Bargains for Baseball Fantasy Drafts-- 2009 Edition

Fantasy baseball drafts are taking place all over the nation, and whether you're interested in rotisserie leagues or head-to-head leagues, there are some bargains I will point out to you for the upcoming 2009 season. When looking for a bargain, you must be willing to take a chance. If "everyone" wants a player, hes not going to be a bargain. Hes going to go in the first few rounds for quite a bit o' cash. That being said, don't take stupid chances. Take calculated risks... Heres my bargain by position for the 2009 season.

C- Chris Ianetta of the Colorado Rockies... Had 18 homers last year and no one knows who he is. Expect 20+ this year at Coors.

1B- I would say Chris Davis of the TX Rangers, but his name is out there and he won't be a bargain. Look at Mike Jacobs, recently acquired by the KC Royals. Another guy without a sexy name, who will put up good power numbers.

2B- Jose Lopez of the Seattle Mariners. Improving every year at the plate. Could top 20 homers and 100 RBIs at the second base position.

SS- Look out for Alexei Ramirez of the ChiSox, if he sinks in drafts because of the Sophomore slump questions, then snag him. One of the best athletes in baseball, and eligible at 2B/SS/OF. I'm in doubt he will be a bargain in most leagues, so also take a look at Elvis Andrus of the TX Rangers. Slick fielder, with tons of upside. Should be able to pick him up late for cheap.

3b- Alex Gordon of the KC Royals. He has had sub-par, disappointing seasons since his rookie year. This could be the year he turns the corner. Scouts have said of late that he looks in good shape and like he could be on a mission.

DH- Hank Blalock of the TX Rangers. He will likely DH for the Rangers this year, mainly due to his injuries of the past years. He can hit and they want him in the lineup consistently.

OF- Cameron Maybin of the Florida Marlins. Heard it here first... NL ROY '09

OF- Nelson Cruz of the TX Rangers... Look at his Triple-A stats from '08. Dear God...

OF- Willy Taveras of the Cincinnati Reds. He will steal roughly 60 bases. Pick him up if you already have power and BA guys, but are in need of speed. He won't cost much and he will undoubtedly lead the NL in SBs.
SP- Jose Contreras of the ChiSox. He reportedly lost around 40 pounds, and his fastball looks like it has new life. No one expects him to succeed this year because of his inconsistencies and mental quirks... Could have a great year with the Sox this year. We all know he has the stuff...

RP- Kevin Gregg of the ChiCubs. Marmol has the better stuff in Chicago, but Gregg is going to end up closing there for a very solid team. Marmol has some of the best stuff in the MLB, but Gregg has the makeup of a closer. Marmol/Gregg will be an effective bullpen combo, and either could be solid fantasy pickups.

Remember, take calculated risks, look for players that are under the radar, but not necessarily the ones with sexy names... and never, NEVER draft a Texas Rangers pitcher...

A Look Into the Netherlands Upset(s) of the Dominican Republic

How does an upset like this occur? TWICE?? How does a team made up of MLB outcasts-at-best defeat one of the favorites in the tournament, the Dominican Republic?

Eugene Kingsale has dabbled in the major leagues, and Randall Simon once hit an Italian sausage with his bat and gained fame that way... But other than that, these Netherlands players are unknowns to even the trained baseball fan's eye...

Sidney Ponson has had the best MLB career out of the Netherlands roster. Sid also has a 90-106 career record through 2008 with a 4.95 ERA... Less than impressive overall, obviously.

On the other hand, for the Dominican team you have some of the best players in the world in Big Papi, Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Willy Taveras, Robby Cano, Pedro, Ubaldo Jimenez... the list goes on! How does a Netherlands team with literally ZERO signed MLB players on the team defeat the team with virtually every one of their players not only on a MLB roster, but starters on their respective teams?

I understand I have only asked questions thus far in this blog post, but I am trying to convey what an enormous feat this is! This just should not happen!

Reason Number One for these upsets: Bert Blyleven.
Yes he was born in the Netherlands (Zeist), and Blyleven is the pitching coach for the team. Blyleven is not only the most accomplished pitcher not in the HOF, but is also evidently a tremendous pitching coach. Steve Phillips of ESPN was talking about how Blyleven has coaxed a tremendous amount of self-confidence in the Netherlands' pitching staff. He taught them to bring the bill of their caps down to right over their eyes in an effort to avoid all of the distractions and simply pitch their guts out. While Ponson is a decent enough pitcher, they have won two games against the D.R. with other pitchers too... Keep in mind Ponson has only pitched four innings out of the 18 total against the Dominicans...

Remember these rules:
A pitcher may:
Not pitch until a minimum of four days have passed since he last pitched, if he threw 50 or more pitches when he last pitched;
Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since he last pitched, if he threw 30 or more pitches when he last pitched;
Not pitch until a minimum of one day has passed since any second consecutive day on which the pitcher pitched;
Throw no more than
70 pitches per game in Round One of the tournament;
85 pitches per game in Round Two of the tournament; and
100 pitches per game in the Semifinals and Final of the tournament; unless the pitcher needs more to complete a batter's plate appearance; and
Throw no more than
50 pitches per exhibition game for a Team, or the maximum number of pitches that WBCI sets forth for such pitcher for such exhibition game, whichever is less, if the pitcher is under reserve to an MLB Club. WBCI may set forth such a maximum upon the written request of the pitcher's MLB Club.

(Courtesy of

This allows unknown pitchers like Alexander Smit, Robbie Cordemans, Tom Stuifbergen, Dennis Neuman and Leon Boyd the opportunity to shut down the potent D.R. lineup for 5 innings in the first game and nearly the entire second game. The Dominicans knew how big of an upset this was going to be if they lost, so they panicked, swinging at pitches they definitely should not have. Kudos to Blyleven and his pitchers for capitalizing on these over-anxious mistakes.

The first game was basically given to the Netherlands with Eugene Kingsale scoring on a wild pitch by Edinson Volquez, and two more runs scoring in the first on a throwing error by Hanley Ramirez. That lead held up and the Netherlands won.

The second game, and the reason this is such a tremendous story, featured tremendous pitching on both sides. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies struck out 10 batters in four innings for the Dominican team, while Team Netherlands didn't allow an earned run the entire game, allowing just one run (Jose Reyes scored) on a miscue by Kingsale.
The tremendous team pitching for the Netherlands, coupled with solid defense proved successful in extra innings and created one of the biggest upsets we've seen in any sport in a long time. This team showed a lot of heart and will go on to face Puerto Rico on Wednesday... You know what they say... If you ain't Dutch, you aint much.

What We've Missed

Here is a quick rundown of the big sports happenings in the last 10 days...

ARod had surgery on his hip to repair torn cartilage. It looks like he's going to be out until May at least. Not the great start to the season that he needed to rebound from the ARoid controversy.

Terrell Owens was cut by the Cowboys. And, just when you thought that the NFL's front offices were wising up to this guy, the Buffalo Bills picked him up for a 1 year/6.5 million dollar deal. Time will tell how this gamble works out, but I don't see it being beneficial in the long run. How does an NFL exec not get the similarity between Trent Edwards and Tony Romo, I can not understand.

In NCAA hoops, Pitt dismantled #1 UConn and #15 Marquette, but somehow is only good enough to be the #2 team in the country. This is due to the extreme bias to North Carolina, who is now at #1 after beating Duke on Sunday.

Busy busy busy

An apology to anybody that ever looks at this blog--if there is anybody. As college students, the two weeks before spring break are the 2nd busiest of the semester. So, if there's anybody out there who has been disappointed, apologies from the guys at shortwhiteguys.

This week Jordan Loperena and myself will be heading to Indianapolis to cover the Big Ten Tournament for KRUI. I will try to update a couple of times down there, as we begin to learn how the madness that is March unravels.

Spring Trading

by Jordan Loperena

On a day where everyone's thoughts start turning to baseball, why not talk about America's forgotten sport - hockey. As most of you probably don't know, the NHL Trade Deadline is quickly approaching. The deadline sits at March 4 and as of now, no major moves have been made. There have been rumors involving big names like Vincent Lecavalier, Marty Havlat, and Jordan Staal. You know who they are right? Yeah, keep nodding your head with that clueless look upon your face. Anyways, the most exciting rumor thus far regarding the NHL Trade Deadline was made two weeks ago and it was a deal that seemed to good to be true. Young stud Jordan Staal had been rumored to be on his way to the Blackhawks in return for crafty veteran Martin Havlat. That deal ended up being a pure trade "rumor". The Lecavalier trade rumors have been flowing for quite some time now but his massive contract could prevent him from ever getting out of Tampa. A team would have to clear A LOT of room to bring in someone like him.

Another story coming out of the NHL today was one that I found to be disappointing, yet not necessarily surprising. New Jersey Devils' Future Hall of Fame Goaltender Martin Brodeur returned from his injury and was activated by the team. The Devils next move was sending stand-in goaltender Scott Clemmensen down to their AHL affiliate, the Lowell Devils. This typically sounds like something that should happen without any question. However, Clemmensen went 25-13-1 with a 2.39 GAA (yes, let's say it together now, Goals Against Average) while helping the Devils reach the top of the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference. It's a tough call, a future Hall of Famer who is getting old but has a ring and outstanding playoff experience or an up-and-coming goalie who has been successful, but untested in playoff action thus far in his NHL career. The Devils have decided to go with Brodeur. What would you do?

NBA Second Half Predictions.

With the NBA trade deadline coming and going with absolutely nothing of note happening NBA fans can now look to the second half of the season. As it sits right now there are 4 or 5 real contenders for the Larry O'Brien trophy. LA(not the clippers, goes w/o saying right) Boston, Cleveland, and San Antonio with Orlando having an outside chance, mostly because they have a mutant playing center. One of the most intriguing storylines of the second half will by the MVP race between Kobe and King James(gayest nickname ever, can you imagine if a white guy used that nickname). I can't remember two players playing this well who both play for top teams. There is a good chance that they will not only be considered the two best players in the league, but will both be the top seeds in their respective conferences. Really exciting stuff. All right lets get on with the predictions.

MVP- Lebron James

I must admit i am a huge Kobe fan, so i am pulling for him to win the award. But i really dont see any way in hell he wins mvp. The chance he has is if he say F you to his team the last month of the season and just starts scoring 50 a game(which he can easily do) just so he can win the award. Actually that might happen..... anyways heres my 5 reasons lebron will win
1.Lebron has slight better stats than kobe. Lebron's line is 28, 7, and 7. Kobes is 27.5, 5, 5. Im sure there will be some voters that vote purely on stats.
2.Kobe is a jerk, rapist, and kind of has annoying fake smile/persona. A lot of ex-teammates say they hate him, everyone remembers the rape thing... and i really hate his annoying fake smiling good teammate persona. Kobe, You're cold, calculating, and have a killer instinct that sets you apart from every player in the NBA. Just be you.
3.Lebron has a worse supporting cast. Although lebrons supporting cast doesnt come close to rivaling what kobe had to deal with during what i like to call the smush parker/kwame brown era, He is still without a proven #2 go to guy.
4.Kobe won it last year. I've already been hearing players and the media saying "well hey, kobe won it last year so this year is lebron's turn. That is a terrible reason but... what ya gonna do.
5.The Nike/MJ factor. Ever since Jordan retired the nba, and America in general has been trying to annoint someone as the next Jordan. Many think lebron can be that guy, and that will unfortunately win him some votes.
Western Conference winner- LA Lakers in 5 over SA spurs
I think this series would be much more competitive if they were playing in the first or second round, but i just don't see the aging spurs being able to hang with the lakers' depth. Also have you seen popovich, I think he may have alzheimer's or some other terrible disease, which cannot bode well for the spurs. Anyways, Gasol and Odom did a number on Duncan when these two teams met last year in the playoffs, and Ginobili never plays well vs Kobe so if the spurs are going to have any chance its going to have to be Tony Parker, and i just havent seen him carry that team during an entire 7 game series.
Eastern Conference winner-Celtics in 7 over Cleveland
Lebron will be good to win 2 or 3 games on his own, but the Celtics just have too much talent. I am making this prediction based on KG being back and relatively healthy. If he is out i reserve the right to change my prediction. There is one fact crippling the cavs, one of the most well known NBA laws.... The White Guy Law, you can't win a championship with a white guy being your #1 or 2 go to guy. Ilgauskas is a decent enough player, but its just the law. Ask Karl Malone. The only way you can win with a white guy as your #2, get a time machine and go back to the 70's.
NBA Finals-Lakers in 7 over Boston
I think this series is coming down to one thing. Home court advantage, and the terrible 2/3/2 finals format. Right now it looks as if the Lakers are going to finish with the best record, and they own the tiebreak over boston by beating them twice this season. They key to this series is w/o a doubt Lamar Odom, he's going to have to play big at both ends of the court. Guarding KG and being a scoring factor for the lakers. For Boston, Rajon Rondo is going to have step up, Last year in the finals the lakers literally did not guard him and when he played well the celtics were able to win.
Should be a dynamite second half of the season.

More NFL News

Stompy Gets Signed???

Reportedly the number one free agent of the NFL has already agreed to terms, three days before the Free Agency Period will begin. Lance Zierlein, a Houston area journalist, has broken the story (link here) that defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will sign with the Washington Redskins. The former Titan/head-stomper joins a long list of Daniel Snyder's big free agent expenditures over the last few years.

Really Vikings? Really?!?

Also, Houston is going to go ahead and trade backup QB Sage Rosenfels to the Minnesota Vikings for a fourth round pick in the 2009 Draft. The Iowa State alum appears to be the starter for this team (can't be worse than the Tavaris Jackson/Gus Ferrote experiment of last year). My only question is, can Sage Rosenfels be the guy to turn the Vikings from a first round playoff loser to a Super Bowl contender? I'm just not seeing this working out...

Eye of the Tiger

Great news! No, it's not another Rocky sequel. Tiger Woods will be golfing at this weekend's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. This will mark the first competitive play for Tiger since tearing his ACL at last year's US Open.

Tiger and Rocco at the 2008 US Open

Watching Tiger limp his way to defeat crowd favorite Rocco Mediate en route to his 14th major championship was arguably the most compelling moment in golf's illustrious history. Tiger had successful reconstructive knee surgery just two days later.

With just over a month until the Masters begins, will Tiger be able to shake the six-plus months of rust and compete at the high level we are accustomed to seeing from him? Or could this be the thing that finally slows him down?

NFL News

The NFL Combine will come to a close today. NFL Network will be showing the workouts of the defensive backs all day tomorrow if you're interested. Top prospects to watch for tomorrow include South Carolina S Emmanuel Cook, Oregon S Patrick Chung, Ohio State CB Malcom Jenkins, and Illinois CB Vontae Davis. For those at work, the coverage is also available online at

Also, big news in impending free agency... Longtime Indianapolis Colt wide receiver Marvin Harrison will reportedly be released this week. Any suggestions on some teams that might be looking for a handsy veteran like Marvin?

UPDATE - 2/24/09 5:30
Marvin Harrison was released today by the Indianapolis Colts. By cutting Harrison, the NFL's second all-time leading receiver in receptions made, the Colts will save themselves seven million dollars next year.

NL Central- The St. Louis Cardinals

The 2009 St. Louis Cardinals are going to be contenders in 2009. No doubt... There I said it. Admittedly, I am a Cubs fan, but I have forced myself to give credit where credit is due for the betterment of the blog... Adam Wainright and Chris Carpenter are both aces when healthy, and with the two finally healthy in 2009, the Cardinals will be neck and neck with the Cubs all season long... Can't wait...

The position players (I promise I will not digress into steroid curiosities amongst these players):
The Cardinals have not only an underrated outfield, but also two underrated prospects in the outfield in Joe Mather and Nick Stavinoha. Both provide pop and quite a bit of upside. (Watch out for Joe Mather as Glaus's possible temporary replacement at third...) Oh wait... almost forgot about Colby Rasmus, the top prospect in the Cardinals' system. Rasmus is a leadoff-type hitter with potential to be a great defensive outfielder. Rick Ankiel did what not many have been able to do in baseball history by successfully transforming himself from starting pitcher to plus-defensive outfielder with power... Skip Schumaker is a grinder and Ryan Ludwick had a breakout year last year with a .299 average, 37 homers and 113 RBIs. If he can have even comparable numbers to that in '09, the Cards will have a dynamic middle of the order with Pujols, Ludwick, Glaus and Ankiel.
Troy Glaus, who also posted good numbers in '08 (.270, 27, 99) will begin the season on the DL after successful shoulder surgery... but no worries, as he is slated to return in mid to late April. The Cards have dependable D up the middle in Khalil Greene and Brendan Ryan. Ryan will likely start at second and he is a blooming utility man who can play 2nd and SS. Greene and Ryan will both be QAB (questionable at best) on the offensive, however, but if Greene is completely healthy and decides to become a solid hitter, not a slugger, then he could end up with (. 270, 20, 75) type numbers... Stop swinging for the fences, Khalil, its not you...
Alber Pujols is the best player in the game today, in my mind... That won't change at all, especially if he is near 100% healthy, in which case he'll put up .350, 50, 140... Yadier Molina continues to play all-world defense behind the plate, and has even improved his hitting, batting above .300 last year. Stay healthy Yadi, your team needs you like a bad thing...

The pitchers:
I have mentioned that Wainright and Carpenter, barring injury, will both be ace-like and win 15+ games this year. While the 3-4-5 of Lohse, Wellemyer and Pineiro is lackluster, remember Lohse won 15 games (and had a sub-4 ERA) last year on an injury-decimated team. Wellemyer also provided stability, going 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA. Piniero has experienced success in the major leagues, and is capable of being atleast a solid fifth starter.
The Cardinals' bullpen will be their weak spot, and that has eliminated many a team from contention. They'll need to add pieces here in order to compete. Chris Perez, their closer-of-the-future-wait-I-meant-present, is inexperienced but does have tremendous stuff. Perhaps he can pull a Papelbon and put it all together. I am going to guess he will blow at least ten saves this year... More young and inexperienced closers fail than succeed (by a wide margin). Ryan Franklin is a steady setup man, but trust me... The combo of Thompson, Kinney and McClellan won't be able to get the ball to Franklin/Perez. The Cards need to add another setup man, preferably a lefty since they don't have one on the depth chart as of now. Come on Cards, WTF?

If the Cards are able to add a dependable lefty setup man before too much time has elapsed, they will be a potential dark horse to win the NL Central. Not having a lefty on the pitching staff spells disaster, and undoubtedly they will find two southpaws to add to the roster to complete a very solid team.

Prediction: 80-82 without change to bullpen
88-74 with aforementioned lefty setup additions

NL Central - The Chicago Cubs

While the Chicago Cubs delivered a 2008 NL Central Championship, the fact that they made it no further made the season seem like a complete failure. They met a hot team in the Los Angeles Dodgers, and were unable to compete in that series...

The outfield: The Cubs added a much needed left-handed hitter in Milton Bradley over the off season, and it should prove to be an interesting storyline throughout the season. The addition wasn't a bad one, but everyone is waiting for Milton's first meltdown (we probably won't have to wait too long). Bradley, similar to Alfonso Soriano, is often injured which has to be unnerving for Cub fans. If both of these two go down for an extended period of time, Sweet Lou might as well call in the season... and it is more likely than you might think. The two combined for 235 games played last year... If they can stay similarly healthy this year, then the Cubs should be ok. I would like to see Soriano moved lower in the order for obvious reasons, and Bradley/Soriano hitting back-to-back could prove to be very productive. If healthy, Soriano will hit .270, 30, 100 and 25 SBs, but expect a minor injury somewhere during the season. Bradley should also put up good numbers barring injury. Centerfield is a bit of a question mark, but I like Reed Johnson. He is good on defense, covering a lot of ground, and his bat is steady. Fukudome will come off the bench, as well as Joey Gathright, recently signed in the free agent market. These two are above-average bench players, and if Fukudome can learn how to swing like a normal human being, then the centerfield job could be all his.

The infield: The departure of Mark DeRosa to Cleveland not only saddens the Cubs fan sentimentally, but it should also sadden them materialistically. DeRosa was the glue that held the team together, in more ways than one. The fact that he could play good D at first, second, third and the corner outfield positions added more versatility than I think people realized. He was also a leader on a team needed one. The Cubs will lose their two leaders from last year, Wood and DeRosa... This is scary when you consider who is left on the team to be the leaders... That being said, Mike Fontenot will likely take over the second base job, and should do so in a steady, if non-spectacular fashion. (He reminds me of Mickey Morandini). Aramis will continue to be a clutch hitter with above-average defense. He will also refuse to run out flyballs and groundballs, irritating his viewers. Derrek Lee is one of the best defensive first basemen in baseball, which is more important than many realize. Lee has saved Aramis countless errors over the years, believe me. Lee's bat has taken somewhat of a slide over the past couple of years and I can't imagine it will get any better. Expect .280, 18 and 85. The Riot, Ryan Theriot will start at shortstop... and will do nothing spectacular, but nothing detrimental either. And the crown-jewel of the Cubs infield, Geovanny Soto will have another good year, barring injury. How he improved so dramatically on defense and hitting over the past two seasons is amazing. The reserves in the infield are lackluster, and far worse than last year's... Aaron Miles is several steps down from DeRosa and recently-added Paul Bako is no Henry Blanco on defense or at calling a game.

"Henry Blanco is a wet-dream of a backup catcher." - SWG correspondent Tommy Birch

The pitching staff: The pitching staff will be the Cubs strongsuit this year, and if they can add Peavy (which is looking less likely as time goes on) they would have one of the best staffs in recent memory. The rotation looks like this... Z, Lilly, Dempster, Harden and Marshall/Heilman (Why the Cubs traded for Heilman, a member of one of the worst bullpens ever, last year (2008 NY Mets), is beyond me... Why do you want a pitcher with a 5.21 ERA???). I think Marshall is the favorite for the fifth start job and I am anxious to see if he can put it all together this year. Hes a solid lefty, with a good breaking ball and I think he has the makeup to be a decent starter. Zambrano will continue to be inconsistent, but will have some tremendous outings over the span of the season. He will also hit about .320 with around 5 homers... Not joking... Dempster had a breakout year last season, which is slightly odd because he is nearly 33 years old. I can't imagine he will have as good of a season this year but should pitch well. Harden will dominate when he is healthy, which won't be more than half the season. Lilly is underrated and will eat up innings and will win 15 games. Thats what he does.The bullpen will be solid, but will squander a copious amount of games, because that is what they do... Jeff Samardzija will hopefully build upon his successes of last year. And the tandem of newly acquired Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol should prove to be successful in the late innings. Marmol will close and should be lights out. He has the best stuff in the game, and people will realize that this year. Chad Gaudin and recently added Luis Viscaino could have strong seasons as well, and will need to. This is a good bullpen on paper, no doubt, but I cannot remember the last time the Cubs have had a clutch bullpen. I don't think they ever have.

The final player I will talk about for this blog is Micah Hoffpauir. Hoff will fill in at first and rightfield for the beginning of the season. However, keep an eye on this guy. If he starts producing early, he could take the right field spot, moving Bradley to center (awful defensive outfield, but prospectively tremendous hitting outfield).

My prediction for the 2009 Cubs is 92-70, and another NL Central 'Ship... It goes without saying that they need to get a lot further than last year to please real Cubs fans...

NL Central- The Milwaukee Brewers

The 2009 Milwaukee Brewers will be full of youthful exuberance, hope... and losses. Their ace is 23 years old and often unhealthy. Their closer is 42 years old (fortunately for them he is one of the best closers of all time, and a solid addition). What will be an interesting team, and a once again young team, will also continue to disappoint...

The position players: (If they don't produce to their potential, the Brewers have no shot) Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun form one of the best lefty/righty middle of the orders around. Expect Braun to improve even more (.295, 40, 120, 15). Fielder will hit his usual 35 homers with 100+ RBIs. On defense, look for a team that is among the top in the NL in fielding percentage... Braun is improving in left field. Mike Cameron is one of the best in centerfield, and Corey Hart is underrated in right field. Bill Hall had a rough go last year, but I can see him rebounding this year. Expect .240, 22 and 80 from him this year... and about 20 errors at third... I could see J.J. Hardy taking a step back from a great year last year in which he hit .283, 24 and 74... Expect .275 17 and 70 with solid D at shortstop. Tony Gwynn Jr. will continue to spell the outfield... and someday will get a shot to play everyday. Trot Nixon joins the bench, and brings more than just one of the best names in baseball... Ok, maybe he doesn't... But a team that is so young and inexperienced needs a cagey vet like Nixon around to keep them all level-headed. Rickie Weeks continues to disappoint at second base, and I would expect the same in '09. Jason Kendall calls a wonderful game behind the plate, and that is about all he does (not to slight the importance of said virtue... just stating a fact). Craig Counsell and Mike Lamb spell the starters, and Counsell's steady play could lead to a starting spot at some point during the season as Weeks and Hall have been disappointments. Counsell's virtually error-free play at third, second and short is critical to the team's success.

The pitching: (The reason the Brewers won't win more than 80 games this year). Yovanni Gallardo is the Brewers best pitcher. He is also 23 years old. He will likely be the second or third starter to open the season because of his youth. Recently acquired Braden Looper will likely start the season opener. Looper is a decent big league starter (last year 12 wins, 4.16 ERA). The rest of the rotation is either sub par or inexperienced. Subpar: Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan (A combined 19-20 with 4.57 ERA in '08). Manny Parra is going to have a solid, possibly inconsistent year, and will probably strike 150-180 guys out and win 10-12.The Brewers bullpen, as it stands now, is not good. Other then Hoffman, their closer to be, the bullpen is full of inconsistent hurlers at best, who combined last year had a 4.51 ERA. With hurlers like Riske, Villanueva (Carlos not Charlie), Julio, McClung, Coffey and Gagne; Brewers fans are going to have plenty of near heart attacks (possibly full-blown ones). Trevor Hoffman, in possibly his final year, will continue to be a solid closer (he still has one of the best change ups in the game).

The Brewers are several pieces away from being a contender. They barely made the playoffs last year WITH C.C. and Sheets, two stellar starting pitchers, so what makes anyone think they will contend this year? Expect a 79-83 season. I am being somewhat kind here... side note: Ben Sheets elected to have elbow surgery to start the season due to a lack of considerable offers from teams... He will be out until at least mid-season... meaning the Brewers will receive no draft-pick compensation when he signs with another club... Poor Brewers...

NL Central - The Cincinnati Reds

I’ve always been told that the best way to learn about the future is to know about the past. So let’s take a look at the disappointment that was the 2008 Cincinnati Reds’ season.

The Good: the youth movement, getting rid of the twin albatrosses who resided in the corners of the outfield, and Dusty Baker setting a world record with his 1,000,000th toothpick consumed

The Bad: finishing 74-88 (only seven games better than Pittsburgh), Reds’ ace Aaron Harang’s 6-17 record

The Ugly: continuing the streak of losing seasons (eight), continuing the playoff drought that’s lasted since 1995, Edwin Encarnacion’s defense at third base, Corey Patterson (only in Cincinnati can you bat .205 and lead off)

Disclaimer: There were lots of awful things you could say about the Reds’ season. I merely skimmed the surface, knowing that if I dove deep enough into that abyss, I may end up never seeing the light of day again. I apologize for my lack of journalistic presence in this matter.

Looking forward, this team has plenty to get excited about. Forward might mean three years from now, but at least there’s something to be optimistic about. This optimism springs from the youth of this ball club. Last season, rookies all stepped in and by the end of the season had filled big roles. Joey Votto’s name needs to be placed first and foremost in this group (pun intended). Votto put up a .297 average with 24 HRs and 84 RBI’s in his first campaign, which got him runner-up to Cubs catcher Geo Soto in the NL ROY race. The highly touted outfielder Jay Bruce also got his first big-league season under his belt last year, putting up a .254/ 21/ 52 in only 108 games. Rookies stepping up to a lesser extent were outfielder Chris Dickerson and catcher Ryan Hannigan, who did more than serviceable jobs in their late season call-ups. These young men, along with Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips, will make up the core of the offense for the 2009 Reds.

The Reds' 2009 Preseason MVP, Joey Votto

GM Walt Jocketty didn’t make any big splashes in the market this year, but I think his moves will pay off. He greatly improved the CF position, bringing in speedster Willy Taveras to be the table setter for this young team. He resigned Jerry Hairston to come compete at LF and SS. He also traded the oft-injured Ryan Freel (and his imaginary friend Farney) for former All-Star catcher Ramon Hernandez, who really needed a change of scenery. These guys may not be studs, but you don’t need to be to outperform last year’s Corey Patterson and David Ross/Javier Valentin.

The Lineup

1. Willy Taveras – CF
2. Jerry Hairston/Chris Dickerson – LF
3. Joey Votto – 1B
4. Jay Bruce – RF
5. Brandon Phillips – 2B
6. Edwin Encarnacion – 3B
7. Ramon Hernandez – C
8. Jeff Keppinger – SS

The bench will be made up of Alex Gonzalez, Ryan Hannigan, Norris Hopper, Wilkin Castillo, and probably either Jacque Jones or Darryl Ward.

The youth movement also was prominent in the pitching staff. Starter Edinson Volquez, who the Reds received for Josh Hamilton, earned All-Star status in his first year away from Arlington. He put together an impressive 17-6 record, while also leading the Reds with a 3.21 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 196 innings. Rookie Johnny Cueto also played a big role in the rotation last season, and he’ll look to improve on his 9-14 record from last year. The success of this rotation as a whole will depend on the health of staff ace Aaron Harang. From 2005-2007, Harang went 43-30 with an ERA of 3.76 and 597 Ks. He was on pace for another solid year before Dusty Baker tried to ruin yet another pitcher’s career. If he can return to his previous form, and Bronson Arroyo can continue to be the innings eater he’s proved he can be, this minus from last year can become a plus pretty easily.

The bullpen looks to build on what was a solid year, at least in Cincinnati terms. Closer Francisco Cordero completed 34 saves in 40 opportunities, and I would expect similar numbers from him for this year. Losing lefty Jeremy Affeldt to free agency is going to sting, but the signing of veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes will hopefully ease that pain. Guys to watch for will be Bill Bray, Nick Masset, and Jared Burton, who all pitched really well last year when needed.

The Rotation

1. Edinson Volquez
2. Aaron Harang
3. Bronson Arroyo
4. Johnny Cueto
5. Micah Owings/Homer Bailey/Ramon Ramirez

The 2009 Cincinnati Reds I feel are a sneaky team. They have a young core and a clubhouse without a cancer. On paper, they’re probably just as good at the beginning of the year as the Tampa Bay Rays team of last year. If the pitching staff can stay healthy, which is a big if with Dusty “The Ligament Hater” Baker managing, this team will be successful. The if’s make this a hard team to project, but I have a feeling that this team will do better than years past.

Cincinnati Reds: 83-79, Third Place in NL Central

Spring Training!!!

Spring Training is officially in the air! I wish that Spring was in the air here in Iowa, but I'll settle for baseball being back for another season.

Here at SWG, we will be breaking down all of the Major League teams one-by-one. We will start with the NL Central this week and hopefully get the rest of the breakdowns your way before the season begins...


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