Wow. What an awful inning the Brewers bullpen had tonight in the bottom of the 7th. The worst meltdown of the year by far. The Crew was up a run going in, and even managed to get two outs and no one scoring (thanks to a couple masterfully pitched batters by Brian Shouse), but then comes Greg Aquino who promptly gives up the tying run and then walks (intentionally) Scott Hatteberg to load the bases and THEN WALKS ALEX GONZALEZ ON FOUR STRAIGHT PITCHES!!! Come on! You are a major league pitcher, throw a strike! There is absolutely no excuse. I would have been MUCH happier if Gonzalez had hit a grand slam, at least it would have meant Aquino was throwing strikes. But no. He walked the lead run in. Horrible job by the bullpen tonight. I’d also like to interject here that, personally, I think that Carlos Villanueva should be sent back down to Triple-A, as he is clearly not ready for the big leagues yet. When you have nearly four times as many walks as K’s, there’s something wrong. He needs to fix it fast, or he’ll be out of a job.

Oh, and by the way, this will be my last post for three weeks, as I am going home over break, and won’t have a chance to blog until I get back to StL. Until then, I’ll be forced to listen to Uecker and Powell on the radio instead of watching the Crew on MLBTV. That’s not something I mind however, as I’m a huge fan of Mr. Baseball, I think he’s hilarious. Until next time, GO BREWERS!!!

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Brewers Rule!!!

I would just like to commend the Brewers’ bullpen for the awesome job they did this past series against the Marlins. They were amazing in the extra-inning, two day game. Pretty much the whole pen was a part of that game. Also, kudos to Frankie Cordero for back to back saves on the same day. Turnbow was also lights out, as he’s been this whole season. If the Brewers manage to have a lead going into the 8th, it’s over for the opposing team.

This weekend is a big series for the Crew, as it is the first series against division rival and current World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Hopefully my Brewers can manage to actually put some of their runners on base across the plate. That has been their downfall this whole season. They are hitting the cover off the ball, but can’t produce in the clutch. Also, I’m going to the second game of the series. I am STOKED about that, as it’s my first game of the season. I’m looking for Capuano to pitch, so it should make for a great game. The weather forecast isn’t looking too pretty, low forties and rain, so hopefully the precipitation holds off long enough to get the game in. I’m from WI, so the cold won’t bother me a bit, it’s just having to sit through rain delays I’m not a fan of. Sheets, Cappy, and Suppan are going. That last game should be bittersweet for Word-Of-The-Day, as he’ll be facing his former team. I love it. Go Brewers!!!

Where’s the runs at?

Why are the Brewers so confounding? Once again, they outhit their opponent, yet lose the only statistic that really counts, runs. Geoff Jenkins seems to be on a tear, hitting a home run in each of the past three games. This past one was opposite field even. Great hitting. Both he and Kevin Mench have been hitting well, something I like to see since they are platooning. And, Tony Graffanino and WI native Craig Counsell are both hitting the ball well, too. That’s exactly what a manager wants, for both of the guys to want to be playing so well that he has a hard time deciding who should ride the pine for the day. Now, the Brewers need to just execute and put some RUNS ON THE BOARD!!! I’m getting sick of watching them leave so many guys on base. They are getting the hits, but no one can seem to hit a sac fly or base hit when it’s needed. And Billy Hall, what was going on in game one against the Fish, with the running on a fly ball hit to right? That’s fundamental baseball, no excuses. Unless it was a run and hit play, but still, to not even take a look back. Also, the center field defense needs to step it up some Billy. I know you are still learning the ropes, but dropping a catchable ball on the track to give Borchard the errored triple, and then letting a ball go over your head for the ground-rule double. Gotta judge balls better. But, I have faith that you will improve greatly over the season as you get used to it. I know it can’t be easy playing CF in the gigantic outfield that is Dolphins Stadium. My hat’s off to the pitching, they are doing a good job so far, too bad for Word-of-the-Day Suppan, he’ll get his first win soon. And, good luck to Claudio Vargas making his first start for the Crew tomorrow against a guy making his Major League debut. Traditionally, guys making their Major League debut against the Brewers tend to dominate, so let’s all hope the Brewers can continue their hitting ways and win a few!

Brewers vs. Cubs

Has anyone else watched the first two Brewers/Cubs games? It has been unbelievable. The first game, for the Brewers, was one of the worst games I have ever seen played, on any level of baseball. Seriously, I haven’t seen ball played worse since JV baseball. Everything went wrong. The Brewers hitters made Rich Hill look like an All-Star. The second game, played today, was better, but it just seemed like nothing went the Brewers’s way. Every ball that was hit hard was right at the Cubs, every little squeaker the Cubs hit managed to find some green, it was almost unbearable to watch. Geoff Jenkins did hit his first homer of the season, which was a BOOMING home run to right. Rickie Weeks also hit his first, which I am thankful for, as he is not off to a very good start. Corey Hart also hit his first HR in last night’s game, a monster shot to left-center. This guy can definitely hit some long ones, just watch him once in BP and you’ll know. Ben Sheets pitched okay, nothing like his Opening Day masterpiece, he just couldn’t shut the Cubs hitters down. Dave Bush pitched well after the horrendous first inning last night. Let’s hope that Cappy throws a great game tomorrow afternoon, because I would really like to get back to .500 for the season. You can’t get swept by a division rival at home. Just can’t.

162-0???

I just finished watching the Brewers Opening Day game against the Los Angeles Dodgers via MLBTV.com. It was great. The biggest question coming into today was Ben Sheets’s health. If today was any indication of this season, the rest of the National League should watch out for the Brewers. The hitters tore the cover off the ball, particularly J.J. Hardy, who finished with three hits. The best part was watching Benny throw a complete game 2-hit, 1-run masterpiece. After a 3-1 fastball down the middle that Jeff Kent barely hit over the centerfield wall, Sheets dominated everyone and didn’t allow another baserunner until Brady Clark managed a double down the line in the top of the ninth. He didn’t score. So, right now, that puts the Brewers at the top of the division on pace to win 162 games. Let’s hope it stays that way. Go Brewers!!!

National League Central

Of course, I saved the best division for last. Naturally, I am partial to the Central, as it has the Brewers. However, I do believe that the Central has some very good teams in it, and it will be a struggle for power between all of the teams for the title of Division Champion come October.

1. Cardinals – Even though I dislike the Redbirds very much, especially since I live in St. Louis, it would be dumb to not pick the World Series Champions to win their division this season. They still have the best hitter on the planet in Albert Pujols, and he will have another MVP-caliber season. Scott Rolen figures to have another outstanding season, if he can remain healthy. I’d also like to interject here that I absolute do NOT like Jim Edmonds as a center fielder. He is probably the one guy I dislike the most of any in the Majors. The reason he has so many Gold Gloves is that he has to make amazing catches to make up for his awful judgement of flyballs. That, and the fact that he plays so shallow. Torii Hunter and Andruw Jones are camped under the flyballs that Edmonds has to dive for. Just thought I’d share that. One guy in the outfield I do like is Chris Duncan, son of the pitching coach Dave Duncan. The guy has great power, and plays a decent left field. David Eckstein is your prototype leadoff hitter, not much power, but gets on base a ton, and a pesky hitter. It is very hard to strike him out. The Birds won’t have much trouble scoring. It is the pitching that will decide if they repeat as Champs again. Chris Carpenter is still his CY-caliber self, but after him it gets dicey. Jeff Suppan went to Milwaukee (YEAH!!!), and Jason Marquis went to the Cubbies. St. Louis did sign Kip Wells and Ryan Franklin to take their places, but I don’t see either of them in star roles. Adam Wainwright will also join the starting rotation after being the star of last year’s playoff run in the pen. Time will tell if this will be a good idea or not. Jason Isringhausen looks to be healthy and will return to his closer role. Whether or not his outings become iffy is still up in the air. The rest of the pen is very solid, with Tyler Johnson and Braden Looper anchoring those late innings. Oh, did anyone else laugh when they heard about Tony La Russa’s DUI in Florida? I just think it’s funny, being that most of my friends down here are Cards fans and adore him. But, if St. Louis can rely on the rest of the starters for quality games, look for the Birds to be in the running again.

2. Brewers – Ah, my beloved Brewers. The only reason I don’t have them first is because St. Louis won the Series. Of course, I truly believe that the only thing keeping the Crew from being on top is that darned injury bug. If they can stay healthy all year long, the Brewers have an excellent chance of not only being above .500, but winning the division. Like usual, the Brewers are going to rely on Ben Sheets to get them there. If he is healthy, he is CY-caliber. Not only does he have the best K/BB ratio in the Majors, but if he can throw his curveball for strikes, he’s nearly impossible to hit. Following him are Chris Capuano, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, and Claudio Vargas. Capuano was an All-Star last year, and had 18 wins two years ago. If he can go back to his pre-break form of last year, he’ll be good for another 18 wins. Jeff Suppan has always been a Brewer-killer, so Ned Yost did the sensible thing and signed him. He is a workhorse with quality stuff. Look for Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas to both have good seasons this year, Bush is another good K/BB guy like Sheets. The bullpen will be almost unhittable if Francisco Cordero and Derrick Turnbow are at the top of their game. The rest of the pen is decent, with fireballer Jose Capellan and sidearm thrower lefty Brian Shouse. The pitching will be there for the Crew, what they will need is runs. They were near the bottom in most of the major offensive categories last year, but look for the young hitters to get better this time around. Billy Hall emerged as a power threat and will move to CF this season. Time will tell how he does defensively. Rickie Weeks has the capabilities to be a 30/30 guy. Prince Fielder will only improve on his power numbers, and look out for Corey Hart. I drafted him on my fantasy team for a reason. Johnny Estrada was also signed via trade to improve the hitting in the catching position, meaning former Viterbo V-Hawk star Damien Miller will be the backup. All in all, if the Brewers can score some runs, and most of all, stay healthy, they will compete for the division title.

3. Astros – Houston managed to pick up one of the biggest names on the free agent market this winter in Carlos Lee. He will provide a lot of power in the middle of the lineup, providing Lance Berkman with some much needed protection. He’s also helped by the short porch in left in Minute Maid Park. Craig Biggio is an almost lock for the 3000 hit club, and Morgan Ensberg will improve his power numbers greatly. The Astros will definitely hit. However, like St. Louis, other than Roy Oswalt, there really aren’t any great pitchers in the rotation. This is, of course, dependent on what Roger Clemens decides to do. If he comes back to Houston, he is still one of the best. They did sign Woody Williams, but he is average at best. Brad Lidge still remembers that HR he gave up to Pujols two years ago, it still hasn’t landed. Lidge is still a good closer with great stuff. Look for him to improve his numbers. Behind him are good relievers like Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls. The bullpen is a strength for this club. But, they still need the starters to get the game to the pen. That may be the problem for this club.

4. Pirates – The Pirates are just chock-full of young talent. Jason Bay will continue to be an All-Star for years to come, he can crush the ball. Freddy Sanchez won the NL batting title last year, and Adam LaRoche came over from HOTlanta to bring some more power to the lineup. Pitching is much the same, very young, but with stellar talent. Zach Duke is most likely the ace, with guys like Ian Snell and Paul Maholm behind him. They are above-average, but not stars. In the pen, Pittsburgh took a hit when they traded away Mike Gonzalez for LaRoche. Taking his place as closer is probably Salomon Torres. The rest of the pen is above-average as well, with John Grabow and Damaso Marte leading them. Look for the young talent to lead this club places. It is this talent that will improve the club to staying out of the cellar, but not quite to the top…..yet.

5. Cubs – My least favorite team in the Majors. The Cubs. I rejoiced last year when they finished dead last in the division. Since Chicago didn’t feel the same as I did about last year, they went ahead and spent $300 million in the offseason to bring the likes of Alfonso Soriano and Jason Marquis to the Windy City. They also resigned 3B Aramis Ramirez to a 5-year, $75 million deal. We’ll see if all that money will be worth it in October. Once again, Carlos Zambrano will anchor the rotation. He has filthy stuff, CY-caliber. Look for him to be a quality ace. Following him are newly signed Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. Both are average pitchers in their careers, don’t look for anything surprising there. As always, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood have injuries. Prior will start his season at Triple-A, and Wood is on the DL. There’s some words you never ever hear, "Kerry Wood on the DL." Lol. The pen is going to be okay, with Ryan Dempster as the closer and guys like Neal Cotts and Scott Eyre in the rotation. The Cubs have some very good hitters, with the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez. Look for Soriano to have a down year from last year. The rest of the lineup is okay, with some promising hitters, but the big three will carry the bulk of the load. Like usual, the Cubs will live and die by their pitching, and this year, it will be the latter.

6. Reds – Cincy was a big surprise for the majority of the season, being in the running for the playoffs until late. Aaron Harang will be great this season, he just keeps getting better and better every season, so look out. Bronson Arroyo showed flashed of brilliance last year, and will remain solid. The rest of the rotation however, will be a downfall. Eric Milton and Kyle Lohse just can’t seem to find themselves. The bullpen is much the same. David Weathers continues to age, and isn’t even a true closer. Mike Stanton will relieve him in some situations as the closer, too. The rest of the pen is up in the air, with a mix of vets and newbies. Adam Dunn continues to anchor the middle of the lineup as the second coming of Rob Deer. Seriously, the guy usually either strikes out or hits the ball 500 feet. Ken Griffey Jr. may have lost a step in the outfield, but his swing is one of pure beauty, look for him to approach 30 homers again, and up his average. Ryan Freel can play anywhere, and that may take its toll on him. The player I would watch for is Brandon Phillips, this kid can hit for power, hit for average, and has base-stealing speed. But, all of this added up still won’t bring the Reds over the hump of the rest of the division.

American League West

Seeing as how Opening Day is tomorrow, I figured that now would be a good time to run down the last two divisions. I only have the AL West and NL Central left, so, here ya go with the A.L West.

1. Rangers – I think that Texas can be scary good if they remain healthy. Their bullpen is a definite strength, adding former CY award winner Eric Gagne. However, he is going to start the season on the DL. Surprise surprise. Not to worry though, Akinori Otsuka did a superb job of closing last year, so he’ll take over til Gagne comes back. The starting rotation is anchored by ace Kevin Millwood, a workhorse. Vincente Padilla also has above-quality stuff, so look for him to get better, if he can just stop hitting batters. The Rangers also picked up young Brandon McCarthy from the White Sox to be a quality starter. However, the main strength of this ballclub is the hitting. Their 3-4-5 looks like Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, and Hank Blalock. Look for Blalock to have a monster season, MVPish. We all know how good of a hitter Young is, and Teixeira is a masher. Oh, and don’t forget about Ian Kinsler, the kid can hit. If the starting rotation throws well, look for Texas to be in the playoffs.

2. Angels – By now most everyone has heard about Gary Matthews, Jr. and his HGH ordeal. If he can forget all about that, the Angels have one of the best outfields in the Majors. Left to right, Garret Anderson (who can still hit with some power), Gary Matthews Jr. (had a breakout season last year, look for him to continue it) and Vladimir Guerrero (strongest arm in the Majors, and his strike zone is 20 feet wide). Up and down this lineup, all of the guys can hit. Scoring runs shouldn’t be a problem. John Lackey is a stud as the new ace of this rotation. Look for him to have a CY type season. Behind him is Jered Weaver, Jeff’s little brother. He had a great season last year, but watch out for him to falter a little this summer. Of course, Bartolo has a CY to his name, but he is perenially injured. He is starting this season off on the DL again, and who knows when he will return. In the pen you have Francisco Rodriguez, one of the best closers in all of baseball. K-Rod will once again be in the CY running. Rounding out the rest of the pen are veterans like Scot Shields and Darren Oliver, all looking to keep the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the race for October.

3. Athletics – I just seems like Billy Beane and Oakland find ways to keep winning by playing Moneyball (which, by the way, is an excellent read). This season, I believe that the A’s will fall in the division. They just won’t score enough runs. Their hitters have power, but are lacking in the averages. Their leading home run hitter last season, Nick Swisher, hit 35 HR, but only batted .254. It is the same up and down the lineup. They need Eric Chavez and Milton Bradley to regain the form they once had to gain any ground on the Angels and Rangers. Dan Haren is the new ace, now that Barry Zito swam across the Bay. He has quality stuff, and will have a good season. Rich Harden and Esteban Loaiza are both excellent starters, so the rotation will keep the A’s in many games. Huston Street has emerged as a top-tier closer in the game, but will need the other relievers, like Alan Embree and Kiko Calero to chew up some quality innings. While the pitching is great, it’s the scoring runs that will ultimately decide whether or not the A’s are playing in October again.

4. Mariners – Seattle has some great hitters in the lineup. Look for Richie Sexson (former Brewer) to have another typical power season. Adrian Beltre may have finally regained his stroke. Kenji Johjima is a great hitting catcher, and Ichiro is still Ichiro. However, don’t count on Raul Ibanez to have the caliber of season he had last year. Still, the Mariners will hit and score plenty of runs. It is the pitching that will doom Seattle. Felix Hernandez has great stuff, he just needs to control it. Another 12-14 season just won’t cut it. He’ll be better this season. The rest of the rotation, however, is mediocre at best. Jarrod Washburn (WI native) just does not live up to his potential. The likes of Miguel Batista and company need to have outstanding seasons for the Mariners to have a chance. The pen is steady, with J.J. Putz closing out games when he gets the chance. Chris Reitsma was also signed to be the setup man. He brings some good veteran experience. Don’t look for Seattle to overcome the other three teams in this division quite yet, but they may be a sleeper team, so do keep an eye on them.