Sunday, March 29, 2015

Walking Dead Season 5 Finale TONIGHT!

Hey everyone, Drew back here! As you can see from the post title, I am taking a day off from talking/thinking/writing about baseball to focus on the conclusion of what I believe has been an excellent 5th season of my favorite show, The Walking Dead. I've been thoroughly enjoying this season, and I think it's safe to say that it, along with Game of Thrones, are the biggest shows on TV. I have yet to get into Thrones, as I am currently discovering Lost, but it is next on my TV show agenda!

About a week ago, I picked up my first two packs of the Cryptozoic Walking Dead card set at Target! I have seen these here and there online but never saw them in stores, especially by individual packs. I didn't expect to pull any big autos or relics, but just wanted to get a taste for the product. 

*SPOILER WARNING: If you have not seen up to the end of Season 3 of The Walking Dead, and don't wish to have the show spoiled, do not continue reading*

Pack 1

There is nothing overly special to this card set, as it draws similarities to just about any other pop culture card set. However, as a fan of the show, it is cool to get to relive some of its earlier moments, especially through one of my favorite outlets; trading cards. I love the card of Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) hunting in the woods together. Season 3 may be the most disputed season among fans, but I personally really loved the Governor's story arch and couldn't get enough of it. I also really loved how Merle emerged at the end of his life, and seeing Daryl have to put his brother out of his misery was an absolutely heart-wrenching moment. If there's one bright spot to the show, it's Glenn and Maggie's relationship, which I pray does not end tonight. Glenn is the most underrated character on the show, and I would hate to see him succumb to the walker masses that are about to strike Alexandria.

Pack 2

I thought the T-Dog death card looked so cool, and I wasn't particularly crazy about the character either so it didn't exactly bring me to tears. T-Dog's role in the group was minimal, and while he was likeable and funny at points, I don't miss him all that much. My favorite card between the two packs was definitely the first standoff scene card of Rick and the Governor. I remember feeling the suspense in that moment, and begging Rick to just kill the man and put an end to it. But Rick is a better man than I, or maybe it was simply because he didn't realize how dangerous the man with the eye patch was.

There isn't anything special to report about the product, but I think they look cool personally since I love watching the show for its characters. Some of the story archs (Beth in the hospital) haven't been overly entertaining, but the connection you gain to the survivors is what makes the show brilliant. Some have said that "it's the best show about nothing", and I get that since it moves at a relatively slow pace. It may dissolve in mainstream interest over the years, but that would simply be because some viewers don't take the time to understand the importance of every single scene (because even filler episodes contain important plot elements you may not catch right away). Last season, a lot of people complained about the back half of the season, especially the episode in which Daryl and Beth find an abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods and hang out. It wasn't all that fun to watch then, but some of what Beth said in that episode tied together in this season.

*SPOILERS: If you haven't caught up to the Walking Dead and wish to, do not continue to read*

As for tonight's episode, I have been so nervous to see how things play out. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing Morgan make his long awaited return to Rick and the Survivors, and hopefully it will come about in dramatic fashion. Rick very well may be exiled from Alexandria, but that won't be close to the end of his time there. He knows the Alexandrian people are weak, and that he can take over if it came to that. Understanding what's going on in Rick's mind almost makes you want to like Shane and the Governor more, who knew what it took to survive before Rick found out for himself. If Rick never got into a coma, chances are he could've and would've been quicker to fire his weapon and take charge then he was earlier in the show. His character transformation has been amazing to see, because we can see so much of other characters in him now and that he's too far gone from ever being able to remain civilized for a prolonged period of time.

If I had to predict who could die tonight; I think Pete is a shoo in. He's not going to be happy about what took place between he and Rick last episode, and well, no matter what he does, he's not going to win this battle. As crazy as Rick sounded last episode, it all made sense. We all hoped with Rick in prior years that doing the moral thing would result in being able to overcome the Apocalypse, but we now all see that in order to live, you need to be willing to do whatever it takes. Whoever is a threat needs to be taken care of, especially for Rick, who is ultimately trying to protect his son and daughter. Even strong survivors such as Tyreese couldn't survive because he wasn't willing to make that life adjustment.

I also think we're going to see a huge character death, and I have a bad feeling that it will be one of our 5 original characters. Rick and Carl are safe in my eyes, as there is plenty more of a story behind their characters. I think the show will last between 8 and 10 seasons, and it wouldn't make sense for them to die halfway through. It will be one of my 3 favorite current characters; Daryl, Carol, or Glenn. All three could be in danger tonight at some point, and I'm particularly worried about that Nicholas douchebag who we now know is wielding Rick's gun.

Tonight is going to be crazy, and I can't wait to see what takes place. The episode is 90 minutes long, which is a nice treat and will almost feel like a movie! To say I'm excited is an understatement!

I hope this post reached some Walking Dead fans out there in this blogging community, and if not, oh well. I write on this blog mostly for my personal enjoyment of writing, but being to able to share my thoughts and opinions with you all is a blast too.

With all that in mind, any of you have any death predictions? Enjoy the show tonight!

See Ya!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Fantasy Draft Report!

Image Source

Hey guys, Drew back here! I had been anticipating my fantasy drafts for weeks now, and with the blink of an eye they have all come to a close. Luckily, the conclusion of drafts mean it's just about time for the 2015 season to begin! In the past, I've reviewed some of my teams from the league I run with 7 of my close high school friends. This year, however; I chose to instead review my choices in the draft my friend William (of foul bunt fame) conducted last Sunday!

I have participated in William's hobby friend league for the past 5 years, and I wanted to review this league instead because it takes much more of a strategy to draft in a 12 team league rather than a 8 team league. I've been spending a lot of time reading draft strategies and listening to fantasy podcasts recently, and on Monday I had the opportunity to draft in a mock draft with ESPN's very own Tristan Cockcroft and Eric Karabell and was mentioned in their daily "Fantasy Focus" podcast! It was a lot of fun to draft with two well known fantasy experts who have taught me a lot about the art of the game.

Without further ado, let's take a look with who I came home with in the Card Shop/Blog League! William's league is on and is a H2H 5x5 Category league, and if you're unaware of what that is, it's a league that has teams play each other each week, and you compete to win each of these stat categories: Runs, Home Runs, Runs Batted In, Steals, Batting Average, Strikeouts (Pitching), Wins, Saves, ERA, and WHIP. The goal is to win the most categories over the course of a season, and in order to do so it is important to balance your roster with players who can fulfill each of those particular needs.

I was randomly assigned the 4th of 12 picks, which I was extremely happy with. I made a bit of a jump on my first pick, but I couldn't go against the man who has made me very successful in recent history.

Round 1, Pick 4: Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers

Trout, McCutchen, and Stanton were the league's first three picks, and many who play fantasy know that guys like Paul Goldschmidt and Clayton Kershaw should be next on the radar. Instead, I went with the former Triple Crown winner; which shouldn't be as big of a stretch as ESPN may say. He appears to look healthy on offense and defense, and the Tigers are being careful this Spring to ease him back into the lineup. They're handling him really well, and it appears that he will be closer to 100% healthy than he was throughout the entire 2014 season. 2014 was unkind to Cabrera, and he still had a year warranting a top 10 selection. With doubts in Goldschmidt's health and not wanting to take a pitcher in the first round, I went with a familiar name who should provide excellent numbers across each offensive category with the exception of steals.

Round 2, Pick 21: Anthony Rendon, 2B/3B, Washington Nationals

Rendon was a silent killer in fantasy baseball last year, producing fantastic peripherals in each category. This pick may not look as good now as he is expected to begin the year on the DL with knee soreness, but I still feel confident that he can return to form relatively quickly. The Nationals primary third baseman scored 111 runs in 2014, and with these first two choices I was able to compile about 50 total home runs, 200 runs, and a great batting average.

Round 3, Pick 28: David Price, SP, Detroit Tigers

I had a choice here of choosing either Price, Johnny Cueto, or Corey Kluber as my team's ace. In a 12 team league, it's helpful to have a reliable pitcher capable of leading your staff. Each of these three options were promising, but in the end I chose the always consistent Price. Cueto has had several injury plagued seasons, and even coming off a tremendous 2014, I preferred the Tigers ace. I may regret not choosing Kluber, but Price came up 29 strikeouts shy of putting together a 300 strikeout season. In a contract year, David Price is going to dominate the AL Central.

Image Source
Round 4, Pick 45: George Springer, OF, Houston Astros

According to projections, this looks like a steal on paper. Springer had a promising rookie season, but did struggle with a quadricep injury. He looks like a future star, but who knows how he'll really produce this year. I needed to establish my best outfielder early, and taking Springer made me regret my Rendon choice slightly when I had a shot at Michael Brantley. I went with the upside, and even if he strikes out 200 times and doesn't bat for a high average, he complimented the high batting average I was already projected to have and added some needed power to the table.

At this point of the draft, I was texted by my girlfriend out of the blue, who said she was going to come over to my house soon. She's more than okay with me drafting while she's there, which makes her awesome, but I didn't want to look bad and smell bad on top of that. As I made this
pick, along with the next few, I was taking a shower. Let me give one piece of advice: when you have a draft coming up, always be prepared in advance for situations such as this. I learned my lesson there.

Round 5, Pick 52: Cole Hamels, SP, Philadelphia Phillies

I chose Hamels around his average draft position, but this was a pitcher heavy draft. It's difficult to prepare for a league whose owners are constantly in flux (most leagues), because it's tricky to figure out who you expect others to take until you play with them for a few years. With that said, Hamels was the last of those close to top tier starters (Zimmermann, Greinke, Lester) remaining on the board, and my goal is to try to have one of those players to compliment my ace. This may be more important to make sure of in smaller leagues, and I probably would've been okay going with Victor Martinez or Prince Fielder in this spot; but Hamels was far too good of an option to resist. He was on one of my teams in 2014, and even though he didn't win 10 games he was excellent in every other regard. Hopefully he doesn't get traded to an American League team, otherwise this pick won't look nearly as valuable as it does now.

Round 6, Pick 69: Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians

Kipnis was the complete opposite of the lethal weapon I described Anthony Rendon as. He was one of the highest ranked second basemen in 2014, and people were talking him up to have an incredible year. But last year, he suffered oblique and finger injuries that limited him to 129 total games in which he wasn't playing at his best ability. I'm not a major believer in Kipnis, but I liked his upside with stolen bases and runs for this upcoming year. If I were to do this draft again, I may not have chosen him here, but that's what happens when you're hands are covered with shampoo (sorry for the disturbing image, but it is indeed part of the story)!

Round 7, Pick 76: Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Cincinnati Reds

"The ToddFather" came calling in the 7th round, as my outfield continued to be ignored. My usual strategy is to strive for a strong outfield, but in this draft I focused specifically on the numbers, and continued to build on balancing that out. After taking a player in Kipnis who most likely will not hit over 20 home runs, I next chose someone very capable of hitting 20 with the possibility of even 30 homers. Frazier even stole 20 bases last season, and with this choice my stolen bases were solidified after only 7 rounds, between Rendon, Springer, Kipnis, and Frazier.

Also, I have a lot of position eligibility with the hitters I chose thus far. Two players are currently eligible of playing 1st, two of 2nd, and 2 of 3rd. If any of these players suffer injuries (Rendon for example), I most likely won't suffer too much in my starting infield all year.

Round 8, Pick 93: Tyson Ross, SP, San Diego Padres

I know, you think I'm crazy for only taking one outfielder into the 8th round. But I must say, it wasn't intentional. In this vicinity, players like Kole Calhoun, Jason Heyward, and Matt Holliday are being taken, who don't particularly impress me as far as upside goes. Heyward is the best candidate to outperform his projections as he is with a new team and still just 25 years old, and he is a slightly intriguing pick. By pick 93, he was long gone, and I planned to choose Masahiro Tanaka in this spot. He was taken with pick 92, which hurt me significantly, but instead I went with a much less risky pick in Tyson Ross. Ross is kind of a boring name as far as fantasy goes, but he's on an improved team and should receive more run support next year.

Round 9, Pick 100: Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox

Image Source
I knew I could take a starting pitcher with my previous pick because I had the potential of taking Betts as my second outfielder with this pick. He has such great potential and is having a spectacular spring, and hopefully John Farrell sees this and names him as the Red Sox' starting center fielder. He can do it all, and maybe it's risky to choose an unproven player as my second outfielder, but you have to be able to roll the dice once in a while to win. Taking players with a chance to play better than expected is almost necessary in winning Fantasy leagues, but it is important to base your team around a few key, consistent players to keep you from falling apart when some of your risks don't quite work out as planned.

Round 10, Pick 117: Cody Allen, RP, Cleveland Indians

I'm not the type of fantasy player that normally likes to take one of the elite closers such as Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, or Greg Holland. Rather than taking those guys, I prefer to bolster my offense, and then I make sure to swing back later to grab one of the guys from the next tier or two. Most of those pitchers were off the board by pick #117, but I did have a choice between Allen, Dellin Betances, and Koji Uehara. I took both of the latter closers in other drafts this year, but Cody Allen is the safest choice going into this year. Betances is the best reliever here, but he isn't having a good spring. I'm not worried about Betances struggling deep into the season, but I am worried about the effects of his struggles playing into his fantasy value. The more runs he allows, the better the chance he and Andrew Miller split save opportunities, which absolutely decimates his average draft position. As hard as it is not to pick a guy I love to watch and am a fan of, I didn't want to take that big of a chance on a closer in the 10th round. If I'm going to take a closer this early, I need to know that they'll produce close to expectations or better, and Allen has a good chance of doing that.

With closers, along with starting pitchers, first basemen, and outfielders; I like to have one proven option. I regret not taking a top outfielder in this draft, but I was able to take Miguel Cabrera and David Price, along with one of the better young closers on a potentially good Indians team in Allen.

Round 11, Pick 124: Ryan Zimmerman, 3B/OF, Washington Nationals
Round 12, Pick 141: Yan Gomes, C, Cleveland Indians
Round 13, Pick 148: Jorge Soler, OF, Chicago Cubs
Round 14, Pick 165: Melky Cabrera, OF, Chicago White Sox
Round 15, Pick 172: Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates

My next five picks were meant to primarily improve my suffering outfield, and I believe I did a fair job at filling it out. I plan to use Zimmerman as an outfielder, granted he stays healthy, which has always been a problem of his. Soler will fall under the radar all year thanks to Kris Bryant, but should be a good power option. I'm very confident that Yan Gomes will have a nice season, and I'm happy with the value I got him for. Catcher isn't as big of a concern to me as it is to others, but I didn't want to have someone that would make my team worse, and I think I succeeded in that by taking the most underrated backstop in baseball.

Round 16, Pick 189: Michael Pineda, SP, New York Yankees
Round 17, Pick 196: Jhonny Peralta, SS, St. Louis Cardinals
Round 18, Pick 213: Luke Gregerson, RP, Houston Astros
Round 19, Pick 220: Drew Smyly, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Round 20, Pick 237: Addison Reed, RP, Arizona Diamondbacks

The last crop of picks were all spent on hitters, while this group instead focused on pitching. There are some undervalued pitchers deep on ESPN's draft board, and I used my prior knowledge to my advantage here. Granted Drew Smyly stays healthy, he could be a huge value in the 20th round, or a bust. This late in the draft, I know that most of these players won't be on my team by the end of the year, but I don't throw in the towel. For every gamble I take, I know that a few of them are bound to pay off, or else the odds really are not in my favor. Pineda was one of my favorite picks of the draft, because he looks filthy this spring for the Yankees. He has the opportunity to pitch at the level of an ace, and no other pitcher left on the board could really say that for now.

Round 21, Pick 244: Danny Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals
Round 22, Pick 261: Michael Cuddyer, OF, New York Mets
Round 23, Pick 268: Brandon McCarthy, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Round 24, Pick 285: Jonathan Niese, SP, New York Mets
Round 25, Pick 292: Brett Cecil, RP, Toronto Blue Jays

I like to load up my pitching staff at the end of all of my drafts if you couldn't tell, and even if three of those four pitchers don't work out; the one who does produce for me will be worth all four picks, as I'll have other good options to trade for or add from free agency over the course of the season. A lot can change, and usually looking back on my drafts at the end of a season can even make me laugh.

Here's how my roster shaped up overall, position by position:


C - Yan Gomes
1B - Miguel Cabrera
2B - Jason Kipnis
SS - Jhonny Peralta
3B - Anthony Rendon
2B/SS - Neil Walker
1B/3B - Todd Frazier
OF - George Springer
OF - Mookie Betts
OF - Ryan Zimmerman
OF - Jorge Soler
OF - Melky Cabrera
UTIL - Michael Cuddyer


P - David Price
P - Cole Hamels
P - Tyson Ross
P - Michael Pineda
P - Drew Smyly
P - Danny Duffy
P - Brandon McCarthy
P - Jonathan Niese
RP - Cody Allen
RP - Luke Gregerson
RP - Addison Reed
RP - Brett Cecil

There you have it! I wasn't overly happy with how this team came out, but I know that I'll find ways to make it work over the course of the 6 month season. Hot hitters and pitchers will come and go, and it's great to pick those guys up in favor of others who don't appear to have any long term value for the season. But, being active in a league is important, because when those hot players slow down, you have to look elsewhere and find replacements before they start to negatively impact your team.

If you're looking into getting involved in fantasy baseball, I'd be more than happy to give some pointers. I don't know who will or won't do well, but I've got a pretty good idea of which picks I think I'll be proud of a few months down the road. I'm not sure if I'll show my other two teams yet or not, but for now I'll leave you with this!

Any thoughts or opinions? Please feel free to share them in the comments below!

See Ya!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

2015 MLB Award Predictions

Image Source

Hey guys, Drew back here. This is it; the grand finale to my 2015 Season Preview! I've had an absolute blast reviewing each team and making my predictions for the playoffs and World Series, and I hope you've enjoyed reading them. I know I'm not Buster Olney or any of the high profile sports writers, but I'm going to college to improve at sports writing and it really is great practice and extra experience that may help put me over the top one day. The final piece to this puzzle is my choices for each of the 5 major awards in both leagues: MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Manager of the Year. Some of these awards give you a good chance to correctly predict, but there are certainly some choices that may be way off track. We'll begin with the American League, but first, if you haven't seen any of the rest of my Season Preview, be sure to give it a look:

AL East          NL East
AL Central          NL Central
AL West          NL West

American League

MVP - Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

It's a truly comforting feeling to know that Derek Jeter left baseball last year with a few excellent young role models that may be able to one day be revered in the same way. Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, and Giancarlo Stanton appear to have the potential to be future ambassadors for the game much like guys like Jeter, Ripken Jr., and Gwynn have in the past. Let's not forget that they are arguably the four best players in the game as well. It's amazing that the widely accepted "Best Player in Baseball" is overrated; he won his first MVP Award in his worst of 3 big league seasons. He will be working on improving on lowering his strikeout rate in 2015, which should result in somewhat of a bounce back year.

Other Predicted Finalists: Jose Abreu (Chicago - AL), Miguel Cabrera (Detroit)

Cabrera still can not be counted out, although I did predict a regression for his Tigers in 2015. I kept both Cabrera, Abreu, and the National League's Carlos Gomez in my fantasy league I play with my friends, and I have a lot of confidence in them. Abreu may not hit for as much power as he did last year, but he seems to be a natural talent with fantastic overall upside.

Dark Horse: Josh Donaldson (Toronto)

I mentioned in my AL East preview that I could have chosen any of the three Blue Jays sluggers (Bautista, Encarnacion, or Donaldson) for this position. However, I can't wait to see Donaldson's first year in Toronto, as he has become one of my favorite all around third basemen in the game, on and off the field. It can be argued that Bautista and Encarnacion have hit their peak already, but Donaldson still may have room to improve. Watch out.

Cy Young - Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox

Sale has gotten off to a rocky start in 2015, fracturing his right foot a month ago. He is going to be ready to pitch the 5th game of the Sox season, although he would've been the undisputed Opening Day starter after his past contributions to the team. Health is a primary factor for the unorthodox lefty, but I think he will pitch enough to take this award rather easily.

Other Predicted Finalists: Felix Hernandez (Seattle), David Price (Detroit)

King Felix is starting to get to that age where we have seen some of baseball's top starters decline. Justin Verlander, Tim Lincecum, and C.C. Sabathia have not aged gracefully, and some may question how much longer he will be at the top of his game given the massive workload he's compiled thus far. I predicted the Mariners to go to the World Series though, so clearly I don't believe those talks one bit. Price is a good bet also for the Cy in a contract season, but his value could be hurt if he's traded.

Dark Horse: Masahiro Tanaka (New York - AL)

Image Source
Everyone is worried about this guy. Tanaka is returning from a UCL injury in his pitching elbow that could have required Tommy John Surgery, and any poor movement could potentially bring his 2015 campaign to a close. But he has been absolutely electric during Spring Training, showing signs of his brilliant rookie season, and until he does get hurt I think he's as good as any of the aforementioned pitchers.

Rookie of the Year - Rusney Castillo, Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox will have to clear up their outfield mess in order for this prediction to come true, but I believe Rusney's performance may have the ability to do that on its own. Mookie Betts is no longer eligible for this award, or else he would be the favorite, but I think Castillo will be vital to their 2015 success.

Other Predicted Finalists: Aaron Sanchez (Toronto), Andrew Heaney (Los Angeles - AL)

Sanchez was my original pick for the award, but the injury of Marcus Stroman threw that up in the air. He could be a breakout pitcher, without question, however, his role could be as a starter, reliever, or both. Until his place in the Jays pitching staff is secure, I have to give his one to Castillo.

Dark Horse: Alex Meyer (Minnesota)

Minnesota got their hands on one of the best young hurlers around in Meyer, and if he makes his long awaited debut he could provide some added competition to the rest of the rookie pack. He is also possibly the coolest substitute teacher in the country.

Comeback Player of the Year - Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

"Crush" Davis did about anything but live up to his nickname in 2014. Sure, he still managed to hit 26 balls out of the ballpark, but that's really all he was able to produce after his insane MVP caliber 2013. This year, his suspension for non prescribed Adderall use is up, and he now has a prescription for something similar to use this upcoming year. He's looking sharp in Spring Training, and while I don't see him hit 53 home runs again (or else he would have been my dark horse MVP choice), he should bat much better than .196.

Other Predicted Finalists: Shin-Soo Choo (Texas), Prince Fielder (Texas)

I initially went with Prince for this award, but resorted to Davis as a last second decision. We are yet to see how his neck will play out over the course of a full season, and even despite the injury his performance was beginning to decline as it was. Fielder should have a nice comeback season, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him take this award home in the end, but Davis will be better.

Dark Horse: Alex Rodriguez (New York - AL)

I wanted to get a few extra page views on this one, I guess. Who knows though; A-Rod has looked solid in his work so far. He won't be an everyday player until Teixeira and Beltran go down with injuries as expected, but he will most likely be the Yankees DH every day. I can't stand the drama involved with his name, but he does still have one of the nicest swings in the game, and it could be of some help this year.

Manager of the Year - Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners

Going along with my World Series pick, I have their manager taking the prize here. McClendon helped manage the Mariners to a 16 win improvement in his first year, and he seems to have learned a considerable amount since his initial tenure with the Pirates.

Other Predicted Finalists: John Farrell (Boston), Robin Ventura (Chicago - AL)

Buck Showalter is the best manager in the league, but I still have a hard time seeing Baltimore succeed. Instead, I went with two managers with teams bound to improve in 2015.

Dark Horse: AJ Hinch (Houston)

Hinch wasn't very helpful to the Diamondbacks in his first career stint as manager between 2009 and 2010, but that was half a decade ago. This young Astros team has a lot of potential, and if he moves the pieces well enough he could be in the running for some hardware when the season concludes.

National League

MVP - Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

Hit in the face? No problem. I believe there is a lot more to this kid's game than we have seen, and as established as he is, let us not forget he is still just 25 years old. He hasn't won this one yet, but this could be the first of many.

Other Predicted Finalists: Andrew McCutchen (Pittsburgh), Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado)

Tulo will have a hard time winning MVP with his team's underwhelming potential, but he's one of those types of players who can turn his entire franchise around. It all comes down to him staying on the field, and having missed 222 games over the past three years, there isn't a strong likelihood of this. But maybe this year he won't face those same problems, and we will see one of the better seasons ever played by a shortstop. By the way, Mr. McCutchen, I love the new hair.

Dark Horse: Bryce Harper (Washington)

May I please have the attention of all of those who have written off this player? Bryce Harper is 22 years old, and has not come close to his "prime" seasons yet. This offseason, he has appeared to have gained at least 20 lbs. of muscle, and looks ripped and ready to go. His downfall is that he plays the game at well over a hundred miles per hour, and while it's exciting to watch, it's dangerous for him in the long run. One of these years, he's going to explode, and it very well may be as early as this year.

Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

There isn't a whole lot else to say about Kershaw, so I'll leave it at that. Until someone gets the nerve to beat him out for this award, he's got the best chance of anyone in this post to add to his trophy room next year.

Other Predicted Finalists: Max Scherzer (Washington), Matt Harvey (New York - NL)

That isn't to say that there aren't any good candidates that could also win. Max Scherzer has looked impressive in Spring Training, and moving to the NL could pay enormous dividends for him. After all, the Nationals are my World Series pick!

Dark Horse: Jordan Zimmermann (Washington)

Speaking of Nationals, Zimmermann is going into a contract year, and although he hasn't quite hit his peak yet, you can tell he's an absolute gamer. He's the type of guy who never wants to be counted out, so it would be more than a fair chance to see him contend for this award as well for the league's best rotation.

Image Source
Rookie of the Year - Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

It really is a crime that this kid may not break the club because of contract issues. But it won't be long before he makes his anticipated MLB debut, and I'd be willing to put money on him hitting at least 25 home runs with a chance at much more. Spring Training statistics aren't something to get in the habit of believing in, but his 9 home runs are something all baseball fans have to take note of. I consider him a lock for this award, but there are some other players that may give him a run for his money.

Other Predicted Finalists: Joc Pederson (Los Angeles - NL), Jorge Soler (Chicago - NL)

Joc Pederson is going to face some pressure filling the shoes of long time franchise player turned rival Matt Kemp, but the ascent of Bryant may help alleviate some of that. He will be playing in the shadow of a prospect people have been hyping up for years, and I wouldn't be surprised if he did just as well in his first year. The Dodgers clearly believe in him, and he's been their best hitter this Spring as well.

Dark Horse: Noah Syndergaard (New York - NL)

If the Mets want to have a 5th pitcher in their franchise history to take home Rookie of the Year honors, they may wish to wait until next year to call up highly coveted righty Noah Syndergaard. "Thor" is scary good, and even he could surpass Bryant and Pederson by year's end if he pitches enough. I would not be surprised to see him in the big leagues for a portion of 2015, but I don't think he will pitch quite the amount necessary to beat out the every day studs. If he does, then he could run the table here as well.

Comeback Player of the Year - Matt Harvey, New York Mets

Well, if it isn't "The Dark Knight". What Kris Bryant is bringing to Spring with his bat, Matt Harvey has brought with his repaired arm. He's allowed 2 earned runs in 14.1 innings, striking out 12 in the process. It was a shame to go without him in baseball last year after he had to have Tommy John Surgery, but he appears to take the world back by storm. People have already been comparing him to Clayton Kershaw, and if anyone is to steal some of the Dodgers lefty's shine, it's him. If you haven't read Harvey's piece on "The Player's Tribune" about his year off recovering from surgery, I highly suggest you do so.

Other Predicted Finalists: Joey Votto (Cincinnati), Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado)

Both of these players have been dangerous in two different ways their entire careers. CarGo and Votto are two of the best all around players in the game when they're on the field, but being on the field has proven to be very difficult in recent years. If either of them can rebound from down 2014 seasons, Matt Harvey may have to watch his back.

Dark Horse: Matt Cain (San Francisco)

I would really like to see Cain produce something close to his past statistics next year. The Giants could use a reliable starter to back Madison Bumgarner, especially since so many of their pitchers threw more innings than usual in their championship season. If Cain can come back strong, the Giants may be able to sneak back into the playoffs.

Manager of the Year - Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh)

Hurdle has won this one before in 2013, and has been a large part of the party occurring in Pittsburgh the past two years. However, they haven't been able to top off the year with a World Series berth, and this could be an intriguing season for them to make a case. He really knows how to identify with this team, and I would love to see him bring the Pirates farther than they've been since before I was born.

Other Predicted Finalists: Joe Maddon (Chicago - NL), Mike Matheny (St. Louis)

Joe Maddon may be slightly overrated in my book, but that doesn't make him a bad manager. I love the enthusiasm and personality he brings to the table; it really feels like he knows how to make his team rally around him. I didn't pick the Cubs to make the playoffs in 2015, but I do expect them to significantly improve, which could give Maddon a shot at this one as well.

Dark Horse: Mike Redmond (Miami)

The Miami Marlins may be the surprise team of 2015 out of the National League, and Mike Redmond will be a huge difference maker of that statement coming true. Even with the expected success of the Nationals, it wouldn't surprise me to see the fish take a stab at a pennant win if all goes as planned.

That will do it for my 2015 MLB Predictions! Thank you to every last one of you readers out there for interacting and checking out what I have to say. As always, please feel free to share your opinions in the comments below; that's what these types of posts are all about! Don't be afraid to disagree, because I certainly may not have all the right answers.

See Ya!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 MLB Playoff & World Series Predictions!

Image Source

Hey guys, Drew back here! We continue our coverage of the 2015 baseball season, and now things are beginning to get interesting. I recently posted standings predictions for each of the 6 divisions, and although some of my opinions have already changed in part of injury, this will document a loose representation of how I think the year will play out. The best part about baseball at its current state, as I have mentioned several times, is the amazing parity between teams. There hasn't been a time as bright and positive as this in the game, with so many great young stars and a flood of even more coming soon! I may be completely wrong with these choices, but I'm going to give it a shot.

AL East          NL East
AL Central          NL Central
AL West          NL West

American League

Image Source

Wild Card Series: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Seattle Mariners

The wild card system makes it difficult for teams to beat opponents with fantastic starting pitchers. The entire MLB season contains series' of games, with the lone exception of this one game play in. However, in recent years, teams that have gone on to win this game have had favorable luck further into the playoffs (see: Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants in 2014). The Royals were able to beat the pitcher Oakland traded for that was brought there to win that specific game in Jon Lester. This year in my fantasy world, the Blue Jays, even through losing their young ace Marcus Stroman, will still power their way into a Wild Card spot. Truth be told, I'm very skeptical of this happening, but I'm going to continue to go with my gut even with the injuries they've suffered this Spring. They will take on the best team to not win a division in the league, the Seattle Mariners. But more importantly, they would be going up against Felix Hernandez in his first career playoff start. If this indeed becomes the matchup, there's no way I can bet against King Felix to move the M's into the next round!

Advantage - Mariners

Division Series: Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox

The battle of the Sox will ensue as both revamped teams will challenge for a spot in the Championship Series. In this Best of 5 series, I can see this going both ways. At the end of the day though, I like Chicago more than Boston because of their pitching. Both teams are loaded with talented lineups, and the John Farrell managed Red Sox may have a recent advantage in playoff games, but the trio of Chris Sale/Jeff Samardzija/Jose Quintana along with an improved bullpen should prove to be the difference in this matchup. If the Red Sox were to swing a trade for an ace caliber pitcher, maybe they could stand a better chance, but for now I'd say that will be the cause for their demise.

Advantage - White Sox, 3-2

Division Series: Seattle Mariners vs. Los Angeles Angels

With all the talent the Angels have had over the years, they've always seemed to fall a bit short. Watching Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton all struggle in their 2014 postseason embarrassment by the Royals was telling of their future. I feel like they will play extremely well in the regular season, as Mike Scioscia appears to have managed that portion relatively well. A key for the Mariners in this series is having a strong performance from either Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, or both. Kershaw has had his challenges in the playoffs, but I feel like Hernandez could be much different and dominate the Angels lineup. The Mariners offense isn't overly dynamic, but a healthy, good year from Nelson Cruz could be the deciding factor for all of these predictions coming true. Between he, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, and some other sneaky candidates may also be clutch through this stretch.

Advantage - Mariners, 3-1

Championship Series - Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners

I've been using pitching as a key determinant for most of this post thus far, but at this point these teams are about even in that respect. Felix/Iwakuma/Paxton/Walker plays out well against Sale/Samardzija/Quintana, so there will be more to this decision than simply good pitching. I don't think the Mariners will run the table against the Angels, but I think at this point in October they will be feeling extremely confident. This late in the playoffs, momentum is a huge factor, and those days of a regular season record are long gone. Both teams will feel confident, but I'm anticipating the Wild Card game winner to once again prevail and win the pennant. Is this a flaw in the MLB system that the winners of that game get to stay in the same rhythm as they were in all season? These games have the potential to be even more exciting than any other playoff games outside of tiebreaker elimination games, and I can't even imagine how good the Royals felt after knocking out the A's in extra innings. I don't know if this is something that needs to be fixed, but I think it will be determined by the results of the next few years. Don't get me wrong, these 1 game series' are extremely fun to watch and I look forward to them every year now since the idea started in 2012, but I don't know if it hurts the other teams not to be feeling the same momentum after the intensity those games bring.

Advantage - Mariners, 4-2

National League

Image Source

Wild Card Series: Miami Marlins vs. St. Louis Cardinals

The Marlins don't have the caliber pitching staff as the Washington Nationals, which will most likely cause them to finish behind them in the NL East. But that's just the regular season, and a little bird told me that a guy named Jose Fernandez will be returning to their staff around midseason. With a healthy, MVP caliber season out of Giancarlo Stanton, along with production from their various improvements up and down the lineup, they can pose a huge threat into the postseason. St. Louis seems to be on the cusp of trending in the opposite direction, although they still do have young players that will develop into stars. I think this year is part will be the beginning of a trend for St. Louis, where they may still win games and make the playoffs, but could continue to fall short of advancing. Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Matt Holliday aren't getting any younger, and until some of their touted prospects and young players improve they will be on the outside looking in during the World Series this year. In a game that could possibly be Fernandez vs. Wainwright, I'll take the fish's upside here.

Advantage - Marlins

Division Series: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

This matchup may be interesting. For all of the money, time, and effort put into the Dodgers organization over the past few years, you would expect more results by now. It seems to be proven by now, however, that most teams dishing out the mega millions fail to reach the chemistry required to win it all. The Pirates have built their organization in the complete opposite way, developing homegrown players such as McCutchen, Starling Marte, and Gerrit Cole into excellent big league players. It's sad to think that a team with $157,183,552 less to spend every year stands a chance against this Dodgers team that has struggled immensely in recent history. But this year, things are going to go differently for the boys in blue, because they're not going to be facing their nemesis St. Louis Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw will solidify his position as the best pitcher in the game that Bumgarner attempted to steal last October. It's great to see Pittsburgh succeed, but I have a bad feeling about their playoff luck this year, because Kershaw will be out for blood.

Advantage - Dodgers, 3-1

Division Series: Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals

These division rivals are going to be a lot of fun to watch if they do get to square off this year. The Marlins will have the momentum in their favor, and the Nationals have not been able to win with their star studded team yet. But even with a staff of Jose Fernandez, Mat Latos, and Henderson Alvarez, nobody in the game can say they have what Washington does with their super staff. Max Scherzer may be able to squeak out victories against Fernandez, and the other starters will be overmatched by either Jordan Zimmermann or Stephen Strasburg (or Fister, Gonzalez, Roark, etc, etc). As exciting as it will be to see Giancarlo Stanton crush a late inning home run against a weak Nats bullpen, I think they will fall just a bit short. Although both the Mariners and Marlins will be in similar positions at this point in time, the Mariners veterans and a weaker AL competition gives them a better opportunity to reach the World Series, whereas the Marlins may fall just short of moving on. If Bryce Harper can continue to hit the way he has in his limited postseason experience, he could be a lethal weapon as well. This will be a great series without a doubt, perhaps the best of my entire mock playoffs, but this will be the year the Nationals and Dodgers will duke it out for a chance at the pennant.

Advantage - Nationals, 3-2

Championship Series: Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The series many of you have been waiting to see is indeed my NL Championship Series. Both of these teams will be on a level playing field; both with high momentum and a mix of veteran stars to help guide the young players to the top. No longer are concerns of "How many innings can Stephen Strasburg throw?" on the top of all fan's minds. Who knows which players will be out with injuries by this point, but assuming fully healthy clubs, I'm picking the Nationals to defeat Kershaw, Greinke, and the Dodgers. And no, this is not only because of their pitching staff. Despite losing Adam LaRoche at first base, the Nats still have Jayson Werth, Denard Span, Ian Desmond, Anthony Rendon, and Bryce Harper to worry about on offense. The Dodgers have their assets too, but who knows what will be running through their star player, Yasiel Puig's mind when it matters most. Last year, he was benched during pivotal moments of their series against the Cardinals. I like the Nationals overall team from top to bottom just a bit more than that of the Dodgers, and with that, they're my pick for the National League side of the World Series.

Advantage - Nationals, 4-3

World Series

Seattle Mariners vs. Washington Nationals

I know what you're saying: The Mariners in the World Series? I get the confusion; really, I do. They have actually been a dark horse favorite for the series going into 2015 with a lot of people, although I didn't take other people's opinions into account when I compiled this list myself. A lot will have to go right in Seattle for a chance to make up for their Seahawks' awkward Super Bowl disaster, but I have a strangely positive feeling about them. I'm no Swami, I don't know the answers, but I can say this decision was calculated; crazy as it may seem. The addition of Nelson Cruz to a primarily lefty dominant lineup was critical to the team's success. He may not swat 40 home runs in Safeco Field, but he'll certainly hold his own in the clean up spot of the lineup. Seth Smith, Dustin Ackley, and Austin Jackson will purvey the outfield, while young power hitting catcher Mike Zunino is behind the plate. Future stars James Paxton and Taijuan Walker will take the next step towards reaching their full potential, and that factor could also play huge in their late season run. This team reminds me of a better Kansas City Royals team that we saw in the World Series last year. They won't be making this series easy, especially with the best pitcher in the American League and momentum that will make the entire bleachers a sea of yellow K's.

But if they could beat Kershaw, they can and will beat Felix too. Like many others, the Washington Nationals are my World Series pick for the year. I didn't wish to be cliché with this choice, but I really do feel like if there is any year they will win, it's this one. Dominance isn't as frequent in these relatively even leagues, and the team with the greatest potential to dominate should be the favorite to win it all. Past postseason struggles, injury questions, free agency looming for top players, I don't care what the excuse may be. This is the best team on paper, and outside of Max Scherzer it hasn't changed too much recently. He will help, not hurt, the chemistry of the clubhouse. Recent history has proven that the best teams on paper don't exactly play the way most expect, but this is going to be one of the exceptions. I'm feeling it already.

Advantage - Nationals, 4-2
World Series MVP - Bryce Harper

The point of this post, over anything else, is that I can't wait for baseball to return. These picks could be the worst ever made, or maybe I'll look like a genius. I hope for the latter, although I would take a Yankees World Series win over any of my silly picks in a heartbeat.

Have any World Series predictions? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

See Ya!

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Sigh of Relief from Spring Training!

Hey guys, Drew back here! After a bit of a delay, Spring Training got a little bit better for me. I received two TTM successes on Monday, both from two above average relief pitchers; the first of which used to play for my favorite team!

Boone Logan: 2/2 in 37 Days (Received March 16th)

I just recently chose Logan as my left handed specialist in my All Yankees team bullpen, and it was ironic that these came back the day after I published my choices for the pitching staff. Boone was a huge part of our bullpen success for 4 years before he fled for the Rockies last year. He was originally part of a trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees for his second stint and Melky Cabrera to the Braves. Little did we know, Logan would be the more important piece of the deal than Vazquez. 

Boone signed 2 2014 Topps cards for my collection, one from Series 1 and the other from the Update Series. The Update Series card is one of the red parallels, which I pulled from a blaster box last Christmas. Both cards came out great signed in blue sharpie!

Koji Uehara: 2/2 in 328 Days (Received March 16th) 

If you've been really paying attention (it's okay, I don't expect you to), you may remember I mentioned getting an RTS already this Spring from Koji. I sent to the wrong Red Sox address, which appeared to be an issue for several forum members I know of. This success was from a request I sent last year to the right address, one that I had already written off. The moral of the story is to never write off any of your TTM requests. He was becoming my TTM White Whale, because I believe I sent to him three times without a success. Anyone who knows about through the mail successes in baseball know that Uehara has been one of the most consistent signers in the game for years.

Finally, I have my 2009 Topps and 2011 Topps signed nicely in blue with his number inscribed! From what I've seen, he signs his full name on certified autographs, rather than just the first name he exhibits on his TTM signatures, but that's perfectly okay with me. Uehara has been one of the better closers in baseball for the Red Sox, which is impressive considering he started his MLB career at the age of 34. Last season he was named to the All Star Team, finishing the season 6-5 with a 2.52 ERA and 26 saves. I may end up targeting him in my fantasy baseball draft tonight; who knows.

I was recently able to create a page on my blog that links directly to a Flickr account I've set up. Flickr seems to be a great service for uploading pictures, offering 1 TB of free space that I've barely even used so far. If you would like to check out some galleries of signed baseball cards, football cards, baseball pictures, signed baseballs, you name it; give it a look

Thanks Boone and Koji! See Ya!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

2015 National League West Preview + Predictions!

Hey guys, Drew back here! After a bit of a delay, we are back on track with my 2015 Baseball Preview! We have covered each of the first five divisions thus far in our series, and following this post I will conclude it with Playoff Predictions and Award Predictions! I may be completely wrong with this picks, but I like to have a little fun with my choices while making sure to look into each team's strengths and weaknesses.

If you've missed any of my prior rankings and wish to take a look, click on the links below:

AL East          NL East
AL Central          NL Central

Image Source

1 - Los Angeles Dodgers
X-Factors: Joc Pederson, Brett Anderson, Yasmani Grandal

The Dodgers have been the talk of baseball ever since Magic Johnson and Co. took over the reins in 2012. But with all the talk of the Washington Nationals super pitching staff, they have flown a bit under the radar going into 2015. This past offseason, they rebuilt their front office, hiring former Rays GM Andrew Friedman, and his impact was immediately felt. They rebuilt their middle infield, bringing in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick; two established veterans to improve their clubhouse environment. They also traded longtime Dodger Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, opening up the center field position to mega prospect Joc Pederson. Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig will remain the threats of the offense, but the real danger of the Dodgers is their lethal pitching staff. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, and Zack Greinke is the best #2 starter in any pitching staff around. I don't see how this team misses the playoffs; how deep into the playoffs they'll get another story. (PS: Happy Birthday Kershaw!)

2 - San Francisco Giants
X-Factors: Casey McGehee, Matt Cain, Angel Pagan

Uh oh, it's an odd year season, which is about the worst thing the Giants could ask for. San Francisco has won each of the past three even year World Series, despite being overshadowed by the massive payroll and superstars with the Dodgers. They've got three reasons to feel better than the Dodgers, but in 2015 they're already off to a scary start. Hunter Pence fractured his forearm and will miss the start of the season. Casey McGehee will be replacing fan favorite Pablo Sandoval, who left the team not because of money considerations but of some sort of "disrespect". Madison Bumgarner hasn't looked great in Spring Training, and yes, I understand the "it's only Spring Training" thing. I expect last year's hero to have a good 2015, as long as he doesn't feel too much wear from the excessive amount of innings he pitched. The Giants have become my second favorite team after visiting San Francisco last season, and I'll be rooting for Joe Panik to build off his successful rookie season at second base. However, I see them just missing the playoffs, because so many teams have improved around them. But if anyone embraces negativity, it's this team, and if they can make the playoffs, perhaps they could conquer the odd year!

3 - San Diego Padres
X-Factors: Wil Myers, Jedd Gyorko

I will credit San Diego for their great overhaul this past winter. It was a lot of fun watching their new young GM AJ Preller completely start over with one of the more embarrassing franchises in recent history. He was able to add Matt Kemp, James Shields, Wil Myers, Justin Upton, and Derek Norris to a team in desperate need of leadership and star power. Shields will bolster the rotation into one of the National League's finest, as he will join Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross; two extremely promising right handers. My biggest concern is chemistry. There hasn't been a team rebuild of this caliber that has worked since the 2009 Yankees, showing that it takes so much more than name value to create a winning team. Wil Myers has been traded twice now and is 24 years old. For a player with as much potential as he is said to have, it makes you wonder if there's something about his game that other teams don't want to bother with. He will be taking his talents to center field, where he has played 9 games in his career. And what's a baseball without worrying about Matt Kemp, who this time goes into the year with two arthritic hips. If they don't win this year, will they try to sign Justin Upton long term, or will this be a one year colossal failure? We have yet to see, and until we do, I can't say they'll be making the postseason.

4 - Colorado Rockies
X-Factors: Carlos Gonzalez, Young Pitching Staff

Will the Rockies ever solve their pitching conundrum? It is so rare to see a pitcher succeed at Coors Field, which is especially scary for big name prospects Eddie Butler and Jon Gray, who will be at an unfair advantage from the get-go. But luckily for them, they won't have to worry about run support, as this team is chock full of productive hitters. Last year brought Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, and Charlie Blackmon to the forefront, and they should be expected to bring much of the same to the table in 2015. The key to the Rockies is the health of their two superstars, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. With big seasons from each of them, they could be a surprise team surviving the stretch run. Unfortunately, too much would have to go right for that prediction to make any sense.

5 - Arizona Diamondbacks
X-Factors: Yasmany Tomas, Archie Bradley, Jeremy Hellickson

A few years ago, this would not have been a last place team. The Diamondbacks have acquired some pieces over the years to help advance the rebuilding phase, yet they still are a little bit behind the rest of the West. A healthy season from one of baseball's best, Paul Goldschmidt, could catapult this time in a few years with other players stepping up alongside, but he appears as if he'll have to carry much of the load in 2015. Yasmany Tomas, the recent Cuban player to become part of Major League Baseball, does not seem to have an established position. It will be difficult for him to make strides at the plate until he is comfortable in the field, because frustration does carry over to different parts of the game. Overall though, the D-Backs are not yet relevant, but give it a few more seasons and I feel like they could contend once again.

Division MVP: Troy Tulowitzki
Division Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
Playoff Teams: Los Angeles

The NL West has potential to be one of the more interesting divisions in 2015, but I feel like it will be a bit underwhelming. Can the Giants, and even the Padres make the playoffs? Probably, if things go their way more often that not. But instead, I chose the Marlins and Cardinals to beat out these teams as Wild Cards. My predicted division MVP was Tulowitzki, but it could easily be Paul Goldschmidt, Buster Posey, or even Kershaw as well. Tulo is one of the more fun players to watch when healthy, and I would love to see him make a run for NL MVP, although it will be hard to win on a poor Rockies team.

That will conclude the division by division previews for you all. I hope you enjoyed reading each blurb about your favorite team(s) and be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts on how I did with these and if you would like me to try to do them next year as well! Playoff and Award predictions are coming soon to drewscards, and I hope to see you all there!

See Ya!

Monday, March 16, 2015

"I Am Your Father."

Hey guys, Drew back here, and today I have to interrupt my Season Preview further to bring you a TTM success I didn't expect to see return anytime soon. I sent this request out on August 22nd of last year, and as time went on I was feeling like it would be more and more unlikely that I would ever get my pictures back. Sure enough though, I was astounded last Friday when these beautiful autographs arrived in my mailbox!

James Earl Jones: 3/3 in 203 Days (Received March 13th)

"No, I am your father". The voice of Darth Vader, Mufasa, and so many other famous characters over the span of a 60 year acting career, James Earl Jones returned 3 signed photos to me for my collection! Jones actually only lives less than a half hour away from me, and is one of the better known celebrities in my county. I've grown up watching so many movies he was featured in, and who couldn't love his booming voice?

I won't pretend to be the expert on his career, but I must say I have enjoyed all the movies he's been a part of. My favorite role of his was as author Terence Mann in Field of Dreams, but you can't go wrong with Darth Vader. I sort of regret not sending a Vader picture for him to sign, but I'm not upset with what I took home. Jones signed my 8x10 of him as Mann standing alongside Kevin Costner and Amy Madigan, along with a Field of Dreams 5x7 promo poster. He also had a small role in The Sandlot, as the scary neighbor nobody wanted to come face to face with. I also had him sign a promo poster for that movie as well! These are perfect for baseball pop culture, and I can tell that the autographs look legitimate.

I haven't been doing very well with TTM's lately, as I'm just 3 for 28 with 2 RTS' with Spring Training so far. But, with Wayne Chrebet and now Jones, I still have had some nice successes in spite of the lackluster Spring Training start. Patience is indeed a virtue, though, and I hope to have more to share with you in the future!

Thank you so much Mr. Jones for your incredible contributions to some of my all time favorite movies, and for signing these for me! 

See Ya!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ten Years of Baseball - My Pitching Staff!

Hey guys, Drew back here. I really appreciate all the feedback I've been getting on yesterday's post about my "All Time" Yankees team constructed with players I've gotten the opportunity to watch growing up. It may not be applicable to many of you out there, but I know there are some people who can relate as Yankees fans especially that we've gotten to see some special baseball over the course of the last decade. If you haven't read yesterday's post yet, I highly recommend you do before coming back to this article.

Today, we'll take a look at the other 12 men who cracked my roster. I've created a 5 man pitching rotation and a bullpen, making sure to give each role to a season and player that fulfills it. For example, there is one pitcher on this list who built up his career as a set up man, but because the set up man position was already filled, I used one of his earlier middle relief positions instead. 

Starting Rotation

1 - C.C. Sabathia
Season: 2011
Statistics: 237.1 IP, 19-8 W-L, 3.00 ERA, 230 SO

Today, it may feel like we threw a lot of money away with the Sabathia contract. How could it not? He's starting to break down considerably, and he still has 3 full seasons left on his contract making at least $23 million per year. But before we give him the A-Rod treatment, let's just remember that this is the same man who helped the Yankees win the World Series in 2009 and finished in the top 5 of Cy Young Award voting in his first three years in New York. We could almost build an entire rotation based off of his Yankees tenure alone, but I ultimately chose his 2011 season as his best in the Bronx. Between his Yankee best 3.00 ERA and 230 strikeouts, C.C. was in dominant form during his age 30 season.

2 - Mike Mussina
Season: 2008
Statistics: 200.1 IP, 20-9 W-L, 3.37 ERA, 150 SO

Jeter and Mariano may have had a going away tour filled with gifts and recognition, but Mike Mussina ended his career with his best season since the start of his Yankee tenure in the early 2000's. "Moose" won 20 games for the first time of his 18 year career at the age of 39, and was the most dependable pitcher on the team that season. He is the only player from the 2008 season that made my list, and it was well deserved.

3 - Chien-Ming Wang
Season: 2006
Statistics: 218 IP, 19-6 W-L, 3.63 ERA, 76 SO

I remember when Wang was first called up, and by watching him pitch it was hard to believe he would amount to what he did in that short time span. But he was dominant as a ground ball pitcher early on in his career, until a freak baserunning injury in Houston took him out of the zone he had been growing accustomed to. He was arguably the best pitcher in the league during that two year stretch alongside Johan Santana, but the longevity wasn't there. It's pretty sad, actually. On this list, however, we acknowledge the best seasons around, and there isn't a doubt in my mind that Wang belonged right in the thick of this staff.

4 - Hiroki Kuroda
Season: 2012
Statistics: 219.2 IP, 16-11 W-L, 3.32 ERA, 167 SO

I was skeptical of Kuroda when the Yankees first signed him the offseason going into the 2012 season. He was always falling a bit short of being regarded as an All Star caliber pitcher thanks to little to no run support with the Dodgers. Eventually, I warmed up to him, and he earned every bit of my appreciation. In case his first season under the bright lights of New York wasn't good enough, he topped it off with a few great postseason starts. Kuroda pitched pretty well in each of his three seasons here, and is now headed back home to Japan to pitch for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, his former team. Good luck, Hiroki.

5 - Andy Pettitte
Season: 2007
Statistics: 215.1 IP, 15-9 W-L, 4.05 ERA, 141 SO

Believe it or not, I originally did not have a spot on this list for my all time favorite starting pitcher. I had to move him ahead of Randy Johnson's 2005 season to put him on the list, and I don't think it was too far fetched to do so. Johnson had a better ERA, 2 more wins, and a considerable amount of strikeouts more than Andy in his first year with the Yankees. But Pettitte, unlike Johnson's Yankees playoff performances, was known as one of the most clutch Yankee playoff pitchers in history. I would take him over any of the previous men on the list in a Game 7, must-win situation, because he came to compete every chance he had. Also, Johnson gave up 32 home runs in 2005, and at 41 years old, he couldn't be counted on nearly as much as his contract suggested. So, in the end I went with Pettitte, because I could not fathom a Yankee team in my lifetime without him in it.


Long Relief - Alfredo Aceves
Season: 2009
Statistics: 84 IP, 10-1 W-L, 3.54 ERA, 69 SO

Aceves was the guy to call in 2009 when the starter didn't perform up to par. He came in any situation at any given time and could even work multiple innings when necessary. The 84 innings he threw in 2009 were over the course of 43 games, meaning that a majority of his appearances were not small roles in the outcome of the games. No wonder why he won 10 games that year.

Middle Relief - 

Luis Ayala
Season: 2011
Statistics: 56 IP, 2-2 W-L, 2.09 ERA, 39 SO

He had been a consistently good reliever since 2003, and the Yankees gave him a call in 2011, signing him to a Minor League deal. Ayala made the Opening Day roster and was one of Joe Girardi's go to options in the bullpen that year.

David Robertson
Season: 2009
Statistics: 43.2 IP, 2-1 W-L, 3.30 ERA, 63 SO

It was so difficult to go against some of Robertson's better years in New York and place him in this position. He had simply been outplayed over the ten year span by other even better seasons, thus we see his rookie year appear on this list rather than when he was a set up man or closer. He had electric stuff from the very beginning, punching out batters left and right. I'm sure he will only continue his successful career with the White Sox in 2015.

Adam Warren
Season: 2014
Statistics: 78.2 IP, 3-6 W-L, 2.97 ERA, 76 SO

I had no idea how good this guy was until I saw his statistics from last year. 2014 was the busiest year of my life, and I didn't get the chance to watch nearly as much baseball as usual. Besides, I wasn't particularly impressed with the Yankees team thanks in part to constant injuries and chemistry issues. But Warren was one of the lone bright spots, and will only continue to develop as years go by. He has the potential to replace himself on this list as a middle reliever, because it appears that the set up and closer position will be filled for the foreseeable future. I look forward to seeing more of him this year, and hopefully seeing why I made sure to put him on this roster.

Lefty Specialist - Boone Logan
Season: 2013
Statistics: 39 IP, 5-2 W-L, 3.23 ERA, 50 SO

Logan may not have been the force he had been for New York in his first year with the Colorado Rockies in 2014, but we as Yankee fans don't forget his contributions to several seasons. He was Girardi's left handed wizard, coming in to over power left handed batters and leave shortly after. Due to all of the appearances he made over his four years in the Bronx, he may have cut his career a bit short. He has had two elbow procedures removing bone spurs since the end of the 2013 season, and may never be the same pitcher again. 

Set Up Man - Dellin Betances
Season: 2014
Statistics: 90 IP, 5-0 W-L, 1.40 ERA, 135 SO

One of the two "no-doubters" in this bullpen; Betances brought every bit of his stuff and more to the table last year. Although I didn't get to watch too much of the season, I made sure to tune in to see him blow smoke past even the best hitters in baseball. He averaged 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings, one of the best ratios in the league, and no statistic could speak for Betances like watching him does. If you wish to see why he was included, go to YouTube. I can't wait to see this 6'8 beast of a man close off games next season!

Closer - Mariano Rivera
Season: 2005
Statistics: 78.1 IP, 7-4 W-L, 1.38 ERA, 80 SO, 43 SV

What more is there to say about this man that hasn't already been said? Mo was one of the first names to come to mind when this idea came about, and sure enough I couldn't let David Robertson or Rafael Soriano take his place. Similarly to Pettitte, there is no other reliever I'd want in a pivotal moment other than him. I know Luis Gonzalez got the best of him, but if he faced him another 9 times, you could bet that he would've shut him down every other time. His cutter was transcendent to baseball, and nobody has thrown it with as much confidence as he did. There is no better way to close off this list.

Total Salary (Starting Pitchers): $77,853,093
Average Salary (Starting Pitchers): $6,487,757.75

Notable Omissions: Rafael Soriano, Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Randy Johnson, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka, Clay Rapada

Total Team Salary: $215,579,189
Average Salary: $8,623,167.56

This team chock full of superstar seasons was about $20 million less than the Dodgers' 2014 payroll. Obviously, this is a "perfect world" sort of team, and it's near impossible to predict for an entire team to be this successful, but this really goes to show that sometimes, things really can pay off. I had a tough time choosing my team manager, because I liked Joe Torre more than Joe Girardi. But in the end, I went with 2009's Joe Girardi to lead the club, since he did take them to a World Series and all. It may be a little while before that happens again in New York.

I had so much fun making this list for you all, and I hope you all enjoyed that brief intermission from my 2014 season preview! I will have the NL West, playoff, and award predictions coming soon; so stay tuned for more here on drewscards!

See Ya!