April 2014

Lots To Celebrate

Wrigley Field turns 100 years old today. All I have to do is sit back, shut my eyes and think of my days at Wrigley. I’m right back there. Mostly good times. More good than bad. What a place. I can remember sitting in the stands on an April day with the wind howling in my face. You don’t know wind and cold until you experience Chicago wind at Wrigley in April. I can also remember sitting down the left field line right next to the pitcher warming up in the “bullpen.” I could almost reach out and touch him. The atmosphere at Wrigley-inside and out-is like no other. Get off the El, walk to the park and see thousands of happy people dressed in their Cubs gear. Ronnie Woo Woo.
Nuts on Clark. The Ivy. The bleachers (get there early and buy a bleacher seat for that day’s game.) The game was almost insignificant for so many fans. It was the experience. Being there. Listening to Harry Caray sing in the 7th. Watching the scoreboard being changed by hand. Waiting in a huge line at the El to get back home.
It was great. And it still is. Congratulations Chicago. Wrigley turns 100.

Congratulations to Albert Pujols-the first player ever to hit home runs #499 and 500 on the same day. I was sad because there wasn’t much hype leading up to his 500th. But I was in Anaheim last week. I saw him hit a homer to center field. I tweeted at the time that I thought his swing and lower body were back where I had seen them before. There are very few players that work as hard as Albert Pujols. He is an incredible hitter and I’m very happy he has joined the elite 500 homer club.

I have a solution for the hideous baseball brawls we have seen far too often. Take it completely out of the game by suspending players that leave the dugout or bullpen for any reason other that to come in to the game to pitch or to hit. In other words, do what they do in basketball. If you leave the bench, it has consequences. That fight between Pittsburgh and Milwaukee was ridiculous. But I’ve had the same solution before and it still hasn’t happened.

I think Ryan Howard and Chase Utley got tired of hearing how old and over the hill they are. They are both off to tremendous starts. Talent is still there.

I’m concerned about Danny Salazar. This is not the guy I saw pitch last year. Not at all.

I wonder what they could do if Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo were hitting back-to-back in the lineup? I miss Didi Gregorius. So do the Dbacks IMO.

Charlie Blackmon is off to a fantastic start in Colorado. So is Justin Morneau. If they can get some pitching, the Rockies may make a run.

The Blue Jays pitching has gotten much better recently. I’m happy for Mark Buehrle. What a great start for him. He’s just a very good pitcher. He may take his lumps this season at some point, but what he has done so far can not be dismissed.

Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has a 0.00 ERA.

I’m thinking of old Comiskey Park today as well as Wrigley. Andy the Clown. “Go you Whiiiiiiiiite Sox.” The exploding scoreboard. Bill Veeck. ( My wife and I attended the double header where disk jockey Steve Dahl hosted “Disco Demolition.” A riot broke out when disco records were blown up.) Not pretty. Uniforms that included shorts. The shower in the bleachers. Like Wrigley, there were so many unique components to going to a game at Comiskey in the Bill Veeck era. I loved it.

Chicago is a fantastic city. Great memories. Great sports town. Great heroes. Great food. Great architecture. Great sports venues. We’re going back in May. Have only been back once in the past 14 years. I’ll be at the old ball yards. But it won’t be the same. I plan to take the El, of course. No other way to travel. And I’ll visit some of my old haunts if they’re still there.

As always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

After Further Review-This Is Conclusive

Technology has allowed the advance of reviewable plays in baseball. Sure, there are kinks that must be ironed out and not everyone is happy. But progress brings pain and stress at times. The ultimate goal is to “get it right.”

I’ve been asked lots of questions about what plays are and are not reviewable?
Thanks to a release from Major League Baseball, the questions become more clear.

Here is exactly what MLB has distributed to help us understand this new addition to the game. Note: Reviewable plays and all the ramifications are still a work in progress.

REVIEWABLE PLAYS

Manager Challenge
Most Common Plays
-Force Plays (excluding neighborhood plays and tag ups on fly ball)
-Tag Plays
-Fair/foul in outfield only (at or behind the umpire)
-Catch/No Catch in outfield (behind the infielder)
-Batter hit by pitch

Boundaries
-Ground rule doubles
-Fan interference
-Stadium boundaries (skywalk, fielder into stands, etc.)

Base Running
-Timing Plays (who got there first)
-Touching a base (requires appeal before challenge)
-Passing runners

Umpire Discretion (Manager may request but cannot challenge)
-Home runs
-Home plate collisions
-Record keeping (ball-strike count, outs, score, illegal substitutions, rules check)

ANY play not listed above is not reviewable

Deadline to Initiate Replay
– Play within an inning: Before the pitcher steps on the rubber and batter gets in the box
-Pitching change: Before the signal of the pitching change (defense) or before the pitcher crosses the warning track or foul line (offense)
– End of ann inning: Manager must leave the dugout immediately to hold the defense, then has 30 seconds to challenge
-End of the game: Immediately

Review Outcomes:
-Confirmed (clear and convincing evidence that the call on the field was correct)
– Stands (No clear and convincing evidence to confirm or overturn the call)
-Overturned- Clear and convincing evidence that the call on the field was incorrect

———————-My thoughts——————-
I think it will take time for all the nuances and particulars to be finalized and memorialized. Patience by players, managers, front office personnel and fans will be crucial. It will all be for the greater good. Your team will win some. Your team will lose some.

I believe every close play at the plate should be reviewed and not require an appeal or request. If it’s close, it deserves to be reviewed.

I’ll visit this topic again later in the season. For now, I have no further clarification or answers beyond the release above. I wish I could, but I can’t provide any more details. They will all evolve.

As always, thank you for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. Your support of my work is appreciated.

That’s it. I’m done.

Thoughts At The End Of The Week

I guess I’ll never fully understand why a guy that pitches a perfect 8th inning can’t go out and at least start the 9th. If he gets in trouble, pull him. The entire closer concept is so major in the game today. I just watched John Axford implode in an Indians loss. They had just taken the lead in the 8th. Nightmares.

On twitter the other day I listed great players with awful batting averages so far this young season. My point? This is a marathon, not a sprint. Generally, a good hitter will find his groove when the weather heats up.

The Reds and Dbacks are both in big trouble with the loss of a major starting pitcher. With Mat Latos and Patrick Corbin both on the shelf, their tough starts become even more magnified.

The White Sox Alexi Ramirez is really on fire. He’s on my underrated list.

The Dodgers Dee Gordon stole a base off Randal Delgado when Delgado was tending to grooming the pitcher’s mound. I saw Gordon do that in Spring Training in 2012. Stole 2B on the throw back to the pitcher.

I have been singing the praises of Josmil Pinto and he is showing why. The man has outstanding power and he makes contact at the plate. He is really helping the Twins.

Ike Davis was a pitcher as well as position player at Arizona State University. I wonder what his career would be like if he would have stuck to pitching? He was darn good.

I still think Stephen Drew will end up with the Yankees. His glove and bat can really help them. I still haven’t figured a good landing spot for Kendrys Morales.

The Dbacks had 25 hits in two days against the Dodgers and lost both games.

Even though he was off to a great start, Sam Fuld couldn’t keep a job with the Athletics. Numbers caught up with him. I think managers would love to have 25 guys with his heart.

I’m really happy for the Brewers and their fans. Their off to a tremendous start. Don’t know if they can keep it up, but the hitting and pitching have come together at the same time. Momentum is a great teammate.

Last year I thought Hyun-Jin Ryu would be best working out of the bullpen to start his career. The baseball was different from the one he was used to in Korea. I thought he’d need some time to adjust. Boy was I wrong. He’s an outstanding lefty. His changeup is a great pitch. Very underrated pitcher.

The loss of Ryan Zimmerman is crucial for the Nationals. It takes a big bat out of the lineup and moves players from their normal defensive positions.

Dustin McGowan had a great start this week. I’ve always liked his stuff, but injuries have taken their toll. Is he all the way back? The Blue Jays would certainly like to see a healthy McGowan and Brandon Morrow. What a lift.

One of my columns next week on MLBPipeline.com will be about Indians reliever Austin Adams. Remember the name. I think at some point he can be a solid arm in the pen.

I don’t think I’m concerned about Miguel Cabrera hitting without Prince Fielder, am I? Man, I hope not. He’s still a great, great hitter. I guess I should follow my own advice. Don’t panic.

I would guess the Randy Wolf tenure will begin very soon for the Dbacks. I’m just sayin’.

As always, thanks for reading my work on Pipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

Wonders and Worries

In some ways I feel the first week of the season brought as many questions as answers.

I’m wondering if Justin Smoak is feeling more comfortable at the plate and reaping the benefits of having Robinson Cano in the lineup? He put some outstanding at-bats together, but it’s early. The Mariners have stuck with him and perhaps their patience is paying dividends.

I’m wondering if the Twins Chris Colabello is for real? I saw some big gap hits off his bat as he and Jason Kubel had some huge hits to help the Twins off to a nice start. My jury is still out. I’m not sure he can sustain.

I’m worried about the Indians rotation. Especially the inconsistency. I’ve seen Justin Masterson dominate and I’ve seen him dominated. We saw both the first week. I’m not convinced he can master left-handed hitters. And his start against the Twins exposed a weak arsenal if he can’t command his fastball

I’m worried about the Dbacks rotation. What happens if they sustain an injury? What happens if Randall Delgado gets pounded and then pounded again? I don’t think it’ll be helpful if they have to turn to Archie Bradley in April. And after Bradley, who?

I’m wondering if the Athletics will give a call to Billy Burns sooner than later? He has game changing speed. They can use a spark. He can provide that spark.

I’m wondering if we have all overrated the Angels hitting ability. Is Albert really back? What about Kole Calhoun-can he hit enough in the leadoff spot? Will the Angels score enough runs to cover some mediocre pitching?

I’m wondering what the Yankees have seen in Yangervis Solarte is what is actually showing up in the first week? And-I’m wondering why I didn’t see that? Or you, for that matter? Who knew they’d let Eduardo Nunez go in favor of Solarte? Certainly not me. Last year at this time, the Yankees were very high on Nunez.

I’m worried a bit about the slow start of the Astros Marc Krauss. Does a woefully slow start mean a permanent trip to the dog house? I believe in Krauss. But I’m not sure his leash is long enough to keep him from finding a room at the kennel.

Speaking of a long or short leash, I’m wondering how long the leash is on Billy Hamilton? I guess we won’t know for a while. So far, the results aren’t real pretty.
Run Billy run. But get on base first.

I’m wondering how long it will be before Josmil Pinto becomes the permanent Twins catcher? It could happen. That’s how much I like his bat.

I’m worried that Tanner Scheppers may pitch his way out of the Rangers rotation. That’s where he wants to be, but is that where the Rangers want him to be? Colby Lewis is on his way. We’ll see how long Scheppers lasts as a starter.

I’m wondering if the Mariners can keep up the momentum of a solid start?

I’m worried about Ryan Braun’s thumb. I always worry when there’s an issue with a hand, fingers, wrist or anything attached to the arm. So far, Braun has been fine.
But it’s a long season.

I wonder if my early season predictions of a great year for Brandon Belt will hold up? His swing is shorter, sweeter and far more potent than in the past.

I’m wondering if Martin Prado can use the left side of the field? It sure seems his bat drags through the ball and he hits a ton of balls to the right side.

I’m wondering if what we’ve seen from Mark Trumbo will extend for the rest of the season. So far, I’ve seen big boom in the bat and ability to take pitches all over the field.

I’m wondering if the future Pirates outfield of Marte, McCuthen and Polanco will be the fastest in baseball? And I’m wondering how soon that will become reality?

I’m worried that the injury to Matt Moore so early in the season will require the Rays to dig deeper into their pitching depth sooner than they ever believed possible. And just where is that depth.

I’m wondering if the Yankees are breathing a bit easier after C C Sabathia’s second start than they did after his first? I know I am.

I’m wondering who the Indians will jettison when Bourn and Giambi return?

I’m wondering if we all realize how few games have been played and how worry and panic this early is non-productive. To be trite-the cream always rises to the top. Some great players are scuffling. Some mediocre players are playing beyond what their history dictates. It will all return to the norm.

As always, thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com. Hope you’ll check it out, as my prospect profiles have returned. And please follow me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.

That’s it. I’m done.

National League Pennant Predictions

Yesterday I shared my predictions for the American League pennant races. Today, I look at the National League.

National League West

Los Angeles Dodgers- This isn’t a perfect team. There are flaws. But there is enough pitching to win the West. And the hitting isn’t too shabby either. Ryu can become a real star. I hope Dee Gordon can stick. Age and injuries a concern. 91 wins

San Diego Padres- Here’s my surprise. This team can play. If the pitching can stay healthy, I see lots of hope for a big future. They’re short a big bat. Quentin? Nope. He’s um…….hurt and on the disabled list. Don’t know if he’ll ever be able. 84 wins.

San Francisco Giants- A lack of firepower will catch up with them. I think Belt and Pence will have huge years. Not so sure the pitching is anywhere close to the past. I’ve always found Bumgarner a bit inconsistent. Could be boom or bust with them. 83 wins

Colorado Rockies- If they were the Cleveland Rockies or Detroit Rockies I’d love em. But I don’t think Cy Young could pitch at Coors. It takes so much good fortune and inducing ground balls to win there. Good hitting as usual. Suspect pitching, as usual. 80 wins

Arizona Diamondbacks- I see very thin pitching in the rotation and the pen. At Chase Field, the gaps are wide and the balls fly out of the park. Pitching, pitching and more pitching is required. On offense, I see Goldy, Trumbo and and then who? 78 wins

National League Central

St. Louis Cardinals- The most balanced team I’ve seen with fabulous pitching and a formidable offense. And depth at every position-but especially on the mound. I have a concern about balls getting by at shortstop and hurting the pitchers. Still great. 92 wins

Pittsburgh Pirates- I wish they would have fortified their rotation with at least one starter. However, help is on the way in Taillon. Glasnow down the road a bit. And Gregory Polanco is close. McCutchen is fabulous. Balanced Wild Card team. 85 wins

Cincinnati Reds-Lots is riding on Billy Hamilton’s ability to get on base. Almost too much IMO. Not enough depth in offense or pitching. Injuries could kill them. I do think the rotation is solid if they stay healthy. They’ll miss Choo and Arroyo. 82 wins

Milwaukee Brewers- Again, a lack of depth hurts this club. No real 1B option and no help at 3B if Aramis Ramirez goes on the DL (again). Pitching has some promise with prospects near being ready. Braun returns with a solid offensive year. 75 wins

Chicago Cubs- I see no 2014 hope for this club. And I see way too much pressure on the prospect core to “save the day” when they arrive. Pitching is beyond thin. Castro has to produce. Baez is in the wings. Maybe Bryant, too. Have to pitch to win. Nope. 68 wins

National League East

Washington Nationals-Maybe not quite as balanced as the Cardinals, but very close. They can sustain an injury or two. I look for Bryce Harper to continue to get better and better and lead the club. Pitching is superb in rotation and pen. No issues. 92 wins

Atlanta Braves- The distance between the Braves and the Nationals is like the Grand Canyon. Braves took a huge rotation hit and may not recover. I think they will take a major dip in wins this season. Have to really score some runs to hang in. 83 wins

Miami Marlins- This is a club on the rise in a weak division. The prospect pitching is outstanding. Position players will mature. Stanton needs protection, and I don’t see it. Yelich has to start to hit like he can. Fernandez is my #2 pitcher in baseball. 77 wins

New York Mets- Not much here until they get Matt Harvey back in 2015. Then they’ll have Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard. Nice. Offense seems non-existent to me. Pitching wins games, but where will the runs come from? Next year’s better. 75 wins

Philadelphia Phillies-I really like Cliff Lee. The end. I don’t see an influx of young blood to take over for the Howard, Utley, Rollins trio. Pitching was once strong. Now the depth has disappeared. I think the outfield is very weak and infield is aging. 68 wins

National League Champion- Washington Nationals
Most Valuable Player- Andrew McCutchen
Rookie Of The Year- Oscar Taveras

World Series Champion: Washington Nationals

Thanks for reading my work on MLBPipeline.com and for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff. And please don’t be angry with me if I didn’t rate your team as highly as you might have wanted. It’s just one person’s opinion. I mean, we’re still friends, right? That’s what’s wrong with making predictions. People are passionate about their team and they take it personally. I get that.

That’s it. I’m done.