American League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. As the title states, I’m giving my 2013 American League standings predictions today, starting with the AL East:

EAST

1. Rays

2. Yankees

3. Orioles

4. Blue Jays

5. Red Sox

With the Yankees’ season uncertain, I see this as the year the Rays need to make their move. With the lineup they have, the Rays have the ability to win their division, but it’s going to come down to if their starting pitching begins and ends with David Price, or if their potential superstar pitchers in Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson can get things going. That’s the deciding factor, for me.

Although the Yankees’ season is up in the air, I still have them finishing second in the AL East. Why? Because they’re the Yankees; a team that seems to be able to always find a way to win. But it’s going to come down to Derek Jeter, in my opinion. If he misses a large chunk of the season, at any point, it could send my predictions way off course. Right now, I’m not too worried about him missing the first few games; but that could change.

The Orioles surprised everyone last season with the way they were able to put things together, however, I still think it’ll be 2014 before they stand a good chance of winning the division. Their phenom prospects are still far from ready, with top prospect Dylan Bundy beginning the season in AA Bowie, and I just don’t see everything clicking together in their favor this season.

I’m hesitant to place the Blue Jays all the way down in fourth, with so many people seeing them finishing near the top, but it’s the way I foresee their season panning out. Even with the offseason additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, etc., I don’t see the Jays putting together a season much over .500. You just can’t buy chemistry, and with so many new faces, I don’t see them gelling from the start of the season.

What can I say about the Red Sox? They were once major competitors in the division, but after a couple of horrible seasons, by their standards, I don’t see this year being any better. They didn’t do much to improve their team in the offseason, and it’s going to show once the season starts up. I’m looking down the road, when their key prospects such as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts arrive, before I can see them getting things going in the right direction again.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Indians

3. White Sox

4. Royals

5. Twins

There’s truly no reason the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the AL Central division. With one of the best lineups in all of baseball, including sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, along with newcomer Victor Martinez, their lineup should be there. The only question mark is their pitching. Justin Verlander is going to dominate–that’s a given–but the remainder of the rotation is a bit uncertain. But all in all, I think they’ll be just fine.

Coming in second, I have the Indians, as they did a great job of signing guys in the offseason to fill key spots they were missing last year, and I feel it’s bound to pay off in the coming season. The only concern would be their starting pitching. Without a true Ace, you don’t know who to look to for to carry the team throughout the season. It’s definitely something worth watching, however, they should be able to have enough decent pitching to make things very interesting in the division.

It was really a toss up between me placing the Indians or White Sox in third place (with the other in second) but I decided to have the Sox finishing third in the division. The Sox have a future Cy Young winner, in Chris Sale, but with the remainder of the pitching, as well as the lineup, a question mark, I can’t see them winning too many games over .500 in the 2013 season. They still have too many holes to fill.

I’m still questioning the Royals’ decision to trade away their phenom prospect, Wil Myers, along with a few other prospects, to the Rays, in exchange for a couple of middle of the rotation starting pitchers, on most teams, in James Shields and Wade Davis, but it is what it is. I see the move doing more harm than good. The Royals certainly needed starting pitching, but to trade away your top prospect is a poor choice, in my opinion, which is why I have them finishing next to last in the division.

The Twins are a team that have the potential to be very good a year or two down the road, but for right now, I see them having to endure another last place season, in their division. They just don’t have enough top notch guys, both in their pitching rotation and lineup, to make any sort of a run this season, as far as I can see.

WEST

1. Angels

2. Athletics

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

5. Astros

For the Angels, the AL West division is theirs to lose. With the addition of Josh Hamilton in the offseason, along with their already potent lineup of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, there is no reason the Angels shouldn’t dominate the division. Although they lost Zack Greinke to the Dodgers, their rotation is still really good, and it should all combine to be enough to lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Athletics were one of the big surprises of last season, but I don’t feel it was a fluke. They’ve put together a really great team out in Oakland, and with the majority of the other teams in the division (with the exception of the Angels) still trying to figure things out in the coming season, the Athletics stand a good shot of making the playoffs for the second straight year.

With the loss of Josh Hamilton during the offseason, I don’t see the Rangers doing much of anything this year. While they have a few big bats in their lineup that can change the outcome of a game with one swing, I don’t see their rotation as being strong enough to overcome the uphill climb they face. It’ll be interesting to watch unfold, but I don’t like their chances in 2013.

The Mariners are one of the most interesting teams to keep track of. While I don’t see them having all that impressive of an upcoming season, with all of the talent they have knocking on the door of the big leagues, I feel they’ll be major contenders as early as next season. They don’t have all of the necessary pieces, just yet, to put together a playoff run, but starting in 2014, keep a lookout for the Mariners to do big things in the AL West division.

Last season was flat out ugly for the Astros, as they finished in dead last, with a league leading 107 losses. Being that they’re making the transition from the National League to the American League this year, I don’t see things being any better for them; but when you lose over 100 games in a season, it can’t really get all that much worse.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Click HERE to be taken to my National League predictions for 2013.

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MLB Players Alternate Jobs

Before I get started with what will be my final Q and A post until after the playoffs have concluded, let me first start out by saying that yesterday’s AL and NL Wild Card games went completely opposite from what I had expected.

With the Braves having won the past 23 times Kris Medlen started the game on the mound, I though it was a sure bet that the Braves would get the win. But as you know, that’s not what happened. The Braves ended up falling to the Cardinals (6-3), thus making it their final game of 2012; and Chipper Jones’ last game of his career.

Furthermore, I fully expected the Rangers to beat the Orioles, and just like the Braves-Cards game, I was completely stunned by the end result. The Orioles pulled out the win, beating the Rangers 5-1, ending the Ranger’s chances of a third straight World Series appearance. Incredible; but that’s baseball for ya. Just because you’re the better team on paper, doesn’t mean you’ll always come out on top.

Now that I’ve given you my two cents on yesterday’s Wild Card games, I’ll now get on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

Have you ever wondered what MLB players would be doing had things not of worked out for them to play baseball? Well I did, which I why I spent last week on twitter asking players just that: “If you weren’t playing baseball what would you be doing?”

Of those who replied, some actually put some thought into it while others replied with a somewhat humorous answer. I’ll let you distinguish between the two:

Chris Gimenez–Tampa Bay Rays

Def a coach. Think it would be fun.

David Huff–Cleveland Indians

Probably either playing golf on the tour or teaching high school history.

David Aardsma–New York Yankees

Prob a model.

Denard Span–Minnesota Twins

I’d be doing something associated with sports.

Daniel McCutchen–Pittsburgh Pirates

Prob be a movie star or maye a rapper. Then again, I could always give politics a shot.

David Hernandez–Arizona Diamondbacks

I’d probably be in my 8th year of college trying to figure out what I wanna do.

Luis Exposito–Baltimore Orioles

I would find an occupation where I can help less fortunate kids and help make the world a better place!

Steve Cishek–Miami Marlins

P.E. teacher and coach.

Ricky Nolasco–Miami Marlins

Police Officer for sure.

Brandon Snyder–Texas Rangers

I always say military but who knows. My wife would say I would be a trainer or something.

Josh Lueke–Tampa Bay Rays

Professional outdoorsman like my buddy @IHuntStrong [and] @BackwoodsLife #outdoors4life

Brian Dozier–Minnesota Twins

Lead guitarist for a rock band.

Paul Maholm–Atlanta Braves

Something in golf.

Daniel Hudson–Arizona Diamondbacks

No idea. Probably coaching somewhere.

Thomas Neal–Cleveland Indians

Coaching somewhere.

Mike Olt–Texas Rangers

I would be a lion.

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My next blog post will come tomorrow evening, and will detail my blogging plans for the next few weeks. So check back for that…

Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown Chances

Miguel Cabrera is currently leading the American League in RBI’s (133) and batting average (.329), while sitting just one back of Josh Hamilton in the home run category. (Hamilton has 43 dingers on the year.)

Obviously, for Cabrera to win the Triple Crown he’ll have to be leading the A.L. in home runs at the end of the season. In order to do so he’ll need to muscle together some power in the coming days to pass Hamilton in the home run category, and I just don’t see that happening. Sure, Cabrera is a power hitter and could certainly pull it off, but going against Hamilton I’d say it’s an uphill battle at best.

It seems like Hamilton hits a homer every other night, and it doesn’t help that Cabrera has been struggling somewhat at the plate lately. Home runs asside, if he doesn’t start hitting better, Cabrera’s at risk of falling into second place on the batting average list behind Joe Mauer, who (as I’m writing this) has a current batting average of .324.

While there’s a good chance that Cabrera will lead the league in RBI’s and batting average at the end of the season, the odds that he’ll crank out enough homers to pass Hamilton–who’ll more that likely hit a few more in the final stretch of the regular season–aren’t good, in my opinion.

So in conclusion, while I’m rooting for Miguel Cabrera to pull it out and become the first player to win the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski, in 1967, I feel he’ll fall just short. Which will be a real shame, as Cabrera has had one heck of a year.

As always, feel free to leave a comment below.

Q and A With Cody Buckel

Cody Buckel was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. Since the initial draft Buckel has done just about as well as you’d imagine a second round pick would do; completely dominating thus far.

But it’s not as if dominating is new to Buckel, as he was able to do the same last season with low-A Hickory. Going 8-3, with a 2.61 ERA, as well as 120 strikeouts through 96.2 innings pitched. Good enough to earn Buckel a promotion to high-A Myrtle Beach for the 2012 season.

So far this season with the Pelican’s, Buckel has posted a 1.27 ERA through 11 starts. His win loss record stands at 4-2, but the thing that really stands out is his ability to get the strikeout. Buckel has struck out 81 batters in just 64 innings pitched. That comes out to 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Truly remarkable numbers.

Cody Buckel–pitching prospect in the Texas Rangers organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Did you always want to be a pitcher?

I started playing baseball at three years old. I found my interest in pitching at age eight, and wanted to be a pitcher since then.

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

Derek Jeter was my favorite player growing up. I just love how he approaches the game and how humble he is on the field and off. He plays hard and like it’s his last game everyday.

3.) You were drafted by the Rangers in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

I was actually in my English class doing my final exam when I found out. I had my phone on my desk and told the teacher I might be getting a call that would start my career and she let me have it out. Fortunately I got the call from the Rangers and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was excited to be a Ranger because a hall of fame pitcher being the owner of the team isn’t a bad thing to have.

4.) This is your 3rd season of professional baseball. What are your goals for this year? Anything specific that you’re currently working on to enable you to reach those goals?

Just trying to carry over from last years season to this year. I’ve tweaked some mechanical things and added a couple of pitches to my arsenal and they seem to be doing well out of the gate so far. I just need to be consistent through the year to continue to move up the ladder.

5.) What’s the most memorable moment of your baseball career thus far?

So far the playoff game I pitched last year at Greensboro has been my most memorable pro moment, but I threw a no hitter my senior year against a team I never really had success with. That has been my most memorable moment in my baseball career.

6.) When’s the first time someone asked for your autograph? Oddest thing you’ve ever signed?

First time someone asked for my autograph was one of my USA baseball cards. It felt weird signing a card of myself because I was the one asking for autographs not too long before that. Weirdest thing I signed was someones back. Haha.

7.) What’s your favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Definitely play a round of golf or just go to the mall or movies and chill, but if I can get out on a golf course I’ll be out there wearing my puma attire.

8.) Favorite food?

Dominoes pizza.

9.) Favorite TV show?

‘How I Met Your Mother’.

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

I would say no matter how long you play to make sure the game is always fun! Also, working hard and keeping up on your routines will pay off and create luck for you, and the game becomes even more fun when you have success.

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Big thanks to Cody Buckel for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @Cheatcode07

Rangers Fan “Steals” Baseball From Little Kid

I’m sure by now you’ve seen the video and read numerous blogs discussing the incident that took place during last night’s Rangers game. If by some chance you haven’t, CLICK HERE to watch the video.

After watching the video several times my first thought was: “What’s the big deal?” The ball was tossed in the general direction of the kid, but there’s no way to know for sure as to whether or not he was the intended target. The ball was lobbed into the air, and thus was fair game.

The guy who ended up with the ball is getting tons of critisism because he didn’t give the ball to the kid. That doesn’t make sense to me. The guy did nothing wrong. He didn’t knock the kid down. He didn’t snatch it out of his hand/glove. Heck, he didn’t even reach in the kids direction. He picked the ball up off of the ground after it deflected off the hands of the 10 other guys in front of him who went for the ball. Why aren’t we upset at those guys too?

I truly don’t understand what makes kids so special that people seem to believe that if a ball lands within 100 feet of one, and an adult gets it, that they should immediately hand it to them. For a lot of people (adults included) they’ve never even come close to catching a ball. You know they have to be extremely excited when their moment of glory finally comes, and they get a ball. Why should they be required to hand over their souvenir?

Remember last season when the kid reached in front of the younger kid and snatched the baseball, only to return it back to the smaller kid moments later? Well, he was rewarded with tons of stuff. I guarantee you that the adult that came up with the ball last night would’ve recieved zip if he had of done the same. Why is that? What makes kids so much better than fully grown men? It baffles me.

I’ve never been lucky enough to get a baseball at a game. I’m sure I could easily get one if I tried hard enough, but for now I’m content with just sitting there observing. However, if that day in which I finally get a baseball comes in June, in Cincinnati, or 15 years down the road, I’m not going to hand the ball over to a kid; unless it’s my own. I don’t see why I should.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to sound like a kid hater. I’m not by any means. (I have 4 cousins between the ages of 6 and 12, and I love them to death.) I’m simply saying that there is something wrong if you’re expected to hand over a baseball, or face being booed by thousands of people. It’s just a baseball.

I’ll admit, I’ve witnessed (in person) people tackle little kids for baseballs and keep them for themselves, but that guy last night did absolutely NOTHING wrong. Had he of tackled the kid, or snatched the ball from him I’d be bashing him like everyone else. But from my point of view, he was just doing what any person would do. He was just a fan, fulfilling the dream of any baseball fan: Catching a ball at a Major League Baseball game.

UPDATE

I’m aware of the more recent incident in Miami, and I still stand with my original thoughts on the matter. While it looked like the grown man took the ball from the girl, it actually appears to me that the ball would’ve been caught by the boy WITH THE GLOVE anyway. Whatever the case, for all we know, it might be the first ball that guy has EVER gotten. He shouldn’t be critisized just because of his age and size.

Please leave a comment with your opinion of the whole situation. Whichever side you’re on, I want to see what you (the reader) has to say.

Most Recent MLB Related Things On My Mind

For once I’m not using an entry to get caught up on the things that I’ve failed to blog about. There really hasn’t been much for me to write about since the last time I blogged. The three things that I’m going to discuss in this entry are things that have happened very recently in baseball, and I just want to get my personal opinion out there.

Please leave a comment if you have anything further you’d like to say about the topics being discussed.

ALBERT PUJOLS’ HOME RUN DROUGHT

Albert Pujols homered 37 times in 579 at bats last season. That’s once every 15.6 at bats, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll round it up to 16. So far this year Pujols has had 45 at bats, and has hit a grand total of zero home runs. If you go by last year’s trend of 1 homer per 16 at bats, he should have 2-3 home runs already. So what’s going on?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Albert physically, nor do I feel it’s the mental emotion of being with a new team. In my personal opinion, I just think it’s a streak of bad luck. Every player goes through a rough patch from time to time. It’s just that Pujols has had so few in his career that when a long streak of bad luck like this hits him, it’s big news.

Now I’m not saying that Pujols will get his first home run this week or even this month, but I am saying that he won’t end the season still stuck at zero home runs. For a guy like him, once he gets that first one past him, the pressure will be gone, and he’ll become the old Pujols that the Angels were looking for when they shelled out big money for him.

One thing’s for sure. If Albert Pujols wants to keep of his steak of at least 30 home runs in every season of his career, he needs to figure things out, and start getting hot.

JAMIE MOYER WINS AT AGE 49

Jamie Moyer made his start last night against the Padres with the hopes of becoming the oldest pitcher in MLB history to win a regular season game. He would achieve his goal, as although he never even reached 80 miles per hour on the gun, he was still able to have a successful outing and record the win at age 49 and 150 days.

To record a win in a MLB game at age 49 is truly incredible. To give you an idea of how long Moyer has been playing, the starting pitcher for the Padres, Anthony Bass, was born a year after Moyer’s debut. Pretty insane if you think about it.

The oldest pitcher to ever play in a MLB game was Satchel Paige at age 59, though he didn’t record the win.

JOHNNY DAMON MAKES IT OFFICIAL

I talked about the Damon deal a little while ago, but now that he’s officially an Indian I thought I’d bring it up again.

Damon joins the Indians just 277 hits shy of 3,000 for his career. If he hopes to reach the milestone he’ll have to play at least one more season longer that his 1-year 1.25 million dollar contract from the Indians. It’s unclear as to whether or not he plans to do that, as he has to make it through this season first.

The plan for Damon is for him to continue working out at the Indians’ spring training facility in Arizona. He’s then expected to join the Triple-A affiliate of the Indians (the Columbous Clippers) for a short while, before joining the Indians up in Ohio in early May.

It should be interesting to see if Damon still has the ability to help his team win. According to Damon, that’s his main goal for the year, as he made the following statement after signing:

My track record shows that I play hard and I play to win. That’s why I’ve helped teams win championships, and I’ve helped some teams that aren’t so good be better…I play for the organization, not for myself.

I hope things work out between Johnny Damon and the Cleveland Indians. Damon can be a really exciting player to watch when he’s performing well.

Fastest and Slowest Starts to the 2012 MLB Season

I realize that we’re JUST over a week into the 2012 MLB season, but I just thought I’d post an entry with the teams and players that are off to the best and worst starts in all of baseball. Some of the names on the lists are no surpise, however there a few that really stand out to me. I never expected the year to begin the way it has for certain players, and certain teams.

FASTEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Dodgers: 7-1

2) Nationals: 6-2

3) Rangers: 6-2

4) Diamondbacks: 5-2

5) Mets: 5-2

6) Tigers: 5-2

The Dodgers are a team that is better than advertised. They have a great lineup, including guys like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and speedy Dee Gordon, as well as an underated starting rotation. While it’s well known that Clayton Kershaw is the Dodger’s Ace, other guys are beginning to step it up, none more than Aaron Harang, who struck out 9 in a row (a new Dodgers record) in last night’s game against the Padres.

The only other teams on the list that are a surprise to me are the Nationals and the Mets. While the National’s are a team that I feel is going to be extremely good in a couple of years, I never saw them having this kind of start to the season. As far as the Mets go, they continue to amaze me.

Individual players:

1) Paul Konerko: .435 average

2) Ryan Sweeney: .429 average

3) Matt Kemp: .419 average

4) Josh Willingham: .417 average

5) Miguel Cabrera: .414 average

Paul Konerko is off to an unbelievable start. He’s really swinging the bat well, and while it’s still early, I think he can keep it up. Now I’m not saying he’s going to end the year with a batting average exceeding .400, but I am saying that I think he’ll continue to rack up hits. Ryan Sweeney is another guy who’s really impressed me so far this season. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up, or if it’s a little bit of early luck. Matt Kemp, Josh Willingham and Miguel Cabrera are all guys that I fully expected to do well this season. So there’s no real shock for the number 3 through 5 guys on the list.

SLOWEST STARTS

Teams:

1) Padres: 2-6

2) Red Sox: 2-5

3) Twins: 2-5

4) Angels: 2-5

5) Pirates: 2-5

The San Diego Padres are a team that I was hoping/thinking would have a decent season this year, but so far, they’re proving to be the same team from last year. The thing that gets me with the Padres is that they have a fantastic starting lineup, including guys like Cameron Maybin, Orlando Hudson and newcomer Yonder Alonso, as well as a decent pitching rotation, but it seems like they can only get one or the other to perform well on any given night. If they can figure out a way to have both their pitching and hitting come through at the same time they can be a really good team.

The Red Sox are another team that I thought would have a better year than they’re having. After starting out 0-6 last year, I thought they’d have a bounce back year, but their current record of 2-5 isn’t living up to expectations, and I don’t see things getting any better for them. Jacoby Ellsbury was injured in yesterday’s game while sliding into second base. He is expected to miss a minimum of 6 weeks. Not good news for Red Sox fans.

Of the remaining teams on the list, the Angels are the only team that surprises me. With the addition of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels were predicted by many to dominate their division. So far the only dominant aspect of their games has been the other team. I look for things to turn around for them, however, once King Albert starts getting hot.

Individual players:

1) Ike Davis: .043

2) Neil Walker: .048

3) Marlon Byrd: .083

4) J.P. Arencibia: .083

5) Ryan Raburn: .091

*Minimum of 20 at bats.

There’s really no one on this list that stands out in my mind. All of them are players that perform differently from year to year. While I don’t see them getting hot and working their average up to the .300 mark any time soon, I also don’t see their streak of bad luck continuing. They’ll all bounce back.

Like I said several times, I realize that it’s still VERY early in the season. Over 150 games still remain, and things will no doubt look a lot different for both the teams and players on the above lists. Teams and players that are off to fast starts now could hit a wall and end up having a terrible year, and just the opposite for those off to a slow start. That’s why they play 162 games.