DH slots attempting to give these guys rest. Gary Mathews Jr. and Reggie Willits plan to see plenty of action in reserve roles but not enough to satisfy their thirst for playing. Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis will get their share of catching assignments. Napoli struggled with injuries last year while being limited to 75 games (.443 SLG).
Prediction: Scioscia's biggest problem will be figuring out how to delegate AB's with this deep and talented crew. Every managers dream! Angels spread their wings and fly high out of the gates. 1st place.

Seattle Mariners (Mgr. John McLaren, 88-74 in '07)
Seattle may not have enough juice to catch LA but they will be in the hunt for division and wild card honors all season long. The Mariners had a rough time scoring runs last year (794) with only one player knocking in more than 100 (Ibanez, 105). Pitching and defense remain big keys for success. Richie Sexson, who struggled all season long, must find his power stroke for Seattle to challenge LA.
Starting Pitchers: Mariners traded for Orioles star Eric Bedard (13-5, 3.16, 221K) who should love pitching friendly Safeco Field. Maturing fireballer Felix Hernandez (14-7, 3.92) will have a monster season. He should set personal career high's across the board in '08. Dependable Jarred Washburn returns for his third Mariner season and hopes to be on the receiving end of better run support. If these front three turn in good years, this team will be tough to beat. Expected to round out this rotation are vets Carlos Silva (13-14, 4.19) and Miguel Bautista (16-11, 4.29). All Star closer JJ Putz (40 SV, 1.38) was nearly unhittable in '07 surrendering a miniscule 37 hits in 71 innings while sitting down 82 batters by way of K. Middle relief roles to be won during the spring by a wide open field of competitors.
In the Field: 6'8" monster Richie Sexson (1B,.205) struggled all year from day one. He must get back on track early or Seattle will have to find another answer. Steady ground ball gobbler Jose Lopez returns to 2B. Yuniesky Betancourt returns to play SS after posting back to back .289 seasons at the dish. Adrian Beltre mans 3B and needs to be this teams consistent run producer. At times he seems overly anxious at the plate and hits from deep counts (only 38 BB in 595 AB). A player of such longevity must have better self control and work ball/strike counts to his advantage. LF Raul Ibanez is a steady swatter (.291, 105 RBI) who will shine once again in '08. Internationally renown superstar All Star CF Ichiro Suzuki (.351) has surpassed 200 hits and 100 runs scored every year since his MLB arrival back in 2001. Oddly, he's only scored more than 111 runs one time... a sad testiment to poor team hitting with runners in scoring position. This will be unacceptable if Seattle wants to catch LA. Brad Wilkerson arrives from Texas to play RF. Wilk needs better plate discipline (107K in 338 AB) and must stop swinging for the fences in every at bat. Japanese import Kenji Johjima (.287) is a solid dependable backstop. Many "if" questions need to be answered this spring for McLaren's team to make a serious run... most importantly - run production.
Prediction: 2nd place.

Oakland Athletics (Mgr. Bob Geren, 75-86 in '07)
Oakland's recent organizational strength has been to churn our solid pitchers. A good thing since this punchless offense scratches and claws to put runs on the board (741). 2008 will be challenging by the Bay as this is considered their "rebuilding" year. Numerous injuries put the breaks on Oakland's '07 chances. Lack of depth will cripple this squad if injuries run ramped again this year.
Starting Pitchers: Joel Blanton (14-10, 3.95) enters camp as the #1 starter. Question remains as to whether or not he's still an Athletic by the time spring training ends with trade rumors continuing to swirl. Injury prone Rich Harden tries to bounce back after missing most of '06/'07. Chad Gaudin (11-13, 4.42) looks to improve in his second year as a starting pitcher. Chad will need to gain better control to keep runners from scoring (100 BB in 199 IP). Jason Duchscherer will be given an opportunity to win a rotation slot this spring. He was a lights out middle reliever until injuries curtailed his '07 year. Lenny DiNardo (8-10, 4.11) is projected as fifth starter. Returning Closer Hudson Street (16 SV), missed 10 weeks due to injury, appears to be ready. A healthy staff is the key... and those returning from injury remain question marks.
In the Field: 3B Eric Chavez was limited to 90 games and already has back problems this spring. Not a good sign of things to come. SS Bubba Crosby played only 93. 2B Mark Ellis tied for the team lead by playing in 150 games while hitting a career high 19 round trippers. 1B Daric Barton is part of Oakland's rebuilding process. If he can't handle everyday pressures... Dan Johnson will take the field. LF Emil Brown, CF Chris Dinorfia and RF Travis Buck are all unproven. Kurt Suzuki takes over full time catching duties replacing Jason Kendall. DH belongs to the A's lone 2007 power threat, Jack Cust (26 HR).
Prediction: Bob Geren has his hands full and fingers crossed. It's a good thing Texas is in their division to save them from the cellar. Distant 3rd place finish as they attempt to finish ahead of the Rangers.

Texas Rangers (Mgr. Ron Washington, 75-83 in '07)
Texas front office continues to passionately disregard the importance of good starting pitching. Owner Thomas Hicks lack of baseball know-how has become the running joke around Dallas' Metroplex. Hicks burns thru GM's quicker than NASCAR drivers change tires. Clubhouse team chemistry has long since evaporated and could very well be at its' all time low once Texas' burning 100 degree summer days arrive. Washington must find a way to keep players focused and trouble free for the Rangers to post victories.
Starting Pitching: #4 starter Brandon McCarthy (5-10, 4.87) sadly posted the ONLY sub 5.00 ERA in this rotation. An amazing feat considering he walked 48 in just under 102 IP. It's somewhat of a miracle Texas didn't lose 100 games in '07. #1 SP Kevin Millwood (10-14, 5.16 - $9.3M) was pounded all year long. He's far from a prototypical #1 starter. Vincente Padilla (6-10, 5.76 - $9M), a former 15 game winner, was horrendous. Jason Jennings (2-9, 6.45 for Houston) is a Dallas native. Jennings was derailed by a torn flexor tendon last year. He's Hicks big free agent pitching acquisition at $5.5M. This is comical. Kason Gabbard is projected to land a rotation spot but it's too soon to tell for certain. Pitching coach Mark Connor might as well set up a lawn chair next to the mound so he doesn't wear out his shoes this season. Closing duties will be won this spring... but how many leads will Texas have when they're not playing Baltimore?
In the Field: SS Michael Young (.314) and 2B Ian Kinsler (20 HR) are bright spots up the middle and represent the nucleus of this team. It seems as though Hank Blalock (3B, .293) will remain subject of trade rumors each year. Blalock was slowed by injuries last year and finally learned plate discipline (.358 OBA). Beaumont native Brian Broussard was brought in as everyday 1B. This lefty hacker must make an impact and could very well take full advantage of the Ballpark's short right field porch. Hicks spent $3.55M for a player who hasn't been a full timer since 2005. Detroit castoff Chris Shelton could share time at first if he makes the opening day roster. Marion Byrd (.307) was one of the few bright spots last year and needs to produce. Rangers will take a chance with Josh Hamilton playing CF. Hamilton was selected as Tampa Bay's 1999 First-Year Players Draft. He was flying high after signing a $3.96M contract... then higher when he wasted it on crack cocaine which led to suspension by MLB for failing multiple drug tests. He's a new man now, has found God, and saved his soul, career and life. Second chances are amazing gifts in life and don't come often. Hamilton is determined never to squander this opportunity. His first MLB game was in a Reds uniform last season and he responded while quickly becoming a fan favorite. He lands in Texas by way of trade after posting a .292 average with 19 homers in 90 Cincy games before injuries interfered. Expect a tremendous 2008 from this kid. Switch hitting RF Milton Bradley joins team number six in a roller coaster career since 2000. Catching duties fall on the shoulders of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Gerald Laird. Both will be plenty busy trying to tame an erratic pitching staff. DH is a hitters by committee group with Frank Catalanotto and Jason Botts expected to platoon.
Prediction: Too many question marks and no pitching. It's going be a long year in Arlington. 3rd place is within view... 4th is a likely landing.

Stay Tuned.... NL West on Deck

02/29/08

All World All Sports 2008 MLB Predictions: NL Central

Permalink 12:47:09 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

All World All Sports continues our division by division breakdown. Each day this week will feature a different division in order of predicted finish. Part 4, NL Central

Chicago Cubs (Mgr. Lou Piniella, 85-77 in '07)
Fiery skipper Lou Piniella has the Cubs fired up and ready to make a run for all the glory this season. This team can hit, run and knock off baseball covers. Will this finally be the year Wrigley faithful cast aside their World Series drought? We'll soon find out.
Starting Pitchers: Carlos Zambrano (18-13, 3.95) is the iron horse. Chicago will go as far as his arm will take them. He's a fiery competitor and ready for action. Southpaw Ted Lilly (15-8, 3.83) keeps hitters off balance and will continue his winning ways. Rich Hill (11-9, 3.92) impressed during his first full major league season. He's a lock to get better and better while gobbling up innings by way of quality starts. Jason Marquis (12-9, 4.60) rebounded nicely after a tough '06 and appears ready to solidify his career. Jon Lieber returns to Chicago bringing back memories of his 20 wins in 2001. Sean Marshall showed flashes of things to come during '07. He'll be given every opportunity to excel. The Cubbies staff is looking pretty solid and if all goes as expected... Chitown will be buzzing this year. Backing up this group from the pen will be decided this spring. Many options to consider and this could be a closer by committee corps. Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol will give hitters fits.
In the Field: The corners belong to sluggers Derrek Lee (1B, .317, 22 hr) and Aramis Ramirez (3B. .310, 26 hr). Both were off a bit in the power department last year but contributed nonetheless. They're solid vets who continue to hit in key situations... and play outstanding defense. Up the middle belongs to youngsters Ryan Theriot (SS) and Mike Fontenot (2B). Mark DeRosa was scheduled to be the everyday second sacker but a potential heart condition may delay his appearance this year. I hope results of his current testing proves not to be anything more than a scare. Alfonso Soriano (LF, .299, 33 hr) is looking for green lights on the basepaths in '08 after only 19 swipes last year (41, 30 previous two years). CF belongs to Felix Pie who made his debut last year. Piniella hopes this kid is ready for prime time. RF belongs to heralded Japanese newcomer, Kosuke Fukudome. Geovany Soto will be this years everyday catcher and is expected to clock his share of long balls. Question remains... how well will he handle this veteran staff.
Prediction: Cubs #1. Piniella will have this squad pushing towards 100 wins. All systems go.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Mgr. John Russell, 68-94 in '07)
Is this the year the swashbucklers return to glory? Pittsburgh is a city rich in fine tradition with fans itching to win. Talented young players fill this lineup and future stars to be found in a Heinz Field no longer green rotation. Let's get to it.
Starting Pitching: Home grown and groomed talent with the next four names - Tom Gorzelanny (14-10, 3.88) and Ian Snell (9-12, 3.76) are here to stay (at least until they become free agents). Paul Maholm (10-15, 5.02) enters his third full season in Pitts rotation. He's a four pitch control specialist (only 49 bb's in 177 ip). If this trend continues, expect a lower era leading to more victories. Zack Duke exploded on the scene back in '05 as a late season call up (8-2, 1.81) but has struggled mightily ever since and was pounded to the tune of .359 vs opposing hitters last year. Arm concerns frustrated his '07 season. There's a huge upside for him in '08. He's no longer considered the staff phenom so all the pressure is off which is a good thing. Should he rebound as expected... Pittsburgh has a great opportunity to take the baseball world by surprise. Veteran Matt Morris (10-11, 4.89) could be a solid innings gobbler. He was acquired late last season and seemed to run out of gas in his new surroundings. However, if he can regain some of his prior magic, expect him to go deep into games while being an excellent tutor in the dugout. Rookies eagerly waiting in the wings will get to strut their stuff this spring. Matt Capps (2.28) is expected to be closing out games.
In the Field: 1B Adam LaRouche slumped horribly last April (.133) but rebounded nicely to finish with 42 2B's, 21 HR's while raising his average up to .272. A quick beginning in 2008 is needed to help this squad come out of the gates flying. 2B belongs to Freddie Sanchez (.304, 42 2B's). SS Jack Wilson (.296) was back on track last year after 2 less than expected years at the plate. On third is streaky Jose Bautista (36 2B, 15 HR). He was on one month and off the next. He needs to find consistency in his game or Mgr. Russell may look for other options. Overall, a solid and dependable infield. LF Jason Bay's numbers really fell off last year (.247, 21 hr) after back to back 30+ hr, .286+ years. Look for an inspired offense to take the pressure off of him as his numbers rise once again. Speedster Nyjer Morgan will be given every chance this spring to win the CF job. If he doesn't make the grade, flashy Nate McLouth is ready for action. RF appears to be Xavier Nady's job to win. Pittsburgh is blessed with deep OF talent. Spring competition will be fierce. Behind the plate features Ronnie Paulino and Ryan Doumit. Both will be fighting for regular season at bats.
Prediction: A funny thing happened when I evaluated this club. They moved up in my rankings from 6th, to 5th, then 4th... and now they appear to be the most balanced NL Central team outside of Chicago. All World All Sports makes a bold prediction....... "2nd Place Pirates!" Go Bucs!

Cincinnati Reds (Mgr. Dusty Baker, 72-90 in '07)
Dusty Baker is the new manager in '08. This team has offensive talent. Can he get his staff to turn it up enough? This will be a fun year in Cincy.
Starting Pitching: This teams biggest question mark. Aaron Harang (16-6, 3.73) is very good and keeps getting better. Bronson Arroyo's stats slipped last year (9-15, 4.23) as he was victimized by shoddy defense and lack of run support. Matt Belisle (8-9, 5.32) was roughed up in his first season as a starter. He needs to settle down quickly to keep his starting assignments. Off season pickup Josh Fogg joins Cincy's rotation. Lack of career quality starts and career 4.90 era makes this acquisition curious at best. Dusty will evaluate the rest of his staff this spring. The Reds biggest move was bringing in blazing Francisco Cordero (44 saves) to shut down opponents. He's the key this season and will excel as Cincinnati leaps over FC's former club and division rival Milwaukee.
In the Field: This team can hit, run, field and slug. Around the horn is 1B Scott Hatteberg (.394 oba), 2B Brandon Phillips (.288, 30 hr, .990 fp), SS Alex Gonzalez and 3B Edwin Encarnacion (.289) who gets a clean slate with a new manager in town. None are household names which is a blessing is disguise. They all play solid defense, get on base, and can hit. Corner outfielders Adam Dunn (LF, 40 hr) and Ken Griffey, Jr. (RF, 30 hr) will bring fans to their feat. Speedster Ryan Freel takes over in CF. Dave Ross is the starter behind home plate with Javier Valentin getting his fair share of playing time too. Good health is important for the Reds. Many players were banged up last year. A healthy team will turn Baker's Reds into a machine.
Prediction: In a dog fight... Reds 3rd.

Milwaukee Brewers (Mgr. Ned Yost, 83-79 in '07)
Brewers fans were treated to exciting baseball last season behind the powerful strokes of Prince Fielder (.618 slg) and Ryan Braun (.634 slg). This team can hit but can they pitch? Milwaukee will rise or fall depending on whether or not the starters can deliver. Hitters must cut down on inning killing strikeouts (1157 team K's in 5554 AB's). Loss of closer Cordero was a big big mistake.
Starting Rotation: Health and maturity are the keys and essential for success. Brewers must lower their '07 team era of 4.41. Leading the way is Ben Sheets (12-5, 3.82) who has yet to prove his arm can remain sound after three consecutive injury plagued years. Jeff Suppan, David Bush, Yovani Gallardo, Carlos Villanueva, Chris Capuano compete this spring to win starting nods. All need to settle down this year after roller coaster performances from a year ago. Closing duties belong to former Cy Young Eric Gagne who hopes all shoulder/elbow ailments are behind him. He's battled injuries after saving 52,55 and 45 games for the Dodgers ('02-'04).
In the Field: Prince Fielder (1B) crushed 50 round trippers in his second season. The sky is the limit for this kid. Rickie Weeks (2B, .235) needs to put the ball in play (116 k's in 409 at bats). His strike out totals are rally killers. Short stop JJ Hardy (26 hr) had a sensational first half until the wheels fell off after the All Star break. Third belongs to Bill Hall who seems to land a new starting position each year. He's another free swinger that must cut down on strikeouts (128 k in 452). Moving from third to LF is electrifying Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun who hit .324 and slugged .634 after being called up from the minors. Newcomer and slick fielder Mike Cameron will roam CF. Cory Hart (RF) enjoyed his first full season by knocking 24 dingers. He's one of the few to strike out less than 100 times (99). Behind the plate is another newcomer to Milwaukee, veteran Jeff Kendall.
Prediction: Getting closer but still a year or two away. Youth, erratic pitching and poor plate dicipline doom hopes in '08. 4th place

Houston Astros (Mgr. Cecil Cooper, 73-89 in '07)
Cecil Cooper takes the reigns. 2007 was an embarrassment as Houston finished 4th in baseball's weakest division. Coop will try to ignite his squad. Astros fans are hoping better days arrive quickly in '08.
Starting Pitchers: Ace Roy Oswalt (14-7, 3.18) is as good as they come. Victory totals would have been better had Houston's bullpen protected leads. The rest of this staff is good one day, not so good the next. Wandy Rodriguez (9-13, 4.58) needs to prove he's of major league calibur. Brandon Backe has the stuff pitchers are made of when he's on the field... but, he's been off it more than on. Veteran hurler Woody Williams was hammered last year (35 hr in 188 IP). Houston's tiny confines did not suit him well. Perhaps, his 2nd Astro season will bring better results. High hopes have been pinned on Chris Sampson. Unfortunately, he's another victim of gopher balls. What were Houston's owners thinking when they approved designs of this little league field? This is one of the few parks with no home field advantage... a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.
In the Field: Miguel Tejada (SS) is was Houston's biggest off season acquisition. He was considered one of the very best power hitting short stops while playing for Baltimore. However, performing enhancing drug rumors swirl. Last year his totals fell off the map not even coming within the same universe as previous seasons. Minute Maid Park could be just what the doctor ordered for his former power stroke. Ty Wigginton is a pure hitter and the everyday hot cornerman. Houston's right side features fan favorite slugging Lance Berkman (.278, 34 hr). Kaz Matsui arrives to be the everyday 2B. This Japanese import has never really lived up to expectations. Last years .288 average can be attributed to spacious Coors Field. He has much to prove here or Mark Loretta will take his slot. Hopefully, Coop will learn this spring that Loretta is a better player and pencils him in as opening day starter. LF Carlos Lee had another fine year in '07 (.303, 43 2b, 32 hr). CF is speedy Michael Bourn's job to keep. Hunter Pence is the man in RF. He played well last year (.322, 30 2b, 9 3B, 17 hr in 106 games) which made former future Houston star Luke Scott expendable. Rookie J.R. Towles is expected to be the regular catcher.
Prediction: Coop does all he can but Houston is in dire need of better guns on the mound in this tiny park - 5th place.

St. Louis Cardinals (Mgr. Tony LaRussa, 78-84 in '07)
How the mighty have fallen. World Series Champs in 2006 only lost five more games last year but were never really in the race. Too many questions remain from pitching to hitting to defense. LaRussa will need to churn out every ounce of energy from his club to keep up with rivals on the rise.
Startin Pitchers: Chris Carpenter is the staff ace who is currently rehabbing and cannot be counted on at this juncture. Adam Wainwright (14-12, 3.70) completed a fairly solid season in his first year as a starter. He's the Cards #1 and this could spell trouble. Brandon Looper has great stuff when he can find the plate... something not done with any consistency during his career. The rest are unproven and will have to step up. The final slots to be determined this spring. Jason Isringhausen will close out games when given a lead.
In the Field: Albert Pujols is the man at 1B but power totals could slide due to a questionable sore elbow. LaRussa got his wish and St.Louis dealt doghoused 3B Scott Rolen to Toronto for slugging Troy Glaus. Problem here is one injury prone hot cornerman was replaced by another injury prone slugger. A fresh beginning and change of scenery for both is probably a good thing assuming they can stay on the field. Fan favorite, SS David Eckstein is gone. Caser Izturis is his replacement. No one expects anything more than solid defensive play as his bat is suspect. Weak hitting Adam Kennedy and Aaron Miles will most likely platoon at 2B. Roaming the OF will be 3 unproven players all with upside potential. Can they handle the pressures of playing everyday? LF is free swinging Chris Duncan. CF is Rick Ankiel. This former pitcher is a fan favorite but he's not nearly on the same plane as Gold Glove slugger and former CF Jim Edmonds. Skip Schumaker is in right. This outfield is a work in progress. This team will have problems scoring runs vs strong pitchers.
Prediction: LaRussa has his work cut out for him. Is he the guy to groom young talent? Not at all and might not be around by seasons end. 6th place finish on the way. 90+ losses is a distinct possibility.

Stay Tuned.... AL West on deck

02/28/08

All World All Sports 2008 MLB Predictions: AL Central

Permalink 01:18:30 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

All World All Sports continues our division by division breakdown. Each day this week will feature a different division in order of predicted finish. Part 3, AL Central

Detroit Tigers (Mgr. Jim Leyland, 88-74 in '07)
General Manager Dave Dombrowski had a fruitful winter and created the American Leagues best and deepest team heading into 2008. Jim Leyland's players have all the tools. Power, speed, pitching, depth, defense, poise, talented youth and veteran leadership. Baseball... get ready for the "Motown MowDown". Detroit will win the most games in all of baseball this season.
Starting Pitching: Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson. Rogers is the veteran who will rebound nicely after a season shortened by injury. He'll be counted on to help guide this young talented group of starters. Verlander is a lights out type of pitcher and is the teams "Ace". Dontrelle is a charismatic pitcher who was over worked in Florida. He comes to Detroit by way of a Florida trade with MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera. He'll have a huge year in spacious Comerica Park. Bonderman and Robertson have been Tiger projects improving with time. They were important keys to Detroit's World Series run in '06. These young guns will cruise with a talented and deep lineup providing plenty of run support. Vet Todd Jones returns to close out victories. The remaining bullpen assignments will be finalized this spring.
In the Field: Tigers roar! This crew has it all. Rich Renteria (SS, .332) was another of Dombrowski's grade A acquisitions. A steady glove at short and a line drive hitter. A perfect compliment to double play partner Placido Polanco (2B). Polanco scortched AL pitching last season to a .341 tune. Moving to 1B this season is Carlos Guillen (.296) who finally played back to back injury free seasons. Third belongs to Miguel Cabrera (.320, 34 hr). Miguel has reported to camp in the best shape of his young career. He's as steady as they come, cool under pressure and impressed Tiger mates in his first spring at bat with a monsterous 420 foot blast to deep CF. Detroit's OF trio: MVP runner up Magglio Ordonez (RF, .363, 139 rbi), CF Curtis Granderson (.302, 38 2B, 23 3B, 23 HR, 26 SB) is a five tool player, LF belongs to Jacque Jones. Jones power totals slipped while playing for the Cubs last year. He'll have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs this season and should return to his old form. Outspoken Gary Sheffield and will let his monster bat will do all the talking once spring trainng ends as the full time DH. Behind the plate is cannon armed future hall of famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. Pudge (.303 career) will be batting 9th this season which speaks volumes for exactly how deep this lineup has become.
Prediction: 1st, 105+ wins, World Series bound as Motown's favorite team mows them all down!

Cleveland Indians (Mgr. Eric Wedge, 96-66 in '07)
Wedge guided his team to a first place title last year. The core players return and this gutsy squad will challenge Detroit while trying to fend off the White Sox. This will be a very challenging season in Cleveland.
Starting Pitching: Cy Young winner CC Sabathia (19-7, 3.21) was tremendous last year and could be better in '08. This kid is intimidating and gets outs. Fausto Carmona (19-8, 3.06) had a great 2nd season and hopes for a successful repeat in '08. The rest of Cleveland's rotation brings big question marks. Byrd (4.61) is a winner but he's never completed a full season with an ERA below 4.00... this will be a problem in head to head matchups vs Detroit. Westbrook and Lee have made too many DL trips. Unproven Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers are competing for starter status this spring. There just isn't enough in the tank to keep pace with Detroit... and could be ez fodder for hungry Tigers.
In the Field: Around the horn - Garko (.289) may split time with Victor Martinez (.301, 40 2B, 25 hr). VM will be catching when Garko mans first. 2B seems to be Asdrubal Cabrera's to win or lose this spring. He's a defensive wiz and seems patient at the plate. We'll see how he handles pressures of everyday play this year. Jhonny Peralta has some pop but strikes out way to often (128, 152, 148 past 3 years). He need better command of the strike zone. Casey Blake is steady at third but hasn't produced nearly as well as most other 3B in the league. In the OF, Dave Dellucci and Jason Michaels are expected to platoon in LF. Grady Sizemore is the everyday CF. Over in RF, Franklin Gutierrez tries to win the job this spring. DH Troy Hafner is the only power threat for Cleveland. The rest of this lineup must hit with runners in scoring position to have any shot this year. Cleveland got all the breaks last season... lack of power means they'll have to fight for every inch if they are to have any chance of repeating. Sorry fellas, '08 will not be your year.
Prediction: It'll be a dogfight for 2nd place... Indians survive.

Chicago White Sox (Mgr. Ozzie Guillen, 72-90)
Ozzie had fits last year as his staff imploded. Chicago won 90 in '06, then slumped to 72 w's in '07. Water coolers beware if this club begins slowly in '08. Injuries were a major factor in this clubs demise. Just about every regular was sidelined in '07.
Starting Pitching: Slumped in '07 after getting most of the breaks in '06. Buerhle (10-9, 3.63), Vasquez (15-8, 3.74) are a fomidable 1-2 and must excel for Chicago's playoff hopes. Contreras (10-17, 5.57) was hitting bats (232 hits in 189 innings) when not bruising hitters (15 hbp's) in an erratic filled subpar '07. Danks (6-13, 5.50) has been billed as a future star. He was pounded often and frustrated last year. Gavin Floyd has shown nothing during his brief career as evidenced by his lifetime 6.30 ERA. Owwww, that hurts. Chicago has been more than patient... if he can't step up and command the strike zone... he'll be gone in a hurry. Bobby Jenks (40 saves) will get his saves if this staff can step up as they did 2 years ago. If not... look out for major mid-season changes.
In the Field: Paul Konerko returns at first and has slugged at least 30 homers in four straight years. 2B will be won this spring. The competitors are rookie Alexei Ramirez, Danny Richar and Juan Uribe (a former SS). Orlando Cabrera makes his White Sox debut after steady years of slick fielding and steady hitting in Anaheim. Joe Crede returns to cover Chicago's hot corner after a dismal injury year in '07. This infield has way too many question marks and is difficult to grade at this juncture. Jermaine Dye (RF) and newly acquired Rick Swisher (CF) will be counted on for run production and power. They'll have to hit with runners in scoring position for this team to be competitive. Ozzie will formally announce Chicago's everyday LF sometime this spring. His options are limited. DH is reserved for super slugger Jim Thome (507 career dingers). A.J Pierzynski returns and needs to settle down his erratic staff from behind the plate.
Prediction: The wheels fell off in '07. They should challenge Cleveland for 2nd place... too many question marks at this time. 3rd place.

Kansas City Royals (Mgr. Trey Hillman, 69-73 in '07)
KC fans have faced a generation gap between great Royals teams comprised of Brett, McRae, Mayberry, Otis, Leonard, Splittorff, Gura and Quiz... and poor teams for more years than folks in Missouri care to remember. Hillman's team will be competitive this year and KC finally has reason to believe in their future.
Starting Pitching: Gil Meche (3.67) was solid last season but lacked run support. Brian Bannister led KC with 12 wins. Zack Grienke has good stuff but mediocre concentration (62 hr's allowed in 456 career innings). They're KC's front 3 heading into this season. The remainder of this rotation is anyone's guess. No other pitcher has stepped up in recent times. Perhaps, a new winning outlook for this season can change losing attitudes into winning performances. Time will tell. The Royals are one quality starter away from possibly becoming a winning team. Joakim Soria will close out games when saves are possible.
In the Field: Alex Gordon is coming off a roller coaster rookie season. He has all the tools to become a top notch player for years to come. Expect him to improve steadily every year once he learns to settle down at the plate and get adjusted to major league pitching. Tony Pena (SS) and dependable Mark Grudzielanek (2B) will be counted on to gobble up everything hit their way. 1B will most likely be a platoon with lefty Gload and righty Billy Butler. LF Mark Teahen has matured into a good hitter but lacks power. Rangy CF David DeJesus batting average dropped 30 points in '07 from his previous two campaigns. Expect him to return back near .290 this year. Jose Guillen is this teams new RF. Guillen represents the lone power threat in this lineup. He's had on and off years... this one must be on for KC to succeed. Hillman's DH will most likely be players being given a rest from defensive positions. John Buck enters his fifth season as team catcher. He has some power but hasn't displayed any consistency at the dish.
KC is a young team looking to improve... and they will this year. No longer cellar dwellers.
Prediction: 4th place. If Chicago faulters, look for KC to move up into third. This young club is on the rise.

Minnesota Twins (Mgr. Ron Gardenhire, 79-83)
Ron Gardenhire knows how to extract the most from his players. Having Cy Young starter Johan Santana always helped... unfortunately for this club, Santana was traded away to the Mets. Minnesota is in deep trouble heading into this season. The Pohlads' continue to give away their best players. Santana wasn't the only star sent packing. Elite CF and fan favorite Torii Hunter is also gone. Two key ingredients from prior winning years. There's no place to go but down.
Starting Pitching: Johan is gone and his 2 Cy Young awards are history and so are the 2008 Twins. Santana finished no lower than 7th in Cy voting for 5 straight years. Baker, Bonzer, Blackburn, Slowey and Livan sound more like baseball's version of Disney characters than proven starting pitchers. Hernandez is the vet but this over worked horse showed signs of dead arm last year. Without much defensive help behind him and a lack of offensive help to put up runs, Livan is in for a long season. This team has no clear cut #1 starter or proven hurler beyond Livan.
In the Field: 1B Justin Morneau ('06 AL MVP) is a great young player who should get better with each passing year. JM has posted consecutive 30+ hr, 100+ rbi years. Catcher Joe Mauer is another young Twins player who anchors Minnesota's offense. He was banged up last year and must return to form for this team to score runs. Brendan Harris (2B) comes to Minny by way of Tampa Bay. He has limited range but rarely makes an error. At the plate, he faired well during in '07 and will be counted on as a table setter in '08. From Houston comes slick fielding and weak hitting Adam Everett. This SS/2B combo must get to everything hit on the Metrodomes slick surface for this mediocre pitching staff to get outs. Mike Lamb is a man of many positions who flashed a steady bat during his career in Houston. 3B is his to win. Roaming the OF this year will be Mike Cuddyer in right, Carlos Gomez is projected to replace Hunter in CF, while Delman Young is penciled into LF. Many new faces on this squad. Defense is a huge question mark... coupled with an unproven starting staff... could prove to be big trouble.
Prediction: 5th place. Twins players and fans will not be happy with this predict. Many will shake their heads as to how anyone can pick KC to finish higher than last. This team has too much to prove. Losing Hunter and Santana's skills and leadership will be too much to handle. Gardenhire's a great manager who stresses fundamentals from fielding to smart base running. He'll have to keep these young players on their toes every single minute of every inning in every game. RG has the luxury of one of baseball's better bullpens led by closer Joe Nathan. Problem here will be not letting them get over worked early in the year.

Stay tuned, NL Central on deck

02/26/08

All World All Sports 2008 MLB Predictions: NL East

Permalink 09:33:50 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Spring Training has begun! Major League players are busy getting into shape for the 2008 season.

All World All Sports continues our division by division breakdown. Each day this week will feature a different division in order of predicted finish. Part 2, NL East.

New York Mets (Mgr. Willie Randolph, 88-74 in '07) 2007 featured a historic September collapse by New York as they blew a seven game lead and were beaten out for division honors by the Philadelphia Phillies. Will there be lingering effects this year.. their final in Shea Stadium? Players staying injury free is the key for this club. Randolph's team traded for Johan Santana, one of the games very best hurlers. The Mets season rests squarely on his shoulders. Pedro Martinez has been somewhat of a bust for New York due to extended disabled list appearances. John Maine had a fine season last year is a solid #3 starter. Oliver Perez found the plate on a regular basis last year for the first time in his career. El Duque is another health question mark for this deep rotation. If these hurlers stay healthy, New York will win this division. One can't stress enough healthy pitching is the biggest concern for this team. The Mets super deep bullpen is of great comfort and gives Willie plenty of options.
In the field: Carlos Delgado is healthy and appears ready to put fear back into the hearts and minds of opposing pitching staffs. Late season aquisition slick fielding 2B Luis Castillo teams up with superstar SS Jose Reyes to form the NL's top dp combo. They'll hit 1-2 and their speed will keep pitchers plenty distracted. The hot corner belongs to David Wright who continues to excel year after year. He was a legit MVP candidate until the wheels fell off last September.
Carlos Beltran (CF) anchors Shea's spacious outfield. To his right is pure hitter Moises Alou (LF). Alou has battled numerous injuries from season to season. Randolph will give him plenty of rest in hopes of keeping him active and healthy. RF Ryan Church is the Mets most over looked player. This will be his first season in the big apple and will have plenty of opportunities to excel in this sensational lineup. Behind the plate features Brian Schneider and Ramon Castro who must be loving life with this staff.
Randolph has all the weapons. Power pitching, great defense, speed and a balanced lineup. This team has it all. 100 wins is within reach.
Prediction: 1st place. New York is NL's team to beat.

Atlanta Braves (Mgr. Bobby Cox, 84-78 in '07) Bobby Cox knows how to get the most from his players. 2007 was his most challenging season in years. Cox has the luxury of a superb front three rotation which will give fits to opposing batters as Atlanta challenges New York for division honors. Hudson, Smoltz and the return of Tom Glavine are All Stars. The rest of this rotation is up for grabs. Even Mike Hampton is trying to ressurect his oft injured career. Consistency is needed in the bullpen or Cox will blow what's left of his short fuse.
In the Field: A strong deep lineup solidified on the infield corners by Mark Teixeira (1B, .306, 33 2b, 30 hr) and fan favorite Chipper Jones (3B, .337 42 2b, 29 hr). Both hit for average, power and will have ample opportunities to drive in runs. Yunel Escobar (SS) and Kelly Johnson (2B) represent a solid, yet flashy dp combo. One of the keys to success is Atlanta's outfield. Andruw Jones is gone, Mark Kotsay is in. Kotsay plays fine defense but is no comparison to the loss of Jones' bat. LF appears to be Matt Diaz job to win this preseason. He excelled in platoon duties last year and must produce if this squad is to keep pace with NY. RF belongs to shotgun armed Jeff Francoeur. Behind the plate is solid backstop Brian McCann.
Prediction: 2nd. Atlanta needs to come out of the gates on fire. Fundamentals and smart play is the key to success if they are to have any.

Philadelphia Phillies (Mgr. Charlie Mauel, 89-73) Talk about a team taking full advantage of faultering opponents. The Phillies appeared left for dead until they caught fire just at the right time.. when the Mets went into full tanking mode. This season will be quite different. The Phillies have a fine and powerful lineup. Pitching and is suspect and could ruin fine run production. GM Pat Gillick made no key pickups this off season to bolster a fairly weak starting staff. This is the difference between repeating and retreating. Cole Hammels (15-5, 3.39) had a fine year in '07. The rest of Philadelphia's starting staff is a guessing game. Myers has fought injuries and has yet to live up to his hype. Kendrick enters his sophmore season after a fine preview in '07. Moyer has been getting absolutely hammered in recent seasons and Citizens Bank Park is no place for a gopher ball pitcher. Philly fans will be quick to add another crack in the Liberty Bell should this team start slowly. This has been a hyped team... it's all hot air.
In the Field: Ryan Howard is a monster at first base. He greatly struggled in opening months last year (.223, 44 k's in 117 ab's). However, he rebounded just fine finishing the year with 47 homers while plating 136 runners. To his right is another slugger and perhaps the games best second sacker Chase Utley (.338, 75 extra base hits). His dp counterpart is spark plug Jimmy Rollins. JR does it all (.296, 38 2b's, 20 3b's, 30 hr's, 41 sb's). 3B is a question mark as Pedro Feliz was added this off season. Feliz has shown flashed of brilliance, however, it's too soon to call. He could explode for a monster season in Philly's hitter friendly ballpark.. only now he faces some of the NL's best hurlers on a regular basis. Burrell (LF), Victorino (CF) and newly acquired Jenkins (RF) make up this outfield. Ruiz and Coste will see plenty of activity behind the plate trying to calm down an erratic starting staff. The bullpen is also very questionable. Lidge is already injured before throwing his first live pitch in a Phillies uniform. Gordon returns from injury. JC Romero is an excellent set up guy but unproven as a closer. He might be forced into a closer role of this staff keeps getting banged up.
Prediction: Plenty of runs scored, plenty given up. 3rd place.

Florida Marlins (Mgr. Fredi Gonzalez, 71-91) Peter Angelos was slammed in our AL East predicts... Jeff Loria should have been run out of the game by fellow owners. This failed former Montreal owner was somehow allowed by his cronies to purchase the Florida Marlins. This guy just loves to kill baseball teams. The low budget Marlins were playing inspired baseball for manager Joe Girardi in 2006, until Lorie and Girardi butted heads which led to a late season collapse and cost this team another playoff appearance. Girardi was gone soon after '06 concluded. 2007 was a disappointment on the field as a result of poor play. 2008 will be a greater disappointment based on another infamous Florida fire sale. One of this teams greatests attributes over the years has been their fine scouting staffs who have signed great prospects. It's been the front office who hands them away. Starting pitching is young and undeveloped. A daunting task vs super lineups in New York, Atlanta and Philadelphia. It's a free for all battle this spring for starters and relievers.
In the Field: Florida has some great bright spots. Hanley Ramirez (SS) is one of the games most exciting players (.332, 48 2b, 8 3b, 29 hr, 51 sb). Second base belongs to slugging Dan Uggla (31 hr). He needs better plate patience to help when needed most (.245, 167 K's). Mike Jacobs is a solid at 1st. Dallas McPherson gets a second chance to develope in a pressure free home in Florida. Willingham is a lock in LF. CF & RF will be won in spring training. Maybin, De Aza, Hermida and Ross battle to start. Luis Gonzalez will throw his hat into the ring but the true competition will for the youngsters. Unknowns signal callers Rabelo and Treanor will attempt to become household names in South Florida.
Prediction: 4th. Even with many question marks and faulty ownership, this is a gritty group of players fighting for playing time, self respect and wins.

Washington Nationals (Mgr. Manny Acta 73-89) Manny Acta has an exciting young team to manage this season. The key to Washington's success... what else... pitching and someone to supply long ball power from the plate. No single chucker on this staff has proven worthy of being guaranteed a starting pitcher slot. Spring training will determine who makes the grade, and who gets left behind. Injuries decimated this group last year which has paved the way for a heated spring competition. Acta's pitching strength appears to rest in the bullpen. However, if the starters faulter and don't last deep into games... then this staff will get over worked before April ends.
In the Field: Dmitri Young and a healthy Nick Johnson will battle it out this spring to determine who starts at 1B. Johnson's career has been marred by injury. Young rebounded last year and was a catalyst (.320, 38 2b). 3B belongs to Ryan Zimmerman (.266, 43 2b, 24 hr). A three player battle is in progress for SS & 2B. Cristian Guzman, Rafael Belliard and Felipe Lopez will all see playing time. Guzman will most likely open the year at short while Belliard and Lopez platoon at second. All three can field, all three need to hit to stay in the lineup. Plenty of players battling for outfield and reserve slots. Willie Mo Pena supplies the power and shaky D in LF. Mets castoff Lastings Milledge plays CF. Milledge's antics ran him out of NY. He's a five tool player who needs to learn the strike zone to stay in the majors. Austin Kearns is a lock for RF. Kearns has yet to hit 20 homers. Washington's catcher competition is crowded. LoDuca (injured), Estrada, Flores, Cota, Moeller are all fighting for a roster spot. This team is lacking a true power hitter and guaranteed roster slots. Spring training will be interesting. Acta has some tough choices ahead.
Prediction: 5th.

Stay Tuned... AL Central on deck

02/25/08

All World All Sports 2008 MLB Predictions: AL East

Permalink 04:17:16 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Spring Training has begun! Major League players are busy getting into shape for the 2008 season.. hoping to stay focused on the game and free from petty controversies.

All World All Sports presents our division by division breakdown. Each day this week will feature a different division in order of predicted finish. Let's begin with the AL East.

Boston Red Sox (Mgr. Terry Francona, 96-66 in 2007).
The World Champion Boston Red Sox are attempting to reach dynasty status after winning two Championships in four seasons. Their '08 rotation is a bit banged up heading into opening day. GM Theo Epstein was unwilling to sacrifice young future talent to land star pitcher Johan Santana... a move which might come back to haunt this organization. Beckett and Dice K will need to have stellar seasons as Curt Schilling is rehabbing a problematic right shoulder. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will need to pick up the slack and produce quality starts. The rest of this rotation is up in the air at the moment while the Sox pen will be looking to repeat last years greatness.
In the field: Youkilis, Pedroia, Lugo and Lowell provide solid around the horn D while providing quality AB's at the plate. All four have Boston fans admiration and know how to use Fenway Park to their advantage. Starting LF Manny Ramirez and DH David Ortiz combine to create one of the games best middle lineup 1-2 punches. Question marks remain in CF. Coco Crisp needs to impress this spring if he wants to retain the starting nod. He'll feel the heat from up and coming Jacoby Ellsbury. In RF, JD Drew will also need to pick up his game or GM Epstein will be quick to pull the trigger on a replacement. Team captain and backstop Jason Varitek had an off year at the plate last year... he'll deliver when needed in '08.
This division will be a dog fight from beginning to end... Red Sox prevail in late September.

Toronto Blue Jays (Mgr. John Gibbons, 83-79 in '07). Toronto headed into '07 with high hopes only to quickly be derailed by costly injuries in week one. This talented group will need stay healthy and play top notch ball to have any realistic shot at winning this division. They have the tools, but can they take advantage of opportunities? Time will tell. Toronto's formula for success relies squarely on their young starting pitchers. Halladay and Burnett could turn out to be the divisions best 1-2 punch. McGowan, Marcum and Litsch all showed flashes of brilliance last year and should have matured enough for this team to turn heads. BJ Ryan pitched in all of 5 games before finally admitting his arm was torn up... and this hurt the Jays chances. If he rebounds, opponents are in for a rough ride.
In the field: Overbay and Hill anchor the right side. Both are solid and dependable players. The left side has new faces this year. Former Cardinals, David Eckstein and Scott Rolen take over. Eck is a gritty player who gives it his all on every single play. Rolen has battled injuries lately. He has a chance to return to form now that he's no longer playing for manager who publicly tattoed him in recent years (Tony LaRussa). Rolen has been one of the games best hot corner fielders and needs to get his bat back in form. In the OF, Vernon Wells must return to star status as his .245 average was tough for Jays fans to watch in '07. Rios and Johnson return as OF corner men and both seem to be getting better with age. DH Frank Thomas is still the Big Hurt. Journey man slugging Matt Stairs will fight for at bats off the bench. Gibby will find him plenty of playing time as fill in DH, 1B, LF, RF.
Toronto will battle all year long. Don't be surprised if they pull a Colorado and win this division.
Current prediction... 2nd place, wild card contender.

New York Yankees (Mgr. Joe Girardi, 94-68 in '07). The Steinbrenner boys have been handed control of an aging team from Boss George. GM Cashman was unable to win the trade war for Santana. Heading into '08 starting pitching is a major concern for the games most recognized and hated franchise. Chien-Ming Wang and Andy Pettitte must on their best all season long for the Yanks to have any chance of challenging for division honors. Mike Mussina seems to have lost his consistancy and velocity. His veteran presence will be counted on for aiding rookies fighting for rotation spots. Does he have any gas left in his tank? Probably not enough. Rookie sensation and future star Joba Chamberlain is working on developing a devastating change up to compliment is Ryan-esque fastball. This kid is for real and captivated New York fans in his very first major league game. The Yankees front office remains content to develope this phenom before rushing him into rotation status. Smart move? Or, overly conservative? Joba has the best stuff in this division... if he makes the opening day rotation then the Yanks could shift gears to division favorites. Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, as of now, are projected to make the opening day cut as starters. These two were big topics of discussion and most wanted by Minnesota in the Santana sweepstakes. Santana, Wang, Pettitte & Joba would have destroyed this division and perhaps brought home another Series victory. However, the Yanks were content to develope what they hope are future starts. BIG MISTAKE ... and one to be felt for many years to come.
In the field: Every single player in this lineup can hit when not swinging for the fences. But, it's the poor defense on the diamond has cost the Yankees many victories in 06/07. $200M team payroll and these guys blow games with their gloves. Girardi had better stress fundamentals with this group ... something Joe Torre didn't stress enough. Giambi is a liability at first base and figures to see more playing time wearing a glove than he has in recent years. This former steroid junkie needs to have a big year or get used to hearing plenty of Bronx jeers. Cano needs to attack the ball more often than it attacks him. He makes great plays on hard hit balls but seems to lose concentration on routine grounders thru the wickets. Jeter always seems to make big plays and is the games best at tracking pop flies while running full speed away from the infield. ARod is streaky at 3B... another who makes a great diving play or super strong throw to nail speedy hitters. However, as with Cano, it's the routine plays which he muffs most often from weak grounders to pop ups. In the OF, Damon and Matsui will split time in LF. Damon used to be a Yankee killer during his Boston days... and has not been the leadoff hitter the Yanks expected. Torre often dropped his slumping bat deep into the lineup last year. Godzilla Matsui can usually be counted on for a big hit when needed but his D is suspect at times too. Cabrera has been handed the starting job in CF ... add his name to the list of somewhat erratic fielders. Abreu had an off year in '07 ... yep, you guessed it... another erratic OF. This team gives away way too many chances to their opponents. If this trend continues, too much pressure will bear down on young arms which spells disaster. Behind the plate and coming off a fine season is Jorge Posada. Without his fine play the Yanks may not have won wild card honors last year.
Many question remain heading into '08. All signs indicate.. if New York begins slowly the Steinbrenner boys will be screaming even louder than George used to. Yanks sport the American Leagues most feared lineup 1-9. As usual, it will not be enough yet again. Winning the East will be nearly impossible if Joba gets held back from making the rotation and if these millionaire's botch plays.
Predicted finish #3. Rough days ahead. NY press will have a field day lambasting this team if they begin slowly. Santana will be missed... and Cashman could be the teams first casualty.

Tampa Bay Rays (Mgr. Joe Maddon, 66-96). Tampa entered the league in 1998. For the most part they'd been a young team going nowhere, with no pitching, weak hitting, and shoddy defense. Times have changed. This squad is on the cusp of turning the corner for better days. Scott Kazmir (3.48) and Jamie Shields (3.85) have arrived. They will continue to improve ... the Rays future is in their hands. 2008 will finally make Rays fans proud. Tampa's remaining starters will be finalized after spring competition.
In the field: Around the horn... 1B Carlos Pena (46 HR's) is coming off a monster campaign. Akinori Iwamura (.285) made a smooth transition from Japanese ball to the majors and will put up better overall numbers during his second full season. He changes positions from 3B to 2B in '08. Bartlett is his double play counterpart and must cut down on 26 errors from a year ago. Evan Longoria will be given the opportunity to become Tampa's new 3B this spring. His challengers are NL castoff Willy Aybar and Joel Guzman. Proven outfielders, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton and Rocco Baldelli provide plenty of extra base hit ability and speed fordifying this clubs young and improving lineup. Troy Percival (12th all time saves) and Mgr. Maddon hope this closers arm is sound. If so, he'll be a tremendous lift to the starting corps. The future is now.
Prediction: 4th place. Tampa's first best chance at a winning season.

Baltimore Orioles (Mgr. Dave Trembley, 69-93 in '07). Owner Peter Angelos has been voted the worst owner in professional sports by famed Sports Illustrated. He bought the Orioles in 1993 and has detroyed what was one of the games most respected franchises. Baltimore fans have been vocal in urging him to sell the team and move on. Fans have created a "Free the Birds" campaign. This beleaguered and self gutted team is odds on favorite to lose more games than any other club in 2008. My guess, 110 losses is well within reach. Gone are stars Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard. Tickets to home games should be handed out for free. Even then, who would want to bother watching what Angelos has meticulously destroyed? Even O's players are probably wincing.
In the field: Former World Series Champ Kevin Millar enters his third Bird year and must be itching to jump ship. To his right is second sacker Brian Roberts who has shown flashes of brilliance in prior season. Replacing Tejada at short figures to be Luis Gonzalez who has only 30 career games under his belt. At third is Melvin Mora who has watched his stats decline for 2 straight seasons. This infield has many holes... will give away many outs once again and could be the weakest hitting group east of Kansas City. Luke Scott and Jay Payton figure to share time in LF. Houston gave up on their once highly touted prospect. He now plays in a pressure free environment... perhaps this player will finally live up to his billing. Weak hitting Aaron Jones heads into spring training as Baltimore's projected starter in CF. The teams lone bright spot is in RF where Nick Markakis roams. He's coming off a 43 double, 23 homer year while batting an even .300. Ramon Hernandez will squat behind the plate while trying to tame an erratic pitching staff which is certain to hand out many more free passes again this season. The pitching staff is unproven with little upside potential. It's a guessing game as to who will make this inept staff. Hopefully, a bright spot will emerge. This is clearly a management group which has all but given up on fielding a competitive team. It doesn't get much uglier than this bunch.
Prediction: Do I really have to spell it out? AL's worst team resides in Baltimore. Enough said.

Stay tuned... NL East is on deck.