Archive for October 2009

ALCS Preview

October 16, 2009

Tonight in the Bronx, the ALCS gets underway featuring the clear cut top two seeds in the American League, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Not that past performances are any clear indication of future results but these two teams have met twice before in the playoffs with the Angels emerging victorious both times in 2002 and 2005. 

The Yankees have ran through the American League this season like a hot knife through butter.  However since 2002 the Angels are the only team with a winning record against the Bronx Bombers.  This is clearly the best match up that the AL can offer so lets break down the important components.

Lets start with the offense.    The Yankees pack a huge punch to say the least with seven of their nine starting hitters topping the 20 home run mark.  Their first baseman and former Angel Mark Teixeira lead the way with 39 home runs and 122 RBI.  The always dangerous Alex Rodriguez hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs despite missing 38 games.  Rodriguez is heating up at the right time after hitting .455 with 2 HR and 6 RBI in the divisional series against Minnesota.  The Yankees are loaded with power featuring seven players that are slugging at .489 or higher.  The Yankees have no easy outs and are a routine nighmare for opposing pitchers.

While the Yankees rely on the long ball, the Angels play more of a national league style of baseball relying on speed and a station to station style of offense.  Their leadoff hitter Figgins stole 42 bases while number two hitter Bobby Abreu stole 30 bases.  Four more Angels players stole 10 or more bases this season.  The Angels mix in a nice balance of power and speed.  Kendry Morales who replace Teixeira at first base lead the Angels with 34 home runs.  Morales and Abreu each topped the 100 RBI mark while Hunter finished with 90 RBI despite playing in only 119 games this season.  Vladimir Guerrero proved in the ALDS that he is still a dangerous hitter while Juan Rivera is also a long ball threat.  Despite the fact that both teams feature dangerous line ups, I give the advantage to the Yankees based on their strength at the bottom of their line up.

As for the starting pitching the Yankees will go with a three man rotation that features 19 game winner CC Sabathia, the proven playoff veteran Andy Pettitte and the always dangerous AJ Burnett.  Sabathia and Burnett were big offseason free agent signings that have proven their worth under baseball’s biggest October stage thus far.  Sabathia would be starting on three days rest in game four and has shown signs of eventually breaking down just as he did with Milwaukee in last years postseason.

The Angels have a deeper starting staff with four pitchers who could possibly start in this series with Jon Lackey, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir who was acquired from Tampa Bay in August.  I think this factor will serve the Angels well and the depth will keep their starters fresh as the series goes on.  Because of that I give the starting pitching advantage to the Angels.

As for the bullpens, the Angels closer Brian Fuentes lead the major leagues with 48 saves.  Despite that stat, he has been far from consistent and has shown signs of wear and tear with his ERA a full run higher in the second half of the seaason.  Darren Oliver is a solid set up man who looked good in the ALDS. 

The Yankees feature the arguably the best closer in the game in Mariano Rivera who at the age of 39 finished with 44 saves and a 1.76 ERA.  The Yankees have plenty of capable of middle relievers who can get him the ball in the ninth inning led by youngsters Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain.   Because of Rivera and their depth I give the edge to the Yankees.

As for the benches the Angels have plenty of depth with utility infielder Maicer Izturis, back up catcher Mike Napoli and fourth outfielder Gary Matthews Jr.  Yankees back up catcher Jose Molina will catch AJ Burnett and Brett Gardner can provide plenty of speed in key situations.  I give the advantage to the Angels.

This is going to be a hard fought series and could be even better than the World Series.  The Angels will have to get production from their 7-9 hitters to be successful while the Yankees middle relief will face its biggest test to date.  If any team can beat the Yankees, its the Angels.  They are one of the few teams that have a confidence and swagger about them when facing the Yankees.  That being said, I just believe that the Yankees are rolling on all cylinders both offensively and defensively.  My gut tells me that this is their year to once again win it all.

My prediction is Yankees in seven.

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NLCS Preview

October 15, 2009

Tonight in Chavez Ravine two familiar foes get ready to battle it out for the National League’s ultimate prize, a trip to the World Series.  Last year the Philadelphia Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers  met in the National League Championship Series with the Phillies emerging victorious in five games.

In last years series Cole Hamels and the Phillies pitching staff shut down the Dodgers en route to eventually winning the World Series.  This year the Dodgers pitching staff will have to be up to the task in order to reverse the results.

This years Dodger lineup is very balanced with Matt Kemp, Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier amongst the many who can beat you on any given night.  For the Dodgers to greatly increase their chances of victory, they’ll need lead off man Rafael Furcal to continue to get on base as well as RBI’s from the bat of first baseman James Loney.  Philadelphia has a very potent lineup of their own lead by slugger Ryan Howard who smacked 45 home runs and drove in 145 runs.  Providing a strong supporting cast for Howard are Chase Utley, Jayson Werth and Raul Ibanez who each topped the 30 home run mark.   The key for the Phillies offense will be the production of former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino.  Victorino was a big key to the Phillies success last year against the Dodgers. 

Los Angeles topped the NL in batting average with a .270 mark while Philadelphia finished .258 which was good enough for eighth in the league.  This tells me that Philadelphia is a very streaky team that could run into trouble at any given time.  Because of their balance one through nine I give the offensive advantage to the Dodgers. 

Pitching wise Philadelphia tends to have the better arms on paper led by former AL Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee.  Lee is 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA since coming over from Cleveland in July.  The key to the Philadelphia staff is Hamels who has been less than impressive all-year long.  If he can recapture any of the form that made him so effective in last years postseason, the Dodgers are in for a long series.  Joe Blanton had a good second half of the season while J.A. Happ has emerged from the shadows to finish his first full big league season with a 12-4 record to go along with a 2.93 ERA. 

The Dodgers pitching has been a question mark all season with Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw both performing below expectations at times during the season.  However Kershaw has heated up as of late.  His performance in Game two of the NLDS was a huge key to the Dodgers eliminating the Cardinals.  Randy Wolf emerged as the unexpected “ace” down the stretch providing a steady hand when the team has needed it most.  I look for him to do the same this series.  I give the slight pitching advantage to Philadelphia.

As for relief pitchers, the Dodgers acquisition of George Sherrill from Baltimore  at the trade deadline has provided their bullpen with great depth and gives them a great 1-2 punch in the eighth and ninth innings.  Ryan Madson has been solid for Philadelphia all season long with a 3.26 ERA while Brad Lidge has been shaky to say the least.  Because of the inconsistency of Lidge I will give the advantage to the Dodgers.

As for the benches, the Dodgers are loaded with guys like Juan Pierre, Orlando Hudson, Mark Loretta, Juan Castro.  All of these guys are capable of providing production in the late innings or starting games without the Dodgers skipping a beat.  Pierre was a huge reason for the Dodgers success while Ramirez was serving his 50 game suspension.  He completely changes the Dodgers dynamic by providing them with a second lead off man who can steal bases.  Loretta provided the game winning hit in game two of the NLDS.  Let us also not forget about Jim Thome who has 564 career home runs and is capable of breaking out of his pinch hitting slump at any moment.  The Phillies still have last years Dodger killer Matt Stairs as their primary pinch hitter who lead the majors this year with five pinch hit home runs.  Accompanying Stairs off the bench is fourth outfielder Ben Francisco who hit .278 after arriving in Philadelphia in the July Cliff Lee trade.  Due to sheer volume of solid bench guys, I give the advantage to the Dodgers.

My prediction:  Dodgers in six games

A Few Thoughts

October 6, 2009

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been in the clubhouse so I figured it was time to step back in.  With the MLB playoffs beginning Wednesday, the new NHL season upon us, the NFL season a month old and the NBA season just on the horizon there are many things to be excited about as a sports fan.  Typically I write on one subject but with so much going on I’m going to touch on a few things.  Lets get to it.

As I write this, I’m watching the AL Central Tiebreaker playoff game between the Detroit Tigers and the Minnesota Twins.  The Tigers come into this contest having choked away a seven game lead with 26 to play while the Twins have arrived to this point with all the momentum.  I would take the time to break this down and give you my “in depth” analysis that all of you have come to know and love but I’ll save you the trouble.  Regardless of who wins this game, the Yankess are going to promptly dispatch them right out of the playoffs with what is sure to be a downright thorough butt kicking. 

The American League’s other playoff matchup between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim should be a much more compelling way to spend your playoff viewing time.  It seems as though every year these two teams are battling it out in October.  Every year the result has always been the same with the Red Sox emerging victorious.  I know the recent play of both teams should point to a halo victory this year but an argument could have been made for that to happen last year or the year before that or the year before that, etc.  While I’m rooting for a different result I am having a hard time envisioning how that will happen and once again I see Boston advancing to LCS play.  I need to see something happen for me to believe it can happen again and until the Angels defeat the Red Sox in October I have no reason to pick them.  That being said, go Angels!  Please prove me wrong. 

As for the National League matchups, I am picking the Cardinals to defeat the Dodgers and the Phillies to get passed the Rockies.  St. Louis clearly has an advantage over the Dodgers in the pitching department with the two headed monster of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.  Combine that with the fact, St. Louis owns the Dodgers in recent years even when they don’t have two pitchers with at least 17 wins and its hard to envision the Dodgers getting past the first round.  Just like with the Angels, I am begging the Dodgers to prove me wrong.

As for the Rockies, I just don’t think they have enough to get by the defending champions.  The Phillies have the pitching and a line up that is as dangerous as any in the game.  As for the Rockies, they showed a lot of heart to get to this point.  They took the Dodgers down to the wire in the NL West race and had to stay sharp to hold off a surging Atlanta Braves team in the wild card race.  I think the Rockies are out of gas and simply don’t have enough to defeat the Phillies. 

As a Raiders fan, I have seen many ups and downs (mostly downs in the past 20 years) but this next sentence should sum up just how down things are for the silver and black.  Since going to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2002 season the Raiders are 25-75 in their last 100 regular season games.  That’s not a typo.  The Raiders have won only 25 percent of their games in recent years.  Not even the lousy Lions who were 0-16 last season can lay claim to that   How Raider fans can not be outraged by winning only 25 of their last 100 regular season games is beyond me.  I don’t want to get into it too much with my feelings about the Raiders.  Lets just say I’m very frustrated and near the end of my rope with this laughing stock of a franchise.  If you want to know more about my feeling’s click here.

The NHL season kicked off last Thursday night and I couldn’t be happier.  Growing up in southern California in the 80’s and 90’s I was able to see the greatest player of all-time on a regular basis in Wayne Gretzky.  My parents had season tickets and took us to many games.  Because of those wonderful experiences I became fan for life.  It’s been real tough to be a Kings fan over the past several years but I’m very optimistic about their plan of going young, developing talent and combining that talent with some key free agent veterans.  I like the veteran additions of Ryan Smyth and Rob Scuderi and I think this is the year the King’s return to the postseason.  If Los Angeles can get any kind of steady goaltending from Jon Quick or Erik Ersberg then they should be in good shape.  As always, the Kings will live and die with their goaltending.  I know Quick looked less than stellar on opening night allowing six goals on 30 shots to the lowly Phoenix Coyotes but I keep telling myself it’s just one game. 

Of all my teams I root for in each sport, my favorite, the Los Angeles Lakers begin defense of their title at the end of this month.  I am extremely anxious to see how Ron Artest will replace Trevor Ariza in the mix.  Regardless, I know it will be a fun year in the city of angels. 

Last nights football game between Minnesota and Green Bay lived up to the hype.  Favre without a doubt proved that he is still a very capable quarterback in the league.  Despite what some people are saying, I still believe Green Bay did the right thing by going with Aaron Rodgers.  Favre retired and they moved on.  Kudos to them for sticking with their decision.  Rodgers is only going to get better and will be one of the top quarterbacks in the game for several years after Favre eventually calls it quits for good.  Minnesota may be getting the best of things in the short term but I think the long term battle will be won by Green Bay. 

As for my personal affairs, the Jim and Joe MMA Show has been up and rolling for almost two months.  I have really enjoyed being part of the show and believe in it with all my conviction.  I have had more fun building this program over the past two months then I did working in radio full-time the past couple of years.  If you haven’t listened to it, please check it out by clicking on “Listen Now” at www.jjmmashow.com.  If you know someone who likes MMA please pass the word on to them.  Right now we’re just trying to get the word out and grow our audience.  If you have any feedback on the show please let me know. 

Take care everyone and thanks for stepping into the clubhouse with me.