Saturday, March 29, 2008

Bizzaro Sports World

If you haven't already heard, Hideki Matsui got married this week. Godzilla apparently made the announcement at a press conference and showed members of the media a picture of his wife that resembled a police sketch. He described her as a "civilian". On top of this, Matsui divulged that just a day before his wedding, he made a bet with Derek Jeter and Bobby Abreu that he'd be the first to get married. He won a G from each on the scam. Who knew the Japanese were so nutty?

Source: Washington Post

Speaking of Crazy Asians...we've already heard some commentary on GDB about the controversy at the 2008 Summer Olympics in China. Well the story gets more twisted than the Yangtze River. Westerners are pissed off, literally, about the facilities in Beijing. No, I'm not talking about the Amazing Water Cube. The estimated 40 Billion Dollars worth of Venues aren't equipped with proper Western toilets. The Chinese use squat lavetories instead of the traditional American Sit-down toilets and apparently this doesn't sit well with the foreign Olympic visitors. Yao Hui, deputy head of venue management for the Olympic games in China said that renovations will be made starting immediately. It's a good thing, because now the Water Cube can stay as crystal clear as it was meant to be.

Source: BBC

Let's head back to the States where trouble is brewing on the west coast for an Oregon University student. Grant Wahl wrote an article in Sports Illustrated about despicable behavior by student sections at college basketball games (not my opinion at all). In the story, there was a picture of the Oregon fans booing Kevin Love earlier this year and front and center was a kid flicking off K Love. After the article was published, the father of the rabid fan wrote in to SI bashing his son saying that he was embarrassed of the kid's behavior and that he had taken his car away. He went his son back to school (1100 miles away) on a public bus. Luckily for the student, OU is known as being the biggest stoner school in the US, so he'll be able to enjoy some sticky on that ridiculously long bus ride.

Source: Sports Illustrated

Friday, March 28, 2008

Baltimore Orioles Preview

2007 Record: 69-93 4th in the AL East

The O's have been the perennial 4th fiddle in the AL East for the majority of this decade, and last year was no exception. Their record in 2007 wasn't pretty, even with power pitcher Eric Bedard breaking out in a big way. This season, it appears that the bottom could fall out as they have been surpassed in the talent department by the Rays, especially considering their 2 most popular players both got traded.

Key Additions
Adam Jones OF
Luke Scott OF
George Sherrill RP
Troy Patton SP
Matt Albers SP

Key Losses
Eric Bedard SP
Miguel Tejada SS
Corey Patterson OF

Projected Line-up
1) Brian Roberts 2B
2) Melvin Mora 3B
3) Nick Markakis RF
4) Aubrey Huff DH
5) Luke Scott LF
6) Ramon Hernandez C
7) Kevin Millar 1B
8) Adam Jones CF
9) Luis Hernandez SS

Offensive Grade: C...Losing Tejada can't be considered a positive, but he was on the decline. This line-up still has some bright spots espcially at the 1 and 3 spots. Roberts is a top 5 second basemen in the game who stole 50 bases last year. Markakis is one of the rising Outfielders in the game. A 30/30 isn't out of the possibility if he continues his growth rate. Ramon Hernandez looked like he was ready to become a premier Catcher a couple years ago, but he has tailed off considerably in the offensive department. Adam Jones is primed for a breakout year if he can stay consistent. He actually benefitted from the Bedard trade because now he's out of a crowded Outfield and into a lineup where there's no pressure. Look for this supreme talent to become an elite OF both with the bat and the glove over the next couple of years. Overall though, this lineup can't compete the other teams in their own division.

Projected Rotation
1) Jeremy Guthrie
2) Daniel Cabrera
3) Adam Loewen
4) Garrett Olson
5) Troy Patton
CL) George Sherrill

Pitching Grade: D...I was gonna go with a D-, but George Sherrill proved to be one of the more consistent relievers in the AL last year, setting up for J.J. Putz in Seattle. The Starting pitching is a model of inconsistency though. Losing Bedard was a monster blow for this rotation. Now they are left with a hodge podge of C-listers. Cabrera has been a trendy breakout candidate for a couple years now, but he's more wild than a party at the Lohan house. Jeremy Guthrie actually looked very good for the first half of '07, but burned out a little down the stretch. If he can keep it together for a whole year, he could be a serviceable ace (relative term) for this staff. Loewen and Olson are both highly touted prospects, but neither look to be ready for the big leagues yet.

Projected Outlook
I feel bad for O's fans. They became accustomed to winning when Cal Ripken was there, but things look least in the present. Even down the road though, it's tough for the Orioles (and the Rays/Jays for that matter) to be optimistic about the playoffs when the Yanks and BoSox have already pretty much cemented their way in the top 2 spots every year. If I were Andy MacPhail or another member of the Baltimore management, I would pray for a divisional realignment in the near future. Until that happens, though, it's hard to imagine the Black and Orange Uni's in the postseason.

2008 Predicted Record: 60-102

Sweet Sixteen Preview Part 2

(1) Kansas vs. (12) Villanova

KU was supposed to be in this situation, Nova was not. Still. the Wildcats and Jayhawks find themselves battling for a spot in the Elite 8. This is a match-up of contrasting styles with Villanova relying on great guard play and gritty defense while Kansas will look for fast paced, shoot-em-up game. This is also a meeting between two underachieving coaches. Bill Self has had hella talent in his 5 years as the coach of KU since taking over for Roy Williams, but has yet to reach a Final Four. It's not surprise that the 'Hawks are considered some of the biggest choke artists in all of college basketball. He's been to the Elite 8 four times in his coaching career with 3 different teams (Tulsa, Illinois, and Kansas), but those don't really add to your legacy that much. Jay Wright on the other hand has been at the helm of Nova for 6 years and has yet to get past the Elite 8. In fact, he's only been there once with a #1 seeded Wildcat squad in 2005-06 that lost to eventual champion Florida. Both these guys can recruit, but they have yet to put it all together. On the floor, it appears that KU has a significant talent edge, but they've had that edge numerous times in the past and have still managed to blow it. This time, I feel that Rock Chalk will be a little too strong on the perimeter for Nova. They are just too deep for a team that barely made the tourney field.
Prediction: KU 81-69

(3) Wisconsin vs. (10) Davidson

The big question in this matchup is, "Can the stifling Badgers defense badger Stephen Curry enough to shut him down". I believe the answer is yes...and I by yes, I mean he won't score over 25. Considering Curry's performances in his 3 career tournament games (averaging over 30 points a game) that would be a success. I was actually surprised that Wisconsin made it this far. I was blinded by flashy offenses that I thought would be able to put enough points on the board to get the W, but the Badgers came out and handled both of their opponents easily. Well, I'm done picking against them. They did win the Big 10 Regular Season Title and Conference Tournament and did it with relative ease. I think they've been playing well in a response of revenge to the Committee who gave them a shaft with a 3 seed. Brian Butch and Michael Flowers have been playing out of their minds on both ends of the floor and I see no reason for this success to stop. Don't get me wrong, this isn't going to be a blowout. Wisconsin rarely blows people out because they don't have as explosive of an offense as most of the other teams in left alive. I see the Wildcats sticking close with the Badgers until about 5 minutes left in the 2nd half when Travon Hughes goes on fire from behind the arc to help Wisconsin pull away.
Prediction: Wisconsin 59-50

(1) Memphis v. (5) Michigan State

I was wrong to pick Pittsburgh over Michigan State. I talked myself into picking the Panthers because of their hot streak and the fact that they were healthy and clicking on all cylinders. What I failed to consider was that Tom Izzo is the best Big Game coach in basketball right now. He's 25-9 in Tournament Games at Michigan State and you know his team is going to be able to stick with any team in March even if they are outmatched (see: UNC from last season). Drew Neitzel has really come into his own as the season has progressed and he's helped spread the floor for the offense who shares the ball better than any team in the country. Memphis proposes another talent mis-match for the Spartans with future NBA ballers Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts. They are going to immediately set a quick tempo and try to throw MSU off-guard. If they can jump out to a big lead, then Spartyball will have a tough time catching up considering they just don't have the gunners and stunners that the Tigers do. Howevaaa, if this is a close game down the stretch like I believe it will be, Michigan State has a huge advantage at the Free Throw line. I know this has been beaten into the ground, but it's still an enormous factor in tight games. Izzo has an upper hand on Calipari in this situation and I see MSU upsetting Memphis tonight.
Prediction: Michigan State 77-75

(2) Texas vs. (3) Stanford

This is my favorite game of today and could be one of the most entertaining of the tournament. Both of these teams have experienced more drama than an episode of 24. The Longhorns edged Miami last round in a game that shouldn't have been close. Stanford meanwhile needed a last second Overtime Leaner from Brook Lopez to oust Marquette. I'm glad these two squads are rested and healthy because this could be a matchup for the ages. Texas is going to be gunning from all points of the arc and have many three point assassins that can run up the score. AJ Abrams was the hero last game, but numerous other snipers can step up at any time. The Cardinal will rely on their big papas inside. The Lopez twins have been thoroughly dominant down the stretch and many teams that thrive in the point have been stopped stone cold by the 7 Footers. Robin has always been dwarfed (figuratively) by his brother's shadow, but lately, he's almost on par. Neither coach is anything special. Rick Barnes is a great recruiter and has insanely talented teams, but has only been to 1 final four with the Longhorns in 10 years there. Last year's team with phenom Kevin Durant severly underperformed in the tourney and busted many brackets (including mine). This team is more balanced this year and shares the game much better thanks to the antics of super guard DJ Augustin. However, it's hard to trust Barnes in big game scenarios against good teams. Stanford's general Trent Johnson is still a newbie in the college coaching game. He's been with the Cardinal since 2004, but has yet to live up to expectations until this year. He got tossed last game against the Golden Eagles and it appears that he has trouble keeping his emotions in check. He's also one ugly son of a bitch. The key factor in this contest is that the game is being played in Houston. This gives Texas a considerable advantage. Even though Stanford has performed admirably on the road this season, I think it's going to be too tough in this environment for them to pull out a win. I see the Horns hookin' a victory in a very close one.
Prediction: Texas 82-79

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday Night Sweet 16 Preview

Now that the mayhem of the first weekend of the tournament is behind us, we settle into the Round of 16 starting tonight. The teams remaining are pretty consistent with what we normally see. There are three certified Cinderellas (Davidson, Villanova, Western Kentucky) and all 4 of the 1 seeds remain alive. What is in store for the 2nd weekend of the tournament? Lets start by breaking down tonight's games.

West Virginia -vs- Xavier, 710pm

The Mountaineers are the favorite team for most Americans these days, since they knocked out Duke last Saturday. They are led by Joe Alexander who was become a top candidate for an All-American next season. Over the past few weeks they have been one of the hottest teams in the nation by combining the scoring exploits of Alexander with reliable guard play and the typical physical defense that is a hallmark of a Slob Huggins team (He likes Booze). Tonight they go up against senior-laden Xavier. The X has not been overwhelmingly impressive, but has proven that they have the guile to overcome 2nd half deficits and win close games. Not only do they have the inside presence that WVU's opponents Duke and Arizona did not possess, but they will also be the best defensive team that the Neers have seen so far in the tournament. Brent Musburger's boy toy Robbie Hummel was held to single digits by Stanley Burrell, and now it is Joe Alexander's turn to face the best perimeter defender in America. If Burrell can shut him down, its going to be hard for WVU to score enough to outpace the balanced Musketeer attack. For that reason, and also because of Xavier's decided advantage in experience, they should win a relatively close game tonight.
GDB Prediction: Xavier 73-64

Washington State -vs- North Carolina, 727pm

Everyone was in awe of UNC's first weekend performance and rightfully so, but very quietly the Cougars were just as impressive in crushing their first two opponents. Now we have a matchup of two teams that are polar opposites in the college basketball landscape. UNC loves to push the tempo and turn the game into a contest of athleticism, which is pretty much death for anyone who plays that style along with them. Wazzu on the other hand is a slow-down team that relies on precise offense execution and suffocating defense. Both teams executed their styles excellently last weekend, but tonight something's got to give. While the Heels have the talent advantage, an old saying is that its much easier to slow down a game than to speed it up. WSU has the guards in Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver to control the penetration game of Tywon Lawson and control the tempo, and 3 solid big men who can share the responsibility of guarding the white Merton Hanks, aka Tyler Hansbrough. The Cougars have the talent and experience to make the game the way they want it, but one thing going against them is that the game is being played in UNC's backyard in Charlotte. This will help the Heels to be energized by the crowd and use their run and gun style. I predict the Heels will get off to a real fast start, probably something like 17-7 before the under 12 timeout, but over time WSU will start to control the tempo and change things into a half-court game. This will lead to a white knuckle 2nd half as the game goes down to the wire. If Hansbrough really is POY, he will provide the baskets the Heels will need down the stretch to win this one, if not WSU has a real chance at an upset.
GDB: Heels 72-69 in a one possession game

Western Kentucky -vs- UCLA, 940pm

A classic matchup between the upstart Cinderella and the overwhelming favorite. Western KY was lucky to beat Drake in round one, but followed that up by defeating fellow upstart San Diego proving they were not a one game fluke. UCLA appeared to get lucky in round 2 once again, getting away with an obvious foul in the dying seconds to beat a talented Texas A&M team. They appear to match up much better in this game though. Western KY has no one to handle Kevin Love, who absolutely took over down the stretch against the Aggies and willed the Bruins to victory. The Bruins also have stellar perimter defense thanks to Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook, who will face up against Hilltopper gunners Dewon Brazelton and Courtney Lee. There's no chance those guys explode tonight like they did in the Drake upset, because Ben Howland knows there isn't much besides them, and will focus his defensive gameplan on stopping them. It also helps that the game is in Phoenix and there will be plenty of Bruins fans in the crowd. With chances being that this game isn't really close in the 2nd half, lets all hope CBS has the sense to turn their cameras towards the UCLA cheerleaders, who are Death Valley in July hot. All those girls could gladly get a severe dicking courtesy of Young Swole.
GDB Prediction: UCLA 82-63

Louisville -vs- Tennessee, 957pm

This is probably the most intriguing game of the night. Two teams that love to get up and down the court and play full court pressure defense face off in the 2nd game in Charlotte. Louisville looked deadly in the first weekend, winning by 20+ in each game despite shooting under 50% from the free throw line. Tennessee on the other hand looked rather ordinary in defeating American and Butler. They had awful point guard play because for some reason the usually smart Bruce Pearl sat normal PG Ramar Smith and played the human turnover machine JP Prince, who almost cost the game against Butler with his bonehead decisions. Furthermore, top scoring option Chris Lofton was non-existent and is now hobbled with an ankle injury. Not much of this looks good heading into a game against such a hot opponent, but Tennesee has been one of the more resourceful teams in the nation. You don't get 30 wins for no reason and Bruce Pearl will have coached up his deep squad. They also got past a severely underseeded opponent in Butler, who probably deserved a 5-seed. The Vols now get to go against a team that will push the tempo just as much as they do, which means they will be playing the game they like. Both teams have noted deficiencies at point guard, but are deep enough at the other positions to more than compensate. The key will probably be which team controls the board. Can Chism and Crews do enough to slow down Padgett and crew for Louisville. If they can keep the rebound number close to even and if Lofton is healthy, Tennesee can win this one. But with so much uncertainty surrounding Lofton, the edge at the moment has to go to the Cardinals, who come in with confidence and the talent to pull off the upset.
GDB Prediction: Louisville 94-86

Minnesota Twins 2008 Preview

Its been a rough sports year in the land of 10,000 lakes. Sports icons Kevin Garnett and Johan Santana left town and all that seems to be left are clueless buffoons like Kevin McHale and Carl Pohlad. At least the Vikes have All Diggity Day Peterson, but he'll probably leave soon too, thats just how it goes up in North Star country. But before my Minnesota buddies Woogie Boogie, Huge Batls and Free the Lee jump off a cliff, lets see if the Twins have a chance to be better than what most people think they will be.

2007 Record: 79-83

Key Additions: Carlos Gomez CF, Delmon Young LF, Livan Hernandez SP, Phillip Humber SP

Key Losses: Johan Santana SP, Torii Hunter CF, Carlos Silva SP, Jason Bartlett SS

Projected Lineup:
1 Carlos Gomez CF
2 Joe Mauer C
3 Michael Cuddyer RF
4 Justin Morneau 1b
5 Delmon Young LF
6 Jason Kubel DH
7 Mike Lamb 3b
8 Brendan Harris 2b
9 Adam Everett SS

Lineup Grade: C+. The Twins still have some very good offensive players, but will be hurt by the loss of top run producer Torii Hunter. If Joe Mauer is healthy, he will hit above .300 and form a dynamic 2-3-4 along with Cuddyer and Morneau. Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young are two top young players who if they play up to their ability will make this lineup dangerous. The problem is there is no pop from 6 on down and overall there is not enough talent to match up with the top offenses in the AL.

Projected Rotation:

1 Scott Baker

2 Livan Hernandez

3 Francisco Liriano

4 Boof Bonser

5 Kevin Slowey

CL - Joe Nathan

Rotation Grade: B. The Twins lost the best starting pitcher in baseball, but they are hoping they have the most exciting pitching prospect back healthy in Francisco Liriano. If he can come back healthy and be anything like how he looked 2 years ago, this rotation becomes very strong. Livan Hernandez is no spring chicken, but he will give them lots of innings. Behind him are young pitchers high on promise, but short on results. If they back up their hype this order becomes very respectable. With all the Twins losses, they can be thankful that they still boast the best bullpen in all of baseball. Joe Nathan was just re-signed, and the Twins have 4 other excellent options in their pen, which will help them keep games close and hold onto close leads.

2008 Prediction: The Twins lost as much as any team in baseball, and look to be entering a rebuilding mode. The good news is that the young players they have moved into their everyday lineup have talent and will be given plenty of opportunity to succeed. The bad news is that they play in a tough division and will have to score runs to compete. If the Twins can do that and their young pitchers emerge, they could be a surprise in the AL. More likely is a season around .500 while a foundation for success is built with the results probably another 2 seasons off

Predicted Finish: 77-85, 3rd or 4th in the division

Chicago White Sox 2008 Preview

2007 Record: 72-90, 4th in AL Central

Key Additions: SS Orlando Cabrera, OF Nick Swisher, RP Scott Linebrink

Key Losses: P Jon Garland, OF Scott Podsednik

Projected Rotation:
1. Mark Buherle
2. Javier Vasquez
3. Jose Contreras
4. John Danks
5. Gavin Floyd
CL: Bobby Jenks

Rotation Grade: C+ Javier Vasquez is technically the ace of this staff, thanks to the masterful (and often-overlooked) numbers he posted last year. Buherle is an veteran innings-eater who signed a nice contract extension last year, while Danks and Floyd are young guys getting their first shots at starting the season in the rotation. Contreras is really the key to the pitching. If he is as bad as he was last year, its going to be a tough year on the South Side. But if he recaptures the '05-'06 form that helped the ChiSox win it all, the team will be much more competitive. The addition of Scott Linebrink to the bullpen gives uber-closer Jenks additional help to wrap up games.

Projected Lineup:
1. LF Nick Swisher
2. SS Orlando Cabrera
3. DH Jim Thome
4. 1B Paul Konerko
5. RF Jermaine Dye
6. C A.J. Pierzynski
7. 3B Joe Crede
8. CF Brian Anderson
9. 2B Juan Uribe

Lineup Grade: B Leading off with Nick Swisher you say? Sounds like Ozzie Guillen has been sniffing too much of his own bullshit. But I guess it's important for a leadoff man to get on base, and Swisher did learn all that "plate patience" stuff from Moneyball-master Billy Beane in Oakland. However, when rookie CF Jerry Owens returns from the DL after the first week of the season, he may move into the leadoff spot, bumping swisher down to 6th. The heart of the order is solid, as Cabrera should hit over .300 (something this team has been missing), and Konerko, Dye, and Thome are generally reliable power sources. The Sox tried like hell to ship out Joe Crede to the Giants, since he pretty much sucks and they'd rather have top prospect Josh Fields cutting his teeth in the bigs. It should only be a matter of time though, until Crede is out and Fields is in. That doesn't necessarily mean the 7-9 hitters get any better, though.

2008 Prediction: The White Sox should definitely be better than they have been the past two years. However, just like the other AL Central teams not called the Tigers or Indians, it will be an uphill battle. The Tribe and the Tiggers just have too much depth and talent for the other teams, White Sox included, to have any hope of making the playoffs. Short of a miracle, or the rotation posting incredible numbers a la the 2005 staff, the most exciting thing at U.S. Cellular field will be when Cleveland and Detroit come to town, or Ozzie Guillen press conferences.

Projected Record: 83-79, 3rd in AL Central

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kansas City Royals 2008 Preview

2007 Record: 69-93, 5th (last) in AL Central

Key Losses: P Billy Buckner, DH Mike Sweeney

Key Acquisitions: OF Jose Guillen, P Ron Mahay, P Brett Tomko, P Yasuhiko Yabuta

Projected Rotation
1. Gil Meche
2. Brian Bannister
3. Zach Greinke
4. John Bale
5. Brett Tomko
CL: Joakim Soria

Rotation Grade: C Meche has turned out to be a good free agent signing for the Royals, who shelled out lots of loot but in return got a veteran guy, who pitches lots of innings, posted a sub-4.00 ERA, who would have won way more games with offensive support . Bannister and Greinke both have great stuff, but don't really have any real body of work to speak of. Not to mention that whole bizzare "social anxiety" issue that sidelined Greinke for the whole 2006 season. John Bale and Brett Tomko are not good 4 and 5 starters, and are sure to cost K.C. games when they face the punishing batting orders that other AL Central teams have.

Projected Lineup:
1. CF David DeJesus
2. 2B Mark Grudzielanek
3. 3B Alex Gordon
4. RF Jose Guillen
5. Mark Teahen
6. DH Billy Butler
7. 1B Ross Gload
8. C John Buck
9. SS Tony Pena, Jr.

Lineup Grade: C- Even if Alex Gordon has his breakout season, and the Royals get what they paid for from Jose Guillen, this lineup is weak. Their leadoff man does not get on base well (.260 AVG last year), their DH is an extreme liability on the basepaths, and the 7-9 hitters are generally weak. This lineup is not built to rake like others in their division.

2008 Prediction: The Royals seem to be moving in the right direction after so many years of futility. They have gone out and made some moves in free agency, albeit questionable ones, and have some talent emerging from their farm system. Unfortunately, the Royals are in the toughest division in baseball, so they have a long way to go before they are legit contenders for a division title or even a wild card berth into the playoffs.

Projected Finish: 72-91, 4th or 5th in AL Central

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Detroit Tigers Preview

2007 Record: 88-74
If you were to tell me 3 years ago that last season the Tigers would finish second in the AL Central and barely miss the playoffs, I would have been happy with that, but expectations have drastically risen in Detroit over the past couple of seasons. After making a surprise run to the World Series 2 years ago before bowing out to the St. Louis Cardinals, Detroit fell short last year because of weak pitching and injuries down the stretch and left fans wondering what could have been. In the off-season the Tigs made the biggest splash of any other team by beefing up on their already very strong line-up. Considering the talent on this roster, anything short of a World Series Championship would have to be considered a failure. Nothing's a gimme in the AL though.

Key Additions
Miguel Cabrera 3B
Dontrelle Willis SP
Jacque Jones OF
Edgar Renteria SS
Key Losses
Chris Shelton 1B
Jair Jurrjens SP
Andrew Miller SP
Cameron Maybin OF
Sean Casey 1B

Projected Line-up
1) Curtis Granderson CF
2) Placido Polanco 2B
3) Miguel Cabrera 3B
4) Magglio Ordonez RF
5) Gary Sheffield DH
6) Carlos Guillen 1B
7) Edgar Renteria SS
8) Jacque Jones/Marcus Thames
9) Ivan Rodriguez
Offensive Grade: A...I'm not being biased, it's the truth. This is the best line-up in baseball top to bottom. The 1-7 and 9 spots are all past, present, or probable future all-stars. Show me another line-up in baseball that has this much talent. This offense reminds me of the murderer's row that the Yankees trotted out in the mid to late-90's. Let's take a look at the individual parts. Granderson needs to stay healthy to be a viable lead-off man. Without him, the Tigers might have to slot Renteria or Polanco at the top, but that wouldn't be ideal. Curtis went 20-20-20-20 last year, which made him only the 3rd player in history to accomplish this feat. He's also one of the smartest players in baseball and if you ever listen to him speak, you'll understand what I'm talking about. Best interview I've ever done. When Polanco's up to bat, you can pretty much bank on a hit, not much else, but getting on base is half the battle. Cabrera and Ordonez are the new Papi/Manny, they'll be giving pitcher's nightmare's for years and don't forget about Sheffield who had a resurgence to greatness last year before catching the injury bug. If he can at least approach what he did last year, then it's going to be a rough go for opposing rotations. In fact, there isn't a break for the opposition anywhere in this line-up. Guillen and Renteria could be the 2 and 3 hitters on most teams in this league (on the Giants, Edgar would lead-off and Guillen would clean-up). Pudge has declined, but is still one of the best defensive catchers in the game. I'm sure any team would love to have their hands on this great leader. I could go on for hours about this line-up, but I'm sure it's starting to get old for the non-Detroit fans.

Projected Rotation
1) Justin Verlander
2) Jeremy Bonderman
3) Dontrelle Willis
4) Nate Robertson
5) Kenny Rogers
CL) Todd Jones
Pitching Grade: B-...I realize this rotation isn't nearly as good as the Indians, but it's definitely not as brutal as many pundits are making it seem. Verlander is a certified Ace and should be a top 10 pitcher in the league for the foreseeable future as long as he can stay healthy. Speaking of health, that's the big issue for this staff. It's extremely thin and if injuries occur, there could be trouble. Old man Kenny Rogers missed a large chunk of last year with old age. Seriously though, he's creaky and probably won't last past this year, but don't forget that he was on fire in the playoffs 2 years ago. He could surprise some people if he can stay off the DL too much. Bonderman looked like he was starting to break out at the beginning of last season, but then he fell apart mid-way through the year. He's still only 25 years old and could easily turn it around, but we need to see proof before anyone can judge his future. Another young flame thrower who appears to have lost his way is Dontrelle Willis. The potential is there, but since his dominant Cy Young runner-up season a couple years ago, he's been wildly inconsistent. Perhaps a fresh start in Detroit is what he needs, but it's going to take time to get his confidence and control together again.

Projected Outlook
The AL Central is going to be a war all year with two of the most explosive teams in all of baseball duking it out for the crown. 2 years ago, the Tigers came out on top, and last year it was the Indians who had the upper hand. Is there enough room for both in the playoffs? Neither can let-up because the American League will be extremely challenging. To be honest, I could see either team winning the World Series or not making the playoffs at all. It's going to be an entertaining ride. Clearly, I'd like to see my Tigers come out on top and right now I think they have a slight edge when healthy. That's the key though, whoever can keep it going on all cylinders the whole season will win this race. For the record, one of these teams is going to fall short of our projecte record, because it'll be impossible for both to brush 100. No matter what happens, this team is going to be highly enjoyable to watch. Sit back relax and enjoy the show.
Predicted Record: 98-64

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cleveland Indians 2008 Season Preview

If it weren't for a fluke grand slam and two exemplary starts from Josh Beckett, Cleveland very well could have been World Series Champs. Yet its hard to find a more forgotten team heading into 2008. For all the flash and dash of other AL teams like the Sox, Tigers and Yankees, the Indians are still the most complete team in baseball. And while they may not have the names the other teams do, they definitely have to be considered a threat to once again win it all, with that said lets see how this year's edition of the tribe is shaping up.

2007 Finish: 96-66, AL Central Champs

Key Additions: Masa Kobayashi, RP

Key Losses: None

Projected Lineup:
1 Grady Sizemore CF
2 Asdrubal Cabrera 2b
3 Travis Hafner DH
4 Victor Martinez C
5 Ryan Garko 1b
6 Jhonny Peralta SS
7 Jason Michaels LF
8 Franklin Gutierrez RF
9 Casey Blake 3b

Lineup Grade: B+. The Indians have some excellent hitters in their lineup and have begun to develop batters who can compliment their main run producers. If the young hitters like Cabrera, Garko and Gutierrez can play to their potential, the Indians could have a top-5 offense in all of baseball. Even if they are just average the Tribe will score plenty of runs thanks to a dangerous row of hitters at the top of the order.

Projected Rotation:
1 CC Sabathia
2 Fausto Carmona
3 Jake Westbrook
4 Paul Byrd
5 Cliff Lee
CL - Joe Borowski

Pitching Grade: A-. The Indians probably boast the best 1-2 combination of starters in baseball at the moment. Sabathia has entered certified ace territory, and Carmona's development was the reason why the Indians became such a threat last year. There is no reason why these 2 can't rack up near 40 wins between them. Cleveland also has solid 3-4-5 starters who will eat innings and keep the team in ballgames. Their bullpen is also very solid with the Hot Dog King Kobayashi on board to compliment the most underrated set-up man in all of baseball in Rafael Betancourt. Joe Borowski is the human heart attack at closer, but he did save 46 games last year, and if he falters this year the Tribe have other options they can feel comfortable replacing him with.

Projected Outlook: It took a few years longer than expected, but Cleveland has rebuilt and is now a serious threat to win the AL. Their younger players are only going to get better and their solid front office and manager will be sure to have the right pieces in play to be successful. Other teams in the AL have made big moves to make their team stronger, but Cleveland didn't really need to and will still be able to match up with any squad in baseball. Their left-handed dominant lineup will benefit from not facing Johan Santana 10 times a season and the young players developing plus a Travis Hafner return to form could make the offense downright explosive. Between that and a rock solid pitching staff, the Indians should come close to possibly replicating last seasons 96 wins and may even get close to 100.

Projected Finish: 99-63, 1st or 2nd in AL Central