Friday, March 7, 2008

Pittsburgh Pirates 2008 Preview

Well it looks like another long year in the Three River City. For what has been one of the worst baseball teams in the entire league there appears to be no immediate hopes of contention. Between mismanagement by the front office and the failure of many promising young players to contribute, the Pirates have been a last place mainstay for years. Will '08 be any different?
2007 Finish: 68-94, last place in NL Central
Key Additions: Doug Mientkiewicz 1b, Jaret Wright SP
Key Subtractions: Cesar Izturis SS, Salomon Torres RP
Projected Lineup:
1 - Nate McLouth CF
2 - Jack Wilson SS
3 - Freddy Sanchez 2b
4 - Adam LaRoche 1b
5 - Jason Bay LF
6 - Xavier Nady RF
7 - Jose Bautista 3b
8 - Ronny Paulino C
Lineup Grade: D... There's nothing this lineup does well. There is zero power outside of the 4 through 6 hitters, only Freddy Sanchez hits for a high average and there is little to no consistency from day to day in run production. Simply put, this is one of the worst offenses in baseball.
Projected Rotation:
1 - Ian Snell
2 - Tom Gorzelanny
3 - Paul Maholm
4 - Matt Morris
5 - Zach Duke
CL - Matt Capps
Rotation Grade: C-... The Pirates have some young arms with potential in Snell and Gorzelanny, but overall the starters do not have the talent to carry the anemic offense. Matt Capps quietly had a nice year as the closer last year but there isnt much to write home about behind him. A good year for this staff would be a top-10 finish in ERA in the NL.
2008 Outlook: I feel bad for Pirates fans because the outlook is so bleak. The only way they can really build this team to be competitive again is through minor league prospects, but their track record in developing players is highly dubious. I guess the only silver lining I can provide Pirates fans is that teams like the Detroit Tigers were pretty much in the same boat as the Buccos just a few years ago, but have turned it completely around. To do that will take time though, and probably require an organizational restructuring. Maybe local boy Mark Cuban will buy the team now that the Cubs are not an option and pay the money required to field a competitive team, but for now simply staying out of last place would be mean a succesful year.
Projected Finish: 61-101, last in the NL Central

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Chicago Cubs 2008 Preview

100 years. That's how long it has been since the Cubs have tasted the sweetness that is a World Series title. In that same time span, half ass organizations such as the Marlins, Royals, and Cardinals have taken home the crown. Hell, even the Rockies have been to the WS more recently than the Cubs. From Bartman to a Billy Goat, who knows what this season will bring (probably more bitter defeat).

Key Additions:

Kosuke Fukudome, OF
Jon Lieber, SP

Key Losses:

Cliff Floyd, OF
Jacque Jones, OF
Jason Kenall, C
Craig Monroe, OF
Mark Prior

Can losing Cliff Floyd and Craig Monroe really be considered "Key Losses"? For arguments sake, let's just say yes, but I would prefer to call it "trimming the fat". Anyways, word on the street is that Prior's arm is looking good (of course, that has been the word for the last half a decade, so who knows), so there is a CHANCE that could be a tough loss for the Cubs to bear. The "big" acquisition was Fukudome, a Japanese product supposedly able to combine the speed and athleticism of Ichiro, with the power of Hideki Matsui. The Cubs have been big spenders in the off season as of late, so it will be interesting to see if they get what they paid for: a hybrid of Ichiro and Matsui, or a toad like creature the likes of which we have never seen before (I take that back, Japan did send us one Hideki Irabu and we all know how that worked out).

Projected Line-Up:

1.) Alfonso Soriano, OF
2.) Ryan Theriot, SS
3.) Derrek Lee, 1B
4.) Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5.) Kosuke Fukudome, OF
6.) Mark DeRosa, 2B
7.) Geovanny Soto, C
8.) Felix Pie, OF

Lineup Grade: A-

Power will not be a problem for this team, as potential 30+ HR hitters Soriano, Lee, and Ramirez begin the order for this team. Add in scrappy Ryan Theriot (I would call him a "poor man's" David Eckstein, but they are the exact same person). The bottom of the order is solid, but unproven. A pair of prospects in Pie and Soto hope to bring some added depth to the line-up. Then... there is Fukudome. Naturally, he is a huge question mark as the season begins. If the reports are true about his mixture of power and speed, then Fukudome makes this line-up easily among the top 5 most potent in baseball.

Projected Rotation:

1.) Carlos Zambrano
2.) Ted Lilly
3.) Rich Hill
4.) Jason Marquis
5.) Jon Lieber
Closer) Kerry Wood (default)

Rotation Grade: B

The top of the rotation is great. Big Z is a (normally) an annual Cy Young candidate, and after getting him money last year, there is a chance his mind will be focused on actually being worth all of that cash. Lilly is a pitcher with great control and Hill is an up and coming ace would should provide great innings for the team. Then you get to the bottom half and things go to hell. Marquis went 12-5 last year, but at the same time posted an atrocious ERA. That may be fine sometimes, as the Cubs have the pop in the bat to defend such an ERA, but he can't come in day in and day out expecting to be bailed out. Jon Lieber is Jon Lieber, and may not even be a mainstay in the rotation with the likes of Ryan Demster and a few prospects moving their way up the ranks. The real backbone of the pitching staff will be the pen. Bob Howry, Carlos Marmol, and (gasp... healthy?) Kerry Wood should be a top quality trio to close out games for this team.

Projected Finish: 94-68, 1st Place in the NL Central

I'm not really sure what Cicero was thinking when he said that the Brew Crew were gonna take the NL Central crown this year. I think the Cubs will break out of the gate quickly this year, with 14 of their first 20 at home. I think that this being Soriano's second year under Sweet Lou, he will be much more aggressive on the basepath, translating into more runs and scoring opportunities for the Cubs. Word is that Chicago isn't done in the free agent market, and want to add one more lefty in the line-up. If the Cubs get a deal done with Brian Roberts, watch out NL, this could be the team to beat.

20 reasons why Ohio is the shittiest state in America

1. Ohio is home to THE Ohio State University. Thats right THE same university that cheated in 2002 to beat Miami, THE same university that has lost 3 straight national championships, THE same school that has had more felons on its football team than a maximum-security prison. Plus adding THE ahead of THE school's name may be THE gayest thing ever thought up by man
2. Ohio's speed limit is 65. Just for reference, in between the big cities in the state there is absolute shit but fields or trees. Yet all the interstates are 65mph which forces you to spend more time in Ohio than you need to.
3. Cleveland is so polluted it made Lake Erie catch fire. I don't think even the Chinese can pull that one off.
4. Cincinnati smells like ass.
5. Bob Huggins used to coach at Cincinnati, and the city loved him.
6. Ohio basically elected George W. Bush twice, then was promptly scorned by the nation. Yet now they voted for Hillary Clinton, who is even more like George W. Bush than republican candidate John McCain. Way to learn from your mistakes stupid ass Ohio.
7. 7 president's have come from Ohio, and they all sucked balls.
8. Athletes like Maurice Clarett are glorified in Ohio. In other states, someone like Clarett would be sent to the gas chambers.
9. There is not one natural landmark that has any appeal in the whole state. Other shitty states like South Dakota has Mt. Rushmore and much maligned Indiana has its dunes. The closest thing Ohio has to it are the rest stops on the turnpike.
10. Akron is famous for three things. Tires, Lebron James and unemployment. The first one shipped all its jobs to Mexico to save money, Lebron is leaving in 2 years, which only leaves Akron as a stinking, dirty, rust belt city.
11. Ohio is the state that brought you Mike Cooper and Carl Monday.
12. Per population, Ohio probably has the highest number of dumb, ugly, and fat girls in the country. All the pretty ones have moved south and all the smart ones realized fast how bad the state was leaving only the ones too stupid to leave or too ugly to be allowed to cross the border.
13. Cleveland named its baseball team the Indians, even though there hasn't been an Indian in the state in about a century.
14. If it wasn't for Ohio, we'd never know who that fat fuck Drew Carey was.
15. Ohio has some of the worst winter weather in the nation. Yet when it snows there's nothing to do because there's no fucking mountains in the state to ski on, plus the depression caused by the constant cloudiness is only magnified when you realize you live in fucking Ohio.
16. Rumor is that syphilis was first documented at Ohio University.
17. Ohio State named the mascot of their sports teams after a famous murderer, at least they have good foresight.
18. Ohio has 240 superfund sites. The number would be higher, but the US Government thought it would be easier just to make each county one site instead of taking the time and effort to list each specific site individually.
19. George Steinbrenner is from Ohio. Hank Steinbrenner is from Ohio by proxy.
20. Ohio makes New Jersey look good in comparison

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Milwaukee Brewers Preview

The Brewers gave their fans and MLB analysts something to talk about for the first time in a long time, but the 2008 Brew Crew wants to be remembered as something more than a nice story or as a young team that led its division only to flame out in the last weeks of the season. The roster has undergone a few changes, but the young nucleus of the team is back with an extra year of expirience, gunning to win the Central and make some new history.

2007 Finish: 83-79, 2nd in NL Central
Key Additions: OF Mike Cameron, CL Eric Gagne, C Jason Kendall, RP Guillermo Mota, RP Salomon Torres
Key Losses: CL Francisco Cordero, C Johnny Estrada, OF Kevin Mench, OF Geoff Jenkins

Projected Lineup:
2B Rickie Weeks
2. C Jason Kendall
3. 1B Prince Fielder
4. LF Ryan Braun
5. RF Corey Hart
6. CF Mike Cameron
7. 3B Bill Hall
8. SS J.J. Hardy

Lineup Grade: B+. Obviously Braun, Fielder, and Hart are the cornerstones of this franchise, as they proved with their play last season. If they can maintain that same level into '08 and the future, this lineup is great. Veterans like Hall and Cameron are nice pieces to the puzzle. Hardy and Kendall could switch spots in this order. Cameron must serve a 25-game suspension to begin the season, so look for his spot to be filled by Tony Gwynn, Jr in the meantime.

Projected Rotation:
Ben Sheets
2. Jeff Suppan
3. Dave Bush
4. Chris Capuano
5. Claudio Vargas/Carlos Villanueva
(P Yovani Gallardo is questionable for the start of the season after recent knee surgery. If and when he returns he should take the #3 spot, pushing Capuano, etc. down a notch)
CL Eric Gagne
Setup Derrick Turnbow
Rotation Grade: B-. As with most major league rotations, this one is subject to ongoing health questions. It is also a huge question if Milwaukee got the good Texas Gagne or the shitty Boston Gagne. Cordero was almost automatic last year in the 9th inning, so the Brewers must hope a reworked bullpen can end games. Sheets must also stay healthy to the tune of 200+ innings to keep the BrewCrew in the hunt for the division title.

2008 Outlook: Much of this teams success depends on pitchers staying healthy and continued progress of young hitters/fielders. Moving Braun into the outfield should greatly reduce the number of defensive errors that plagued this team last year. The NL Central is shaping into a two-horse race between the Brewers and Cubs, with the 'Stros out on the fringe as a dark horse. Manager Ned Yost must perform his magic with these youngsters again this year, even during the last two weeks.

Projected Finish: 91-71, 1st in NL Central

Broadcast Booths Everywhere Shed a Tear

Finally, after season after season of wondering if it would be Brett Favre's last year in the NFL, word has come out that he is hanging them up for the last time (and it didn't take a Federal investigation and/or steroid accusations to do it *ahem* Clemens *ahem*).

There is no denying his legacy. 3 straight MVPs. Holder of all the major NFL QB records in the modern era. A Super Bowl Champion. The face of Green Bay for almost 2 decades. Many argue that no one played the game with as much passion as Brett.

John Madden was quoted as saying, "Well ya know, here's a guy, that, I mean, now that he is retired... we won't get to see him play again". Too true Madden, too true.

No word yet as to how Chris Berman is taking the news...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Cincinnati Reds 2008 Preview

For the first time in a long time, there seems to be some optimism in the Queen City. The Reds actually added some free agents to compliment some solid talent and promising prospects. Will it be enough to push the Reds into contention? Lets find out.
2007 Finish: 72-90, 4th in the NL Central
Key Additions: Francisco Cordero RP, Edison Volquez SP, Josh Fogg SP
Key Losses: Josh Hamilton OF, Eddie Guardado RP
Projected Lineup:
1 - Norris Hopper CF
2 - Brandon Phillips 2b
3 - Ken Griffey Jr. RF
4 - Adam Dunn LF
5 - Edwin Encarnacion 3b
6 - Joey Votto 1b
7 - Alex Gonzalez SS
8 - David Ross - C
Lineup Grade: B. The Reds always seem to score a good number of runs, thanks in part to the small ballpark they play in and the numerous home runs they can hit because of it. If Griffey can stay healthy, him and Dunn should hit near 90 homers combined, but what could really make this lineup click is if the young players really develop. Its quite possible uber-prospect Jay Bruce could take over in center and Joey Votto is another exciting young player. The Reds offense will be solid, but has room for upside as well.
Projected Starting Pitching
1 - Aaron Harang
2 - Bronson Arroyo
3 - Homer Bailey
4 - Matt Belisle
5 - Josh Fogg
Closer - Francisco Cordero
Pitching Grade: C+. Aaron Harang was a great surprise last year for the Reds as he gave them great consistency at the top of their order. Behind that however, the order gets shaky. Bronson Arroyo can be unhittable one start and awful the next, and the three guys behind him are either unproven yet talented (Bailey), or proven to be not so good (Fogg, Belisle). The key to the Reds will be if their improved bullpen can protect leads for their starters. Cordero will provide a big upgrade at closer and there are some other good arms in front of him. While they won't be a top-5 staff in the NL even at their best, if they can fall in the 6-10 range the team should remain competitive.
2008 Outlook: For the first time in years, it seems like the Reds have some positive things going for them. They have a good lineup and some of the most exciting prospects in all of baseball waiting to get an opportunity to produce. They are also fortunate to play in one of the weakest divisions in baseball. There won't be much separating the Reds from the Cubs or the Brewers and it is quite possible that they could make a good push towards a wild card spot. The problem is that its hard to see the pitching staff holding up all year and being able to match up with the top squads in the league. Look for the Reds to have a good year and remain near .500 most of the year while integrating their young players to set up the future of the team.
Prediction finish: 79-83, 3rd or 4th in the NL Central