March 30, 2003

The smiles are returning to the faces


"Here Comes the Sun"

Little darling, it's been a long, long lonely winter

Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say, it's alright

Little darling, the smiles are returning to the faces

Little darling, it seems like years since they've been there

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun, and I say, it's alright

Little darling, mmmmmm, I see the ice is slowly melting

Little darling, it seems like years since it's been clear

There goes the sun

Here comes the sun

And I say, it's alright

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

Here comes the sun

And I say, it's alright

It's alright

It's alright

OPENING DAY IS HERE! ("It seems like years since it's been here")

I started this blog way back on August 1st of last year, which means tomorrow marks the 8 month anniversary of this website. Over the weekend the visitor total went over 50,000, which is pretty cool.

Here's what the month-by-month visitor count looks like:

Month         Visitors

August 2800
September 3200
October 4200
November 4400
December 6600
January 7800
February 10100
March 11500
TOTAL 50600

That's a pretty steady climb, which is awesome - especially considering most of this blog's existence has been during the off-season!

I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for coming to this website and reading what I have to say about baseball. When I wrote that first entry back in August I never expected anything like this and it is really one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

I hope you will all continue to visit here during the season, because I think it's going to be a lot of fun documenting an entire season with daily entries.

I opened up the "1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest" a while back and I am proud to announce that I received a total of 85 entries for the contest, not counting my own.

Here is my official "1st Annual Aaron's Baseball Blog Pre-Season Predictions Contest" entry (and yes, I am eligible to win my own contest!):

AL EAST:

1) Boston Red Sox

2) New York Yankees

3) Toronto Blue Jays

4) Baltimore Orioles

5) Tampa Bay Devil Rays

AL CENTRAL:

1) Minnesota Twins

2) Chicago White Sox

3) Cleveland Indians

4) Kansas City Royals

5) Detroit Tigers

AL WEST:

1) Oakland A's

2) Seattle Mariners

3) Anaheim Angels

4) Texas Rangers

NL EAST:

1) Philadelphia Phillies

2) Atlanta Braves

3) New York Mets

4) Montreal Expos

5) Florida Marlins

NL CENTRAL:

1) Houston Astros

2) St. Louis Cardinals

3) Chicago Cubs

4) Cincinnati Reds

5) Pittsburgh Pirates

6) Milwaukee Brewers

NL WEST:

1) San Francisco Giants

2) Arizona Diamondbacks

3) Los Angeles Dodgers

4) San Diego Padres

5) Colorado Rockies

AL CHAMPS: Oakland A's

NL CHAMPS: Arizona Diamondbacks

WORLD CHAMPS: Oakland A's

AL MVP: Manny Ramirez

NL MVP: Barry Bonds

AL CY: Pedro Martinez

NL CY: Randy Johnson

AL ROY: Hideki Matsui

NL ROY: Marlon Byrd

BONDS OVER/UNDER 50 HOMERS: Under (40)

BONDS OVER/UNDER .500 OBP: Over (.600)

BONDS OVER/UNDER 120 RBI: Under (95)

BONDS OVER/UNDER .330 AVG: Over (.350)

BONDS OVER/UNDER 150 WALKS: Over (200)

BONDS OVER/UNDER .750 SLG: Over (.800)

Not a whole lot of surprises, I suppose.

There are 3 truly elite teams in baseball right now - New York, Boston and Oakland. Coincidentally they are all in the American League and 2 of them are in the same division. I think all 3 of those teams will win 100 games this year. In the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins aren't going to be quite as good as most people think. Because of that, the division race will be a very close one with Chicago, although I do think the Twins will win it.

During the regular season, I think the Philadelphia Phillies will be the best team in the National League. However, once the post-season starts I am going to go with the Arizona Diamondbacks and their 1-2 punch of Randy and Curt, simply because they can start 5 or 6 games in a given series and that is huge.

Here are a few more of my thoughts on the 2003 season:

Hideki Matsui will prove all of the idiots that say he won't hit for power in the United States completely wrong. The idiocy behind the "logic" used regarding Japanese players is incredible. When Ichiro! got here, all the experts were saying that he wouldn't succeed because he was too small and weak to hit major league pitching. Now, after he has established himself as one of the best players in baseball, those same experts are saying that Hideki Matsui won't succeed here because his power won't translate well in the states.

Let me get this straight? Ichiro! was too small and weak, but Hideki Matsui relies too much on power? Yeah, that makes sense. A great player is a great player, whether he is born in Nebraska, Tokyo or Santo Domingo. You have to wonder how many more players have to come over here from Japan and have success before guys like Dan Gladden and Rob Dibble will realize we don't have some special potion that makes American ballplayers superior to everyone else.

Matsui will have a tremendous season and will be one of the best outfielders in the major leagues. Some people have compared his offensive game to Brian Giles'. While I think that comparison is a decent one, I don't think he will walk as much Giles does (135 BBs last year), so I think a better comp would be Ryan Klesko.

Since coming to San Diego, Klesko has had batting averages of .283, .286 and .300, on-base percentages of .393, .384, .388 and slugging percentages of .516, .539 and .537. Those are the types of numbers I think Matsui will put up in 2003. I'll officially say .290/.390/.525, with some pretty good defense in left field.

Next year, when Kazuo Matsui (the next big star from Japan that is likely coming here) is questioned by the same people that have questioned Ichiro! and Matsui, just remember how ridiculous these people sounded after Ichiro! and Matsui's rookie years. I can just hear it now, Dan Gladden will say that he doesn't think Kazuo Matsui will have success here because, unlike Hideki Matsui and Ichiro!, he plays an infield position. Or some other crap like that.

I also think fellow AL rookie Mark Teixeira will have an incredible first season. I rated him as the #1 prospect in all of baseball and I think he will be an impact player right away. I wouldn't be surprised if he hit .280-.300 with 30+ homers this year (if he gets 500+ ABs), which would normally guarantee him the Rookie of the Year award, but probably won't be enough to win it this year.

Another rookie hitter I really like is Travis Hafner. I expect Hafner to be one of the top 5-6 first basemen in the AL this year, which would also normally get him the ROY, but will probably only be good for 3rd place this year.

And then you have Francisco Rodriguez, whom I expect to have an Octavio Dotel-type season (100 IP in relief, 2.50 ERA). Last but certainly not least is Twins rookie Michael Cuddyer, whom I think would also win the ROY in most "normal" years. I expect Cuddyer to hit about .280 with 20-25 homers for the Twins in 2003.

In all, it is an incredibly strong crop of rookies in the AL this year. The NL group isn't nearly as strong, although I do like Marlon Byrd and Hee Seop Choi quite a bit.

More predictions:

Mike Mussina had an ERA of 4.05 last year and I expect him to slice at least 20% off of that for the 2003.

Manny Ramirez will have a huge season hitting in a lineup full of guys that get on base and will lead the AL in runs batted in.

Casey Fossum will surprise a lot of people and have a great season in the rotation, despite an awful spring.

Josh Phelps will have a monster season and will be the best DH in the AL.

The Devil Rays will have the fewest walks by any team in the last 35 years (click here to read more about that).

Cristian Guzman and Doug Mientkiewicz will each have bounce back seasons for the Twins.

Joe Mays will either suffer a serious injury or will have an ERA over 5.00 (or both).

Frank Thomas will have a tremendous year and will be in the top 10 in the AL for batting average, RBIs and homers.

Bartolo Colon's ERA will rise at least 25% from what it was last year (2.93).

Casey Blake, a completely unknown minor league veteran, will have a nice little season as Cleveland's starting third baseman.

Jeremy Affeldt will lead the Royals in wins and innings pitched.

Erubiel Durazo will have a monster year in Oakland - think .270/.400/.540 with 30 homers and 100 RBI.

Keith Foulke will have a much better season than the guy he was traded for, Billy Koch.

The Anaheim Angels will not make the post-season and everyone will blame it on that damn Rally Monkey.

Alex Rodriguez will once again be the best player in the American League, but the Rangers will continue to stink and ARod will continue to get the shaft from MVP voters.

Mike Hampton will be very bad for the Braves in 2003 and the Braves will not make the playoffs for the first time in like 58 years.

Kevin Millwood, Vincente Padilla and Randy Wolf will combine to win 55 games in 2003 and the Phillies will be one of the top 3 offensive teams in the NL.

The Marlins will lead MLB in stolen bases and will score the fewest runs in the National League.

A.J. Burnett will suffer a serious injury at some point and Jeff Torborg will have no idea why.

Jeff Kent will have an incredible offensive season - something along the lines of .330 with 40 homers and 130 RBI, but he won't win the MVP because that Bonds guy still plays in the NL.

The Reds' outfield will lead all of baseball in outfield homers and Dunn, Kearns and Griffey will each hit at least 35.

Sammy Sosa will hit 50 homers and will drive in 98 runs because no one gets on base in front of him.

Arizona will have 3 pitchers among the top 10 NL leaders in strikeouts (Byung-Hyun Kim!).

Barry Bonds will have twice as many walks as hits and will set the major league record for walks in a season for the 3rd straight year. He will also increase his OPS for the 5th straight season.

Kevin Brown will be one of the best 3-5 pitchers in the National League; Odalis Perez will not.

Jose Hernandez will lead all non-ARod shortstops in slugging %.

Okay, enough with all the predictions and previews...LET'S PLAY SOME BASEBALL!!!

Oh, one final thing...

I enjoy betting on sporting events (hypothetically, of course), but since I don't have the disposable income (or any income) to do so, I thought it might be fun to forego actually betting on them and simply make my picks on this blog everyday and keep track of the hypothetical winning and losing.

For those of you unfamiliar with gambling on baseball games, here is how it works:

Say you have two teams, New York and Chicago.

The "betting line" for the game will be something like this: New York -150 vs. Chicago +140

What that means is that if you bet on New York to win, you would need to bet $150 dollars to win $100. And if you bet on Chicago to win, you would bet $100 to win $140. Pretty simple, right?

So here's how I will do it...

Whenever the mood strikes me (probably every day, but I'm not guaranteeing it), I will make a few "bets" on baseball games. I'll keep track of the wins and losses and we can all have a good laugh at the end of the year when I end up losing thousands of hypothetical dollars. Every bet will be $100, which will makes things easy to keep track of. And I'll list the teams, along with the starting pitchers, so you can get a feel for why I am making the picks.

Today's picks:

Cubs (Wood) +105 over Mets (Glavine)

Phillies (Millwood) -110 over Marlins (Beckett)

Twins (Radke) -175 over Tigers (Maroth)

White Sox (Buehrle) -170 over Royals (Hernandez)

Blue Jays (Halladay) +110 over Yankees (Clemens)

Total to date: $0

W/L record: 0-0

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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