Monday, October 29, 2012

Giants Tame the Tigers

The Giants came from behind to win in both the Division Series and Championship Series, but there was no such drama in the World Series. The Giants swept the Tigers, outscoring them 16-6, and shutting them out in Games 2 and 3. The Giants rallied from a 0-2 deficit to beat the Reds 3 straight in Cincinnati. San Francisco found themselves down 1-3 to the Cardinals, but rallied to win the last 3 games. The Giants hot streak didn't stop in the World Series either, and they won their final 7 playoff games.

A couple of former Oakland A's played a big role in the Giants playoff run this year. Marco Scutaro was acquired from the Rockies in July, and hit .362 with the Giants. Scutaro played good defense as well, won the NLCS MVP, and hit .328 in the postseason. He was getting a lot of key hits this October. Barry Zito went across the bay after the 2006 season, and has been a dissapointment since signing a big contract. Zito was even left off the postseason roster in 2010. Zito had his best year with the Giants, and won 15 games this year. He also won Game 5 of the NLCS in St. Louis, which was a turning point in the series. Zito won Game 1 of the World Series, and was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 3 starts in the playoffs.

The Giants pitching was great this October. Ryan Vogelsong was 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in 4 starts, and had a good follow up year to his All Star campaign in 2011. Before 2011, Vogey hadn't pitched in the big leagues since 2006, toiling in the minors and Japan during that time. Madison Bumgarner had a good regular season, but was bad in his NLCS start. However, he came back in the World Series and pitched a gem. Matt Cain was the Giants ace this year, pitching a perfect game, and starting the All Star game. Cain also won the clinching game of the Division Series, NLCS, and World Series. Tim Lincecum had the worst season of his career, but pitched terrific out of the bullpen in the postseason. If you take out his Game 4 start during the NLCS, Lincecum pitched 13 innings out of the bullpen with a 0.69 ERA.

The Giants closer Brian Wilson went down with an season ending injury in April, and the Giants had to replace their All Star closer. Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Javier Lopez all closed out games this year in Wilson's absence, but Sergio Romo took over as closer down the stretch. Romo has had a ERA under 2 and a WHIP under 1 two straight years. Romo also was dominant in the postseason, saving 4 games.

Like 2010, the Giants didn't have a overwhelming offense. They were 6th in the National League with 718 runs scored. Still, it was a major improvement over the 2011 version, which was dead last in the NL. The 2012 team also scored more runs than their 2010 championship team. They also did this without All Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera, who was leading the NL in batting average when he was suspended for PED's. Buster Posey came back from his leg injury, and had a MVP type season. The Kung Fu Panda Pablo Sandoval missed 54 games this year, but had a big October this year. Sandoval only played 6 of 15 games during the 2010 run, but was a middle of the order force this time around. The Kung Fu Panda hit .379 during the playoffs with 6 home runs and 13 RBIs. Sandoval also hit 3 home runs in Game 1 of the World Series, becoming only the fourth player to ever do that, joining Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols. Sandoval hit .500 during the World Series, and was named the MVP of it.

Hunter Pence was also a big pickup for the Giants at the deadline. They got him from the Phillies and he was a inspirational leader for them this October. They needed him as well because Cabrera would be suspended a few weeks later. While the Giants missed Cabrera's bat, Gregor Blanco played great defense in left and stole 26 bases during the season. Angel Pagan played a terrific center field this year, in his first year with the Giants coming over from the Mets in a offseason trade. Homegrown talent Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford played first and short for the Giants this year. Aubrey Huff was relegated to the bench to make room for Belt. Former Cardinal Ryan Theriot was a utilityman for the Giants this year, and has now won back to back World Series with different teams.

The Giants made the right moves this year picking up Pence, Scutaro, and lefty Jose Mijares. GM Brian Sabean made similar moves in 2010, picking up Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, and Javier Lopez for their stretch run then. The Giants didn't win their first World Series in San Francisco until 2010, but have now won 2 out of the last 3 World Series. Yesterday's win was their 7th World Series title in franchise history. They won 5 in New York in 1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, and 1954. The Giants have great pitching, play good defense, get timely hits, steal bases and take the extra base, and play good fundamental baseball. With a core of Sandoval, Posey, Cain, Lincecum, and others they should be contenders for many years.

The Tigers had a terrible World Series after sweeping the Yankees to get there. It was similar to 2006, when they swept the A's and waited the winner of the Cardinals/Mets NLCS which went 7 games. The layoff hurt the Tigers this time around, too. Even with mighty sluggers like Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Tigers only batted .159 for the World Series. That is the third worst team average in World Series history, not the kind of leaderboard you want to be on. Justin Verlander was rocked in Game 1, and the Giants never let up after that. The Tigers have now lost the last 2 World Series they've played in, and haven't won it all since 1984.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cardinals Snatch Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

                                  Not the scene I expected a few days ago

After the Cardinals won Games 3 and 4 of the NLCS, I thought they were a lock for the World Series. They had a 3-1 lead and were in the driver's seat. Then on Friday, Lance Lynn pitched 3 no hit innings, and fell apart in the 4th inning. Barry Zito shut the Cardinals down. When it went back to San Francisco, the Cardinals didn't show up to play. The Giants outscored us 20-1 in the last 3 games of the NLCS. It was a terrible way to go out, and the Cardinals made a NLCS record 10 errors. The Redbirds luck ran out, and were not able to make a miracalous comeback in Game 7. The Cardinals didn't do themselves any favors either, but the Giants beat us. In fact, the Giants kicked our ass in the last 3 games.

With the exception of Adam Wainwright's start in Game 4 and Kyle Lohse's start in Game 3, the starting pitching was terrible in this series. The other 5 games, the starting pitcher pitched under 5 innnings. Like I mentioned earlier, our defense was very bad during this series. Cardinal hitters only batted .217 during the NLCS. Allen Craig was 3 for 24(.125), David Freese was 5 for 26(.192), Matt Holliday was 5 for 25(.200), Daniel Descalso was 5 for 25(.200), and Jon Jay was 6 for 29(.207). That's not going to get it done. Ryan Vogelsong shut us down twice during this series, and was key for the Giants. Even with Matt Holliday's hard slide into Marco Scutaro, he had a terrific series on defense and offense. Scutaro was 14 for 28(.500) for the series and won the NLCS MVP.

The 2012 NLCS is reminiscient of the 1996 NLCS. The Cardinals had a 3-1 lead on the Braves that year. The Braves rallied back to win that series, outscoring the Cardinals 32-1 in the last 3 games. In Game 7, starter Donovan Osborne was knocked out in the first inning, and the Redbirds lost 15-0. It was as bitter of a defeat as this year's NLCS. 1996 was also Tony LaRussa's first year as Cardinals manager, and this year was Mike Matheny's first year on the job. The Cardinals are in good shape for the future, and Matheny did a good job as a rookie manager. The Cardinals also proved they can win without Albert Pujols this year.

The Tigers and Giants will meet in the World Series this year, and this is the first meeting between the clubs in the Fall Classic. This will be the Detroit Tigers 11th World Series appearance, and they last won it all in 1984. The San Francisco Giants will be making their 19th World Series appearance, which sets a National League record. Previously, they were tied with the Cardinals and Dodgers. The Giants also won the 2010 World Series.

The Tigers are the favorites, but the Giants have proven they can win with their backs against the wall this year. However, with a rotation led by Justin Verlander, along with Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers will be hard to beat. They also have a devastating 3-4 combo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The Giants have some pretty good pitching as well with Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong, but not as good of a offense. The Giants bullpen is probably more solid than the Tigers, and their defense is better. The Tigers are well rested, but that backfired on them in the 2006 World Series against the Cardinals. I think this year's Tigers team is better than the 2006 version, and I think they will win the World Series this year.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Redbirds Young Rocket Arms

                       Trevor Rosenthal pitching against the Giants

This postseason, the Cardinals are showing off some young power arms out of the bullpen. Lance Lynn had this role last season, and moved into the rotation this year. Lynn made a relief appearance in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, but was moved into the rotation because of Jaime Garcia's injury. Garcia's injury led to the Cardinals adding 2009 first round pick Shelby Miller to the postseason roster. Miller was impressive in his start against the Reds in the season's final day. He no-hit them for 5 plus innings. He shut the Giants down in his first inning of his postseason debut in Game 2, but ran into trouble in his second inning of work.

Miller had a up and down year in Memphis, but turned it on in the second half. He started using his secondary off speed pitches, instead of using purely fastballs. Miller just turned 22 years old, and is still learning how to pitch. In the same 2009 draft, the Cardinals also drafted Joe Kelly in the third round and Trevor Rosenthal in the 21st round. Kelly has played the biggest role on the 2012 Cardinals, starting 16 games for the Redbirds, and now being a power arm out of the bullpen.

Rosenthal can reach up to 100 mph on his fastball. He also has a very good curveball. He is a valuable weapon out of the bullpen, and should be a very good starter someday. Rosenthal had a 2.78 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 22.2 innings pitched in the big leagues this year. He pitched in Double A Springfield and Triple A Memphis this year before joining the Cardinals. Rosenthal is also from Lee's Summit, Missouri. Rosenthal has also pitched very well in the postseason this year, pitching 4.1 scoreless innings with 7 strikeouts.

The Cardinals should have plenty of arms for years to come. All three of these guys are good enough to be starters and could be All Stars someday. The Cardinals have several more top pitching prospects in the minors. The Cardinals signed Carlos Martinez form the Dominican Republic in 2010, and he was rated baseball's 27th best prospect coming into this season. Martinez just turned 21, and pitched in two levels this year, High A Palm Beach, and Double A Springfield. Martinez had a 2.93 ERA in 104.1 innings pitched in the minors this year. John Gast is the Cardinals top lefthanded starting prospect, and he was a 6th round pick in 2010. Gast dominated Double A, going 4-2 with a 1.93 ERA, but struggled in Springfield, going 9-5 with a 5.10 ERA.

Tyrell Jenkins was the Cardinals supplemental first round pick in 2010, and was baseball's 94th ranked prospect coming into the year. Mike Matheny compared Jenkins to Chris Carpenter in spring training this year. Jenkins is several years away from the big leagues, and struggled in A ball this year. He had a 5.14 ERA in 82.1  innings for Quad Cities this year. He did strikeout 80 batters, but is far from a finished product at 20 years old. The Cardinals spent their number 1 draft pick this year on Michael Wacha from Texas A&M. Wacha reaches the low to mid 90s on his fastball. He had a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings with 40 strikeouts in the minors this year after signing.

Its possible that some of these pitchers won't pan out, but I think the Cardinals will have some very good pitchers coming up in the next few years. Some might pitch out of the bullpen in the majors. I think this year's trio of Kelly, Rosenthal, and Miller will make a big impact on next years club. The three 2009 draft picks are already contributing on this year's club.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Division Series Wrapup, LCS Preview

                Daniel Descalso had a big night on Friday's deciding game

This year might of been the most exciting round of Division Series ever. All four series went a full five games, the first time thats ever happened since the Division Series was introduced in 1995. Obviously, Friday nights deciding Game 5 between the Nats and Cards was a classic. The Cardinals overcame the biggest comeback in a elimination game in postseason history, at one time being down by 6 runs. The previous record was 4, which two teams overcame(Yankees against the Red Sox in the 2003 ALCS, and the Pirates over the Senators in the 1925 World Series). Ironically, the 1925 Washington Senators lost to the Pirates by a 9-7 score. The Cardinals can never be counted out even when the circumstances look dire.

The Nationals have got to be second guessing the decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season. Would they have won with Strasburg pitching? Maybe not, but there chances would of been better. While this was the best season this franchise has ever had, this lost could haunt them for quite some time. They have a young talented team though, and should be contenders again next year.

The Giants made some postseason history themselves on Thursday. They became the first National League team to overcome a 0-2 deficit. Even more impressive, they won all three games on the road in Cincinnati. They are the first team to do that. Buster Posey's grand slam clinched the series win on Thursday, and Matt Cain won the game. Tim Lincecum also pitched out of the bullpen in this series, but could start vs. the Cardinals in the NLCS. The Reds were pretty cocky going into the playoffs, but they choked this series away.

The NLCS will be a match between the last two World Champions. The Cardinals are the defending champions, and the Giants won it all in 2010. This is the first time in NLCS history this has happened, and it is an intriguing matchup. Both teams had to deal with injuries this season The Cardinals lost Rafael Furcal and Lance Berkman for the season, and Chris Carpenter missed most of the year. Carpenter is healthy now, but Jaime Garcia injured his rotator cuff during Game 2 of the NLDS and will miss the rest of the playoffs. This is also the first season of the post Albert Pujols/Tony LaRussa era, but the Redbirds haven't missed a beat. The Giants had to had to deal with Brian Wilson's season ending injury, Melky Cabrera's 50 games suspension(will not play in the playoffs), and a down year from former ace Lincecum. Posey had a big year this year, coming back from his leg injury last year.

The Giants will need their starting pitching to come through for them if they are going to win this series. The Cardinals scored the second most runs in the National League this year, and had 5 players reach th 20 home run plateau this year in David Freese, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, and Allen Craig. The Redbirds also have a lot of young strong arms in the bullpen in Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Shelby Miller. The Giants do have some threats on offense in Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence. Marco Scutaro was third in the NL in hits this year.

In the American League, the Athletics gave the Tigers all they could handle in the Division Series. Detroit got off to a 2-0 lead, but the A's roared back to tie it with a come from behind win in Game 4. Justin Verlander pitched a complete game shutout to win Game 5, and set a Division Series record with 22 strikeouts. With a rotation of Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez, and a offense led by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, the Tigers might be the team to beat this year.

The Yankees and the Orioles played in a tough grind it out five game series. Only in Game 1, did a team score more than 3 runs. Every game was close, and went down to the wire. Jim Johnson saved 51 games in the regular season, but blew two games in this series. Alex Rodriguez was benched for the deciding game in favor of Eric Chavez. This series could also be the end of Jim Thome's career, he has hinted at retirement after this season.

The Tigers have already took Game 1 of the ALCS in New York, and the Yankees got some more bad news. Derek Jeter fractured his ankle making a defensive play Saturday night, and will miss the rest of the postseason. Game 3 of this series will feature a great pitching matchup between CC Sabathia and Verlander. The Cardinals and Giants will kick off the NLCS tonight with Lance Lynn taking on Madison Bumgarner.

 The Giants came back to beat the Reds and now will face the defending champion Cardinals

Friday, October 5, 2012

October Baseball is Here

            The Oakland Athletics celebrate a improbable division championship

The most exciting time of year for baseball is back, the postseason. It was an exciting end of the regular season, capped off by Miguel Cabrera winning the first Triple Crown in 45 years. Also, the Orioles and Athletics beat the odds and made the playoffs. The A's pulled the rug from under the Rangers feet and won the AL West. I don't think anyone had Oakland pegged to do much of anything this year, and they win the division over big spending rivals Texas and the Angels. Albert Pujols said he went to the Angels for a chance to win, but will miss out on the postseason this year.

Today at 4 o'clock, the Cardinals will face the Braves in a one game wild card playoff. Kyle Lohse will take the start for the Redbirds, and Kris Medlen will start for the Braves. The Braves have won in 23 straight starts by Medlen, hopefully that trend won't continue today. The Braves also have a dominant back end of the bullpen with Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was lights out this year, and struck out over 100 batters and had an ERA close to 1.00. Atlanta will also be motivated to win for Chipper Jones, who is in the final season of his Hall of Fame career.

The Cardinals opted to only go with 2 starters for the wild card game roster. Lance Lynn will be the other starter if Lohse gets into trouble. Besides Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, and Edward Mujica, the Cardinals went with lefties Scrabble, Sam Freeman, righties Fernando Salas, Trevor Rosenthal, and Joe Kelly. For the bench, Ryan Jackson, Bryan Anderson, and Adron Chambers are on the roster for today's game. The roster can be changed between rounds, and Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter, and Adam Wainwright would then be added if they advance.

In the other wild card playoff game, the Orioles will travel to Texas to face the Rangers at 7:30. Joe Saunders will get the start for Baltimore, and Yu Darvish will start for Texas. The Orioles have been a Cinderella story this year, and made their first postseason since 1997 when they had Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar, Brady Anderson, and Mike Mussina. They almost won the AL East over the Yankees, but fell 2 games short. Texas collapsed down the stretch, and lost the AL West in the season's final day after leading it all year. One has to wonder what kind of pyschological impact that losing a 13 game lead will have on the Rangers. They still have one of the most talented rosters of any playoff team, but they aren't playing good baseball right now.

The Orioles have a knack for winning close games. They were 29-9 in one run games, and 16-2 in extra inning games this year. They also turned it on in the second half despite injuries to Nick Markakis and Jason Hammel. Texas is coming off back to back World Series appearances, but find themselves as the wild card this year after leading the division most of the year. The Rangers have the better team on paper, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Orioles won this game tonight.

The Nationals will face the winner of the Braves/Cardinals game and head to one of those cities to start the Division Series. To fit in the wild card game, baseball went with a 2-3 format, instead of a 2-2-1 format that usually happens in the Division Series. Washington made their first postseason since 1981 when they were the Montreal Expos. It's only the second time in frachise history they've made the postseason since they missed out in the 1994 season due to the strike. It's the first time a DC based baseball team has made the postseason since 1933 when the Washington Senators lost to the New York Giants in the World Series that year.

The Giants and Reds will face off in the other Division Series in the National League. Dusty Baker will be going up against his former team. The Giants will start Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner the first two games, but manager Bruce Bochy is undecided on the Game 3 starter. He will have Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, and Barry Zito to pick from. The Reds will start Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, and Mat Latos the first three games, and could start no-hit artist Homer Bailey if there is a Game 4.

The Yankees ended up with the American League's best record and will face the winner of the Orioles/Rangers game. Ichiro Suzuki will be making his first postseason appearance since 2001 when he was with the Mariners. The Yankees made the postseason for a record 51st time this year. The next closest would be the Dodgers with 26 and the Cardinals with 25 appearances.

The other Division Series matchup in the American League will be the Tigers vs. the Athletics, a rematch of the 2006 ALCS. The A's have wheeled and dealed every year since, but Billy Beane has finally found a mix of players who won. While not as good as the Orioles, the A's were good in one run games, going 25-8. They were 11-5 in extra inning games. Oakland was 51-25 in the second half, and became only the fifth team ever to comeback from a deficit of 13 games or more. They joined the 1914 Boston Braves, 1951 New York Giants, 1978 New York Yankees, and the 1995 Seattle Mariners. The 14 Braves and 78 Yankees went on to win the World Series. It was a very unexpected division crown for Oakland, who were thought to be one of baseball's worst teams coming into the season. Instead a group of rookies and castoffs came together and manager Bob Melvin did a great job with platoons and bullpen matchups.

The A's could have as many as 12 rookies on their postseason roster. Ryan Cook, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and many others played prominent roles on this ballclub. While I think the 2012 Oakland A's are a good story, I think the Tigers will beat them. Detroit will be able to trot out Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Doug Fister, who all have filthy stuff. They have the best 3-4 combo in the league in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.

                           NL Wild Card Game Starter Kyle Lohse

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who Should Win the Awards

                    Cabrera and Verlander: Hitting and Pitching Triple Crown Winners

There should be plenty of debate who should win the awards this year. In the American League, there has been quite a discussion who should be the MVP between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. Both players are having terrific seasons. Cabrera is on the verge of becoming the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win the Triple Crown. Trout is having a historically great rookie season, and great year regardless. Trout is a five tool player who has made some great home run robbing catches this year. In the National League, there isn't a clear cut MVP candidate. There are numerous guys who could win. Here's who I would vote for.

Gold Gloves
C-Yadier Molina, Matt Weiters
1B-Adam LaRoche, Mark Teixiera
2B-Darwin Barney, Ian Kinsler
SS-Brandon Crawford, Elvis Andrus
3B-Ryan Zimmerman, Adrian Beltre
OF-Jon Jay, Austin Jackson
OF-Michael Bourn, Mike Trout
OF-Andrew McCutchen, Adam Jones
P-Mark Buehrle, David Price

Silver Sluggers
C-Buster Posey, Joe Mauer
1B-Allen Craig, Prince Fielder
2B-Aaron Hill, Robinson Cano
SS-Ian Desmond, Derek Jeter
3B-Chase Headley, Miguel Cabrera
OF-Ryan Braun, Josh Hamilton
OF-Andrew McCutchen, Mike Trout
OF-Giancarlo Stanton, Adam Jones
P(DH)-Mike Leake, Edwin Encarnacion

Rookie of the Year

National League
1) Wade Miley
2) Bryce Harper
3) Todd Frazier
4) Anthony Rizzo
5) Matt Carpenter

American League
1) Mike Trout
2) Yoenis Cespedes
3) Jarrod Parker
4) Tommy Milone
5) Wei-Yei Chen

Wade Miley has had a terrific rookie year and has won 16 games with a 3.36 ERA. Bryce Harper has been key for the Nats rise this year, but I think Miley has had the best rookie year. Todd Frazier has been a important player for the Reds, who dealt with some injuries this year. His teammate Zack Cozart has had a good year defensively, but he just missed my list. Matt Carpenter has also been a valuable utility guy for the Cardinals. In the American League, Mike Trout is the clear cut winner. He's had a historic rookie year, rating up there with Joe DiMaggio's 1936 season, Fred Lynn's 1975 season, and Albert Pujols' 2001 season. I selected threee A's players, and could of easily selected All Star reliever Ryan Cook as well.

Cy Young Award

National League

1) RA Dickey
2) Gio Gonzalez
3) Johnny Cueto
4) Clayton Kershaw
5) Matt Cain

Clayton Kershaw still has a start left on the season's finale, and he currently leads the NL in ERA and WHIP, and has an outside chance of leading in strikeouts(currently 9 back of RA Dickey). I feel that Dickey has had the best all around year of NL pitchers this year. He won 20 games on a mediocre Mets club, and ranks among the top in all major pitching categories. There are quite a few more worthy candidates I didn't list like relievers Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel, who have been dominant this year. Kyle Lohse, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Cole Hamels also had really good years.

American League

1) David Price
2) Justin Verlander
3) Jered Weaver
4) Chris Sale
5) Felix Hernandez

Justin Verlander has had an excellent follow up season to his 2011 campaign in which he won the pitching Triple Crown, Cy Young Award, and MVP.  However, I think David Price had a slightly better year. Price led the AL in ERA and Wins, and is in the top ten in every major pitching category. King Felix had another great year pitching for a bad team, and threw a perfect game earlier this year.

Most Valuable Player

National League

1) Ryan Braun
2) Andrew McCutchen
3) Buster Posey
4) Yadier Molina
5) Chase Headley
6) Matt Holliday
7) David Wright
8) Adam LaRoche
9) Craig Kimbrel
10) Aroldis Chapman

There isn't really a clear cut winner in the National League, and reluctantly I put Ryan Braun #1. While there is a feeling that Braun shouldn't win because he got out of his PED suspension on a technicality, he is having the best all around year. He's had a 30/30 year, and leads the NL in home runs and OPS. I thought Andrew McCutchen was a lock for the MVP a month ago, but the Pirates faded. Buster Posey deserves some MVP consideration because's he's carried that team offensively. If Posey's a candidate, then Yadier Molina is as well since he's had a great year with the bat, and is baseball's best defensive catcher. I left off Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman from my Cy Young ballot but included them on the MVP. They have been lights out this year, and there is a reason why both of their teams are making the playoffs. They shut the door in the 9th inning.

American League

1) Miguel Cabrera
2) Mike Trout
3) Josh Hamilton
4) Adrian Beltre
5) Adam Jones
6) Robinson Cano
7) Edwin Encarnacion
8) David Price
9) Justin Verlander
10) Prince Fielder

There are a lot of people who think that Mike Trout should be the MVP this year. He's having a banner year, hitting for average, power, steals bases, and plays outstanding defense. Most years, he would be the MVP. Not this year, though. With a game to go, Miguel Cabrera is likely to become the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. He has a comfortable lead in average and RBIs and has a one HR lead over Josh Hamilton. He also leads the AL in slugging and total bases. Cabrera also lost weight and got in better shape to make the move from first to third base to accomodate Prince Fielder. He isn't going to win a Gold Glove over there, but has been respectable. Cabrera also came on strong in September, helping the Tigers come back to win the AL Central. Trout cooled off a bit in the season's last month, and the Angels just missed out of the playoffs. However, the Angels didn't click until Trout came up. They were scuffling before that, and Albert Pujols was off to the worst start of his career. Still, it would be a travesty not to give the MVP to a Triple Crown winner.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Cardinals Closing In On Playoff Spot

With 3 games to go, the Cardinals have a 2 game lead on the second wild card spot. At 86-73, the Cardinals could clinch tonight with a win and a Dodgers loss. The Redbirds are 10-3 in their last 13 games and just took 2 out of 3 against the Nationals. For the final series of the season the Reds will come to town for a three game set. The Reds are in a chase for the National League's best record and are currently tied with the Nationals with 96 wins. The Dodgers will be playing their archrival Giants to close the season. There is still a chance for the Dodgers to sneak in, but they will need to win at least 2 games and probably sweep the Giants, and the Cardinals would need to get swept for that to happen.

For the Reds series, the Cardinals will start Jaime Garcia Monday, Chris Carpenter on Tuesday, and are still deciding on their starter for Wednesday's season finale. It could be Adam Wainwright, but he won't pitch if the Cardinals have clinched by then. Waino is a candidate to start Friday's wild card playoff game vs. the Braves. Kyle Lohse is also a candidate. The Braves have already announced that Kris Medlen will start for them in the wild card game. Medlen has gone 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts since joining the rotation in the second half. The Braves have won 23 straight starts that Medlen has made.

There will be some decisions to make on the postseason roster as well. For the one game wild card playoff, they could leave a couple of starting pitchers off, so they could add an extra bullpen arm, or a bench player. Teams can change their roster between rounds. Last season, the Cardinals did this between every round. Skip Schumaker, Jake Westbrook, Adron Chambers, Kyle McClellan, and Lance Lynn were among the players moved on and off the roster.

The Cardinals have already announced that Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal will not be able to play in the postseason due to injuries. Jake Westbrook is also done for the year. If the Cards go with 13 position players like they have all season, there will be some debate on who the final bench guys will be. Matt Carpenter, Skip Schumaker(or Daniel Descalso, depending on who's starting second), and Tony Cruz are locks for the roster. The last two spots are up in the air right now. With Pete Kozma's excellent play this September, Ryan Jackson could find himself off the roster. In the outfield, Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers are the likely candidates to be included on the roster. I think Chambers will get the final spot over Jackson because of his speed.

For the bullpen, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, and Edward Mujica are locks. Joe Kelly is likely to be part of the bullpen mix if he isn't asked to start. Trevor Rosenthal can reach up to 100 mph and has done well out of the pen since being promoted, I would think he makes it as well. That leaves two spots up for grabs. A lefty will surely be part of the mix, with Marc Rzepczynski and Sam Freeman competing for that spot. Both could make it, but I doubt they will. Mike Matheny has been going with Freeman over Scrabble the last few weeks, so its possible that it would be Freeman. Fernando Salas has had a up and down season, and he could find himself off the roster. Likely, the final spot could be between Salas and Scrabble. Shelby Miller is also a possibility.

For the playoff rotation, there is some questions as well. Lohse or Wainwright should get the start on Friday's playoff game. If the Cardinals advance, they have plenty of candidates after that. Carpenter will surely be part of the rotation. The last spot could be between Garcia and Lance Lynn. Garcia is lights out at Busch Stadium, but shaky on the road. Lynn has fallen off a bit in the second half and hasn't been as durable. He could start, but could also be a long man out of the bullpen.

The rest of the playoff picture is starting to look clear. The Nats, Reds, Giants, and Braves have clinched in the National League. The Cardinals magic number is 2. In the American League, the Rangers, Yankees, and Orioles have clinched playoff spots. The Orioles and Yankees are tied for the AL East lead. The Tigers have clinched at least a tie for the AL Central title, and Miguel Cabrera is has the lead in all threeTriple Crown categories with three games to go. The Athletics have at least clinched a tie for the second wild card spot. Both the Rays and Angels are three games back. It looks like Albert Pujols will be missing the playoffs in his first season as an Angel.