Monday, April 18, 2011

Cleveland Indians Fast Start

The Indians are off to a fast start and making my predictions look bad. As a fan of the team I couldn't be more happy. I want to qualify some things though about this fast start.

The Good

1. This team is fundamentally sign, possibly the most fundamentally sound team I've seen in all of the years that I've followed the team 30+. Manny Acta has done a tremendous job of getting the players to buy into the philosophy of playing fundamental ball and Mark Shapiro should be given credit for emulating the Minnesota Twins organization as this team looks a lot like successful Twins teams of the past.

2. The starting pitching has been very good. The good starters have been great and the fringe starters have been good. A lot of credit goes to the organization and coaching as not only are they showing that they can manage big league pitching (Masterson's career progress looks a lot like Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona) they are showing that they can repeat the process. Big kudos to Tim Belcher who seems to have the pitchers following his guidance.

3. The stars of this team aren't hitting yet. Shin Soo-Choo and Carlos Santana have not gotten off to good starts and Grady Sizemore is just coming back. This is a perfect scenario as Choo and Sizemore should hit and when the fast starters fall back to earth some, this team should continue to hit, which means they should at the least play .500 ball at that point. That's good news.

4. Confidence is one of the most important things a baseball team can have. Good starts and things going right lead to more confidence and create an environment where talent can come through. A good start does wonders for players like Matt LaPorta, Carlos Carrasco, and Michael Brantley allowing them to press less and adjust to the big leagues. This is a huge plus for a team like this.

5. Chris Perez is a month or so away from being considered an elite closer. The organization hasn't ever had one (Doug Jones who was not anything special is the best closer in team history). Perez is bringing a dominance to the back of the bullpen that is allowing the team as a whole to relax. Perez is shortening games for this team and truly coming into his own.

6. Great April starts give teams chances to be competitive throughout the year. Pundits swear that April means nothing, they lie. April means a lot and part of it is confidence and part of it is the nature of a long season. 10-15 games above .500 at the end of the month would be huge for this team. The likelihood that they are a .500 team in talent means that it's just as likely they play .500 for the rest of the year as it is that they regress to 15 games under .500. 15 games above .500 in the Central Division puts them squarely in the playoff race. It's also a lot easier to be in front of teams in the standing then it is to be behind. Want an example, a 7 game lead for a team means that the chasing team needs to go 21-0 vs the team in the lead going 14-7 over a 21 game stretch, even if you draw it out farther it's harder then it seems to make up ground. Baseball is typically played in 3 game sets and if you play hot baseball taking 2 of 3 from teams over a long stretch (.660 win %) you still need the team you are chasing to completely fall apart because if they win 1 of 3 for a period of time, you still need 21 games just to catch them. That's close to one month of the season and assuming those things happen. Not an easy task.

Now let's talk about the bad.

1. This team has little depth a couple injuries and it could hurt them a lot. There already is a potential problem with starter Mitch Talbot. Another starting pitching injury would really hurt this team especially since it's unlikely that the 3, 4, and 5 starters aren't going to continue this pace.

2. The haven't played very good teams yet. The two good teams they've played they are 2-4 against. It's great they are playing 9-0 ball vs bad teams or teams in slumps but that can't continue. This isn't overly concerning though but they need to play .500 ball against good teams then beat up the bad teams.

3. A number of players are off to fast starts that aren't sustainable. Justin Masterson is unlikely to win a Cy Young this year, it's inevitable he falls back to earth, the same with Asdrubal Cabrera, the good news though is that there are some stars that can pick up the slack, but that's still speculation that they will.

In conclusion there are many more good things then bad things right now to talk about. Manny Acta is earning my respect for the way he is handling this team and it was absolutely necessary for the team to get off to a fast start. (Eric Wedge managed to get his teams off to a fast start once and even then it was only a decent start and they made the AL Championship series). A fast start will let them build confidence and should bring fans to the games which will help the demeanor of the team and allow the pressure to remain low, a great thing for a developing team.

I'm cautiously optimistic, although disappointed I can neither watch or listen to the games as I'm currently running a streak of my own, when I listen on the radio or watch the game on TV the Indians are 0-4, when I only check the score after the game they are 11-0. Far be it for me to stand in the way of progress, so until they lose without me watching, I've resigned myself to the fact that I can only view from afar. 158-4 here we come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Thoughts 4/15/2011

A lot of thoughts running through my head over the last couple weeks. Nothing large enough for a full post, which means I'll cheat and fit them in on Friday Thoughts. Apologies in advance for being cryptic or not going into detail on a couple of the things, but I'm being cautious on a couple things that are happening right now, I'll share more as they resolve.

1. We have some movement on the home front in Cleveland. This is the issue I'm going to be cryptic on but we are in process on some things and I hope to share more as things resolve. I can say it's driving the anxiety level up quite nicely.

2. I seem to have developed an addiction to mangoes lately, they are quite awesome. A good reminder to try something new and to try something again after not liking it the first time as you might not have gotten the best product.

3. Workouts are going well. Once I go this afternoon, I'll be at 10 workouts over 2 weeks, and expect to go tomorrow too, so I'll be +3 two weeks into my schedule, I like having the buffer of a couple days ahead of schedule in case something happens. The sad news is I'm not seeing results as quickly as I was hoping for, realistically I know the reasons why, it's just that I was far worse off then I would admit for where I was physically.

4. I try to stay balanced on the blog in regards to political issues, and I'm not going to change now, but I would like to point out to all of those that go into an uproar as soon as they hear the word tax, that all taxes are not created equal. It would seem fair for a company to pay a fair share of tax on 5.2 billion in profits wouldn't it? G.E balanced tax article

5. My brother brought up a good point in discussions this week on income taxes and whether raising them is a good idea or not (particularly for the 250k+ earners). One thing to consider when those taxes are raised for that bracket, people tend to spend more then on things as they fund their write offs in order to bring the tax burden down. When they have that percentage they retain for doing nothing, that money does not in fact trickle down, they keep it in their pockets. Interesting theory and I can't say I disagree with it. As an added twist I'll point out my brother tends to lean Republican in his views and I Democratic. Our discussion was in amazement to people we know that aren't pulling in a lot of income that seem to have an opinion on whether a raise in taxes for 250k+ is a good idea or not. I can also confirm that my brother and I aren't in that level either or close to it, so it's easier to say it should be raised for someone else, but it's some food for thought.

6. Sticking to the tax issue, most I hear arguments from seem to believe that they essentially should pay nothing, I do wonder sometimes whether they realize what they are arguing and about the fact that there are services they benefit from for the taxes. A person making $25k a year would seem to be benefiting from services that exist today that I'm not sure there income equates too, so I do wonder whether they actually understand their position on whether some taxes should be increased.

7. Back to something dopey, we watched "Tangled" last weekend, daughter and wife had saw it already but it was my first time seeing it. I have to say it's probably my second favorite Disney movie of all time. The first would be Aladdin, maybe it's the fact that the story focused on male characters as much as female or the females in both movies were more real to me, but either way I enjoyed it.

8. I was rejected for another internal position this week. I've been going through numerous interviews and applications internally for some time now and haven't caught a break with it. The recession messed up the typical three year and move cycle, so I'm really hoping something breaks though here soon. In other news I celebrated my 12th year with my current company this week. I'm sort of amazed by this fact as it's a company I would have never imagined I would be employed by and as things go, I fully intend to retire with the company and likely have a good opportunity to do so. Not exactly something that exists a lot anymore. 13 more years until my gold watch.

9. I've written before that I'm a pizza snob and have been highly disappointed in the Columbus offerings so far. So much so that my default is Pizzeria Unos, and while it's a chain, at least I know what I'm getting and I enjoy it, they also offer a fantastic takeout deal down here. Two large deep dish with three toppings for $20, and while they aren't true deep dish it's a pretty awesome pizza.

10. I find it interesting to see who the opposing parties march out for elections against incumbents. Typically if you look at things, they aren't particularly fond of putting their strongest candidates forward. It appears that's going to be the case this time as well. I can tell you this there is no way Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich win the next presidential election and if they are the Republican candidate, then the Republican leadership knows they can't win it anyway. I'll also add God help us all if Donald Trump ever became president, although I'm guessing political cartoonists would be very happy and so would Saturday Night Live, can you imagine the skits??

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cue the music!

I've made references before to my 20 year reunion coming up and for those that have read my blog from the beginning, you maybe aware from my writing that in high school I wasn't exactly in shape. (I was a shape it was round)

As of today I have 73 days left to my reunion, a little longer then 10 weeks. This last week I finally signed up for a gym here in the area and I made my first visit yesterday. I've tasked myself with 44 trips to the gym in those 73 days. A trip would be classified as an hour at the gym. My routine is typically where I visit for about and hour and a half, a trip like that would count as one visit. The hour minimum is to allow me to take it a bit easier on some days where I just do 60 minutes of cardio vs any weight work.

I'm counting on the fact that since I left high school, I've probably spent 9 months out of every year since then in a regular workout routine on average. The nice thing about that is it makes it easier to get back on schedule and I have a fair amount of muscle memory from that time, that I'm counting on to get me into a good place after this 10 week run.



To make the training interesting and to try and inspire(punish) myself a bit, I've decided that I will allow my beard to grow in tribute to Rocky through the training. I'm adding the stipulation that I can shave it after 10 workouts throughout the 10 weeks. (and of course I'll have it shaved prior to the reunion.) I despise the unshaven look and can't stand the feeling of it, so I'm looking at this as some negative reinforcement. Of course I have not shared this with the wife yet, so it maybe more negative reinforcement then I expect.

I also will be shying away from weighing myself through this training period. In truth I don't care much about what I weigh anymore. After doing this for so long, I know that I'm only going to obsess over the weight and this really isn't about this. I know how hard I need to push to start losing the weight I want and I know what I need to do to start tightening up the other areas. It doesn't hurt that I know by feeling, what a 'good weight' for me is or how well the training is helping me re-develop.

I'll be updating the results in my Friday posts unless something more interesting comes up in the meantime. Maybe I'll even throw in a pic of the beard.

My brother told me years after I set out to lose my weight, that he couldn't believe how driven and focused I was on the task. I'm trying to recapture a bit of that for this, if I can't capture it for this, I'm not sure I'll ever capture it again for working out.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Baseball Predictions for 2011 (NL)

National League

Eastern Division Winner:

1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Florida Marlins
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals

The Atlanta Braves are my pick to win the division. The combination of young players with super star ability along with some savvy veterans makes them my pick for the division. The Phillies pitching staff is good, but it's not exactly young, one or two of these pitchers could break down rather easily. The rest of the Phillies offense has similar issues in regards to age. Florida continues to develop talent and every couple years they put it together for a World Series championship, it won't happen again this year, but there are some interesting players to watch on the team. New York is a mess right now and the Nationals are making some progress to being a professional organization that develops talent and might even compete in 2-3 years.

Central Division


1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Houston Astros
5. Pittsburgh Pirates

The top three spots in this division is a toss up. I put the Brewers there based on their aggressive off season moves. They've worked to acquire some pitching to go along with their powerful lineup. Unfortunately for the start of the season some of that pitching is hurt, if it comes around though, this will be a tough team to beat. The Reds are continuing to get better and based on the talent and age of this team, they should be here for the next 5 years. They still need to have their pitchers develop a bit, but this is the team no one wants to see in their division for the next couple years with their lineup. St. Louis lost their ace in spring training for the year, this hurts, but Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan always manage to cope with putting a pitching staff together and this team will score runs if only because of Albert Pujols. Houston and Pittsburgh are afterthoughts, I was tempted to place the Pirates higher then the Astros, but as one of the three worst organizations in baseball over the last 10+ years, I just couldn't do it.

Western Division

1. Colorado Rockies
2. San Francisco Giants
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
5. San Diego Padres

The Giants are defending champions and the Rockies are up and coming. I'm going with my gut here and picking the Rockies, the lineup has two of the best players in the division (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez), they also have a bunch of young fireballers in the rotation that are in various stages of development, with Ubaldo Jimenez on the brink of a Cy Young season. The Giants by virtue of their World Series win and their young pitching staff and ROY Buster Posey are very dangerous, but I have concerns that their patchwork offense can work the same magic again this year and give the nod to the Rockies. The Diamondbacks and Dodgers both have some pieces, but they also have a lot of holes. The Padres are rebuilding, last time they rebuilt they were one win away from making the playoffs. It won't happen this time, but this organization does know how to rebuild quickly.

Wild Card team:
San Francisco Giants:
the Phillies get a lot of buzz for their rotation, but the Giants rotation is better, plus the Giants put it all together last year. Count on the Giants young hitters continuing to get better and the Phillies hitters to continue to get older and more nicked up.

Surprising team:
Atlanta Braves, they win this spot as they beat out the consensus team for their division championship in the Phillies. The Braves have once again retooled and their pitching isn't even at the point of where it could be. Watch out in a couple years for a couple of their pitchers, they may make another 10 year division run in the East.

Upcoming team to keep an eye on:
Cincinnati Reds, there is a load of talent on this team in it's lineup. Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and potentially Drew Stubbs all could be high end All Stars for many years. Add in a mix of young pitchers and you have the recipe for a nice long run for a mid market team. If the pitching doesn't develop, they'll have trouble, but considering they won the division last year with average pitching, they can do a lot if the players develop beyond average.

Most Valuable Player:
Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers: he doesn't get the recognition Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard does, but Fielder is one of the top players in the NL in a contract year and a very solid lineup around him. Look for him to put it all together this year.

Cy Young:
Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies: Jimenez lost the Cy Young last year, he wasn't beaten for it. He started out with a 15-1 record and dominated hitters and then had a very bad run to end the year which pushed him behind Roy Halladay. Halladay had a very good year and a lot of media focus due to his trade before the season. Young pitchers tend to have things like this happen at times though, so outside of an arm injury, look for Jimenez to put a full season together.

Rookie of the Year:
Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds: Chapman is starting out the season as a reliever and based on the fact that he might average a strikeout an inning that still might be enough to win him the award. Last year had a great crop of rookies and most came through very nicely. This year has some nice candidates (Brandon Belt SF and Freddie Freeman ATL) but I'm taking a shot that those two might struggle a bit, leaving the door open for someone with impressive power numbers, which Chapman should have. This pick is a total shot in the dark though based on a hunch that Belt and Freeman struggle and no one else breaks out.

Comeback/Most Improved Player of the year:
Carlos Beltran, New York Mets: I'll choose Beltran as the comeback player of the year, based on his talent and the fact that he's been sidelined for so long.

Manager of the year:
Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves: Gonzalez gets the nod over Jim Tracy of the Rockies, due to the Braves recapturing the NL East and beating the Phillies and knocking them completely out of the playoffs.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Thoughts 4/1/2011

1. It's opening day in Cleveland, I'm taking a half day off work and heading up to Cleveland for the weekend, should be a fun time. We won't be going to the game, but we will be out in the city for the afternoon/night.

2. My baseball NL preview won't be up until next week. Too many work things got in the way. I'll tease my division winners though. East: Atlanta Central: Milwaukee West: Colorado

3. I have some more father dilemma stuff to right about. My daughter had her first run in with being laughed at for something. I have a ton of thoughts on this, just have to find some time to get them down.

4. I turned 38 this week, why am I still having such a hard time believing I'm that old. I have some thoughts on that too if I ever get around to it.

5. Senate Bill 5 was passed in Ohio by the legislature this week. Now it's up to the opponents to gather 240,000+ signatures from 40 different counties by July 1 in order to make it a referendum on the ballot for November. I don't think that's going to be a problem and there's still a lot to come in regards to this issue.

6. Things like Senate Bill 5 and the struggles of some of my friends right now, had me feeling like the Rebellion at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

7. VCU and Temple being in the Final Four for college basketball is good for the sport in my opinion. If one of them wins the Championship, I think others may come around to that thinking as well.

8. Is ESPN relevant to sports discussions anymore?

9. My two favorite writers for baseball are Peter Gammons (MLB.com) and John Heyman (SI.com). Gammons I consider to be one of the most knowledgeable baseball columnists around, you can learn a lot from reading his columns. For those in Cleveland your best bet for baseball knowledge is on the radio with Greg Brinda (ESPN-850 WKNR).

10. I had to remove a couple blog links to the right. I've had some confirmation of one writer, who's decided to take some time away from blogging and another friend who I believe is focusing on a book rather then the blog.