There has been much debate over the Seahawks continuing to go for the end zone against the Arizona Cardinals, even being up 51-0 in the 4th quarter.
What are your thoughts?
*This is the second in a series of 7 posts revealing my predictions in 2012 for each division as well as award winners and the postseason.
In 2011, St. Louis shocked the baseball world and won the last game of the season. Can they repeat? The 2012 NL central should be interesting as there are 2 legitimate threats (St. Louis and Cincinnati) as well as a dark horse in Milwaukee. Each of those teams will face the Pirates, Astros, and Cubs 18 times a year, which will help boost each of their records. A big question in this division is how will the loss of Pujols and Fielder affect their former clubs? Also, will the reds acquisitions be enough to push them over the top? Here is my preview of the NL Central.
1. Cincinnati Reds (projected record: 89-73)
In 2010, the Reds won the NL Central. In 2011, the Reds managed to win just 79 games. Will 2012 be more like 2010 or 2011? The Reds appear to be a better team than they were in 2011. They were able to add 3 key players in Ryan Madson, Sean Marshall, and Mat Latos. Cueto and Latos form a very good 1-2 with bailey, a potential 2012 breakout player at no. 3. Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo fill out the rotation. This is a young(sans arroyo) and potential-laden rotation that could be among the best in the majors. The bullpen is also really good. Marshall and Madson form what could arguably be one of the best relief duos in 2012. Other relievers such as Nick Masset or Jose Arredondo, provide solid depth to a good ‘pen. The Reds’ offense also has the potential to be among the league’s best. We’ll start with catcher where Ryan Hanigan will likely begin the year at catcher. Top prospect Devin Mesoraco should be up mid-season and could be a potential ROY candidate. At first base they have a mvp candidate in Joey Votto. Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen fill out 2nd and 3rd base respectively. The Reds also should get a full season out of Zack Cozart at short. He has the potential to display solid defense with average speed and power. Heisy covers left, while Stubbs will cover center in what could be a breakout year. Jay Bruce, who has flashed enormous potential since coming up in 2008, will man right and could be poised for an MVP type season.
Bottom Line: The Cardinals and Reds are neck and neck, but I think 2012 will be the year the Reds take the central.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (projected record: 88-74)
The Cardinals and Reds are so close that I think the Reds will win the division by just one game in 2012. The Cardinals come into 2012 without their legend and face of the franchise, Albert Pujols. To potentially offset the loss of Pujols, the cards signed free agent Carlos Beltran who should produce roughly half of the WAR Pujols (3.0 vs. 6.0) would put up. Adam Wainwright will also be rejoining an already solid rotation. I expect nice seasons from Wainwright and Garcia as well as Holliday, Freese and Beltran on offense. The team does have its questions though. How will Wainwright fair after 14 months of recovery from Tommy John surgery? Will Carpenter, Beltran, and Berkman be able to fight through their ages and post solid seasons? New manager, Mike Matheny, will also face many questions as he has had no prior managerial experience. All in all I think the Cards are set up for a good 2012 and will contend with the Reds for the top spot in the division.
Bottom Line: If you wanted to pick the Cardinals over the Reds in 2012, I would have no problem with that. That is how close these team are. I think the Cards will fall just short of the division crown, but a Wild Card berth is a strong possibility
3. Milwaukee Brewers (projected record: 84-78)
The division winner in 2011, the Brewers will be without one of their best players (Fielder) from last year and could lose Braun for 50 games as well. This dampens their postseason chances for 2012. They still have a decent offense but there are glaring holes at first base and shortstop. Their pitching staff is pretty good with K-Rod and Axford leading the ‘pen and Grienke, Gallardo, Marcum, and Wolf anchoring the rotation. I would think they would win an extra 2-3 games if Braun does not get suspended.
Bottom Line: The Brewers are still a contender, but the loss of their 2 best players and some glaring holes should hinder their chance at the division. The wild card is not out of the question though.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (projected record: 77-85)
Before falling off in August, the Pirates were actually somewhat of a contender in 2011. I expect the Pirates to be slightly better in 2012, but still not a contender. With the addition of AJ Burnett, the rotation is actually fairly deep. Although nobody stands out, they have 6 guys worthy of a starting spot in Burnett, McDonald, Bedard, Karstens, Morton, and Correia. Their bullpen, led by Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan, is solid. On offense, aside from McCutchen, they lack a stable force. Pedro Alvarez is a major question mark. He could be a 25+ hr bat or he could be the -1.4 WAR bat he was last season. If Alvarez breaks through, I’d feel comfortable adding another win or two here.
Bottom Line: The Pirates aren’t good enough to truly contend, but I expect them to avoid the cellar in 2012.
5. Chicago Cubs (projected record: 72-90)
The Cubs have not been to the postseason since 2008, and that likely wont change in 2012. There is some hope for the future though, with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and company occupying the front office. First year manager, Dale Sveum, will lead a team in transition. The Cubs are a team with pricy veterans (Soriano, Dempster, Garza) and young talent (Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, etc.). The rotation is led by Dempster, Garza and Randy Wells. A solid trio but nothing to write home about. Maholm and Volstad make up the final two spots. The offense is made up of mostly average to slightly above average regulars. With Starlin Castro being the exception. Something to watch on the cubs this year is how guys like Josh Vitters, Anthony Rizzo, and Brett Jackson develop as the year goes on.
Bottom Line: Don’t expect much out of the Cubs in 2012, but the future is bright in Chicago
6. Houston Astros (projected record: 61-101)
Oh boy, its gonna be another rough season in Houston. On offense, an aging Carlos Lee will be anchoring a lineup made up of mostly youngsters. Most of these guys are not a part of Houston’s long-term plan, but there are a few to watch out for. Brett Wallace, Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie, and JD Martinez each at least have a chance to be first division regulars. The pitching is a little bit better. Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers anchor the rotation, but both are on the wrong side of thirty and could be traded at any moment. The Astros 3rd starter, Bud Norris, does have potential. He has already shown he can be a productive big league starter, but I think he can be even better. JA Happ and Jordan Lyles fill out the rest of the rotation. Happ is at best a 4th starter and had a very disappointing year last season. Lyles on the other hand, has the potential to be in the Astros’ long term plan. Lyles was rushed to the big leagues in 2011, but he is just 21 and is only a year removed from being named the no. 42 prospect in baseball by Baseball America.
Bottom Line: I expect another 100 loss season out of the Astros in 2012, but there is hope for the future with the arrival of Jeff Luhnow and company.
– Justin (@justinmillar1)
Over the last few months, one of the biggest questions in the NFL not dealing with the lockout is where will Philadelphia Eagles QB Kevin Kolb will end up? And, what is it going to cost? Let’s take a look at some likely options.
The Seahawks most likely won’t bring Matt Hasselbeck back. That leaves Charlie Whitehurst as the sole QB on the roster. Though I think it’s a decent possibility that Pete Carrol gives Charlie a shot at starting for the Seahawks, I thik it’s more of a possibility that he trades for a guy like Kolb or Carson Palmer.
The Cardinals are in the same position that the Seahawks are in. Larry Fitzgerald needs a top QB to throw him the ball. The Cardinals don’t want to waste any of his prime years and I think ultimately we will see the Cardinals acquire one of the big three guys on the market. McNabb, Palmer or Kolb. They aren’t going anywhere without one of those three guys.
Lets be honest here. The Raiders are always a player in a big trade or free agent signing. The Raider most likely won’t be getting Nmandi back. He’ll go sign elsewhere. The Raiders are going to need to make up for that and trading the first round pick that the Eagles want just may be an option for the Al Davis led Raiders.
An option is that he won’t go anywhere. The Eagles are asking for a first and third round pick for their former starter. That’s a pretty steep price to pay for a QB that didn’t even finish last season as the Eagles #1 QB.
Check out the forum to discuss this and much, much more.
The All Star break is here and with every team playing over half of their 162 games, it’s now the perfect time to look at the stats for the half season of games. After that, we can make up reasons why each winner deserves it over the guys that just barely lost out. So here we go!
I actually found the choice between Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista to be very difficult. Both players are at the top of the heap when it comes to talent as hitters is concerned. You just can’t avoid Bautista and his 7.2 WARP (Wins Above Replacement). Well, that and the fact he has 31 HR at the break to go with a crazy .334 BA. It’s just amazing to see him put up these kind of stats after what he did last year. Many readers and forum members thought he was a fluke and that he had no shot at reproducing the year he had in 2010. He’s actually doing even better than he did last season. That’s why Bautista is the AL MVP! P.S. Homerun Derbies don’t mean anything.
If you haven’t heard about Justin Verlander’s freakish performance as of late then you haven’t been following baseball at all. Verlander’s last 8 appearances have yielded only 6 runs for the opposing teams and have seen Verlander pitch at least 7 inning in each of those games. Verlander currently ranks 2nd in the AL in wins (11), 1st in strikeouts (138), 1st in innings pitched (143.1), and 2nd in complete games (4). Verlander was scheduled to make an appearance at the all star game but was instead replaced by….
Michael Pineda was brought in to start for the Mariners straight out of Spring Training and he has proven to be a legitimate ace in the future, if not already. Pitching in the shadow of King Felix and in the relatively media starved northwest, Pineda has been allowed to pitch without much attention. The local Seattle fans and opposing teams are quickly learning that Pineda could very well already form the best 1-2 punch in all of baseball. Pineda pitched today against the Angels and was crushed for 7 earned runs but his numbers are still very impressive. An 8-6 record, even with the leagues worst offense and an ERA just recently elevated above 3 to 3.03 on top of 113 strikeouts and a BAA of .198 make him an easy selection for AL ROTY. Congrats to Pineda for making the all star team in his rookie season.
The fact of the matter is that if anyone outside of maybe Cleveland, had they you that the Indians were going to be any sort of contender this season, they were either lying to you and themselves or were talking about contending for the #1 pick in the 2012 draft. At 47-42 the Indians are only half a game away from the Tigers for the lead in the AL Central and in large part Manny Acta is to thank. We’ll have to wait and see if the Indians can keep up the momentum or if they fill fizzle over the second half.
Lance Berkman was a player I thought my team should have tried desperately to sign in the offseason. Well, they didn’t and now they have the worst offense in all of baseball. Meanwhile, Berkman has 24 HR and is hitting .290. That’s two of any other hitters combined for my squad. Yes… I’m bitter. Berkman may not be too popular of a selection here but without him, the Cardinals, who had to deal with Superman Albert Pujols starting the season off cold would not be tied for the lead in the NL Central if it wasn’t for Mr. Berkman here putting up the surprising numbers he has.
Jair Jurrjens is the NL leader in Wins (12) and is fourth in CG. Throw in his ERA of 1.87 and you have an ace that deserves the half season NL Cy Young award. Braves fans should also be optimistic about Jurrjens keeping these stats up over the second half of the season. In his last 10 starts he has only gone over 100 pitches four times. His arm should hold up the entire season and allow the Braves to keep up with the Phillies and at least keep their grasp on the wild card.
Craig Kimbrel has amassed 27 saves in 32 chances while pitching as the closer for the Atlanta Braves. Not only that but he is 23 years old and has an ERA of 2.35. Not only that but he has a whopping 70 strikeouts in only 46 IP. Not only that be he also just has 18 BB in those 46 innings. Not only that…. ok that’s enough of that. Kimbrel is a solid candidate for the NL ROTY. When you have a gun like Kimbrel, opposing hitters almost have no shot, especially when they only see you once a game.
Who saw this coming? I mean, the Pirates? Seriously? The Pirates haven’t been contenders since they had those silly hats and Willie Stargell played for them at Three Rivers Stadium. Clint Hurdle has done an amazing job in making the Pirates relevant again in baseball. Not only do they now have one of the best stadiums in the MLB but they also have a product that is worthy of playing in it. For the first time in a very long time the Pirates may be buyers at the deadline instead of their trademark selling of future talent.
So there you have it. The half season MLB award winners. If you have any questions, comments, gripes or complaints…. to bad. Or you can just voice them in the comments below or join our growing sports forum to debate about anything you could possibly want to debate.
With one month into the season (can’t believe I am saying that already) there have been numerous surprises: first and foremost the Cleveland Indians are at 21-9 while the White Sox, who signed A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, have the worst record in all of baseball.
Another huge surprise is Lance Berkman. Ideally one would think his best years are behind him but with the slow start Albert Pujols has gotten, it has become Berkman, not Pujols who has been the most feared player in that Caridnals lineup.
Which brings me to my next point: Josh Johnson. Originally I had picked Adam Wainwright for NL Cy Young winner but when he received Tommy John surgery I then switched over to JJ. So far so good but on Thursday, Berkman continued his hot streak with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday chiming in to rock Johnson for five runs.
With Troy Tulowitzki surpassing Hanley Ramirez as the best shortstop in baseball, Josh Johnson has given Marlins fans something to be excited about with Hanley cooling down. The two time All Star had a 0.88 ERA in April. Relax: it’s only one bad start. This kid is the real deal and the kind of start he has gotten off to is absolutely amazing. Eventually he will go back down to Earth, which is normal for every player in the big leagues; but rest assured: Josh Johnson will bounce back in his next start and he will win the NL Cy Young this season.