The Baseball Show: 2012 Over/Under Edition

Last night on The Baseball Show, I was joined by Mike Rosenbam (Golden Sombrero/Bleacher Report), M.J. Lloyd (Off Base Percentage/Halo Hangout), and Derwood Morris (The Bobby Classifieds) to discuss over and under totals for the upcoming 2012 MLB season.

Your quick hit guidelist for the podcast:

-Aroldis Chapman possibly snagging the Reds 5th rotation spot
-Over/Under win totals for every team, division by division
-Over/Under stat totals for individual players
-Over/Under nonsense
-We prematurely announce the Bobby Abreu to Cleveland trade

So give us a listen and see where we differ on all things over/under for the 2012 season. This season needs to get underway so we can stop over-prognosticating and just see where things sit. I’m dying to know what guys like Jose Bautista and Albert Pujols do this season and to see how teams like the Reds, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, and Braves perform among others.

10 Bold Predictions for 2012: Justin Upton & the Arizona Diamondbacks Regress

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2012 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our sixth prediction is that Justin Upton and the Arizona Diamondbacks are in for a long 2012 campaign.

Justin Upton was unbelievable last season. If it weren’t for J-Up and his motley crew that made up the rest of the band, what would we have possibly done with ourselves down the stretch run? As unheralded and unlikely as the Diamondbacks were, they came so very close to reaching the NLCS last fall.

Upton had a season that will always stand out on the back of his baseball card as his breakout performance. He finished 4th in MVP balloting with a .289 average, 31 home runs, 105 runs, 88 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. His slash line was a pretty .369/.529/.898, falling just short of that rare .900 OPS air. He was a 6.4 fWAR player at age 23, entering even more rare company.

And now it all comes crashing down for Upton, at least somewhat. A large part of his success last season was because he appeared in 159 names, such is always half the battle in putting together a big time season. We’re going to predict a season in which he has a production similar to 2010 (.273, 17 HR, 69 RBI, .356/.442/.799). And it’s going to be due to a catastrophic injury of some type that limits his playing time to less than 120 games rather than regression of ability. That’s the only thing that bring a talent like Upton’s to a screeching halt at this point.

It’s not due to any data or evidence either. Like with all of our predictions, this one deals with gut feeling. We don’t think it’s likely that Upton strings together another season in which he playas in over 150 games. Maybe it’s because we took him with our first pick in fantasy baseball in one of our most important leagues–and things like that just usually don’t work out for us. But we feel that something out there will keep Upton from staying on the path of becoming the next Junior Griffey type talent of baseball.

And such leads to the snowball of the Diamondbacks who will go as Upton goes in 2012, and they know it.

Kirk Gibson willed this team to 94 regular season wins in 2011, no small feat when your regulars were guys like Gerardo Parra, Ryan Roberts and Willie Bloomquist among others. A summer to remember it will be, especially when the Diamondbacks struggle to get to 75 wins in 2012.

Another guy we see the regression grim reaper coming for in a large way is closer J.J. Putz. He was a strength last year with 45 saves and a 2.12 ERA, but he’ll be 35 this season and last season’s remarkable performance came on the heels of three straight up and down campaigns for Putz. Expect David Hernandez to emerge as the closer by mid-season for one reason or another.

We think that Daniel Hudson will actually be a lot better in 2012, but there’s no way Ian Kennedy goes 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA again. Trevor Cahill, Joe Saunders, and Josh Collmenter won’t combine to do much for you after those two, either.

Everyone is predicting a breakout year for Paul Goldschmidt whom we love, but 30 homer projections are probably a year early at this point. Stephen Drew is banged up and the scab under the band-aid peels completely off this season, while guys like Roberts and Chris Young settle in to who they really are as players rather than having career years again.

This team will finish no greater than third in the NL West to pitching rich San Francisco and the underrated Rockies.

Yoenis Cespedes helps A’s to Japan triumph over Mariners

We survived Tebowmania and Linsanity, now it’s time to help think of a catchy phrase that will captivate the sports world that follows every at-bat of the (presumably) young Cuban sensation of the Oakland A’s.

Yoenis Cespedes hit his first career big league home run off a hanging breaking ball, and Bartolo Colon threw 8 strong innings to earn a 4-1 over the Seattle Mariners in the Tokyo Dome.

These two AL West teams split the Tokyo series and now will return home to American soil to play their remaining 160 games. Josh Reddick homered immediately after Cespedes, and Justin Smoak accounted for the lone Mariners run with a bomb of his own.

The good news is that now we can all settle in, because the next games played that count will be the real deal variety of openers and we’ll have a lot to focus on in just a short while.

10 Bold Predictions for 2012: The Cincinnati Reds make the NLCS

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2012 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our fifth installment of this prediction series is that the Cincinnati Reds are one of two NLCS representatives in 2012.

There’s people out there that won’t want to believe me–but my wife will serve as my witness on this (she would NEVER lie for me). I have been talking about the 2012 Cincinnati Reds making a possible World Series run for several years now.

The night my wife will remember me saying it was when the outs were starting to melt away in that NLDS game three versus the Phillies back in 2010. As I sat there in the last row of the stadium with her, I said “we’re really going to get swept. It’s really going to end like this”. I was right. The Reds got shutout by Cole Hamels on a night when he had his best stuff. But I made a prediction I have felt so strongly about for so long.

“Mark my words, this team will be back. They’ll miss out on the playoffs in 2011 and then they’re going to come roaring back and go after the whole thing in 2012. That’s been the year all along: 2012″.

Now, because she’s a woman and things like that aren’t important to her she wouldn’t be able to recite my exact prediction. But she can attest to the fact that her husband has never felt more strongly about something happening in sports than the Cincinnati Reds impending 2012 run to the World Series. This is because I’ve also reminded her countless times over the last year.

And I’ve hedged my prediction some. I don’t think they’re going to the World Series. Our season predictions won’t go up until next week on this site but I still don’t fully know who this mystery opponent who will knock off the Reds in the 2012 NLCS will even be yet. But someone’s knocking them off. All I know is they’re going to get that far, and they’re not going to make the World Series. And I feel like it’s going to be in six games that the NLCS lasts. Just enough so that you have some hopes and dreams of the Reds really playing for the whole thing. But they’re going to fall tragically short like all of our heroes eventually do. And that’s because they’re my team. That’s why they’re not going to the World Series. But mark my words, before this thing gets completely blown up and the Reds nucleus as you know it is disbanded, they’re going to take you on a ride that you haven’t been on in a long, long time.

I love the make up of this roster. I think there are any number of players who could go from respectable Major League professionals to star pretty easily because they have the pedigree and I think they’ve got the ability to truly be more than solid. Many of these guys moved up through the minor league system together and have grown up as ballplayers together. The chemistry in this organization with this group of players is not overstated as it so often is around baseball. These guys like each-other and have a strong clubhouse. They’ve also all reached that ‘peak ‘and ‘prime’ age around the same time. When you get several guys who have career years together you see teams come out of nowhere and take off.

Last year was absolutely painful for my heart and huge hit to my mental health at times. Just writing on this blog each day was a challenge because I was lamenting the fact it was baseball season as the Reds floundered their way through 162. Sometimes in baseball that just happens. And sometimes in life things happen for a reason that you never come to understand. And the reason the Reds of 2011 were so bad was so that they could fly under the radar in 2012. The baseball Gods made me purge my joys last season so that it could be a summer long party in 2012.

Aside from the Reds being able to once again sneak up on some teams quietly–something they lacked the ability to do from game one in 2011–it’s been the perfect storm off-season with some of the things that have happened. Let’s examine some of the things that have taken place that are going to allow the Reds to make a run in 2012:

  1. Reds trade for Matt Latos. Alright, he’s not an ace in my opinion yet. But it’s another lottery ticket thrown in the raffle of guys who could be aces for the Reds. And I still see Cueto, Bailey, and now Latos as guys who could have that type of ‘stopper’ season for the Reds. Give me the ball on day five and let me go get you a ballgame and end this slide or keep this streak going.
  2. Albert Pujols leaves the Cardinals for the Angels. Why don’t you do me a favor, look up what Albert Pujols did against the Reds over his career (Actually, let me do that for you. 172 GP, .350, 46 HR, 143 RBI, 10 steals/zero caught stealing, 92 BB, 50 K’s, .430/.641/1.072). Look, I’ll miss seeing the guy’s pure talent a few times a summer, but let’s get serious I can do without him making me miserable in the form of game winning grand slams and such. AL West foes, you enjoy that.
  3. Prince Fielder signs with the Detroit Tigers. Maybe the second greatest offensive lethal weapon in the National League, and he’s leaving the NL Central too! Now this is just gravy. People forget he’ll just be 28 years old this season, he is in his prime years and he will still torture pitching staffs for about 4 or 5 more seasons before he’s ‘getting old’ or no matter how big that spare tire gets.
  4. Ryan Braun is suspended for PED use for 40 games. Yea. Shit. Damn you formality. This would have been the nail in the Brewers coffin, trust me. They lucked out here.
  5. Chris Carpenter is out 3 to 4 months with a bulging disk. Chris Carpenter scares me. He’s fiery, he eats innings, you can hang a few runs on him in the first inning of a game and then he one hits you the rest of the way. He’s the type of catalyst ace that few guys around the big leagues truly are. This is a huge void for the Cardinals. And I found out they’re going to Opening Day start Kyle Lohse. A man doesn’t deserve such a life of luxury folks. I am that man.
  6. Adam Wainwright returns from Tommy-John surgery.People want to talk about Wainwright being the sleeper of the year. Look, he’s good and I have no doubts he’ll return to his previous levels of performance. But give me one guy who came back and was his dominant old self his first half season back from Tommy-John surgery. There aren’t any. Reds luck out again here. I’m still warm and fuzzy inside with memories of that February day last year.
  7. Theo Epstein got his hands on the Cubs a bit too late. Theo will turn the Cubbies around but it’s going to take time. Are they still employing the likes of Ryan Dempster and Alfonso Soriano? Bryan LaHair at first base? It’s going to be a fun season of making fun of Cubs fans again.
  8. The Phillies are a mess. I expect a regression from Cliff Lee. Roy Halladay has been nothing if not touch and go this spring. Jimmy Rollins is getting old. Chase Utley is hurt. Ryan Howard is hurt. The Phillies do not scare me. Not in the slightest.
  9. The Reds sign Sean Marshall. This guy is like the nastiest lefty in baseball. He’s not gonna crap out like Ricky Rincon did when the Indians went out and tried to make a splash in getting a nasty lefty to bolster a great pen. He’s going to get first dibs on the closer role, and I think he’s going to have a fine audition.

I could keep going, but these are all things that have made it a wonderful off-season towards building my case for the Reds run to the 2012 NLCS.

We led off the prediction series by telling you that Jay Bruce was going to be the 2012 MVP. But now for some of the unheralded guys who will pay off huge for the Redlegs in 2012. Chris Heisey, Homer Bailey, Ryan Ludwick, and the rebound of guys like Scott Rolen and Drew Stubbs will pay off for the Reds. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto will play their usual role.

You look in the pen and the Reds have some serious firepower. Jose Arredondo is a year into his own Tommy-John recovery, and the Reds have Bill Bray, Nick Masset, Aroldis Chapman, Marshall, and some other very capable arms that will be down in that bullpen. They’re deep. Especially if Ryan Madson hadn’t gotten hurt. But we’re here to focus on why this prediction will come true.

The Reds are about to give you the finest season since 1990, if you can just make it until October. This is going to be the year and I want you to remember where you heard it. Just don’t expect too much ultimately. I’ll sign up for an NLCS run and take my chances from there right now.

Dustin Ackley and the Mariners get off to a smiling start

While you were sleeping this morning, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics played 11 innings of baseball to kick off the 2012 season. This bonus baseball resulted in a 3-1 triumph for the Seattle Mariners, which kind of sucks for the Oakland A’s seeing as how they gave up a couple of home games to go over to Japan and play the Mariners for the good of the game.

Things began mostly as they should have. Felix Hernandez went 8 innings and got one lonely run of support for striking out six and walking nobody. Ichiro went 4 for 5, and Dustin Ackley was what we like to call the whole damn show. He homered to open up scoring, stole a bag, doubled in the run to break the tie in the top of the 11th and then scored on an Ichiro single.

Cliff Pennington had two hits for the A’s and Yoenis Cespedes went 1 for 3 with a double in his big league debut.

I am so happy that we have real baseball. I can’t wait for the American soil version a week from now.

Get some sleep everyone, and get ready for Tokyo (Regular Season) Baseball

Everyone ready for the start of the 2012 MLB season tomorrow morning at 6 am sharp? Mariners-A’s in the Egg Dome in Tokyo. Yoenis Cespedes, King Felix, Brandon McCarthy, and Eric Wedge are all part of a cast of characters who help us kick off another big league season. Things are starting to feel exciting in these parts.

Now get your fantasy lineups set, make sure your alarms are ready and get a few hours of sleep before we wake up and start tabulating those counting stats for six months plus.

I love this sport and this time of year.

10 Bold Predictions for 2012: The Anaheim Angels Win the World Series

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2012 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our fourth prediction deals with who we see bringing home the World Series Title in 2012, the Anaheim Angels.

Some folks reading this post will be quick to jump at us and say that this is hardly a bold prediction. However, a deeper look would reveal that simply trying to predict who emerges out of the scuttlebutt of a 162 game season and three playoff series is no easy thing.

The Anaheim Angels are baseball’s closest version of the Miami Heat. They’re loaded. But even the Heat weren’t able to get the chemistry just right to get through the postseason and emerge as the NBA’s best in their first season of assembly.

The Angels will hardly be a lock. They’re predicted at an over/under of 89.5 wins heading into the season which is trailing the Yankees (93), Detroit (94), and Texas (94) in their own division. As a side prediction, its easy money that they get over 90 wins. Take that bet and run with it.

The 2011 version of the Angels brought home 86 wins last season, their Pythagorean W/L record was 85-77; meaning that their resulted play was right around where it should have been (they weren’t particularly lucky or unlucky). So you’re telling me that adding Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, LaTroy Hawkins, Chris Ianetta, and the return of a healthy Kendrys Morales will only be worth about three wins to last year’s total? Come on now.

But this bold prediction is not about the Angels 2012 win total, it’s about them being the only postseason team to win their final game in October.

The rotation is a beautiful thing, and being able to run out Jered Weaver, Wilson, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana on most nights will serve them well and keep them out of a lot of prolonged losing streaks. We particularly like being able to trot Santana out against most team’s fourth starters. In a postseason series, a deep pitching staff is what will push them past other teams we like such as Texas and Detroit.

They’ve got the offensive firepower in the lineup if they remain healthy to rattle the walls of any park. The mix of youth combined with veteran presence is very solid on this team up and down the lineup and they’ll have versatility to get creative at several spots. They still have one of the best managers in the game in Mike Scioscia.

It’s not easy to find a weakness. We perceive their only possible weakness to be defensively, which should remain around league average and won’t be enough to hold them down.

When the dust settles on the 2012 season, the cream will have risen to the top. And the Angels will be the sole survivor of the regular and postseason. The 2012 World Champions will be the Anaheim Angels. You can book it and lock it right now.

10 Bold Predictions for 2012: Jose gets his 50 Bombtistas

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a 10 Bold Predictions for 2012 series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our third prediction? Jose Bautista hits 50 long ones in 2012.

It’s been done 13 times since 2000, by ten different ballplayers. When I was a kid, it was as exclusive of a group as sports really offered. Then 1996 happened and suddenly it seemed everyone was part of it.

The good news it that the 50 home run club is a big deal again, and it’s not going to be something that happens ten times in a decade too many more times, I wouldn’t think.

When someone does it now, it’s going to be a really big deal again. And it’s going to be something that you engrave in your mental sports epitaph that resides up in your head–you know the things you remember that take place of things that aren’t as important like when your children were born or when you and your wife got married or the song you first danced together to. But damn it, we knew that Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs on the dot in 1996 and we remember Cecil’s 51 back in ’90 as we do his son’s 50 back in 2007.

We remember these things because they are a big deal. And it’s a milestone once again for the sexiest stat in sports.

Jose Bautista is quite the human anomaly, is he not? I have to admit, I thought his 54 home runs in 2010 were a tremendous fluke. I thought he’d hit about 19 last season. I mean he only had four home runs in April of 2010, making the whole feat even more unbelievable to begin with.

He came back last season, hit 43 more; and added in a .302 average and .447 OBP% to go with. He’s going to be 31 years old this season and I think a lot of people are expecting Joey Bats to come back to earth a little bit or at least start proving that he’s a normal player. But alas we remind you that Bautista is no normal player. And he’s got one more big time run left in him.

Although Eno Sarris at FanGraphs tells us that no player will hit 40 home runs this season, we scoff at him and let him know that Joey Bats will see him at that number by mid-August (Bautista hit #40 on August 23 and September 4th respectively the last two years–both off Yankee pitching).

We’ll say Bautista’s 50th blast comes sometime between September 27-30, ironically enough against those same Bronx Bombers at Rogers Centre. And we’ll even be nice enough to dig up this post.

We expect Bautista’s home run totals to start trailing off after this season, but he’s going to give us at least one more free admission to the bomb show in 2012. Fifty coming your way in 2012.

Ryan Madson will have Tommy John Surgery, out for 2012

There’s a pretty good chance that this picture above is the only glimpse you’re ever going to get of Ryan Madson in a Cincinnati Reds jersey–one of those snazzy official home whites, at least.

That’s because yesterday it was announced that Madson would have Tommy John Surgery and miss the entire 2012 season. To say the least, things weren’t all sound inside that right arm of his.

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You can’t miss something you never had. So while I was initially sick at this news, I’m trying to focus on the positives like Marshall, Arredondo, Chapman, Masset, and Bray. And I want to pretend that Madson never happened and was never even one of ‘us’ to begin with.

The Baseball Show: Chipper Jones is Retiring

Last night on The Baseball Show, Mike Rosenbaum (The Golden Sombrero, Bleacher Report), M.J. Lloyd (Halo Hangout, Off Base Percentage) and I discuss the following show topics:

-Mike’s move to Bleacher Report as a featured writer
-Prospects and players that have been impressive around Spring Training thus far
-Chipper Jones’ retirement announcement
-Would you rather have a player hang around as long as possible, or retire on their own terms?
-Dusty Baker on the hot seat, our reaction
-The Arte Moreno GQ interview
-As always, much more and a preview of next week’s over/under & predictions show

Arte Moreno belongs in some type of Scarface Sequel (GQ Interviews Moreno)

Arte Moreno has enough money to buy you, make you dance a jig for his amusement, sell you for thirty cents on the dollar, buy you back, have you killed, and then have you made into some amusing little tinker-toy.

And GQ got a rare interview with the Angels owner today:

GQ: Is there concern about paying him $30 million when he’s 41 years old?
Arte Moreno: Someone else asked me this, and I said, “I’ll tell you something: If he’s healthy enough and he’s playing for us, then I’m gonna just say, ‘Merry Christmas to all baseball fans,’” because we get to see one of the best players of our generation coming to bat.

I hope Pujols plays until he’s 41 but there’s a good chance by then the Angels will be looking for a mulligan on this contract like most teams do that sign an aging player to a deal like they did with Pujols.

I’d also recommend checking out Halo Hangout’s take on the interview. It’s headed up by our boy MJ Lloyd and it’s a pretty good long view on the Angels. What I can’t figure out is why ESPN didn’t capitalize on the interest the Angels will draw and start an Angels blog similar to ‘The Heat Index’.

Since there’s nothing like that–if you want the pulse of the Angels lockerroom this season we would say your best bet is to check out what MJ is saying about them. Plus he’ll publish more dick jokes than ESPN would.

10 Bold Predictions for 2012: The Arrival of David Freese helps Cardinals forget Albert Pujols

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a ’10 Bold Predictions for 2012′ series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our second prediction is that the arrival of David Freese as a superstar. This will help in providing a soft landing spot in the transition of the Cardinals and their fans into the post-Pujols era.

Those 21 postseason RBI last October showed me all that was necessary to confirm my belief on David Freese. The guy is a big time player just waiting to spread his gigantic wings. It might only be for a season or so, but Freese is going to be on everyone’s radar by the time this season is finished as he should be already.

I remember watching a Cardinals game with a friend back in 2010 when this big strong kid who was playing third base for the Cardinals that day got into a couple of pitches and stroked them backside off the wall in St. Louis with perpetual ease for doubles.

“That’s a nice looking player right there.”

We both seemed to say it synonymously with each other, to the point we probably laughed. From that day forward I knew his name, and I was going to make sure I kept this one David Freese on my radar.

He has the propensity to get nicked easily–he’s played just 184 games over three seasons in the big leagues–and at times he still appears to be a bit ‘raw’. But there’s something about Freese that tells me he’s capable of a lot more.

Chipper Jones said earlier this spring that he likes Freese’s all around make up more than that of Ryan Zimmerman or David Wright, two players he considers to be superstars in their own right.

Freese will be 29 years old this season, so while he’s not young he’s ripe for the age of arrival, and arrive he will. Freese’s star might shine brightly only for a moment. He strikes us as a guy who could be off the charts unbelievable for one season on the back of his baseball card and then slowly taper off with seasons of .270/17/70 before riding off into the sunset. But one of those years will stand out to the fans who look back on Freese’s career numerical epitaph.

While there’s a lot of talk about Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina picking up the slack and combining the sum to replace the big part that departed for Orange County earlier in the off season, the one who will come closest to pulling a Pujols will be David Freese.

Freese has a career slash line of .354/.429/.783 during the regular season. In his 18 game postseason he decided he was going to show you all a flash of what is to come with a .465/.794/1.258 impression. He’ll settle somewhere in between that this season as he gets cozy in the middle of that St. Louis order and earns his status as a baseball rockstar in 2012.

How does .305 with 30 home runs and 120 RBI sound to you? We predict he stays healthy all year long and the BB to K ratio gets a lot closer to 1/1 this year. So while we will admit to you that he won’t be Brooks Robinson over the course of his career, he can be 1999 Fernando Tatis in St. Louis this season and play the part well.

David Freese, meet super stardom. You have been knighted.

10 Bold Predictions for 2012: Jay Bruce Wins National League MVP

As part of our preview for the upcoming 2012 season, we’ll be doing a ’10 Bold Predictions for 2012′ series that will be featured between now and Opening Day. Our first prediction focuses on the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award for 2012, and it’s going to surprise you while it really shouldn’t. Not coming from us anyways.

Ask any devoted Cincinnati Reds fan who is the proverbial heart and soul of the Cincinnati Reds and you’ll probably get an answer that’s similar to this: The heart of this team is the guy with the MVP award at first base, and the soul is probably the young Texan who stands in right field. The same guy who serves as a ringleader of the large Texas contingent in the clubhouse. Reds, born and raised in the system; not crying about their contracts but rather just trying to catch excellence with their on-field performance while it’s still out in front of them.

And therein lies whom is most valuable within the Reds organization. While Votto will grab a lot of the headlines–it is Bruce who has become the glue that truly holds this group together. It’s prophetic for many of us at this time, because one day not too long ago we saw this as Jay Bruce’s team. With Votto’s contract situation looming and departure seeming imminent, it’s Bruce who is the future still and it’s going to be Bruce who is also the present.

One day earlier this month I was reading up on projections on different players and I of course found my way to Bruce’s page in this particular magazine. A feeling of certainty and confidence hit me when I read: ‘This is the year. You’re buying 40 home runs regardless of the average which has been particularly unlucky’ or something to that effect.

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I just knew it in my heart–that Jay Bruce was going to have a season in 2012 unlike any he’s had in his entire life. You think pastures were green in May of 2011? Just wait until you see the new and improved Bruce.

Bruce lost about 16 pounds in the off-season to trim down. Many are speculating that this will allow Jay Bruce to turn on the inside fastball better or steal more bases. I see it another way.

By watching a large amount of Jay Bruce, he’s already displayed that he can turn on an inside fastball with the best of them. He’s always going to steal you between 8 and 12 bags. That’s who he is. The weight loss is going to allow Bruce to win his first Gold Glove award in the outfield–an award he should have had going away in 2010. What I’m telling you is Jay Bruce has gone a long ways towards helping himself become one of the best all-around players in the game, and it’s going to equate to wins on the field and in the WAR department in 2012.

Last year’s MVP Ryan Braun was a 7.8 WAR player in 2011, with Votto being a 7.3 in his sparkling 2010 MVP campaign. In 2012, I see Jay Bruce creeping into that 7+ WAR territory as a 25 year old player and doing it right at the time that so many seem to have him as one of the forgotten men in the National League. For instance, how many of you knew that Bruce was a 5.4 WAR player in 2010? Last year he dropped down to a 3.3 with the drop off coming solely from his fielding WAR going from 19.7 to -0.8. Bruce went from being the best right fielder in baseball defensively to hardly an asset based on what this stat tells us last season.

The weight loss will help Bruce show that he’s as good of an outfielder as the game offers, and he’s going to do his thing at the plate. I think this is the year that Bruce finds his way to around 40 home runs, with the love slightly more evenly spread than a hot month with another good 10 day stretch mixed in late in the season. It’s easy to see Bruce as a guy who only avoided struggles for some six weeks last season, I choose to look at it as a guy who has barely scratched the surface of his pedigree.

You want some numbers projections for Bruce in 2012? How about 39 home runs, 110 RBI and a .290 average with about 9 stolen bases? Add the Rawlings hardware and a team that is going to win their division going away and roll to the NLCS, and you’ve got your 2012 National League Most Valuable Player.

It’s going to be the perfect storm for Jay Bruce in 2012. And you heard it here first, he’s your next Most Valuable Player.

 

There’s no longer a reason to hate the Houston Astros

Yesterday around the time you were walking to unlock your car in your work parking lot, the Houston Astros traded Jason Bourgeois and Humberto Quintero to the Kansas City Royals for the one thing slightly above the dreaded “future considerations”. They got a minor leaguer you’ve never heard of to go with more minor league caliber guys you’ve never heard of and a player to be named later who will end up being another minor leaguer you’ve never heard of.

And suddenly I realized something: there’s no longer any reason for me to hate the Houston Astros.

This deep rooted angst started sometime ago in my childhood when they played at the old Astrodome on that dreadful carpet with those dreadful uniforms. It endured through Eric Yelding and Darryl Kile, peaked through the Killer B’s (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Derek Bell) and later on Lance Berkman. With Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner and Andy Pettite randomly sprinkled in there; I absolutely hated this team and seeing them come to town to ruin everything my Reds had at whatever point in the season we were at.

These Astros are a laughingstock, and it’s kind of sad. I will be officially retiring my ‘F–k the Astros’ tag on this blog, and we will be holding a memorial service that is long overdue for this once proud franchise. Food and refreshments will be served at the home of former Houston Chronicle writer Richard Justice’s home afterwards for friends of the dearly departed.

Next year they’re moving over to the American League where they can even become less relevant to us all–and they’re going to go with new uniforms. They’ve still got Wandy Rodriguez who was probably the last of the Mohicans in the sense of the Houston crew I enjoyed hating so much over the years. And I’m fairly certain before he’s shipped out of town for a couple of AA players he’ll shut the Reds out in Cincinnati one last time to serve as one final parting gift in this hateful relationship that they allowed me to have for so long. Largely, the Astros 2012 season will be comprised of donating wins to the more fortunate around baseball and they’ll be extremely lucky not to drop 100 games in the upcoming campaign.

The Houston Astros are the one-legged man entered in an ass kicking contest now. They’re the girl in the wrestling match. They’re going to market to you José Altuve and Jimmy Paredes. And they’re going to fail miserably at being compelling. The Houston Astros have become a factory of sadness that shames the proud era that the Brad Ausmus’s, the Mike Hampton’s, and the Richard Hidalgo’s once ushered. Speaking of, please try and tell me that Hidalgo wasn’t a PED user. Has a more ordinary man ever hit 44 HR and driven in 122? Wade Miller, Scott Elarton, and Octavio Dotel can all join the kiss my ass club as well. I hated Lima time in 1999.

The hate is gone, and a season long celebration of a life that has now ended will commence. The Reds get the Astros 15 times in 2012. Just a few more looks at that short poke porch in left field with that stupid wall and that ridiculous hill in center field named after the front office executive who was the architect of all those teams who tortured me through my childhood and into my adult life.

The revenge will be rich I figure, and the suffering for those in that hot armpit of a city will be long. It’s nice to finally be on the other side and it’s amazing how simple perspective can change hate.