Category Archives: Tigers

A look at the first week of baseball: Infante, D’backs and Ozzie Castro, er, Guillen

Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante is off to a good start - his manager, however, is struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s a week into the season for the boys of summer. It’s nice to get back into the routine of checking daily baseball stats, deciding the ole fantasy line-up for the day and catching whatever games I can on the tube – especially the late games. It’s my first full summer in Toronto and in addition to all things baseball from my years past, I now get to engage with the Fan590, the great crew of baseball nuts and the spot-on and absolutely moronic baseball fanatics – aka Jays fans – out there.

The anxiety and curiosity that comes with the start of the season is always at it’s worst. Everything is so up in the air. How will so-and-so perform? What pitchers are going to throw gems? Who is going to surprise and rip it up the first week and are they legit? Who is going to tank? When do we worry they may not get out of the funk?

And so on and so on.

So, in honour of the first week of the season, the biggest surprises and whatnots of the week.

1. The first-series sweeps of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1966 (correct me if I’m wrong people) the two powerhouses of the last 20 years in the American League lost their opening series’ in not-so-classy fashion. Four blown saves (Boston had three, including two in one game; Rivera, surprisingly, blew a ninth inning lead to the Tampa Bay Rays). I know it’s early, but it’s surprising. Since then the Yanks have managed some wins against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while the Sox lost two of three to the Blue Jays and sit at 1-4. No blown saves though, so that’s a positive.

That said – Boston has a nine-game homestand starting Friday. Rays (four), Rangers (two), Yankees (three). If they can’t pull it together at home against these three equals/better thans, it’s going to be a long, long season for Sox Nation.

2. Omar Infante

It’s early, but he’s tied for the league lead in dingers. I know, it’s only three, but still, it’s shocking. The guy hit seven total last season in 640 plate appearances (his 162-game average is nine). In seven seasons (2005-2011) Infante hit 35 home runs in about 2,000 at-bats (note: he hit 16 in 2004 for the Tigers). It’s very likely he won’t hit more than his 2004 total this year, his tenth, but the hot start has to be exciting for the Marlins, who rely on him to get on base and provide quality defense at second.

3. Ozzie Guillen

I’m not going to get into his love for Fidel Castro too much, nor the five-game suspension that followed – but holy lord. In the span of a week he told reporters he gets drunk at the hotel after every game and passes out, followed by bro-love for the longest standing dictator in the world in Castro. Well done Ozzie. Thing is, it’s not surprising – he has no filter.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

This team is potent. They’re deep on the bench and can field a solid one-thru-eight, loaded with solid hitters who can do damage if given the opportunity. Pitching? Yep, they have it. The addition of Trevor Cahill to the duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. The comeback against the Giants Saturday shows they can scrape back. Down six runs early, they chipped away and stole the win 7-6 from their division rivals – and biggest opponent for the division title.

5. Minnesota Twins

Six runs in four games – three of those games against the Baltimore Orioles. Enough said.

6. The week of blown saves

Sweet mercy, I don’t know what to think of all the blown saves, walk-off/extra inning wins in the first week. There were enough that it’s cause conversation among the three of us here at Out of Write Field. The AL East is particularly disturbing: Rivera (1), Jays Sergio Santos (2), Red Sox Aceves and Melancon (3) have had it rough in the first week. Watch for Matthew Strader’s piece on the closer issues going on across the majors – blown saves, injuries and everything going wrong in the ninth. As I write this Jonathan Broxton, Royals closer-of-the-day, just blew what feels like the 30th save opportunity in the first week of the season (I think it’s actually 17 at this point of the day with Broxton – but still…17!!? late addition note: Make it 18. Joe Nathan blew the game for the Rangers last night in the ninth to the Seattle Mariners)

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No Way, Jose? Yes way, Delmon Young.

Delmon Young: poised to be the next Jose Bautista?

STRADER: It’s what every great, and not so great, sportswriter wants to do.

The killer prediction. The real one. No, for all those who have tried it, the New York Yankees are going to win the World Series is not a prediction. Shut up.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to win the division is a prediction. (Props to Sports Illustrated’s Dr. Z on the greatest prediction of all time – Giants over Patriots on Feb. 3, 2008 ­– now that’s a prediction). They’re the one nobody sees coming, the one that makes you look like a sports genius. A swami, shall we say?

Prior to the 2009 season, I named my fantasy baseball team, Jose Bautista?Really?? I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I predicted 54, 124, .260, .378, .617. Nobody did. But it was a prediction. I saw something in his bat during his September run and thought to myself, this guy’s gonna make this team. He’s going to win a starting job and play regularly, Cito obviously loved him. Maybe he’ll hit 25 and 85 and surprise a lot of people.

I figured him to be another Wendel Clark. Toronto great, you know? Not quite great, but best in town, so ring of honour and ticker tape parade.

Don’t worry Toronto fans, I’m a Vancouver boy. You’d think Trevor Linden scored 50 a year…

Arguable best player in the game though? Nobody saw that out of Jose. And now, as he backed up one of the best offensive seasons in baseball history (Yep, I’m a steroid era hater – all hail Ken Griffey Jr. The real Barry Bonds. Yeah, we all know it Barry) with 43, 103, .302, .447 and .608 our resident King of Toronto has become the subject of one of the best of the present day baseball off-season predictions.

Who is the next Jose Bautista?

This is my take: (And yes, you will hear that story about my 2009 fantasy team a lot)

His name is Delmon Young, and I believe he is the next Jose Bautista. Granted, Young isn’t going from 15 HR and 54 RBI to 54 HR and 124 RBIs the way Jose did, because Delmon’s already had a great year. 21 HR in the majors is great, I don’t care what anyone says, and 121 RBIs is ridiculous, but there’s another step for Delmon.

He came with a pile of hype when Tampa Bay drafted him in 2003, and probably has even had a day when he went too high in some people’s fantasy drafts. But has he ever been anyone’s first or second rounder consistently? Has he ever been one of those guys everyone wants to draft? Or was he J.D. Drew? (Oh, ok, someone else got him, I’ll just take Markakis…)

That’s what he was supposed to be, and much like we all just watched with Alex Gordon, I think health, maturity and a consistent spot in a talented lineup is going to boost Delmon to the kind of player who can be counted on for 35-40 HR’s and 100+ RBIs every year. He has to work on that strikeout rate, that can come with age, and experience.

Jose did it at 29. Gordon was 27 last year. Delmon will be 27 this year.

Everybody knows who Delmon Young is. But after 2012, he’s going to be one of those guys everyone wants to draft.

LIVINGSTONE will offer his selection for breakout player of the year in Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce. Stay Tuned.

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And the no. 2 pick is…Justin Verlander?

POINT McGILLIGAN: Before my draft, I was sure I could trace the demise of my 2012 Fantasy Baseball team to early May, 2011.

It was around this time my daughter was conceived and, little did I realize, my sporting intake would suffer dramatically.

Heading into this year’s draft, I really only knew the big offseason transactions (Pujols, Fielder) and not much else. I knew my Red Sox were still trying to live down the chicken and beer thing (Note: one guy in our league used that as a team name, I believe it will be the most used team name in fantasy sports this year) and had hired Bobby Valentine.

That was about it.

No in depth studying for sleeper players, rookies to watch for, or my personal favourite of analyzing second half statistics so I too could convince myself not to take Jose Bautista.

My friend Andrew Livingstone, on the other hand, has been incessantly posting his thoughts on the season, the Jays, and his MLB 12 videogame career. (There needs to be a men’s class only for new dad to be that explains how watching sports and playing video games are pretty much dead to you)

Basically, he seemed to have done all the homework necessary for a successful draft while I was nervous enough that I wanted to start smoking again. Without preparation, I was convinced I would hover near the basement of the league.

Then came the second pick of the draft.

With matt Kemp selected first the next pick was……Justin Verlander?

I like the Tiger hurler as much as the next guy, but in more of a late second, early third-round kind of way. The fact that the pick came from Livingstone was even more perplexing, until I saw the little symbol above the team name that indicates auto draft is on.

If you’re in a fantasy league and auto drafting, you’re missing like 70 per cent of the fun. If you’re the commissioner of the league, as Andrew was, it’s almost inexplicable.

Anyway, after that I began to feel a bit better as Andrew’s team is in shambles (he claims it’s alright but he’s pressing for deals already) and I’m a bad enough person that this has a positive impact on me.

As for my team, my two-month old daughter is off the hook as I currently like my squad (keep in mind no games have been played).

The strength of my team is the infield, outfield is decent but could be great if Carl Crawford can rebound (picked him up in the ninth round) and the pitching is solid with the big names being Weaver, Kennedy and Kimbrel.

The biggest gambles on my squad are Justin Morneau and Phil Hughes, both late round selections that could prove to be huge or utter wastes of time.

So to recap, I’m feeling good about the season and since my Habs are nowhere near the playoffs (not that I would be in any shape to watch given my constant zombie like state), I’m ready for the games to start counting. I’m also curious how Livingstone will remake his team.

COUNTERPOINT LIVINGSTONE: I dove across the floor of my cramped apartment. Frantically, I ripped my computer from my bag and tossed it onto the bed. How the hell did I mess up my fantasy draft start time? I’m the damn commissioner. I set the time. It’s every fantasy baseball nuts’ worst nightmare – and it’s ten times worse being the head of the league.

I jumped in on the 16th round, I think, I was more frantic at the fact my pick was up and I had just over a minute to make a selection. I had no idea what I had.

And after reviewing my half-team quickly I found a lights out pitching staff and what looked liked a roll-of-the-dice batting order. My team was full of potential breakout guys like Dee Gordon and Jeff Kipnis (shudder, who I drafted fourth round, or 39th overall), a potential comeback player of the year (Giants catcher Buster Posey) and a potential Giancarlo Stanton (Nationals’ Michael Morse). Oh, and Ian Desmond, who went 62nd behind Ichiro.

I groaned. I drafted ten pitchers in my first 15 picks. Having no plans to miss the draft – I spent weeks preparing my rankings in a particular way so not to forget about sleeper guys and potential late-rounders (see Kipnis) – I scrambled to see what was left to me. Sadly, I was left to piece together a bunch of bats that hopefully would have breakout years.

Cardinals’ David Freese, Angels’ Mark Trumbo, Jays’ Colby Rasmus, Orioles’ Nick Markakis, Padres’ Carlos Quentin, welcome to the rag-tag team known as Team Beast.

It’s a gamble. My team has the potential to put up consistent numbers across the six batting categories – but it’s a gamble. Most of these guys are unproven but said to be on the up and up, had breakout years last season, or have the potential to rebound from off-seasons (Quentin and Rasmus, I’m talking about you). I’m either going to be laughing all the way to the top of the league, or damn near close, or I’m going to spend my season trying to stop the bleeding with hot free agent pick-ups.

Either way, I’m in for a treat. I’ve got speed, guys who hit for average, solid run production and run producers – but only if the stars align. Gamble, like I said. I’ve already made changes to my squad, having to adjust my strategy now that, well, it went completely out the window. Drop Raul Ibanez, sign Gaby Sanchez; drop Luke Hocevar, sign Greg Holland (had too many starters and needed another relief/closer to round things out); drop Mitch Moreland, pick up Lucas Duda; send Angel Pagan back to heaven and recruit Delmon Young.

All a gamble and yes, I’m stressed out from it all – and with the late additions of Giants’ Pablo Sandoval (for Dodgers’ Dee Gordon) and

Now – The Verlander deal. Yeah, I drafted him second overall. He killed it last year and was one of the biggest fantasy point getters overall. Reviewing our draft, it’s a lot of guys picking bats over pitching. I’ve always been one to draft pitching early on – I think a strong staff and an above average bunch of bats can end up doing well. That said, my bats aren’t where I’d want them to be and I’m sweating about it, in fact, I lost sleep over it last night.

But then I look at someone who drafted the entire time and they took flash-in-the-pants guys like D’Backs Ian Kennedy, a walk-machine (Nats’ Gio Gonzalez), the $100-million bust (Sox Carl Crawford) and Justin ‘I play baseball?’ Morneau.

Oh, and old man David Ortiz. That all said – I take the insults as a grain of salt and plan, with some strategic maneuvering all-season, to be at least three spots ahead of McGilligan and his Team Charros.

I missed the first part of the draft – he had a baby. Neither are fair excuses for what mediocrity may ensue from our teams.

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