Nelson stars on mound, at plate vs. Angels

May 3, 2016

RECAP

> It ended up being much closer than it should have been, but the Brewers’ 8-5 win over the Angels on Monday night was a big one nonetheless.

Jimmy Nelson (4-2, 3.05 ERA) held down a tough Angels lineup, as he went seven innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out six in what was probably his best start since his first of the season against the Giants. The only damage against Nelson came from Mike Trout, who had an RBI single in the first inning and a solo home run in the sixth.

Nelson was also locked in at the plate against Angels starter Jered Weaver (3-1, 5.40 ERA), as he notched two hits off the soft-tossing righty. One of those was an RBI single in the fifth inning that came in the midst of the Brewers’ first four-run rally. Yadiel Rivera also had an RBI single in the inning, and then Jonathan Lucroy capped it off with a two-run double to give the Brewers a 4-1 lead.

The Brewers had another four-run inning in the sixth. After Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Aaron Hill started the inning with back-to-back singles, Rivera hit another RBI single to knock Weaver out of the game. Jonathan Villar hit a two-run double later in the inning, which was followed by a Ryan Braun RBI single.

Both of those hits turned out to be valuable insurance for the Brewers, as the bullpen made it interesting after Nelson’s departure. Michael Blazek gave up RBI hits to Albert Pujols and C.J. Cron in the eighth before Jeremy Jeffress struggled in a non-save situation in the ninth. After giving up a two-out single to Rafael Ortega, Trout drove him in with an RBI single after he advanced on defensive indifference. Pujols continued the rally with a single, and then Jeffress walked Kole Calhoun to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in Ji-Man Choi. Jeffress regrouped and induced a groundout to seal the win.

> This series is off to a better start than the Miami series, in which the Brewers lost two of three. Adam Conley no-hit the Brewers through 7 2/3 innings, but Don Mattingly pulled him– with the no-hitter still intact– at 116 pitches. Lucroy broke up the no-no in the ninth off reliever Jose Urena, and the Brewers turned that it into a three-run rally, but still lost 6-3. Milwaukee also fell in the second game 7-5 thanks to a blow-up start from Chase Anderson, but outslugged the Fish 14-5 in the third game. Chris Carter homered twice and Domingo Santana also had a solo shot while Villar, Braun, Nieuwenhuis, and Martin Maldonado also had RBIs. Wily Peralta had another terrible start, but still received the win thanks to his offense.

NEWS

> Junior Guerra will start tomorrow in place of Taylor Jungmann, who was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs last week.

Guerra is an interesting story. He received a 50-game PED suspension in 2008, and then played anywhere he could find employment, including leagues in Kansas, Italy, Venezuela, and Mexico. Guerra finally made it to the majors last year with the White Sox but made just three relief appearances. This will be his first big league start.

Guerra’s stats at Triple-A this season aren’t impressive: he owns a 4.63 ERA over four starts. However, the Brewers’ top pitching prospect, Jorge Lopez, has struggled to an 8.79 ERA so far this year in his first Triple-A action, otherwise he likely would have gotten the nod. According to Craig Counsell, Josh Hader– who has dominated at Double-A Biloxi to the tune of a 0.78 ERA thus far– did not receive consideration for the start.

The Brewers designated left-handed reliever Sam Freeman for assignment to make room for Guerra on the 25-man roster. Freeman has good stuff, but struggled to harness it in a Brewers uniform, as he posted a 12.91 ERA (11 runs in 7 2/3 innings). He also walked more batters (nine) than he struck out (eight).

> As Braun is off to a hot start this season, many are speculating that he could make a good trade piece for the Brewers somewhere down the line. There is a clause in Braun’s current contract extension that allows him to choose the teams he can block trades to every season; this year, he can veto a trade to every team in baseball except the Angels, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins, and Padres.

STATS

> Braun is currently fourth in the league in batting with his .372 average.

> Carter’s seven home runs tie him for seventh in the league in the category.

> Nieuwenhuis has brought his average up to .279. He could be the Brewers’ short-term answer in center field.

> Trout, widely regarded as the best all-around player in baseball, showed the Brewers why on Monday: he went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored, as well as a stolen base. He’s played just four games against Milwaukee in his career, but over that span, he has destroyed the Brewers, as he’s hitting .600 (9-for-15) against them.

> I’m pretty sure Weaver didn’t throw a pitch harder than 84 MPH today. His decline in velocity over the past few years has been insane; it’s hard to believe he was once one of the premier strikeout pitchers in baseball. After keeping the Brewers off balance through the first four innings, they finally got to Weaver in the fifth. He ended up going 5+ innings while giving up seven runs on 11 hits. Weaver walked two and struck out three.

> Tomorrow’s match-up is Guerra (0-0, -.–) against Nick Tropeano (1-0, 2.11 ERA). Neither pitcher has faced the opposing team.


Brewers outslugged in third straight loss

April 24, 2016

RECAP

> It was an ugly night for the Brewers pitching staff on Saturday when they fell to the Phillies, 10-6. It was clear from the first batter of the game that Chase Anderson (1-2, 4.50 ERA) was going to have a long night, and even though he battled, Philadelphia’s lineup drove up his pitch count too much early on, which was his downfall.

For the second night in a row, the Brewers struck first blood, as Jonathan Lucroy’s RBI single in the first inning gave the Brewers an early lead. The Phillies retaliated with three runs in the top of the third, but Milwaukee quickly answered back in the bottom of the third against lefty Brett Oberholtzer. Jonathan Villar worked an eight-pitch walk to lead off the inning, and then, two batters later, Ryan Braun hit his fourth home run of the season, a rope to left field to tie the game 3-3. After another Lucroy single and Chris Carter’s double, Domingo Santana gave the Brewers the lead with an RBI fielder’s choice.

However, the Phillies posted another three-run inning in the third: Cesar Hernandez led off with a walk, Odubel Herrera followed with a single, and then Maikel Franco hit his third home run in two games to give the Phils a lead the would not relinquish. Franco continued to be a thorn in the Brewers’ side, driving in a run with a single in the sixth inning.

Down 7-4 in the eighth, the Brewers rallied and appeared prime for a comeback. Carter led off the inning with a solo shot– his team-leading fifth of the year– off reliever Dalier Hinojosa. Milwaukee would get one more in the inning on Aaron Hill’s sacrifice fly, leaving the Brewers down by one heading into the ninth. Jeremy Jeffress was tasked with holding the Phillies down to set the stage for a comeback in the bottom of the inning, but he was unable to do so: he allowed an RBI double to Hernandez and then a two-run blast to Herrera to put the game out of reach.

> Anderson by no means performed well on this night, but he was victim to some bad luck, especially during the Phillies’ three-run third inning. He walked Herrera to lead off the inning, but then induced back-to-pack pop-ups from Freddy Galvis and Franco and appeared to have a way out without allowing a run. Anderson had the next batter, Ryan Howard, in a 2-2 count and threw what appeared to be a decent pitch, a curveball low and outside. Howard tried to check his swing but couldn’t completely and blooped the ball in the air towards third base. Unfortunately, it was somehow too far over the shortstop Villar’s head (Villar was the only one on the left side of the infield due to the shift) and fell into no man’s land between Villar and the left fielder Braun, resulting in a game-tying RBI single for Howard.

Darin Ruf followed him with the most well-struck ball of the inning, a line drive to right center for a single. Carlos Ruiz then hit a soft ground ball down the right field line for another RBI single; had the first baseman Carter been in his normal position, he probably would have fielded it with ease, but for whatever reason he was playing way off the line. Tyler Goeddel was next in line, and he hit– you guessed it– a bloop RBI single over the head of second baseman Scooter Gennett.

So, in essence, Anderson gave up three runs on four hits in the inning, but it’s not like the Phillies were spraying extra-base hits all over the field. Just one of the four hits– Ruf’s single– was well-struck, and the rest were just poor luck for Anderson.

As a result, Anderson’s line was not pretty: he needed 99 pitches to make it through just four innings. He allowed six runs on eight hits while walking four– uncharacteristically high for him– and striking out two.

> Phillies starter Charlie Morton (1-1, 4.15 ERA), a name Brewers fans might recognize from his days with the Pirates, didn’t factor in the decision. He left the game in the top of the second after pulling a muscle and tripping on his way to first; the initial diagnosis was a hamstring strain. Morton threw just one inning in the game, giving up a run on three hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.

NEWS

> Matt Garza is making strides as he hopes to return from the disabled list earlier than anticipated. He’s been taking batting practice with the team for the last few days, and hopes to start throwing within the next week. Garza was placed on the disabled list shortly after spring training ended with a right lat strain.

> The Brewers recalled outfielder Alex Presley from Triple-A Colorado Springs on Thursday. He was off to a hot start with the Sky Sox, hitting .381 over 34 plate appearances. Presley could compete with Kirk Nieuwenheis and Ramon Flores for the center field job, which is still up for grabs after opening day center fielder Keon Broxton was optioned last week.

In a corresponding move, reliever Tyler Cravy was optioned to Triple-A. Cravy had allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings (3.18 ERA) so far this season. Right-hander Zack Jones was transferred to the 60-day DL to make room for Presley on the 40-man roster.

STATS

> As Anderson was unable to post a quality start today, the Brewers remain stuck at just four quality starts on the season, which is 29th in the majors. Jimmy Nelson has three of the Brewers’ four quality starts, which were his starts against the Giants (two runs in 7 1/3 innings), Astros (two runs in 6+ innings), and Pirates (three runs in 6+ innings). The other one was Anderson’s start against the Cardinals (three runs in six innings).

The quality start– defined as the starting pitcher going at least six innings and allowing no more than three earned runs– is definitely an overrated and useless stat, but it is alarming that the Brewers only have four at this point in the season. The Brewers have had some other good starts, such as Taylor Jungmann’s first start of the season (one earned run in five innings against the Giants) and Anderson’s first start (five shutout innings against Houston), but both failed to complete the six-inning minimum.

> Franco’s average was .241 coming into this series; he has brought it up to .299 in two games.

> Lucroy extended his hitting streak to eight games.

> The runs Jeffress allowed in the ninth were the first runs he has given up all season.

> Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda, living up to and possibly surpassing the high expectations set for him, is off to a crazy start: he’s allowed just one earned run over his first four starts. That is the lowest total any pitcher has ever given up over his first four starts in the history of the game (minimum 20 innings pitched).

> The Brewers will look to avoid being swept by Philadelphia tomorrow at 1:10 p.m. CT. They’ll send the struggling Wily Peralta (0-3, 8.35 ERA) to the mound, who is still in search of his first win; he’ll also hope to bring his ERA down to a more respectable digit. The Phillies will counter with Jerad Eickhoff (1-2, 1.89 ERA), who has actually been spectacular this season, but has just one win to show for it. Peralta is 2-2 with a 6.17 ERA in his career against the Phillies, while Eickhoff has never faced the Brewers.


Braun admits to using PEDs, out for 2013

July 23, 2013

RECAP

> The Brewers lost to the Padres last night, 5-3. Tom Gorzelanny was cruising for the most part up until the sixth inning, when he gave up a game-tying double to Carlos Quentin and what would be the game-winning hit to Jesus Guzman. Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy hit back-to-back doubles in the first inning to give the Brewers an early 2-0 lead, but that was about the only damage done to Padres starter Andrew Cashner.

BRAUN GONE

> But last night’s loss almost didn’t feel like anything following the news that was reported earlier in the day. I think we all knew it was coming, but I was surprised at the circumstances. Ryan Braun has been suspended for the rest of 2013 season (a total of 65 games). He will also miss the postseason should the Brewers make it. (We all know that won’t happen, but that was an official condition of the suspension.)

From a logical standpoint, this isn’t that big of a deal, to be honest. This is a lost season in which Braun wasn’t contributing to already, so not much changes from here on out. I’d rather he miss the rest of this season than the first half of next season. He can come back and have a fresh start.

But I know I speak for a lot of Brewers fans when I say I don’t know what to feel emotionally. Braun has been my favorite player ever since his call-up in 2007, and it was amazing watching what could have been a Hall of Fame career develop during his first few years in Milwaukee.

Yesterday, though, Braun admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. That changes everything. It means he’s been lying for the better part of the last two years. I almost don’t want to believe it. If you’ll recall, the day after his exoneration in March of 2012, he made a speech at the Brewers’ Spring Training complex in Maryvale, Arizona. It was a great speech, in my opinion, and he was so defiant about not having taken PEDs that I wouldn’t have believed for a second that he did it.

But apparently he did. Like I said, the suspension works out well for the Brewers from a logical standpoint, but I don’t think the emotional toll that this takes on the Brewers fan base that has tried to support and defend him through all of this will ever go away.

For me, at least, the worst part of this will be the way other teams’ fans will treat Brewers fans (and the team as well). After the news broke yesterday, I could hardly look at my timeline on Twitter (following Cardinals fans certainly comes back to bite you in situations like these).

Oh well. We all knew it was coming, and now this fanbase is in tatters. But we won’t be the only ones.

> One thing I strongly disagree with, however, is everyone saying Braun should apologize to certain parties, Dino Laurenzi Jr. in particular. The fact that Braun is getting suspended now doesn’t mean he did his job right. In fact, you could argue that it’s even worse. None of this changes the fact that Laurenzi kept Braun’s urine in a refrigerator in his basement overnight. Had Braun been suspended back in early 2012, then sure, maybe apologize to Laurenzi (but that’s assuming he would have done the job correctly). The whole reason Braun didn’t get suspended until now is because of his error.

Braun also doesn’t need to apologize to the Arizona players who feel “cheated” from losing the NLDS in 2011. Because it’s given that ALL of their players were clean at the time, right?

> And my last note on this subject: it’s irritating that MLB went out of its way to isolate Braun from the rest of the pack, meaning everyone else related to the Biogenesis clinic. Those hundreds of players across professional baseball are just as guilty as Braun and have been lying all along as well. I don’t see any reason to go after Braun specifically.

But, with Braun out of the way, MLB is going to stop at nothing to suspend everyone related to the Biogenesis clinic. Alex Rodriguez is going to get absolutely hammered. Yasmani Grandal, Jhonny Peralta, and Melky Cabrera are just a few other names that were on that list. Other fan bases are about to be crushed along with us.

Ryan-Braun

THE NEWS

> Three Brewers relievers have been drawing interest recently: John Axford, Jim Henderson, and Francisco Rodriguez. The Tigers, Dodgers, and Red Sox have reportedly been heavily scouting the Brewers’ relievers recently.

> Yovani Gallardo remains a trade target, but since it was reported that the Diamondbacks and Rockies were interested in him, there haven’t been many rumors surrounding him.

> The Brewers play the second game of this four-gamer with the Padres tonight at 7:10 PM CT. Donovan Hand (0-1, 3.27 ERA) will go for the Brewers and be opposed by spot starter Tyson Ross (0-4, 3.60 ERA).


Seven Brewers to participate in WBC

January 17, 2013

> It seems like the list just keeps getting larger. As of right now, seven Brewers are on their respective countries World Baseball Classic rosters: Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, John Axford, Jim Henderson, Taylor Green, Yovani Gallardo, and Martin Maldonado.

Braun and Luc will play for Team USA (Braun also played for them in 2009). Axford, Henderson, and Green were all selected to Team Canada. Gallardo will play for Team Mexico, and Maldonado for Puerto Rico.

I’m happy for all of these guys, but the one issue with the Classic is that it interferes with Spring Training. I typically don’t have an issue with that, but, as someone on Twitter pointed out earlier today, both of the Brewers’ big league catchers will be participating in the WBC, so the new Brewers pitchers (particularly the relievers) won’t have much time to get familiar with them. That shouldn’t be an issue, but it is something to think about.

Also, the fact that Gallardo will be throwing extra innings due the WBC will probably try and prompt Ron Roenicke to give him some sort of innings limit, knowing his shenanigans. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

> The Brewers added righty reliever Rob Wooten to Major League Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. The Brewers’ list of non-roster invitees now stands at 18: pitchers Wooten, Jairo Asencio, Jed Bradley, Darren Byrd, Kelvim Escobar, Donovan Hand, Taylor Jungmann, Arcenio Leon, Travis Webb, catchers Dayton Buller, Anderson De La Rosa, Blake Lalli, Rafael Nada, Adam Weisenburger, infielders Hector Gomez, Hunter Morris, Donnie Murphy, and outfielder Kentrail Davis.

> Four Brewers filed for salary arbitration today: Axford, Burke Badenhop, Marco Estrada, and Carlos Gomez. Axford projects to get the largest contract. The Brewers already avoided arbitration with one of their eligibles, Chris Narveson.

> Minor moves: 

Blue Jays: Signed ex-Brewer Henry Blanco and Adam Loewen to minor league deals; designated Tommy Hottovy for assignment; re-signed Colby Rasmus to a one-year deal; signed Denis Villatora to a five-year deal.
Orioles: Re-signed Nolan Reimold and Tommy Hunter to one-year deals.
Phillies: Signed Rodrigo Lopez, Juan Cruz, and Aaron Cook to minor league deals.
Yankees: Released ex-Brewer Chris Dickerson; re-signed Phil Hughes to a one-year deal.
Angels: Signed Fernando Cabrera to a minor league deal; re-signed Jerome Williams to a one-year deal.
Indians: Released Thomas Neal.
Reds: Signed ex-Brewer Cesar Izturis to a minor league deal.
Pirates: Re-signed Jeff Karstens to a one-year deal.
Diamondbacks: Re-signed J.J. Putz to a one-year deal.
Nationals: Signed Delwyn Young to a minor league deal; signed Rafael Soriano to a two-year deal.
Dodgers: Signed Peter Moylan, Jesus Flores, Deivy Castillo, Ariel Sandoval, Ravel Hernandez, and Miguel Urena to minor league deals.
Mariners: Signed Luis Liberato to a minor league deal.
Rangers: Signed Kyle McClellan to a minor league deal.
Marlins: Signed Michael Wuertz, Nick Green, and Austin Kearns to minor league deals.
Tigers: Signed Don Kelly to a minor league deal.
Rockies: Re-signed Wilton Lopez and Josh Outman to one-year deals.


Random HGH testing to take place

January 11, 2013

> We may be looking at the end of the steroid era. MLB has finally decided to bring down the hammer, and in-season HGH testing is going to take place for the first time, starting in 2013.

Previously, testing only took place during Spring Training and the offseason, but now it’ll happen randomly during the regular season. The random timing of the testing brings about an element of surprise- in other words, players won’t know when they’re going to be tested, so they can’t juice up strategically and work around their testing dates (which they would have had prior knowledge of).

But this is definitely a positive for baseball. The doubts of the steroid era showed their true colors yesterday, as no one was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996. Players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were never proven to have taken steroids, but the speculation was still out there, which was enough to keep them out of the Hall. This new rule should take that aspect away from the game (though it won’t show in the HOF voting for a few years to come).

> Now for an intriguing piece of Brewers news: the club brought aboard right-hander Kelvim Escobar with a minor league deal and an invite to Spring Training. Escobar hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Majors since 2009, and that was in just one start: he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2007.

2007 also happened to be Escobar’s career year, when he went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA as a member of the Angels. For his career, he’s 101-91 with a 4.15 ERA (seven years with the Blue Jays, five in LA).

The odds of Escobar making the big league team at any point during the season are slim, barring a major injury to one or more of the Brewers’ starter prospects. But, at 36 years of age, he’ll still be a cool story to follow.

> The Brewers also avoided arbitration with Chris Narveson, one of the many starters competing for a spot in the rotation this spring. He received $840,000 in his first year of eligibility.

> The club outrighted Arcenio Leon to Triple-A yesterday after designating him for assignment earlier this week.

> Jonathan Lucroy is also going to play in the World Baseball Classic, joining Ryan Braun on Team USA.

> Minor moves: 

Giants: Signed Kensuke Tanaka to a minor league deal.
Nationals: Signed Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league deal.
Blue Jays: Claimed Tommy Hottovy off waivers from the Rangers; designated Chad Beck for assignment.
White Sox: Signed Jeff Gray, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Bryan Anderson, Josh Bell, Steve Tolleson, and Stefan Gartrell to minor league deals.
Cubs: Re-signed Luis Valbuena to a one-year deal; signed Brent Lillibridge and Darnell McDonald to minor league deals.
Rays: Signed Craig Albernaz, Jason Bourgeois, and J.D. Martin to minor league deals.
Reds: Signed Nate Samson to a minor league deal.
Dodgers: Signed Matt Palmer to a minor league deal.


No HOF inductees this year

January 10, 2013

> Not this year. Arguably the highest debated Hall of Fame election ever ended with no new inductees. The highest percentage a player received was Craig Biggio with 68%. Here are the rest of the results:

Craig Biggio- 68%
Jack Morris- 68%
Jeff Bagwell- 60%
Mike Piazza- 58%
Tim Raines- 52%
Lee Smith- 48%
Curt Schilling- 39%
Roger Clemens- 38%
Barry Bonds- 36%
Edgar Martinez- 36%
Alan Trammell- 34%
Larry Walker- 22%
Fred McGriff- 21%
Dale Murphy- 19%
Mark McGwire- 17%
Don Mattingly- 13%
Sammy Sosa- 13%
Rafael Palmeiro- 9%

(Players who received less than 5% were left off this list)

I’ve never really publicly expressed my opinion regarding the Hall of Fame, particularly with this ballot. But forget about steroids for a second: two players who did absolutely nothing to affect their playing careers- Joe Jackson and Pete Rose- are banned from the Hall of Fame for gambling. That alone makes me start to question the legitimacy of the Hall when two of the greatest players ever don’t even receive consideration (and if they did receive consideration, they’d be in in an instant).

Anyway, I guess if I were held at gunpoint and had to create a ballot, mine would include Biggio, Bagwell, Raines, Smith, Clemens, Bonds, and Schilling. There would probably be some edits if I actually took the time and sat down to think about it, but those are the first names that come to mind for me. Again, though, I’ve never been one to obsess over Hall voting.

> Ryan Braun is going to play for the US team in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 (he also participated in the 2009 game).

I’m probably not as opposed to this as others. It does bring about a higher risk of injury and cuts into Spring Training, but I’d much rather have a position player in the WBC than a pitcher.

> The recently-signed Mike Gonzalez thinks the Brewers are built to win.

> Minor moves: 

Rangers: Signed Lance Berkman (wow) and Jason Frasor to one-year deals; outrighted Eli Whiteside to Triple-A; designated Tommy Hottovy for assignment.
Mariners: Signed Mike Jacobs to a minor league deal; outrighted D.J. Mitchell to Triple-A.
Indians: Signed Nick Swisher to a four-year deal; designated Neal Thomas for assignment; signed Brett Myers to a one-year deal; signed Jerry Gil, Edward Paredes, and Scott Kazmir to minor league deals; acquired Quincy Latimore from the Pirates.
Dodgers: Signed Jeremy Moore and Alfredo Amezaga to minor league deals; signed J.P. Howell to a one-year deal.
Royals: Signed Blaine Boyer and Chad Tracy to minor league deals.
Orioles: Released Elvis Duran; claimed Luis Martinez off waivers from the Rangers.
Blue Jays: Claimed Chad Beck off waivers from the Pirates.
Yankees: Claimed Russ Canzler off waivers from the Indians; designated ex-Brewer Chris Dickerson for assignment.
Cubs: Signed Dontrelle Willis and Zach Putnam to minor league deals.
Red Sox: Signed Jonathan Diaz and Mark Hamilton to minor league deals.
Mets: Signed Omar Quintanilla to a minor league deal.
Pirates: Released Rick VandenHurk; acquired Jeanmar Gomez from the Indians.
Nationals: Re-signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal; signed Brandon Mann to a minor league deal.
Athletics: Re-signed Chris Resop to a one-year deal.
Rockies: Signed Manny Corpas to a minor league deal.


Comparing the mega-teams from LA

December 17, 2012

> Following the 2011 season, Los Angeles was not in a good state as far as the sport of baseball goes. The Angels and Dodgers hadn’t reached the postseason in 2010 or 2011, posting some of their worst seasons in decades (by their standards). The Angels were struggling to find any offensive consistency to back their decent starting pitching. The Dodgers were having similar issues, but their problems extended off the field as well, as Frank McCourt left them bankrupt.

I don’t think the Dodgers were expecting to contend in 2012 (at least early on) because of where they were financially, but their one huge move was giving Matt Kemp an eight-year, $160 million deal following his MVP-caliber campaign in 2011. The Angels, however, made themselves early favorites for the World Series by signing Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal, and C.J. Wilson to a five-year, $77.5 million deal.

Fast-forward to the 2012 offseason- following yet another season in which neither of these teams made the postseason- and a lot has changed. The Dodgers are nowhere near bankrupt; in fact, they’re the polar opposite, thanks to Magic Johnson and Co. The Angels are in the same position they were last year, but if they don’t make the postseason this time around, there’s something very wrong.

Anyway, let’s take a look at each of these teams from every angle- the lineup, the rotation, the bullpen, and so on. Both of them are considered near locks for the playoffs, but one has to be better than the other, right?

THE LINEUPS

Angels: 

1. Mike Trout, CF
2. Erick Aybar, SS
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Josh Hamilton, RF
5. Mark Trumbo, LF
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Howie Kendrick, 2B
8. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
9. Chris Iannetta, C

Dodgers: 

1. Mark Ellis, 2B
2. Luis Cruz, 3B
3. Matt Kemp, CF
4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
5. Hanley Ramirez, SS
6. Andre Ethier, RF
7. Jerry Hairston Jr., LF
8. A.J. Ellis, C
9. Pitcher

OK, first off, Hairston isn’t going to start the entire season. Once Carl Crawford returns from the disabled list, he’ll take Hairston’s spot, and that’ll change the whole culture of the lineup (many project Crawford to hit second). But, until Crawford comes back- which will probably sometime in late May- that’s what I’m guessing the Dodgers’ lineup will look like.

Anyway, those are both powerhouse lineups. The each feature possibly the best 3-4-5-6 combos in their respective league in Pujols-Hamilton-Trumbo-Morales and Kemp-Gonzalez-Ramirez-Ethier. It’s hard to say which is really better than the other; both are going to be very exciting to watch. While I think the Angels’ lineup might be the more exciting with three perennial MVP candidates in Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton, I think the Dodgers have the overall better lineup. The reason I say this is because there are more experienced hitters in the Dodgers lineup, and by experienced, I mean hitters that you know what you’re going to get from them. Kemp, A-Gon, Ramirez, and Ethier aren’t necessarily “veterans” yet, but they’ve certainly been around the block a few times and have shown they can produce consistently at the big league level from year to year. The Angels definitely have that experience in Pujols and Hamilton, but they have a lot of younger, inexperienced hitters who I think we need to see more from. There’s no denying that Trout had the best offensive rookie season in quite some time, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be susceptible to a sophomore slump. Trumbo hit over .300 for the most of the season last year, but then flamed out for the last two months and fell to a .268 average.

I think if everyone in the Angels’ lineup performs to their ability (and that includes Kendrick, who everyone thought was going to be a batting champion one day), then they’ll have the better lineup. But until that happens, I’d put my money on the Dodgers’ lineup, especially once Crawford gets back.

Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp

THE ROTATIONS

Angels: 

1. Jered Weaver
2. C.J. Wilson
3. Tommy Hanson
4. Joe Blanton
5. Garrett Richards

Dodgers

1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Zack Greinke
3. Chad Billingsley
4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
5. Josh Beckett

Coming into this offseason, both teams wanted to improve their starting rotations, and I think each did. However, I think the Angels losing Greinke really hurt them. I also wasn’t in complete agreement with them just giving up on Dan Haren and Ervin Santana; I really wonder if they’re going to get what they could have gotten from those two from Hanson and Blanton. And Richards is going to be good somewhere down the road, but I’m not so sure he’s ready for a full-time rotation spot. There are even some question marks surrounding Wilson, who had a terrible second half for the Angels in 2012. Weaver is no doubt the ace, but health is a bit of a concern with him; same goes for Hanson.

To me, the Dodgers obviously have the better rotation, even though there are a few enigmas in theirs as well. Kershaw/Greinke is one- if not the best- 1-2 punches in baseball, and they get to throw half of their games at the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium. After Kershaw and Greinke, however, there are a few questions. Billingsley can be an All-Star caliber pitcher when he’s on, but that isn’t always the case. Perhaps not having the pressure of being a #2 starter will help him. Anyway, the 4-5 spots in the Dodgers’ rotation should go to Ryu and Beckett, in my opinion. The Dodgers also have veterans Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang, all of whom are capable of starting, but I think Ryu and Beckett will give them better results than any of the other two.

Clayton Kershaw

It’s evident that both of these teams will have to back up their rotations with those huge lineups, but I think the Dodgers are better off starter-wise.

THE ‘PENS 

(NOTE: I only put the six guys who I thought were guaranteed spots. There are probably going to be a few other long relievers in each bullpen>)

Angels: 

Ryan Madson
Ernesto Frieri
Scott Downs
Sean Burnett
Kevin Jepsen
Jerome Williams

Dodgers: 

Brandon League
Kenley Jansen
Ronald Belisario
Scott Elbert
Matt Guerrier
Javy Guerra

This is actually the one category in which I think the Angels are better off. There’s only one guy that I think the Dodgers can count on to be consistent, and that’s Jansen. The rest of the guys- including League, who they named their closer and threw $22 million at- have had up-and-down careers.

The Angels, on the other hand, have a nice mix of young flamethrowers and veteran guys who know how to pitch. I loved the Madson pick-up; I expect him to have a good year even though he missed all of 2012. Frieri can also close if need be. Then they have a great tandem of lefties in Downs and Burnett. This has the makings of a great bullpen for the Angels.

Frieri

These are both going to be very exciting teams to watch, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we saw an LA vs. LA World Series (though it never seems to work out that way). I think the Dodgers have the slight edge, but that’s not to put a damper on the team the Angels are going to field.

> The Phillies signed Mike Adams to a two-year, $12 million deal (plus a vesting option for a third year), so that puts to bed any rumors that spoke of his possible return to Milwaukee. But Doug Melvin probably wouldn’t have been willing to give him $6 million a year anyway.

> The Mets are being the Mets once again, as they have a deal in place to send the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner- R.A. Dickey- to the Blue Jays in a seven-player deal. The deal also includes Josh Thole and another prospect going to the Jays along with Dickey, while the Mets are getting back Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, John Buck, and a prospect.

I’m starting to wonder why the Mets gave an extension to David Wright if this is what they intended to do all along, but that’s their screwed-up organization for you. But I like the deal for the Blue Jays. They may have hurt themselves in the long run, but they’re making themselves favorites for the AL East next year. They’ve assembled a pretty nice rotation in Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Brandon Morrow, and Ricky Romero, all of whom have been considered aces at some point in their careers.

> Minor moves: 

Phillies: Signed John Lannan to a one-year deal.
Marlins: Signed Jonathan Albaladejo and Ed Lucas to minor league deals.
Giants: Signed Javier Herrera to a minor league deal.
Twins: Signed Mike Pelfrey to a one-year deal.