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Get Briefed on Baseball

America’s pastime just kicked off the 2014 Major League season, and much has changed since last October. To get back in the loop, check out the basics of your hometown baseball roster!

1.     Arizona Diamondbacks: Pitching is at the heart of the Diamondbacks’ struggles- their team earned runs average (ERA) of 5.95 is the worst in the league. The team’s new first baseman/outfielder Mark Trumbo, however, is on the other side of the spectrum, leading the entire league in runs batted in (RBIs).

2.     Atlanta Braves: The Braves lost longtime catcher Brain McCann, but Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Craig Kimbrel are spearheading a team that is strong in every corner of the field.

3.     Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are unpredictable. They started off victorious in their series against the Yankees, but more recently were dominated by the Blue Jays. You can find consistency in hitters Chris Davis and Adam Jones, but the same can’t be said for anyone in the pitching department.

4.     Boston Red Sox: The returning World Series champs are definitely among the Top 20 teams, but they have already lost to their rival Yankees. They are also dealing with the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury, now a Yankee himself. Jon Lester and Dustin Pedroia will lead the team, assuming Pedroia’s wrist and thumbs both stay uninjured this season.

5.     Chicago Cubs: Have faith, Chicago fans. The season may be off to a slow start, already with a 2-4 record, but the Cubs’ offense is picking up the pace. Keep your eyes out for Emilio Bonifacio, Starling Castro and Anthony Rizzo, who have all been batting around .300.

6.     Chicago White Sox: The White Sox lack depth in their batting lineup, but their pitching rotation is one to be contested. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks, the first three pitchers, bring the durability to make this season far better than the failure of last fall.

7.     Cincinnati Reds: Cincinnati returns with pretty much the same roster as last year, with the exception new manager Bryan Price. Maybe new management is what the Reds need to make an impact because they can’t just rely on Joey Votto’s high on-base percentage to carry them to the post-season.

8.     Cleveland Indians: Cleveland upped their game last season with a playoff run, and they could return to the postseason if they find a groove with their new roster. It seems that the Indians didn’t gain better replacements for the key players they lost. Jason Kipnis, though, is back and sure to show off his hitting power this season.

9.     Colorado Rockies: Same name, new team. The Rockies made a lot of changes to their roster in the offseason, and it’s shown. Last year their poor batting hindered their chances of a winning season, but they now have the highest batting average in the league. Carlos Gonzalez is the hitter to watch, but some under-the-radar players like Charlie Blackmon (.488 batting average) could surprise you.

10. Detroit Tigers: The Tigers look great on paper, and, so far, the field too. Big names like Miguel Cabrera, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, and Joba Chamberlain are sure to keep this team in pennant contention for a fourth year in a row. 

11. Houston Astros: At the moment, the Astros claim last place among MLB batting averages. Where their batting prowess fails, pitching helps to compensate: take Scott Feldman, who’s maintaining a solid .44 ERA.

12. Kansas City Royals: Kansas City started off strong, but changed gears quickly as they were swept by Minnesota. They face the Twins again next week though; hopefully left fielder Alex Gordon and pitcher James Shields will use that series to prove why they’re the best on the team and why Kansas City can redeem itself.

13. Los Angeles Angels: It looks like LA has got a stacked batting lineup: Mike Trout (the top fantasy pick), Albert Pujols, David Freese and Josh Hamilton. While Hamilton has a thumb injury, he is expected to return soon. The sluggers are definitely more powerful than the bullpen, but overall this team is pretty solid.

14. Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers, like the Angels, are a real force in all departments. Despite pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s injury, the Dodgers boast healthy players like Zack Greinke on defense and Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez on offense.

15. Miami Marlins: Miami ranked in the Top 20 teams during Week 1, but Week 2 brought a disappointing six losses. Look to 24-year-old slugger Giancarlo Stanton and starting pitcher Jose Fernandez to help spearhead a quick turn-around.

16. Milwaukee Brewers: So Ryan Braun is suspended, but the Brewers haven’t let it become a setback. With Kyle Lohse pitching, Carlos Gomez getting on base and Jonathan Lucroy catching, Milwaukee might just end up in the World Series this year.

17. Minnesota Twins: The Twins are currently tied for third overall with runs scored, even though they don’t have particularly stellar batting. The pitching, however, is promising. The combined efforts of pitchers Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Correia led the Twins to their three straight wins over Kansas City.

18. New York Mets: The Mets need to turn around their pitching and fast if they want to have a winning season. Dillon Gee, Zack Wheeler and Bartolo Colon all have an ERA of at least 5. Right now, team captain and third baseman David Wright is the most valuable part of this team.  

19. New York Yankees: The pinstripes have been sharp thus far thanks to the acquisitions of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann. It will be a memorable season regardless of their record, though. It is the last for Derek Jeter and the first without Alex Rodriguez.

20. Oakland Athletics: Oakland has been on the money these first two weeks. The team leads the American League in starting ERAs, thanks to Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. Josh Donaldson is also holding his own with three homeruns on the season already.

21. Philadelphia Phillies: Philly suffered defensively last year, even with star pitcher Cliff Lee. If they can’t revamp the defense, they will have to rely on Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and a healthy Ryan Howard to rack up runs.

22. Pittsburgh Pirates: Though the Brewers swept them last week, the Pirates could still match the success of last season. Pitching as a whole isn’t stellar, but they continue to have strong individual performances. And of course, Andrew McCutchen returns as the hometown hitting hero.  

23. San Diego Padres: Andrew Cashner pitched a stellar shut out last Friday, but other than that, the Padres’ offense is not standout. Likewise, their batting average of .228 is, well, average.

24. San Francisco Giants: Pitching wasn’t going great for the Giants at the end of last season, and it looks like they might be in the same situation again. Madison Bumgarner is a standout lefty, but the rest of the bullpen hasn’t been as noticeable thus far.

25. Seattle Mariners: Seattle is rebuilding to say the least. They brought in seasoned guys like Robinson Cano and Corey Hart this season, but their team BA is still a low .190.  The pitching rotation has been holding their own so far, but we’ll have to wait and see if those big hitters were worth the big bucks.

26. St. Louis Cardinals: The National League champs are back without powerhouses Carlos Beltran and David Freese, but they will prevail. Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, and Adam Wainwright are some of the most consistent players in the game. Talk about depth.

27. Tampa Bay Rays: Evan Longoria is probably the best thing going for the Rays: a skilled third baseman and a consistent hitter. With Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers behind him, the Rays’ lineup is a powerhouse with its eyes on the postseason.

28. Texas Rangers: They’ve been consistent in recent history, winning at least 90 games in the past four seasons, so the the additions of big hitters Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo will only propel their offense forward. They have to stay healthy though–their disabled list has grown since opening day and now includes key third baseman Adrian Beltre.

29. Toronto Blue Jays: Last season was a tough one up in Canada. They may not win their division, but if Sunday’s 11-3 win over Baltimore is any indication, they’ll definitely surpass last year’s record. First baseman Edwin Encarnacion and pitcher Mark Buehrle were key in that recent victory; if anything, we can expect consistency from those two in upcoming games.

30. Washington Nationals: The Nats made a good run last year, and with a young, new manager, they are determined to pick up where they left off. Led by star pitcher Stephen Strasburg, slugger Bryce Harper and shortstop Ian Desmond, you’re likely to see them ranked among the best in the MLB all summer long. 

 

Image from bronxpinstripes.com

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Erin Cizek

Northwestern

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