With two weeks now down, there are two weeks to go, which means we are two weeks away from the start of the season.
I for one, can't be more excited about it. However I'm not sure how excited some people will be after today's two previews of the Tigers and Mets.
ALE: 1, Tampa Bay*, 3, Baltimore, Toronto
ALC: 1, Minnesota, 3, Chicago, 5
ALW: 1, Oakland, Texas, 4
NLE: Florida, 2, 3, 4, 5
NLC: 1, St. Louis, Cincinnati, 4, Houston, Pittsburgh
NLW: 1, Los Angeles, 3, 4, San Diego
* Wild Card
Detroit Tigers – AL Central
Last Year: Finished Last in AL Central
Notable Additions: C Matt Treanor, C Gerald Laird, IF Adam Everett, SP Edwin Jackson, RP Brandon Lyon
Notable Subtractions: IF Edgar Renteria, OF Matt Joyce, SP Kenny Rogers, RP Kyle Fanrsworth, RP Todd Jones
Underrated addition: Gerald Laird
He’ll be missed: Matt Joyce
Laird should keep the pitching staff in check and bring stability to the position. Joyce was the answer to the Tigers future outfield questions.
Biggest Key to Success: Motivation
To me, the biggest problem with Detroit’s team to me is their motivation.
It took them to get ripped by Jim Leyland a few years ago to fuel a run to the World Series. Last year they just looked like a team that was going through the motions.
The key for me is to see them get that fire in their collective belly. And that’s without the help of Jim Leyland publicly calling them out. This team is too talented to need any sort of a wake up call.
Stop getting off to slow starts in the season, come out of the gates swinging, and show that you want to win in the worst way.
Their offense is still explosive; it can score at will, but a lot of times last year it didn’t want to score. It was just coasted through the season and it brought up a lot of questions.
The offense was being touted as one that was lethal; one through nine they had a hitter that was going to hurt you in their own special way. But by the end of the season it was just pathetic how many times they were shut out.
Now, there aren’t many expectations, so they need to get themselves motivated to win baseball games and not force their manager to pull his hand early in the season by ripping them. That type of stuff is good for a spark, but that bullet should be saved for late in the year.
Biggest Concern: Pitching… That’s all
This is been a concern for the Detroit Tigers for some time, and it will continue to be until they show consistency.
They think they’ve got players that can handle the job, but whether they end up doing that job is a whole different question.
Jeremy Bonderman needs to be a big part of the rotation, after missing last year with a shoulder circulation problem, he should be ready to go and be a big part of the Tigers.
The Tigers need a bounce back year from Justin Verlander in a big way, seemingly the ace of the rotation, he has to set the example for the rest of the staff.
The Tigers believe Armando Galarraga and Edwin Jackson’s successful 2008 years will carry over into 2009, and they better hope so in Jackson’s case after he’s changed teams.
The final spot could go to Dontrelle Willis or Nate Robertson, but the fact remains clear that both have fallen on hard times, Willis more than Robertson.
Their bullpen is another story, one that has some players in it, but needs two things to be successful.
The first being health of two of its main parts, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, and the second being the success of the starting pitching. Many would feel that the bullpen got hung out to dry by the constant failures of the starters that the bullpen would be subject to overuse over the course of a season.
That has to change. The Tigers starters had just one complete game last year, a feat only matched in the AL by the Yankees and their relief pitchers were fifth in the AL in innings pitched.
The starters go deeper, the game is shortened, and the relief pitchers are used less.
Biggest Change: Make the Shift
This team just doesn’t stop shifting do they?
They moved Carlos Guillen to first to save his legs, Brandon Inge to centerfielder because of Curtis Granderson’s early injury, and planned on everything else working out with Miguel Cabrera at third.
Then things just started to go wrong. Miguel Cabrera couldn’t handle things at third, so they ended up switching him and Guillen, Ivan Rodriguez was traded, creating a need at catcher which Inge would fill.
Now they’ve moved Inge back to third and Guillen into left-field and Cabrera is staying at first.
With Edgar Renteria gone, they’ve signed defensive minded shortstop Adam Everett, but can he hit well enough to stay in Jim Leyland’s good graces? Surely the defense will be better because of all these changes, but what a mess that ended up being.
Hopefully everything is straightened out for Detroit and no more shifting will be needed.
Team MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 1B
I don’t get all this “down year” stuff people keep throwing around and I don’t get why people say “if that’s a down year, I can’t wait to see his up year.”
He hit more home runs and knocked in more runs than in any other year of his career. The batting average and on-base percentage took a dip, but that’s simply a product of the league switch.
Miguel Cabrera is just too good to not put up his numbers. So making the switch to the AL, not being familiar with the pitchers or the parks, he might sacrifice some things. But you aren’t going to cheat him out of his run production numbers.
He’ll find those and in this case, they’ll actually go up because that’s what he wants to do. If Cabrera is having trouble he’s going to go to his game that works.
With that said, don’t worry about Miguel Cabrera. He didn’t have an off-year, or a down-year, or a very irregular year and in 2009, he’ll continue to power the Tiger lineup.
On the Rise: Armando Galarraga, SP
Where would this team be without Armando Galarraga? He had a Fausto Carmona-like start to the year, probably the only reason he got a shot was because of an injury, then Dontrelle Willis was threatening to knock him out, but Galarraga made it impossible to take him out.
And the rest was history, sort of.
Galarraga was the Tigers best pitcher last year, without him, they wouldn’t have had a consistent starter from start to finish keeping them in games.
Now they might be counting on him to repeat his production this year, but hopefully he can get the likes of Verlander and Bonderman to help him out and at least make the Tigers less dependable on him.
The Tigers still have a lot of the talent they had when they were supposed to win the AL Central a year ago. But is that really a good thing?
The thing you have to wonder about with them is obviously the starting pitching. They’ve relatively not changed much. Adding Edwin Jackson is something they hope will fix them, but they are pretty much relying on the same horses they tried to rely on a year ago.
Dontrelle Willis or Nate Robertson both have to show their good sides more often than not, Bonderman has to stay healthy, Verlander can’t be bad. Things have to improve vastly for this team to make strides.
I’ve made my issue with their offensive production; they simply need to play like we know they can. This should be a non-issue in my mind, but if he does become one, the Tigers have problems.
That all being said though. I still don’t think they’ve got the most talented roster in the AL Central. I think they’ve got issues with Brandon Lyon, who would cut it as a closer in the NL, but maybe not in the AL.
I also think the minute Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya go down, they have automatic problems.
But I do think they’ll find a way to scrap themselves up to third place.
Prediction: Finish Third in the AL Central
New York Mets – NL East
Last Year: Finished Second in NL East
Notable Additions: IF Alex Cora, OF Jeremy Reed, SP Tim Redding, RP Francisco Rodriguez, RP J.J. Putz, RP Sean Green, RP Connor Robertson
Notable Subtractions: IF Mike Carp, OF Endy Chavez, SP Pedro Martinez, SP Jason Vargas, RP Aaron Heilman, RP Joe Smith, RP Scott Schoeneweis, RP Luis Ayala
OF Moises Alou, IF Damion Easley, SP Orlando Hernandez
Underrated addition: Alex Cora
He’ll be missed: Endy Chavez
Cora is a nice infield backup option if they need it, especially in the National League. Chavez was a defensive specialist that was invaluable.
Biggest Key to Success: Straight Heads
Obviously, we don’t need to doubt this team’s talent anymore.
They’ve buckled up a few of their biggest needs and now it’s all about things between the ears.
You look at their lineup, solid. You look at some of their rotation options, solid. You look at the bullpen additions; it’s hard to argue with two closers at the end with one of them being a setup guy.
The biggest thing they need to do is just play the game. I really question Carlos Delgado and whatever he was doing last year. It seems the minute Jerry Manuel took over for Willie Randolph; a light switch was flipped on.
If that’s the team that is going to be playing, the one that didn’t play for Willie Randolph, I really question far they can go.
Their heads need to be straight; they need to play up to the level of their own talent and not flat line when things don’t go their way. This has nothing to do with them choking down the stretch or anything like that, but everything to do with this team’s collective mentality.
They are far too talented to not be in the playoffs and if they don’t find themselves there, they have no one to blame but themselves.
Biggest Concern: Who Fills Out?
This rotation situation has gotten a little cloudy lately with the questioned status of Tim Redding. The other options for the fifth spot include Livan Hernandez, young Jonathan Niece, and a Freddy Garcia that doesn’t seem to be fully healthy.
Pedro Martinez doesn’t seem to be an option for the Mets as they feel confident in the top four options and what they have competing for the fifth spot, I’d have him on speed dial if he doesn’t end up with a team though.
The other spot needing filled is the outfield spot. It looks like Daniel Murphy is going to take over one of the corner outfield spots, but he could be a legitimate concern for a team that doesn’t have much corner outfield depth.
They’ve got very few spots that aren’t covered, so their concerns really go back to the mental thing. They can always find pitching and outfield options if it happens to come down to that.
Biggest Change: Bullpen Reloaded
They had a clear need and they went aggressively at that need in a big way.
First they signed Francisco Rodriguez, the single-season saves record holder, to be their closer. Not being satisfied with that, they went ahead and traded for former Seattle closer J.J. Putz to be their setup man.
They had to give up Joe Smith in order to help acquire Putz, but with two closers at the end of the game, all of a sudden the guys that had to step up in those later innings get to scale back.
Both Omar Minaya and the Mets are hoping that Rodriguez and Putz solve a lot of their late inning blues and takes the pressure off the rest of the bullpen.
Team MVP: David Wright, 3B
David Wright is young and good, he’s pretty much going to be a MVP candidate in the National League for years to come.
That makes him the no-brainer choice as the Mets’ MVP.
What can’t you say about the way David Wright plays the game?
And really, even though he plays in New York, it just seems like he’s just another ho-hum player that gets respect, but really he’s just another All-Star player.
Wright’s production is A+ though. With 30 home run power, four straight seasons of 100 runs batted in or more, a little bit of base stealing, and his high on-base percentage, Wright does things that make him one of the most productive players in the game.
He is the heart of that order and without him; the rest of the lineup loses its luster.
On the Rise: Mike Pelfrey, SP
Has that light finally been turned on in the head of Mike Pelfrey?
Yeah he was young and of course it was finally his first full-year starting, but Pelfrey started to find it. He logged over 200 innings and fanned 110 hitters with a 3.72 ERA.
Pelfrey’s always had his stuff, even since his days at Wichita State, but last year was the first time he could consistently show it.
So with hopes riding high on a rotation that is pretty much set in stone, minus the last spot, Pelfrey becomes a huge key in the entire scheme of things.
The Mets should see Pelfrey continue to grow, just 25, he’s bound to keep getting better the more and more he learns.
Perhaps he’s well on his way to becoming a top fixture in that Met rotation, and that’s something they definitely need.
I might be considered crazy, but someone had to get bitten by the idea that the Marlins are going to win the NL East in my own little world.
So what exactly don’t I like about the New York Mets?
Well there isn’t much I hate, but there isn’t much I love. Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz should improve the pen, but who knows what happens before they get into the game.
Is John Maine healthy? Johan Santana going to be good to go? If Freddy Garcia continues to throw 85 MPH, can he really grab a hold of the last rotation spot that might be his due to injury?
Is Livan Hernandez going to last more than a few months if he takes the spot from Garcia?
Offensively, they could potential have an issue at second base if Luis Castillo isn’t healthy. Then of course there is the concern about Daniel Murphy in a corner spot full-time and if the Mets can find someone for that spot if he doesn’t work.
Their 3-4-5 is as best as they come in terms of all around talent, and their leadoff hitter is one of the fastest players in this game.
But something tells me that this team is just going to do it again. I’m not ready to buy into the Mets until they buy into everything else around them.
Because of that, I’m getting them missing out on both the division and the wild card, but barely.
Prediction: Finish Third in the NL East
On deck for Monday, Mar. 23: Kansas City Royals and Colorado Rockies
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