Tagged: Clayton Kershaw

The 2013 Way Too Early MLB Awards

It’s May Day!  Meaning the first month of the MLB season is in the books, also meaning it’s time for the monthly awards rankings.  Last year, I finished by picking four of six awards correctly, missing out on NL Rookie of the Year (I still think Wade Miley should’ve won) and AL MVP (ditto Mike Trout).  Here’s who I think is in line for some hardware after April.

American League Rookie of the Year

Silver Medal: Nick Tepesch, Texas Rangers

Normally, we do a top three with a bronze medal, but the American League rookie crop is so poor right now that you’re only getting two.  Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Aaron Hicks both had promise coming into the year and underwhelmed.  Wil Myers or Dan Straily should hurry up and get called up and take the award you’re supposed to win.  Tepesch has been solid for the Rangers going 2-1 with a 2.53 ERA and an inpressive 14:3 K:BB ratio.

Gold Medal: Justin Grimm, Texas Rangers

Unfortuately for Tepesch, his teammate has been slightly better for now.  Grimm is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA and a 15:4 K:BB ratio that’s been impressive in place of Matt Harrison.  There’s still plenty of time for someone to step up and become the frontrunner for this award.

In the Running: Stephen Pryor, Seattle Mariners

National League Rookie of the Year

Bronze Medal: Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers

Unlike the American League, there is a plethora of rookie candidates in the NL that had a great start to the season.  Jim Henderson has wrestled away the closer’s role in Milwaukee from John Axford and isn’t giving it back.  He’s six for six in save chances, with a sparkling 0.75 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 12 innings.

Silver Medal: Evan Gattis, Atlanta Braves

It’s clear that Gattis has been the best rookie hitter in the Majors leading all MLB rookies with six home runs and 16 RBI.  He’s journey back to baseball has been nothing short of remarkable.  Can he keep it up though is the main question. Especially with Brian McCann returning from injury, there might not be a daily spot in the Braves lineup for El Oso Blanco.

Gold Medal: Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

If Tony Cingrani of the Reds had been called up for one more start this month, he might be in the top spot.  For now, I’m giving the edge to Shelby Miller who’s been everything Cardinals fans hoped he would be in place of Chris Carpenter.  Miller is 3-2 with a 2.05 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 30.2 IP this season.

In the Running: Tony Cingrani, Cincinnati Reds, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, and A.J. Pollock, Arizona Diamondbacks

American League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners

My love for Hisashi Iwakuma has been strong from the preseason.  Iwakuma is only 2-1, but has 1.67 ERA and leads MLB in WHIP at 0.69.  He’s also become more in command of his pitches with a fantastic 7.4 K:BB ratio.  The Mariners have a formidable 1-2 punch now with Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez.  All due respect to Yu Darvish, who leads the American League in strikeouts, I have a feeling he’ll crack the top three at some point this season.

Silver Medal: Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

It’s a close call for the top spot and Matt Moore gets the short end of it for now.  He’s given the Rays rotation a great boost as defending Cy Young winner David Price has been a little bit of a disappointment thus far.  Moore leads the American League in wins, ERA, and hits/9 innings, but his inability to work deep into games keeps him in the silver spot.

Gold Medal: Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

It’s really splitting hairs between Buchholz and Moore, but I’m going to give the razor-thin edge to the Red Sox starter.  Both pitchers are 5-0, Buchholz has slightly worse ERA and WHIP, but has gone deeper into games for Boston.  Buchholz also has the advantage over Matt Moore in WAR and is tops in the AL in that stat.

In the Running: Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers, Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers, Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners, and Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees

National League Cy Young

Bronze Medal: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kershaw or Verlander?  Who’s the best pitcher in all of MLB?  That’s a debate for another day, but right now based on the stats, Kershaw has been 3rd best in the National League.  The Dodgers ace finished the opening month with a 1.71 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and is tied for 2nd in the National League in strikeouts.

Silver Medal: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals

Wainwright looks fully back from Tommy John surgery and better than ever.  His streak of not walking a batter to start the season reached epic proportions and leads the league in K:BB, wins, and innings pitched.  He sports a beautiful 2.03 ERA and 0.99 WHIP and hasn’t given up a home run yet this season.  Let me repeat, HE LEADS THE LEAGUE IN BATTERS FACED AND HASN’T GIVEN UP A HOME RUN TO ANY OF THEM.  Amazing.

Gold Medal: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

Who would’ve thought that when the Mets traded 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, they would have another Cy Young contender this year?  Harvey has been a revelation for the Metropolitans going 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA and a league-leading 0.81 WHIP.  It’s a shame that he’s not eligible for Rookie of the Year, because he’d be leading that race as well.

In the Running: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler, Washington Nationals, Mat Latos, Cincinnati Reds, Jake Westbrook, St. Louis Cardinals, and Paul Maholm, Atlanta Braves

American League MVP

Bronze Medal: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

The defending AL MVP picked right up where he left off in 2012.  The Triple Crown winner is hitting .363 and is tied for the lead in runs batted in with a player we’ll get to soon.  Could there be back-to-back Triple Crowns in the works?

Silver Medal: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians

Probably the best player this season you haven’t heard anything about.  Santana leads the American League in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, and offensive WAR.  He’s blossomed into the AL’s Buster Posey so far this season, we’ll see if he can keep it up.  If the Indians can make the playoffs with Santana performing at this level, he’ll be the MVP.

Gold Medal: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

He’s cooled slightly since his blistering start to the season, but “Crush” Davis leads the AL in home runs, runs batted in, total bases, and slugging.  He’s even hitting .348 with a great .448 OBP.  He’s one of the reasons the Orioles are proving 2012 wasn’t just a fluke.  Let’s not forget his clutchness too!

 

In the Running: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees, Coco Crisp, Oakland Athletics, Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers, Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox, and Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

National League MVP

Bronze Medal: Shin-Soo Choo, Cincinnati Reds

I may have made a mistake having Carlos Gonzalez over Choo on my preliminary All-Star Game ballot last week.  Choo has been a fantastic pick-up for the Reds.  He’s hitting .337 with a league-leading .477 OBP, that has paced the Cincinnati lineup.  He’s also 4th in the NL in runs scored, OPS, and total bases.  That was a great trade for the Reds so far.

Silver Medal: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

It’s entirely possible that Harper is about to repeat Mike Trout’s twenty year-old season (minus the stolen bases).  He’s 3rd in the NL in offensive WAR and leads the league in OPS and OPS+.  Harper also is hitting .344 and getting on base at a .430 clip, both top five in the league.  It’s going to be beat into the ground that he’s doing this before he can legally drink, so get used to it.

Gold Medal: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

It’s pretty safe to say that Justin Upton enjoys playing with his brother B.J.  The younger Upton has almost carried the Braves lineup leading the National League in home runs, slugging, runs scored, total bases, and offensive WAR, while hitting .298.  If Upton can start to hit better with runners in scoring position, he could have one of the greatest seasons in Atlanta Braves history.

Who would win your awards after April?  Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

What is the Price of a Rivalry?

giants vs dodgersI tweeted an honest question out earlier, and I got a pretty significant amount of responses. The natural next step was a blog, so here we are: If two baseball fans were to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles, splitting gas and food and each buying one bleacher ticket for a game at Dodger Stadium, would it cost less than $200 total?

The reason I ask is because I’m butt hurt. Very much so, in fact. I’m a diehard Dodgers fan born, raised, and still living in San Francisco, who wants nothing more than to go see Clayton Kershaw embarrass the rival Giants on their home turf on Friday night.

The only problem? I get paid a small stipend every month, and Mapes continues to “lose” my 3u3d paycheck. The next problem? AT&T Park is charging nearly $100 a pop for standing room only for that game.

I know. Don’t get me started.

Anyway, let’s get down to the math:

From the city of San Francisco to Dodger Stadium is 382 miles, according to our good friend Google Maps. Assuming we start with a full tank in a standard mid-size car getting about 33 miles to the gallon with a 14-gallon tank (the specs of the car I would personally drive in this scenario), we can figure out how much the gas would cost each way.

As of last week, the average price of a gallon of Unleaded gas in California was 3.94. So this car needs a tank about every 450 miles. It’s very fair to assume, even accounting for fluctuation between highways and city streets and any adventuring in between, that it would take two fill-ups to get there and back.

That’s $110.32 in gas. Let’s just throw in $30 for a stop at In-N-Out before the game and Taco Bell on the way home (SO WHAT? DON’T JUDGE ME!) and head to the home stretch. Bleacher seats for the next Dodgers home game against the Giants top out around $25 each right now.

Adding in the fare for tickets and food, you’re looking at a $95 trip per person. I live in San Francisco. And it would cost me $5 more to just walk to the ball park and watch my team play (standing up, no less) at AT&T Park.

It’s a beautiful stadium, but that is atrocious. I’ll keep my spot on the couch instead, thanks.

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook for all your 2013 MLB news!

Episode 40 – Yu Can’t Predict Ball

Coming fresh into a new season the Three Up, Three Down crew jumps right into the opening series with a lot to talk about. A few extensions were handed out to players such as Elvis Andrus, Justin Verlander, and Paul Goldschmidt and who could forget watching Clayton Kershaw slicing and dicing the San Francisco Giants while taking one deep? Was that better than Yu Darvish’s almost perfect performance against the Houston Astros? Not only are the pitchers doing well, two hitters have made a statement this early in the season as Chris Davis and Michael Morse are smashing the ball, but who would you rather have the rest of the season on your fantasy team? Take a listen and choose wisely!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the podcast!

or use this link to download on iTunes

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Enjoy!

Top 5 Moments of Opening Day

Opening DayThis is no April Fools prank: Baseball. Is. Back!

After the Houston Astros dis–hey…stop laughing…it really happened–dismantled the Texas Rangers last night at Minute Maid Park, we had our first full day of baseball today.

Naturally, ESPN kicked it off with proof that they are extremely stubborn as a network, pitting C.C. Sabathia and the hobbled Yankees versus Jon Lester and the completely average Red Sox.

There were so many amazing moments in a long day of ball that it was hard to narrow down to just five. But here is our best shot at it. This is what we do at Three Up, Three Down. We write stuff on baseball-related activities for your enjoyment. So, enjoy!

5. Justin Jacks One

Welcome to Atlanta, where the playa’s play and Upton hits bombs like every day. No disrespect to Freddie Freeman, who also went mammo today, but this Justin Upton blast was put in orbit. And it’s not just a top moment because of the distance–the Braves outfield is the most freakish in baseball, and this is just the first sampling. The Braves faithful have been waiting for this moment since the original trade was made, and the little bro definitely didn’t disappoint.

4. Brewers Bailed Out

One of KP’s least favorite memories of the 2012 season was any blown save by John Axford and Co. If you see our tallest group member, give him a hug. Because Axford was at it again on Opening Day, giving up a no-doubter with two outs in the ninth to the Rockies’ Dexter Fowler, which tied the game. Fortunately for Milwaukee and the home fans, the Rockies pitching staff is deplorable and Jonathan Lucroy was able to score a walk-off sac fly and bail the bullpen out.

3. Bryce Decides Twice is Nice

If there was any debate that last year’s NL Rookie of the Year would suffer from a sophomore slump, he killed it quick. In his first two at-bats of the 2013 season, Bryce Harper absolutely crushed two Ricky Nolasco pitches and put them in the right field bleachers. I’m not buying that his second one has landed yet. In fact, it might currently be traveling over the Atlantic Ocean. Keep an eye out for it. The 20-year-old phenom is on pace for 324 jacks this year. 

2. Stan the Man MUSIAL PATCH

The late Cardinals legend and Hall of Famer Stan Musial is being honored by the team with a cool, classy patch (pictured to the right) on their left sleeves in 2013. But the Arizona Diamondbacks, who hosted the Cards on Opening Day, pulled off a fantastic move by paying homage with a video tribute to Musial between innings. Unfortunately, I don’t have video for you, but the gesture itself was a true act of sportsmanship and remembrance of one of the greatest hitters and humans the world has ever seen.

1. Kershaw Goes Krazy

Let me set the stage: The defending champions travel to their heated rival’s new stadium and face their fancy new team in a battle between two of the best pitchers in the league. A pitcher’s duel turns into a one-man show as Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw not only throws a complete game, four-hit shutout, but hits a go-ahead home run that breaks a scoreless tie in the eighth inning. Unbelievable. And in a game that began with a well-choreographed first pitch skit from Dodgers heroes Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser. I have to take a second to brag, as humbly as possible. I tweeted THIS about five minutes before magic occurred. Of course it was a coincidence  but it makes me believe in fairy tale endings, and reinforces our love of this magical sport.

Buckle up, baseball fans. This was just day one. Only 161 more regular season games to go! Vote below on which one of these moments should have been in the top five, or comment about any moments we missed!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

Follow @3u3d on Twitter and like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook! The best baseball coverage, coming at you from five different states and five different fan bases.

3U3D Break It Down: The N.L. West

On one hand, the San Francisco Giants are the defending world champions and can look forward to having a full season of Hunter Pence in the middle of their lineup. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Dodgers went out and spent about 500 Houston Astros to acquire the most powerful lineup in the league and add a second ace to the rotation. And don’t forget about the Arizona Diamondbacks, who this writer believes is a dark horse to win the West with a more balanced lineup and a ridiculously underrated pitching staff. Sorry Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres fans…your teams just won’t cut it this year. Let’s break down the N.L. West:

Predicted Order of Finish: Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies

A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Mark Ellis

Why the Dodgers could win the N.L. West: There’s a difference between what the Yankees used to be hated for doing every off-season and what the Dodgers did this winter. Rather than just throwing the most money at every ego maniacal  overage player on the market, Los Angeles actually went out and acquired new corner infielders, a leadoff man, and a top of the rotation pitcher who they believed would mesh into an already-tight clubhouse and contribute on the field. Taking a chance on Carl Crawford might pay off huge for the Dodgers, who can use him as an invaluable trading chip at the deadline if he’s playing well (remember, Yasiel Puig should be nearly ready by then). With Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top, it’s easy to overlook the fantastic spring from Hyun-Jin Ryu, too. But with a strong rotation, good bullpen and explosive lineup, a lot of things will have to go wrong for the Dodgers to not at least be in the hunt down the stretch.

Why the Dodgers wouldn’t win the N.L. West: I’m not buying into the whole “team chemistry” issue, and not just because I root for the team. The Dodgers in the preseason seem to have become a fraternity of sorts, without the cheap beer and piles of laundry. Anyway, there is something to be said for the injury history of key players on this team. The entire starting outfield has had recent issues, both middle infielders have encountered some bad luck lately, and three-fifths of the starting rotation either had problems throughout the 2012 season or during this spring. If the injury bug doesn’t hit Southern California, there is always the possibility that Greinke bombs and the Dodgers are left leaning on Kershaw as the lone stud pitcher, which could mean big time trouble.

SF Giants

Why the Giants could win the N.L. West: The Giants won the World Series last year, god forbid Angelo or I forget it. And they’ve been one of the models of consistency throughout the regular season over the last few years. It’s scary that this 2013 team, on paper, is their best in years. We know the pitching staff is dominant, even with Tim Lincecum struggling, and Sergio Romo anchors a very good bullpen. But the biggest reason you might see the Giants make another run at defending their division and world titles is because their offense is going to be MUCH better than people are expecting. Angel Pagan is in his prime, and we know what Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Pence can do in full seasons. Additionally, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford seem to be getting better with the bat every week.

Why the Giants wouldn’t win the N.L. West: At the rate the Dodgers improved their roster and the ease with which they gelled in spring, it might just be bad timing for the Giants. They could still be just as good or better than last year and miss out on the division title. But the two guys who could really end their dreams are the city’s newest hero and the city’s oldest. Lincecum looked awful again in the spring, and could cost the Giants in the long run–Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong are all either good or great pitchers, but nobody ever had the consistency that Lincecum had during his glory years. And Marco Scutaro is bound to come down to earth. As a 37-year-old middle infielder, chances are his .362 average with the Giants in 2012 drops back to around his career average of .275.

Diamondbacks

Why the Diamondbacks could win the N.L. West: As I mentioned in the intro, this is the most dangerous team in the league that nobody is talking about. When you have to send Tyler Skaggs, one of the better rookie performers of last season, to the bullpen because your rotation is already too stacked, you are pretty set for pitching. And the level of talent in the lineup can’t be understated. Miguel Montero, Paul Goldschmidt, and Martin Prado are all signed for the long run, and are complemented by a strong outfield group and a powerful second baseman in Aaron Hill. This team loves playing together and now that it cut out the cancer of Justin Upton, manager Kirk Gibson can take control and mold the team as he pleases.

Why the Diamondbacks wouldn’t win the N.L. West: Not only are the two teams that finished above Arizona last year improved, but questions do linger in the D’Backs starting rotation. As high-potential as it might be, you never know what you’re going to get from Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill, and Brandon McCarthy is always on the DL. Furthermore, how will the offense respond without long-time outfielders Chris Young and Upton no longer in the clubhouse or lineup? I have faith in Jason Kubel and new addition Cody Ross, but I’m not sure if either will be reliable enough over the course of an entire year.

Padres

Why the Padres could win the N.L. West: Because you never know. Who in their right mind would have thought the Orioles or A’s would have represented the American League in the playoffs last season? The Padres do have a scrappy team of mostly unknown players who proved they can play some good ball. Down the stretch in 2012, they played spoiler and looked like a legitimate dark horse playoff team. If they can carry some of that momentum over and get a full season out of closer Huston Street and slugger Carlos Quentin, San Diego will turn some heads. They have some solid young hitters like Yonder Alonso and Cameron Maybin who could completely turn around the team’s fortunes if they continue to progress, too.

Why the Padres wouldn’t win the N.L. West: They just don’t have enough. The pitching rotation is not deep and it’s very inexperienced. The bullpen has some fire, but it isn’t on par with the three teams ahead of them. And the facts that Yasmani Grandal will be suspended for 25 games and Chase Headley, far and away their best player, will be nursing an injury and start the season on the DL, make a death sentence. I truly think the Friars are close to contending (give it two more seasons), but this is a year they focus on building some of the young talent.

Dexter Fowler

Why the Rockies could win the N.L. West: Let’s put it this way: Most players in the Colorado lineup know how to hit baseballs very far. Last year, they were the most prolific offense in the National League, and they didn’t even have Troy Tulowitzki around, or Michael Cuddyer for much of the year. The fact that both of those guys will be back (at least to start the year) is a terrifying proposition for opposing pitchers. In 2012, the Rockies scored 758 runs and hit .274 without their two stars. Those numbers could go up, believe it or not, in 2013.

Why the Rockies wouldn’t win the N.L. West: Is it possible the Rockies score 10 runs per game? Sure! But if they give up 11, it doesn’t matter. The pitching staff, on the other end of the spectrum, was god awful. The worst in baseball by a comfortable margin. And the Rockies really didn’t do much to improve that particular aspect of the team over the winter. There is some promising young talent in the farm system, but nowhere near the level they need to be competitive. And even some of the best potential has been wasted once their fastballs start sailing through the thin Rocky Mountain air in Denver.

Awards Watch

N.L. MVP

Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez – Los Angeles Dodgers

Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval – San Francisco Giants

Martin Prado – Arizona Diamondbacks

Chase Headley – San Diego Padres

Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez – Colorado Rockies

Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw – Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Cain – San Francisco Giants

Brandon McCarthy – Arizona Diamondbacks

Rookie of the Year

Hyun-Jin Ryu – Los Angeles Dodgers

Adam Eaton – Arizona Diamondbacks

Jedd Gyorko – San Diego Padres

So will the Dodgers steal the division away from the defending champs? Do the D’Backs sneak up and surprise everybody? Can Colorado or San Diego battle for the cellar or make spoiler runs? Comment below!

– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)

The Mapes Top 20 Right Now, Part Three

We’re halfway there!  It’s time to see who cracks the top 10 on my best MLB players right now list!  If you’d like to go back and see who else made the list so far here’s 20-16 and 15-11!  Onward to the top ten!

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.24.48 PM#10, David Price, Tampa Bay Rays (MLB Network’s #12)

No better place to start my top ten than with the defending AL Cy Young award winner.  Price led the junior circuit in both wins and ERA last season while keeping the Rays in the playoff race.  I personally had a different pitcher (who we’ll eventually get to on this list) as my Cy Young winner, but Price still deserves his due.  Price has a great fastball and an impressive slider that keeps hitters off balance and is even more valuable as a southpaw.  I can’t wait to see him improve as he enters his prime.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.38.03 PM#9, Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (MLB Network’s #7)

I have no qualms with the ranking that King Felix received from MLB Network, but I have him a smidgen lower because I prefer the upcoming hitters.  Hernandez is the workhorse you want anchoring your pitching staff as he’s racked up 232+ innings in each of the past four seasons with great numbers.  None of those seasons is more impressive than in 2010 where he led the American League in batters faced AND earned run average.  The King has almost done it all, a perfect game, a Cy Young award, but we’d all love to see him take the bump in a playoff series and put himself against the best of the best.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 7.48.16 PM#8, Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (MLB Network’s #9)

Canada’s favorite baseball son has led the National League in on-base percentage each of the last three seasons.  Here’s the list of players that have led their league in OBP three straight years since 1946: Ted Williams, Joe Morgan, Mike Schmidt, Wade Boggs, and Barry Bonds.  That’s a pretty nice list to be on.  Votto has an MVP under his belt and also is a plus defender at first base.  Votto missed 51 games last season and still led the NL in walks, that’s how good of an eye he has.  The Reds were smart to lock him up into the next decade.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.07.32 PM

#7, Robinson Cano, New York Yankees (MLB Network’s #8)

Cano is the best second baseman in the game today.  He’s durable (hasn’t missed more than three games since 2007), consistent (25+ HR, 40+ doubles, and .300 batting average each of the past four seasons), and a great defender (Gold Gloves in two of the past three seasons).  If it wasn’t for his double play cohort Derek Jeter, Cano would be the face of most popular team in the Majors.  If the Yankees are smart, they’d make sure they lock Cano up to an extension sooner, rather than later.

Screen Shot 2013-02-28 at 8.15.13 PM#6, Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (MLB Network’s #5)

This is where we’re REALLY starting to split hairs.  There’s a case to be made that Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game right now.  I still can’t believe that at this moment he’s still only 24 years-old and already has a Cy Young award, a Cy Young runner-up, two ERA titles, a strikeout crown, and a Gold Glove under his belt.  Let’s play a ridiculous list that a current player is on!  Here’s the list of pitchers who led their league in ERA and WHIP in back-to-back seasons since 1941: Pedro Martinez (2002-03), Greg Maddux (1993-95) , Sandy Koufax (1962-65), and Clayton Kershaw (2011-2012).  That’s just insane.  Did I mention he’s only 24?

I’m going to need time to recuperate from that Kershaw statistic and I’m already regretting not having him higher.  Who could I possibly have ahead of Kershaw?  Check in tomorrow to find out!  Have some predictions?  Let me know in the comments or tweet me using the link below with #MapesRightNow!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Every Team’s New Years Resolution

new-years-resolutionsIt’s that time of year again. That time when you realize your resolution to lose 30 pounds failed – in fact, we gained 30, didn’t we? When your declaration that your vampire novel would finally be finished and sent to the publisher, never got off the shelf.

Or that your dream of visiting Tahiti ended up being a shady motel for a weekend in Oakland on business.

Now that we’ve set a bleak mood, here’s the point: It’s New Years resolution time. We will all be making them, whether it’s private or public. And likewise, our favorite MLB teams must have one resolution they are aiming to accomplish in 2013.

Since we survived the apocalypse for now, here are Three Up, Three Down’s resolutions for every MLB team:

AL West:

Texas Rangers – Make a new friend – The Rangers either shopped in the wrong place or got screwed over for every player on their Christmas wish list. It’s not too late to snag Justin Upton from the D’Backs, though it gets less likely with each passing day. Texas should be going after the powerful right fielder hard in January.

Los Angeles Angels – Make a little money – Hear me out. Everyone knows that Arte Moreno and his Angels are filthy rich, but do they really have enough left over to re-work the decimated starting rotation? Trading for Jason Vargas was a nice touch, but will Vargas, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson really replace Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana?

arte morenoOakland A’s – Move to a better ‘hood – Lew Wolff is fooling nobody. Because everyone and their mother knows that o.Co Coliseum is not a viable venue for a professional baseball team. Wolff claims he wants at least another half-decade in Oakland, but I’m calling his bluff. Their resolution should be to get OUT, and fast.

Seattle Mariners – Bulk up – No, not on the Bartolo Colon diet. The M’s took a good first step toward that workout regimen by trading for Kendrys Morales. But just because that punch-less offense now benches the bar doesn’t mean opponents will quiver with fear. The M’s need to go out and get some more power to legitimize those playoff hopes.

Houston Astros – Graduate – It’s no secret that the ‘Stros are a big work in progress. Moving to what was last year’s best division in baseball isn’t going to help things. While the other four teams in the division are – at the very least – grown men, Houston is struggling to graduate from a student to a serious businessman. Can they take that step in 2013?

AL Central:

Detroit Tigers – Learn to close – Take this as you may. There are thousands of frat boys in America resolving to improve in the same fashion next year. But I meant it as a nod to the Tigers getting handled in a sweep in the World Series in 2012. Adding Torii Hunter and bringing back Anibal Sanchez were big steps, but 2013 will be a failure without redemption.

Kansas City Royals – Become a “cool kid” – Oh, don’t pretend like you weren’t aspiring to be one your whole academic life. The Royals got some nice clothes and a haircut over the winter vacation, and are looking to butt their way into the “in” crowd. In baseball speak, that means they are aiming to be the new playoff darlings after adding much-needed pitching.

torii hunter

Cleveland Indians – Get along with Dad – The relationship wasn’t that bad before, but the Indians sure would like to impress new skipper Terry Francona in 2013. Cleveland is loaded with untapped potential, and they are hoping to play well for a full season to show their manager and fans that they are serious about this job.

Chicago White Sox – Prove everyone wrong – Wait, didn’t they do that last year? Sure, but people like me are still unconvinced. Their numbers were unexpectedly good, but that just makes the boss curious. Can they repeat? Do they actually deserve the promotion? The Chisox sure would like to move on up, but they will have a tough road.

Minnesota Twins – Get back on their feet – Plenty of people have to resolve to do this every year. Whether it be an economic downturn,  family problem, or injury, some years are just destined to be awful. The Twins know they won’t contend in 2013, but they can start the grueling process of getting back to a stable place.

AL East:

New York Yankees – Forgiveness – They better learn how, because former public enemy number one, Kevin Youkilis, will be manning third base for the Yanks in 2013. What this really means, is that if Youk bounces back and has a good year, the Yanks will forget all about their problems, and likely return to the postseason.

Boston Red Sox – Get cleaned up – This kind of resolution is usually reserved for a junkie of some kind, but it’ll fit nicely with the BoSox here. Boston got so far off track last season that they traded away millions of dollars in bad contracts for below-average prospects. Once they finish cutting out the rot, the Sox might contend again, even in this division.

Toronto Blue Jays – Build an empire – Such a wish is much more foreboding when applied to business in the real world, but opponents of the Jays should really be terrified of the changes this team has made. Their one and only goal with so many major acquisitions must be to not only make the playoffs, but to dominate everyone on the way.blue jays new players

Tampa Bay Rays – Try something crazy – I want to go skydiving, or hike a volcano, or start a band. The Rays, however, should do a whole different kind of crazy. Start Wil Myers in the big leagues, and see if it takes off. The kid is ready, and the lineup needs a boost. Anything remotely good from Myers may mean a playoff berth for Tampa.

Baltimore Orioles – Update the security system – In this day and age, you can’t be too careful with home security. I’m not talking a drawbridge and moat, but we’ve learned that the best teams are thriving because of good pitching staffs, to protect any other weaknesses they may have. Baltimore NEEDS a couple starting pitchers.

NL West:

Los Angeles Dodgers – Give to charity – I swear, this isn’t even a “rich ownership” joke. Okay, it kind of is. But with all the money this team has shelled out over the past ten or so months, why isn’t their most deserving commodity seeing any of it? They keep talking about an extension for Clayton Kershaw, but show the fans you mean business!

San Francisco Giants – Share with friends – Not the World Series title itself, although this Dodgers fan would appreciate them passing that honor along next season. I’m talking about the Giants sharing with their San Francisco cohort, the 49ers. As the new year starts, the 49ers will be in contention for a title of their own, and any advice would be great.

Arizona Diamondbacks  v San Diego PadresArizona Diamondbacks – Cut ties with a family member – Sometimes it’s just necessary. You hate to see anyone secede from the clan, but signing free agent outfielder Cody Ross makes it inevitable. Will it be Upton? Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel or Gerardo Parra? One will need to go, and it’s only a matter of time before they get dumped.

Colorado Rockies – Get health insurance – I know, I know. It’s not affordable in this country anymore. That’s one thing I won’t argue! But you have to think, given the regularity of major injuries to Colorado’s best players (Michael Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki, etc.) they would find any way to keep everyone off the DL.

San Diego Padres – Earn a promotion – Any opponents who take the Padres lightly in 2013 are foolish. With Chase Headley, Alexi Amarista and Yonder Alonso backing an underrated pitching staff, San Diego could be the A’s of 2013. They will have to fight and scrap their way to get there, though.

NL Central:

Cincinnati Reds – Follow through – This is a tough one for any given person to accomplish. We make all sorts of promises to ourselves that oftentimes go unfinished. The Reds have made a silent pact to be even better than they were last year, and finally achieve what they’ve been on the brink of for years now. They might be the team to beat in the NL next year.

St. Louis Cardinals – Rekindle the flame – In a non-romantic way, of course. One of the reasons the Cardinals were able to shock fans everywhere and make that insane title run in 2011 was the clutch gene. They weren’t missing it last year, but everything was just too inconsistent in St. Louis. If they rediscover their balance and passion, watch out everyone else.

2011 World Series Game 7 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals

Milwaukee Brewers – Be a good parent – Confused? Good. The Brewers almost clawed their way all the way back into a Wild Card slot in 2012 after a dismal, bullpen-failure-laden start to the year. With a loaded lineup and above average pitching staff, this should not happen again. So their resolution is to help tutor young shortstop Jean Segura into a star.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Improve their grades – The Pirates were so close to being eligible last year. Not for the playoffs, or any nonsense like that. But to finally getting over the hump. Pittsburgh needs a 2.0 to be eligible – in this case, they need 81 wins – to be taken seriously. Will they reach the .500 mark? A slight improvement in 2013 will do it!

Chicago Cubs – Change their image – There really is no changing an entire image built around loss and devastation, as Cubs fans have known all too well for over a century. But even a slight uptick in wins and a breakout season from one of their young stars (Brett Jackson, maybe?) will at least give people hope that they can change.

NL East:

Washington Nationals – Make up – Adam LaRoche needs to be back in D.C. for 2013. All he wants is one extra year on a contract he has more than earned. Without a doubt, he was the most consistent hitter on the best team in the league in 2012, and should get paid as such. My New Years advice to the Nats is to make up with him. Sign the guy for three years.

Atlanta Braves – Learn acceptance – I remember being taught in psychology that the standard grieving process goes Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Braves fans and any good fan anywhere are surely coming out of the Depression stage right now (I know I am) and trying to transition into Acceptance at the fact that Chipper Jones has retired.

chipper farewell

Philadelphia Phillies – Become more patient – This is easier said than done for anyone, but it’s especially pertinent in Philadelphia. From an outsider’s perspective, I thought Philadelphia was caving into a sinkhole given the fans general reaction to last season’s debacle. Patience, Phillie fanatics. Your team is still very, very good. They are close, too.

New York Mets – Have more fun – I presume life as a Mets fan hasn’t been very enjoyable for the past three seasons – well, at least after the All-Star break. But they re-signed poster boy David Wright and gained some really solid prospects in the R.A. Dickey trade. Everything is headed in the right direction, Mets fans. Just calm down and have a little fun with it.

Miami Marlins – Make amends with people – Strange, you say? Au contraire! The smaller fan base that follows the Marlins are no doubt let down by the shocking fire sale that took place this winter. No more executive-speak, front office. Give it to the fans, and your best remaining player Giancarlo Stanton, straight. What is the plan? Honesty will take you far.

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– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)