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

30 Teams in 30 Days – Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays! Ahh…still such a heart-warming, and possibly the longest fairy tale in history, who, over the past few years, have epitomized what a small market team with little cap space should look like. Taking down teams such as the Yankees and the Red Sox, who have 5 and 4 times higher payrolls respectively, the Rays are truly a little giant. Am I the only one who remembers them as the lowly Devil Rays who probably didn’t even deserve to be a AAA team. Well anyway, the Rays made yet another roar in 2011, let us recap.
Tampa Bay Rays
Record: 91-71
Finished: 2nd AL East
Playoffs: Lost in ALDS to the one and the only Texas Rangers 3-1
Top Pitcher: James Shields,16-12, 2.82 ERA, 225 SO 
Top Hitter: King Evan Longoria, .244 AVG, 31 HR, 99 RBI
Manager: Joe Maddon (I’m sorry to inform you but this isn’t JOHN Madden… I know I was disappointed too)
Important Acquisitions: Jeff Keppinger INF, Luke Scott CF, Fernando Rodney RHP, Jose Molina C (He’s one of the good ones don’t worry I lose track of them too)
Important Losses: Andy Sonnanstine RHP, Johnny Damon CF, Casey Kotchman 1B, Juan Cruz RHP

Well the Rays are certainly an interesting team. Since their World Series Appearance against the Phillies in 2008, most people have counted them out or overlooked them during the preseason, especially after the loss of Carl Crawford. It may be due to the fact that people view them as being flukey, considering how historically bad they were from their inception until the 2007 season. But I’m here to say the Rays are for real. Not like they’re going to be in the playoffs every year, but for the next 6-7 years the Rays will be among the top 5 or 6 top teams in the AL. It surprises me that despite the second lowest payroll in the Majors, the Rays are able to hold onto most of their young talent, such as David Price (who apparently recently injured himself by “toweling off too vigorously”, seriously? and Evan Longoria, while re-signing many of their big bats who include Carlos Pena who recently received a 1 year extension this offseason after experimenting with the Cubbies for a year. Despite lacking offensive depth, the Rays have a solid starter at pretty much every position. BJ (and no I’m not talking about the superstore, I’m talking about the Upton) returns to Center from a strong 2011 campaign, where he knotted 81 RBIs to go along with 0.331 OBP and 36 SB (still a high number, but it broke BJ’s streak of 3 consecutive years with 40+ SB). “The Franchise” Evan Longoria also makes his return. Longoria comes off his 2011 season, which did not quite live up to exceptions despite having 30 big flies for the Rays. Expect Evan to have a big 2012 campaign, we might see 40 HR and 40 2B out of him next year. In addition to Longoria and Upton, Carlos Pena, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce make their returns to the starting cast. Also, look for the Rays addition of Luke Scott, whose speed fills the void left after Carl Crawford’s departure during the 2011 offseason, and catcher Jose Molina. However, the one question looming over the Rays is: are their big bats going to be able to remain healthy? With their losses of Damon and Kotchman in free agency (who is also a major defensive power, posting the best fielding percentage among major league first basemen in 2011), their offense lacks depth, an injury to one of their starters could potentially cripple the Rays 2012 playoff ambitions. In terms of pitching, the Rays are surprisingly strong and conversely quite deep. With three starters posting below 3.00 ERAs in 2011, you should expect the Rays pitching staff to make quite a storm in 2012. In addition with this strong starting staff, the Rays bullpen includes 2011-star setup man Joel Peralta, along with veteran closer Kyle Farmsworth (who had a surprisingly good 2012 season with only a 2.18 ERA and 25 saves). The Rays see themselves as playoff contenders in 2012, however, I will believe they will fall just short of a playoff appearance.There’s also a possibility that if the Rays are able to hold onto their starters, remain relatively injury free, and possibly make a move for a big bat around the deadline, they could still be very much in the mix to squeak in to that newly-added 2nd wildcard spot.
Prediction
Record: 87-75
Finish: 2nd AL East
Playoffs: None
Top Pitcher: David Price, 17-12, 3.11 ERA, 184 SO
Top Hitter: Evan Longoria, .267 AVG, 40 HR, 103 RBI, 45 2B
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-Simple Jack

30 Teams in 30 Days – Seattle Mariners

Welcome to the 6th edition of 30 Teams in 30 Days. Sorry we missed a day, we had a bit of an issue, but we’ll try to get two articles out tonight. The first team of the day is the one, the only…….. Seattle Mariners, oh sorry, we’re you expecting someone better?
Seattle Mariners
Record: 67-95
Finish: 4th AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-14, 3.47 ERA, 222 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .272 AVG, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 40 SB
Manager: Eric Wedge
Important Acquisitions: Geoge Sherril, Aaron Heilman,  Jesus Montero, Kevin Millwood, Brian Sweeney, Shawn Camp, Hong-Chih Kuo
Important Losses: Adam Kennedy LAD, Jamey Wright LAD, Josh Bard LAD, Greg Halman Death, Michael Pineda NYY

The nicest thing I can say about the Mariners is that they’re young. They are the second youngest team in the league with an average age of just 26.5, so you could say they have potential. Unfortunately, they’re last 2 seasons have been disappointing, being way under .500 in both seasons, and if you wanted to be picky you could call the last 10 seasons disappointing, as they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001 (Ichiro’s rookie season). Last season didn’t actually start out that bad, as they were 37-35 at the near halfway point of the season, but a 17 game losing streak in July ended any chance at a competitive season. After having an amazing, terrific, unbelievable, Cy Young winning season in 2010, King Felix struggled at times in 2011, but still had a pretty solid year. However the biggest shocker of the year had to be Chone Figgins, who had by far the worst season of his career, hitting just .188. ON the flip side, one of my favorite young pitchers to watch last year was Michael Pineda, he threw hard, he threw lots of K’s and he had a mean changeup. Disappointingly, the Mariners dealt him to the Dark Lord, New York Yankees in the off-season, it sucks, but they did get Jesus Montero out of the deal, a very good 22 year old catcher who hit .328 in 18 games with the aforementioned Yankees, Montero’s also currently hitting .417 in his first 4 spring training games with the Mariners, it’s not much of a sample, but it could be foreshadowing a strong 2012 campaign for the young catcher. The Mariners also added veteran righty Kevin Millwood to take Pineda’s place in the rotation, he should add some solid starts, but I think the 37 year old is more there to mentor the young arms and to add a veteran presence in the dugout. What do I expect from the Mariners this season? Not too much, an improvement from last season would be nice but not necessary. I predict King Felix will have a good year, but not 2010 good, and I think Ichiro will do better than last year, but will miss the .300 plateau for the second straight season and just the second time in his career. The best thing for the Mariners to do at this point is make sure they’re developing their young players properly, even if that means risking a few W’s by keeping them in the minors.

Prediction
Record: 69-93
Finish: 4th in AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Felix Hernandez 14-11, 3.22 ERA, 237 SO
Top Hitter: Ichiro .296 AVG, 4 HR, 51 RBI, 42 SB
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-Vernon Smells

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

30 Teams in 30 Days – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

This article was written by Simple Jack, not Vernon Smells, as the web site may suggest. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim…..Wait are they still called that? I don’t even know anymore. Well anyway the LA Angels will be one of the most interesting teams to watch going into the 2012 season (if you know what I mean. Ahem, Albert Pujols). Anyway here’s how they stacked up in 2011.
Los Angeles Angels 
Record: 86-76 (6 game improvement from 2010)
Finish: 2nd AL West
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Jared Weaver, 18-8, 2.41 ERA, 198 SO
Top Hitter: Mark Trumbo (Seriously?), .254 AVG, 29 HR, 87 RBI
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Important Acquisitions: Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, Albert Pujols, Chris Iannetta, Albert Pujols, Jorge Cantu, LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Isringhausen, Jorge Cantu and of course Albert Pujols
Important Losses: Jeff Mathis TOR, Tyler Chatwood COL and not Albert Pujols

The Los Angeles Angels had a disappointing season in 2011. The once perennial power of the 2000s failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year and watched their division rival Texas Rangers make it to the World Series two consecutive years. It’s been 10 years exactly since the Angels knotted their last and only World Series title, and based on the moves they have made during this free agency it looks like they’re determined on making another title run. The Angels finished the 2011 season struggling, 11 games before the season ended they were only 3.5 games out of a playoff spot. Throughout much of the second half of 2011 they were within striking distance of the Rangers, most of the time within 2 games or less, however the Angels just couldn’t get over that hump and capture the division title. But 2012 will be a new era for the Los Angeles Angels and will be a year for them to most definitely assert themselves a powerhouse in the league and a force to be reckoned with. With arguably the strongest starting rotation in the majors which includes Jered Weaver (a competitor for the Cy Young in 2011), Dan Haren, newly acquired CJ Wilson, Ervin Santana, with Jerome William most likely assuming the role as the fifth starter. To put this rotation in perspective, in 2011 none of these pitchers had an ERA above 3.70 , four were below a 3.40 ERA, and two were below a 3.00 ERA. Together they post a combined record of 65-37 in 2011. The Angels starting pitching core is most certainly stronger and has more depth than any other aspect of their team (which considering their addition of you know who is saying a lot). The Angels pulled off the biggest free agent acquisition of the 2011 offseason and probably the biggest one since Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers back in 2000, with their signing of Albert Pujols. There really isn’t anything more to say. Along with signing Pujols the Angels were able to retain their core of strong hitters, despite most of whom posting a poor 2011, still have potential to return to prominence in 2012, who include Howie Kendrick 2B, Alberto Callapso 3B, Vernon Wells OF, Torii Hunter OF, Erick Ayber SS, Mark Trumbo 1B, Kendrys Morales 1B and even Bobby Abreu OF (well maybe not so much him). The only weakness that may be in store for the Angels is their bullpen. Without an established closer or setup man and some new faces such as LaTroy Hawkins the Angels bullpen has a lot of adjusting to do (but hey, who needs a bullpen anyway when you have 3 guys who can go 8 innings?). Anyway, I foresee the Angels will be a powerhouse in 2012 and in years to come and most certainly post one of the best records in the league.
Prediction
Record: 98-64
Finish: 1st in AL West
Playoffs: World Series Appearance
Top Pitcher: Jered Weaver, 21-6, 2.63 ERA 214 SO (Cy Young Winner)
Top Hitter: Albert Pujols, .314 AVG, 41 HR, 126 RBI (MVP candidate)
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-Simple Jack

30 Teams in 30 Days – Boston Red Sox

Hello everyone, and welcome to the second installment of 30 teams in 30 days. Today’s team was one of the biggest discussion last year and the most interesting story. The Boston Red Sox.
Boston Red Sox
Record: 90-72
Finish: 3rd in the AL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: John Lester 13-6, 3.16 ERA, 146 SO
Top Hitter: Adrian Gonzalez .343 AVG, 18 HR, 94 RBI
Manager: Bobby Valentine
Important Acquisitions: Cody Ross, Mark Melancon, Nick Punto, Kelly Shoppach,
Andrew Bailey, Ryan Sweeney
Important Losses: Liquor, Jonathan Papelbon PHI, Marco Scutaro COL, Josh Reddick OAK

Last season, the Boston Red Sox were on the verge of making the playoffs but then all hell broke loose. In September, the Red Sox had a 96% chance of making the playoffs. The Red Sox would go on to lose 18 of their final 24 games. In their last game of the season,  against the Baltimore Orioles, they blew their lead and lost their shot to make the playoffs, as The Tampa Bay Rays came back to win their last game in extra innings against the Yankees. Now the 2012 Red Sox have a lot to over come. Their pitching rotation (which was their achilles heel last season) hasn’t been drastically changed, they lost Papelbon who was their star closer and they are still stuck with “wild card” type pitcher John Lackey, who they need to produce to help their team. The BoSox also have a lot of interior problems. Their GM Theo Epstein resigned and Manager Terry Francona was relieved of his duties. They also lost their ability to drink in the clubhouse after their new Manager Bobby Valentine, banned all alcohol from the clubhouse. Now this will prove to be pivotal as last season the Red Sox had one of best records in baseball going into September, they did this with alcohol in the clubhouse, so it will be interesting to see how they do without it. Also the BoSox are lacking in a power hitter, their best option as one is an aging David Ortiz. I do believe though, that Carl Crawford will be the silver lining for the BoSox. I think unlike last season he will produce heavily. With the Rays, Yankees and Jays all getting better and the Red Sox getting worse and with the turmoil in the system at the moment I can’t see them doing any better then 3rd in the AL East.

Prediction
Record: 85-77
Finish: 3rd in AL East
Playoffs: N/A
Top Pitcher: Josh Beckett, 17-11, 3.26 ERA, 220 SO
Top Hitter: Carl Crawford, .327 AVG, 24 HR, 97 RBI, 35 SB
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-McFultz

30 Teams in 30 Days – Detroit Tigers

Hello everyone, and welcome to our first installment of 30 Teams in 30 Days. Everyday, a new one of us here, at Critics From The Couch will be doing a full report on a different MLB Team, we’re going to get it started with one of the most exciting teams, The Detroit Tigers.
Detroit Tigers
Record: 95-67
Finish: 1st AL Central
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALCS
Top Pitcher: Justin Verlander 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 250 SO
Top Hitter: Miguel Cabrera .344 AVG, 30 HR, 105 RBI
Manager: Jim Leyland
Important Acquisitions: Prince Fielder, Octavio Dotel, Collin Balester, Eric Patterson
Important Losses: Magglio Ordonez FA, Carlos Guillen SEA, Joel Zumaya MIN, Brad Penny Japan, Wilson Betemit BAL, Ryan Perry WAS, Victor Martinez Injury

Last Year, the Detroit Tigers came out of nowhere to capture the AL Central. They were eliminated in the ALCS by the Texas Rangers, but nonetheless, it was a very impressive year for the Detroit Tigers. They were led by 2011 AL Cy Young and AL MVP winner, Justin Verlander. Verlander really had an amazing season, easily the best of his career. Leading the way on offense was the always dangerous, Miguel Cabrera. Then in the off-season they signed one of the best home-run hitters in the league, Prince Fielder. So, as you can imagine, expectations are high this year . Can they live up to these expectations? To be honest, I’m a little skeptical. Justin Verlander will probably have another great season, but I think it’s unrealistic that he repeats what he did last season, he has a career 3.54 ERA, which is great, but nothing compared to last year. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Prince Fielder deal either, he is most known around the league for his ability to hit the long ball, yes he can hit for average (career .282), but his biggest asset is the Home Run ball, and Comerica park is certainly not a power friendly ballpark. They’ve lost Victor Martinez to injury, who had an absolutely incredible season last year, they still have yet to re-sign Ordonez, they’ve lost Penny to japan, and have lost Guillen and Betemit to free Agency. I just don’t see this team being as successful as last year. They should still take the division, but they should watch out for the White Sox, who underachieved last campaign, but still have a good team, and could come on strong with a new bench boss.

Prediction
Record: 88- 74
Finish: 1st in AL Central
Playoffs: Eliminated in ALDS
Top Pitcher: Justin Verlander 19-8, 2.96 ERA, 224 SO
Top Hittter: Miguel Cabrera .336 AVG, 34 HR, 111 RBI
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- Vernon Smells

Does Good Pitching Really Beat Good Hitting?

For years the question has been asked, how do you make the best MLB Team, Pitching or Hitting. Typically you’ll hear lots of the same, “good pitching beats good hitting” but is it necessarily true? We here at Critics From The Couch are going to go through deep analysis using last years stats, we’ll also look at the effect defense and stolen bases have on a teams W’s to show you the best way to build a ball club.

Let’s start with pitching, we’re going to take the top 8 teams in various pitching stats and use as a complicated point system based on how they did in the season/playoffs(if applicable) based on where they are on the list.

ERA Leaders               WHIP                           SO                                 Fewest BB
Philadelphia 9.54           Philadelphia 9.54         Atlanta 7.96                   Philadelphia 9.54
San Francisco 7.43       Tampa Bay 8.37          San Francisco 7.43      Seattle 5.80
San Diego 5.91              Milwaukee 8.76            Philadelphia 9.01          Chi. White Sox 6.59
Atlanta 7.14                    San Francisco 6.90     L.A Dodgers 6.62          Milwaukee 8.46
L.A Dodgers 6.36           Texas 8.41                   Milwaukee 8.16             Arizona 7.75
L.A Angles 6.37               Atlanta 6.58                 Chi. Cubs 5.26             St. Louis 8.17
Washington 5.72             L.A Dodgers 5.85        NY Yankees 7.39         Texas 7.82
Tampa Bay 6.68             Seattle 4.55                  Chi. White Sox 5.37     Cleveland 5.43
TOTAL: 55.15                TOTAL: 58.96              Total: 57.19                 Total: 59.56
Team ERA proves a       Team WHIP proves      Team SO proves a      Fewest BB proves
value of 55.15 Pts.          a value of 58.96 Pts      value of 57.19 Pts.      a value of 59.56 Pts

As you can tell, WHIP and BB have a big effect on a team, where ERA really doesn’t seem to be as important as people think, let’s see how it compares to hitting.

AVG                            HR                                RBI                               SLG
Texas 9.60                 NY Yankees 9.19          Boston 8.06                  Boston 8.06
Boston 7.78                Texas 9.30                    NY Yankees 8.89         Texas 9.30
Detroit 8.66                 Boston 7.51                  Texas 9.01                    NY Yankees 8.09
Kansas City 5.69        Baltimore 5.54               Detroit 8.37                  Detroit 8.37
St. Louis 8.45              Toronto 6.25                 St. Louis 8.45               Milwaukee 8.16
NY Mets 5.70               Milwaukee 7.87             Kansas City 5.26         St. Louis 8.17
NY Yankees 7.39         Cincinnati 5.61              Toronto 5.75                Kansas City 5.04
Milwaukee 7.27            Atlanta 6.04                   Arizona 6.88                Arizona 6.88
Total: 60.54                 Total: 57.31                  Total: 60.67                Total: 62.07
Team AVG proves       Team HR proves          Team RBI proves a      Team SLG proves a
a value of 60.54 Pts.     a value of 57.31 Pts.     value of 60.67 Pts.      value of 62.07 Pts.

WOW, Hitting seems to have a serious advantage over Pitching, look at SLG%, who would have thought that would be so important. So here it would seem that maybe hitting is more important. Keep in mind though, this is just from one season(last season) and we only used 4 stat categories for each, but based on this small sample, maybe teams should start building more around hitting than pitching. Let’s take a look at how defense and swiped bags compare.

FPCT                             DER                            SB:                             SBPCT
Philadelphia 9.54           Tampa Bay 8.65          Boston 8.06                Florida 6.44
Tampa Bay 8.37            Cincinnati 6.83             San Diego 6.13           Houston 4.84
Chi. White Sox 6.59       San Diego 5.91           Chi. White Sox 6.59    NY Mets 6.41
Atlanta 7.14                     L.A Angels 6.90           Houston 4.50             Philadelphia 8.69
L.A Dodgers 6.36            Philadelphia 8.38        Atlanta 6.86                Chi. White Sox 6.10
Cincinnati 5.86                Texas 8.12                  NY Yankees 7.69       Tampa Bay 6.74
Arizona 7.17                    Boston 6.39                 L.A Angles 6.11         L.A Angels 6.11
L.A Angels 5.84               Arizona 6.88                San Francisco 5.84   Atlanta 6.04
Total: 56.87                    Total: 58.07                Total: 51.78               Total: 51.37
Team Fielding                 Team Defensive          Team SB proves a     Team SBPCT
Percentage proves          Efficiency Rating          value of 51.78 Pts.     proves a value of
a value of 56.87 Pts.        proves a value of                                             51.37 Pts.
                                         58.07 Pts.

As we all know it takes all components of the game to build a winning team, but based off of these findings, on a very very small sample of research, it would seem that hitting is the most important, where pitching and defense seem a little less important. Stolen Bases on this list seem to have no affect at all on how good a team is. So, does good pitching really beat good hitting? Maybe, but good hitting will definitely win you games.

-Vernon Smells (Kalib Tilley)

Tigers… really?

With Victor Martinez not likely to play in any games next season (due to a torn ACL), the Detroit Tigers looked to be in quite the predicament. Who would protect Miguel Cabrera? and would this offense be enough to compete against the AL’s best?

Well, the Tigers found their replacement…and then some!

Today the Tigers signed all-star first-baseman Prince Fielder to a 9-year, $214 million contract. Not only did they significantly upgrade an already elite offense, they signed one of the biggest, and final remaining free-agents of the off-season. With the likes of Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, C.J. Wilson, Mark Buerhle, and a plethora of great closers all signed to expensive contracts with new teams, Fielder was the last of the top-tier free agents.

Formerly part of a Milwaukee Brewers offense which was good enough to make the second round of the playoffs, Fielder now joins an even better Tigers offense that was fourth best in the MLB. While the combination of Braun/Fielder was truly scary, he now joins Miguel Cabrera to form the scariest 3-4 punch in all of baseball.

Based on multiple reports, the Tigers weren’t even interested in Fielder this off-season, even after Martinez’s injury. However the Tigers manged to put up a stellar offer, and bring the rotund hitting machine to the Motor city. The move will see Cabrera and Fielder split time between first base and designated hitter, a possible challenge for manager Jim Leyland.

As the off-season surprisingly comes to an end, and with spring training just around the corner, we can all be sure of one thing… balls will be flying out of Comerica park!

 

-Zookeeper