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5 Surprising Win-Loss Predictions for the 2013 MLB Season

With the first pitch of the 2013 regular season just 19 days away, there will surely be plenty of journalists making picks and prognostications for teams and players.

In the American League, the Angels and Blue Jays have become trendy picks with the addition of Josh Hamilton in LA and Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, among others, in Toronto. I’m not convinced either team will have the success they are hoping for.

In the National League, the Dodgers have eclipsed the Yankees as baseball’s highest-spending team but I don’t necessarily see their high payroll correlating to a high win total. On the opposite coast, I see a team from the NL East winning the most games in a season since the 2001 Mariners won 116.

Instead of giving insight for each of the 30 MLB teams, here are my bold predictions for five teams whose records may not be what many expect.

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4 Ways for Kevin Youkilis to Instantly Endear Himself to New York Yankees Fans

It’s been a quiet offseason so far for the New York Yankees. Brian Cashman and the front office only gave fans one new present for the holiday season in Kevin Youkilis (the rest, re-signing Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and Ichiro Suzuki, were recycled gifts).

Yankees fans are going to have difficulty accepting the “Greek God of Walks” as part of Yankees Universe after his years as a member of Red Sox Nation. Here are three things Youk can do to endear himself to Yankees fans.


1. Come Up with a Good Roll Call Greeting

One of this Yankees fan’s favorite parts of going to a game at the Stadium is participating or watching the Bleacher Creature’s roll call of each player during the first inning. When Nick Swisher signed with the Indians over the weekend, the team lost the most enthusiastic roll call.

The more flamboyant greetings generally come from outfielders, but if Youkilis can come up with something clever from the infield, he can become an instant fan favorite. It worked for Swisher.


2. Call out the Red Sox in Spring Training

Even though the Red Sox have not been competitive on the field for the last year and one month of play, they’re still the Yankees’ biggest rival, and Youkilis needs to make it clear which side he’s on.

He’ll be asked on a daily basis about switching sides, and while the safest answer would be to deflect the question, Youkilis would instantly gain the respect of Yankees fans by calling out Red Sox players, staff and/or fans. 

Didn’t like the way Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Jon Lester ate fried chicken and drank beer during the Sox’s epic collapse? Still upset about Bobby Valentine’s comments from early last season? Tired of the booing from Red Sox fans? Let Yankees fans hear it.


3. Make a Clutch Play Against the Red Sox

The Yankees open the season at home against the Red Sox this season, giving Youkilis an immediate opportunity to “earn his pinstripes” by having a big hit in a big moment. Hit a big home run and get a walk-off hit, for example, and Yankees fans will immediately embrace him.


4. Play Well

The most important thing to Yankees fans is winning. If Kevin Youkilis helps the team win, they’ll forget about his past and embrace his present.

It worked for Johnny Damon, who earned the love of fans by hustling on the field and helping them win the 2009 World Series.


Merry Christmas to all.

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Oakland Athletics vs. Detroit Tigers : Team Grades from ALDS Game 1

Of the four Division Series matchups, this one probably featured the most different teams.

The Athletics exceeded almost everyone’s expectations with rookies and other youngsters, while the Tigers were on the outside looking in for most of the season despite their high expectations with superstars like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on the roster.

In Game 1, pitching ruled the day. Justin Verlander bounced back from a shaky beginning to strike out 11 in seven innings and Jarrod Parker gave up three runs in six and a third in his first career postseason start.

Both bullpens were effective and the Tigers earned a nail-biting 3-1 victory in the first game of the best-of-five Division Series. Here are Game 1 grades for each team.

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New York Yankees: Why Nick Swisher Won’t Be Back in 2013

Nick Swisher is a good Yankee.

In almost four full seasons, he has a .362 on-base percentage and 101 home runs. He’s a decent right fielder and has proven his worth at first base in 2012 while Mark Teixeira deals with a calf injury. He’s also a clubhouse and fan favorite.

Unfortunately for Swisher, who has embraced New York, his days as a Yankee are numbered.

He’ll be a free agent this off-season and it’s difficult to see him in the Yankees‘ future plans, given Swisher’s postseason numbers and the Yankees’ desire to decrease their payroll by 2014.

Swisher has always been a streaky hitter, which partially explains the Yankees’ inability to keep their division lead in 2012. Since Aug. 29, he’s just 7-62 (.113) without a home run. He has his share of hot streaks, too, but I sense the team is getting tired of his extreme hot and cold stretches.

One thing he’s never been for the team is a good playoff hitter. In 100 playoff at-bats in the Bronx, Swisher has just 16 hits (a .160 average). He does have four home runs, including one in the 2009 World Series, but the Yankees expect more in the postseason from their hitters (just ask Alex Rodriguez).

Still, I think if the payroll restrictions the team is putting on itself did not exist, the Yankees would bring Swisher back. He’s been a good player and a good teammate for them. However, with a goal to lower the team’s payroll below $189 million after next season, Swisher will be a casualty of that.

Even with Swisher’s streaky play, he will still be one of the best free agent outfielders available this winter (also available will be Michael Bourn, Josh Hamilton, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino, a decent, but not small, group of players). Is a three-year contract worth $30 million to $35 million realistic for a player entering his age-32 season with a career .358 on-base percentage, 205 home runs and the ability to play outfield and first base? I think so.



Now let’s look at what the Yankees are already set to pay in 2014.

Rodriguez is owed $26 million, Mark Teixeira $23.125 million, CC Sabathia $23 million and Derek Jeter at least a $3 million buyout. That’s $75.125 million for just three players (Jeter or another shortstop would still need to have a salary), leaving $113.875 for the other 22 men on the roster, including Robinson Cano, who will probably sign for about $25 million per year and perhaps Curtis Granderson.

With those numbers, it seems there isn’t enough room for the salary Swisher would demand, and as much as he loves New York, it’s hard to ask anyone to take less money or fewer years than they are offered.

Plus, the Yankees have a cheaper option to replace Swisher for the next year or two while they evaluate more permanent options with Ichiro Suzuki, who is hitting .288 since coming to the Yankees and could probably be had on a one-year, $5 million deal, which would not require any commitment for 2014. In the meantime, the Yankees can also watch Tyler Austin’s and Mason Williams’ development in the minors.

In a perfect world, the Yankees would be able to re-sign Nick Swisher and his enthusiastic spirit for the next few years. However, it seems like the Bronx Bombers are finally forcing themselves to practice some financial restraint, and for the first time in a long time they will not be able to re-sign any player they want. They’re going to have to let Nick Swisher go.

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New York Yankees: Grading the Bombers’ Trade Deadline Moves

The non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone, and as has become the “Yankee Way,” Brian Cashman and the Yankees‘ front office made a couple of minor moves without pulling off a blockbuster deal.

Cashman made two small upgrades to his first-place team’s roster, acquiring outfielder Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners for minor league pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar on July 23, and acquiring infielder Casey McGehee from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Chad Qualls just before Tuesday’s deadline.

Both deals are low-risk, medium- to high-upside moves that made sense. But the best moves the Yankees made at this year’s trade deadline are the trades Brian Cashman did not make.


July 23, Yankees acquire OF Ichiro Suzuki, Grade: A-

This was a prudent move for the Yankees.

After finding out the Brett Gardner would miss the duration of the season due to elbow surgery, the Yankees were looking at playing the final two months and the postseason with Raul Ibanez (40) and Andruw Jones (35) forming a platoon in left field.

Both players have done well in that role so far this season, but it’s questionable whether either would be able to keep up their performance for two more months at their ages. Neither has any speed, either.

So the Yankees traded for Ichiro, a 38-year-old outfielder who, at worst, comes relatively cheaply and gives the Yankees superb outfield play and the speed element they were lacking. At best, he is a dynamic offensive player who started his career with 10 200-hit seasons and seven times led the American League in hits.

This is the definition of a low-risk, high-reward trade.


July 31, Yankees acquire 1B/3B Casey McGehee, Grade: A-

This is another deal that comes with absolutely no risk and some upside, albeit not as much upside as the Ichiro trade gave the Yankees.

First is the cost. The Yankees gave up Chad Qualls, a reliever who was about to be designated for assignment as soon as Joba Chamberlain was ready to come off the DL. Chamberlain was supposed to make one more rehab appearance, but was instead activated Tuesday after the trade. So, in essence, the Yankees gave up about two days of Chad Qualls’ services.

In acquiring McGehee (via Yahoo!), they gained a corner infielder with a right-handed power bat who can fill in for Alex Rodriguez as he misses time with a broken hand.

McGehee has played primarily at first base with the Pirates this year, but has also been the Brewers‘ regular third baseman in the past. He’s not good at the hot corner, but is serviceable.

He doesn’t hit for average; he’s a career .260 hitter with a .316 on-base percentage. But he does have eight homers in 265 at-bats and his career high was 23 home runs in 2010.

I’m skeptical about how much the Yankees will get out of McGehee, especially since A-Rod will come back eventually and probably take McGehee’s roster spot regardless of his performance, but they gave up virtually nothing. It was a good deal to make.


Overall Grade: A

At the end of the day, though, the Yankees did well at this year’s trade deadline because they did not trade any of their top prospects for a player they did not need.

Yes, the Yankees have been slumping. But they still have the best record in the American League and will almost assuredly win the AL East.

The offense is solid, and they made a deal to improve on their main weaknesses in left field and lack of speed. Russell Martin has had a terrible season, but there weren’t many catchers on the market significantly better than Martin.

Many fans were clamoring for the Bombers to make a deal for Cliff Lee, or Ryan Dempster or another elite starting pitcher. While a deal for a top starting pitcher would have been nice, the Yankees’ rotation has been excellent this year, and fans should be confident with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and probably Phil Hughes as the team’s rotation heading into the playoffs.

Brian Cashman held on to Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and all of the team’s top prospects for the future, and he still has the best team in the American League.

The Yankees did well at this year’s trade deadline.

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5 Reasons the Ryan Dempster Trade Will Be a Bust for the Rangers

Just before the 4:00 non-waiver trade deadline, the Texas Rangers made their biggest move by acquiring Ryan Dempster from the Cubs for two minor leaguers.

The move came after the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim traded for Zack Greinke over the weekend and after learning that Neftali Feliz will have Tommy John surgery.

The cost wasn’t high; the Rangers only gave up a minor league third baseman blocked in the system by Adrian Beltre and Mike Olt and an organizational pitcher who isn’t much of a prospect.

Dempster has good numbers this year, and the Rangers needed a No. 1 or No. 2 starting pitcher, but Dempster was not the answer. Here are five reasons why.

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AL East: Analyzing the May Schedules and Why the Red Sox Will Turn Season Around

Before the regular season began, I wrote an article examining the AL East contenders’ April schedules and argued that, because the Blue Jays played a relatively weak schedule to open the season, they would have a strong first month.

They’ve done well, but May will not be nearly as kind to them.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees should breeze through a relatively weak May schedule, while the Orioles will run into some of the league’s best teams over the next 31 days.

Here are analyses of each team’s May schedules, and arguments for why the Orioles probably won’t be within a game of first place in the division when the calendar turns to June.

Baltimore Orioles

Opponents: at NYY (2), at BOS (3), vs TEX (4), vs TB (3), vs NYY (2), at KC (2), at WAS (3), vs BOS (3), vs KC (3) at TOR (3)

Opponents’ combined record (entering April 28): .565 (78-60)

Analysis: In May, the O’s will play 11 of their 28 games against 2011’s playoff teams, plus six games against Boston, three in Toronto, and three in Washington against one of the hottest teams in baseball. They open the month with 14 straight games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, Rays and Yankees again—that’s an extremely difficult stretch. It will be almost impossible for the Orioles to stay in the hunt for the division lead.

Boston Red Sox

Opponents: vs OAK (2), vs BAL (3), at KC (3), vs CLE (4), vs SEA (2), at TB (2), at PHI (3), at BAL (3), vs TB (3), vs DET (4)

Opponents’ combined record (entering April 28): .513 (82-78)

Analysis: After slumping for most of April, the Sox have started to turn things around with a series in Minnesota and will continue to play the American League’s weakest teams in May. Their first 14 games will be against Oakland, Baltimore, Kansas City, Cleveland and Seattle. Those are arguably the AL’s worst five teams!

They’ll play another series against the O’s before the month is through, as well as three games against Philadelphia, whose pitching is still solid but whose offense is so weak that it should make the Sox’s bullpen look respectable. Five games against Tampa and four against Detroit should be tough, but overall, Boston’s May schedule provides the Sox a great opportunity to turn things around. Is a 19-10 May record really that much of a stretch?

New York Yankees

Opponents: vs BAL (2), at KC (4), vs TB (3), vs SEA (3), at BAL (2), at TOR (2), vs CIN (3), vs KC (3), at OAK (3), at LAA (3)

Opponents’ combined record (entering April 28): .479 (78-85)

Analysis: The Yankees will play 17 of their 28 May games against the Athletics, Mariners, Orioles and Royals—need I say more? Even if their starting pitching continues to struggle, they should score more than enough runs to win at least 13 or 14 out of 17 against those teams.

The rest of the month, they’ll play one series each against Tampa Bay, Toronto, Cincinnati and Los Angeles (the Angels, not the Dodgers). Those should each be interesting series (especially the Rays series, after the Yankees were swept in the first three games of the season), but the Yankees are more than capable of winning at least two out of three from each team. The Yankees should go at least 18-8 in May.

Tampa Bay Rays

Opponents: vs SEA (3), vs OAK (3), at NYY (3), at BAL (3), at TOR (2), vs BOS (2), vs ATL (3), vs TOR (3), at BOS (3), vs CHW (3)

Opponents’ combined record (entering April 28): .544 (87-73)

Analysis: The Rays will play the AL East’s best teams a lot this month, featuring three games in the Bronx against the Yankees and two series apiece against the Blue Jays and Red Sox. Those games will be tough for Tampa Bay, but otherwise the schedule does not look too difficult.

They should be able to handle the Mariners and Athletics to open the month, they play Baltimore and Atlanta three times each, and a White Sox team that is very average. If the Rays can navigate their division games well, they should consider the month a success.

Toronto Blue Jays

Opponents: vs TEX (2), at LAA (4), at OAK (2), at MIN (4), vs TB (2), vs NYY (2), vs NYM (3), at TB (3), at TEX (3), vs BAL (3)

Opponents’ combined record (entering April 28): .539 (97-83)

Analysis: The Blue Jays will face the Rangers five times in May, in addition to the Angels, Yankees and Rays. Those will all be tough games, and even though they play Oakland and Minnesota, those games are on the road and are part of a tough 10-game roadtrip. The Jays will also play the Mets, who have opened 2012 with a surprisingly fast start, in Interleague play. We’ll learn much more about the Jays in May than we did in April.


I don’t look at the standings until June at the earliest, and when I do this year, I expect the Yankees and Rays to remain at or near the top of the division along with the Red Sox, with the Blue Jays and Orioles falling behind.

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