Archives for: 2011, week 10


Spring Training Spotlight: Oakland Athletics

Permalink 12:06:09 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

The Oakland Athletics youth movement is maturing. 2011 could be Oakland's turn to shock the baseball world. They must be sensing their time is now judging by an active winter of wheeling and dealing. New faces counted on to contribute include Hideki Matsui (DH), David DeJesus (rF), Josh Willingham (LF), Grant Balfour (P), Brandon McCarthy (P) and a few others currently competing for roster spots. A's brass aggressively perused the likes of Lance Berkman, Adrian Beltre and Japanese import Hisashi Iwakuma but lack of big money offers failed to entice.

Oakland's starting rotation progressed wonderfully in 2010. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez & Dallas Braden represent the front four. All talented and primed to take a step to the next level. Middle relieve is nearly unhittable setting up lights out closer Andrew Bailey. Opposing teams will have a tough time scoring against my prediction for AL's top ERA unit. Question, can offense find ways to generate enough runs to win ball games?

Offense received a boost. Matsui & Willingham will be heavily counted on as run producers. A healthy Coco Crisp and DeJesus will be top of the lineup table setters. Remaining injury free has been a major problem for Oakland players in recent seasons. Most major contributors missed time derailing potential team success and, in some cases, prematurely ended careers.

A's lineup isn't geared to go toe to toe with powerhouse clubs. However, if they can score just enough then expect their pitchers to take care of the rest. There won't be many late inning rallies against these guys. If Oakland can manage a relatively injury free season then they'll be in the hunt all year long.



Spring Training Spotlight: Chicago White Sox

Permalink 08:14:14 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

Feisty White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen expects 2011 success after key injuries sidetracked division title dreams one year ago. Five season's have gone by since winning the 2005 World Series over Houston. What to expect in 2011...

Chicago was fairly quiet during the winter but did manage to land one of baseball's biggest sluggers, 1B/DH Adam Dunn. Paul Konerko re-signed providing the Sox with a big time 1-2 power punch. Many players attempting to rebound from nagging injuries. Carlos Quentin is two years removed from 36 HR, 100 RBI season. 3B has been a problem position for a few years. Mark Teahen has first crack at trying to win the job. Juan Pierre returns to everyday duty. He's been a forgotten man of late. Pierre is one of the games top lead off hitters. He's going to enjoy a fine '11 campaign. Chicago's batting order can be dangerous when healthy. Bench depth is lacking.

Starting rotation gets an immediate boost if Jake Peavy's right arm is sound. A big if. Peavy's still one of the games top hurlers. Buerhle, Jackson, Danks & FLoyd create a formidable four. Throw in a sound Peavy and this is one of AL's deepest 1-5. Bullpen gave Ozzie fits last year. They failed to keep one run games close and handed away a few wins too. Matt Thornton gets a crack at everyday closer duties in 2011.

AL Central figures to be a three team race on paper. Minnesota, Detroit and Chicago are the divisions top guns. All clubs faced serious injury concerns one year ago. Make sure to tune in when these teams play head to head match-ups. Chicago's fate rest squarely on health issues. They'll score runs in bunches. Does Chicago have the right chemistry to overtake Minnesota? We'll find out by game 162.



Spring Training Spotlight: Chicago Cubs

Permalink 02:54:13 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs by Digger  

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-Digger's Daily-

The "Lovable Losers" continue tacking on years to their World Series drought with no end in sight. 1908 was the last time the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. It also marks the last time they won a playoff series. Chicago has another dubious streak in tact. 1935 was their last 100 win season. NL Central is up for grabs. Cubs find themselves legitimate contenders as no team has a stranglehold over foes. What's in store for the 2011 Chicago Cubs?

2011 begins with a new manager, Mike Quade. Quade energized the Cubs to 24-13 record after Piniella's early departure. Players realized they were trying out for '11. Limited off season payroll options turned Chicago into shrewd buyers. 2011 fate rests squarely on starting rotation. Matt Garza jumps into the NL fray after making his bones in Tampa Bay. He joins a talented staff featuring Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells and Carlos Silva. Keep an eye on both Carlos'. Zambrano's mid-season implosion was one of many distractions within Chicago's dugout contributing to their 5th place finish. Silva already exploded during spring training. If these hot heads can't control themselves then the season's over before it begins. However, if they're able to bring A games...? There's no dominant NL Central rotation placing the Cubs back in the race. Only downside is no left handed starter.

Bullpen looks as strong as ever. Kerry Wood is back! Wood returns to Chicago by choice and for less money than others were willing to pay. He becomes set up man to flame throwing closer Carlos Marmol (138 K's in 77 IP). Sean Marshall (90 K in 78 IP) delivers darts as left handed specialist. Middle relievers will be decided by the time camp breaks.

Cubs offense has the pieces but doesn't seem to take advantage of game changing situations. Clutch performances have been lacking. Mental errors, base running gaffe's and useless strikeouts often kill key moments. LF Soriano's health held up after back to back injury plagued years. '11 presents a golden opportunity for Soriano to prove his skills haven't diminished as stats suggest. Wrigley Field is perfect for CF Marlon Byrd who will see a spike in power numbers. RF Fukudome was a star in Japan who hasn't been able to live up to hype in USA. A Japanese League career .305 hitter who routinely smacked in excess of 30 2B's, 20 HR's has been anything but clutch during three Major League Baseball seasons. Batting .259, low RBI totals, high OBA suggest Fukudome being mis-used deeper in batting order. This guy should be given a shot leading off or in the two hole. Should Soriano and Fukudome put together respectable .280 averages their contributions will go a long way towards winning close games. 32 one-run losses were the most in baseball last year.

Cubs infield sports a new look. Only 3B Aramis Ramirez returns looking for redemption after battling nagging injuries. 1B Carlos Pena takes a stab at NL baseball. Strong range and solid glove guarding the RF line. It'll be interesting to see how he handles NL pitching in a great hitters park division. His only downside is 150-170 strikeouts. Blake DeWitt (2B) and Starlin Castro (SS) form the dp combo. Add backstop Geovany Soto's name to oft injured Cubs. He's a talented ball hacker vital to run production.

Chicago's lineup needs to avoid prolonged or nagging injuries. They've endured two consecutive season's of devastating hard knocks. This lineup can be dangerous when healthy. 2011 is also a year for players to prove they've still got it. Strikeouts are game killers for the Cubs. Runners fail to advance while hitters swing wildly at dirtballs. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo has his hands full teaching these guys how to hit with two strikes and/or two outs. 2B is a weak area. Baker/DeWitt platoon hasn't provided stellar D. Lineup could use another left handed bat vs a right handed pitching rich division.

Keys to Cubs success. How well can Quade manage on and off the diamond? Quirky to volatile players in the dugout completely destroyed team moral last year. Tempers already sprouting during Cactus League games. Lack of discipline will doom Chicago. Jaramillo must teach these guys to cut down on strikeouts, put the ball in play and drive in runners. Can former stud Zambrano keep his cool and pitch effectively? Can Garza become an effective NLer? Is Silva's spring meltdown history or waiting to boil over? 2011 is a key year for most veteran players. Thin bench not ready for prime time if recurring injuries strike. Cubs need cosmic tumblers all to lineup. 100+ years of frustration.

NL Central division title well within their grasp if they wise up. A big IF.