30 Teams in 30 Days – Cincinnati Reds

After a great year in 2010, which landed the Reds their first NL Central title since 1995, the Reds disappointed a lot of people last year. Despite having 2010 NL MVP, Joey Votto (who just so happened to attend my high school back in his youth), they couldn’t even reach the .500 plateau. Let’s recap.
Cincinnati Reds
Record: 79-83
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Johnny Cueto 9-5, 2.31 ERA, 104 SO
Top Hitter: .309 AVG, 29 HR, 103 RBI
Manager: Dusty Baker
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Mat Latos, Sean Marshall, Ron Mahay, Dioner Navarro, Ryan Madson, Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, Ryan Ludwick, Jeff Francis
Important Offseason Losses: Francisco Cordero TOR, Ramon Hernandez COL, Edgar Renteria FA, Dontrelle Willis, Edinison Volquez, Yonder Alonso SD,  Travis Wood CHC

There were high hopes for the Reds in 2011 after a great 2010, but with the amazing years the Brewers and the Cardinals put up, the Reds didn’t have a chance. Joey Votto (CANADIAN)! got some heat last year, which I didn’t quite understand, I know he had a drop-off from 2010, but he still hit over .300, he had 29 Jacks and over 100 RBI’s. The real problem lied in their pitching, they finished exactly 20th in the league in ERA, WHIP and SO. It was mostly their Starters, besides Cueto and Leake, their Starting Pitching was horrendous, I mean, just look at the stats, of their 5 pitchers with 13 starts or more (not including Leake and Cueto), their Starting Pitching finished with an ERA of 5.00 on the dot. That is unacceptable. They had a decent Bullpen and a decent offensive attack, but their Starting Pitching lost them a lot of ball games. The Reds certainly went after improving that in the offseason, with the addition of young stud, Mat Latos. The 24 year old right-hander has shown great promise, posting an ERA of 3.37 in his first 72 big league starts. They also added veteran lefty, Jeff Francis (also CANADIAN!), who once had great potential, being selected 9th overall in the 2002 Draft, but was never able to live up to expectations, posting a career 4.78 ERA as a starter, the Reds may try to use him in a relief role this year, seeing as he’s already made 3 relief appearances for them in the Spring. So, I believe their Starting 5 should be greatly improved this year, with the hope of continued success from Cueto, Leake and Latos, and then if they can get improved years from Bailey and Arroyo (who had two successful campaigns before struggling last year), they could even be considered a somewhat dangerous starting rotation at times. Their bullpen should be improved a bit with the additions of Marshall and Mahay, but with them parting ways with Cordero, they brought on Madson to take over the closer role, unfortunately it was just announced that he will miss the whole year due to Tommy John surgery, so they’re going to have trouble finding saves from time to time, having established closer. Their offense has lost a little fire power in Alonso, Hernandez and Renteria, but it should still be a very dangerous offensive group. Ultimately I think the Reds will fall short of the Cardinals and the Brewers once again (despite their losses of Prince and Pujols). I just don’t see this team being able to compete with them. However, they are still young (28.0 yr old average) and I believe that they’ll be a threat in this division for years to come.

Prediction
Record: 82-80
Finish: 3rd in NL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Mat Latos 14-9, 3.06 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Joey Votto .311 AVG, 31 HR, 108 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Atlanta Braves

Atlanta completely collapsed in September last year, losing their Wild Card spot to the Cardinals on the final day of the season. Luckily for them, it was completely overshadowed by the Red Sox collapse. You start to wonder, who would have won the World Series if Hotlanta had of been able to play just average in September, and were able to cruise their way to a playoff spot? Let’s see how they looked overall last year.
Atlanta Braves
Record: 89-73
Finish: 2nd in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jair Jurrjens 13-6, 2.96 ERA, 90 SO
Top Hitter: Brian McCann .270 AVG, 24 HR, 71 RBI
Manger: Not Bobby Cox (Fredi Gonzalez)
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Adam Russell, Josh Wilson, Robert Fish (he’s not really important, I just enjoy his name),
Imortant Offseason Losses: Derek Lowe CLE, Nate McLouth PIT, Alex Gonzalez MIL, Scott Linebrink STL, George Sherrill SEA

On August 28th, 2011, the Atlanta Braves led the Cardinals in the Wild Card race by 10 games. I want to put this in perspective here, the Braves were just 6 games back of the Phillies at this time, the Tigers were only 6.5 games ahead of the Indians, and the Giants only trailed the D’Backs by 3 games, at that time, it would have made more sense  for one of those teams (Braves, Indians, Giants) to have have caught their division leaders  
instead of the Cardinals catching the Braves. Apart from September, the Braves had a terrific season, despite struggling offensively from time to time, their pitching more than made up for it, finishing top 4 in the league in ERA(3.48), WHIP(1.25), SO(1332), Opponent’s Average(.240), Home Runs allowed(125), Runs allowed(605) and Saves(52). They also did a great job defensively, finishing 4th in the league in Fielding Percentage(.987). Unfortunately, they struggled offensively, finishing in the bottom 8 of the league in AVG(.243), R(641), RBI(606) and SB(77), they do have some pop in their bats as they hit 173 Home Runs, but they will need to improve their offense this season. The Braves have some AMAZING young talent, for whatever reason, I find a lot of people thinking the Braves have an old team, this may be because of Chipper Jones and Tim Hudson, but they’re the 6th youngest team in the league. Examples:
Freddie Freeman 1B
Age: 22
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 157 G, .282 AVG, 21 HR, 76 RBI
Brandon Beachy RHP
Age: 25
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 25 GS, 7-3, 3.68 ERA, 169 SO
Craig Kimbrel
Age: 23
Rookie Season: 2011
2011 Stats: 79 G, 77 IP, 46 SV, 2.10 ERA, 127 SO
Eric O’Flaherty
Age: 26
Rookie Season: 2007
2011 Stats: 78 G, 73.2 IP, 0.98 ERA, 67 SO
Jason Heyward
Age: 22
Rookie Season: 2010
2011 Stats: 128 G, .227 AVG, 14 HR, 42 RBI
Jair Jurrjens
Age: 26
Rookie Season: 2008
2011 Stas: 23 GS, 13-6, 2.96 ERA, 90 SO
Tommy Hanson
Age: 25
Rookie Season: 2009
2011 Stas: 22 GS, 11-7, 3.60 ERA, 142 SO

It’s pretty clear that the Braves have tons of young talent on their team, and even some of their established players like Brian McCann and Miguel Prado are still fairly young, as their each only 28 years old, and their star reliever Jonny Venters just turned 27 yesterday. The team didn’t make many moves in the Offseason, nor should they have. If Uggla (who hit .296 and 21 of his 36 HR post All-Star break last year) and Heyward have bounce back years, and the rest of their players can keep up what they did last year (not including September), this team should have no problem nailing one of the two Wild Card spots, even with the improved Marlins. I even have them winninng the World Series, but I’m kinda crazy. Their bullpen might be a bit worse (but still amazing), but their offense will improve and their Starting pitching should be just as good, and having Bourn for the entire year should help them tremendously on the base paths. I expect good things from the Braves this year, but there’s still one question left to be asked, would the Braves have collapsed if they still had Bobby Cox as their bench boss? Too many what ifs, let’s just see how they play this year.

Prediction
Record: 92-70
Finish: 2nd in NL East
Playoffs: World Series Win (I have this strange gut feeling about the Braves this year, I don’t know why)
Top Pitcher: Brandon Beachy 17-8 3.16 ERA, 204 SO
Top Hitter: Dan Uggla .284 AVG, 36 HR, 108 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

 

 

 

30 Teams in 30 Days – New York Yankees

The Dark Lord New York Yankees, they’re one of the most hated teams in all of baseball. Most of the reason for this is because, I hate to say it, but they’re good. People will argue that it’s because they have the highest payroll, but if they didn’t win, I doubt anyone would complain. Let’s see how they did in 2011.
New York Yankees
Record: 97-65
Finished: 1st in the AL East
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALDS by the Tigers
Top Pitcher: C.C. Sabbathia 19-8, 3.00 ERA, 230 SO
Top Hitter: Curtis Granderson .262 AVG, 41 HR, 119 RBI
Manager: Joe Girardi
Important Off-season acquisitions: Jayson Nix, Dewayne Wise, Michael Pineda, Hiroki Kuroda, Russel Branyan, Bill Hall, Raul Ibanez, David Aardsma,
Important Off-season Losses: Jesus Montero SEA, Jorge Posada Retired, A.J Burnett PIT, Scott Proctor FA, Luis Ayala BAL, Bartoro Colon OAK, Damaso Marte FA, Sergio Mitre FA, Hector Noesi SEA

After being in a battle all year with the Red Sox for the AL East Title, the Yankees won the battle after a September collapse by the Red Sox. So, for a lot of teams in the MLB, it would be considered a successful season, but when it comes to the Yankees, success is measured by championships, and after being eliminated in the ALDS by the Tigers, that marked the 11th year that the Yankees have gone with just 1 championship (2009). Expectations are high for a reason, the Yankees have had the highest payroll in the league for a long time now. With the amount of money they spend on players, they should pretty much be given the World Series before the season even starts, but year after year they find a way not to win it. Their problem seems to be pretty consistent from year-to-year, starting pitching, it seems like every year people are talking about the Starters of the Yankees in a negative way. For good reason, however as of their 6 starters to start at least 14 games last season, 3 of them had an ERA of 4.00 or more, and 2 of those 3 had an ERA of 5.00 or more, for a team spending 200 MIL+/yr, it needs to be better. However, they’re rotation has promise this year, despite losing Burnett and Colon, they’ve added Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda, who posted a 3.07 ERA last year, got very little offensive support, playing on the Dodgers, however, this year, he should get nothing but offensive support  playing with the always talented offensive unit of the New York Yankees. Meanwhile, Michael Pineda showed great promise in his rookie campaign with the Mariners last year, posting a 3.74 ERA, to go along with a whopping 9.1 Strikeouts per nine innings, after showing off his great changeup in spring training, he’s already got Yankee nation in a buzz. Those two will be added in to the rotation along with consistent Cy Young candidate and one-time winner, C.C Sabathia and Ivan Nova, who’s coming off a stellar rookie campaign, finishing with a 16-4 record. The fifth spot seems to be between Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes, Garcia pitched pretty well for the Yanks last year, going 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA. While Hughes pitched terribly in an injury-filled season . That being said, Hughes is still young (25), with lots of potential, he also had a pretty good year for the pinstripes in 2010, going 18-8. So the job will ultimately be decided in Spring Training. The Yankees bullpen has lost a couple key pieces, which the signing of Hideki Okajima was supposed to resolve, but after a failed physical due to an undisclosed injury, the Yankees released him, 6 days later they signed David Aardsma, who isn’t a terrible consolation prize, yet their bullpen will still be worse than last year. The lineup, despite being a bit on the older side, will still be deadly, especially with the signing of probable DH, Raul Ibanez, and a few very good veteran acquisitions for their bench in Bill Hall, Russel Branyan, Dewayne Wise and Jayson Nix, with these signins, the Yankees can really cement themselves as the best offensive team in the league. With their big improvement to their Starting Pitching, their small improvement to their offense and a slight decline to their bullpen, I see the Yankees taking the AL East once again, but they’re going to have to do better than 6-12 against the Red Sox this time around.
Prediction
Record: 99-63
Finish: 1st in AL East
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALCS
Top Pitcher: C.C Sabathia 22-7, 2.91 ERA, 236 SO
Top Hitter: Robinson Cano .309 AVG, 31 HR, 129 RBI
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-Kipling Ronald & Vernon Smells