Top 10 Story Lines I’m Planning to Watch In 2013

We’re just over 48 hours away from the start of the 2013 MLB regular season, and I couldn’t be more excited. Baseball fans everywhere are making final predictions as to how they feel things will play out, as players are making their final preparations for the long 162 game season. As my last blog post until the season begins, I wanted to do a brief overview of the top story lines I’m planning to keep an eye on in 2013. They may differ slightly from yours, but I feel I covered nearly all of the major topics:

1. How the Astros will fare in the American League:

Having lost 107 games in the National League in 2012, I’m watching the Astros, not for how good they’ll do, but for how bad they’ll do. Sorry to any Astros fans reading this post, but there’s no denying that the odds are against the Astros going into the 2013 season. Playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, with the newly revamped Angels, they’re likely to have just as bad of a season as last year, if not slightly worse. I’d say it would be considered a good year for the Astros if they finish with less than 100 losses.

2. If Bryce Harper and Mike Trout can keep up their 2012 R.O.Y. seasons:103057-768-0

Posting some incredible stats, leading to one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, I’m going to keep a closer eye on Mike Trout than I am Bryce Harper, but I’m planning to watch Harper nonetheless. Both won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012, for their respective leagues, and it should be interesting to see if their amazing rookie years will transfer into the 2013 season. I’m predicting Trout will once again have a 30/30 season, with Harper possibly recording the first 30 home run season of his career.

3. Who will hit the most home runs in 2013:

The 2012 home run leaders consisted of Miguel Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Josh Hamilton, as the 1-2-3 guys, and if it wasn’t for an injured Granderson, I could see all three being near the top of the rankings again in 2013. However, with Granderson out with an injury for the first portion of the year–while I see Cabrera once again leading all players in homers, with Hamilton coming in a close second–it will likely be a new face who will round out the top three. Maybe it’ll be a guy like Adam Dunn, who’s a free-swinger? Or maybe a guy no one saw coming, who will have a breakout season? It will certainly be fun to keep track of.

4. If A-Rod comes back healthy, if at all:

While it’s 100 percent certain that Alex Rodriguez won’t return to the Yankees’ lineup until late July, there is the slight chance that he could miss the entire season. However, if A-Rod is able to work his way back this season, after having hip surgery in January, it should be very interesting to see if he can become a decent player once again. While Rodriguez will never be the great player he once was, if healthy, he has the ability to make an impact for the Yankees. Although I’m not the biggest fan of A-Rod, I still hope he comes back healthy. But I find it very unlikely that he will ever again play at a competitive level.

5. How the rookies, such as Wil Myers, will impact their teams in 2013:

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays-Photo DayI discussed this a couple months ago, in my blog post on the Top 100 prospects going into the 2013 season, but this time around I’m only focusing my attention on a handful of rookies who I feel will have the biggest impact for their team this season. Wil Myers is the number one guy on my radar, with Shelby Miller, Jurickson Profar and Billy Hamilton being the other three main rookies I plan on keeping track of. Myers was the minor league player of the year, in 2012, and I fully see him posting more of the same stats, as he begins the the year with AAA Durham. Of the four, Miller is the only player that is starting in the majors to begin the year, but they should all make it to the big leagues at some point this season, and are sure to each play a key role in their teams’ success.

6. How the Upton bro’s do for the Atlanta Braves:

You could argue that, with the addition of both Justin Upton and B.J. Upton to roam the outfield with Jason Heyward, the Braves have the best all-around outfield in all of baseball. All three players have great range, giving them the ability to make plays on balls that other outfielders couldn’t get to, but furthermore, they all have the talent to impact their team offensively as well. Both Upton’s, as well as Heyward, have the ability to blast 25+ home runs and 85+ RBI’s, as well as steal a good amount of bases. If they can perform to their potential this season, combined with the great lineup and pitching rotation they already had, the Braves could be an outstanding team.

7. What kind of a year players who ended 2012 injured will have in 2013:

The reason A-Rod had his own category, and wasn’t included in this one, is merely because his return is uncertain. All of the players in this category didn’t play at all after their injury in 2012, and will make a guaranteed comeback, within at least the first few weeks of the season. With that said, the most impactful players to end last season with an injury, that I’ll be watching in 2013, include Derek Jeter, Troy Tulowitzki and Mariano Rivera.

Mariano Rivera tore his ACL in May, while Derek Jeter fractured his ankle in October, with neither playing any more games for the remainder of the year. Rivera is expected to be ready to go Opening Day, though a slight setback for Jeter will force him onto the disable list to begin the year. In my opinion, the 2013 performances of both Jeter and Rivera will be the deciding factor for what kind of season the Yankees have. If Jeter can return quickly, and Rivera can post his usual stellar numbers, I see the Yankees being just fine.

Troy Tulowitzki injured his groin in May of last season, and although it appeared he would return towards the end of the year, he remained sidelined for the remainder of the season. A healthy Tulowitzki can impact the Rockies more than nearly any other player in all of baseball, though he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for the majority of his career. While I can’t see the Rockies finishing any better than last in their division, I’m planning to watch “Tulo” nonetheless, to see if he can finally have a successful, fully healthy season.

8. How the Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels perform with their new additions:

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Introduce Josh HamiltonThe Blue Jays, Dodgers and Angels made the biggest splashes of nearly every other team in all of baseball this past offseason; at least of the teams that stand a chance of competing. Many have the Blue Jays going the distance, and winning it all, with the key additions of Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera and 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, to name a few, though I don’t see it happening. I find myself siding more with the opinions of those who are betting on the Dodgers and Angels to have a great season.

The Angels’ major addition of the offseason was undoubtedly Josh Hamilton, who, with the help of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, has the ability to transform the Angels into an extremely competitive team. Hamilton might end up being the piece the Angels were missing last season, that will help them make the playoffs in 2013.

The number one addition of the offseason for the Dodgers was Zack Greinke, though they also acquired Hyun-Jin Ryu, the highly praised LHP from Korea. Adding them both, to go along with their already deep pitching rotation, could end up making the Dodgers a team to be reckoned with in 2013.

9. Whether or not the Nationals make it to the World Series:

Last season, Nationals’ manager, Davey Johnson, made the bold statement that he should be fired if the Nat’s didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. Luckily for Johnson, they did, for the first time since 1933. This season, however, it’s “World Series or bust” for the Nationals, and although I was a bit skeptical last year, I’m not putting it past them to make it all the way to the World Series this season, for what would be the first time in Nationals’ franchise history. With a fantastic lineup, as well as one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball, they should go far in the coming season, though they’ll have to make it past the favorited Braves, who many (myself included) have winning the division.

10. Which team(s) will have an unexpected breakout season:

Every season, it seems, there is a team or two that unexpectedly takes the baseball world by storm. On paper, they shouldn’t be winning, but yet they come together as a team and are able to do amazing things. The 2012 example would be the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles, as the majority of baseball fans, going into the 2012 season, didn’t see the O’s and A’s exploding the way they did. Truly showing that baseball is extremely unpredictable. Any team has the chance to defy the odds, which is part of what makes baseball so great. Anything can happen.

Which story line from above are you most looking forward to? Leave a comment below.

Q and A With Adam Greenberg

Adam Greenberg was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 9th round of the 2002 draft. In the years following the draft, Greenberg averaged .284 a season, with an OBP near .400, over the course of four seasons (347 games) in the minor leagues, before receiving a call up to the Cubs, in July of 2005.New York Mets v Miami Marlins

Making his MLB debut on July 9, 2005, Greenberg was beamed in the head by a pitch from Marlins’ pitcher Valerio de los Santos, which resulted in a mild concussion. Greenberg returned to the field for the Cubs’ AA minor league affiliate, a few weeks later, with the intention of rejoining the major league club, however, effects of the concussion still lingered. Effects that would end up keeping Greenberg from ever playing for the Cubs again.

Greenberg went on to play several more seasons in the minor leagues, but a second chance at an MLB at-bat wouldn’t come until 2012, when a fan-made petition allowed Greenberg the chance for one at-bat with the Miami Marlins. The at-bat came on October 2, 2012, against R.A. Dickey, with Greenberg striking out on three pitches. Despite striking out, Greenberg finally received his long awaited major league at-bat.

The Orioles have signed Greenberg to a minor league contract for the coming season, giving him yet another shot at making it back to the majors. You can be sure that Greenberg is going to do his absolute best to make it back, as he has a great work ethic, and a lot of people rooting for him. I, for one, hope he gets many more than one more at-bat in the majors.

Adam Greenberg–minor leaguer in the Orioles organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

As far back as I can remember I had a bat and ball in my hand. Between family members, coaches and teammates, I had many baseball influences growing up.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Don Mattingly, because of the way he carried himself on and off the field.

3.) You’re one of only six dozen, or so, Jewish players to ever make it all the way to the bigs. What does that mean to you, to be in such an elite category of players?

It is an honor to be included with such great company.

4.) Had you have gotten a career at-bat before being plunked in the head, do you feel things would’ve gone differently?

Yes, I think things would have turned out a lot differently.

5.) Cubs fan, Matt Liston, played a huge role in getting you your at-bat with the Marlins, as he formed a petition and was able to get thousands of fans to sign it. What did it mean to you to know that you had that kind of support from complete strangers?

The human spirit is amazing! To see such a great reception was amazing. Matt had reached out to me through a mutual contact that I trusted and I was surprised at the momentum he brought. I am very thankful for Matt, my fans and Miami for providing me with the opportunity to get back. A dream come true again.

6.) Would it have meant slightly more for you to have received your one at-bat in 2012 with the Cubs, as they were the team you made your MLB debut for, back in 2005?

I was thankful to be in a Major League uniform again and to have Miami sign me was amazing.

7.) Once it was made official that the Marlins were going to give you the one at-bat, what kind of thoughts were running through your mind?

I was excited to be there. My thoughts were to get on base and help contribute.

8.) On October 2, 2012, you came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth inning, against R.A. Dickey. How did you prepare to face Dickey? Did anyone give you any kind of advice as to how to face him, being that he’s a knuckleball pitcher?

There’s not a whole lot you can do to prepare for a knuckle-ball of his caliber. Prior to the at-bat I took a lot of flips and had few teammates toss me some knuckleballs. The advice I received from a lot of people was if it’s ‘high let it fly’….if it’s ‘low let it go!’

9.) Unfortunately, you struck out against Dickey, on three pitches, however you received a standing ovation from the crowd. What kind of emotions were you feeling during that moment, that although you struck out, the fans cheered you on as if you had blasted a home run?

I had mixed emotions. The excitement from the fans was electric. Regardless of the outcome it was still a win having that at-bat and being back in the Major Leagues.

10.) The Orioles signed you to a minor league contract in December, giving you another shot at making it back to the big leagues. What are your plans going forward? What are your goals once the season begins?

I continue to train hard. My goal for this season is to get back to the big leagues, contribute to Baltimore’s success by winning games and helping them get to a World Series.

11.) Favorite food? Favorite TV show?

Seafood….all of it! Seinfeld.

12.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Have fun, stay within yourself and don’t ever give up.

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Big thanks to Adam Greenberg for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @adamgreenberg10

Last Blog Post Until 2013

Well, the Mayans were wrong. In case you haven’t figured it out by now, the world didn’t end on Friday, and subsequently there will in fact be a 2013 MLB season. I couldn’t be happier. I would’ve hated not to of seen how Josh Hamilton works out with the Angels, or if R.A. Dickey will end up leading the newly revamped Blue Jays to the World Series, like so many people seem to be predicting. And of course, still being alive is always good.

But I’m not here to talk about Mayans, or even Hamilton and Dickey for that matter–as stated in my last blog post, I don’t plan to write anything 25035_10151134333357204_1662307553_nmajor about either of them. No, the reason I’m writing this is to let you know that there will be no more blog posts from me until 2013, as well as to make you aware of a couple of my current blogging plans for January. (Keep in mind, it’s not set in stone.)

Right now, the plan for January is to get a blog post up sometime during the first few days of the month with my thoughts on this year’s Hall of Fame candidates. With names like Sosa, Clemens and Bonds, I have a lot to say on the subject. The voting results are set to be announced on January 9th, so I’ll probably end up posting something after the fact as well.

Furthermore, the two-year anniversary of ‘The Unbiased MLB Fan’ is coming up on January 20th, and thus I plan to post something to mark the occasion. I haven’t yet decided exactly what I want to include in the post, so if you have any ideas as to what I should focus the post on, or what you’d like to see me do, just leave a comment below.

Lastly, I just wanted to take the time to thank everyone who’s read my blog throughout the past year. Whether you’re a regular, or just check in from time-to-time, if it weren’t for you all I’d have no reason to blog. So thank you. I’m going to do my best to make 2013 the best year yet, and hopefully you will all continue to come back every so often to read what I have to say.

Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a Happy New Year.

See you all in 2013.

David Price and R.A. Dickey Win Cy Young Award

The 2012 Cy Young award candidates were some of the closest ranked in the history of the award. None more so than the American League portion of the award, where it came down to a mere 4-point difference between first and second place. It was truly THAT close.

While it was too close to call going in to Wednesday night’s Cy Young award announcement, in the end, it was David Price taking home the award for the American League, while R.A. Dickey received the award for the National League; as voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA).

This is both David Price’s and R.A. Dickey’s first career Cy Young award.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CY YOUNG: DAVID PRICE

Original Pick: Jered Weaver

Pick after finalists were revealed: Jered Weaver

Thoughts On David Price Winning

My original pick for the American League Cy Young award was Jered Weaver, and it remained the same after the finalists were revealed last week. With that said, I’m thrilled that David Price won the award.

As stated in a previous blog post, while I was still rooting for Weaver to win, I wouldn’t have been upset with any of the three candidates winning the award. They were all so close statistically that it was hard to pick a winner, because no one candidate really stood above the rest.

The voters seemed to agree, as David Price pulled out the win by a mere 4 points–the closest AL Cy Young vote since 1969.

David Price becomes the first pitcher in Rays’ franchise history to win the Cy Young award, and is certainly deserving of the honor.

Going 20-5 with 205 strikeouts in 211 innings pitched, to go along with a 2.56 ERA, Price had the best year of his career thus far, and is quickly making a case as one of the most dominant pitchers in all of Major League Baseball.

And if this year is any indication, Price (age 27) could be in the running for Cy Young for many years to come.

The BBWAA’s vote had Justin Verlander finishing second, with Jered Weaver coming in third.

NATIONAL LEAGUE CY YOUNG: R.A. DICKEY

Original Pick: Clayton Kershaw

Pick after finalists were revealed: Clayton Kershaw

Thoughts On R.A. Dickey Winning

I had Clayton Kershaw winning the award, but as with the American League portion, I would’ve been happy with any of the three candidates winning; so I’m happy for R.A. Dickey. He was extremely deserving, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.

R.A. Dickey was a completely different pitcher this season and really shocked a lot of the baseball world with the type of numbers he was able to post.

Going 20-6 with 230 strikeouts in 233.2 innings pitched, to go along with a 2.73 ERA, Dickey had the best year of his career, in 2012.

Unlike with the AL Cy Young–which had a 4-point difference between the 1st and 2nd place winners–the National League Cy Young voting wasn’t even close, as Dickey beat out Clayton Kershaw by a staggering 113 points; pulling in 27 of the 32 first place votes–finishing no lower than second on every voters’ ballot.

Dickey becomes the Mets’ first 20-game winner since 1990, and the first knuckleball pitcher to EVER win the award. Not bad for a 37-year old pitcher who was considered a bust by many just a few years ago. What a difference a few seasons can make.

The BBWAA’s vote had Clayton Kershaw finishing second, with Gio Gonzalez coming in third.

My Vote for National League Cy Young

This is the third in a series of four blog posts that I plan to type up between now and Friday; all of which will focus on who I feel should win the three major awards of Most Valuable Player (MVP), Cy Young and Rookie of the Year (ROY). (If you haven’t read my posts on who I think should win the AL MVP, NL MVP and AL Cy Young, go ahead and check those out now.)

If you’ll remember back to my post on American League Cy Young, I tend to rely purely on stats when making a pick for which player most deserves the Cy Young award. In fact, there were SO many good candidates for National League Cy Young that I ended up letting the stats make the decision for me.

I took the National League starting pitchers with ERA’s below 3.00 (seven pitchers in all) and compared them from 20 different statistical angles. (I chose to use so many different stats to compare them because I felt that using Wins, ERA and strikeouts alone didn’t tell the whole story of how good a particular pitcher was.)

My method works as follows: The pitcher with the best numbers in a given category receives 1 point; with the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc., place pitchers receiving the corresponding point amount. (The occurence of a tie in a particular category results in the tied players receiving the same point amount.) In the end, the pitcher with the lowest combined total would be my pick for the Cy Young award.

It took me awhile to crunch all of the numbers, but once I finally finished, this was the result:

(I realize it’s a bit blurry. You can click it for a clearer look.)

For those of you that still can’t read the chart (even after clicking on it) here are the results of the comparison:

Clayton Kershaw: 1st place-with a total of 61.

R.A. Dickey: 2nd place-with a total of 69.

Matt Cain: 3rd place-with a total of 72.

Gio Gonzalez: 4th place-with a total of 77.

Kyle Lohse: 5th place-with a total of 82.

Johnny Cueto: 6th place-with at total of 84.

Jordan Zimmermann: 7th place-with a total of 91.

As you can see, Clayton Kershaw came out on top, thus making him the statistical winner (and my pick) for the 2012 National League Cy Young award. (This would make his second straight Cy Young; as he won it in 2011.)

Though Kershaw’s record of 14-9 would argue against it, he had an outstanding year; leading all of MLB starting pitchers in ERA. While we’re on the subject of the win-loss record: I feel it can be a bit misleading.

Though 15 other National League pitchers had more wins than Kershaw (with Gio Gonzalez recording 21) the win-loss record is one of those stats that’s out of the pitcher’s hands for the most part. As the pitcher, you can go out there and throw a gem of a game–giving up only a couple runs–but if the lineup isn’t clicking on that particular day, you’re not going to get the win.

So, while it would appear at first glance that Kershaw didn’t have a Cy Young worthy year, if you take the time to look closely you can clearly see that Kershaw was the NL’s best all-around pitcher of the season; and as such, is my pick for 2012 National League Cy Young.

Do you agree or disagree with me?

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

R.A. Dickey or Tim Wakefield?

Q and A Entries Update

As stated before, I’m doing a Q and A on a MLB player, or baseball analyst, ever Wednesday and Saturday, until the end of the baseball season. Below is an updated list of the players that have answered my questions, and the ones that haven’t answered, but said that they would:

ALREADY POSTED:

Brent Lillibridge

Daniel Hudson

Mike O’Hara and Ryan Wagner

Jeremy Guthrie

GUARANTEED FUTURE ENTRIES:

Brandon McCarthy

Shawn Kelley

Frank Catalanotto

Josh Lueke

David Aardsma

Bud Norris

John Baker

Bryan Harper

Chris Sampson

Casper Wells

Casey Kelly

HAVEN’T ANSWERED YET, BUT SAID THEY WOULD:

Shelley Duncan

Chris Rose

R.A. Dickey

Torii Hunter

Sam LeCure

Chuck Knoblauch

So be sure to check back every Wednesday and Saturday (at least) to read a new Q and A entry. (Order is not yet determined.)