Tuesday, March 29, 2016

2016 Boston Red Sox Preview

The Boston Red Sox of 2015 went 78-84 in what to many was a disappointing year.  While I agree I am just not as surprised.  I just didn't think the starting staff was that great.  I thought Rick Porchello and Clay Buchholz are both very good pitchers but not aces.  But there really wasn't anyone behind them.  Wade Miley, Joe Kelly, Eduardo Rodriquez and the rest of the staff were nothing more than what ifs.  With starting pitching an issue Boston addressed that with the signing of David Price.   Will that be enough?

The starting rotation could like this - David Price, Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, etc, etc.   This is   Price brings instant stability allowing the others to follow in what is probably their natural spots in the rotation.  For me the question marks are at 4 and 5 (better than last year when the questions started at 3).  I don't think anyone knows exactly what Joe Kelly will give you and Steven Wright also isn't a proven quantity.  Still most rotations look that way.  Price should give them "A" stuff and if Buchholz and Porcello pitch better Boston will be in a good position.  BOTTOM LINE:  Definitely an upgrade at the front end of the rotation but everyone else still has to do their part or it will be a disappointing season.
much better than last year's rotation that had Porcello and Buchholz at the top.

Boston's bullpen is much better with the addition of Craig Kimbrel, stud closer.   The bullpen was not good last year.  The Red Sox also picked up Carson Smith from Seattle who is a hard thrower.  That combined with Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa give the Red Sox plenty of options leading up to Kimbrel.  Lefties Robbie Ross and Tommy Layne will also be in the mix. 

Blake Swihart kept the starting catching job after coming up from AAA in May last year when injuries hit the parent club.    He only logged 288 at bats but his .274 batting average and 5 homeruns are encouraging.  Hanley Ramirez moves to first base after a year in which it was evident he isn't an outfielder.  His .249/.291/.426 line also suggest he wasn't much of a hitter even if he was able to hit 19 dingers.  Star shortstop Xander Bogarts had no such issues.  He hit .320/.355/.421 with seven homeruns and 81 runs batted in.  At 22 years of age I am really hoping to see this guy in a Red Sox jersey for a very long time.  Second baseman Dustin Pedroia comes off an injury plagued year in   Otherwise his numbers were good starting with a .291 average and 12 homeruns.  At third base is Pablo Sandoval who had a bad year hitting after being signed to a big contract.  He hit .245/.292/.366.   That won't cut if for a third baseman on a big contract.  BOTTOM LINE:  If the infield has a year up to par with what they are getting paid then this will be a huge year.  I'll just hope for something in between that and last year.  Pedroia and Bogarts are stars who produce.  Sandoval and Ramirez need to prove they are too.
which he only played 93 games.

The outfield will consist of Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, and Jackie Bradley Jr.   Betts came on to finish strong posting a .291 average, 18 homers, 77 RBI's and 21 stolen bases.  He looks to be the real deal while the rest of the outfield is shaky at best.  Jackie Bradley Jr. has had all of one good month since his highly anticipated promotion to the majors and Rusney Castillo hasn't done much else other than battle injuries.    BOTTOM LINE:  Bradley Jr. needs to live up to some of his potential while Castillo must show he was worth his signing coming out of Cuba. 

Big Papi will retire after this year as he turns 40 years of age.  David Ortiz will retire a Red Sox legend who has been there for three world championships and been a great ambassador for the Red Sox and the city of Boston.  He can't be thanked enough and it isn't just about his personality and leadership.  He will leave having hit over 445 homeruns for Boston while hitting .288 and slugging .566.  He will truly be missed.  Even at age 39 he hit 37 homeruns and drove in 108 last year.  Wow.  BOTTOM LINE:  Assuming his bat doesn't fall off the end of the earth Ortiz should be solid again at DH. 

I think this team wins more than 78 games this year.  Most people will say they are a good team.  I think they are a good team but need many, many players to perform like they are expected to prior to anointing them anything better than a third place team.  For me it begins with the starters.  If they can pitch well as a whole the bullpen should be able to hold leads and I think the offense will be able to score enough runs for this team to win.  I'm going to say they win 86 games this year.  I am not sure that puts them into the playoffs but it is a step in the right direction. 

1.Mookie Betts  OF
2.Dustin Pedroia  2B
3.Xander Bogaerts  SS
4.David Ortiz DH
5.Hanley Ramirez  1B
6.Pablo Sandoval  3B
7.Rusney Castillo  OF
8.Blake Swihart  C
9.Jackie Bradley Jr.  OF
1.David Price
2.Clay Buchholz
3.Rick Porcello
4.Joe Kelly
5.Steven Wright
CL  Craig Kimbrel

Monday, March 28, 2016

Atlant Braves 2016 Preview


The 2015 Atlanta Braves finished 67-95 last years, 23 games back of the New York Mets.  This year's team doesn't give me much hope that they will do better than the 2015 version.  In 2015 Atlanta used 60 players in total and 37 different pitchers while trying to figure out who they were.  Looks like these numbers were the most ever by a Braves team.  And they are still trying to figure things out.  This year will need a lot of things to go right for almost anything good to happen.  This team is clearly in rebuild mode leaving only Freddie Freeman and Julio Teheran as future building blocks from what was a 96 win team in 2013.  Andrelton Simmons and Shelby Miller, whom I thought was part of the rebuild have been traded, pushing out any hope of being a decent team a few years out.

Catcher AJ Pierzynski returns after an excellent year in which the 38
year-old batted .300.  It is hard to believe Atlanta will get that from him again this year but he is a good veteran presence for the pitching staff.  Not sure who the catcher of the future is but AJ has the stick for now.  Freddie Freeman will again anchor first base.  Freddie is a stud but has nothing around him in that lineup.  He hit .276/.370/.471 with no one to protect him.  Jace Peterson returns at second base. He has to cut down on the strikeouts (120) while getting his average (.239) up to be anything near effective.  Erick Aybar is the SS they received from the Angels in the Simmons trade.  He is just a place holder for super prospect Dansby Swanson whom they received from Arizona for Miller.  Adonis Garcia is the third baseman and his 10 homeruns and .497 slugging in 198 plate appearances last year is encouraging but his .293 on base percentage is not.  Hopefully he'll be able to get on base more while giving Atlanta a much needed power threat to complement Freeman.  Also I hope he found his fielding glove or he may just give back everything in field he provides at the plate.  BOTTOM LINE:  Freeman is Mr. Steady but what the rest of the infield will provide is anybody's guess. 

The outfield should field Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte, and Hector Olivera.  Markakis had a good year albeit with almost no power with three homeruns in 612 at bats.  Again a very good year batting .296/.370 but getting no power from a corner outfielder is hard to swallow.  Ender Inciarte also comes from Arizona in the Miller trade and  looks like a nice center fielder.  He hit over .300 last year and hit .278 his rookie year.  I think he is a nice piece for a team who didn't have a long term answer in center.  Hector Olivera comes over from the Dodgers.  He hasn't played in the majors yet so this should be interesting.  He will turn 31 this year so he needs to produce soon as there isn't a huge window for him.  He also has an injury history but for now I'll hope that he'll live up to some of the hype.  If someone falters Nick Swisher could log major innings for the Braves.  BOTTOM LINE:  Should be a nice outfield but whether or not it is a very good one will depend on Olivera.  If he falls flat I'm not sure what plan B is.  And Atlanta must find some power out there somewhere.

The starting pitching could be fluid.  Julio Teheran is back after an 11-8 season with a 4.04 ERA.  Not his best year but this was a bad team.  To have a winning record was minor miracle.  He and his 200 innings will anchor the staff.  Bud Norris had a horrible year with Baltimore and San Diego, and his spring training is not going so well, but will probably be one of the starters to begin the season.  Matt Wisler returns after a decent rookie effort going 8-8/4.71 ERA/109 innings.  Hopefully he can build on that and be a 30 start guy.  After that it is sketchy.  Williams Perez, Mike Foltynewicz and Jhoulys Chacin are all in the mix.  I have no idea what this staff will provide.  I like Teheran but after that I just don't know.  We may see a revolving door if these other guys can't be steady on the mound.  BOTTOM LINE:  The defense had better be good behind these guys because I think opposing teams will be able to hit them.  This is the weakest link in my eyes on a team that will be pretty bad.

The bullpen will be serviceable.  I'll take that for now.  While Arodys Vizcaino is the closer of the future I wouldn't put it past Atlanta to use veteran Jason Grilli in that capacity early in the season to showcase what he can do and use him as trade bait though Grilli is dealing with injury which may cement his spot as a setup man.  Atlanta traded for former Brave Eric O'Flaherty due to issues with the other left handers in our bullpen.  Not a good sighn.  BOTTOM LINE:  Otherwise I think the bullpen will be ok if not spectacular.  Just need to get to Vizcaino or Grilli in the 9th and things might be ok. 

I am not sure this team is as good as last year's and it only won 67 games.  This could be a horrible year.  The upside would be all these young guys play up to potential or expectation and things click.  It worked for the Cubs.  But this team isn’t full of grade A talent prospects like they were.  Even at their best this team isn't a contender so it doesn't give me much to hope for.  Still I am looking forward to seeing what some of these young players can do.  Who is Olivera?  Can he be a nice bat in the outfield?  Will infielders Garcia and Peterson have solid years?  I'd like to see Arodys Vizcaino do well again.  So while my hopes aren't high there are plenty of stories within the team.  And hope is all I got this year...

  C: AJ Pierzynski
1B: Freddie Freeman
2B: Jace Peterson
SS: Erick Aybar
3B: Adonis Garcia
LF: Hector Olivera
CF: Ender Inciarte
RF: Nick Markakis
SP: Julio Teheran
SP: Bud Norris
SP: Matt Wisler
SP: Williams Perez
SP: Manny Banuelos
CL: Jason Grilli

Sunday, March 20, 2016

2016 Donruss Baseball Cards

Grabbed the 2016 Donruss baseball cards put out by Panini.  This is a fun set and I pulled quite a few stars.  The fronts are similar to the Donruss football and basketball sets.  I like the basic design of the fronts though the lack MLB logos and airbrushing to remove team names and logos is always a downer since Panini doesn't have an MLB license.  The 1982 throwback design is nice.  I do like that look.
The backs are plain with a mostly two color design.  The player's last year of stats and career stats are sandwiched by the player's information on top and a write-up on the bottom.  Does the job but doesn't really excite me too much.  
Plenty of inserts and subsets to look at but I didn't receive any of the retired players which is always favorite cards of mine.  Still there was the mascot card which was a big score by pulling the San Diego Chicken who is my favorite.  I also pulled three different rookie offerings, a Studio card, Masters of the Game Randy Johnson, and Chris Sale Diamond King.  Would have liked to see more color on the Diamond Kings card but I'm sure they are just trying something different.  Overall it is a good set but for me it isn't a great set.  I'll look for the players from the past and Diamond Kings cards but the base cards just don't excite me that much considering there isn't a MLB license in place. 
1 Pack - 30 Cards - $4.99
32 Base Cards
1 Each Masters of the Game, Diamond King, Studio, The Prospects, The Rookies, Rated Rookie, Mascot, 1982 Design

San Antonio Spurs Defeat Golden State Warrior to Keep Home Streak Alive

The Spurs improved their home win streak to 35 games while holding probable MVP Stephen Curry to 14 points.  Golden State was playing without Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala.  That isn't said to be an excuse for Golden State.  As much as they go small, Bogut wasn't a huge loss.  Iggy being out hurts but this team is talented enough to beat anyone without him.  Greg Popovich brought Tim Duncan off the bench (he played 8 minutes) matching the small ball Warriors to some degree and also put Kawhi Leonard on Draymond Green defensively to help guard the pick and roll.  It worked.  Golden State didn't look comfortable and if you can get a shooting team off just a bit then you have a chance.  San Antonio played well on defense while Golden State definitely had their chances.  If they hit some open looks this game is much different.  But they didn't hit them all and  looked off their game.  I'm not saying the Spurs are primed to beat the Warriors in the playoffs but it also can't be ignored.  Nor can the fact that Golden State blew out San Antonio earlier in the year.  But San Antonio looks different to me.  Earlier in the season LaMarcus Aldridge didn't seem that comfortable in the offense where now he looks to be wholly integrated.  I so hope there is a seven game Conference Finals game against each other in these team's future.  It would be great.  It was a good game last night and I think they could give us a great series of games. 

2016 Topps Baseball Opening Day Trading Cards

I enjoy the Topps Opening Day offerings each year.  They are just different enough and the added logo works for me.  This year's Opening Day set is a nice looking set and you can see my review of the standard set here.  There you can find my thoughts on the look as a whole.  As with that review I'm happy with the look and with the different cards.  
As always Topps has plenty of nice photos and a nice back of the card with my favorite aspect each year being that they contain the stats for a player's entire career.  
My favorite card is the Jose Bautista bat flip card.  Awesome photo.  I also like the Striking distance cards which show what milestones players are coming up on.  Would have preferred a different background but I like knowing what to look for in the upcoming season stats wise.  And numbers are everything in baseball.  If you liked the base set grab these cards. They are a bit cheaper and give you some more options for collecting while not straying too far from the base set.  
3 Packs - 24 Cards Per Pack - $2.99 Per Pack (Total of 72 Cards)
52 Base Cards
11 Future Stars
2 Rookie Cards (Trophy)
2 Striking Distance
1 Mascot
1 Superstar Celebrations
1 Heavy Hitters
1 Alternate Reality
1 Opening Day Stars