Tag Archives: Arizona Diamondbacks

My National League West prediction for the 2012 season

With a heaping helping of faith and wishful thinking, I’m picking the San Francisco Giants to win the National League West this year. Even as I typed that sentence, the nagging voice in my head was saying, “What about the Diamondbacks?”

The pick comes down to arms versus bats, and the Giants have the better pitching. But I have my doubts about the San Francisco staff this year. I don’t think Tim Lincecum is a lock to have another dominating season, and I fret about closer Brian Wilson’s health.

On offense, the Giants should be more productive this year. That’s predicated on the iffy proposition that Buster Posey regains most of his 2010 form, Brandon Belt proves he can hit as a starting first baseman, and Melky Cabrera approximates his 2011 numbers.

I put the Diamondbacks a close second and the Rockies hard on their heels in third, with the Dodgers and Padres trailing.

That analysis and $1.35 will get you a tall Pike Place Roast at Starbucks.

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The baseball season ends, and winter begins

It’s no coincidence: The baseball season concluded last night as the Cardinals knocked off the Rangers in St. Louis, and it’s snowing this morning in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York.

What more do fans of the Phillies, Pirates, Yankees and Mets need to remind them that the 2011 season didn’t go their way?

But what a season it was! The Pirates were winning for most of the first half of the year, while two hours away in Cleveland the Indians were leading the American League Central, and the Tigers eventually won that division.

The Brewers got back to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, and the Diamondbacks smoked the National League West.  The Red Sox dominated for so long, then fell apart.

The Rangers rolled through the season and the American League playoffs to get another crack at the title. And the Cubs still sucked.

But the best story of all was the Cardinals, coming from way back to sneak into the playoffs as the AL Central Wild Card and ultimately win the World Series in seven games.

The series got better ratings than in previous years, helped by wild and crazy Game 6, which is already a big chapter in more than a century of Major League Baseball lore.

Baseball’s detractors will coldly point out that the playoffs’ and series’ ratings pale in comparison to the ratings the National Football League games get, and there’s no arguing the point.

The NFL has our wallets.

But baseball has our hearts.

Who were the best relievers in baseball in 2011? Jose Valverde and J.J. Putz

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance gives the Goose Gossage award each year to the best relievers in baseball, and here’s my ballot. I have nominations for the American and National leagues.

American League

1. Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers – The best in baseball in 2011 based on number of saves, and I think that’s an accurate reflection of his performance. He had no blown saves, and that cinches it for me.

2. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees – An astonishing season for anyone, let alone a player of his age. His numbers are better than Valverde’s in many categories, but he had 5 blown saves.

3. Chris Perez, Cleveland Indians – After Valverde and Rivera, there’s a gap, and Perez is the next in line with 36 saves.

National League

1. J.J. Putz, Arizona Diamondbacks – Putz was third in the NL with 45 saves, one behind John Axford and Craig Kimbrel. I like his low WHIP and low total of just 12 walks. He added an added aura of invincibility to the D-Backs and I also saw him more than the others, so he gets my top tally.

2. John Axford, Milwaukee Brewers – Great numbers, with only 2 blown saves. Did his blowing the save in last night’s NLDS clincher lower his value in my book? No. I’m sticking with the regular season for my picks.

3. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves – Monster numbers for a rookie, tying Axford with 46 saves and an astonishing 127 strikeouts with only 32 walks. Eight blown saves, though, but I won’t worry about them when I make him my first closer pick in next year’s fantasy draft.

Manager of the Year? Give an arm pump for Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks

Connie Mack

Can there be any choice but Kirk Gibson for manager of the year? After inheriting a dreadful Arizona team from 2010, he led the Diamondbacks to the NL West title. How can anyone top that?

Not only did the D-Backs win the West, they put the defending world champion San Francisco Giants out to pasture. Here’s how my ballot stacks up for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance Connie Mack Award for the top manager in baseball in 2011:

 

1. Kirk Gibson

2. Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers

3. Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies

To reiterate, Gibson is in a class by himself.

I put Leyland at No. 2 because of the remarkable job the Tigers did, clawing their way to the top in the AL Central. It wasn’t just Justin Verlander who put them there.

And let’s not overlook the fabulous season the Phillies had, running away with the NL East title and leading all major-league teams in victories.

Requiem for the San Francisco Giants

The inevitable happened tonight as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the defending world champion San Francisco Giants to win the National League West title. It’s a bitter end to the season for us Giants fans, none of whom have the least glimmer of hope that San Francisco can finagle a wild card berth. Frankly, I don’t want it.

The Giants’ season, as I see it, ended in Philadelphia at mid-summer when the Phillies crushed them. Or maybe it ended when Buster Posey broke his leg way back in May. It doesn’t really matter.

Following a defending world champion was a new experience for me. Growing up a Cleveland fan, I never had the pleasure. I came close in ’82 while living in Milwaukee, but the Brewers lost in 7 games to the Cardinals in the series. And yes, the Yankees won a couple of times while I was working in Manhattan and living in New Jersey. But there are no pinstripes on my heart.

In my middle age, my heart is black and orange. I have a couple of months to lick my wounds and heal, confident that some day soon pitchers and catchers will report to the desert, the same barren place where our dreams died tonight.

The 2011 National League MVP: Buster Posey

Scoff if you will at that headline, but the idea has merit. Buster Posey has proved just how valuable he is by his absence from the San Francisco Giants.

Posey broke his leg May 25 while trying to keep Scott Cousins of the Florida Marlins from touching home. Cousins scored, the Marlins won, and it’s not much of a stretch to say that the Giants lost their season that night. The mood in the clubhouse afterward was somber, and it seemed the whole Bay Area was downcast the following day when word got out that Posey was probably through for the year.

The Giants held the National League West lead for much of the summer, many weeks after Posey was sidelined. But the lack of scoring that Posey helped San Francisco overcome in their 2010 championship drive returned with a vengeance in the second half of this season. The defending champs were punchless, with the worst offense in either league.

Posey’s replacements, backup Eli Whiteside and AAA call-up Chris Stewart, struggled at the plate most of the season. They batted at the bottom of the lineup, not in the heart where Posey had been.

Also a factor in the Giants fall from first was the drop in the level of expertise behind the plate. Whiteside and Stewart let too many balls get away. Although they never quite made the comparison in words, the Giants broadcasters conveyed the change in their tone whenever the non-Poseys let one slip past. And the backup backstops didn’t gun down many runners or stop them from trying the way Posey did.

I can’t fault Whiteside and Stewart for their handling the pitching staff, however. The Giants starters were as impressive as ever in almost every statistical category but wins.

No one should lay the Giants’ troubles this year solely at the feet of Buster Posey. Closer Brian Wilson started the year hurt and is ending it hurt. The rest of the bullpen, so brilliant down the stretch last year, proved mortal. Miguel Tejada flopped at shortstop. Aubrey Huff lost his stroke. And so on.

But Posey was the nucleus of the Giants who swept to victory last fall. The team’s diminished powers in 2011 were at the very least exaggerated once he went on the disabled list.

The Giants have not been eliminated from the playoffs, but no one seems to believe either Arizona will falter or the Giants will catch the Diamondbacks with a late surge.

Maybe if Posey came back ….

The MLB app for iPhone blows me away

Resistance is futile. If you love baseball, you must get the MLB app for iPhone.

I used a $10 iTunes gift card from my Easter basket (yes, the bunny still delivers to baseball bloggers of a certain age) and another $4.99 to spring for the app the other night, and all I can say is, What took me so long?

After shelling out $14 a month or thereabouts for Sirius/XM satellite radio the last two seasons, I’m even more enamored of the iPhone app. Satellite radio gives you only the home-team broadcast, but the iPhone gives you both broadcasts, home and away, not to mention the Spanish-language broadcasts as available (adios, pelota!).

In the past 60 hours or so, I’ve listened to broadcasts of the Tigers and Angels, Mets and Phillies, Indians and Twins, Yankees and White Sox, Cubs and Diamondbacks, Pirates and Dodgers, and probably a few others I’ve sampled but forgotten.

This afternoon, I used a cheapo FM transmitter that my son picked up at Marshall’s to blast the Twins-Indians game out of a boom box.

Technology rules.