Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria preview this year’s edition of the Fall Classic between the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants.
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYERS
Buster Posey, C, Giants
The clear frontrunner for the NL MVP this season has gotten off to a slow start in the playoffs hitting only .178 so far in 12 games. That being said, Posey did have perhaps the biggest hit of the year for the Giants when he took Mat Latos deep for a Grand Slam in the winner-take-all Game 5 in Cincinnati. San Francisco will be looking for more of that clutch hitting against Detroit in this series.
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Tigers
For Miguel Cabrera, earning the first Triple Crown since 1967, and most likely an AL MVP award, was just not enough. He has now led his team to the Fall Classic as well. After hitting 44 home runs in the regular season, he has only hit one in nine games so far in the postseason, but that could change rather quickly given his prodigious power. Cabrera is back in the World Series for the first time since his rookie season in 2003 with the Marlins, and he is trying to add to his tremendous individual year with the highest team honor, a World Series ring.
Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants
Scutaro has to be at the top of the list of best midseason acquisitions this year when he came from Colorado to San Francisco in late July. He was hitting .272 while he was with the Rockies, but he started out hot with the Giants and never cooled down, hitting .362 over the final 61 games of the season. It seems he is even hotter now heading into the World Series after a NLCS that saw him hit .500 (14 for 28) over the seven-game series against St. Louis, earning him MVP honors.
Delmon Young, DH, Tigers
It sure seems like Delmon Young enjoys playing in October. In the last two postseasons for Detroit, a total of 18 games, Young has seven home runs, which is a franchise record. Coming up as a prospect in the Tampa Bay system, Young was considered a five-tool player, but that notion is long gone since he has been the Tigers DH all season. However, it does appear that Young will need to channel his minor league days when he plays left field for the Tigers when they are in an NL ballpark in at least Games 1 and 2.
By only allowing two runs in their four starts, the only adjective that you could use to describe the starting pitchers for the Tigers against the Yankees in the ALCS was dominant. It will obviously be tough to keep that up against a hot hitting team in the Giants, but you would not put it past the rotation of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, who all had great numbers all season. The Giants will most likely try to get to the Tigers bullpen where they have struggled, most notably their closer Jose Valverde, who was replaced by Phil Coke after a blown save in Game 1 of the ALCS.
The starting pitching for the Giants was supposed to be their strength heading into the postseason, but it has been the offense and bullpen that has carried them through to this point. Madison Bumgarner, a 16-game winner this year, really struggled in his two postseason starts and has since been sent to the bullpen. On the other side of the coin, Barry Zito, has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants, last seen pitching 7 2/3 shutout innings with Giants facing elimination in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Cardinals. That being said, the goal for the Giants is clear. They want to get the game to their dominant bullpen for a chance to lock down four more wins.
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Bloomberg Sports Anchors Rob Shaw and Julie Alexandria discuss the top five stories in baseball after the All-Star break.
Will R.A. Dickey win 20 games?
Baseball fans are trying to figure out if R.A. Dickey is Tom Candiotti or Phil Niekro. At 12-1, Dickey is enjoying a banner season and arguably would be the NL Cy Young award winner if the season ended today. The problem for Dickey is that the season does not end today and he still has about 15 starts to go. Can he possibly continue his dominance and nab another eight wins for an even 20?
Hall of Fame knuckleballer Phil Niekro attained three different seasons with 20 or more wins. On the other hand, Dickey might only win another 3-5 games this season and finish with a solid, but more expected total that is more in line with a solid hurler, such as knuckleballer Tom Candiotti, who won 14, 15 and 16 games in his career.
What becomes of Tim Lincecum?
The good news is that Tim Lincecum is on pace to strikeout 200 batters. The bad news is that he is also approaching 100 walks, which could lead to some time in the bullpen. We’ve had some surprises this year that fill the bust category. As of now both Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols join a recent trend of major free agents struggling with new franchises.
Lincecum is pitching for the very franchise he came up with and has dominated for the last five seasons. However, he is getting hit often and hard, and with a 3-10 record and 6.42 ERA you have to wonder if he will stick in the starting rotation all season long. Lincecum hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning in back-to-back outings.
Where will Zack Greinke end up?
The Brewers have had their struggles and perhaps for that reason, Zack Greinke’s performance has gone under the radar. He is 9-3 with 111 K’s and a 3.32 ERA. With the Brewers five games out of first place, the team will be in sell mode especially if Greinke does not indicate that he wants to stick there.
So what teams could be interested? How about the Baltimore Orioles, or the St. Louis Cardinals? Greinke’s presence could make a world of difference in how this ost-season shapes up.
Are the Phillies buyers or sellers?
The Phillies are in dead last place in the National League East. They opened the season without Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, and now that they are coming back, the pitchers have been out: Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
The big question for the Phillies is figuring out whether or not Cole Hamels will stay as a free agent. There have been rumblings that he could be destined to the Dodgers, which would leave the Phillies in a bind if they do not get anything in return for his services aside from draft picks. Hamels, by the way, is 10-4 with a 3.20 ERA with 118 K’s and a 1.10 WHIP. He has been the ace for the Phillies this season.
Are the Pirates playoff bound?
The Pirates are in first place late in the season for a second straight year. The question is whether they can stick this time and if they learned from last year’s collapse. It looks like they could actually stick this time for a couple of reasons. Firstly, they have an ace with James McDonald boasting a 2.37 ERA with much better control this season. Next, their gamble with AJ Burnett seems to be paying off as he’s been a solid number two. Though the starting rotation lacks depth, the bullpen is strong enough to let leads stick.
Finally, on offense there are several solid players, then an MVP candidate in Andrew McCutchen and a potential star in Pedro Alvarez. The Pirates lack some depth, but so far they have been good enough, and with extra wild card spots available, this team could advance.
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BY ROB SHAW
To put it mildly, Aramis Ramirez has not had Brewers fans forget about Prince Fielder. While Fielder has already offered the Tigers a .345 average with two home runs, Ramirez has chipped in with just a .129 average and no home runs for the Brew Crew. This is a far cry from the .306 average Ramirez offered last season, not to mention the expectations coming into this season with Milwaukee.
While Ramirez is off to a slow start, he has had a tad of bad luck. Alfonso Soriano robbed him at the left-field wall of an extra base hit on Tuesday, and he already has swiped two bases while nailing two doubles. Plus, Ramirez is a notorious slow starter as March and April are his worst batting months throughout his career.
At this point, fantasy managers should be in a holding pattern, as Ramirez is likely to bounce back. For the first time this season, Ramirez did not strike out in two consecutive games. It looks like he is starting to see the ball better, and that usually leads to a rise in batting average and the power metrics. Patience is a virtue in dealing with A-Ram’s early slump.
There has been a very scary trend in Cleveland for fantasy managers in recent years. We’ve seen players who reach superstardom with the Indians only to lose their luster seemingly overnight due to injuries.
First it was MVP contender Travis Hafner, who went from a .300-plus hitting machine with loads of power to a lackluster DH who struggles to stay healthy. More recently, it’s been all-around sensation Grady Sizemore, who has lost his speed and power in recent years and now is once again on the disabled list for an extended period.
The question that is plaguing fantasy managers right now is whether Shin-Soo Choo will follow that undesirable path. Following consecutive 20-20 seasons, Choo had a season to forget last year with off-the-field controversy followed by an injury-plagued season. Fresh off his worst season with 8 home runs and a .259 average, Choo is struggling once again. The two-time 20-20 fantasy star has five hits, all of them singles.
The good news is that Shoo is drawing walks and already has two stolen bases while his OBP is north of .400. For now fantasy managers should be in a holding power with Choo. The solid plate discipline suggests that he is seeing the ball well and could bust out of his power outage at any moment. In fact, if you have confidence in the 29-year-old outfielder go ahead and acquire him while his stock is low.
What’s the deal with Mets first baseman Ike Davis? Last season he got off to a excellent start before a bum ankle shut him down for the season with seven home runs, 25 RBI, and a .302 average through 36 games. This season has been the total opposite. Davis has two hits through 28 at bats, and both hits have been singles.
While the Mets are calling Davis healthy, there are some questions as to whether a fungal disease suffered during spring training is still limiting him physically, or if at this point, the toll is mental, as Davis has 10 strikeouts through the first eight games of the season.
To be specific, the ailment that Davis encountered this spring was Valley Fever, a lung disease that could lead to fatigue. It very much should be taken seriously, as the illness once knocked 130 games out of the season from Conor Jackson. So yes, fantasy managers should be on red alert, as the disease commonly found in desert environments such as Davis’ hometown in Phoenix could be an issue.
Some good news is that David Wright returned from his broken pinkie on Saturday and blasted a home run. With Wright’s return to the Mets lineup, there are more likely to be runners on base for Davis to drive home. Furthermore, Lucas Duda has looked very much like a slugger this season with three home runs already. With Duda batting behind Davis, there could be an uptick in the runs scored as well.
Of course, the main focus for Davis right not is to snap out of the slump, then he will no longer hear the whispers of mystery ailments and more concerns about the health of Mets players.
When last season concluded with Tim Lincecum brandishing a losing record, there was not much panic in San Francisco as his 13-14 record came with a superb 2.74 ERA and 1.21 WHIP. On that note, fantasy managers again picked Lincecum early in the drafts this season expecting him to contend with rival Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award. Through two starts the Giants ace may have already pitched himself out of contention.
Tim Lincecum currently sits at 0-1 with a 12.91 ERA. Fantasy managers are wondering if it will it be sink or swim by the Bay this season for Lincecum. This is a major concern for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list is that Lincecum is usually strong out of the gates. April is usually the best month for him, at 12-3 entering this season with a sub-3 ERA.
Another key concern has been the diminishing velocity. Lincecum is so far throwing his fastball at 90 MPH this season, down from 91 MPH last year and 92 MPH the year before. He relies a great deal on his high velocity since his outpitch is no longer his slider, but his change-up. In fact, Lincecum has mentioned that he will try to avoid use of his slider this season since it puts pressure on his arm. It will be tough to get away with just a fastball and change-up if he can’t reach the mid-90s.
Keep an eye on Lincecum’s next start as this may be a concerning trend. For more fantasy baseball insight visit BloombergSports.com.
BY ROB SHAW
Bloomberg Sports Anchor Rob Shaw uses the BloombergSports.com Front Office projections to rank the top five strikeout artists in Major League Baseball for the upcoming season. While Justin Verlander is expected to lead the Majors in strikeouts, National League rivals Tim Lincecum andClayton Kershaw are not expected to be far behind.
Verlander is fresh off one of the greatest seasons ever by a starter and while he earned the MVP and Cy Young award, he is expected to repeat his success this upcoming season. The Tigers have added some pop to their lineup in the form of first baseman Prince Fielder, while Miguel Cabrera is now destined for third base.
While most fantasy managers will focus on that offensive boost, a greater concern may be the poor defense behind Verlander. The good news is that he may become more dependent on strikeouts. Bloomberg Sports projects a staggering 244 strikeouts from Verlander this season.
On the west coast, Tim Linecum and Clayton Kershaw will battle for fantasy supremacy. The hurlers seem to be moving in different directions as Lincecum has regressed a tad in recent years while Kershaw is peaking. Regardless, Lincecum remains a safe bet pitching in AT&T Park with a proven track record that includes 220 or more strikeouts in each of the last four seasons. It also helps having a healthy Buster Posey back in the lineup.
Kershaw finally put it all together last season as he improved his control, went deep into games, and finished with a stellar 21 wins and 248 strikeouts. The southpaw’s statistics are looking more and more like Sandy Koufax’s by the day. The BloombergSports.com Front Office tool projects 239 strikeouts from Kershaw this season.
The fourth most strikeouts will likely be racked up by the forgotten Felix Hernandez. The Mariners 2010 Cy Young award winner has a little more offensive support this season, which should lead to more wins and greater confidence. The durable right-hander picked up 222 strikeouts last year despite some struggles at home. He is projected to surpass 200 K’s for a fourth straight season.
Finally, Cliff Lee edges teammate and fellow ace Roy Halladay on the list. The veteran hurler brandished a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in one of his finest seasons yet. He tallied a career-best 238 strikeouts and that number is expected to take just a minor decline this season.
if looking for sleepers, a couple of less heralded hurlers who can deliver K’s are Braves starter Brandon Beachy and A’s top prospect Brad Peacock. While Beachy is hoping to be a bit healthier in his second full season, Peacock is just the latest young hurler hoping to breakout in Oakland.
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By Eno Sarris
It’s no surprise that a team with big strikeout men Mark Reynolds and Chris Young in the lineup has above-average power and a below-average batting average. A little more development from their best hitter, Justin Upton, and some steps forward from their post-hype sleepers Stephen Drew and Miguel Montero, and this team could actually develop the best offense in their division. They certainly have a nice young core.
The staff is well above average, with sneaky ace Dan Haren leading the way. If Brandon Webb can recover his health, they’ll form a potent one-two duo once again. Newcomers Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy can make for decent NL middle-of-the-rotation guys, too, even if their pasts have been checkered. They’ll enjoy striking out pitchers this year, after spending the past few years in the American League. Chad Qualls and Juan Gutierrez are different pitchers – Qualls has a little more control, Gutierrez a little more gas – but they are a good combo at the end of the pen. Qualls in particular is a very good closer who’s being priced like a bargain-basement guy right now. Don’t be afraid to draft him a round or two above his ADP.
It’s not surprising that the Bloomberg Sports team spider graph identifies Troy Tulowitzki as the best player on the Rockies. His power from a premium defensive position makes this offense hum. Young Ian Stewart has the potential to be a poor man’s Mark Reynolds, and the team has buckets of upside hanging out in the outfield – Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler, and Carlos Gonzalez comprise one of the best collections of young outfielders in the game. Veterans Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton are still there to provide a bridge to all the young talent.
The rotation is led by underrated ace Ubaldo Jimenez. Jorge De La Rosa is searching for a breakout season: He strikes batter out, but also gives up too many walks. It’s a good thing that the Rockies still have young lefty Franklin Morales around, since Huston Street signed a contract extension and promptly hit the DL with shoulder trouble.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The oufield boasts fantasy first-rounder Matt Kemp, solid young player Andre Ethier, and venerable slugger Manny Ramirez. If this above-average offense is going to get any better, though, it’ll because James Loney finally takes a step forward. Young Blake DeWitt gets another chance to prove his mettle, this time at second base, with a little more seasoning under his belt. Even Casey Blake is quietly effective.
For all of the belly-aching about the lack of a true ace in Los Angeles, Clayton Kershaw certainly has the strikeout rate and wipeout stuff of a number-one starter, and Chad Billingsley is a solid number-two. Their pen is also pretty exciting with stud Jon Broxton anchoring the team on his massive quads alone. The back of the rotation won’t produce as much value as last year, though, with Randy Wolf shipped off to Milwaukee after a strong 2009 season.
San Diego Padres
The book says that the Padres have a bad offense and a good staff, but is the book right? Maybe it’s just run-supressing Petco Park that gives fans that impression. The Bloomberg Sports team Spider Graph suggest that the team stacks up rather differently. Instead, it’s the staff falling behind the average team in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts, despite those pitcher-friendly park effects. Perhaps young fireballer Mat Latos can help them turn that rotation around. He had an impressive showing in his rookie season last year.
On the offensive side of the ball, Adrian Gonzalez and Chase Headley provide good power without the aid of the greatest batting averages. Young players Kyle Blanks and Everth Cabrera also provide run creation with low batting averages coupled with on-base ability and a blend of power (Blanks) and speed (Cabrera). There’s reason for hope here, even if it comes with a .242 team batting average.
San Francisco Giants
The average age of the Giants pitching staff is 26.8 years old. The starting lineup? 28.4. Take Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval out of that lineup, and the other geezers pull the offense to an average age of over 30. Fittingly, the team has an exciting young staff that keeps their boring old offense in just enough games to matter for most of the year. Will the offense do any better this year?
The Panda needs a robin, but will that be one of the new veterans, Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez or Mark DeRosa? Each has had a nice season in the last two years, and each is basically coming off an average or below-average season. GM Brian Sabean was probably looking at those career seasons when he signed each of them. Without some repeats of those career seasons, though, this will be a roster full of guys with .280 batting averages and 20-home run power. Opposing pitchers are already circling their scheduled starts against the Giants as we speak.
Meanwhile, the pitching staff will remain elite. All Tim Lincecum has going for him are two straight Cy Young awards. Matt Cain is one of the best number-two starters in the game. Barry Zito is a reliable, above-average innings eater who’s a valuable commodity, monster contract aside. Jonathan Sanchez is a dynamic young lefty with the ability to post annual 200-strikeout seasons. Brian Wilson has quietly emerged as one of the best closers in the game. Even the top set-up men, Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt, are worth a look in deep leagues.