Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 Oakland A's

My friend and roommate (they are the same person) is a San Francisco Giants fan and recently wrote a blog about how he thinks the Giants players will fare in 2011 season. He said he would like to see a similar blog from me about the Oakland A's. In my last blog, I made my baseball predictions as far as standings and awards go, and I said the A's would finish 2nd in the AL West.
(I hope I am wrong and that they finish 1st!) Anyway, here is more of an in-depth view on how I think the 2011 Oakland A's will do at each position -


Catcher - Kurt Suzuki

2010 Stats: .242 BA., 13 HR, 71 RBI
2011 Prediction: .270 BA, 19 HR, 80 RBI

Kurt Suzuki
is a true gamer. He is a catcher that wants to be in the starting lineup every day of the season. Last year he was second in the league in games caught. A great deal of the success of the A's pitching staff is in large part due to Kurt Suzuki's handling of the pitchers and calling the game. He is excellent at blocking balls and saves me runs with his defense. Suzuki was out of place in the batting order for most of 2010, where he was batting 3rd or 4th in the lineup when he should be 6th or 7th in the order. In 2011, I expect more people will become aware of Suzuki's play and I expect him to be one of three players (yes, three!) from the A's to make the All-Star team. When Suzuki gets a rare day off, Landon Powell looks to be the one to take his place. If Suzuki or Powell is hurt then expect Josh Donaldson to get the call.

First Baseman - Daric Barton

2010 Stats: .273 BA., 10 HR, 57 RBI
2011 Prediction: .270, 10 HR, 63 RBI

The Oakland A's are still waiting for Daric Barton to have a breakout season. Originally drafted as a catcher by the St. Louis Cardinals, Barton has yet to show the kind of power that is expected of a first baseman. Barton does provide gold glove worthy defense though which is enough for the A's to stick with him at first base. Barton did draw a walk a league high 110 times in 2010, but sometimes taking so many pitches takes away from his chances of driving in a run instead. Barton is projected to bat in the number 2 spot of batting order again like he did in 2010. The backups at first base appear to be Landon Powell and Conor Jackson.

Second Baseman - Mark Ellis


2010 Stats: .291 BA., 5 HR, 49 RBI
2011 Prediction: .280 BA., 7 HR, 45 RBI

Mark Ellis has been one of the few mainstays in Oakland over the years. Ellis has displayed remarkable defense over the years and should have a Gold Glove Award or two by now. His power seems to have fallen off a bit and he always seems to have some sort of problem with injuries. The last time Ellis was healthy an entire season was 2007. Ellis will provide veteran leadership on this young Oakland A's team and should provide the team with a few clutch hits during the season. It appears that Ellis is poised to bat 8th in the lineup. Now if he can just stay healthy. The backup for Ellis appears to be Andy LaRoche and eventually Adam Rosales. (Rosales is currently on the Disabled List).

Shortstop - Cliff Pennington


2010 Stats: .250 BA., 6 HR, 50 RBI, 29 SB
2011 Prediction: .262 BA., 4 HR, 55 RBI, 32 SB

Cliff Pennington enjoyed his first full season in the Major Leagues in 2010. Pennington goes into the 2011 season knowing that he is the everyday starting shortstop and that he does not have to compete for the spot during Spring Training. Defensively, Pennington displays a nice range and a very strong arm. He makes tough plays look easy yet sometimes messes up on the easier plays. On offense, he can frustrate pitchers with his speed. His speed is a nice presence to have in the 9th spot of the batting which where it looks like he will be slated. His backup figures to be Andy LaRoche and eventually Adam Rosales.

Third Baseman - Kevin Kouzmanoff

2010 Stats: .247 BA., 16 HR, 71 RBI
2011 Prediction: .270 BA., 30 HR, 95 RBI

No, you did not read my 2011 predictions for Kevin Kouzmanoff incorrectly. Like Kurt Suzuki, Kevin Kouzmanoff was out of place in the A's batting order in 2010. I believe that with the players the A's added in 2011 that Kouzmanoff will have less pressure on him. He will likely be batting 6th or 7th in the order in 2011. With the new acquisitions being expected to provide power, Kouzmanoff should be able to put together his best season. I am also predicting Kouzmanoff to get his first All-Star nod. Backing up Kouzmanoff at third base will be Andy LaRoche.


Left Field - Josh Willingham

2010 Stats: .268 BA., 16 HR, 56 RBI (w/Nationals)
2011 Prediction: .240 BA., 15 HR, 70 RBI

If Josh Willingham was left-handed then the A's would not have acquired him over the offseason from the Washington Nationals in a trade for Henry Rodriguez and Corey Brown. The A's realized they needed some more right-handed power though so they got Willingham. Willingham, drafted as a catcher by the the Florida Marlins, will be in the American League for the first time in 2011. Willingham will likely struggle the first half of the season but start putting things together after the All-Star break. Willingham will likely be batting 5th in the lineup. Backing up Willingham in Left Field will be Conor Jackson. Chris Carter may see some games there too if his defense improves.

Center Field - Coco Crisp

2010 Stats: .279 BA, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 32 SB
2011 Prediction: .290 BA., 6 HR, 55 RBI, 45 SB

Coco Crisp was limited to 75 games for the Oakland A's in 2010 due to various injuries. When healthy, Crisp played a major impact with the A's success. In 75 games, he still stole a career high 32 bases. Coco looks to be in top form in Spring Training this year (aside from that DUI). Assuming that Crisp can at least play in 120 games this year (if not more) then the A's should get some good production from him. Crisp will be the catalyst for the A's batting in the leadoff spot and will continue running down balls in center field. The backups for center field will be Ryan Sweeney and David Dejesus.

Right Field - David Dejesus


2010 Stats: .318 BA., 5 HR, 37 RBI (w/Royals)
2011 Prediction: .303, 8 HR, 61 RBI


David Dejesus was acquired in the offseason by the A's from the Kansas City Royals when the A's traded pitcher Vin Mazzaro. Dejesus was limited to 91 games last year due to injuries. Dejesus should hit around a .300 average and will most likely bat 3rd in the A's lineup. He is a consistent everyday player that will be nice for the A's to have. Dejesus should enjoy his first year with a team that is actually considered a contender. The backup in right field will be Ryan Sweeney.

Designated Hitter - Hideki Matsui

2010 Stats: .274 BA., 21 HR, 84 RBI (w/Angels)
2011 Prediction: .265 BA., 23 HR, 90 RBI

If there is a superstar on the 2011 Oakland A's team then it is none other than Hideki Matsui. Matsui left the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as a free agent and signed with the Oakland A's. Matsui is a former World Series Champion with the New York Yankees and has the Japanese Media following him wherever he goes. In addition to helping with the A's offense, Matsui should also help draw a few more fans to the ballpark. Matsui will be slated at the 4th or 5th spot in the A's lineup.

THE BENCH


The Bench will include outfielder Ryan Sweeney, Outfielder/First Baseman Conor Jackson, Utility Infielder Andy LaRoche, and catcher Landon Powell. Adam Rosales also figures to be in the mix once he returns from the disabled list. Eric Sogard and Steve Tolleson may also be factors off the bench. Out of all these bench players, I expect Ryan Sweeney to get the most playing time.


Starting Pitcher - Trevor Cahill

2010 Stats: 18-8, 2.97 ERA, 118 K's
2011 Prediction: 15-8, 3.10 ERA, 130 K's

Trevor Cahill
spent most of April 2010 in Sacramento with the A's Triple-A club. When he returned to the majors, Cahill was impressive. He earned his first All-Star game selection in 2010 as well. Cahill isn't an overpowering pitcher but he does get a lot of ground ball outs. Many people think Cahill's season last year was a fluke and that he will be nowhere near the same pitcher in 2011. Now that he is considered the ace of the pitching staff it means he will be up against a lot of other aces from other teams. That is the reason why I think Cahill will have less decisions in 2011, but I do still see him getting another All-Star selection in 2011.

Starting Pitcher - Brett Anderson

2010 Stats: 7-6, 2.80 ERA, 75 K's
2011 Prediction: 15-10, 3.40 ERA, 170 K's

Brett Anderson was limited to 19 starts in 2010 due to injuries. Many fans and scouts have seen Anderson as being the A's star pitcher for years to come. Anderson will clock in with a 94-96 MPH fastball and will rarely walk more than 2 batters a game. I am interested to see what Anderson can do with another full season in the green and gold.

Starting Pitcher - Gio Gonzalez

2010 Stats: 15-9, 3.23 ERA, 171 K's
2011 Prediction: 17-12, 3.73 ERA, 190 K's

After earning the 5th starter spot in the rotation in 2010, Gio Gonzalez went on to have a great season. His success has continued in Spring Training this year and he looks ready for the regular season to begin. The key to Gonzalez's success will be limiting the number of batters he walks. Last year, in 200 and two-thirds innings, Gonzalez walked 92 batters. If his walk totals decrease then the innings he pitches will increase. This will also increase his chances of being the winner (or the loser) of the ballgame.

Starting Pitcher - Dallas Braden

2010 Stats: 11-14, 3.50 ERA, 113 K's
2011 Prediction: 12-9, 3.69 ERA, 115 K's

At 27 years old, Dallas Braden is considered the veteran and leader of the A's pitching staff. Braden is a tough competitor and might be known more for his feud with Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees than his perfect game against the tough hitting Tampa Bay Rays on May 9, 2010. Braden has a screwball he will throw on occasion but it is his change-up that has given him the most success. Opposing base-runners also have to watch out for Braden's good pick-off move as he picked off 8 runners last year. It is a contract year for Braden so it will be interesting to see what he does in 2011.

Starting Pitcher - Brandon McCarthy

2010 Stats: N/A - Out with Injury
2011 Prediction: 9-13, 4.22 ERA, 75 K's

Brandon McCarthy has been announced as the A's 5th starter after being signed as a free agent during the offseason. After missing all of 2010 with an injury, it is tough to know what to expect from McCarthy in 2011. He is definitely a control-type pitcher as he won't blow anyone away with his stuff.

Closer - Andrew Bailey

2010 Stats: 1-3, 1.47 ERA, 43 K's, 25 SAVES
2011 Prediction: 3-4, 1.87 ERA, 67 K's, 30 SAVES

Health is a concern entering the season for Andrew Bailey. He may or may not be on the disabled list when the regular season starts. When he is healthy though, Bailey is as good a closer as there is in baseball. He has been in the league for two years and has been an All-Star both years. The 2009 AL Rookie of the Year has plenty of support in the bullpen this year too so he should get plenty of chances to get the final three outs of the game.

REST OF BULLPEN:

The rest of the relief pitchers in the bullpen will include Tyson Ross, who will serve as a long reliever or spot-starter if needed, Brad Ziegler, Michael Wuertz, Craig Breslow, Brian Fuentes, and Grant Balfour. With the additons of Fuentes and Balfour in 2011, the A's should have one of the strongest bullpens in 2011.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Predictions for the 2011 Baseball Season

On March 31st, the 2011 baseball season officially begins. I have been looking forward to this day ever since the 2010 baseball season ended. There are plenty of new faces in different places in 2011, but out of these 30 teams, which 8 will find themselves playing baseball in the playoffs? Just as I did last year, here are my predictions for the final standings and the major awards for the 2011 season.


My predictions (*- wild card)


AL WEST

Texas Rangers (89-73)
Oakland A's (85-77)
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (82-80)
Seattle Mariners (70-92)


NOTES:
Many people are saying the Oakland A's are going to be 2011's version of the 2010 World Champion San Francisco Giants. The A's have solid starting pitching and have bolstered their bullpen more with additions such as Grant Balfour(pictured). The big question is can the A's avoid the dreaded Disabled List that has been such a pain (pun intended) to them in recent history? If so, can their great pitchers shut down the great bats in Texas? It should be a close race in 2011.

AL CENTRAL

Minnesota Twins (87-75)
Detroit Tigers (86-76)
Chicago White Sox (83-79)
Kansas City Royals (76-86)
Cleveland Indians (68-94)

NOTES: The AL Central looks like it will be another close three team race. Kansas City has some of the top prospects of any organization, but they are still a year or two away from making a big impact on the Major League team. Not many bright spots are remaining in Cleveland for 2011, but one guy to keep an eye on is catcher Carlos Santana(pictured.)

AL EAST

Boston Red Sox (99-63)
New York Yankees (92-70)*
Tampa Bay Rays (89-73)
Baltimore Orioles (83-81)
Toronto Blue Jays (78-84)


NOTES:
The Boston Red Sox's moves were well-chronicled in the offseason, highlighted by the signing of Carl Crawford and trading for Adrian Gonzalez. With the team they have, anything less than a World Series for the Red Sox would be a disappointment. In 2009, I said the Orioles would be a playoff team in 2011, but in this strong division, they still have a little ways to go. Derek Jeter(pictured) will collect his 3,000th career hit in 2011 which will be just another reason for him to raise his arms.

NL WEST

Colorado Rockies (90-72)
San Francisco Giants (86-76)

Los Angeles Dodgers (81-81)

San Diego Padres (80-82)

Arizona Diamondbacks (71-91)


NOTES: Buster Posey(pictured) and the San Francisco Giants will try to repeat as World Series Champions but of course, it will not be an easy task. The Colorado Rockies have locked up Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to multi-year deals and will be the Giants toughest competition in the NL West in 2011. The Padres pitching won't prove to be quite as effective as it was in 2010.


NL CENTRAL
Milwaukee Brewers (88-74)
Cincinnati Reds (86-76)

St. Louis Cardinals (85-77)

Chicago Cubs (83-81)

Pittsburgh Pirates (71-91)

Houston Astros (67-95)


NOTES: The NL Central is quite the tossup with no clear front-runner. The Cardinals will be without star starting pitcher, Adam Wainright which will hurt their chances at winning the division. Zack Greinke will miss the beginning of the season with the Brewers due to an offseason injury suffered while playing a pickup game of basketball. Carlos Pena (pictured) looks to get himself back above the mendoza line with the Cubs in his first tour of the National League after spending the last three-plus seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Pirates will finally not finish the season in last place! (I think...)


NL EAST

Philadelphia Phillies (90-72)
Florida Marlins (88-74)*
Atlanta Braves (85-77)
Washington Nationals (74-88)
New York Mets (72-90)

NOTES: The Philadelphia Phillies may have the big four starting pitchers (clockwise from top left in picture) in Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, but winning the NL East will not come easy for them. The Phillies lineup will be missing Jayson Werth who went to the Nationals after signing a huge contract as a free agent. The Phillies will also be missing second baseman, Chase Utley, who is out with an injury and his timetable is unknown. I see the Florida Marlins making the playoffs as the Wild-Card this team as they are led by Hanley Ramirez in their final year in Sun Life Stadium.


WORLD SERIES

The Boston Red Sox will beat the Florida Marlins in 6 games.

AWARDS:

AL MVP:
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
NL MVP:
Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
AL Rookie of the Year:
Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays
NL Rookie of the Year:
Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
AL CY Young:
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
NL CY Young:
Josh Johnson, Florida Marlins
AL Manager of the Year:
Ron Washington, Texas Rangers
NL Manager of the Year:
Ned Yost, Milwaukee Brewers
AL Comeback Player of the Year:
Joe Nathan, Minnesota Twins
NL Comeback Player of the Year:
Nate McLouth, Atlanta Braves