Sunday, April 26, 2009

So it’s that time of year, two weeks into the season, for my pre-season baseball predictions. It’s now a three year tradition, a tradition that shows I’m really not that good at prognostication. How do we know I’m not good at this? Simply because at the end of the season I will dig up this post and review it. After all, unlike mainstream media I believe you should be held accountable for what you say or type.

By the way, as I’m typing this I’m watching game 6 of the Caps / Rangers playoff series. There is nothing better, and I do mean NOTHING better, than playoff hockey. Oh wait, there is something better. That would be playoff OVERTIME hockey. Who knows if the game will go to overtime, but if it does - then there is nothing better to watch. It’s true what they say, every shift, every shot counts. So I ask you - find VS on your cable box and watch a playoff game.

Enough procrastinating. Time for the predictions. As always, these are totally random with no rhyme or reason. I won’t predict Cy Youngs or World Series winners. If you need that go out and look online. There are people better qualified doing that, already.

Here we go:

Prediction Number One: No one will hit 50 Home Runs this year.

I wouldn’t say I’m going out on a limb here. After all, no one hit 50 last year. Heck Miguel Cabrara led the American League with only 37 last year. It was the first time since 2004 that no one in either league reached the 50 HR plateau.

I’m sure that the new steroid policy has something to do with it, but I think we’re seeing a return to the age of pitching. From Tim Lincecum to Johan Santana to James Shields and Jon Lester, both leagues are littered with talented young arms. Baseball is nothing if not cyclical. The era of the long ball seems to be in a decline and part of the reason may be teams focusing more on pitching and defense, because, as the Rays proved, you can make it pretty far for pretty cheap when you focus on those two things.

I happen to wholeheartedly approve of this trend. To me, the real game of baseball isn’t a three run home run, but a perfectly executed hit and run or a pitcher painting the black for a called third strike. I’d rather have a shortstop on my team that can catch 99% of the ground balls hit to him. Than one with stone hands that hits 37 home runs. That’s why I don’t mind the fact that the O’s traded Tejada last year and have relatively light hitting Cesar Izturis manning the position this year.

Prediction Number Two: CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett will both spend time on the DL this season.

Again, I like to keep things simple. Burnett is almost a no-brainer. In 2006 and 2007 he made a total of 4 trips to the DL and has had major injuries to both his elbow and shoulder. In 2008 (a contract year), he logged the most innings of his career (221.1). While some might say that means he’s “learned to stay healthy” I think it’s going to lead to problems this season.

Sabathia, is another story. He is a workhorse, never making less than 28 starts in his career, and throwing more than 200 innings three times in his career including an outstanding 253 innings last year. He hasn’t been on the DL since suffering an oblique stain in 2006.

That’s the good news, the bad news is that it’s about time for mother nature to catch up with him. He’ll turn 29 this year and the weight he carries has to start wearing on his arm sooner or later. He is generously listed at 290 pounds on, but visual evidence says he is easily over 300lbs. Pitching in Yankee Stadium is going to be a little more pressure packed than Cleveland or Milwaukee. If he pushes himself harder (especially after his slow start) it wouldn’t be surprising to see him start to develop arm problems.

Of course none of that is going to matter for the Yankees if they don’t figure out what’s wrong with Chien Ming Wang.

Prediction Number 3: Someone is going to lay a beating on Josh Beckett

He managed to not miss a start after throwing at Bobby Abreu. Red Sox apologists can object all they want, but there is no doubt where that pitch was heading. He’s starting to spout a Roger Clemens-Lite attitude on the mound and sooner or later he’s going to buzz the wrong hitter and a melee will breakout and he’s going to be at the bottom of the pile with someone poking him in the eye and pulling his hair.

Prediction Number 4: Someone on the field is going to be hurt badly by a broken bat.

It’s only a matter of time. According to an article on Major League baseball collected more than 1700 broken bats from major league games from July 2nd to the date the article was published (September 8th). That’s in less than ½ season!

The league needs to do something about this before a 3rd baseman has to field a ground ball with the barrel of a bat jammed into his neck. I’m not going to say I have a solution, but something has to be done. Surely there should be some testing into a synthetic material that has the properties of a wooden bat without the shattering that is occurring. After all, we can put a man on the moon, someone should be able to come up with this, right?

Oddly enough, as I was writing this article and looking up the above link I saw another story in which umpire Kerwin Danley suffered a concussion in last weeks’ Rangers / Blue Jays game when a shattered bat from Hank Blaylock struck him directly in the face mask. Several other links could be found talking about fans getting hit as well. However, it seems this is going to sit on the back burner until a player gets seriously harmed.

Let me offer a bit of an extreme comparison. I live on the Gulf Coast of Florida which means I don’t go more than a week or two about reading in the paper about a missing boater. Usually, it’s contained to an article 3 or 4 paragraphs long in the local section. Every once in a while there will be a follow up story about the boaters being found or the boat being found, but it’s usually not something that makes the actual newscasts.

Flash back to the end of February when NFL players Marquis Cooper, Will Bleakley, Corey Smith and Nick Schuyler went missing after launching from the Seminole Boat Ramp (which is about 5 miles from my palatial estates). All of sudden experts were sprouting up every where analyzing why this had happened, what they should have done differently, or how the search should have been conducted. Somber newscasters updated us every hour on the hour. Hundreds of people took to their own boats to find the missing boaters.

That’s all well and good, but why does it only get coverage when it’s someone quaso-famous? Why doesn’t the disappearance of a hard working family man warrant the same type of coverage? I feel it’s the same with the broken bat epidemic. As long as it’s an anonymous fan or umpire getting hurt no one will care.

However, should it happen to David Wright or Evan Longoria all hell is going to break loose. So why not dedicate the resources to it now. The players union and the owners should contribute equal amounts to something more than a random task force to find a solution.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and come up with at least one random team prediction. The team coming out of the NL West - San Francisco Giants. Other than the fact that I like their pitching I have absolutely no reason to believe why this should happen.

Tomorrow I may post some Rays specific predictions from my esteemed co-worker - Work Mike.

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