Results tagged ‘ Pablo Sandoval ’

How Angels’ ‘Big 3′ stacks up in 2013 …

Josh Hamilton

I wrote recently about the Angels’ own prestigious “Big Three” of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton — how they could potentially hold up historically and in this era.

But how do they hold up in 2013? There’s little debate that the Angels now have the most talented and celebrated lineup trio in baseball, giving them arguably the game’s most potent offense. But I was a little stunned that their 2012 stats didn’t show it.

In fact, when combining each of their OPS from 2012, the Angels’ trio ranked third, behind those of the Tigers and Reds. Below is the top 15, based on combined OPS of the top three current players in each lineup (minimum is 400 plate appearances) …

  • Tigers (Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson): 2.795
  • Reds (Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce): 2.759
  • Angels (Trout, Pujols, Hamilton): 2.752
  • Brewers (Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart): 2.729
  • Red Sox (David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli*): 2.635
  • Blue Jays (Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera): 2.627
  • Cardinals (Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina): 2.627
  • Rangers (Adrian Beltre, David Murphy, A.J. Pierzynski): 2.607
  • Rockies (Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Tyler Colvin): 2.602
  • Pirates (Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez): 2.569
  • D-backs (Aaron Hill, Paul Goldschmidt, Jason Kubel): 2.565
  • Yankees (Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira): 2.547
  • Twins (Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer, Ryan Doumit): 2.532
  • Giants (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt): 2.527
  • Dodgers (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez): 2.524

* Napoli’s deal still hasn’t been finalized. 

** A special thanks to all of you for making this blog the 10th-most popular among MLB.com beat writers in 2012. You’re the whipped cream on my sundae. 

Alden 

Trumbo’s favorite Derby homer? It’s a tie for first …

KANSAS CITY — Mark Trumbo impressed a lot of people with his Home Run Derby showing on Monday night, even though he was eliminated in a tiebreaker swing-off by Jose Bautista. Asked for his favorite of the 13 through the first two rounds, Trumbo narrowed it down to two — the one that landed on the roof of the Hall of Fame building beyond the left-field bleachers (measured at a conservative 428 feet); and the smoking line drive out to straightaway center (420).

“I’d say the one on top of the roof,” Trumbo said, before backtracking — “but the one to center was impressive. I think a lot of the guys really liked the line drive.”

Trumbo’s average distance per home run — 434 feet — was the longest among the competitors, including champion Prince Fielder. He started off slow each round, then got into a little bit of a rhythm towards the middle, but felt he could’ve done better.

“I felt like I never really got into a great rhythm,” Trumbo said. “It seemed like I’d hit one, make an out, and then have to take a few pitches. Ideally, the goal is to get into an extended rhythm, kind of like Prince did, and then rattle off a better total. My biggest thing was just to have fun with it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. I wanted to get one. That was the advice — don’t get a goose egg.”

Trumbo’s favorite moment?

“[David Ortiz] pulled me aside before I left yesterday and that was really cool,” he said. “He was telling me it took him three or four times of doing it to really feel like he — not had it down, but had a chance. Things move very, very quickly when you’re out there. You can’t really simulate that.”

But C.J. Wilson, at least, can capture it.

As usual, Wilson was out there with his camera and estimated taking roughly 800 photos of the Derby participants. He’ll look over them when he has time in the next few days and print them out for Trumbo to keep.

“I had my brand-new camera out there, taking some cool images that I’ll process while we’re on the road in the next couple days and see if I can come up with some winners,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun. Jered [Weaver] and Mike [Trout] and I were out there just trying to hype him up and keep him motivated and have a good time. It’s a lot of pressure out there, when you’re the only guy batting for a couple minutes at a time in front of the fans.”

Trumbo’s roommate also TiVo’d it. But many of those in attendance won’t need reminders of the show Trumbo put on. Many were impressed.

“I know my Twitter following went way up,” Trumbo said with a smile.

“Any time I’m in something, I want to win. But I’m going to take away some really cool memories from it.”

Some other pre-All Star Game notes

  • Asked about their friendship in a pregame presser, Trout joked of Bryce Harper: “We don’t like each other.” Bryce: “It’s like Bird and Magic. He’s Magic, I’m Bird.”
  • Maybe more LeBron and Wade? “I hope I play with [Trout] one day,” Harper said. “I think him playing center field, me playing right field, as a one-two punch, I think that’d be fun.”
  • Trout was asked who wins in a footrace between him and Peter Bourjos. His response: “I think Peter’s got me around the bases in an inside-the-parker, but home to first, we were talking about it the other day, I think I have him by a couple of steps.”
  • Weaver was told he’ll pitch the fifth inning tonight. As for how it affects him for the second half? It’s just like a normal bullpen session.
  • Trout and Trumbo are not really sure when they’ll get in. “I have all my gloves, as usual,” Trumbo said. C.J., of course, is sitting out due to a blister he doesn’t expect to impact his second half.
  • Weaver on not being named the starter for the All-Star Game a second straight year, despite leading the Majors with a 1.96 ERA: “I told you guys, whatever happens, I’m just excited to be here, be a part of it. Obviously it would’ve been cool to start back-to-back years, but I’m just excited to be able to get out there and throw an inning and just be part of this whole experience. It’s fun. It’s great to hang out with all these guys and just see who they are as a person instead of just battling against him.”
  • One guy Weaver was really excited to get to know a little better here: Adam Dunn. “He’s a funny character, man.”

Some Angels All-Star Game links …

Some intriguing All-Star Game stories …

The lineups …

NL

Carlos Gonzalez, DH (COL)
Melky Cabrera, CF (SFG)
Ryan Braun, LF (MIL)
Joey Votto, 1B (CIN)
Carlos Beltran, RF (StL)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Dan Uggla, 2B (ATL)
Rafael Furcal, SS (StL)

SP: RH Matt Cain (SFG)

AL

Derek Jeter, SS (NYY)
Cano, 2B (NYY)
Josh Hamilton, LF (TEX)
Bautista, RF (TOR)
Fielder, 1B (DET)
Adrian Beltre, 3B (TEX)
MikOrtiz, DH (BOS)
Mike Napoli, C (TEX)
Curtis Granderson, CF (NYY)

SP: RH Justin Verlander (DET)

Alden

Game 70: Giants-Angels …

Jered Weaver is activated off the DL today, looking to pick up right where he left off and give the Angels eight series wins over their last nine …

Giants (38-31)

Gregor Blanco, DH
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Melky Cabrera, LF
Buster Posey, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Brandon Belt, 1B
Nate Schierholtz, RF
Brandon Crawford, SS

Pitching: RH Ryan Vogelsong (6-2, 2.29 ERA)

Angels (37-32)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Weaver (6-1, 2.61 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jerome Williams was placed on the DL on Wednesday, with the breathing problems that caused him to go to the hospital after his Monday night start. With that, the Angels opened a spot on the roster for Weaver. Williams passed out in the Angels clubhouse after pitching against the Giants, likely due to an asthma attack. He’ll take it easy for now, and there’s no timeline for his return. More on the site soon.
  • With Williams on the DL, Ervin Santana will start Saturday against the Dodgers and the young Garrett Richards will go Sunday. Dan Haren is the Friday starter.
  • The Blue Jays claimed reliever David Pauley off waivers from the Angels.
  • Scioscia was asked about the recent pine tar scandal between the Rays and Nationals. Scoiscia didn’t really have a problem with Davey Johnson bringing it up — which his former coach, Joe Maddon, took exception to — but said using pine tar is hardly an advantage for a pitcher. “Pine tar’s an accepted practice in baseball. And I don’t think hitters have much of an issue with it, especially when it’s cold or guys are really sweaty or it’s wet. It doesn’t change the flight of the ball, it’s in the rules, and obviously you have to abide by what’s in the rules. It’s like getting pulled over for going 66 mph in a 65 mph zone.”

Angels.com links from Tuesday …

Some AL West links …

And the Miami Heat are ONE WIN AWAY from championship glory.

Alden

Game 69: Giants-Angels …

A matchup of southpaws tonight, with Barry Zito going up against C.J. Wilson. In tune with that, the Angels are giving Kendrys Morales the day off, putting Mark Trumbo in at DH and giving Peter Bourjos a rare start …

Giants (38-30)

Gregor Blanco, RF
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Melky Cabrera, LF
Buster Posey, DH
Angel Pagan, CF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Brandon Belt, 1B
Hector Sanchez, C
Joaquin Arias, SS

Pitching: LH Zito (5-4, 3.61 ERA)

Angels (36-32)

Mike Trout, LF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Mark Trumbo, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Erick Aybar, SS
Peter Bourjos, CF
John Hester, C

Pitching: LH Wilson (7-4, 2.30 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jerome Williams is resting comfortably at UC Irvine Medical Center and is feeling better. Mike Scioscia visited with him in the hospital last night, saying: “He felt much better once everything had calmed down a little bit. He continues to feel better today, but we have to evaluate exactly what his situation is and await direction from our medical department.”
  • Scioscia still doesn’t know — or simply remained coy about — what the corresponding roster move will be when Jered Weaver is activated off the DL for his Wednesday start. My hunch on two options: Williams going on the DL, buying them a little time; Andrew Romine getting optioned, again buying them some time.
  • Ervin Santana hasn’t been told whether he’s starting Saturday.
  • Since May 27, Trumbo is tied for the Major League lead with 10 homers and leads with 23 RBIs. Asked if Trumbo could be his everyday cleanup hitter, including against lefties, Scioscia said: “As of right now, against left-handed pitching, you’re going to see Mark hitting in the cleanup spot. For our team to really get to where we need, Kendrys really needs to be a big part of it. There’s no plans right now to move him out of the cleanup spot against lefties.”

Some Angels.com links …

Some AL West links …

Two more wins, and LeBron James can silence the critics.

Alden

Game 68: Giants-Angels …

Very intriguing pitching matchup today, as the Angels look to make it three straight and put themselves to win their fourth straight series. In one corner, you have Matt Cain, fresh off hurling a perfect game against the Astros. In the other, you have Jerome Williams, whose trade from the Giants helped pave the way for Cain’s callup …

Giants (37-30)

Gregor Blanco, RF
Ryan Theriot, 2B
Melky Cabrera, LF
Buster Posey, C
Angel Pagan, CF
Pablo Sandoval, DH
Brandon Belt, 1B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Joaquin Arias, 3B

Pitching: RH Cain (8-2, 2.18 ERA)

Angels (36-31)

Mike Trout, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mark Trumbo, LF
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Maicer Izturis, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Wilson, C

Pitching: RH Williams (6-4, 4.20 ERA)

Some pregame notes …

  • Jered Weaver (lower back) felt fine one day after a Sunday bullpen session and will get the ball on Wednesday, for the series finale against the D-backs in what will be his first start since May 28. Mike Scioscia said he’ll be on an 80-90 pitch limit. More on Angels.com soon.
  • Wilson (concussion) was activated off the disabled list, with the young Hank Conger being optioned. The Angels also called up infielder Andrew Romine and once again designated reliever David Pauley for assignment, giving them 12 pitchers and 13 position players once again.
  • Chris Iannetta (right wrist surgery) felt tightness in his forearm, which delayed his rehab assignment, but played catch again on Monday and continues to hit. Still, Scioscia said a rehab assignment is not imminent at this time.
  • Scott Downs (side) threw a bullpen session on Sunday and feels ready to go today.
  • The Angels enter tonight on a 21-inning scoreless stretch, allowing five hits over their last two games.
  • This, in case you don’t already know, marks the first time the Giants visit Angel Stadium since the 2002 World Series. It’s their first regular-season stop since 2000.
  • Scioscia, on the decision to option Conger: “It’s a tough decision, because I think Hank in some ways is ready for the challenge. And then in some other ways, there’s no doubt that he needs to work on some things for consistency that, for his long-term development, is going to be important to him. I think the bottom line is, Hank’s upside is very important to us in the organization, and right now, he needs to be playing every day to reach that upside. And I think at some point, he’ll be better prepared for the opportunity to come up here, and not only contribute, but the opportunity to come up here and win a job and get out there and catch every day.”

Some Angels links from Father’s Day …

Some AL West links …

And a big key to the Heat’s success has been Dwyane Wade learning to defer to LeBron James.

Alden

6 Divisions in 6 Days, Day 5 …

Leading up to Opening Day, I’ll roll out an All-Star team for each of the six divisions in baseball — that includes a manager, a starting nine (with a DH also for the National League), three starters and two relievers. One catch: Each team must have at least one representative, and the skipper doesn’t count. Feel free to submit your own lineups below. I’d love to see how yours differ.

Day 5: NL West
Either of the five teams in this division could win it, and I would not be surprised.
Manager: Bruce Bochy, SFG
Lineup
Dee Gordon, 2B (LAD)
Carlos Gonzalez, LF (COL)
Matt Kemp, CF (LAD)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS (COL)
Justin Upton, RF (ARI)
Andre Ethier, DH (LAD)
Pablo Sandoval, 3B (SFG)
Yonder Alonso, 1B (SDP)
Buster Posey, C (SFG)
Rotation
Clayton Kershaw, LAD
Tim Lincecum, SFG
Matt Cain, SFG
Bullpen
Brian Wilson, SFG
J.J. Putz, ARI
Alden  

Game 25: Angels-Giants …

Angels (14-9-1)

Erick Aybar, SS
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Albert Pujols, 1B
Vernon Wells, LF
Bobby Abreu, RF
Mark Trumbo, 3B
Peter Bourjos, CF
Bobby Wilson, C
Brad Mills, SP

Giants (14-10-3)

Angel Pagan, CF
Gregor Blanco, RF
Buster Posey, C
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Aubrey Huff, LF
Brandon Belt, 1B
Emmanuel Burriss, 2B
Brandon Crawford, SS
Tim Lincecum, SP

Some notes from this morning …

  • Bobby Cassevah (slight tear in labrum) still hasn’t been able to throw his bullpen session, and now it’s looking “doubtful” that he’ll start the season off in the big leagues, manager Mike Scioscia said. With Cassevah out, and Michael Kohn shut down for a bit while nursing a forearm injury, there are definitely spots to be won in that bullpen. A big key this week: How Jason Isringhausen looks. Isringhausen is throwing a bullpen today and then will pitch on back-to-back days.
  • Jered Weaver, Mike Trout and Kendrys Morales will all be seeing playing time at the Rockies/D-backs complex while the Angels are playing the Giants.
  • Scioscia, on this last full week of Spring Training: “This is an important week for us as a team, and some individual players in that room. In respecting that, we’re not going to miss any steps. The tendency would be to just get out there and go through it, but we’re still doing right-side defense, we’re still doing things that are going to important for us to win games and letting that process move forward with these guys tightening up any last things we need to this week, whether it’s pitcher-catcher relationship, whatever we need. You have to let that process play out and you can’t just miss a step.”

Some Angels links …

Some AL West links …

And the Miami Heat are not looking good right now. They lost a second straight game by double digits to the Pacers on Monday.

Alden

Star gazing as we approach vernal equinox


Spring Training .jpg

NOT FLORIDA — I won’t make it down to Florida for Spring Training until early March, but I’m sure the Grapefruit League will be fine without me. A lot happened this offseason, and there’s a lot to watch this spring, especially among the upper-echelon guys. So, I thought I’d put together an easy-to-follow guide. Print it out, fold it up and put it in the back pocket of your Bermuda shorts as you weave through camps this spring. 

Here goes nothin’
… 

Coming back from injury

Star players whose 2010 seasons ended on the shelf

* Chipper Jones (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.):
It looked like Chipper’s career would be over when the 38-year-old tore his ACL
in August, but now he’s
aiming
to be ready for Opening Day
. If he’s healthy and contributing — even if it’s not at an
All-Star level — the Braves are title contenders. 

peavy.jpg

* Stephen Strasburg (Viera, Fla.):
Strasburg’s meteoric rise came to a screeching halt with the dreaded Tommy John
surgery in August. He won’t be ready until September, but he has already been tossing a ball
, and Tommy John has a pretty good
track record with regards to comebacks. 

* Jason Bay and Johan Santana (Port St. Lucie,
Fla.)
: Bay’s rough first season in Queens was put out of its misery
when a concussion ended his season in late July, and now the right-handed power
hitter must prove he could succeed within the spacious dimensions of Citi Field. Santana’s
season was cut short last year because of left shoulder surgery and he isn’t
expected back until midseason, though he
has
begun throwing at his Fort Myers, Fla., home
. The Mets need Santana to return to full health, since he’s still owed at least $77.5 million over the next four
years. 

* Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby
Ellsbury (Fort Myers, Fla.)
: The healthy returns of Youkilis
(thumb), Pedroia (foot) and Ellsbury (ribs) will be key if the Red Sox are
going to cash in on widespread expectations of an American League crown
(including from me).
Youkilis and Pedroia both say they’re feeling good,
and Ellsbury is expected to be ready to go from the jump. But can they continue
to produce at the same level? 

* Jake Peavy (Glendale, Ariz.):
Injuries have limited Peavy to 33 starts the last two years, and shoulder
surgery knocked him out in early July last year. Peavy (pictured above) is
pushing
to be ready by Opening Day
, but the White Sox will be cautious — because they know that
even with all the success they’ve had this offseason, Peavy may still be the key in
2011. 

* Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan (Fort Myers,
Fla.)
: Even without their biggest run producer and closer — and
thanks to the services of Jim Thome
and key bullpen additions — the Twins were the first team to clinch a playoff
spot last year. This year, the comebacks of
Morneau (concussion) and Nathan (Tommy John surgery) will be vital
for success in an improved AL Central. 

* Brandon Webb (Surprise, Ariz.):
Nobody is expecting him to fill the void of
Cliff Lee, but it’d be nice if Webb could retain some of what made
him one of baseball’s best pitchers two years ago and help shore up a pretty
questionable Rangers rotation. Webb, coming off shoulder surgery, has made
exactly one Major League start since the end of the ’08 season. 

* Grady Sizemore (Goodyear, Ariz.):
This is a big year for Sizemore, who was one of baseball’s best center fielders
from 2005-08 but has been derailed by injuries the last two seasons. An Opening
Day return still seems possible. But can he return to form after knee surgery? 

* Kendry Morales (Tempe, Ariz.):
That offensive spark the Angels sought this offseason could be fixed by the
healthy return of Morales, whose season ended in late May after an awkward
landing at home plate caused a serious leg injury. He is
expecting
a full recovery

New in town

Notable offseason pickups and their new homes 

* Dan Uggla (Lake Buena Vista, Fla.):
Love Dan, but I feel like the Braves will regret that five-year, $62 million
extension down the road (and I know I’m not alone). Still, he’s the
right-handed power hitter they sought this offseason, and he helps make them a force. 

Lee.jpg

* Lee (Clearwater, Fla.): OK, so Lee (pictured left) is not really new. But
he’s back in Philly (or, for now, Clearwater). And thanks to him taking less
money — though nobody’s bringing out the violin for a $120 million player –
the Phillies have arguably the best rotation foursome in baseball history. 

* Jayson Werth (Viera, Fla.): One of
the most scrutinized contracts of the offseason was the seven-year, $126
million one signed by Werth. Now, he’ll try to prove he’s worthy of being one
of the highest-paid players. It’ll be interesting to see if he can without the benefits
Philly brought him — a star-studded lineup loaded with lefty sluggers and a
hitter-friendly park (though Nats Park isn’t bad for hitters, either). 

* Rafael Soriano (Tampa, Fla.):
Soriano was a great closer for the Rays last year, and now he’s a $35 million
setup man. That’s pricey, but the Yankees have the eighth and ninth locked down
now. 

* Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez (Fort
Myers, Fla.)
: Nobody had a more successful offseason than the Red
Sox, which added Crawford (seven years, $142 million) and Gonzalez (extension
pending) and now have one of the game’s best offenses. Fenway Park should prove
very friendly for both. 

* Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez (Port
Charlotte, Fla.)
: I don’t know about Manny and Johnny making the
Rays elite again, but they’ll surely make things entertaining in St. Pete. And
they were cheap (Damon at $5.25 million, Ramirez at $2 million). 

* Vladimir Guerrero (Sarasota, Fla.):
Quietly, the Orioles look to have one of baseball’s best offenses. The addition
of Guerrero 
– signed to a one-year, $8 million deal — as the designated hitter is just one of many reasons why. 

* Adam Dunn (Glendale, Ariz.): The
White Sox needed a big lefty bat for the middle of the order, and they got one
in Dunn — signed to a four-year, $56 million deal. Dunn should thrive in U.S.
Cellular Field, especially while hitting in such a dangerous lineup. 

* Victor Martinez (Lakeland, Fla.):
V-Mart, a switch-hitting catcher who can also play first base and DH, was a
nice pickup for the Tigers at four years and $50 million. They should be in the
hunt in the AL Central all year. 

* Lance Berkman (Jupiter, Fla.):
Berkman was an interesting signing for the Cardinals, especially at $8 million
guaranteed. If he reverts to pre-2010 form, it’s a bargain. If he doesn’t, it’s
a mistake signing at a time when the club can’t really afford any (see: Albert Pujols extension). 

* Zack Greinke (Phoenix, Ariz.): The
Brewers, thanks to the acquisition of Greinke, now boast one of the deepest and
best rotations in baseball. The best part about it is they didn’t really give
away any premier prospects in the process. 

* Matt Garza (Mesa, Ariz.): Garza
may not be an ace, but he’s a solid pitcher who’s been very consistent the
last few years. He gives the Cubs significant depth in their rotation. 

* Miguel Tejada (Scottsdale, Ariz.):
The defending champions will have a 36-year-old manning shortstop. Tejada gives
them a bit more punch than Edgar
Renteria
and Juan Uribe
— maybe — but a left side of the infield with Tejada and Pablo Sandoval will be, ahem,
interesting to watch. 

* Adrian Beltre (Surprise, Ariz.):
The Beltre signing — for five years at $80 million — gives the Rangers an
instant upgrade at third base (at least defensively). But does it make them a better team overall? Not
if it ends up costing them Michael
Young

* Vernon Wells (Tempe, Ariz.): It
was seen as a desperation move in many circles, and it surely is costly. But if
Wells — still owed $86 million the next four years — can repeat his 2010 performance, the Angels can stay in
the hunt in the AL West. 

Back to elite status? 

Elite players who had a down year — by their standards — in 2010 

Hanley .jpg

* Hanley Ramirez (Jupiter, Fla.): By his
standards, Ramirez’s 2010 — .300 batting average, 21 homers, 76 RBIs, 32
stolen bases and one public bout with his manager — was a down one for the
star shortstop. Could Hanley (pictured
right
) return to being the National League’s best shortstop, or has Troy Tulowitzki permanently taken that
crown from him? 

* Carlos Pena (Mesa, Ariz.): Pena
has averaged 36 homers and 102 RBIs over the last four seasons, but last year’s
.196 batting average was an embarrassment. Perhaps being reunited with his old
hitting coach,
Rudy Jaramillo,
in Chicago can make a difference. 

* Justin Upton (Scottsdale, Ariz.):
Is this the year Upton finally proves he’s a franchise-type player? Last year,
when he hit .273 with 16 homers and 79 RBIs, he wasn’t, and it led to new general
manager Kevin Towers listening to offers for his right fielder.
But Upton has all the tools, and he says he’s
ready
to have a big year

* Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton (Phoenix,
Ariz.)
: Broxton’s 4.04 ERA in 2010 was by far his highest in five full seasons in the Majors, and Kemp’s .249 batting average was a big
shock. Perhaps a new skipper could do the trick? 

* Sandoval (Scottsdale, Ariz.): Can
he return to being the “Big Panda” of 2009, the one who hit .330 with
25 homers and 90 RBIs? The Giants will need him to in hopes of repeating. And it
seems he
feels
the same way

* Chone Figgins (Peoria, Ariz.): Maybe there was just something in the water in Seattle last year that caused everyone to struggle at the plate. Nonetheless, Figgins had a rather unimpressive showing in his first year with his new team, sporting career-lows in batting average (.259) and on-base percentage (.340). Now, he’s dealing with trade rumors

* Jose Reyes (Port St. Lucie, Fla.): An assortment of injuries limited Reyes the last few years and greatly diminished his production. Now, he says he’s feeling good, and he’s entering his walk year. Big year for the speedy shortstop.

* Derrek Lee (Sarasota, Fla.): Lee hit .310 and averaged 26 homers and 84 RBIs from 2005-09. But a bad back limited him to a .260 batting average, 19 homers and 80 RBIs in 2010. Now, he’s in Baltimore on a one-year, $7.25 million contract. 

* Phillies’ middle infield (Clearwater, Fla.): Chase Utley (.275 with 16 homers and 65 RBIs) and Jimmy Rollins (.320 on-base percentage and eight homers in 88 games) are coming off down years. They’ll need to step up now that Werth is gone. 

* Red Sox starters (Fort Myers, Fla.): Mainly, the two veterans — Josh Beckett and John Lackey. Regardless of all the moves the Red Sox made on offense and in the bullpen, starting pitching always wins out (see: 2010 Giants). So, the success of this 2011 team will ultimately begin and end with the effectiveness of that staff. Beckett (6-6, 5.78 ERA) and Lackey (14-11, 4.40 ERA) need to be better. 

* Yankees infield (Tampa, Fla.): Well, at least three-quarters of it. All eyes are on Derek Jeter, who’s 36, coming off his worst year and recently signed to a three-year, $51 million contract with a fourth-year option. Rightfully so. But Alex Rodriguez (career-low .270 batting average) and Mark Teixeira (career-low .256 batting average) need to be more efficient to help make up for a shaky rotation in the Bronx. 

– Alden Gonzalez

** Check out my take on why greed shouldn’t be to blamed in the situations of Albert Pujols and Young. 

*** And check in next week, for a look at the most important Spring Training position battles.  

**** Photo credit above: The Associated Press 

The offseason, from the defending champs’ POV

AP1011020698.jpgThe Giants beat the Rangers in five World Series games, but you can beat that shortly after the champagne dried in the visiting clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, both respective general managers went right to work on the 2011 season. 

Yeah, there is no offseason. 
Though both clubs won pennants, they face varying degrees of difficulty regarding this offseason. We’ll start with the easiest … 
The Rangers
Free agents: LHP Cliff Lee, RHP Frank Francisco, C Bengie Molina, C Matt Treanor, INF Jorge Cantu, INF Cristian Guzman, DH Vladimir Guerrero
Arbitration-eligible: LHP C.J. Wilson, OF Josh Hamilton, OF Nelson Cruz, OF Jeff Francoeur, OF David Murphy, RHP Darren O’Day, RHP Mark Lowe, RHP Dustin Nippert, RHP Brandon McCarthy, INF Esteban German
Needs: Catcher, right-handed relief, starting pitching, designated hitter
Outlook: Whether or not they resign Lee, the Rangers have laid the foundation, and they’re going to be a top-tier team in the American League for years to come. But they of course need to go after Lee, because he’ll take them to a whole new level. Most of their core is coming back, though, which means they’ll once again have a great offense, a solid bullpen and pretty good rotation depth. 
Texas’ payroll was at about $65 million in 2010 and will go up (perhaps all the way up to $90 million). If the Rangers don’t get Lee, they can counteract it a couple of different ways — by getting a mid-rotation starter like Carl Pavano, or moving closer Neftali Feliz to the rotation and getting a closer like Rafael Soriano — and then use the extra money to get a Victor Martinez or a Carl Crawford. Vlad should be brought back, especially since his option was declined and can be had at a much cheaper price. 
The Giants
Free agents: OF Pat Burrell, OF Jose Guillen, 1B Aubrey Huff, INF Juan Uribe, RHP Guillermo Mota
Arbitration eligible: RHP Santiago Casilla, INF Mike Fontenot, LHP Javier Lopez, RHP Ramon Ramirez, RHP Chris Ray, OF Cody Ross, LHP Jonathan Sanchez, OF Andres Torres
Needs: Corner outfield, corner infield, shortstop
Outlook: They didn’t call them the “misfits” for nothing. The Giants had a great starting rotation and bullpen, and they will continue to have that next season. But their offense needs a makeover, and rest assured GM Brian Sabean isn’t looking at last year’s phenomenal playoff run as any determination that the lineup is fine the way it is. It isn’t. The Giants need that steady run-producer they’ve always craved and could use some help at a few positions. 
With that in mind, there is one player they need to go hard after: Jayson Werth. He gives them the pop they need and plays a position of need. On top of that, they need to bring back Ross, and I think they need to part ways with Burrell. Some help on the left side of the infield — in case Pablo Sandoval doesn’t bounce back, or Edgar Renteria (pictured; Associated Press) or Uribe aren’t brought back — would be a big help. 
Celebrating is over. Time to get to work. 
Alden Gonzalez 

Postseason breakdown: National League

MINNESOTA — While the American League was pretty much decided by the time the final week of the 2010 regular season began, the National League came down to the final Sunday.


Heading into the playoffs, the mystery continues. 

Three of the four NL postseason clubs were watching from home at this time last year. Can anyone from the Reds, Braves and Giants knock out the red-hot Phillies, who have won the pennant two years in a row? 

Have a look … 
Phillies (97-65)

Potential lineup

Jimmy Rollins, SS

images2.jpg

Placido Polanco, 3B
Chase Utley, 2B
Ryan Howard, 1B
Jayson Werth, RF
Raul Ibanez, LF
Shane Victorino, CF
Carlos Ruiz, C

Potential rotation

Roy Halladay, RH
Roy Oswalt, RH
Cole Hamels, LH
Joe Blanton, RH

Key relievers

Brad Lidge, RH (CL)
J.C. Romero, LH
Ryan Madson, RH
Jose Contreras, RH

Key reserves

Brian Schneider, C
Wilson Valdez, INF
Ross Gload, INF/OF
Ben Francisco, OF

Why they’ll win: They’re calling them “H2O” now. But however you want to identify them — “The Big Three,” “Cole Oswaday” (that was me) — the starting-rotation trio of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels is looking untouchable heading into this postseason. So untouchable that they’re pretty much all you need, especially in a short AL Division Series. Throw in the fact that their offense — when it’s right — is one of the most deadly in baseball, and the Phils look poised for a third straight trip to the World Series. 

Why they won’t: Just like last year, the Phillies and Charlie Manuel aren’t sure what they’re going to get in the ninth inning from Lidge, even though he has closed out the season very well. Also, the offense has been inconsistent this year, to say the least, and that’ll be something to watch out for, too — especially with J-Roll not looking too healthy. 

Giants (92-70)

Potential lineup

Andres Torres, CF

Timma.jpg

Freddy Sanchez, 2B
Aubrey Huff, 1B
Buster Posey, C
Pat Burrell, LF
Juan Uribe, SS
Jose Guillen, RF
Pablo Sandoval, 3B

Potential rotation

Tim Lincecum, RH
Matt Cain, RH
Jonathan Sanchez, LH
Madison Bumgarner, LH

Key relievers

Brian Wilson, RH (CL)
Sergio Romo, RH
Jeremy Affeldt, LH
Santiago Casilla, RH

Key reserves

Eli Whiteside, C
Edgar Renteria, INF
Cody Ross, OF
Aaron Rowand, OF

Why they’ll win: The Giants’ duo of Lincecum and Cain is as good as any in baseball and will keep games close, and Sanchez, the No. 3 man, has been an under-the-radar stud. San Fran is also a hot team going in, having gone 19-10 since the start of September to take the NL West from the Padres. Their bullpen is lights-out, too. The Giants finished the regular season with the best ERA in baseball, and the second-best relief-pitcher ERA. 

Why they won’t: This department has been better lately, but the Giants’ offense is still a big question mark heading into the postseason. Does Bruce Bochy‘s club have enough punch to compete with some of the NL’s best? Can they manufacture runs without having to rely on the long ball? And can Posey, the potential NL Rookie of the Year, bust out of his recent slump — 6-for-42 — and come up big in his first postseason? They’ll need him to. 

Reds (91-71)

Potential lineup

Brandon Phillips, 2B

votto.jpg

Orlando Cabrera, SS
Joey Votto, 1B
Scott Rolen, 3B
Jonny Gomes, CF
Jay Bruce, RF
Drew Stubbs, CF
Ramon Hernandez, C

Potential rotation

Edinson Volquez, RH
Bronson Arroyo, RH
Aaron Harang, RH
Travis Wood, LH

Key relievers

Francisco Cordero, RH (CL)
Arthur Rhodes, LH 
Nick Masset, RH
Aroldis Chapman, LH

Key reserves

Ryan Hanigan, C
Miguel Cairo, INF
Paul Janish, INF
Laynce Nix, OF

Why they’ll win: Some may be surprised to learn that Cincinnati finished the regular season with the most runs in the NL, but the Reds are a very good offensive ballclub despite the lack of sexy names. Whether they hit against the Phillies and, perhaps eventually, the Giants remains to be seen. Their bullpen has some weapons, especially in Chapman — a wild card for this team. 

Why they won’t: Dusty Baker‘s club just has too many inconsistent parts. It starts with Volquez, the Game 1 starter who’s been up-and-down since coming off ’09 Tommy John surgery, and it ends with Cordero, who’s blown eight saves this season. Then you can sprinkle Phillips and others in between. And then there’s this: The Reds went a combined 7-12 against the three other NL playoff teams this season. 
Braves (91-71)

Potential lineup

Omar Infante, 3B

bobby_cox_cigar.jpgJason Heyward, RF

Derrek Lee, 1B
Brian McCann, C
Matt Diaz, LF
Alex Gonzalez, SS
Brooks Conrad, 2B
Rick Ankiel, CF

Potential rotation

Derek Lowe, RH
Tommy Hanson, RH
Tim Hudson, RH
Brandon Beachy, RH

Key relievers

Billy Wagner, LH (CL)
Takashi Saito, RH
Jonny Venters, LH
Peter Moylan, RH

Key reserves

David Ross, C
Troy Glaus, INF
Eric Hinske, INF/OF
Rick Ankiel, OF

Why they’ll win: Because fate says they should, considering this will be Bobby Cox‘s last season at the helm. Need a more concrete reason? The Braves can still pitch with just about anybody, and it can be enough to keep them in contention despite a myriad of injuries. 

Why they won’t: Because of what I just mentioned — injuries. Chipper Jones was first, then Martin Prado, and now Jair Jurrjens has been shaken up and won’t be starting in the NLDS. The Braves’ offense will be relying on an inconsistent Lee, Ankiel, McCann and Gonzalez, and a rookie in Heyward. That’s a lot of question marks that need to turn into solid answers. 

NL CHAMPION: Phillies. 
– Alden Gonzalez
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