Red Sox Ready to Break Out of Fourth

The 21st century has been kinder to the fans at Fenway Park than the previous century. In these brief 11 years the Boston Red Sox have been to the postseason six times and have won two World Series. The fans have yet to pay for Boston Red Sox tickets to see a season finished below .500. Yet, the Boston Red Sox fans still seemingly have a right to complain in the summer of 2012.

At 42-40, the Boston Red Sox are in fourth in the AL East and have major issues with the starting pitching. A combination of injuries and performances better reserved for the minors have resulted in the 11th-worst ERA in the MLB. In particular the starting pitching has been an issue. Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka have missed starts and Franklin Morales and Aaron Cook have been designated as the temporary replacements. Though they have delivered 4 quality performances in 7 starts, they are not likely to be able to maintain that quality of performances.

Thus, General Manager Ben Cherington is expected to find another arm or two. So far Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, and Felix Doubront are in play. Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka are on the DL. Buchholz is on the 15-Day DL but he is throwing in light workouts and is expected to return to the starting rotation after the All Star Game. Matsuzaka just joined Buchholz on the DL. The worry is that the stiffness in his arm and elbow are worse than simply a 15-day placement.

The odd thing is that the Red Sox should not have to worry this much about the pitching staff. They are outscoring the opposition by 50 runs. The Yankees, the division leader, has only outscored opponents by 8 more runs. In fact, only five teams have managed to outscore the opposition by more runs. Perhaps, the season will take its natural turn and Boston will take their rightful place right on the Yankees heels in time for a memorable pennant chase.

Which Game Would You Want Yankees Tickets For?

The Yankees got to throw the last of the season before beginning the 2011 MLB postseason with an ALDS series against the Detroit Tigers. All seems well in New York, but all those looking forward to another trip to the World Series should take a look at the team in front of them.

Mainly, my concern would be the starting pitching matchups. CC Sabathia begins the series opposite Justin Verlander, Ivan Nova starts opposite Doug Fister, and Freddy Garcia is opposite Max Scherzer. Verlander is a beast who can shut down any lineup. Fister has been phenomenal since coming over from Seattle. Scherzer is the one weak link.

Now, Sabathia can hold his own against Verlander. Yankee fans should be worried about Nova vs. Fister. Nova has been winning, but he relies on run support a whole heck of a lot more than Sabathia. Garcia vs. Scherzer is a tossup. Garcia is inconsistent, but he has far more playoff experience than Scherzer.

Basically, if I had my choice of tickets, I would take the Yankees tickets for Game 1 to enjoy a pitchers’ duel instead being forced to rely on the inexperienced Nova and the ancient Garcia.

Catching Up with More than Just Red Sox Tickets and Yankees Seats

Let us pretend for a second that up to this point your summer had been filled with weddings, home improvement projects, and countless hours of overtime. You have not had time to pay attention to America’s pastime and took a gander over at the MLB page on ESPN to catch up quickly. Would anything shock you?

The battle in the AL East, between the Red Sox and Yankees certainly would not. These teams do not sell Red Sox tickets and Yankees tickets simply because they have a fervent fan base (which they do), they sell because these two teams are always contenders in the 21st century. However, if you kept scrolling down the page you would likely be shocked to find the Pittsburgh Pirates atop the NL Central standings, not the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, or even the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Pirates have not posted a winning record since 1992, the last season with Barry Bonds in the outfield, so this most likely comes as a surprise. Yes, I heard murmurs promising a talented young ball club, but I have heard these promises in the past and most often they have been empty. Suddenly, for the second consecutive season, it appears the NL Central is ripe for the taking by a young upstart. Currently, the Pittsburgh Pirates are a very respectable 51-44 and dueling with the Brew Crew for first.

Now that pennant race hardly compares to the battle on the East Coast where the Boston Red Sox are 58-37 and the Yankees are a game and a half back at 56-38, but one cannot ask for too much when considering the NL Central. Besides the Cardinals, a much more experienced team with an underperforming pitching staff and Albert Pujols, remain well within a very good weekend of usurping the Brewers and the Pirates to take first.

There is little else to be overly impressed with in the standings. Most of the divisions closely resemble the pecking order at the end of last season. The AL Central is topsy-turvy, but, once again, that is a typical season in that division.

Clicking on the Stats link, you are taken to the leader boards. The first player that stands out is Jose Bautista. Yes, he led the majors in homeruns last season with 54, but no one was quite sure he would remain as lethal a hitter in a second season. Well, he is leading the majors with 31 homeruns through 86 games, so it appears Bautista truly is the new benchmark player for sluggers. He is also hitting .332 with a .465 OBP and .691 Slugging Percentage, so he is more than just a one-trick pony. He is the real deal and the Blue Jays are looking quite wise after signing him to a five-year, $65 million contract with an option for a sixth.

Over in the National League, it appears the Braves may have the new best pitcher in the league. The Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to have the best with Roy Halladay and he has been very good so far this season. Halladay is 11-4 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Those stats are good enough for the second best though, as the Braves Jair Jurrjens is 12-3 with a 2.26 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. Jurrjens is not a power pitcher, so the fact he relies on his fielders to get so many of his outs may hinder him as the season moves forward.

Now Yankees fans will be quick to throw CC Sabathia’s name out if anyone is beginning to crown Jurrjens the best pitcher in all of baseball and they have a reason. CC is 14-4 with a 2.64 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Sabathia is likely to win the AL Cy Young Award if he does not implode over the next coming months, and he may then have the right to claim he is the best pitcher in the MLB.

There are number of other interesting stories, including Jered Weaver and Ryan Vogelsong’s ERA, Adrian Gonzalez’s development into an all around hitter and not so much a slugger, unlikely power hitters named Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce, and many more.

Yankees Tickets for the Series of the Weekend!

The New York Yankees are heading into the weekend trying to widen the gap between themselves and the Boston Red Sox at the top of the AL East with a pivotal four-game series with the third place Tampa Bay Rays from July 7th to July 10th. This is the first meeting between the two division rivals.

Yankees Tickets to One of the Best Offenses in Baseball

The New York Yankees are right where they belong, at least according to fans with season tickets to Yankees games, in first place. This AL East leading team came into the 2011 MLB season with valid criticism of the batting order and the pitching staff. Now, Yankee Stadium, in any incarnation, is no stranger to poor starting pitching, but to assess the offense as “lacking” felt quite foreign to anyone who has followed baseball since the 1990s.

So, why has the Yankees offense bucked those concerns (to date)? Well, combine the unappreciated ascendency of Robinson Cano with the rejuvenated play of Russell Martin and the “swing for the fences” mentality of at least half the batting order and this is a top five offensive team.

Second baseman Cano has been ready to take over as the face of the franchise since 2009. So far the current face, Derek Jeter, has persisted in his late career decline that marred last season. Thus, Cano should emerge as the fan favorite, at least once the nostalgia of rooting for a man struggling to hit .250 wears thin. Cano is hitting .320 with 8 homeruns, 21 RBI, and 18 runs in 24 games. All of those numbers are team leading stats.

Dodger fans fell into hysterical fits across Los Angeles when the Yankees acquired catcher Russell Martin. Martin had been a disappointment the last two seasons, both behind and at the plate. Well, apparently this native Canadian simply needed a return to chilly weather to find his swing. So far he is hitting a very respectable .293 with 6 homeruns. In fact, those numbers are all star worthy for a catcher, so if he is able to remain consistent, Martin should be returning the all star game for the first time since 2008 (and this will not just be a case of Yankees fans stuffing the ballot box!).

As a team the Yankees have hit 43 home runs (through Saturday), this is seven more than the next best slugging team, the Texas Rangers. Of course, to simply state that the Yankees have the best power hitting team in the league does not quite explain why this offense is so potent. New York is in the middle of the pack in terms of batting average, but they are sixth in the league in on base percentage.

As power hitting teams can attest, hitting solo shots does not win games. But make those fence clearing drives worth two or three runs and it is a different story. So, yes the Yankees are more than likely going to be a plodding team with a middle-of-the-road team batting average, but the talent at the plate is patient enough to draw a walk for Cano, Russell, Mark Teixeira, and Curtis Granderson to ruin a pitchers day.

The Yankees still have a long way to go before they can safely put the Tampa Bay Rays behind them. Heck the Blue Jays and Orioles have not even completely derailed their seasons yet and the Red Sox still have to make a midseason comeback to make things interesting. However, if this offense is able to continue rolling, then the Yankees team has enough to fire power to keep winning games, even after Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon come back down to Earth and their ERA balloon to above 5.


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A Turning Point for the New York Yankees Franchise: A Season Without Georg

As the 2011 MLB season kicks off I am still flummoxed by just how the perennial powerhouses have fallen, the New York Yankees. This is not to say that this fan base is going to have to endure losing seasons. Rather, it is how the baseball franchises that could once be counted on to take first place in their AL East each season (even when they were not winning World Series) have serious concerns.

The New York Yankees are embarking on a season without George the father. His two sons have inherited the empire and they may be well on their way to proving the axiom that sports ownership passed down along generations see glories squandered by the children. Certainly the Chicago Bears can attest to the McCaskey’s incompetence after George Halas created the Monsters of the Midway. The Yankees fandom suffered a dear loss with George’s passing last season and perhaps an even greater loss when his daughter divorced the heir apparent, Steve Swindal.

Now Hal is in charge and he has Brian Cashman running the franchise with dollar signs in mind before wins. The first sign of troubling times maybe ahead maybe that the Yankees allowed the Boston Red Sox to acquire Adrian Gonzalez. While the Gonzalez plays first and the Yankees already have a Mark Teixeira in place there with a hefty price tag, Gonzalez could have been the DH or Gonzalez and Teixeira could have taken turns in either position.

Still, this team has enough talent on the field to warrant spending money on New York Yankees tickets to Yankee Stadium, but this is a team that is a certain underdog in the AL East. The Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win the division, the pennant, and the World Series and the Tampa Bay Rays are thought of as equals to the Yankees. Maybe this is just what Hal needs to turn from reluctant owner to a rabid egomaniac hell bent on winning: an inspiration season after his father’s shadow has dissipated.

50 Games and Five Pennant Races

Fifty games left in the MLB season and we are lucky enough to have five pennant races remaining. The only division that is all but statistically won is the AL West, where the Texas Rangers have pulled themselves out of the middle of the pack and nearly out of bankruptcy.

The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are dueling in the AL East. This will be the division race receiving the most attention over these next couple of months and with good reason – these are the two best teams in baseball. They sit one and two in winning percentage (.624 and .609) and in scoring differential (+134 and +123). Yankees tickets and Rays tickets will both available for the postseason.

The Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins are in a very good fight in the AL Central. The winner of this division will be playing the winner in the AL East, so, most likely, the winner of this division gets the honor of losing in the ALDS. Both teams have good bats and good pitching, but not great team hitting and pitching. I expect the annual second half run by the Twins to knock the White Sox out of first, probably within the last week of the season.

The Atlanta Braves hold a couple game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL East. The Phillies have been maligned with some sort plague weakening their stars’ defenses and landing them on the DL. The Braves were a number of experts’ pick at the beginning of the season and they will likely be correct. This Braves team has a good balance, with a decently potent offense and stingy enough pitching to make good postseason run. However, the Braves are really only displaying that excellent balance at home. They are a sub-.500 team on the road, which means the Phillies have a chance to catch them (especially with the recent addition of Roy Oswalt and despite the question at closer).

The Cincinnati Reds are overcoming their own youthfulness and holding off the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The Cardinals are the best home team in the entire MLB, but a sub-par team on the road. This does not bode well for La Russa’s ball club. The Reds have a decent three-man playoff rotation in place, but have a questionable closer in Francisco Cordero (4.11 ERA, six blown saves in 36 opportunities). Joey Votto and Scott Rolen are carrying the offense despite its impressive offensive rank (sixth in runs in the MLB), so a slump by one of those two could allow a veteran Cardinals team to steal first.

The San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants are locked in war in the NL West. They are pretty much the same team after looking at the most basic stats, with the Padres having a slightly better pitching staff and the Giants having a slightly better offense. A closer look reveals the Padres have a good starting rotation, but the Giants have a better rotation. The Padres Matt Latos is the only starter with an ERA below 3.50, while the Giants have four (Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez). Conversely, the Giants have a very good bullpen, but the Padres have a great bullpen. San Francisco three setup men and a closer with an ERA below 3.00, but San Diego has four setup men and a closer with an ERA below 3.00. This is a toss up and will be one of the most fun races to watch.

Baseball?s First-Quarter All Stars

This weekend marks the beginning of MLB’s vaunted “Put the NL in its Place” Week and the completion of the first quarter of the 2010 baseball season. Instead of ragging on the National League, making fun of its Triple A pitchers and Little League hitting, I am going to play stat geek and look at the best each league has to offer.

AL First Quarter Team

It is only a quarter of the way through season so perhaps the average baseball fan is not really aware of how to gauge the numbers so far. To address this issue, below are the AL leading numbers.

.370 BA 14 HR 38 RBI 34 R .480 OBP .685 SLG 18 SB

6 Wins 1.81 ERA 0.91 WHIP 66 SO 5.50 K/BB (Starters) 12 SV

Now, here are the best of the best by position:

C: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
.336 BA 2 HR 20 RBI 21 R .410 OBP .488 SLG

1B: Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins
.370 BA 11 HR 32 RBI 29 R .480 OBP .685 SLG

2B: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
.335 BA 9 HR 28 RBI 29 R .387 OBP .585 SLG

3B: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
.323 BA 9 HR 37 RBI 32 R .391 OBP .584 SLG

SS: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers
.322 BA 0 HR 12 RBI 29 R .420 OBP 17 SB

LF: Brett Gardner, New York Yankees
.315 BA 2 HR 12 RBI 33 R .395 OBP 17 SB

CF: Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays
.300 BA 11 HR 32 RBI 29 R .356 OBP .588 SLG

RF: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
.345 BA 1 HR 9 RBI 20 R .390 OBP 11 SB

DH: Vladimir Guerrero, Texas Rangers
.340 BA 9 HR 36 RBI 25 R .369 OBP .549 SLG

SP: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays
6-1, 1.81 ERA 1.08 WHIP 44 SO (54.2 IP) 2.2 K/BB

CL: Rafael Soriano, Tampa Bay Rays
11 SV 0 BS 1.50 ERA 0.94 WHIP 15 K (18 IP) 3 K/BB

NL First Quarter Team

League Leading Numbers:

.392 BA 12 HR 38 RBI 36 R .457 OBP .744 SLG 15 SB

8 Wins 0.99 ERA 0.91 WHIP 75 SO 11.0 K/9 (Starters) 15 SV

C: Ivan Rodriguez, Washington Nationals
.331 BA 1 HR 16 RBI 13 R .357 OBP .446 SLG

1B: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
.316 BA 8 HR 29 RBI 24 R .422 OBP .551 SLG

2B: Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
.308 BA 10 HR 23 RBI 34 R .432 OBP .587 SLG

3B: Casey McGehee, Milwaukee Brewers
.316 BA 9 HR 37 RBI 23 R .386 OBP .555 SLG

SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
.305 BA 2 HR 19 RBI 29 R .371 OBP .435 SLG

LF: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
.338 BA 7 HR 30 RBI 34 R .415 OBP .556 SLG

CF:Marlon Byrd, Chicago Cubs
.323 BA 7 HR 25 RBI 26 R .354 OBP .549 SLG

RF: Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers
.392 BA 11 HR 38 RBI 25 R .457 OBP .744 SLG

SP: Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies
8-1, 0.99 ERA 0.93 WHIP 58 SO (63.1 IP) 2.5 K/BB

CL: Matt Capps, Washington Nationals
15 SV 0 BS 2.11 ERA 1.13 WHIP 18 SO (21.1 IP) 3.0 K/BB

2010 AL Recap: Two Weeks In

Half way through April the baseball season is in full swing. Sure it is way too early to close the polls and declare a winner, but some very interesting things are happening through the first 10 or 20 games. Every division has its own story, so let’s take a look at the American League.

AL East

Nobody is surprised the New York Yankees are off to a hot start. They have equally obliterated teams at home at Yankees Stadium and on the road. Despite the Yankees hot start, The Tampa Bay Rays are in first place. This is not a huge surprise either though. I am not even shocked that Baltimore is in last place, perhaps a little shocked that the Orioles are in last place in the entire league.

The shockers are in three through four. The Blue Jays have managed to put up a good show, much like last season, and are in third. Toronto had its doubters, nay, haters, but has survived the loss of a Cy Young caliber so far. The Red Sox are struggling because of the pitching, which is a surprise. This is a team built on pitching and defense and has yet to make good on those building blocks.

AL Central

Baseball pundits must hate being required to guesstimate the winner of this topsy-turvy division every year. This season they all copped out and proclaimed an equal arms race between Minnesota, Detroit, and maybe Chicago. Heck even Cleveland and Kansas City had a shot according to the experts.

The Twins are leading the division quite handedly and the front office has to be excited that Twins tickets are actually selling well. This is a shocker because traditionally Minnesotans rarely actually show up to its sports venues, new or not (this state has issues posting sellouts when Brett Favre joined the Vikes).

The really only surprise in the division is…absolutely nothing. Every other team has a negative differential. Still, the Tigers have managed to post a winning record and the Indians are at .500.

AL West

The AL West was a truly wide open division. About two weeks into the season the biggest shocker is that the Oakland Athletics are an impressive 9-5 and actually have a relatively impressive offense. The team has a very good pitching staff so far, but there is always the chance Billy Beane will try and trade the entire rotation.

Meanwhile the Angels and Mariners are playing .500 and the Rangers are experiencing a power drought. This is not a surprise to anyone who actually followed the team this winter, but it is to casual fans who think this is the same team from three or four years ago.

Player of the Week: One Week into the MLB Season

The first week of MLB baseball has come and gone, and if the season ended today there would be one clear MVP candidate in the AL, the Texas Rangers’ Nelson Cruz. Cruz has been on a tear, crushing the ball over the fence, making plenty of contact, and driving in the runners when he has the chance.

Now, RF Cruz is not going to keep up his incredible numbers. He is hitting .450 with a .520 on base percentage and an obscene 1.150 slugging percentage. Cruz is tied with a host of other players for the MLB lead in homeruns with four and is fifth in the MLB with 9 RBI. Still, it is nice to see this not-so-young player posting such gaudy stats early in the years.

Cruz hit 55 homeruns in his career before the start of the season and now is projected to hit 108 this season. I am going to go out on a limb and say he does not demolish Barry Bonds single season home run record. Rather, he is well on his way to matching the power numbers in his breakout year in 2009.

His hitting looks much better so far, but it is still extremely early and a bad week could put him on pace to hit .260 again. Still, he is definitely the player of the week, even though Philadelphia Phillies new ace Roy Halladay went 2-0 with a .56 ERA, .94 WHIP, and 17 strikeouts in 16 innings.

Halladay is dominating the National League, as expected, after pitching in arguably the best hitting division in baseball. I think in the end Roy Halladay will have a much better season than Cruz, but Cruz deserves some applause while he can get it.

In fact, if I had to put out team power rankings right now, I’d have to put the Philadelphia Phillies at the top of the list. They are tied for the best record with a 5-1 record and are the most prolific team in baseball, scoring 43 runs. They have only allowed 18 runs overall, meaning they have scored 25 more runs than their opponents in just 6 games. They have won by an average of 4.16 runs a game! There haven’t even been any Philadelphia Phillies tickets used yet, this is all on the road.

Sure the opponents were the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, but you can hardly blame the Phillies for winning.