Welcome to the Spitballers!, SportsNickel’s baseball roundtable. This is a special Wednesday edition of Spitballers. After this week we will be moving to our new home on Saturdays. If you have questions you want answered, you can send them to me (David) by Thursday night and we will do our best to answer them.
The Spitballers are: Dan Vachalek, Joe Cantiello, Matt Strobl and Rich Stowe
1. Who is the greatest living announcer among the old guard right now?
Dan Vachalek: Bob Uecker. He doesn’t just announce the game on the radio, he is able to announce the game but throw in stories as well. That adds a lot to the broadcast, and you’ll always be learning something about somebody. He teaches and he lets you be able to learn about the game in ways you haven’t before as well as following the game.
As for TV, it’s easily Vin Scully. He is a perfect announcer. He does all 9 innings by himself and when there is something big happens, he doesn’t constantly talk, he lets you feel like you’re actually at the game. He lets you hear the crowd, but he is also always teaching and informing you.
Joe Cantiello: Scully, next!
Matt Strobl: In terms of reputation, probably Vin Scully. There are fewer every year because new guys simply aren’t adequate replacements.
Rich Stowe: Vin Scully. Bob Uecker would be close, but not close enough.
2. How many wins are you giving Cliff Lee in Texas.
Joe: I’ll give him 8. I figure he will need some time to adjust to the Texas ballpark and then the Rangers will fade in the hot August heat and cost him a game or two.
Matt: He should get about 9 or 10. Lee is a great pitcher…I’m still not sure how or when that happened, but it did. Now he’s on the division’s best team with roughly 15 or 16 starts remaining. Percentage-wise, I expect him to post a similar record to what he had in Seattle because he really can’t pitch much better than he has been. Something like 10-3 with a few no-decisions would be reasonable.
Rich: I’ll give Lee 8 wins in Texas and only 1 in October.
3. Is the AL west race over?
Dan: Not yet. If the Rangers keep up the way they were playing in the first half of the season and continue that into the second half, then they are going to win the division easily. I’m thinking the Angels or Mariners can make a run back to catching the Rangers, but I think they’ll fall 3-4 games short, at least.
Joe: Not at all. My pick, Seattle, is bombing but I think there is still a race between the Rangers and the Angels. As I mentioned above I think the Texas heat will have an effect on the Rangers and I think the Angels pitching is starting to come into its own.
The Angels started off 12-18 because their starters gave up too many runs, a 5.32 ERA in the first 30 games. However, by the end of June the Angels’ starters were 26-14 with a 3.72 ERA in 48 games and the Angels were 31-17 since early May. They were also, by the end of June, 20-8 since losing offensive spark plug first baseman Kendry Morales for the season on May 29. They have faded a bit since then and stand 47-44 but I expect the Angels to regroup during the break and be very competitive with the Rangers.
And don’t be surprised if the Angels try and make a deal themselves to shore up their first base position until Morales returns. Besides who knows how ready he will be when he does come back so they may need a first baseman for longer than just the regular season. Obviously I am picking the Angels to make the playoffs and not the Rangers.
Matt: Not for a few more months, although Texas just became even more of a favorite. It should be noted that I picked them to take the division in the pre-season predictions.
Rich: No – only being up 4.5 games is not enough, especially when the trading deadline hasn’t passed yet and the Rangers probably can’t make any more moves due to their financial situation (really surprised they were allowed to make any trades in the first place – normally teams under financial strains/bankruptcy are told not to make moves). I would not be surprised to see the Angels make some moves to make this race close till the end.
4. The White Sox have gone 25-5 over the last 30 and won 9 of 10, but are only a half game ahead of the Tigers, can they pull away or is the All-Star break going to kill the momentum?
Dan: They need to keep rolling, but I don’t think the All-Star is going to hurt them too much. The Tigers have a very dangerous team and I don’t think the White Sox can take over the division from the Tigers. I think the Tigers win the division, but by a game.
Joe: No one can play at that pace for the duration of the season. They will return to being closer to a .550 team than a .830 team. Expect a fight between the Tigers and the White Sox until the end of September.
Matt: They can’t pull away because they’re not that good. A hot streak is fine, but the team just lost Peavy and can’t expect its offense to stay this ridiculously hot for much longer. Minnesota and Detroit are solid teams, and won’t fade away. I expect both to consider deadline deals that could strengthen their teams. This should be a 3-horse race for as long as the White Sox can hold up, but don’t expect the likes of Freddy Garcia to keep over-achieving forever.
Rich: The AL Central is nowhere near finished – the Twins, White Sox and Tigers are all going to be in that one till the end. The Twins are perennial 2nd half teams, especially the last couple of years.
5. The NL West have 4 teams within a weekend series of first place, all winning with a 55% or better rate- do you see this continuing?
Joe: I just don’t see the Rockies and the Padres pitching holding up throughout the rest of the season.
Yeah, Ubaldo is so far greater than great but I expect him to taper off a tad, at least, and the rest of that staff is not any great shakes. The Rockies pitching presently stands at 15th in the NL in ERA and Strikeouts, 20th in Saves and is 11th in WHIP. With no Ubaldo where would they be right now? Expect them to fade when Ubaldo comes back to earth a bit.
The Padres have a better pitching staff and are 1st, 3rd, 7th and 1st in ERA, Strikeouts, Saves and Whip, respectively. However their hitting sucks and they are basically all pitching and very little offense as they are about 25th or thereabouts in most offensive categories.
The Giants have almost an equal or better pitching staff as the Padres as they rank 3rd, 1st, 1st and 16th in ERA, Strikeouts, Saves and WHIP. And their offense while not exactly clicking on all cylinders yet is still about at the mid range rank point in the NL, (about a collective 15th or so). Plus, if 1B/Catcher Buster Posey can keep up his offense pace or anything near what he is presently doing, then the rest of that lineup should also then improve.
And the Dodgers are just not that good as I keep trying to tell everyone since day one. Their offense is no too shabby but they don’t have a lot of power (24th in HRS). And they are only slightly better than the Giants in the other hitting categories. Their pitching is also not that great. They rank 17th, 2nd, 13th and 12th in ERA, Strikeouts, Saves and WHIP.
I picked the Giants to take this division and I still pick them to win it. I expect hem to start pulling away in the second half. They won’t win in a walk but they will win by about four or more games.
Matt: It could, but it’s more likely that one of the the four will fall off. It will probably be the Giants. They don’t have the firepower, even with Buster Posey smacking the ball around. The reality is that this division is mediocre, or at least, lacks balance. These teams can all limit opponents’ runs but also all struggle to score, relative to the other elite teams in the game. Watch the Dodgers, because they have a strong intra-divisional record.
Rich: 4 teams won’t continue to compete in the NL West – look for 1 to drop by beginning of August and the other by the end of August then 2 teams will battle it out in September. I’m betting the Rockies and Padres.