FIRST MONTH OF MARATHON COMPLETE

I’m sure you have all heard the saying that the Major League Baseball Season is not just a season, but instead its like running a marathon. During that Marathon there are peaks and valleys, hot streaks, cold streaks, slumps, surprise teams, surprise players, surprise teams, overrated players, underrated players, record setting performances, career years, career ending years, injuries, sleepers, busts, and many other baseball moments that will last forever.

As April comes to an end…the first full month of the marathon is winding down. All of the top analysts have given their early picks, hashed, and rehashed what teams will go far, which will struggle, which players will do well, and which players will tank it. So far, I must admit that as a Baseball fan I have been surprised by many things in this first month.

Well, I think that many people are not surprised of the success that Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is having in his sophomore season. Harper is second in the National League in average while batting .360 and hitting 9 HR, and knocking in 18. Harper also has a stalwart On Base Percentage of .440. Also, in the American League Miguel Cabrera is back on track for his second triple crown in a row.

Some excellent pitchers are struggling due to no run support. My American League pick for the CY Young as well as MVP Justin Verlander is just 2-2, while sporting a 1.95 ERA in 32 innings. In the National League, two of the Phillies Big 3 Cole Hammels and Roy Halladay are 1-3 and 2-2 respectively. They too have not benefited from a consistent offense.

However, the talk of the season on the mound so far has to be the Mets young star Matt Harvey. Harvey is 4-0 with a minuscule 1.54 ERA in 35 Innings while tossing 39 Strikeouts. Harvey is in the Top Ten of every pitching statistical category including a league leading WHIP of 0.69! This is definitely a surprise for anyone that is not a Mets fan. However, ask any Mets fan and they saw this coming. Actually, I picked Harvey for my Rookie of the Year in the National League, but this is actually impossible. Harvey had too many innings last year to qualify. Well, if he keeps throwing like this he could win a CY Young which would be the second Mets pitcher in consecutive seasons to win the award.

The Atlanta Braves Justin Upton, the first of two Upton brothers is the leagues early leader in Home Runs with 12. He is also batting .307 with 18 RBI. He is also sixth in Runs scored with 21. The Boston Red Sox are the early win leaders with an 18-7 record in the American League. In the National League, the Braves are 15-9, but are
3-7 in their last ten games. The surprise team of the National League has to be the Pittsburgh Pirates who lead the NL central with 15 wins.

In the American League there are two contrasting surprise teams. First of all Kansas City is leading its division with a 13-9 record. Probably the biggest surprise is the Toronto Blue Jays who were picked by many analysts to win the American League East and they are instead sitting at the bottom with a 9-17 record. Last years CY Young winner RA Dickey has struggled and is 2-4 and may be heading to the Disabled List.

For the first time since 1993, the Phillies have a player in the Top 10 of the league in batting average at this point with Michael Young, who is batting .354. The last player for the Phillies to have an average this high at this point in the season was Lenny Dykstra. Another surprise player has been Met’s catcher John Buck who has 8 HR and 23 RBI. This is the best start for a Mets catcher since Mike Piazza.

The Washington Nationals phenom Steven Strasburg has struggled and is just 1-4 at this point. The National League East has been no surprise as the Braves, Nationals, Phillies, and Meta have all competed. The American League has been pretty much where I thought it would be besides the Red Sox and Royals.

With April coming to an end…look for other stars to rise, some leaders to fade, teams to struggle, others to get hot. Baseball is the hardest sport to predict by early season results because of the length of the season, the ebb and flow of the games, the hot and cold streaks, injuries, etc. As May approaches, watch for Ryan Howard to get hot as he already has in the past week. Also, look for the Phillies starting pitching to get back on track. I see the Pirates coming back down to reality.

April showers bring May flowers. April Baseball brings May Gladiators. The Marathon has just started and as always the first month has been full of excitement. We had the brawl in Los Angeles where Carlos Quentin was hit by a Zack Greinke pitch, charged the mound, the benches cleared and Greinke suffered a break of the collarbone. Greinke has had surgery and is expected to miss at least eight weeks. We had the weird weather in which 3 games between the Mets/Rockies had to be cancelled. We had the Boston terror attacks and the ensuing game at Fenway Park that ignited and united the fans. As a fan of all sports…baseball has to be admired for its stories and ups and downs.

The Marathon has just begun. We have six months still until playoff baseball returns. At this point, it’s still anyone’s league. Even the Yankees are in second place without a few of their key stars. I’m not sure if anyone is excited as I am, but Baseball brings me happiness and joy, even during dark times in my life. Just to hear that crack of the bat and the pounding of the ball on the glove and all the fans cheering. Stay Tuned.

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EARLY MLB PREDICTIONS

This is my early predictions and thoughts on the 2013 MLB Baseball Season and a breakdown of how players will finish in different categories. First of all…we will start with the Power Rankings on Offense going into Spring Training. My Top 10 Hitting Teams in MLB are as follows:
1) Anaheim Angels- The Angels lineup is stacked with the top 4 being Mike Trout, Erick Aybar, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton.
2) Detroit Tigers- Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will produce a lot of runs.
3) Toronto Blue Jays- With the addition of Jose Reyes the Blue Jays instantly jump ahead in this list. Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista pack some punch too.
4) Washington Nationals- The addition of Denard Span will mean the addition of more runs.
5) New York Yankees- This is the lowest ranking for the Yankees lineup going into a season in forever.
6) Cincinnati Reds- Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and now a legitimate lead off threat Sin Soo Choo.
7) Saint Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals offense is potent every year even with the departure of Pujols. Carlos Beltran looks to better his comeback after a great 2012.
8) Atlanta Braves- BJ Upton, Jonathan Upton, Jayson Heyward, Martin Prado, Dan Uggla, Brian McCann. This team very well could be the number 1 Lineup.
9) Milwaukee Brewers
10) Texas Rangers
Honorable Mention (If Healthy and Up to par) Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks.

My Top 10 Pitching Staffs are as follows:
1) Detroit Tigers- Justin Verlander, Max Sherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez…Top 4 Man rotation in Baseball.
2) Los Angeles Dodgers- Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Zach Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lily, and Aaron Harang. Wow!
3) Washington Nationals- Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, ??. Awesome Top 4.
4) Philadelphia Phillies- Roy Halladay, Cole Hammels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick. Of course this is a big if…but if Halladay can stay healthy and be dominant once again the Phillies could jump to Number 1!
5) Tampa Bay Devil Rays- David Price and Jeremy Hellickson right there with the Top 1/2 Punch.
6) Cincinnati Reds- Johnny Cueto, Matt Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo.
7) Toronto Blue Jays- RA Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Bueherle give them a formidable Top 3.
8) San Francisco Giants- The Giants could be anywhere from 8th to 1st. This will depend on Tim Lincecum.
9) Atlanta Braves
10) Oakland Athletics
Honorable Mention- New York Yankees, Anaheim Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ok…now to my playoff picks.
National League East- The Washington Nationals will win their second division in a row.
National League Central- Cincinnati Reds- The Reds deserved a better fate last year and will be back.
National League West- Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card- Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants
National League Champs- Philadelphia Phillies

American League East-Toronto Blue Jays
American League Central-Detroit Tigers
American League West-Los Angeles Angels
Wild Card-Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Oakland Athletics

No you are not seeing things! The New York Tankees and Boston No Sox will not make the playoffs this season.

NL CY Young- Clayton Kershaw
NL MVP- Brandon Phillips
NL Rookie of Year-Zack Wheeler
Comeback Player of Year-Roy Halladay

AL CY Young- Justin Verlander
AL MVP- Justin Verlander
AL Rookie of Year-Mike Olt

NL HR- Ryan Howard
NL AVG- BJ Upton
NL SB- Ben Revere
NL RBI- Ryan Braun
ERA- Roy Halladay
Wins- Clayton Kershaw
K’s- Clayton Kershaw
SVS- Jonathan Papplebon

AL HR- Josh Hamilton
AL RBI- Miguel Cabrera
AL AVG- Miguel Cabrera
AL SB- Jose Reyes
AL Wins- Justin Verlander
AL ERA- Justin Verlander
AL K’s- Justin Verlander
AL SVS-Andrew Bailey

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