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April 2009

Baseball picksApril 4, 2009

MLB Picks 2009 National League Previews


LAST YEAR: 72-90

The Braves fell hard last year, and the once pitching-rich organization went out to improve their No. 12 NL ranked staff ERA. They came back with Derek Lowe, Javier Vasquez, and Japanese starter Kenshin Kawakami. Add in Jair Jurgens, and the Braves certainly have a different and improved outlook on the mound. Mike Gonzalez will start as the closer, and Rafael Soriano could be there with him, if he can overcome the arm problems he dealt with much of last year. The Braves strength is at the corners wih Chipper Jones and Casey Kotchman. They will have to make up for a powerless outfield that combined for just 27 HRs last season. The Braves have fallen, and this doesn’t look like the year they will get up.

ON THE RISE: TOMMY HANSON RHP – He could find himself in the roration out of spring training, or certainly before the year is out.

LAST YEAR: 84-77

The Marlins keep losing talent, but bringing in the young players they get in return to stay competitive with by far the lowest payroll in baseball. The Marlins have pitching and subsequently, will win some games. Ricky Nolasco emereged last season winning 15 games. Josh Johnson coming off of Tommy John surgery, won seven games in the second half, and should be better. Anibal Sanchez is also fully recovered from surgery, and should have a better ’09. Then there is Chris Volstad who has electric stuff. Matt Lindstrom closed five games in September and throws very hard, and will get a shot at closing in ’09. The lineup is strong enough with Ramirez, Cantu, and Uggla in the middle, and future star, Cameron Maybin set to be the leadoff hitter. The Marlins could be a big surprise if all goes well.

ON THE RISE:  BRETT SINKBEIL RHP – Injuries have slowed him down, but his nasty slider could push him into a setup role before the year is out.

LAST YEAR: 89-73

The Mets have disappointed their fans now for two straight seasons as most felt they should be NL Champions instead, they didn’t even make the playoffs. The Mets’ flaw was the back of the bullpen which led to an unbelievable 29 blown saves. The additions of J.J. Putz, and Fransisco Rodriguez should immediately take care of that poblem. The Mets’ starters, led by Johan Santana, had the sixth-best ERA in baseball, and should be a strength again this season. Jose Reyes led the Mets to 139 first inning runs a year ago – more than any team in baseball. The Mets have a solid lineup and a blend of youth and experience, and finally look like a team ready to win.

ON THE RISE: EDDIE KUNZ RHP – Made a cameo last year, has solid stuff and is insurance if someone goes down in the pen, or isn’t getting it done.

LAST YEAR: 92-70

The Phillies won it all last year, but their margin of error over the Mets was a slim three games, and the Mets may be ready to reverse those numbers. The Phillies have an ace at the top of the rotation in Cole Hamels, and with Bret Myers in a free agency year, he is likely to duplicate his second half all season this year. The ageless Jamie Moyer is back, and can still pitch, and Joe Blanton came into his own right at the right moment in the postseason. The Philly starters are a strength and their 966 innings was fourth best in the majors. Brad Lidge went 41 for 41 in save opportunities last year, so the pen can close the deal. The lineup is fierce and another strength, so the Phillies should be ready to fight it out in the NL East with the Mets.

ON THE RISE: KYLE DRABEK RHP – Spent last year recovering from Tommy John surgery, could help if someone in the rotation goes down.


Baseball picksApril 3, 2009

MLB Picks 2009 National League Previews 


LAST YEAR: 97-64

The Cubs continue their post-season blues. They have captured the last two NL Central Titles, only to implode in the playoffs, failing to win a game and getting swept each year in round 1. The top of the staff, with Lilly, Dempster, and Zambrano is rock solid, as the trio combined for 48 wins last year. They acquired Rich Harden late last year from Oakland who proceeded to go 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA, so the Cubs can matchup with anyone. The closer role will be turned over to Carlos Marmol, who has given the Cubs a 2.13 ERA in 141 relief appearances the last two years. The Cubs added a powerful bat with the addition of Milton Bradley, so a good lineup should be even better. The Cubs should play themselves into an opportunity to be in the playoffs again and erase the memory of the 36-12 deficit they have given up in their two-year 0-6 playoff run.

ON THE RISE: JAKE FOX UTIL – The Cubs may have infield injury insurance in Fox who hit .307 in the minors last year.

LAST YEAR: 74-88

The Reds shifted gears last season when they let go of Ken Griffey Jr., and Adam Dunn before the trade deadline. They have an impressive core of young players, and if they can get some pitching, they may be an improved team. The Reds have Owings, Cueto, and Volquez at the top of the rotation, and if they all have good years the win column will grow. They have had eight straight losing seasons, and should have enough this season to at least flirt with .500.

ON THE RISE: JUAN FRANSISCO 3B – He is the Reds future at 3B base, with 48 HR’s last two years in minors.

LAST YEAR: 86-75

The Astros are lacking something that is often associated with winning teams, and that is being strong up the middle, which they are not. Outisde of Roy Oswalt, the starting rotation has more question marks than answers. The rest of the division is growing stronger, while the Astros seem to be growing stale. They took a chance on Mike Hampton, but he hasn’t show much after injuries set his career back. Jose Valverde led the NL in saves last year with 44, can he do it again? Miguel Tejada is 35, and may need more time off, but they let go of Mark Loretta, so he may not get it. Michael Bourne is a great centerfielder, but will he hit? His .288 on base percentage last year wasn’t acceptable. The Astros are laden with question marks, and that won’t be good.

ON THE RISE: Chris Johnson 3B – Aaron Boone is gone, and only Blum in front. Johnson is a power hitter and could be called up before the year is out.

LAST YEAR: 90-72

Seems like C.C. Sabathia pitched just about every meaningful game for the Brewers down the stretch last year. So he is gone, and so is Ben Sheets, so where do the Brewers turn? The cast is plentiful with some promise, as Gallardo and Bush are poised to have good years, and then choose from Suppan, Parra, McClung, and Villaneuva for someone to emerge and have an unexpected big year, because that is what it will take for the Brewers to win 90+ and be there again.

ON THE RISE: ANGEL SALOME c – Led the Brewers’ farm system with a .360 avg and could find his way to Milwaukee before season’s end.

LAST YEAR: 67-95

The Pirates have now had 16 straight losing seasons, which ties a record for all professional sports franchises for most consecutive losing seasons. They will likely break it and own the record of futility all unto themselves after this season. The Pirates have few prospects of their own in the farm system, so they unloaded some top players to replenish, meaning they will struggle once again. The rotation had a 5.36 ERA – worst in the NL in ’08, and not much progress is expected. The Pirates fell to 7-21 after they unloaded Nady, Bay, and Marte last year. If that is any indication of what is to come, we could see 110+ losses here.

ON THE RISE: ANDREW MCCUTCHEN CF – He is a good candidate to make the team out of spring training, he was a 2005 top draft pick.

LAST YEAR: 86-78

The Cards have enough talent to tease, but the big area of concern the last two years, and the likely reason they have not made the playoffs is a bad bullpen. Last year, the pen lost 31 games and blew 31 saves. The Cards went on to lose 25 games they were tied or leading after seven innings. The Cards have revamped their pen, but there is nothing there that suggests a complete turnaround is in order, and it will again be their destiny. If they make the playoffs it will be because of their pen, if they don’t it will be because of their pen.

BRETT WALLACE 3B – 2008 top pick moving quickly, could see some roster time before the season closes.



Baseball picksApril 1, 2009

MLB Picks 2009 National League Previews


LAST YEAR: 82-80

Does April matter? Last year the Diamondbacks became the first teams since division play began, not to win the division after having a five-game lead in April. The Diamondbacks return basically the same team, strong starting pitching led by Brandon Webb, but a few possible entries into the mix. Stephen Drew matured into a good player, and if they see a similar rise in Justin Upton, and/or Max Scherzer, then they can only get better, and perhaps reclaim the NL West. Chad Qualls will be the closer, and he converted seven straight down the stretch, for the now departed Brandon Lyons. The D-Backs are a pitching first team, and over the last two years have turned in 179 quality starts, tops in the NL. A healthy Eric Byrnes could mean the difference as well.

ON THE RISE: CESAR VALDEZ RHP – He wasn’t drafted, but signed out of the Dominican and is fast tracking his way to Arizona and could be heard from this year.

LAST YEAR: 74-88

After a torrid finish in ’07 that catapulted them right into the World Series, Colorado fell hard last year. Jeff Francis is key, as he suffered from shoulder problems last year and won just four times and threw just 143 innings. Aaron Cook became an All-Star last year and earned 16 wins. Ubaldo Jimenez is the wildcard. He had a good second half, has electric stuff, and if he continues to make strides, the top three in the rotation for the Rockies will be solid. The signing of Jason Marquis gives them an innings eater in the No. 4 spot, and someone with enough experience to find a way to win. Greg Smith, acquired from Oakland in the Matt Holiday deal, may be the fifth starter. A healthy Todd Helton would go a long way in replacing the loss of Holiday. The Rockies need a few breaks and have to keep the top of the rotation healthy, as the alternatives and margin for error is slim.

ON THE RISE: DEXTER FOWLER CF – He will likely find his way to Coors Field before the
season gets long.

LAST YEAR: 84-78

The Dodgers seemed to solidify their chances last year when Manny Ramierez came over from the Red Sox. They will have him the full season this year, and hopefully a healthy Rafael Furcal to supply a catalyst at the top of the order. Brad Penny who appears to be on the decline is gone, as is Derek Lowe, who will be missed the most. Chad Billingsley is an emerging star at the top of the rotation. There are a lot of question marks after that, and what they get out of the remainder of the rotation will determine if the Dodgers will be playing in October again this season.

ON THE RISE: CLAYTON KERSHAW LHP – The 2006 first-round pick was already in the majors last year, but he will be the most important man on the team as they need him to have a big year.

LAST YEAR: 63-99

While the Padres avoided 100 losses last year, they may not this year. Owner John Moore is going through a divorce, and the salary dump continues, and the Padres will be down to about $40 million. Jake Peavy remains, but don’t expect him to stay. A few good starts could have the big money teams drooling. Even with $63 million and four years left on his contract, he won’t make a difference in San Diego, but could elsewhere. Chris Young will hope for better luck, after missing two months after being struck by a line drive off the bat of Albert Pujols. The rest of the rotation could be ever-changing, and they will hope that someone steps up. What might sum it all up, is 11 Padres hit their first big-league homer last year, so it will likely be a long summer in San Diego.

ON THE RISE: KYLE BLANKS 1B: He was the organization Minor League Player of the Year after a .325 20 HR 107 RBI season in AA. May get a look as the Padres are going nowhere fast.

LAST YEAR: 72-90

The Giants’ gloom continues as they have now had four losing seasons in a row, and the
lineup is lacking anyone that can produce clean-up hitter numbers. The good news is at the top of the staff where Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain reside. They are both potential 20-game winners, but without much punch in the lineup, both will be hard pressed to top 15. Then there is Barry Zito, who promised to come to spring training in the best shape of his life, and then they went out and spent $8 million for Randy Johnson, who was washed-up six years ago. The lineup will have Pablo Sandoval batting third, who has all of 41 major league games under his belt. So the Giants, unless they get a miracle aren’t scoring many runs this season.

ON THE RISE: BUSTER POSEY C – The Giants were glad to get him with the fifth pick last year, and his time in the minors will be short.