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 – 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 – Oakland Athletics

The Oakland A’s, the Oakland A’s.. you know I’m really not sure where to start. Probably the most historically storied franchises (who has knotted 9 World Series titles and 15 AL pennants, which gets overlooked), the Oakland Athletics had a 2011 in which they surely will not forget too soon. Posting a deplorable record of 74-88, the A’s weren’t ever in the hunt for a playoff spot during the entire 2011 season, the highlight of which was the release of a popular feature film about their general manager (who is apparently doing quite a $h177ty job lately). Let’s see how ‘dem A’s stacked up during their 2011 campaign.
Oakland Athletics
Record: 74-88 (7 games worse than 2010)
Finished: 3rd in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez 16-12, 3.12 ERA, 197 SO
Top Hitter: Josh Willingham .246 AVG, 29 HR, 98 RBI
Manager: Bob Melvin
Important Offseason Acquisitions: Bartolo Colon SP, Jonny Gomes OF, Manny Ramirez LF, Ryan Sweeney OF
Important Offseason Losses: Gio Gonzalez WAS, Hideki Matsui (probable retirement), Josh Willingham MIN, Mark Ellis LAD

Ahh remember the good ol’ days of the Oakland A’s, with the Big Three (Tim Hudson, Barry Zito, and Mark Mulder). Well for those of you who don’t remember, from 2000-04 the Oakland A’s arguably had the best pitching tandem in the league, before well, all three of those guys descended in diaspora. A lot has changed since those days, and the Athletic faithful should seriously be worrying. The 2011 Oakland Athletics were horrendous, in their pitching game (aside from their ace Gio Gonzalez.. oh wait he’s not even on the team anymore, he was traded to the Nationals this offseason for some prospects you haven’t heard of), and in their offensesive game. I mean seriously, the highest batting average on the team came from Cliff Pennington who hit .264 in barely 550 plate appearances. Josh Willingham, who was leaps and bounds above the majority of the A’s offense, posted a solid 2011… oh wait, he’s not on the A’s anymore either, awkward (Twins). I mean the A’s still have some good sounding names in their lineup including Hideki Matsui (who is still undecided about coming back), Mark Ellis (oh wait he went to the Dodgers!), and Kurt Suzuki. And the one who is actually coming back out of that group, Kurt Suzuki, batted a career low .237 to go along with 14 homeruns, and he really hasn’t improved as a player, as many people thought he would. But have no fear A’s fans! The A’s signed Jonny Gomes and Manny Ramirez (to a minor league contract! Oh wait he’s also suspended). These two guys will surely take them places, and definitely revitalize this dying A’s offense….. yeah right. I will not go as in-depth in their pitching but they acquired Bartolo Colon in the offseason, but as stated earlier, they lost their #1 pitcher Gio Gonzalez. Besides Colon their starting pitching has very little depth. It includes Brandon McCarthy, who had a decent season, but really hasn’t thrown enough innings to be considered a solid starter, Dallas Braden (perfect game guy), who had an injury riddled 2011, and a couple of other for lack of a better word “scrubs”. Well A’s fans you better look forward to seeing your Athletics in 2012! That is, if you would be excited to see your A’s scratch together 65 wins, because I don’t foresee the Green and the Gold winning more than 70 games in 2012.
Prediction:
Record: 69-93
Finish: 3rd in AL West
Playoffs: None
Best Pitcher: None
Best Hitter: Coco Crisp, 0.274, 14 HR, 75 RBI
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-Simple Jack

 

30 Teams in 30 days – Kansas City Royals

“Up-and-coming” is the best way to describe the incredibly young Kansas City Royals. Though the AL Central is a near lock for the Detroit Tigers, Royals fans and hopefuls have a lot to look forward to this season. Breakout campaigns and continued success will be something to look out  for in 2012. Here is there 2011 season review.
Kansas City Royals
Record: 71-91
Finish: 4th in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Bruce Chen, 12-8, 3.77 ERA, 97 SO
Top Hitter: Alex Gordon, .303 AVG, 23 HR, 87 RBI
Manager: Ned Yost
Important Acquisitions: Jose Mijares, Jonathan Sanchez, Jonathan Broxton, Yuniesky Betancourt, Kevin Kouzmanoff
Important Losses: Melky Cabrera SF, Yamaico Navarro PIT

The Kansas City Royals had a pretty good season, for their standards. For a team that has been regarded as one of the worst in the league for the past couple seasons, 2011 proved to be a real turning point for the crowns. The highlight of the season, for many, was the emergence of young star first-baseman Eric Hosmer. In his first season he hit 19 HR, with 78 RBI, and a .293 clip. Others like outfielders Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur and DH Billy Butler, all had above average seasons to help create a pretty good royals lineup. Bruce Chen led the rotation with a career season, while other pitchers struggled against opposing lineups. 2012 will be a lot like last season, however the royals could see a jump in the standings if a few things go right. Eric Hosmer will look to continue his legend by putting up a career season, proving a sophomore slump isn’t in his sights. Alex Gordon will put up another set of good numbers, with a chance to have an even better season. Jeff Francoeur, as usual, will be stellar in the outfield while putting up good offensive stats. The addition of Jonathan Sanchez will prove to be a smart move, as he will form a good 1-2 punch with Bruce Chen. 2012 might not take the Royals to the playoffs, or even a .500 season, but it will be a great developmental year for the young players, and will see the royals jump ahead a few spots in the standings.

Prediction
Record: 79-83
Finish: 3rd in AL Central
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jonathan Sanchez, 12-7, 3.82 ERA, 157 SO
Top Hitter: Eric Hosmer, 312 AVG, 28 HR, 92 RBI
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- Zookeeper