30 Teams in 30 Days – Washington Nationals

There have been some great moments in sports over the last five years, there was the Cardinals World Series run, the Giants upsetting the Patriots in the Super Bowl… twice, VCU going first four to final four, but my favorite moment of the last five years still has to be on April 17th 2009, when Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman walked out on to the field with “NATINALS” written across the front of their jerseys, to this day, I still call them the Natinals. Anyways, let’s see how they did in 2011.
Washington Nationals
Record: 80-81 (rained out game not made up)
Finish: 3rd in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jordan Zimmerman 8-11, 3.18 ERA, 124 SO
Top Hitter: Michael Morse .303 AVG, 31 HR, 95 RBI
Manager: Davey Johnson
Important Off-season Acquisitions: Ryan Perry, Andres Blanco, Jason Michaels, Jeff Fulchino, Mike Cameron, Chad Tracy, Xavier Paul, Gio Gonzalez, Mark DeRosa, Brad Lidge, Chad Durbin, Edwin Jackson
Important Off-season Losses: Todd Coffey LAD, Alex Cora STL, Jonny Gomes OAK, Livan Hernandez HOU, Laynce Nix PHI, Ivan Rodriguez FA, Collin Balester DET

The Natinals had a pretty good season last year, finishing at 80-81. That may not sound great, but it was an 11.5 game improvement from 2010, and a 21.5 game improvement from 2009. They did this without having 2009 1st overall pick, Stephen Strasburg pitch until September, due to Tommy John surgery. Despite this, pitching was still their strength, finishing seventh in the league in ERA. They got great help from their Starting pitching, 6 of their 7 pitchers with 10 starts or more had an ERA under 4.05, Livan Hernandez was the only one over that mark with an ERA of 4.47, and he’s gone this year. Their offense did struggle throughout the year, finishing 27th in the league in batting average, and 24th in the league in runs. They didn’t get the production they wanted from Jayson Werth, as his batting average dropped .064 points, he had seven less home runs, 27 less RBI and 37 less Runs than he did in 2010, giving him a total of a .232 AVG, 20 HR, 58 RBI and 69 R.  However, Michael Morse was able to pick up his slack, with a breakthrough season, recording a .303 AVG, to go along with 31 HR and 95 RBI. Ryan Zimmerman, battled some injury problems, meaning Morse was really the only difference maker in the lineup last year. However, this year, if Morse can keep it up, Zimmerman can stay healthy and Jayson Werth can bounce back, this offense can greatly improve, and If 2nd year catcher Wilson Ramos and 3rd year shortstop Ian Desmond can improve, then the Natinals could become a top 15 offense, accompanied with a top 7 or 8 pitching unit, they could become a tough team in the NL East. Earlier today, the Natinals sent 2010 1st overall pick, Bryce Harper to AAA, so one can only assume that they want to keep him in the minors for one more full season to keep up his development. The Natinals made some confusing moves with their Starting Pitching, they acquired Edwin Jackson and Gio Gonzalez despite already having 6 potential starters in Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler and Tom Gorzelanny, so we’ll see what ends up happening there. They lost some pieces to their bench and added some pieces to their bench, but some of the bench players they added may be able to steal a spot in the lineup with a lackluster Washington offense. They lost Coffey and Balester from their bullpen, but with the acquisition of multiple relievers including Brad Lidge, who will most likely be the set-up man for Drew Storen, who put up amazing numbers in his first year as a closer, going 43/48 in save opportunities (89.6%). All in all, this team should be improved, and MAY potentially make a playoff run, with that 2nd wild card spot in play this year. However,  I ultimately see them falling a few games short, having one of, if not the toughest division in the league, with the improved Miami Marlins to go along with the Braves and the Phillies. However, in a few years, if they develop their players properly, they could become a force to be reckoned with.
Prediction
Record: 83-79
Finish: 4th in NL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jordan Zimmerman 12-11, 3.24 ERA, 143 SO
Top Hitter: Ryan Zimmerman .301, 25 HR, 93 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

He’s Back……again

Sidney Crosby will be returning to the Penguins lineup on Thursday against the Rangers. What does this mean for the Penguins? What does this mean for Malkin? and most importantly, what does this mean for Crosby and his health? I’ll try to answer all of those questions for you, and more in this article.

First off, what does this mean for the Penguins? The Penguins are currently in 4th place in the Eastern Conference with 89 points, and are just 4 points back of the 1st place Rangers. Last time Crosby returned to the lineup, I was skeptical he would be able to produce right away, he proved me wrong by putting up 4 points in his return. With the team currently riding a 9 game winning streak it could mess up the chemistry the team has going, but even if it does, it will be worth it to have Crosby ready and in the lineup when it matters, playoff time.

Secondly, what does this mean for Malkin? It’s been no secret that Malkin is having an unbelievable year. Everyone always says Crosby is the best player in hockey right now, Malkin is either second or third on that list, as he leads the league with 84 points and is second in the league with 38 goals. It’s also been no secret that Malkin plays much better without Crosby in the lineup. To me, this is just due to less ice-time, of course having him be the #2 centre rather than the #1. If Malkin continues to play this way, I can’t see them reducing his ice time by very much, so that shouldn’t become a factor.

Lastly, how will this affect Crosby and his health? Last time, when Crosby was on his way to returning, he was cleared for contact on Oct. 13 and then didn’t play until Nov. 21. This time around, he will be making his return a bit more than a week after being cleared for contact. After waiting over a month last time, he still got hurt just 8 games in to his return. This time, however, they know what they’re dealing with, after the news that it may have just been a neck injury this whole time, if he’s been rehabbing his neck properly, and the Penguins and Crosby truly believe that he’s 100% healed, I don’t see a  problem with him returning to the lineup. However, they better be sure he’s 100%. It will be good for Crosby to make his return in a very important game, as the Penguins try to catch the Rangers for 1st in their division and in the East. It’s also good to get his legs moving before the playoffs, so that he’s ready.

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-Vernon Smells