Mar 2, 2008

Central Division Preview

All-Star Team

C—Jorge Posada, Beaz. 1B—Albert Pujols, Bulldogs. 2B—Brian Roberts, Dirtnappers. SS—Hanley Ramirez, Bulldogs. 3B—Chipper Jones, Miracle. LF—Raul Ibanez, Bombers. CF—Torii Hunter, Bombers. RF—Magglio Ordonez, Bombers. DH—David Ortiz, Beaz.

SP—Jake Peavy, Beaz. SP—Erik Bedard, Miracle. SP—Roy Halladay, Beaz. SP—Scott Kazmir, Bulldogs. RP—Takashi Saito, Bombers.

Selections are based on players' win shares totals for the 2007 season, as per The Hardball Times. Win shares account for batting, pitching and defensive prowess, while also rewarding durability.

Bethlehem Beaz
Record: 122-40, won North Atlantic Division. Playoffs: Defeated California (4-2) in first round; defeated to Mohawk Valley (4-2) in second round; defeated Cape Cod (4-0) in World Series.

Key Additions: CF Josh Hamilton, 1B Carlos Pena, CF Willy Taveras, 2B Placido Polanco, LHP Randy Johnson, RHP Joe Nathan, RHP Joakim Soria
Key Departures: CF Vernon Wells, LHP Scott Kazmir, 1B Jim Thome, 2B Alberto Callaspo, LF Adam Lind, C Josh Bard, RHP Francisco Rodriguez

C—Jorge Posada#
1B—Carlos Pena*, Doug Mientkiewicz*
2B—Placido Polanco
SS—Derek Jeter
3B—Troy Glaus, Eric Chavez*
LF—Manny Ramirez, Josh Hamilton*
CF—Willy Taveras, Ryan Freel
RF—Nick Markakis*, Cody Ross
DH—David Ortiz*
UTIL—Kevin Frandsen

SP—Jake Peavy, Roy Halladay, Derek Lowe, Randy Johnson*, Jason Hirsh, Rodrigo Lopez, Brandon McCarthy
RP—Joakim Soria, Joe Nathan, Akinori Otsuka, Luis Vizcaino, Alan Embree*, Trever Miller*, Octavio Dotel, Glen Perkins*

On The Farm: 2B Alexi Casilla#, C Chris Iannetta, SS Ronny Cedeno

Bethlehem appears positioned to make a run at immortality by playing in the World Series for the fourth consecutive year—this time in the newly-formed American League Central instead of the North Atlantic.

Injuries hit Bethlehem hard in 2007. Closer BJ Ryan, 1B Nick Johnson, LHP Gustavo Chacin are all lost for the season. Eric Chavez, Troy Glaus, Adam Kennedy, Willy Taveras, Manny Ramirez, Jason Hirsh, Brandon McCarthy, Rodrigo Lopez and Randy Johnson all missed substantial time due to injury.

The 2008 pitching staff will look to continue the mark of excellence set by the 2007 staff (3.27 team era). Jake Peavy (21-3, 2.87, 238k), Roy Halladay (23-3, 2.73, Cy Young), and Derek Lowe (17-6, 3.67) will lead the charge. Bethlehem will miss departed youngster Scott Kazmir (13-5, 4.61, 164k) but has added the legendary Randy Johnson to the staff. We believe that “old age, deceit and treachery beat youth and enthusiasm” quipped Beaz manager Kevin Burns. The back end of the bullpen has turned over during the off-season. An injury to BJ Ryan (2-4, 2.88, 26 sv) and the trade of Francisco Rodriguez (6-4, 2.30, 6 sv) left a large hole to fill. Youngster Joakim Soria and veteran Joe Nathan will take over in 2008 and should likely cause opponents to experience misery in the late innings of games.

The 2007 offense was strong, leading the league in runs scored, average, doubles and homeruns. The 2008 offense is poised to continue where the 2007 team left off. Offseason additions, Carlos Pena and Placido Polanco should make an immediate impact on the team. Carlos Pena will be called upon to fill the offensive void left when Jim Thome (.296, 47 hr, 115 rbi) was traded to New Jersey. It is expected that Carlos will improve the infield defense as well. David Ortiz (.293, 55 hr, 141 rbi) will anchor the middle of the offense and should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs.

Defensively, the team will try to match the fielding prowess exhibited by the 2007 team. Gone is gold glove CF Vernon Wells, 3b Eric Chavez is hobbled by injury, and SS Derek Jeter appears to have lost a step defensively. Newcomers Placido Polanco, Willy Taveras and Carlos Pena should step up and provide at least average defense. Defensively, the weak links of the 2008 squad look to be 3b Troy Glaus and LF Manny Ramirez. Hopefully, they will not prove to be too much of a liability.

Dodge City Dirtnappers
Record: 66-96

Additions: RHP Jason Isringhausen, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Todd Jones, C Matt Treanor, 1B Dmitri Young, 3B Marco Scutaro, CF Hunter Pence, OF Ryan Langerhans, RF Jose Guillen.

C—Jason Kendall, Matt Treanor
1B—Dmitri Young#
2B—Brian Roberts#
SS—Jack Wilson, David Eckstein
3B—Melvin Mora, Marco Scutaro
LF—Johnny Damon*, Jason Michaels
CF—Hunter Pence, Ryan Langerhans*
RF—Jose Bautista, Jay Payton
DH—Jose Guillen

SP—Matt Cain, Chien-Ming Wang, Adam Wainwright, Jamie Moyer*, Chris Sampson, Dontrelle Willis*
RP—Jason Isringhausen, Pat Neshek, Brandon Lyon, Will Ohman*, Mark Henderickson*, Todd Jones

To go hard at it right from the start. Get this team to .500, and deal with this new division, a new hill to climb. NO FIRE SALES! This year no matter what happens, everyone to his own dirtnapp.

Northern Lehigh Bulldogs
Record: 57-105. Playoffs: As Jim Mora Sr. once said. "Playoffs!"

Key Additions: LHP Scott Kazmir, RHP Tim Lincecum, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, 3B Alex Gordon, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C Ivan Rodriguez, RF Brian Giles
Key Departures: LF Carlos Lee, RHP Bobby Jenks, CF Willy Taveras, RHP Joe Nathan, RHP Jered Weaver, RHP Brad Penny, 2B Kazuo Matsui

C—Ivan Rodriguez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia#
1B—Albert Pujols
2B—Tadahito Iguchi
SS—Hanley Ramirez
3B—Alex Gordon*
LF—Brian Giles*, Jonny Gomes
CF—Chris Duffy*, Nook Logan#
RF—Melky Cabrera#, Shane Victorino#
DH—Prince Fielder*
UTIL—Tony Graffanino, Craig Counsell*

SP—Scott Kazmir*, Tim Lincecum, Matt Garza, Jay Bergmann, Jamie Moyer*, Kyle Davies, Gavin Floyd, Brad Thompson
RP—Francisco Rodriguez, Carlos Villanueva, Cassey Fossum*, Mike Macdougal, Yusmeiro Petit

On The Farm: LF Adam Lind*, LF Scott Hairston, RF Carlos Quentin, 2B Alberto Callaspo#, 2B Danny Richar*, LHP Dallas Braden*, LHP Zach Duke*

The Bulldogs outlook for this coming season isn't very bright. We look to finish the season around .500. Our lineup will be potent in the top half, but the bottom half will be very weak. Our pitching staff basically is S. Kazmir, a combination of T. Lincecum and M. Garza and then a bunch of BP pitchers. Management is very happy with the route of the 3 year plan that they started last season. We have a lot of youth with great potential mixed with some great veteran leadership. The future looks bright while the present looks very mediocre.

I would like to quote a Pop Fisher from one of the great baseball movies The Natural. "My ma urged me to get out of this game. When I was a kid, she pleaded with me. And I meant to, you know what I mean? But she died. Now look at me. I'm wet nurse to a last-place, dead-to-the-neck-up ball club, and I'm choking to death!" Hopefully the youth in this organization will turn things around just like Roy Hobbs did.

Montreal Miracle
Record: 103-59, 2nd in North Atlantic Division. Playoffs: Defeated Rochester 4-2 in 1st round; lost in second round

Key Additions: LF Moises Alou, 3B Chipper Jones, DH Gary Sheffield, LHP Hideki Okajima
Key Departures: CF Jim Edmonds, DH Jason Giambi, RHP Francisco Cordero, 3B Morgan Ensberg

C—Mike Redmond, Ryan Doumit#
1B—Matt Stairs*
2B—Luis Castillo#
SS—Carlos Guillen#
3B—Chipper Jones#
LF—Moises Alou
CF—Kenny Lofton*
RF—Gary Sheffield
DH—Barry Bonds*

SP—Erik Bedard*, Lenny DiNardo*, Matt Morris, Byung-Hyun Kim, Sergio Mitre, Cliff Lee*
RP—Bob Wickman, Hideki Okajima*, Ryan Madson, Joaquin Benoit, David Riske, Chad Bradford, Jared Burton

On the Farm: LHP Andy Sisco*, C Dioner Navarro#, RHP Fernando Cabrera, RHP Leo Nunez

Coming off consecutive 100-win seasons, the perennial oldest team in the league decided to address their age concerns by... adding more age.

New blood Chipper Jones (35) supersedes Morgan Ensberg (31) at the hot corner. Canadian professional hitter Matty Stairs (39) replaces dope fiend Jason Giambi (36) at 1b. On the outfield corners, Gary Sheffield (38) replaces Bobby Abreu's bat, if not his Gold Glove fielding prowess and amiable personality, while Moises Alou (40), who pees on his hands, replaces the departed Trot Nixon.

When opening day comes around, and the likely starting Miracle lineup and pitcher step onto the field with their 37.2 average years of age, we'll find out if the Old School still has one more lesson left in it.

St. Louis Bombers
Record: 96-66, 2nd place (statistical tie for 1st) Midwest Division. Playoffs: Lost to Mohawk Valley (2-4) in first round.
Key Additions: 2B Dan Uggla, LF Carlos Lee, RHP Ian Snell, RHP Carlos Silva, RHP Peter Moylan, RHP Justin Speier, LHP J.C. Romero, SS Omar Vizquel, SS Ryan Theroit
Key Departures: RHP Brad Penny, C Ivan Rodriguez, SS Rafael Furcal, SS Tony Pena Jr., RHP Jason Schmidt

C—Ronny Paulino, Jeff Mathis
1B—Todd Helton*
2B—Dan Uggla, Brendan Harris
SS—Omar Vizquel#, RyanTheroit
3B—Aramis Rameriz,
LF—Raul Ibanez*, Marcus Thames
CF—Torii Hunter, Jerry Owens*
RF—Magglio Ordonez
DH—Carlos Lee
UTIL—Abraham Nunez#

SP—Ian Snell, Greg Maddox, Carlos Silva, Jason Marquis, Braden Looper, Jake Westbrook
RP—Takashi Saito, Billy Wagner*, Peter Moylan, J.C. Romero*, Justin Speier, Matt Guerrier, Saul Rivera

On the Farm: C Brayan Pena#, 1B Ryan Shealy, LHP Patrick Misch*, RHP Enrique Gonzalez.

St. Louis is projected to produce as many total bases and OBA% as they did in 2007 when the team scored 872 runs. The biggest change from 2007 (96-66) will be the pitching. St. Louis tied for 3rd place with an ERA of 3.94. The ‘08 team will be lead by Ian Snell followed by a solid but average rotation. The bull pen will be much improved with a combined 2.37 ERA in its seven man committee. The Bombers strategy will be using their bull pen very aggressive with its talented relief corps backed up by a solid defensive infield (1bHelton/SSVizquel/3bRameriz). The ’08 goal is to score runs and hold the lead.

The Bombers, in 2008, will be in a new division with some very good rivals in Bethlehem and Montreal. The team will make a run at the playoffs.



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