Tagged: Tigers

2014 MLB Bobblehead Battle: AL Central

Time for more bobblehead madness.  In case you missed part one on the AL West, check it out here. Again, each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness.  Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better.   Which bobbleheads in the AL Central will be crowned the king?  Let’s find out!

Cleveland Indians (amount of giveaway varies)

Saturday, May 3rd, Orel Hershiser: Interesting choice for a throwback bobblehead as Hershiser had a 4.21 ERA in his three seasons with the Tribe.  He is a big name though.  This giveaway is for 10,000 fans.  ** 1/2

Saturday, May 31st, BrOhio: I have no idea where this is going, but it has potential to be the most creative bobblehead in Cleveland’s crop.  They also up the giveaway to 12,500 for this one.  *** 1/2

Tuesday, June 3rd, Michael Bourn: Pretty standard stuff here.  Back down to 10,000 fans on this giveaway **

Tuesday, July 8th, Jason Kipnis: See, Michael Bourn.  But a slightly better player and 12,500 fans get this one. ** 1/2

Monday, September 1st, Michael Brantley: Another average to slightly above average player getting his bobble on.  Still 12,500 fans for this one, but still a low number compared to other teams.  A lot of quantity, but not much quality from the Indians in 2014.  **

Total: 12 1/2 stars

Minnesota Twins (10,000 fans)

Friday, June 20th, Harmon Killebrew 1965 All-Star Game: I had a feeling the Twins would go the route the Mets did in 2013 and honor players that appeared in All-Star Games with the team.  The Twins are hosting the 2014 All-Star Game.  This would be a huge boost if the Twins also featured the three Minneapolis stadiums to host the All-Star Game as well.  Killebrew is one of my favorite players of all-time.  ****

Friday, July 4th, Lou Gehrig: This giveaway is with the Yankees in town and corresponds with the 75th anniversary of Gehrig’s farewell speech.  Great tip of the cap to history by the Twins.  ****

Saturday, July 5th, Tom Brunansky 1985 All-Star Game: Brunansky picked a great year to be the only Twins All-Star and make his only appearance in the Midsummer Classic.  The career .245 hitter does have a sweet mustache, but it’s not enough to probably be the worst bobblehead of 2014. *

Saturday, September 6th, TBD 2014 All-Star Game:  Fake Vegas odds on who this bobblehead will be.  Joe Mauer -2000, Glen Perkins +500, anyone else +1500.  If it’s Mauer…….. ***

Total: 12 stars

Kansas City Royals (10,000 fans)

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Saturday, June 28th, James Shields: This is going to be tough to dole out stars with a measly 10,000 fans getting each bobblehead.  Shields is a solid pitcher, but not a big star.  **

Saturday, July 12th, Salvador Perez:  Perez isn’t even on Shields’ level, yuck. * 1/2

Sunday, August 10th, Alex Gordon:  Gordon is the “star” of the team.  We’ll see if they make it with a Gold Glove variation, that’d be a nice addition. ** 1/2

Saturday, August 30th, Mr. Royal: This one could actually be fun!  This throwback mascot will get a bobblehead on retro night.  I’m in. *** 1/2

Total: 9 1/2 stars

Detroit Tigers (amount of giveaway varies)

Thursday, June 5th, Max Scherzer 2013 Cy Young Award: No picture yet of the the bobblehead, but I’d suspect it’ll be him holding the Cy Young award.  Maybe they’ll throw in the WWE Title belt that Scherzer was given for winning Cy Young.  This giveaway is for 15,000 fans. ***

Thursday, August 14th, Justin Verlander Mini-Bobblehead: Mini-bobblehead?  Can’t give him a normal sized one?  I’ll only accept this if there’s a mini-Kate Upton on it too.  This giveaway is for just 10,000 fans.  Dislike. * 1/2

Friday, August 15th, Miguel Cabrera 2-Time MVP: Apparently to get a normal-size bobblehead you have to win an award the previous season.  I want Cabrera to be wearing his Triple Crown crown while holding two MVP’s in his arms.  I’d bet it won’t look like that.  This giveaway is also for 10,000 fans. ****

Total: 8.5 stars

Chicago White Sox (20,000 fans)

Saturday, May 24th, Chris Sale: Sale is the current and future ace of the White Sox.  The extra 5,000 fans that get to take this home compared to the Yu Darvish bobblehead in part one, gives this an extra 1/2 star.  ***

Saturday, August 30th, Tony LaRussa: Many people forget that LaRussa started his managing career on the Southside.  In his Hall of Fame induction year, I like that they’re giving him a bobblehead.  I hope it’s in this classic throwback uniform. *** 1/2

Total: 6.5 stars

That’ll do it for the AL Central.  I’m quite disappointed that there were no pictures of any 2014 bobbleheads in this division.  The Indians win on quantity, but the Twins win on quality.  Unless, it’s Tom Brunansky of course.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

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Why Can’t College Quarterbacks Throw Ceremonial First Pitches?

There’s a new trend in bad first pitches: the college quarterback.  Is there something that incredibly different between the throwing motion of a football to a baseball that we can’t get a strike over the plate on a ceremonial first pitch?

Exhibit A: Texas A&M QB and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel

An airmailed pitch to Mitch Moreland. “Johnny Football” said afterwards that he had been warned by many people not to bounce it. That’s why he was a little wild with the throw.

Exhibit B: Michigan QB Denard Robinson

Someone should have given “Shoelace” the “don’t bounce it” advice. He better hope that this doesn’t affect his NFL draft stock in a couple weeks.  UPDATE: Robinson actually played baseball in high school and apologized to his former teammates on Twitter.

 

Both should’ve taken advice from the Indiana quarterbacks Cameron Coffman, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld.  Standing in front of the mound and taking a three-step drop might be the way to go for future QB’s making a ceremonial first pitch.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

3U3D for the 2013 MLB Fan Cave

As many of you know, or more likely didn’t know. 3U3D came together through friendships and a love of baseball formed from the 2012 MLB Fan Cave competition. We all can’t imagine what it’d be like now if we had never met last year. The MLB Fan Cave is back for it’s third season and while we’d love and hope for us all to get in (along with a lot of our other friends), that might just be a pipe dream. We can assure you that we’re going to give it our best shot and we think any of us would be a great fit on 4th and Broadway. Without further adieu, enjoy our application videos!

Jeremy Dorn: Los Angeles Dodgers Fan

I’ve always loved baseball. From coach pitch to Little League to Varsity in high school, it’s been my favorite thing to do. Once the “become the next Derek Jeter” dream died, I turned my attention to another passion: writing. Eventually, I married sports and writing together on the blogosphere and worked my way up through the Bleacher Report ranks to become a Dodgers Featured Columnist. In 2012, my love affair with baseball really took off when I made the Fan Cave top 50. There, I met my girlfriend of 10 months now, my lovely 3U3D co-hosts, and many other great people who I’m lucky to call friends. Now, I spend most of my non-working hours watching, talking, writing, reading, and thinking baseball. And after much debate I decided to campaign again for this year’s Cave! Despite my location in San Francisco, my undying loyalty to the Dodgers will never waver.  I hope you like my video and I would be thrilled to have your vote! Here’s to hoping you see and hear a lot more 3U3D from New York City this summer.

Jeremy’s Twitter handle is @JamblinMan , his Instagram account is JamblinMan7, and his Facebook campaign page can be found here.

Brian Boynton: Texas Rangers fan

I have always been a baseball fan. I mean what kid didn’t pretend or even dream that they were pitching in a tie game, in the ninth inning, of Game 7, of the World Series? All kids have that dream and then most realize they will not get the opportunity to play baseball forever. I have always wanted to work in and around baseball. I may not have the ability to play baseball but watching every game on the Cave Monster has to be the next best thing, right? Making the Fan Cave Top 50 in 2012 really just made me like baseball that much more. Even though I wasn’t a Cave Dweller last season with every game I watched on T.V. I pretended I was. Meeting my 3U3D co-hosts has proven to me that there are people out there who enjoy discussing sports and especially baseball as much as I do. All year I have been thinking of skits I want to do and have a folder on my computer dedicated solely to those skits. I hope you enjoy my video and help me live out my adult dream of watching every game of the upcoming season live from the Cave. Lastly, who doesn’t want to hear a 3U3D recording from the Fan Cave?

Brian’s Twitter and Instagram handle is @GingaBeard_Man and his Facebook campaign page can be found here.

Bryan Mapes: Atlanta Braves fan

I think that I would be perfect for the MLB Fan Cave not just because of my love of baseball, but my love of the Fan Cave as well. I was able to visit 4th and Broadway on a few occasions, including seeing The Fray and Young the Giant perform. I’ll never forget when Isaac Slade, the lead singer of The Fray, made a reference to Cal Ripken Jr.’s consecutive games streak and asked how long it was. I instinctively just blurted out “2,632 games” from the audience. Even funnier is that many of the Cave Dwellers knew it was me that had yelled out the answer. I also love social media from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tout, and more I enjoy them all. I was lucky enough to attend game 3 of the ALDS between the Yankees and the Orioles, when Raul Ibáñez hit the pinch-hit game-tying home run. I captured the moment from the bleachers and posted it to YouTube. It was seen by ESPN, they contacted me through Twitter, and used the footage their “Social Highlight” on SportsCenter the next day. That’s the power of social media.  I also would love to find creative ways to raise money for baseball charities like Stand Up To Cancer and Baseball Assistance Team.  Finally, I have so many ideas floating in my head I have a whole place in my phone filled with skits, interviews, and promotions to do in the Fan Cave should I make it. I would be ecstatic for that opportunity.

Bryan’s Twitter and Instagram handle is @IAmMapes and his Facebook campaign page can be found here.


Angelo Fileccia: Detroit Tigers fan

I would be the ideal fan to be in the MLB Fan Cave because on top of what some might call an unhealthy infatuation with baseball, I’m able to network extremely well and have already built rapport with several major leaguers. I am completely comfortable talking to anyone, making him or her feel welcome and engaged in anything that we are doing. I’m very well rounded when it comes to topics like of pop culture, sports, and world news to name a few. I have a unique way of socializing with people and have been told by many people that I have a contagious personality. When it comes to meeting, interacting, and getting to know the MLB stars, I’m not the type to get star struck and act unprofessional by any means. While I wish I had the lifestyle, I understand what a MLB star goes through on a day-to-day basis. I feel it’s that type of knowledge that not everyone has but people want to know. It can also make for better interviews, skits, and all other interactions. In all, I’m passionate about what I do in life and I’m passionate about baseball. When baseball becomes my life, the greatest things will happen.

Angelo’s Twitter and Instagram handle is @GODF_TH_R and his Facebook campaign page can be found here.

The 5th member of 3U3D, Kurt Peter, decided not to apply this year, but he had great things going on for him. Make sure you check him out on Twitter too @FalconKP! We would love to have your support in our quests for the Cave! Thanks from all of us at 3U3D!

Giant Success! San Francisco Wins the World Series!

Much to the chagrin of 3U3D’s Angelo Fileccia and Jeremy Dorn the San Francisco Giants completed their sweep of the Detroit Tigers to win their 2nd World Series title in three years.  Pablo Sandoval took home World Series MVP honors, in part to his three-homer game in game one.  The Giants went on a fantastic run, where they battled back from being down two games in both the National League Division Series and National League Championship series.

Here are some quick stat hits that I’ve seen so far.  A few from @ESPNStatsInfo on Twitter.

-Giants are 1st team to win two World Series in three years since the New York Yankees won three straight titles from 1998-2000 and the first NL team to accomplish the feat since the “Big Red Machine” Cincinnati Reds won back-to-back titles in 1975-76

-Giants are the 1st NL team to sweep to victory in the World Series since the 1990 Reds

-World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval is the first non-Yankee to have a .500 batting average and three home runs in a World Series.  Sandoval joins Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig (who did it twice), and Hideki Matsui as the only players to accomplish this.

-The Tigers have now lost seven straight World Series games, the longest streak by an AL team in MLB history.  They also join the 2007 Rockies and the 1990 Athletics to win their Championship Series with a sweep and then lose the World Series with a sweep

-Miguel Cabrera is the 1st Triple Crown winner to make the final out of his team’s season in the playoffs

-Giants pitcher Matt Cain’s 2012 season: In order, signed $127 million extention making him the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in history, pitched the 1st perfect game in Giants franchise history, became just the 6th Giants pitcher to start the All-Star Game, won the game five of the NLDS, won game seven of the NLCS, and started the title-clinching game four of the World Series.  I’d say he’s having a pretty good 2012.

We’ve reached that sad time where the MLB season is over.  BUT, 3U3D isn’t going anywhere!  Depending on what happens with Hurricane Sandy, we’ll have a new podcast this week and we hope to bring you a very special San Francisco Giants guest.  We’ll cover all the hot stove action in the offseason and how we think teams did with their signings on the blog and podcast.  Plus, it’s a special year where we have the World Baseball Classic!  The next qualifiers are just a short time away on November 15th!  Should be a great time and thanks for all of your support, October has been our best month ever!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Break it Down: Tigers vs. Giants, World Series Edition

After 2,430 regular season games and 31 postseason games, we’ve reached the World Series. The Tigers and Giants will do battle in the Fall Classic for the first time against each other. The Tigers are making their 1st appearance in the World Series since 2006 and are looking to bring Motown their first title since 1984. The Giants took home the Commissioner’s Trophy in 2010. Side note: can’t we get the World Series trophy a better name? There has to be someone in baseball history worthy of having the World Series trophy named after them, right? That’s a discussion for another time.

Here at 3U3D, one of us each predicted half of the World Series matchup, with Angelo correctly predicting his favorite team, the Tigers, making it. While I had the Giants losing to the Yankees in the Fall Classic, I’ll take half right.

Who will win the World Series though? Our full predictions are coming on Episode 33 of the podcast that will be up before game one, but I just can’t resist giving the full breakdown on the blog!

Starting Pitching

One of my main reasons for picking the Giants to go to the World Series in the preseason was their starting pitching depth. How can they match-up with the Tigers now though, with a rested Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and even Anibal Sanchez. The Giants have been pushed to the brink in each of their two series. This results in Barry Zito having to start game one against the defending AL MVP, that has a 0.74 ERA in 26.1 innings this postseason. Not good for San Francisco. Madison Bumgarner has been roughed up during this playoffs, but wasn’t used in the Giants NLCS comeback. Bruce Bochy’s decision to start Bumgarner, the 2010 World Series hero, or Tim Lincecum may swing the series. Matt Cain should be good to go for games 3 and 7. The depth, quality, and rest of the Detroit’s starting pitching gives them the edge here.

Wednesday Update: Here are the starting pitcher matchup that were announced. Game 1: Verlander vs. Zito Game 2: Fister vs. Bumgarner Game 3: Sanchez vs. Vogelsong Game 4: Scherzer vs. Cain I’m shocked that Bruce Bochy isn’t starting Cain in game 3. As I said on this week’s podcast, I think the theory is that Bochy wanted to have his two best pitchers face the Tigers when they are at full strength with the DH in Detroit. They believe to have figured out Bumgarner’s problems, it makes it looks a little better and Lincecum is suited for the bullpen. Anibal Sanchez is fantastic in his career against the Giants, 3-1 with a 1.98 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP in 36.1 innings. That game 3 is going to be huge.

Advantage: Detroit Tigers

Bullpen

Jose Valverde’s implosion turning into Phil Coke’s success has been a strage turn for the Detroit bullpen. Coke was great against his former team in the ALCS, but that might have just been a culmination of the Yankees completely falling apart. Joaquin Benoit is Detroit’s best reliever and Octavio Dotel has become this bullpen playofs mercenary that goes from team to team. I don’t think it’s enough to best the Giants bullpen. Sergio Romo is arguably the best relief pitcher in the game, with a devastating slider. Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez haven’t given up a run in thirteen appearances this postseason. This is one of San Francisco’s biggest strengths and I have a feeling the Tigers bullpen has one blow up in them.

Wednesday Update: Tim Lincecum will be in the bullpen for the Giants. Making this an even bigger advantage for San Francisco.

Advantage: San Francisco Giants


Catcher

Another great strength for the Giants. Buster Posey scuffled offensively in the NLCS, but called three straight great games behind the plate in the Giants comeback. Alex Avila has been terrible in postseason play hitting .127 in 63 playoff at-bats, including .227 in 2012. Gerald Laird will get at least one start. They don’t match-up with the probable NL MVP though.

Advantage: San Francisco Giants

First Base

This is the biggest plus for the Tigers. Brandon Belt has gotten better, including a home run in game seven of the NLCS, but how can he match one of the top first baseman in the game? Prince Fielder is only hitting .200 in the playoffs, but provides such a threat that it makes pitchers throw to Miguel Cabrera. If you pitch around the Triple Crown winner, it makes Fielder that much better.

Advantage: Detroit Tigers

Second Base

Is there a hotter hitter coming into the World Series than NLCS MVP Marco Scutaro? Scutaro hit an insane .500 and had a record SIX multi-hit games in the NLCS. Omar Infante has been a solid pickup for the Tigers and has a hit in 7 of 9 postseason games in 2012. These have both been positions of strength for the World Series teams, but I’m going to have to ride the hotter hand.

Advantage: San Francisco Giants

Shortstop

I think Brandon Crawford is going to be solid player in the future, but I can’t see him being any more than a player the Giants hope doesn’t hurt them here. He’s been solid defensively, especially that catch off Kyle Lohse in game seven. However, I love the postseason experience of Jhonny Peralta, who’s hitting .343 in the 2012 playoffs and is a career .297 postseason hitter. It gives the Tigers another piece in the arsenal that the Giants don’t have offensively.

Advantage: Detroit Tigers

Third Base

Yes I know, this is a no doubt advantage for the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera, right now, is the best hitter in the game. Pablo Sandoval, in my opinion, is the biggest key for the Giants offense. No pun intended. Sandoval is hitting .326 this postseason and .378 since game five of the NLDS. He needs to stay hot in order for the the Giants to have a chance hang around. Cabrera can put an final stamp on an epic season. Frank Robinson in 1966 was the last player to win the Triple Crown and the World Series in the same year, he was also the World Series MVP. This is the national stage that Cabrera deserves to shine.

Advantage: Detroit Tigers

Outfield

I’m so glad to have a “fat” young sibling back in our lives. I’ve already started calling him “Fat Delmon” the way I called his brother “Fat Dmitri” for numerous seasons. Nicknames aside, Young has provided a spark for the Tigers lineup with a hit in 7 of his last 8 games. Speaking of sparks, no player has provided one off the field like Hunter Pence for the Giants. His pregame speeches have become must-see TV, however on the field Pence has been missing hitting .179 in the NLCS. Could his bases-clearing “triple hit” be the turning point for him at the plate? Austin Jackson and Angel Pagan seem to be mirror images of each other, but I give the edge to Jackson primarily for his defense. Which leaves the 3rd outfielder spot, Gregor Blanco in left for the Giants against the pupu platter of Andy Dirks, Quintin Berry, and Avisail Garcia. I think Berry will be used more defensively, but I can’t really see any of the three providing much here. Naturally, this means they will provide something. In the grand scheme, I can’t decide which is better. Which means it’s time for the first…

Advantage: Push

Manager

Two old-school guys with a World Series ring on their hand and now their 3rd pennant on the mantle. I can’t think of a match-up on this board that is more even. Should be great to see how these to mix and match their teams.

Advantage: Push

Final Mapes Prediction: In my matchups the Tigers take it 4-3-2. The Giants have this thing where they like to be down two games and come back. I’ll have the Tigers taking the first two on the road with Verlander and Fister. Cain rallies back in game three to beat Scherzer. The Giants then win a wild game four, where the Tigers bullpen comes into play. Tigers take game five on the arm of Verlander again setting the Giants up down 3-2 and heading back home again. They repeat what they did in the NLCS, but in a more competitive game seven, where both teams pull out every stop. It’s going to be a great match-up, but ironically it’s Melky Cabrera’s All-Star Game MVP that gives the Giants home-field advantage and the World Series. Giants in 7. Enjoy the Fall Classic, should be a great one.

Wednesday Update: I still think the Giants take it in seven as they put together nine innings from Vogelsong, Cain, and the bullpen while pulling out all the stops in the final game. They still will be down 2-0 going to Motown and Bochy ends up looking smart saving his two best pitchers for the road. Verlander takes game five and locks down the best postseason pitcher in the league award, that he probably already has anyway.

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Fantastic Fielding of 2012

Chicks may dig the long ball, but it’s fielding that makes for the most exciting highlights in the game of baseball.  What have been the best displays of defensive excellence this season?  Let’s see if I can only limit Mike Trout to one play.

Let’s start it off with Mike Trout with what I believe is the best play of the year.  Look at the leap.  Look at the extension.  I don’t think there is anyone else that makes this play in the Majors.  Trout has taken away five home runs this season, but this one was the best.

Trout’s catch was given a run for it’s money though by Blue Jays Rajai Davis. He uses the wall to catapult himself up over a 10-foot wall to rob Casey McGahee. This one is a thing of beauty.

This is one of the top infield plays of the season by Diamondbacks do-it-all man Willie Bloomquist. He ranges to the other side of 2nd base and flips the ball backward almost in a somersault position to Aaron Hill for the force out. Bonus points for getting out Emilio Bonifacio, one of the fastest players in MLB.

Speaking of somersaults, here’s Twins Ben Revere making a great catch in the 9th inning and rolling into a somersault. Revere is one of the best in the league at spectacular plays.

I’m impartial to this play because I was at the MLB Fan Cave when it happened. Tigers Quintin Berry gets turned around, goes back and make a leaping catch over his head. I’m still not sure how he got to it. It was a huge save for the Tigers as they kept the lead at one and took the lead in the 9th inning. Without this catch, they lose.

Who has the best right field arm? My answer has been Jeff Francouer since he was an Atlanta Brave. Look at that laser rocket arm throwing out Alexei Ramirez.

Why has Brandon Phillips won two straight Gold Gloves at second base? Plays like this are part of the reason. He makes a behind-the-back flip look easy.

I promised my fellow podcast host Jeremy Dorn that I would get a Dodgers play into this. Check out Justin Sellers going full sprint over the shoulder and going head first into the stands. If you can get Vin Scully to go “Whoa!” and “Gee whiz!” that works for me.

A late addition to this blog. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher almost end up on the dirt to make a play in no-man’s land going the wrong way like J.P. Howell.

The hands-down Minor League play of the year. Jason Repko robs a grand slam from Kosuke Fukudome for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He even tumbles OVER the wall to complete the play.

Bottom of the 12th, up by one with runners on 1st and 2nd, Roger Bernadina saves the day as he becomes one with Minute Maid Park to win the game for the Nationals.

I’ll close with a double-dip of amazing Giants plays. The first was an amazing, diving catch for Gregor Blanco. This catch was the most important on this list as it preserved Matt Cain’s perfect game. The second is the kookiest play of this list as Pablo Sandoval bobbles a catch in foul territory, dives, tips it up and is caught by a diving Brandon Crawford.

Everyone goes with a top ten list, but I love defense so much that I went with a top thirteen! I can’t resist the urge though, here’s another Mike Trout home run robbery! This one to end the game off the bat of Prince Fielder.

Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite play of the year? Let us know in the comments!

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)

Weekend Watch!

Earlier edition of Weekend Watch this week.  Only three games on a Thursday night?  Something seems off with that, I’m currently filling my time with the Women’s College World Series and Scripps National Spelling Bee.  Would it kill them to make sure there is a day game every day?  Here’s what I’m excited for this weekend.

5) Braves at Nationals

I’ve decided to stop putting the Braves near the top spot in these rankings every week, but this match-up is still too juicy to not include at all.  Nationals befuddled the Braves at Turner Field this weekend while Atlanta was in the midst of a 8-game losing streak.  Taking two of three from the Cardinals put some spring in their step heading on the road.  Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman’s returns were sorely needed for the Braves offense.  Almost the same pitching duels as last weekend as we’ll see Mike Minor/Stephen Strasburg and Brandon Beachy/Gio Gonzalez part deux, along with Tommy Hanson/Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday.  Gonzalez was the most impressive last Sunday shutting down the Braves to one hit over seven innings with 10 strikeouts.  He now leads the NL in strikeouts and K/9.  Was that start enough to take my NL Cy Young in the “Too Early MLB Awards”?  Answer coming this weekend.  Weird but true stat: Michael Bourn already has five home runs this season, he had four in 2010 and 2011 combined.

4) Yankees at Tigers

The Tigers have been the biggest team disappointment in the Majors this season sitting at just 23-27 so far in a weak AL Central.  Doug Fister is heading back to the DL to join teammate Austin Jackson.  Tigers might be in some trouble with the Yankees coming to town.  CC Sabathia is heading to the hill for the opener against Casey Crosby, who has a 4.26 ERA in AAA this season.  What does bode well for Tigers fans is the Yankee lineup typically has trouble with pitchers they have never seen before.  I’m excited to watch Justin Verlander on Sunday take on the Yankee lineup in a rematch from the 2011 ALDS.  Not weird but true stat: CC Sabathia has more losses against the Tigers (12) than any other team.

3) Marlins at Phillies

There is no team hotter in the Majors than the Miami Marlins.  Their 21 wins in May set the franchise record for wins in a month.  The Phillies were dealt a tough blow with the loss of ace Roy Halladay for 6-8 weeks, but still have enough rotation goodness to survive.  Kyle Kendrick has filled in admirably thus far and Vance Worley should be due back shortly.  Cole Hamels with his 8-1 record and 2.43 ERA is also in the running for the “Too Early MLB Awards” NL Cy Young.  Two plugs for a future blog in this blog?  Oops.  Weird but true stat: Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for 4 this season with two outs and the bases loaded with two grand slams.  He loves the pressure.  Please vote for him to go to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.

2) Orioles at Rays

Typically, I would put the battle of teams tied for the division lead in the AL East in the top spot, but A) I don’t want to hear about any East Coast bias and B) there’s a match-up that intrigues me slightly more.  Orioles are hitting a rough patch right now, just 2-8 in their last 10 games, but did take two of three from the Rays, three weeks ago.  Wei-Yin Chen has been a find for Baltimore and will take on David Price in the Friday opener.  I’m also intrigued to see if shutting down a then-hot White Sox offense on Memorial Day is enough for Matt Moore to turn the corner.  Would make me feel a lot better about picking him to win AL Rookie of the Year and AL Cy Young in the preseason.  Signing a new extension hasn’t slowed down Adam Jones as he’s hitting .385 with two home runs since the press conference before last Sunday’s game.  Not weird but true stat: Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson has beaten the Orioles more times (4) than any other team in his young career.

1) Rangers at Angels

So why this series over Orioles/Rays?  I want to watch how the Rangers respond to getting 20+ runs put up on them by the Mariners.  I want to see if Albert Pujols hot streak continues.  I want to watch Mark Trumbo demolish pitches.  I want to see Mike Trout do everything.  (Told you I’d rather have him than Bryce Harper this season.)  I want to see Yu Darvish pitch against C.J. Wilson.  I want to see if Mike Trout can chase down Yu Darvish for AL Rookie of the Year.  I want to see if Dan Haren has really turned things around.  I want to see if the Angels can get over the .500 hump and make the AL West interesting.  Last but definitely not least, I want to watch Josh Hamilton.  Weird but true stat: Yu Darvish has given up 9 ER in 9.2 IP against the Mariners and 13 ER in 50.1 IP against every other team he’s faced.  I asked for votes for Giancarlo Stanton before for the All-Star game, now it’s Mark Trumbo’s turn.  He’s hitting .348 this season with 10 home runs this season while bouncing around from 3B to 1B to RF, to LF, to DH.  If that doesn’t convince you, let my friends at the MLB Fan Cave try and do it.

Mapes Fantasy Special

A great 3-0 week last week as Ivan Nova, Mark Buehrle, and especially R.A. Dickey came through with starts that helped your fantasy team.  These are now 15-5 on positive starts on the season.  Sadly, Dickey and Buehrle have moved over the 50% owned threshold for Mapes Fantasy Special, so let’s see what I can find for this weekend.

6/1 Wade Miley at Padres (45% owned), Might as well go with our Three Up player on the podcast this week.  Miley has been great and you have to like facing the Padres at Petco even with the return of Carlos Quentin.

6/2 Brandon McCarthy at Royals (45% owned), I’m not feeling too strong about this one with McCarthy just coming off the DL.  It is a nice spot though against a KC team that is just 5-17 at home this year.  McCarthy gave up 2 ER in 6 IP earlier this year against the Royals.

6/3 Barry Zito vs. Cubs (22% owned)  I really like Zito here at home coming off a good start against the Diamondbacks.  Cubs are 27th in the league in runs scored and are pitching Travis Wood, who hasn’t been great.

Coming soon is my “Too Early MLB Awards” now that June is upon us.  Who do you think should be taking the hardware at this point in the season?

-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)