From “The Green Fields of the Mind”
* * *
From “The Green Fields of the Mind”
* * *
2010 record: 91-71, won wild card, lost division series to Giants
Biggest offseason acquisition: Dan Uggla, whose last name perfectly describes his powerful home run swing. And his fielding.
Biggest offseason loss: Closer Billy Wagner, now retired. Fuckin’ shocker.
How will the Braves deal with their first season without Bobby Cox since 1990?: Thanks to their talent and new manager Fredi Gonzalez, the team will be more than fine. I’d be more worried about Mrs. Cox.
Best name on 40-man roster: Jairo Asencio. You want white sauce and hot sauce with that?
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Scott Proctor, who still has something resembling a human arm left after working in a Joe Torre bullpen.
Spring standout: Brandon Beachy has pitched to a 1.13 ERA, assuring himself the fifth spot in the rotation and many dumb puns on his name from headline writers.
Probable Opening Day starter: Tim Hudson, who continues to piss me off for reasons I can’t quite articulate.
Biggest question for 2011: Can the Braves challenge the Phillies for the division title, and if so, will anyone in Atlanta notice?
Strengths: Good young bullpen, lack of crowds at playoff games lessens pressure
Weaknesses: Chipper Jones running out of creative ways to end his season
Semi-serious assessment: As you get older, your hates fade. The white-hot rage I once felt toward the Braves has dissipated almost entirely. It helps that only one figure from the 1990s/2000s team remains (LAAAAA-REEEEE). But it’s also due to them having a team of mostly-home-grown regulars like Brian McCann and Jason Heyward who are much harder to hate than Brian Jordan and Greg Maddux ever were. That extends to the bullpen, which contains a lot of great young arms like Craig Kimbrel and Chris Medlen, with not a John Rocker in the bunch (that I know of). I foresee another wild card in their future, and if the Phillies’ injury woes continue, a division title is not as insane an outcome as it looked this winter. But do humanity a favor and lose the Tomahawk Chop, wouldja?
2010 record: 75-87
Biggest offseason acquisition: Matt Garza, who, along with Carlos Zambrano, could give the Cubs the angriest 1-2 pitchers in baseball.
Biggest offseason loss: Tom Gorzellany, on purely technical grounds.
Is this the year that the Cubs…: Whatever you were going to say, no.
Best name on 40-man roster: Welington Castillo, Dominican duke.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Kerry Wood, whose presence here seems more weird than it should.
Spring standout: Last year’s star callup Starlin Castro has 12 RBIs and 4 home runs, which can only mean his untimely demise is imminent.
Probable Opening Day starter: I’m sure Zambrano has already made it abundantly clear to Mike Quade that he will start on Opening Day.
Biggest question for 2011: Has Alfonso Soriano been so underwhelming for so long he’s come all the way back around to being underrated?
Strengths: Idyllic ballpark with laissez faire attitude toward the wearing of shirts
Weaknesses: The oppressive weight of history
Semi-serious assessment: The Cubs are a little better than I first thought before taking a closer look at their lineup. Carlos Pena is a good fit for Wrigley, and Garza should fare well in the National League. I don’t know if it adds up to contending per se, but I think they’ll enjoy a solid season of not completely sucking.
2010 record: 65-97
Biggest offseason acquisition: Armando Galarraga, who will bring with him all the luck of a man who was denied a perfect game by an indecisive umpire.
Biggest offseason loss: Mark Reynolds. Now that he’s in the AL East, could he become the first man to strikeout 300 times in a season?
How can a team with this much talent perform as badly as it did last year?: With just the right amount of counterbalancing suck.
Best name on 40-man roster: Leyson Septimo, master of darkness!
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Take your pick. Melvin Mora, JJ Putz, Aaron Heilman, Xavier Nady, Mike Hampton…it’s like the bargain bin at the Ex-Mets Yard Sale.
Spring standout: In a typically Diamondback-esque performance, Justin Upton already has 7 RBIs, 3 homers–and 13 strikeouts.
Probable Opening Day starter: Ian Kennedy, presumably due to his ex-Yankee pedigree. It certainly ain’t for the 25 hits he’s given up in 17 innings pitched.
Biggest question for 2011: Is this the year Arizona’s young core makes the transition from promising to disappointing?
Strengths: Well-regarded GM, no actual snakes on premises
Weaknesses: Copious amount of strikeouts can cause brief cyclones
Semi-serious assessment: The “young” Diamondbacks are rapidly becoming middle aged, in baseball years anyway, with little to show for the promise shown way back in 2007. In fact, much of that “young” lineup has been whittled away, to where it’s essentially Upton and Chris Young. The pitching has disaster potential written all over it. It doesn’t take much to compete in this division, but the Diamondbacks don’t have it.
2010 record: 88-74
Biggest offseason acquisition: Adam Dunn, who hates the game of baseball so much he hits 40 home runs every year without fail.
Biggest offseason loss: Jake Peavey’s fleeting healthiness
What outrageous thing will Ozzie Guillen do this season?: To top previous incidents, it will have to involve farm animals.
Best name on 40-man roster: Jhonny Nunez, currently being sued by Jhonny Peralta for copyright infringement.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: Juan Pierre, who is apparently still considered employable.
Probable Opening Day starter: Mark Buehrle, who promises to get everyone back on the road in a lean 90 minutes.
Biggest question for 2011: How long can a team run counter to modern baseball thinking and still perform reasonably well?
Strengths: Lineup well suited to home ballpark, willingness to spend stupid money if needed
Weaknesses: Hawk Harrelson
Semi-serious assessment: The loss of Peavey (for however long that lasts) will hurt them, and after Buehrle the pitching staff is not fantastic. But they do have a pretty good bullpen, and a lineup that will hit many homers at their home ballpark (Dunn and Paul Konerko for starters). I would expect them, Detroit, and Minnesota to jockey for first place this summer.
2010 record: 80-82
Biggest offseason acquisition: The “s” in Kendrys Morales’ first name
Biggest offseason loss: Every free agent
Are we finally over joking about the whole “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” thing?: Not as long as sports writers confuse themselves with comedians.
Best name on 40-man roster: Loek Van Mil, one of the most overlooked of the Dutch Masters.
The That Guy’s on This Team? Award: The previously untradeable Vernon Wells.
Spring standout: Farmhand Mark Trumbo, with 5 homers and 13 RBIs this spring thus far. Scouts praise his batting skills but criticize him for his unwillingness to name names.
Probable Opening Day starter: Jered Weaver, who is this close to asking his brother Jeff to stop crashing on his couch and go get a real job.
Biggest question for 2011: Seriously, they traded for Vernon Wells?
Strengths: Good corps of starting pitchers, easy on/off to all highways
Weaknesses: No one wants to play in Orange County, apparently
Semi-serious assessment: The Angels suffered an almost Mets-ian string of freak injuries in 2010, the Kendry(s) Morales walkoff fiasco being the most infamous. For some reason, they could woo no free agent suitors to come to Anaheim, and so they traded for Wells and his insane contract. They’re already experiencing a string of bad luck this spring on the fronts of injuries (Morales, Joel Pineiro) and performance (Scott Kazmir). Their chances to improve on last year’s record remain slim.
Continue reading Scratchbomb’s Thoroughly Compromised 2011 MLB Preview: AL West