Saturday, April 9, 2011

One week in

The 2011 ball season has passed its first week and there have been a lot of surprises and interesting developments.

Who would have thought Boston and Tampa would have gotten off to such wretched starts? Of course, their fans are panicking already which is really rather stupid considering there are only 150+ games left. Still, both teams have to be rather frustrated. The Giants are in a similar mediocre beginning. Take heart, fans of these teams! Except in exceptional years, it’s never clear until at least the end of May, how things might shake down by October, and even then things can change. On the other side of the coin, fans of Pittsburgh and Baltimore must be thinking of how they might get their hands on World Series tickets. Unlike most other sports, baseball is not a sprint; it’s a marathon, a very l-o-n-g marathon, and that’s something that makes it really interesting. I love the back-and-forth tussling between the teams in contention that generally happens in at least a few of the divisions every season.

The other thing that’s happening is (I believe) all teams are through with the first road trips, or heading out on that first one. It’s an old baseball truism that seasons are generally won or lost on the road. It’s how you play in the other guy’s ballparks that decides whether you make the post season or not.

I believe that teams with a balance, neither overly-dependant on their pitching or their hitting, but with good solid depth in both, are the ones that ultimately find success in their away games. Why? Because there is less to panic about. If your pitching has gone south for a bit, your hitters will hopefully be able to step up their game, and vice-versa. If pitching, for example, is what your team is really about, if that wobbles (and doesn’t that usually seem to happen on the road?), then what do you have to fall back on? That’s when unbalanced teams panic and dig themselves into an even deeper hole.

I’ll leave the analyzing of teams’ strengths and weaknesses to my blog confreres.

For my team, Toronto, I like what I’ve seen so far. Last Sunday’s game was a good case in point. They were in it until the very last pitch. With a 162-game season, you’re not going to win every game. All you can ask is for your team to keep fighting — and the 2011 Jays seems to be that kind of team. Will they make it to the post season? They just might. The talent is there and I believe most of the ingredients for a contender are already in place, but there’s a certain rawness to many of the players that might cause them to stumble more than we’d like. Still, they surprised everyone last year, and there’s the distinct possibility they might be able to do that again, and with the improvements they’ve made to the team, that could vault them higher.

But can’t you say that about most of the teams in both leagues?

Okay, I’ll go out on a prognosticational limb here. Arizona, Houston, New York in the NL, and Seattle and KC in the AL will be at the bottom by season’s end. For the AL East, I really can’t tell you — but I bet that race comes down to who has the fewest injuries and which teams’ youngest and newest players have great seasons.


Jared said...

I was actually looking into standings from last year, and it turns out that 7 of the 8 teams that made the playoffs were in 1st or 2nd by May 1, the exception being the Atlanta Braves, who were in last place. So I'm only going to wait a month before I crown my champions. :)

I also like most of what I've seen from the Jays so far. Farrell seems like a very active manager. I like that he's taking advantage of matchups (see Jayson Nix) in a way that reminds me of Earl Weaver. But I'm concerned about his concern about the pitchers. I think he should have let Romero pitch out of the 7th, but I can't really complain about a 5-2 start with 5 Quality Starts from the pitching staff.


Rick Blechta said...

I definitely like what I see of Ferrill's moves on matchups. I believe it was last Saturday where he brought Snider in to pinch hit in the 5th, way sooner than normal for a move like this. Why? Snider was something like 4 for 5 against that reliever. It paid off. Snider smacked a double and plated 2 to give the Jays the lead.

As for his handling of starters, I think he's taking the long view. He's got a good bullpen. Why not take Romero out and save his arm for later in the season? Too many innings early on can lead to a dead arm when the team might need it most. I view that sort of move as wisdom.

Thanks for contributing! How do you feel about Western NY's team (the Yankees)? I like what I'm seeing so far. They may very well be the class of the AL East this year.

Will Braund said...

I absolutely agree with you that it's a long season but Red Sox nation has already panicked because no team that lost its first four games made it to the World Series.
The 1976 Yankees were a very good team. It was Billy Martin's first full season as manager. The year before they had made major strides with a solid core of Catfish Hunter, Thurman Munson, Chris Chambliss, and Craig Nettles. In '76 they replaced Bobby Bonds with Mickey Rivers and Sandy Alomar with Willie Randolph. But they had one big problem. Though 97 wins was enough to win the AL East by ten games it was nowhere near good enough for their owner George Steinbrenner. His limited sports background was in football and he thought his baseball team should win every game, just like a strong football team did. It was the beginning of the tumultuous Martin-Steinbrenner relationship as Billy would struggle to protect his players from the Boss' impossible demands. No, George, in baseball, like Rick says, you can't win 'em all.

JohnZ said...

I agree with your comments Rick. I also like what i am seeing from the Yankee offense - they have come out hitting and Russell Martin has jumped right in and started producing big hits, RBI and who would have believed a steal of third base. He looks solid behind the plate and in the batter's box. I like the speed of Gardner at the top of the lineup and it seems that one or two different hitters are getting it done each game - now if Jeter will start hitting more line drives than ground balls, the offense will be fine...Hughes pitching troubles are a concern - where is the velocity and his location has been off - or up and over the plate. At least Colon looked good..they need a lefty reliever other than Boone (doggle) Logan. y

Rick Blechta said...

The Yanks certainly seem to be the ones to beat in the East, John. Bostonians are completely freaking out, but their ship should get righted somewhere along the way. The Orioles are playing over their heads and should settle back to earth, although they will be better than last year. And then there's Tampa. Who knows what will happen to them, but I do expect them to wind up behind the Jays.

Thanks for weighing in, John.

Jared said...

The Yankees are my pick to win the East, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Rick Blechta said...

Glad to hear that, Jared!