30 Teams in 30 Days – Cleveland Indians

Oh, the Indians, they’ve made the playoffs just once since 2001, and with their last World Series title being way back in 1948, fans are getting impatient. However, they didn’t look half bad through the first third of the season in 2011. Let’s recap.
Cleveland Indians
Record: 80-82
Finish: 2nd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Justin Masterson 12-10, 3.21 ERA, 158 SO
Top Hitter: Asdrubal Cabrera .272 AVG, 25 HR, 92 RBI
2012 Manager: Manny Acta
Important Off-Season Acquisitions: Felix Pie, Andy Laroche (no, not Adam), Robinson Tejada, Chris Ray, Jeremy Accardo, Fred Lewis, Kevin Slowey, Ryan Spilborghs, Dan Wheeler, Casey Kotchman, Cristian Guzman, Derek Lowe
Important Off-Season Losses: Chad Durbin WAS, Kosuke Fukudome CWS, Jim Thome PHI,

On June 1st, 2011, the Indians were 33-20 and held the best record in the majors. I was convinced the world was about to end. It didn’t, the Indians would soon come back down to Earth, going just 20-32 from then until July 31st . Despite the struggles, the Indians still found themselves just 2.5 games back of the division leading tigers, causing them to trade for star pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. He had no affect, Jimenez, like he’d been doing with the Rockies, struggled, notching just a 4-4 record to go along with a 5.10 ERA in the 11 games he started with the Indians.  Throughout it all, the Indians proved that they had a lot of depth at the plate, as they only had 2 players play in more than 114 games, and were still able to prove that they were almost an average ball club, finishing just below .500. Unfortunately, they’re pitching was sub-par, finishing with the 23rd ranked ERA, but they were able to find a solid closer in Chris Perez, who finished the season 36/40 in save opportunities. The Indians added some very good pieces in the off-season to improve their bullpen, including Dan Wheeler. They also added Kevin Slowey to replace Fausto Carmona, because who knows whats going to happen to him. Grady Sizemore will miss all of Spring and the beginning of the 2012 Regular Season after back surgery, is this guy ever healthy? As of right now, I could see the Indians being a potential threat this season, don’t call me crazy yet. They have a lot of depth, but the one thing they’re missing is a star, they’re hoping Jimenez can fill that role, but in my eyes, he’s only pitched like a star in the first half of the 2010 season, apart from that he’s just been okay. However, if he can pitch well, along with the rest of the rotation, the tribe COULD, I REPEAT, COULD be a threat for that second wild card spot. I know it sounds crazy but look at their rotation:
1. Ubaldo Jimenez Best Season, 2010: 19-8, 2.88 ERA, 214 SO
2. Justin Masterson Best Season, 2011: 12-10, 3.21 ERA, 158 SO
3. Josh Tomlin: Best Season, 2011: 12-7, 4.25 ERA, 49 SO
4. Derek Lowe: Best Season, 2002: 21-8, 2.58 ERA, 127 SO (2010: 16-12, 4.00 ERA)
5. (possibly) Kevin Slowey: Best Season, 2010: 13-6, 4.45 ERA, 116 SO

To me, that’s a pretty solid rotation, along with an improved bullpen and a solid lineup, the Indians could threaten for a playoff spot. The team will need to be well coached and managed, as again they don’t really have a star-status player, but if they are, they have the pieces to do well. I’m not exactly sure what the lineup will look like, but with talent like: Cabrera, Santana, Hafner, Choo, Sizemore (after he recovers), Brantley, LaPorta, Duncan, Kipiris, Hannahan and Donald, along with newly acquired pieces: Kotchman, Lewis, Spilborghs, Laroche, Pie and Guzman, I don’t think the Indians will be slacking in the offensive department. They are a very young team, so inconsistency may be a factor, but they’re a team with a ton of talent, I see them competing for a playoff spot, but ultimately missing out. The AL Central could be a very tough division this year, as the Tigers  are looking very good, the White Sox have a good team on paper, the Royals are improving, the Twins had been the division powerhouse consistently before last season, and if the Indians can be competitive, this division would become one of the toughest in baseball.
Prediction
Record: 83-79
Finish: 2nd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Josh Tomlin 15-10, 3.31 ERA, 106 SO
Top Hitter: Shin-Soo Choo .306 AVG, 19 HR, 91 RBI
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-Vernon Smells

30 Teams in 30 Days – Texas Rangers

The last 2 seasons for Rangers fans have to have been the most heart-breaking seasons to have ever existed. Losing in the World Series to the Giants in 2010, and to the Cardinals in 2011. I’ll let you know how I think they’ll do this year, but first, let’s recap 2011.
Texas Rangers
Record: 96-66
Finished: 1st in AL West
Playoffs: Lost in World Series……… again
Top Pitcher: C.J Wilson 16-7, 2.94 ERA, 206 SO
Top Hitter: Mike Napoli .320 AVG, 30 HR, 75 RBI, in just 113 games
Manager: Ron Washington
Important Acquisitions: Joe Nathan, Yu Darvish, Brad Hawpe
Important Losses: C.J Wilson LAA, Michael Gonzalez FA, Darren Oliver TOR, Matt Treanor LAD, Darren O’Day BAL

“In to right, well hit, back at the wall, it’s off the wall. 1 Run scores, Here comes Berkman. Freese has tied it. 7-7!!! Unbelievable” That moment still gives me chills, and it is probably one of the greatest sports moments in a long while, but Rangers fans don’t feel that way. It was their second straight trip to the World Series, and in 2011 it looked like they had it won…..twice. Right up until Freese hit a 2 out, 2 strike 2 run triple in the 9th to tie up the game. Then in the 10th the Rangers put up 2 more runs, but the Cards came back, including a 2 out, 2 strike, RBI single from Lance Berkman to tie up the game. In the next inning, the 11th, David Freese hit a walk-off home run to force a game 7, which the Cardinals promptly won. I cannot imagine the pain that Rangers fans must have felt. However, apart from those moments, last year was a great season for the Rangers. They won the AL West by 10 games, they made it to the World Series and they probably shoud have won it.  They had unbelievable production from the bats, they had a good bullpen and a lot of their young starters played surprisingly well. This season will be a much bigger question mark and will depend on a lot of things. They lost their star pitcher to the rival Angels, along with a few key pieces to their bullpen. The talent they gained has mystery written all over it. Starting with Yu Darvish, the Rangers paid a hefty sum for this Japanese pitcher, who has never played a game in the MLB, no one has any idea how effectively he’ll be able to pitch in the MLB. They also signed an aging Joe Nathan, after being one of the best closers in the league year after year, Nathan had Tommy John surgery, and missed the entire 2010 season, he then struggled in 2011, posting just 14 saves and a 4.84 ERA. I assume he was brought in to take over the closer role so that they can finally move Netali Feliz to the Starting rotation, something they’ve been talking about doing since he took over the closer role in 2010. That move right there adds 2 BIG questions: Will Nathan be able to regain his form? and how will Netali Feliz fare as a starter?  Their bullpen has lost some major pieces and I don’t expect it to be nearly as good then in years past, plus their rotation is still very young and missing it’s star (C.J Wilson), so we have no clue how good it will be. We also don’t know how they’ll be with the bats. We know they’ll be good, but how good? Can Hamilton rebound after an injury plagued season? Mike Napoli, who if he had of played the whole season was on pace for 43 Home Runs and 107 RBI, to go along with a .320 AVG. However, this came out of nowhere, so how do we know that he can repeat? Michael Young, who’s now 35 years old, hit a whopping .338 last season (the highest of his career), can he come even close to putting up the same numbers this year? Not to mention, the Angels now have a very good team and will be competing with the Rangers for the AL West. This is by far the hardest prediction I’ve had to make so far. I feel they could range anywhere from 80 Wins to 100, so I guess I’ll go smack dab in the middle and say they’ll be a 90 Win ball club, sacrificing the Division, but still taking one of the two Wild Card spots.

Prediction
Record: 90-72
Finish: 2nd in AL West, 1st in Wild Card Race
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALDS
Top Pitcher: Yu Darvish 16-8 3.14 ERA, 226 SO
Top Hitter: Josh Hamilton .318 AVG 31 HR 109 RBI
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-Vernon Smells