MLB Post-Season Predictions

April 4, 2012

AL

East- Rays.  They have the best rotation and always play the Yankees and Sox tough.

Central- Tigers.  MVP caliber players from 1st (Fielder) to (Verlander) 3rd (Cabrera).  Defense looks shaky to me but they can over come it.

West- Rangers. Tough call since the Angels had an amazing off season.  Unfortunately for them, I personally think that CJ Wilson is overrated and Pujols and Hamilton cancel each other out. The rest of the Rangers would take the Angels to the woodshed.

Wildcards- Angels and Yankees.  The Yankees will find a way to pull it out since their resources are endless.  Their rotation, CC & Associates, won’t stand up for an entire season but they are deep enough where they won’t all have to be good.  An average rotation paired with that monstrous lineup and the RF jetstream gets them in.

Champion- Rays.  When it comes down to getting to championships I always felt that teams with the least to lose thrive.  They have an excellent manager and talent everywhere so why not?

MVP- Miguel Cabrera.  I broke my nose playing 3rd and had my best season in HS so MC should too.

Cy Young- Verlander.  He’s still nasty and pitchers follow up big years more easily than hitters.  Stay with who is hot.

 

NL

East- Phillies.  Until Doc and Lee leave town no east team will be able to score enough runs consistently to beat them.  It doesn’t matter if Utley and Howard don’t see the field until July because the Phillies can beat you in so many other ways.

Central- Brewers.  The Cardinals and Brewers both lost their best player, the Cubs are the Cubs, Pittsburgh hasn’t had a winning season since Vanilla Ice was relevant, and the Astros are about to get shipped to the AL west just to give them a chance at seeing the postseason.  The Brewers just have the most reliable and effective rotation and bullpen. 

West- Giants.  I think they made a mistake locking up Cain before the season thus leveling out any potential contract year bump he could have provided.  News that Lincecum was eliminating his slider for the first part of the season sounds wonderful too.  He won his Cy Young Awards with a dominating fastball and a filthy change-up and got pounded last year when he used his slider way more than he had before.  I haven’t figured out how they will score runs but Posey coming back should help.  After all Posey’s power came from his beautiful swing and not his athleticism, IMHO.

Wildcards- Braves and Dodgers.  I’m a homer and the Braves’ string of poor luck with injuries has to run out eventually… right?  The Dodgers should get a boost from their “Under New Management” sign hung outside of the stadium.  Also, some guy named Kershaw still pitches for them with a bum patrolling CF. *close sarcasm*

Champ- Phillies. There is only one team with championship pitching here.

MVP- Pujols. Fielder. Roy Halladay.  Its going to be more of a lifetime achievement award but well deserved.

Cy Young- Halladay

World Series Champs- Rays.

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Training Cont…

February 22, 2012

While perusing the interwebs as usual, I looked up some of the teams in the leagues I’m interested in playing in.  A lot of the guys are former college players from small colleges and JuCos mostly.  It makes me wonder if I can actually hang with them.  That got me thinking about the tryouts and everything that I have to do still. Then I thought to myself, a fastball is still just a fastball, a groundball is still a groundball and there is a reason these guys are playing here too (because they weren’t actually all that great).  I can’t worry about the other guys, I can only worry about myself since I am the only one that I can control.  I can hang and in a few months I’ll be better than that and next season I’ll be even better and then no one will care that I didn’t play in college.

I took a batting lesson yesterday and accomplished what I went there to accomplish which was to get another pair of eyes on my swing. I had been rolling over on pitches that I was catching out front of the plate. Now I keep my hands ahead of the bat and although I’m not squaring up pitches as well as I was, I’m able to hit inside pitches without tapping them out toward third.  I never hit much for power so I’m not worried about that changing. That was the first batting lesson I’ve ever had in my life and now I’ve essentially figured out why the way I was brought up hitting wasn’t working and never really did.  Rec’d for all the kids out there.


Frustration at the Wall

January 30, 2012

The last month has been difficult in training for the upcoming season.  I had some serious pain in my shoulder that prevented me from throwing regularly.  After a few doctor’s appointments that confirmed that there was no structural damage in my shoulder; I got sick the next day.  I’m very frustrated. With tryouts around the corner on March 3rd, I need to get some serious work in while continuing to do well in school.  I’m so tired of the roadblocks that I’m ready to power through them at the risk that something gets worse or goes wrong. It’s so hard to sit around and let my body fall back to where it was 4 months ago just because I’m sick. That means that it’s time to solve frustration with action and positive thinking.  February now holds all of the potential that I have to go into the tryouts prepared to perform. 

To improve in all respects I’m going to:

– Visit the hitting coach and get my bat coordination to an acceptable level

– Have the ol’ girlfriend hit ground balls to me off of a tee.

– Continue to practice pitching in a cage

– Continue hitting off of a tee with good fundamentals

– Continue to hit the gym and do good structural exercises to strengthen my shoulder.

I’m also reading the Mental Game of Baseball. Great book with a lot of insights onto anything you seek to do in life put into a baseball context.


Winter Conditioning

November 28, 2011

The way I figure it I’ve got to improve in a number of areas to be ready to play in the spring season.

  • Hitting: I haven’t hit a 90mph pitch since my last game when I was 18.  I broke my leg sliding into second base and haven’t seen heat above 60 since.
  • Conditioning: I’m overweight and speed was a lot of my game when I was younger.  The guys in this league are generally fat so this could be an area where I can play a role.  I just got to lose 15lbs or so and I’ll be right around my HS playing weight.
  • Defense:  My footwork and instincts are ok but I need to work on grounders and pop-ups since I’ve gotten so rusty.
  • Pitching: This is another area I can contribute in.  My fastball is slow but accurate, my curve-ball doesn’t move, but my change-up works! 1 out of 3 ain’t a bad start right?

I’ve already been hitting the gym pretty hard so the next step is to get in the cages and take some hacks and pitch a little.  I’ll need a better plan to increase my bat speed to where it should be but that will come down the line a bit.

The problem I’m having now is finding a good place to practice. The fields near my place are always full with kid leagues so I’ll probably have to come up with an alternate field or clearing to practice in since I likely can’t afford to go to the cages all that often.  Luckily, I have all the equipment I need except a legal BBCOR bat so I can at least get started.


Off-Season Training

November 9, 2011

My Saturdays are going to be filled with litigation class this spring which means that I can’t coach little league again this spring. Instead I’ve decided to play in an adult league. I’m not sure how good these teams are but I know how bad I am right now. I know there are former college and pro players in the league so I am a little worried about my chance for success. I know I was damn good when I was healthy and focused. I also know that I dragged my team down when I was hurt and playing through it. Basically, simply making a team is not enough for me. I want to be a starter and a serious contributor from practice 1. Am I there now? Doubtful at best. Do I have the things it takes to be there in March? Everything except cash for coaching and cages. The master plan will come later.


A Solution to the World Series Viewership Problem

October 26, 2011

Ratings for the World Series are terrible. Why?

First, they start at 8ET. A lot of people pass out before the game is over on the eastern seaboard. Second, it isn’t an event. The WS needs a make over that would make it unmissable. But it is 7 games long. Unless you’re a fan of one of the teams, one game is inherently miss-able in this format. But if there were just a one game winner take all WS, THAT would be unmissable. That would be an event. Third, who is playing again? We have to keep score ourselves! Its 3-2 Texas. Over? The Cardinals! Oh yeah… In this day and age people cannot seem to focus for more than a moment before their eyes are taken off the show. The WS must be shorter to account for this issue.

I read an article blaming fans for not watching a truly great series. It essentially said “shame on you” for not watching. Do Americans feel pressure from people who want their money? Perhaps guilt when face to face with a homeless person, but guilt to give a billion dollar industry their free time and money? No way. Rather than moan and complain about a sub-par viewership MLB should make a statement.

The struggle to get to the WS is staggering and extremely difficult requiring thousands of work hours, millions of dollars and gallons of sweat. So let’s make the finale one worth all the effort. Let’s take out one of the truly great things about baseball that can inspire or tranquilize. I mean we should take out the “there’s always tomorrow” idea. “Oh well we lost, at least so and so is pitching tomorrow” is no longer an acceptable statement in a championship format particularly when there is no tomorrow, this is it, this is tomorrow and no one can change what happens tonight. This mindset brings a sense of urgency and desperation that seems notably absent to many when unnoteworthy backups and 4th day starters are playing in an otherwise non-final game. After all, I will just catch the aces pitching tomorrow…

One game. Our best 9 v. Your best 9. Can you imagine the monumental pressure of a pitching change or a pinch hitter being brought in? What about home field advantage or a neutral field or a coin flip having an effect on the outcome? Umpire screw ups? The point is that what the WS needs are stakes, drama, pressure, emotion, and a feeling of finality. The World Championship coming down to an epic throw-down of best on best hyped up over a couple days seems like the perfect formula to devise a sustainable viewership that can not only compete with Sunday/Monday night football but the Super Bowl.

Maybe it just seems that way.


The missing link? A youth coach’s view of crime and punishment.

October 14, 2011

Nine year olds are very selfish creatures.  It’s not that they ask for everything under the moon or require tons of attention.  They only care about themselves, what they’re doing, when it is their turn to bat, what they’re playing in the 5th inning, or how they’re going to drink out of the water cooler without any cups (the answer was to use their own dirty nasty hands and lap it up like a dog).  Of course the cliche old line there is no I in team comes to mind when they were playing in the dirt while the ball skipped by their teammate or they make a silly throw way over their teammate’s head or are talking over their teammates.   I decided to change that mindset after our first loss when our guys were making ridiculous plays and not paying attention to anything at all.

I started using team based exercises in practice where they relied on one another to prevail.  The exercises were simple: relay races either running or throwing.  A few keys to the practice were important to how it went.  First, we had to instill some form of discipline since they began to openly refuse to pay attention.  There had to be rules now since they would not handle themselves like our spring team did.  There also had to be punishment for breaking those rules.

The rules:

  1. No talking while the coach is talking. (This really reinforced what they heard me say and the quality of conversation they had with one another.)
  2. Hustle EVERYWHERE! (I got some back talk earlier in the season from a kid I told to hustle.  Now it was written in stone [whiteboard] and had to be followed.)
  3. Pay attention/watch the ball at all times. (This is more about safety than anything.  It also helped reinforce backing up one another.)
  4. Care about your teammates. (HUGE! The guys started cheering on their teammates on their own! They began caring about how the pitcher was throwing, how each other was hitting, who stole how many bases, etc.  I think this was the biggest part of the turn around and the main focus point of the whole rules system since all of the other rules reflect back on this rule.  Also, our bad throws were cut down since when you made silly throws it showed you didn’t care about your teammate [NOT simply bad throws, but silly sidearmed on the run or from your knees no look type throws].)
  5. No tattletales (Shows you don’t care about your teammates and also kept me sane.  Could you imagine a dozen kids saying “coach he doesn’t care/pay attention/hustle”? I did. I called it a nightmare.).

The punishment is poles. That is, they must run from one foul pole to the other and back before they can come back and play.  They’ve all made the run, those that have had to run, and showed improvement immediately.  The running must be running and not jogging, walking, or generally lollygagging.  They have to run it again if they don’t run.

5 simple rules and our guys look like the ball players they were always capable of being. They were even doing their own stretches in the dugout during a rain delay.  Now, this all looks like it requires a mean coach but I’ve coached the same way since the beginning.  There is no punishment for a poor throw (they’re 9), poor pitching (they’re 9 and pitching for the 1st time), striking out (how many times did the Diamondbacks strikeout this season?), poor base-running (it’s hard to get a hang of), or poor fielding (Buckner happens). This system just gives structure to a system that was failing everyone by requiring accountability out of each player for the way they handled themselves on and off the field.

Lastly, the parents haven’t said a single thing against it.  These are relatively vocal people, after all their sons are at stake here.  They’ve been vocal about pitching decisions (mine have worked out thankfully) and other team coaches (booed one guy) but they’ve been silent about running poles. I suspect that it is because they recognize the lack of discipline or perhaps they are simply deferring to my judgment (yeah right, in my mind maybe).

5-1-1 Dodgers with 2 games to go.  I like our chances at the championship although we are 1/2 game behind.

In lieu of trophies, our league doesn’t provide everyone with them, we have a dozen balls signed by Kyle Farnsworth (hook-up) and likely golden baseballs again for the kids just like we did in the spring.