September 2011

MLB Playoff Preview – Texas Rangers

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

Only one of the two teams to face off in the World Series last season is back in the playoffs, and the Texas Rangers are looking to win it all this time. After a surprising playoff run which ended with a loss to the San Francisco Giants, the Rangers showed this season that they are more than a one year wonder. After the L.A. Angels made it a close race down the stretch the Rangers finally pulled away to clinch the AL West, and currently have the second best record in the league behind the New York Yankees.

It should come as no surprise that the Rangers offense is leading the way again, as the team is in the top three in the American League in average, runs and home runs. The team has five players with more than 25 home runs despite four of them playing less than 125 games. Two of those players, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli, are in their first year with the club and have made an already deep and explosive lineup, which features last season’s MVP Josh Hamilton, that much better.

C.J. Wilson, an emerging star, has built off of last season’s success to become the team ace. With a 16-7 record and 2.97 ERA Wilson is able to match up well with whoever the Ranger’s opponent throws at them. Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando round out the rotation, with Ogando likely headed to the bullpen for the postseason. While none of the bunch has pitched at the same level as Wilson this year all are good enough to keep the team in the game, especially with the loaded offense that the Rangers feature.

Second year pitcher Neftali Feliz appears to have settled into the role of closer, at least for now, despite talk at the beginning of the year of converting him back to a starter. His 30 saves and 2.83 ERA are part of a very talented and deep bullpen that the Rangers will count on to push for a title. Midseason acquisition Mike Adams has really bolstered a ‘pen that includes Koji Uehara and Darren Oliver as set up men having terrific seasons.

How the Rangers can lose:

One of the biggest worries the Rangers have is their health. With Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and others having missed time already, another injury this late in the season could mean trouble for Texas. A pitching staff that is deep although not untouchable needs the lineup to be healthy and at the top of its game. Any offense struggles might be too much for the staff to give the team a realistic chance.

How the Rangers can win:

If the lineup stays healthy and hits the way they are capable of, the pitching staff should be good enough to make another deep run and push for that title. The starters don’t have to be dominant every night if the Rangers are putting up a ton of runs; they just have to be good enough to get the ball to the bullpen with the lead.

Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

MLB Playoff Preview – Arizona Diamondbacks

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

With all of the division races over the Arizona Diamondbacks stand out as the most surprising division winner this season. Not only did they have to beat out the defending World Series Champion San Francisco Giants, but they did so with a young and unproven bunch; a bunch that was not expected by most to compete this year, let alone make it to the postseason.

So how did the D’backs do it? They were led by their emerging star, 24 year old right fielder Justin Upton. After a breakout year in 2009 Upton regressed a bit last season, but with a .291 average, 31 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 2011 he has proven that he is a star on the rise. Alongside Upton the Diamondbacks are a fairly feast or famine offense, currently sitting 8th in the league in average but 4th in runs and homers. A poster child for the Arizona offense is centerfielder Chris Young who has 20 home runs but is hitting just .234. Much like Upton, however, Young possesses speed which adds another dimension of offense and his 22 steals lead the team.

While the offensive numbers aren’t a complete shock, the pitching seems to have caught everyone by surprise. Ian Kennedy has led the charge and along with a 2.88 ERA he has a 21-4 record, good for a first place tie in the league in wins. Kennedy probably is a step behind Cy Young frontrunners Clayton Kershaw, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, but the fact that he has been mentioned with that group might be a bigger surprise than the team’s success as a whole.

After Kennedy the rotation has found more surprising success from Daniel Hudson (16-11, 3.43), Joe Saunders (12-12, 3.58) and Josh Collmenter (10-10, 3.38). The bullpen has quietly been anchored by J.J. Putz (45 saves, 2.21) who is enjoying his best season since 2007 when he had a dominating season with the Seattle Mariners. David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler and Joe Paterson lead the team in appearances so it will likely be up to them to bridge the gap between the starters and Putz in order to make a deep run in the playoffs.

How the Diamondbacks can lose:

The pitching is always tougher in the playoffs and if the Diamondbacks aren’t hitting the ball out of the park they will probably have a tough time scoring runs, leading to an elimination. The other weakness for Arizona is it’s pitching staff, especially when compared to others around the league. Despite the team’s feel good story the staff still doesn’t match up with the depth and talent of the Phillies and Brewers, the top two teams in the league. Unless the D’backs staff pitches a bit above their heads it may not matter much what the offense does.

How the Diamondbacks can win:

Arizona will most likely be matched up with the Phillies or Brewers in the first round, and thus will undoubtedly be underdogs. If they can use this to their advantage to find an extra motivational edge and possibly catch their opponent taking them lightly they may be able to steal a game early and shift the tide of the series. As a young team it can be hard, but patience can go a long way if they are to pull a first round upset. Drawing a few walks then using their power to put a few crooked numbers on the scoreboard is the best chance Arizona has. Surely it’s a tall task, but not something out of the reach of the Diamondbacks.

Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

MLB Playoff Preview – Milwaukee Brewers

By Jared Weymier,  Director of Promotions

After a disappointing 2010 campaign the Milwaukee Brewers had high hopes for the 2011 season.  The team gutted their farm system for former Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke and Toronto Blue Jays ace Shaun Marcum.

The Season got off to a bumpy start when Greinke cracked a rib playing pickup basketball before the season started.  The Brew Crew got swept by the Cincinnati Reds in the first series and compiled a 14-20 record by May 8th.   During that stretch the Brewers battled injuries to Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Takashi Saito, and LaTroy Hawkins.

However, the Brewers turned it around before the all-star break and over took the St. Louis Cardinals for the top spot in the National League Central.  The Brewers remained hot after the all-star break  going 32-11 from July 14th-August 28th.  They built a 10.5 game lead in the National League Central over the rival Cardinals and clinched last night win a win accompanied by a Cardinals loss.

When people think of the Brewers they more than likely think of one of the best three four hitting combos in the league of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.  However, the Brewers have been led by a dominating pitching staff this season headlined by Zach Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, and Randy Wolf.  As opposed to last year, the bullpen has been able to shut down opponents.  On the day of the all-star game the Brewers traded with the New York Mets for closer Francisco Rodriguez and converted him to set up man for John Axford who has been lights out all year for the Crew.

The Brewers offense is slightly better than average with the constant threat for the long ball.  Ryan Braun is having a MVP type season and Prince Fielder, in what is likely to be his last year in Milwaukee, is putting up ridiculous numbers.  However, an injury to second baseman Rickie Weeks and the lack of production from third baseman Casey McGehee and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt has caused for an inconsistent season offensively.

How the Brewers Can Win:  If the Brewers pitching staff can remain dominant the Brewers have a real shot at advancing throughout the playoffs.  Braun and Fielder need to continue hitting the ball well and the bullpen will need to hold up their end of the bargain late in games.   The X factor for the Brewers could end up being controversial outfielder Nyjer Morgan, who has been a spark for the Crew all year.  The Brewers are also hoping Craig Counsell has one last playoff trick up his sleeve!

How the Brewers Can Lose:  The Brewers end the regular season with a road record of 39-42 and have been atrocious against good teams on the road.  With the National League going through Philadelphia this year the Brewers are going to have to find a way to win away from Miller Park.  Another problem facing this team is its defense.   There have been far too many errors this season at inopportune times and that just might catch up to the Crew in the playoffs.

Jared joined the Crawdads as the promotions assistant before the 2011 season, and took charge of the team’s promotional fun throughout the campaign. A native of Milwaukee, WI and graduate of the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, Jared previously worked for the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Operations Department and is well known for his undefeated record in the Brewers’ famed Sausage Race. Jared enjoys following Wisconsin teams and working out.

MLB Playoff Preview – New York Yankees

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

You know the names, you know the story. Behind Derek Jeter, Mariano River, CC Sabathia and MVP candidate Curtis Cranderson the New York Yankees won the American League East and are once again a heavy favorite to return to the World Series. While the familiar names have made headlines by reaching milestones this season (Jeter reaching 3,000 hits, Rivera setting the all time saves record) it has been members of the new Yankee era that have done much of the heavy lifting this season.

Sabathia (19-8, 3.01 ERA) has turned in another Cy Young caliber season while leading an interesting mix of a rotation behind him. While A.J. Burnett, the supposed number two starter, has struggled mightily to the tune of a 5.28 ERA, the Yankees have counted on a couple of surprising veterans and a young right hander who pitched himself into a permanent rotation spot. Freddy Garcia (11-8. 3.77) and Bartolo Colon (8-9. 3.81) have cooled a bit after hot starts, but still have held up better than most could have imagined. But it has been 24 year old Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.62) who may have saved the rotation after the struggles of Burnett, and should be the number two man behind Sabathia heading into the playoffs.

The story of the year, however, has been that of Granderson. Always a duel threat with his speed and power potential, Granderson is among the league leaders with his 41 home runs to go along with 24 steals 119 RBI. The biggest improvement he has made this season has been his performance against left handed pitching, which had been his biggest offensive weakness. This year he actually has a higher batting average against lefties than against righties (.277 vs .266) and leads the league in home runs off of lefties with 16. The short right field porch in the new Yankee Stadium probably gives Granderson a slight offensive boost, but there is no doubt that he has been one of the best players in the majors this season.

The bullpen has been anchored by Mariano Rivera, which has been the case for what seems like a lifetime. Aside from setting the all time saves record, Mo has had another tremendous season with 44 saves and a 1.95 ERA. What may separate the Yankees from the pack is the fact that this year the bullpen has a clear 8th inning setup man in a dominant David Robertson. With a 1.11 ERA and a 13.36 strikeouts per nine innings, Robertson is as tough to hit as any reliever in the game. The rest of the Yankees bullpen is solid, but with these two at the back end teams will have to get to the Yankees in the first 7 innings to have their best chance to win.

How the Yankees can lose:

After Sabathia the rotation has some question marks, especially if they are matched up against an American League offense such as the Texas Rangers, which is what the matchup would be if the season ended today. If the back end of the Yankee rotation struggles it may not matter how well Sabathia pitches or how well Granderson and the offense hits the ball.

 How the Yankees can win:

If Sabathia and Nova continue as they have all season long and they can get quality starts out of either Garcia or Colon the offense should hit well enough to carry the team through to the World Series. A strong October from the bullpen should help pick up the slack of the veterans in the rotation if they aren’t able to deliver long performances.

Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

MLB Playoff Preview – Detroit Tigers

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

Led by Cy Young favorite, MVP candidate and staff ace Justin Verlander, the Detroit Tigers cruised to the finish line in the American League Central race this season. With a 24-5 record and league leading 2.29 ERA Verlander is essentially a lock for the American League Cy Young award and will garner strong consideration in the MVP race, no small feat considering how few pitchers are in the running for that award let alone finish at the top.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of pressure put on the Detroit hurler, but that has been the case all season long as the Tigers more closely resemble a mediocre team when Verlander is not on the mound than the contender they are when he is, as shown by the fact that they are only 8th in the league in runs against despite his outstanding numbers.

The Detroit offense is good, not great, but could be enough for a deep run if they can follow the lead of superstar Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera, always an MVP candidate, is having another superb season, even if it has been a bit overshadowed by Verlander. With a .331 batting average and .997 OPS, both good for second in the league, Cabrera is undoubtedly the key to the Detroit offense. Victor Martinez has been a nice addition to the lineup and Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila have played well, but this offense belongs to Cabrera almost as much as the pitching staff does to Verlander.

Behind Verlander the Tigers rotation is fairly thin, but the midseason addition of Doug Fister from Seattle has given them a solid number two pitcher. With Detroit Fister has gone 7-1 with a 2.02 and an equally sparkling .898 WHIP. The rest of the rotation is made up of veteran Brad Penny, who has struggled this season, and youngsters Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello who have yet to establish themselves with any consistency.

The bullpen in Detroit doesn’t get much attention with Verlander being the talk of the town, but it is solid nonetheless. Closer Jose Valverde has saved 46 games to go along with a 2.41 ERA and set up man Joaquin Benoit has been a nice addition coming over from Tampa Bay with his 27 holds and 3.12 ERA. Al Alburquerque (2.04 ERA) may have the best stuff of anyone in the bullpen, however, and his team high 14.07 strikeouts per nine innings shows just how unhittable he can be. It may be tough for the Tigers to win if Verlander and Fister are not at the top of their games, but the bullpen could give them a chance to come in and shut the door if the other starters struggle, giving Cabrera and the offense a chance to steal a win.

How the Tigers can lose:

The worst case scenario for the Tigers is that Verlander gets beat in the first game of the ALDS, leaving it up to Fister and whoever manager Jim Leyland goes with to fill out the rotation. Coming back from a loss wouldn’t be impossible, but the psychological hit the team might take could be too much to overcome. Detroit is putting all of their eggs in Verlanders baskets, fair or not, and they may need to win every game he pitches to go all the way.

How the Tigers can win:

Verlander dominates, Fister shines and Cabrera thrives. That is a bit of a simplified answer, but if the top two in the rotation get the job done and Cabrera can lead the offense then the Tigers have a legitimate chance to win the whole darn thing.

Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and North Carolina Tar Heels.

MLB Playoff Preview – Philadelphia Phillies

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

The Philadelphia Phillies are now the five time defending NL East Champions and are a franchise in unfamiliar territory as perennial World Series favorite. However, they have a combination of arms and experience that would make anything short of a ring a bit of a disappointment. After winning the World Series in 2008 behind timely hitting and the 1-2 punch of starter Cole Hamels and closer Brad Lidge, the Phillies took a bit of step back each of the last two years with losses to the Yankees in the World Series and Giants in the NLCS in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

The Phillies are doing things differently this season even if the results are similar, if not better, than the previous four seasons. For the first four years of this run they ended the season either first or second in the National League in runs scored behind stellar seasons from Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, among others. This season, however, the offense is sixth in the league in runs scored and has gone through some prolonged slumps both from a team perspective and also from individuals.  How, then, is this the Phillies team that is chasing the franchise record of 101 regular season wins and not those offense powerhouses? In a word: Aces.

The starting rotation in Philadelphia is one for the ages, led by three legitimate aces and Cy Young candidates in Roy Halladay (reigning Cy Young award winner, 18-6, 2.41 ERA), Cliff Lee (16-7, 2.38) and Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.80). The team also features a would be ace in Roy Oswalt had he stayed healthy and pitched a full season, but who is back and appearing ready to be the number four man in the playoff rotation.

The bullpen has taken a backseat to the starters for the most part, and has had some recent hiccups, but is still one of the better ‘pens the Phillies have had this last half decade. Led by closer Ryan Madson (31 saves, 2.54 ERA) the bullpen is mostly comprised of youngsters with high upside who have yet to be truly tested in a playoff atmosphere, and Lidge who has pitched well in a limited role after missing most of the season with various injuries. This group could be the X -factor for the team if the starters are to falter at all; how well they hold up could make or break the Phillies hopes of another championship.

How the Phillies can lose:

If the Phillies are to be knocked out at any point it very well may resemble how they lost to the Giants in the NLCS last season. In that series the offense struggled against top notch pitching and the starters were not able to hold down the Giants offense enough. If there is a game or two each series when the starter doesn’t deliver a typical ace performance and the offense isn’t able to rekindle that old firepower then it could be a disappointing end to Philadelphia’s season.

How the Phillies can win: 

Building off of the momentum from the regular season, the Phillies will count on the starters to dominate postseason play. If they can get 7-9 great innings a game from the rotation and the bullpen holds up while the offense does just enough, much like the recipe all season long, then we could see another parade down Broad Street this fall.

Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants.

2011 MLB Postseason Preview

By Jeff Dickson, Director of Food & Beverage

With the end of the South Atlantic League season, as well as the hot summer months, comes the ultimate showcase for the best of the best in Major League Baseball: the postseason. The colder weather means fall is upon us, and nothing says fall like playoff baseball. Eight teams will make the playoffs, but only one team can call itself World Series Champion come the end of the year. Which team will that be? That’s where the Crawdads staff comes in, as we will be previewing the 2011 playoffs with a different team preview each day, subject to change as the playoff races get settled.

As it stands now, only two teams have clinched a spot in the playoffs, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Detroit Tigers, so we’ll begin by previewing those teams. Most of the other races are all but settled, however there are still a few to keep an eye on. The Boston Red Sox are injured and slumping and have just a two game lead on the surging Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Wild Card race. The Wild Card race in the National League is almost as tight, with the Atlanta Braves holding a 2 ½ game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. All the division leaders have at least a five game lead, so, barring any major collapse, those leads should hold up. As it currently stands, those leaders are the Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.  

We’ll kick off our previews tomorrow with the team with the best record in baseball, and a heavy favorite to win it all, the Philadelphia Phillies. Each day, we’ll feature a different team and once the previews are done and the playoffs are set to begin we’ll even post our predictions, so stay tuned to find out who we think will win it all!

Jeff is entering his second season with the ‘Dads and first as the director of food & beverage.  The Oneonta, NY native joined the Crawdads in 2011 as a concessions assistant, and has previously worked with the Oneonta Outlaws as a sports marketing intern.  Jeff is a die-hard fan of the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Giants.