Pirates Preview : Pre Opening Day Workout April 4

The Pirates sent out an email inviting their season ticket holders to come out and watch as the Pirates and Phillies take batting practice and run through drills the day before the Home Opener, April 4th.

Admission will be free.  There is no actual game, the game will be the next day.   Kudos to the Pirates for doing this.  I know that the Reds also open up their gates the day before the opener for their fans, and always thought it was a great idea.

Anyhow, the gates open at 2:30, which poses a problem to me, since I am still working at that time.  I should be able to make it down to PNC Park in time to catch part of the Pirates batting practice and all of the Phillies BP.  Therein lies a potential problem for me.  Should I could the balls I get at the workout in my official stats or not?

Here’s why I shouldn’t:
1)  There isn’t an actual game

Here’s why I should:
1)  Almost all ballhawks count the balls they snag at the Home Run Derby in their collection.  That isn’t a game.  If I remember correctly it’s All Star ‘work out’ and Home Run derby.  I don’t see much of a difference between this and that.
2)  The balls are hit by major league players
3)  The balls are snagged at a major league park, hit by MLB players
4)  Other fans will be in attendance, creating competition
5)  Spring Training is over, so these wouldn’t be considered spring training balls
6)  I’ve seen other ballhawks count less than credible balls such as ball found on tours when no game was taking place, balls that were purchased or won in a team store raffle, balls that were found by another person and held until the ballhawk could claim it, etc etc.  Some ballhawks even count spring training balls in their stats.  I’ve been to spring training.  I once snagged about 10 balls and I was literally the only person standing there.

I don’t see why I shouldn’t count these balls in my collection, so I think I’m going to.

What do you think?  Should I?  Should I definitely not?

Also, I’m doing a contest tonight.  I’m so pumped for the season that I may just do a giveaway every single day leading up to Opening Day.  So check back soon.  Tonight, the first correct answer wins!

There’s only 9 more days until Opening Day, and you have until Sunday to win this Andrew McCutchen shirt.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the forecast for Opening Day, April 5:

Not good – 60% chance of showers.  What else is new in Pittsburgh?


Marlins Park Tour

Not too long ago, the Marlins opened up their park to their season ticket holders to take a lot around and familiarize themselves with the brand new stadium.  I went digging around various websites recently to show you what the new park looks like.

Here’s your sneak peak:

A view from the seats to the right side of home plate, facing left field:

Another view from roughly the same angle:

From farther back:

And looking slightly to the left:

So what are we looking at out there?  If you look closely, left field is awful for BP.  There are 2.5 sections of seating with maybe nine rows.  The rows look like they could be a bit steep, like right field in PNC Park and Cincinnati.

There are bullpens there too that will swallow up most of the home runs hit in batting practice.

Then there’s also a huge sculpture in left center field.

I’m not really sure how I feel about that sculpture.  At first I thought it looked pretty hideous, but I thought the Marlins new uniforms looked awful, but they are starting to grow on me.  Maybe in time the oddly placed piece of art will find a home in my heart.

What do you think of it?  Personally, I would’ve rather them put more seats out there.

Here’s another angle of the Marlins Park sculpture in left center field.  No matter how many angles I look at, I still just don’t really care for it.

Anyhow, here’s a side view of the sculpture.  Take a look at those steps leading down behind it.  Where do they go?  Why isn’t anyone on them?  Are they closed to the public?  That is prime real estate for a home run ball.  If I was a Marlins ballhawk, I’d probably just hang down there all game and gobble up game home runs.

Those steps have to be open to the public!  Look how many of them there are!  It’s wide enough that it looks like it was built for public use.

I tried to find pictures to see where the steps went to, but couldn’t.  Check this out:

That’s right ballhawks.  RAILINGS.  Oh man, LF is going to be awful for batting practice.

Since we’re talking about left field, here’s a view of home plate from left:

That picture kind of sucks, so here’s a better one:

Let’s move over to center field:

Here’s a dead on view of center field:

And here’s the batting eye, looking toward right field.

Notice right field also has those dreadful railings.  That’s not the only problem.  There’s also an overhang, and it looks like it covers nearly the entire lower level of right field.  Getting home runs balls during BP there will be limited, a la Citi Field right field.

You can see the outfield set up from this photo:

Here’s the main seating area in foul territory.  It reminds me of PNC Park with the cross aisle running around the field several rows behind the dugout:

The press box behind home plate:

A look in from near the left field foul pole:

And the right field foul pole:

A view from third base looking out towards right field:

Have you heard about the live aquariums behind the plate?

Should be pretty cool for anyone sitting down close:

A batting practice shot:

And finally, here’s a shot of the scoreboard:

Let’s head out to the concourse:

They look rather crowded, and this was just at fan fest.  If there’s one thing I hate its a crowded concourse.  There’s nothing worse at a baseball game than tiptoeing through a crowd.

Parts of the concourse look pretty snazzy thought:

Here’s a crowd waiting to get in outside:

It will likely look like that before every game, as the Marlins, using poor judgement, are only opening the park 90 minutes early before the games.   STUUUUUUPID!

Finally, the exterior of the building:

Another area outside of the park:

And finally, an aerial of the new Marlins Park:

And there you have it!

What do you all think?  I think the park is nice looking, but I wouldn’t rank it in the top 5 of all of the baseball parks based off of the pictures, maybe not even in the top 10.

I think its going to be h*ll for batting practice, given the layout of the outfield and the late gate opening times.

What’s everyone else think?  Anyone planning on going there this year?

There’s only 11 more days until Opening Day, and you could win this David Wright shirt tomorrow!

Chipper Jones to retire

Yesterday, Chipper Jones announced that the 2012 season would be his last.  Jones has been somewhat of a polarizing figure in his career.  Atlanta Braves fans love him, while fans of NL East teams, particularly the Mets, seem to hate him.

Well fans, you’ll have one more chance to boo or cheer Chipper Jones this season.  Jones will have a farewell tour in the fact that fans will know that this is the last time that they will ever see him play.  If the Braves don’t make the playoffs, (which they may not since the NL East is much improved) your last chance to see Chipper Jones will be at PNC Park on October 3rd.

Personally, I like it better when a player of Jones’ caliber lets the baseball world know that this will be it.  This way, fans can watch them play one more time.  Jones was special in the fact that he played his entire career for one team – a feat that is becoming more rare as the years pass.

Is Jones a first ballot Hall of Famer?  Let’s look at his numbers.
He hit 454 home runs, 2615 hits, .304 batting average, .533 slugging, .935 OPS, won an MVP award, 7 All Star appearances.  I’d say he is.  He’s had a great career.

How’d you feel about Chipper Jones?  Like him?  Hate him?  Indifferent?
I used to hate him because I hated his wry smile and his sunflower seed stuffed cheek.  However, after watching him play and watching him hit in batting practice I grew to appreciate him.

I think I’ll be posting more today – maybe another mini contest for a shirt.  Check back soon.

2012 Milestone Homeruns + First day of Spring

Have any of you ever been on a home run chase before?  Where you’ve attended a game just for the chance of catching a player’s milestone home run?

I attended 3 games in Cleveland in 2010 in pursuit of Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run and a possible $250,000 payday.  I had it played perfectly too.  The first two games, I waited alone down in Heritage Park in dead center field.  I couldn’t see the game, but it the ball landed in the trees or flew into the monument sections, I’d have a good 20 second before anyone else could get down there to corral it.

Like most home run chases, it ended in disappointment, A-Rod failed to hit #600 in Cleveland.  I also was in on Albert Pujols when he was at #399 at PNC Park, and Derrek Lee & Alfonso Soriano when they were both stuck on #299 at PNC Park.

If you caught a milestone ball what would you do?  Would you give it back, no questions asked like this guy did?   Or would you sell it, like this fan did?

Personally, I’d sell it.  To give it back to the player would be nice and all, but to a regular fan, it’s like hitting the lottery.

So, here is a look at players who are approaching milestone home runs in 2012:
In parentheses are the home runs still needed to reach the milestone.

650 Home runs – Alex Rodriguez (21)
450 Home runs – Albert Pujols (5), Vlad Guerrero (1)
400 Home runs – David Ortiz (22), Adam Dunn (35), Paul Konerko (4)
300 Home runs – Ryan Howard (14), Miguel Cabrera (23)
250 Home runs – Derek Jeter (10)
200 Home runs – Jose Bautista (44), Curtis Granderson (33), David Wright (17), Nick Swisher (15), Justin Morneau (15), Chase Utley (12), Travis Hafner (11), Dan Uggla (10), Adrian Gonzalez (5)

Looking over my master schedule, I could possibly have a shot a Miguel Cabrera’s 300th if he gets out to a hot start near the end of May in Cleveland.  If Adam Dunn rebounds, I could have a shot at his 400th at the end of the season, also in Clevelnad.  If Justin Morneau can recover from his concussion symtoms, he could be around 14 homers when the Twins visit PNC Park in June.

Will any of you alter your plans this summer for a particular chance at a milestone?

In other non-baseball news, its the first day of spring.

It was 80 degrees in PA, so Amy, Olivia and I headed out to Linn Run state park near Ligonier PA.  Olivia was loving the water at this area known as flat rock, which is a giant flat rock over which a rushing stream flows.  It’s a natural water slide – but I didn’t swim.  I just held Olivia as she kicked in the water.

We were having a blast.

Olivia couldn’t get enough of the water.

Anyway, the wonderful day then took a turn for the worst.  Three college aged girls came and joined us at the rock.

There really wasn’t anyone else around.  Moments later, two random guys walked up the trail and stopped at the rock too.  Our tranquility had been ruined.   The girls kicked off their sandals and waded onto the flat rock, just to get their feet wet.

We were about to leave, when one of the girls slipped on the slippery rock and face planted hard onto the unforgiving rock and got washed downstream a bit.  Her friends thought it was funny at first.  However, her face was split open and it was gushing blood.

It was ridiculous.  And gruesome.  Blood was running down her arms.  Amy offered a diaper to keep on it to absorb the blood, but was turned down, as the girl decided to remove an article of her clothing to use as a compress.  She couldn’t walk because she was losing so much blood.  The walk back to the parking lot was at least a half mile.  Craziness.  Thankfully the two random guys carried her back.

I didn’t think it was right to take a picture of it, but there was blood everywhere.  After we got back to our car and left, I did snap a photo of the ambulance that came.

Just thought I’d share about my first day of spring.  Sheesh.

There’s only 16 more days until Opening Day, and you can win this DAVID WRIGHT shirt on Sunday – the more you comment and read, the better your chances are!  And, I’m thinking about doing another one of those 24 hour contests soon…

David Wright Jersey Shirt Giveaway

I’m giving away MLB Stuff every week on this blog to reward my readers.

I’ve given away a Matt Wieters shirt to Joey Orr,
a Brandon Phillips shirt to Matt Jackson,
a Dustin Pedroia shirt to Stephen D,
a Phillies shirt to Connor,
a Dodgers shirt to Matt Jackson,
a Ryan Zimmerman shirt to Big Brown Fox
a Nick Markakis shirt to NYBisons,
and this CC Sabathia shirt to Teen Reds Fan.

This week, I gave readers a chance to pick this shirt, and then the player.

They picked a Mets shirt:

And the player is David Wright:

Here’s the full front of the shirt:

And with tags:

I believe I have this shirt available in a small, medium, large and XL.

Here’s how you win the shirt:

I post blog entries every day.  All you have to do is leave a comment or retweet my blog link on twitter.

So, again,  to enter:
1)  Leave a comment.
You can enter up to seven times per week simply by leaving a comment.  Non-pertinent, spam, or inappropriate comments will not be accepted.  If you comment multiple times on the same blog entry, it still counts as one entry.  For example, if you commented on three different blog posts from this week, you’d have three entries.  If you’d comment three times on the same blog posting, it would could as one.

2)  Retweet (RT) my posts on Twitter
You can find me on twitter under 333greystreet.  Simply retweet my daily posts of my blog link and I’ll count that as an entry.  My blog is connected to my twitter so that I automatically tweet once I post a new entry.  Each day, I’ll search who’s retweeted me and enter those users into a hat along with the commenters.  By the way, you do not need to retweet my every tweet, only the tweets that announce a new blog post and url.  For example, if I tweeted, ‘I’m going to bed,’ and you retweeted it, it wouldn’t count as an entry, only RT with blog links count.

At the end of the week on Sunday, I’ll have Olivia, Amy or myself choose a name from a hat and announce the winner.

So, what’s everyone think of the Mets’ chances in 2012.  In my NL East preview, I buried the Mets in last place and predicted them to lose 100 games.  By the way, Spring Training isn’t really a good indicator of how a team will do in the regular season due to the amount of minor league players involved, players just getting their work in, regardless if they’re struggling, etc… but the Mets are 3-11 this spring – worst in the MLB.

As far as David Wright in 2012, things aren’t getting underway well for him.  He has a torn abdominal muscle and may not be ready for opening day.  Hopefully for Wright, he can recover without surgery.  Ryan Zimmerman had surgery for a torn abdominal muscle last year and missed half of the season.

How do you think the Mets will fare in 2012?  How about David Wright?  Will the moved in fences at Citi Field help him?  He hit 30 homers in 2007 and 33 in 2008 – while only hitting 14 last year and posting a career worst .771 OPS and .254 average.

On another note, there’s only 17 more days until Opening Day.  And it’s been in the 70’s for about a week here in PA with highs forecast at about 80 for the next three days.  Olivia and I are loving this.  We can sit on our deck at 7:30 PM and enjoy the birds singing and the sunset behind us.

There’s just one thing missing – baseball games.  Soon we’ll be listening to the crack of the bat.  Almost there…

Vote for next shirt! Mets?

We just gave away the CC Sabathia shirt in the previous entry.

I’ve narrowed it down to the following teams for next week’s giveaway, that will be revealed sometime tomorrow afternoon/early evening.

Commenters were asked to choose from these teams by posting a comment (the comment also counts as an entry in next Sunday’s drawing):
The results were

It looks like the Mets win.

Now, should I give away a David Wright shirt, a Jason Bay shirt, a Johan Santana shirt, or a Classic Print (black shirt/orange letter L,XL) shirt?

Let me know what you think and I’ll decide and post pics for the next contest after dinner.

2012 NL West Predictions & Preview

Today, I’ve decided to focus on the final remaining division in my 2012 MLB Predictions series. In case you missed my division previews, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, AL WestNL East  and NL Central preview by clicking on the links provided.

I’ve used the Major League Baseball Yearbook magazine to provide the statistical projects.

Here’s how I think the NL West will end up:

1st Place: San Francisco Giants.  (My prediction 88-74)
The Giants finished in second place to the Diamondbacks last season, but I think that they’ll win a few more games in 2012 with the return of Buster Posey to the lineup.  I had trouble picking a winner for the NL West, because I love the Giants starters, the Diamondbacks are solid offensively and pitching wise, and the Rockies offense looks great.  Ultimately, I had to go with the starting pitching.

Posey suffered a gruesome injury on a home plate collision that cut short his 2012 campaign.  The former Rookie of the Year is healthy now, which should help an otherwise below average offense.

Aubrey Huff struggled a bit last year, hitting just .246 with 12 homers.  At age 35, you have to wonder how much he has left in his declining skill set.  Ideally, you’d like to see more production from your first baseman than Huff offered last season.

Freddy Sanchez dealt with shoulder issues last year and hopes to be ready for opening day.  The former NL batting champ gives the Giants good defense and a solid average year in a year out.

“The Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval should provide the most pop in the lineup. He walloped 24 dingers last year.  Sandoval just needs to keep his weight in check so it doesn’t hinder him defensively.

The Giants outfield is sub par.  There’s Melky Cabrera, who has bounced around in recent seasons and would classify as an above average outfielder,

but then there’s Angel Pagan, who doesn’t offer much of anything offensively,

and Nate Schierholtz, who doesn’t offer much either.

The Giants playoff aspirations will hinge on Tim Lincecum and the starting staff.  Lincecum has arguably been the best pitcher in the National League since his debut several seasons ago.

Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season, should be motivated to put up huge numbers in his ‘contract’ year.  Cain would be the ace of most staffs, but fits in nicely behind Lincecum as the #2 of this staff.

Is it just me, or does Cain look eerily similar to this guy in that picture:

Actor John C Reilly.

Madison Bumgarner had a 3.21 ERA last season.  That’s amazing for a #3 starter.

Ryan Vogelsong had the comeback of the decade, rebuilding his career and posting a 2.71 ERA while becoming an All Star at age 34.  Vogelsong struggled mightly in Pittsburgh when he was the centerpiece of the Jason Schmidt deal that sent Schmidt off to the Giants.  After a couple seasons as a mop up man in the Pirates bullpen, Vogelsong disappeared – he went and played in Japan for awhile – before resurfacing last year to baffle NL batters.  What a story.

The 5th man of the rotation will be Barry Zito, who will make 19 million dollars in 2012, and still hasn’t posted a winning record or sub 4.00 ERA in his 5 seasons with the Giants.  His contract has really hurt the Giants, who could’ve used those millions and millions of dollars to add more offense.  Maybe he should focus more on pitching and less on guitar and destroying his liver:

The closer will be the crazy Brian Wilson.  I vote for his 2013 Topps Card to be a landscape of this shot:  Nothing more:

Wilson surely will look creepier and creepier as the season progresses.  What’s he planning on doing with his beard?  Will he ever cut or trim it?

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Buster Posey .297-18-75
1B Aubrey Huff .258-15-63
2B Freddy Sanchez .291-8-56
3B Pablo Sandoval .306-24-77
SS Brandon Crawford .243-6-38
LF Angel Pagan .272-10-73
CF Melky Cabrera .314-11-65
RF Nate Schierholtz .273-11-53

SP Tim Lincecum 14-12, 2.91 ERA, 213 IP, 223 K
SP Matt Cain 12-11, 2.97 ERA, 218 IP, 174 K
SP Madison Bumgarner 13-11, 3.05 ERA, 195 IP, 176 K
SP Ryan Vogelsong 11-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 174 K
SP Barry Zito 5-9, 4.73 ERA, 116 IP, 85 K
RP Brian Wilson 2.85 ERA, 35 SV, 60 IP, 67 K
RP Sergio Romo 1.99 ERA, 1 SV, 50 IP, 65 K

2nd  place: Arizona Diamondbacks (My prediction 85-77)
The Diamondbacks won the division last season with 94 wins, which shocked baseball, especially since they had only won 69 games the year before.  25 win improvements are very rare.  Nearly the same team returns in 2012, with new additions Trevor Cahill and Jason Kubel.  However, I think that the Diamondbacks greatly overachieved in 2011, and probably won’t quite duplicate their success.

Miguel Montero is one of the better young catchers in the game.  He’ll also be a free agent soon and may look for Yadier Molina type money.

Paul Goldschmidt will man first base.  He’s some power, but he’s a young player who could face difficulty.  He’ll be one to watch.

Aaron Hill used to be really good with the Blue Jays, but lost his way last year when he only hit 8 homers. He hit 36 homers in 2009.  What happened?

Ryan Roberts is a defensive liability, but has some power to go along with all of those crazy tattoos.

Stephen Drew had a down year in 2011 and could bounce back after only hitting .252-5-45 in 2011.

The outfield of the Diamondbacks is solid – way better than the Giants.  They’ve got Justin Upton, who hit 31 homers last year,

Chris Young, who also has pop – 20 homers in 2011, but has struggled with his batting average and on base percentage,

and Jason Kubel, who only hit 12 bombs in 2011 with the Twins, but hit at least 20 in his previous three seasons.

The starting rotation is anchored by Ian Kennedy, who had the best record in Major League baseball last year at 21-4.  Can he duplicate it?  I say not likely.

Daniel Hudson will be the #2 starter, who posted a record of 16-12 last year.

Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter are slightly above average and round out the rest of the rotation.  The #5 job could go to Barry Enright or Wade Miley.

The Diamondbacks were extremely strong in the bullpen last year.  Their weakest link was Craig Breslow, and his ERA was a decent 3.79.  JJ Putz had the second best season of his 9 year career when he posted a 2.17 ERA with 45 saves.

Bullpen pitchers are tough to predict though from season to season.  I think the Diamondbacks may see a bit of a regression in the later innings this year.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Miguel Montero .292-17-80
1B Paul Goldschmidt .275-24-78
2B Aaron Hill .265-15-76
3B Ryan Roberts .247-16-57
SS Stephen Drew .261-11-68
LF Jason Kubel .264-20-87
CF Chris Young .235-19-69
RF Justin  Upton .286-30-90

SP Daniel Hudson 17-12, 3.23 ERA, 231 IP, 180 K
SP Ian Kennedy 17-8, 3.13 ERA, 207 IP, 185 K
SP Trevor Cahill 15-13, 3.86 ERA, 200 IP, 143 K
SP Josh Collmenter 13-13, 3.50 ERA, 193 IP, 125 K
SP Wade Miley 10-10, 4.32 ERA, 154 IP, 127 K
RP JJ Putz 2.41 ERA, 40 SV, 52 IP, 57 K
RP David Hernandez 3.98 ERA, 6 SV, 75 IP, 72 K
3rd place place: Colorado Rockies.  (My prediction 82-80)
Even though the Rockies have used the humidor for a few years to negate the effects of high altitude offense, the Rockies look to have a potent lineup for the coming year.

Ramon Hernandez, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds replaces Chris Iannetta at catcher.

Todd Helton, who once put up ridiculous stats, hasn’t hit 20 homers since 2005, but still can deliver a decent batting average.

Second base could feature Eric Young Jr, Jonathan Herrera or Chris Nelson

I’m not a fan of Casey Blake as the team’s third baseman.  He’s 38, and the Rockies should be nervous that this is the season where everything kind of falls apart for him and he needs to be a backup or retire.

Troy Tulowitzki is the Rockies best player, and could possibly win the NL MVP award if the Rockies have a decent year.  Not too many shortstops in the game can provide 30 homers and 100+ RBIs anymore.

The outfield looks great.  The speedy Dexter Fowler, rumored to have increased his muscle mass, will roam center field.

At the corners, the Rockies have a star in Carlos Gonzalez – who belted 26 homers last year,

and free agent acquisition Michael Cuddyer.  Cuddyer hit 20 bombs for the Twins and has been a consistently solid performer.

The Rockies rotation looks iffy.  Without Ubaldo Jimenez, there is no clear ace.  Possibly Jhoulys Chacin could fill that role.  He pitched well at just 23 years old last year.

There’s also Jorge De La Rosa.  He was injured last season, but went 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA when he did pitch.

Who will be the closer this year?  Rafael Betancourt?  He’s got good stuff, but his career high in saves is 8.  How will he handle the pressure?  I guess we’ll find out.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Ramon Hernandez .278-13-42
1B Todd Helton .292-13-66
2B Chris Nelson .263-7-32
3B Casey Blake .281-15-73
SS Troy Tulowitzki .311-34-117
LF Michael Cuddyer .301-26-101
CF Dexter Fowler .268-7-51
RF Carlos Gonzalez .307-32-110

SP Jorge De La Rosa 10-4, 3.33 ERA, 127 IP, 126 K
SP Jhoulys Chacin 13-13, 3.58 ERA, 193 IP, 161 K
SP Juan Nicasio 9-10, 3.95 ERA, 171 IP, 140 K
SP Tyler Chatwood 8-13, 4.54 ERA, 157 IP, 86 K
SP Esmil Rogers 9-11, 5.35 ERA, 168 IP, 137 K
RP Rafael Betancourt 2.82 ERA, 27 SV, 61 IP, 78 K
RP Matt Belisle 3.16 ERA, 0 SV, 83 IP, 72 K

4th place: Los Angeles Dodgers (My prediction 76-86)
The Dodgers went 81-81 last year thanks mostly to the MVP caliber season of Matt Kemp and the Cy Young season of Clayton Kershaw.  Kershaw was valued at 7 wins above a replacement starter,

and Matt Kemp, a whopping 10 WaR.  That’s 17 wins.

Without those 2 guys, the Dodgers might have been 64-98 last year.  The fact of the matter is, that they have those two guys, and although I think Kershaw and Kemp will do great in 2012, I don’t think they’ll match their 2011 campaigns.

Matt Kemp however, disagrees.  He’s projecting a 50 homer, 50 steal season from himself.   For the Dodgers sake, hopefully he can, because the rest of their team is very average.

AJ Ellis as the starter?  Replacement level player.

James Loney hasn’t nearly done anything close to what he’s capable of doing.  As a youngster in 2007 he hit 15 homers with a .331 average.  He’s never bettered either of those numbers since.

Mark Ellis is average at best.  He had some good seasons in Oakland years ago, but he’s 35 years old now.

Dee Gordon brings blazing speed to the top of the lineup.  He has no power whatsoever, but will make pitchers sweat a little extra when he takes his lead off of first base.

Juan Uribe was horrendous in 2011, hitting just .204 with 4 homers.  Ugh.

Andre Ethier didn’t contribute much last year, hitting only 11 homers in 135 games.  Where did his power go?

Juan Rivera could take the other outfield spot, hitting 11 homers last year, although personally, I’d rather see Jerry Sands there.  Sands hit 35 homers in 2010 and 33 in 2011 between AAA and the bigs.  Big power.

Besides Kershaw, the Dodgers also have Ted Lilly – who is a class A jerk during batting practice.  Lilly is a soft tossing lefty who has been moderately successful in the major leagues.

Chad Billingsley has had some decent seasons in the past, and is young enough that he could return to the Billingsley of 2007-2008.

The other starters, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, are just average at best.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C AJ Ellis .279-8-54
1B James Loney .287-12-72
2B Mark Ellis .260-7-43
3B Juan Uribe .227-8-36
SS Dee Gordon .285-0-29
LF Juan Rivera .261-13-73
CF Matt Kemp .308-35-115
RF Andre Ethier .287-14-66
SP Clayton Kershaw 18-7, 2.41 ERA, 224 IP, 234 K
SP Ted Lilly 11-12, 3.67 ERA, 189 IP, 160 K
SP Chad Billingsley 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 185 IP, 156 K
SP Aaron Harang 13-9, 3.80 ERA, 211 IP, 168 K
SP Chris Capuano 9-10, 4.65 ERA, 163 IP, 149 K
RP Javy Guerra 3.11 ERA, 30 SV, 64 IP, 55 K
RP Kenley Jansen 3.69 ERA, 9 SV, 63 IP, 69 K

5th place:  San Diego Padres (My prediction 65-97)
The Padres are in rebuilding mode and went 71-91 last season, quite a disappointment after winning 90 games in 2010.  I expect things to get a little worse before they start to get better in San Diego.

Of all five players in the infield, none hit more than 9 home runs in 2011.  That’s a major offensive power outage.  Granted, the Padres play their home games at the cavernous Petco Park – but they also get to play 81 games on the road.

Nick Hundley looks to be the starter until top prospect Yasmani Grandal, acquired in the Mat Latos deal, is ready.

Yonder Alonso, also acquired in the same deal, will man first.

The O-Dog, Orlando Hudson, has had a nice career as a middle infielder, and will hope to rebound from a .246 avg from last year.

Remember when Jason Bartlett was an All Star and getting votes in the MVP award race as a Rays shortstop?  Well he’s far from that now, hitting just 2 homers last year to go along with a .245 average.  His WaR last year was a 0.1, meaning he was basically a scrap heap replacement level player.  He definitely needs to improve or the Padres could give at bats to Everth Cabrera.

Chase Headley was once a top prospect, ranked #32 overall in the pre-2008 season.   It’s four years later, and he only has 36 homers in 2,114 plate appearances to go with a .269 average.  He needs to produce, or could risk being non-tendered after the season.

The outfield features Carlos Quentin, Kyle Blanks, and Cameron Maybin.  They all possess the potential to put up power numbers and should make for interesting batting practices.

Quentin is still only 29 and may have some good years left in him.

Maybin is the face of the franchise now, signing a five year, $25 million contract in the offseason.

There’s also big Kyle Blanks, who could potentially hit 20 homers.

The rotation features Edinson Volquez, acquired for Mat Latos.  Volquez needs a bounce back season after posting a 5.71 ERA in 20 starts last year.

Tim Stauffer could be the ace, posting a 3.73 ERA last season.

The closer this year will be Huston Street, brought in to replace Heath Bell.

It’s going to be another long year for the Padres.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Nick Hundley .286-13-45
1B Yonder Alonso .285-13-67
2B Orlando Hudson .256-8-53
3B Chase Headley .276-6-46
SS Jason Bartlett .254-3-38
LF Carlos Quentin .251-19-74
CF Cameron Maybin .260-11-42
RF Will Veneable .248-11-47

SP Tim Stauffer 9-12, 3.47 ERA, 171 IP, 118 K
SP Edinson Volquez 7-9, 4.32 ERA, 144 IP, 140 K
SP Clayton Richard 12-11, 4.00 ERA, 191 IP, 130 K
SP Cory Luebke 12-10, 3.64 ERA, 195 IP, 184 K
SP Dustin Moseley 8-11, 3.46 ERA, 182 IP, 106 K
RP Huston Street 3.99 ERA, 27 SV, 56 IP, 51 K
RP Luke Gregorson 3.06 ERA, 4 SV, 65 IP, 59

So there you have it.

How do you think they’ll finish?

There’s only 19 more days.  NineTEEN – we are officially in the teens.  It won’t be long now.  Also, you could win this CC Sabathia shirt tomorrow, so check back for that.