Monday, April 23, 2012

Contender or Pretender

by Chris Cappella

There have been more than a few surprises early in this MLB season, and with that raises questions. Can the Nationals keep up their hot start? Who are the contenders in the AL East? Time to break down some of these teams in the season’s first edition of extremely premature contender or pretender!

Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are off to a very impressive 9-6 start while getting next to nothing from superstar slugger Jose Bautista. Edwin Encarnacion, coming off a career year, is hitting everything in sight and leading the team in nearly all offensive categories. The one thing to worry about is the pitching. While the staff is 6th in the AL in bating average, they’re in the second half of other categories like ERA and quality starts… Does that ever catch up to them? Overall, the Blue Jays are going to be able to mash (especially when Bautista gets going) but they’ll need everyone in the pitching staff to step up. Even in a super tough AL East, I’ll label the Blue Jays as Contenders.

Chicago White Sox: Remember last year when the Sox were preseason favorites to win the Central? Expectations aren’t quite there yet in the windy city, but with a nice 9-6 start, there is some hope. Robin Ventura might just be the new voice this franchise needs after seven years of Ozzie Guillen, and the rotation suddenly looks four deep. If Gordon Beckham can live up to even a fraction of his hype and they can get anything from Adam Dunn, their line-up is very formidable. Judgment: Detroit is the best team in the division, and I don’t see the line-up producing enough to get them anywhere. Contenders

Washington Nationals: Last year’s third place team in the NL east is off to a flying start, with a record of 12-4. Looking at the numbers, it’d be easy to be confused on exactly how the Nats are playing so well. Little Ian Desmond is leading the team in homeruns (with 2) and Jayson Werth is leading the team in batting average at .322 (career .265 hitter). If you want to dig deeper into the Nats success, look no further then the pitching staff, led by stud Stephen Strasburgh. Starsburgh. A former number one overall pick, Strasburgh has filthy stuff and rare control for his secondary pitches for a guy who’s 23. The bullpen has looked pretty solid thus far, slugger Michael Morse will eventually be back from a DL stint, and the Nats have a deep bench, making them a Contender.

Chicago Cubs: Kidding. 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Despite the financial situations, LA didn’t have too bad of a season last year. There are some bright spots on the roster, with the most obvious being centerfielder Matt Kemp, the best player in the game right now. The pitching staff, led by last year’s Cy Young Clayton Kershaw, is pretty solid. Not only is Kershaw pitching well, but Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly both look un-hittable. Analysis: LA is 12-4, but I’m not sold. Their schedule has been very favorable (2 series against San Diego, one against the Pirates and Astros), and the infield hasn’t shown any signs of producing offensively. I’d say they finish right around .500, much like last year. Pretenders