It was a glorious weekend with the return of baseball. The story lines are numerous and intriguing. We saw statements, trends, historic HRs, a triple play, stellar pitching, and April defense. It was the beginning of the answers to all the pre-season questions, some of which will take a full 162 to answer.
Reds will wave another pennant. We’ll focus our analysis on the 3 win and 3 loss teams, discussing which streaks will become trends and which were flukes. Let’s start in the NL central, where the Reds made the boldest statement of the weekend. The Reds were the favorite to repeat, until Milwaukee procured the two best arms that no one ever heard of (Marcum and Greinke). Along with Gallardo, they have the potential to put up some great ERA numbers … that is, if their bullpen never has to pitch.
And that’s what did in the Brewers in Game 1, when the comeback Reds scored 4 in the 9th. The bullpen also couldn’t put out the fire in a 12-3 debacle yesterday. The Reds drew important first blood against the Brewers, taking advantage of the early injury to Greinke. They batted .350 in the three game set, with an OPS of 1.053. The Reds are balanced, they have experience and youth, heart and a chip on their shoulder, and they’ve got endless offensive talent. The Brewers will make a run later in the year, but the Reds will secure their second straight pennant.
The Phearsome Phoursome notch their first of many sweeps. The Phillies showed why they are going to be so tough at times this year. If you’ve ever played fantasy baseball, you know that Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt have gone entire months without losing a game (I’ll check that fact when I’m finished with the blog). What’s going to happen when they do that once in the same month, FOR THE SAME TEAM? The Phillies will struggle at times this year, the Braves might even have a winning record against them this year, and the WS is far from a lock for them. But they are going to be a nightmare when the mediocre teams of the NL come into Philly. The Phillies will win the NL East by taking care of business like they did this weekend. The most impressive stat of the weekend: the big three went 23-1, k’s to walk ratio.
No repeat for the Giants in 2011. I will expand this thought in a scathing, eye-opening, much-anticipated post later on (this week if I get my taxes done). Their young arms and bats make them a sexy pick by analysts, but don’t be fooled. Without some major patchwork later in the year, their youth, defense, and offense will be too much for them to overcome. Their “lightning in a bottle” run to the championship last year made believers out of a nation, but they cannot defy the simple laws of physics for much longer. By that I mean- they are exceptionally slow and/or woefully clumsy at more than half of their defensive positions (LF, RF, SS, 3B, 2B, C). The theory goes, pitching and defense wins championships. Without some SIGNIFICANT mid-season moves, they’ve only got half that formula right. Much more to say on this in an upcoming post.
What this weekend in Chavez Ravine showed us was that the Giants now have a target on their back. The Dodgers and Padres are MAD, and they are going to come after the Giants all year. They may seize firm control of that division in a couple of years, but they’ll be too young to handle the huge target on their back. That’s not a very good Dodger team that handled them this weekend.
Buck’s got the moxie in Baltimore. In case you didn’t think Showalter could manage, check out the 4-0 Orioles at the top of the AL East. He’s got that town believing, and that’s a great thing for baseball. They are still two years away from contending, but they are laying a great foundation right now. The Orioles will end up in the basement, but they’ll be much peskier than they were last year, and they could make the difference in the playoff race by spoiling the Yankees party with a late sweep.
Angels’ got issues. A team that normally prides themselves on pitching has Jared Weaver as their Opening Day starter. That’s really going to hurt when their division rival Rangers come into town. But he was the one bright spot from a weekend debacle against the lowly Royals. It’s going to be a long season in LA.
The Rays head into uncharted territory- the middle of the pack. They used to be horrible, then they shocked the best division in baseball. They will finally settle in the middle. Their’s too much speed and young talent on the team to envision a return to the cellar, but Yankees and Red Sox have adjusted to Maddon-ball. The plus-side, more time for local hero Elliot Johnson.
The Rangers are for REAAAALLLLL! And they have an offense that you do not understand! It’s already been historic with leadoff and perpetual homers. Their offense somehow got better in the off-season. What’s going to happen when Hamilton gets hot?!
Don’t worry, Boston. The Red Sox got ambushed in Texas, but they’ll come around. Too much talent, too much pride, and they added a 40-120 guy and a 20-50 guy. The Yankees will win the pennant, but the Red Sox will have seven games to knock them out … if the Rangers don’t get to them first.
So, half the division winners are already on top, but that doesn’t include Baltimore and Kansas city. But we’ve got another 159 to let it all shake out. Glad to have baseball back!
Feel free to post a comment, I know you’ve got some thoughts on these highly speculative early season blogs.