There is a burning question in every baseball fan's mind: How will Masahiro Tanaka pitch in 2014? The Japanese ace will be paid $155 million over seven-years by pitching for the New York Yankees. In his first season in the Major Leagues, how will the 25-year-old fare pitching with the big leaguers. First, let's take a look at his stats in his final season in Japan:
28 games, 212 IP, 24-0 record, 1.27 ERA, 0.943 WHIP, 7.1 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 1.4 BB/9, 7.8 K/9
Those numbers will not be repeated in the Major Leagues. Tanaka is a great pitcher, but he shouldn't do as well as he did in his final season in Japan. Here are the Steamer and Oliver projections for Tanaka in 2014:
Steamers' prediction seems more on the realistic side for Tanaka. I doubt he makes 39 starts, like the Oliver prediction says. Even if he starts every fifth day, he'll likely make about 30 starts. I doubt the Yankees start him every fifth day. In Japan, Tanaka started every seventh day. Now, I believe he'll do something similar to Yu Darvish, who started every sixth day in his transition season in 2012. He made 29 starts that year. Here are my projections for Tanaka in 2014:
30 starts, 195 IP, 14-6 record, 3.25 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 7.5 K/9
Tanaka will likely get better as his career moves along. Lucky for us, we get to find out how well Tanaka pitches in 2014 in just 63 days.
The offseason is the chance to improve one's team. The teams that finished last in their divisions especially want to be better in the coming season. They sign free agents, make trades, and find ways to get themselves out of the cellar. Six teams finished last in 2013. I am going to decide which team has the best chance to finish first in their division in 2014.
2013 Record: 62-100
The Miami Marlins definitely want to be better in 2014. They added catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, shortstop Rafael Furcal, first baseman Garrett Jones, and third baseman Casey McGehee. They also made a few trades. On the outside, the Marlins look like they will be much improved in 2014, perhaps even reaching the 70 win plateau. But on the inside, these moves are very risky. Saltalamacchia has issues versus right-handed pitchers. Furcal hasn't played in the Major Leagues since 2012. Jones is getting on the older side; perhaps past his prime. And McGehee hasn't posted an OPS+ over 100 since 2010. Although every signing comes with a risk of some sort (there are no "sure things"), the Marlins look like they might not be improved in 2014. And with a very competitive NL East division? This does not seem to be the Marlins' year.
2013 Record: 66-96
The Cubs are just a few years away from winning over this segment. They have arguably the deepest minor league system, with prospects such as Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant. However, those guys probably won't be in the Majors until 2015. The Cubs are still in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, and after a relatively quiet offseason, they could make the biggest splash of any team. The Reds, Cardinals, and Pirates still rule this division. The Cubs are loaded with talent, and will be better in 2014. I cannot see them finishing atop the National League Central. I do think that they pass the Milwaukee Brewers in the division however. Cubs fans, be happy, you are just about ready to take the Major Leagues by storm.
2013 Record: 74-88
Like the Cubs, the Rockies have talent in their minor league affiliates. Nonetheless, they have made more notable moves than Chicago, acquiring some Major League talent. They traded for Brett Anderson, an injury ridden pitcher that has a career 109 ERA+. He is only 25-years-old, and could still be a force in the Rockies rotation. With a career ground ball rate of 54.9%, Anderson may be able to pitch very well even in the hitter-friendly Coors Field. The Rockies also signed Justin Morneau, the former Twins first baseman. Over his career, he has posted a 121 OPS+. In Coors Field, he may be able to put up monster numbers. A good offseason thus far for the Rockies. Could they finish in first? I believe not. They still have to deal with the Dodgers, Giants, and the rapidly improving Diamondbacks in their division.
Toronto Blue Jays
2013 Record: 74-88
The Blue Jays have a very talented roster, much of it from the 2012 trade with the Miami Marlins. They acquired Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle in one trade (they also acquired Josh Johnson, but he is now with the Padres)! They also acquired R.A. Dickey, the 2012 National League Cy Young award winner. Their only notable acquisition this offseason was the signing of Dioner Navarro. This team is still built to win, but it will take some serious luck to knock off the reigning World Series champion Red Sox. I am just not sure that they can take first in the American League East with the Orioles, Rays, and Yankees also involved.
Chicago White Sox
2013 Record: 63-99
The Chicago White Sox re-signed Paul Konerko and acquired third base prospect Matt Davidson from the Arizona Diamondbacks. They also signed left-handed reliever Scott Downs to a contract. Besides that, the White Sox haven't done much this offseason. As pointed out to me (kudos to @onekevinmiller on Twitter), the White Sox have also signed first baseman Jose Abreu and acquired Avisail Garcia from the Tigers. Those moves will help the Sox in the coming years, but I can't see them jolting out of last place in 2014. They are still in the running for Masahiro Tanaka, but it seems like he will head elsewhere. It does not look like happy days will be coming to the south side of Chicago soon, as it seems like they will be in the cellar for yet another year.
2013 Record: 51-111
The Astros did a lot to improve in 2014. They practically stole Dexter Fowler from the Rockies, and they signed Chad Qualls, Scott Feldman, and Jesse Crain to deals. The Astros will be much improved in the 2014 season. With some help from prospects such as Jonathan Singleton and George Springer close to the Major Leagues, the Astros may shoot up the standings in the American League. However, in the West division, it is an uphill battle for the Houston Astros, as they have to overcome the improved Mariners and Angels, and forces such as the Rangers and Athletics. It is shaping up to be another last place finish for the Houston Astros.
My Vote: Blue Jays and Rockies
I believe the Blue Jays and Rockies have the best chance to finish first in their divisions in 2014. The Rockies made some nice moves this offseason, even after finishing with a strong 2013 campaign. With some minor league help, the Rockies could be a surprise team in the National League, and might even make the postseason. In the American League, the Blue Jays could finish first atop the AL East. The Red Sox have lost more pieces than they've gained, and the Orioles, Yankees, and Rays seem very vulnerable. The Blue Jays still have some talent and can play well. Another year under John Gibbons could be very helpful for the team. Although both these teams have the potential to finish first in their divisions, it is hard to expect them to.
I'm pretty sure Alex Rodriguez used steroids. Your pretty sure that Alex Rodriguez used steroids. The guy that gave Rodriguez the steroids is pretty sure that Alex Rodriguez used steroids. See a pattern? Now this: Alex Rodriguez isn't sure that he used steroids. We have a major problem that is going to federal court. A suspension of Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was given an 162-game suspension back on Saturday, ultimately decreasing the 211-game suspension that Major League Baseball gave Rodriguez back in early August of last year. They let him play. Many hope those were his last games. Even if you still were rooting for Rodriguez to win the battle, many people's views were changed with CBS hosting 60 Minutes yesterday. Anthony Bosch spoke to the public for the first time and admitted that Alex Rodriguez has not only taken steroids, but that he has injected Rodriguez himself.
Nonetheless, Rodriguez has yet to back down. He knows that if he sits out a year that his career may be over. But, after two hip surgeries and many other injuries, why even continue your career? Rodriguez wants to prove that he can still play. He still wants to show people that he is that excellent hitter that he has been since High School, when he hit for some unbelievable average (Maybe he was juicing then. Nobody really knows.). He still wants to show why he was selected 1st overall. The fact of the matter is, he can't. That's what age does to you, in case Rodriguez does not notice that.
His suspension of 162-games just wasn't enough. The man has already been paid $425,231,352 over his career. He doesn't deserve another cent. This "scandal" is making Pete Rose's ban from the Hall of Fame look silly (he deserves to be in there). And Rodriguez still has a chance to come back into baseball. Pathetic.
This whole thing needs to be turned away from. That's what Rodriguez wants, attention. I know it is "newsworthy" to some people, but it is not to me. It is what it is, it'll be what it'll be, but it doesn't deserve what it is getting. Yes, it's a great story to follow, but it's about ruining the integrity of the game. The game that we all love. And I cannot continue to follow an overpaid cheater. I just can't. Baseball needs to realize that Rodriguez is dragging this out for a reason. He knows he has cheated. He has messed up. You just have to tell the truth. That is really what a true baseball player would do.
And now to Anthony Bosch. I'm really not sure what to say on the topic. He's been helping cheaters cheat for over ten years, but studying the "medical practices" of this horrible drug. He is an expert on cheating. I'm glad he came out to the MLB and the public, but he admitted that he would still be doing it if he wasn't caught. I cannot describe how I felt when that was uttered by the man. Destroyed. Heartbroken. The game I have been playing forever was changed by man's discoveries and tactics. And I know there are more out there. They better be watching. Bosch got off the hook for cooperating, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was much different for another "cheating expert."
And what else is there to say? Nothing much. Alex Rodriguez has cheated, whether he wants to admit it or not. He will still take it to court. He will still carry out his plans. But for now, Rodriguez should come out. Heck, he should've never done it! But, once you mess up once, you can only make it worse by telling a lie. Many people would agree.
In case you didn't watch CBS last night, basically what happened was a guy by the name of Anthony Bosch appeared to the public for the first time. Bosch had treated Alex Rodriguez with four banned substances, PEDs. It was all revealed to the public for the first time. (You can view the segment here)
Alex Rodriguez was bashed by players, writers, and fans throughout the game and on many different teams. One way they could all connect was through Twitter, a social media site dedicated to delivering short bits of information (in only 140 characters) to the world. I have compiled a list of tweets that were sent during last night's action, and those people had a lot to say.
The Seattle Mariners have made some major transactions this offseason, and you could argue that they "won" the offseason. As we've seen from other teams that have "won" the offseason, the regular season usually doesn't lead to a ton of success. The 2012 Miami Marlins and 2013 Toronto Blue Jays both were considered "winners" of their respective offseasons. They both finished dead last in their divisions the following season. Could the Mariners fare similarly?
Some people could say no. Adding Robinson Cano, Logan Morrison, and Corey Hart to a team that already had Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma is huge. Prospect Taijuan Walker is very promising. The Mariners look like they have a good mixture of clubhouse chemistry and new additions, something that you could argue that the Blue Jays didn't have. One could also point to the Marlins clubhouse chemistry, who already had Hanley Ramirez, Logan Morrison, and Giancarlo Stanton, while adding the likes of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. The Marlins previously had some pieces, but when they went to add more, the team crumbled. It's hard to know how well Cano, Morrison, and Hart will fit into the Mariners' chemistry.
Another similarity between the Mariners and the Blue Jays and Marlins is the managing situation. The Mariners have hired a new manager, Lloyd McClendon. The Blue Jays and Marlins hired new managers John Gibbons and Ozzie Guillen, respectively. The Marlins and Blue Jays didn't know what to expect from their new managers, forcing a change upon not only their new additions, but the returners as well. The same thing could and might happen with Lloyd McClendon and the Seattle Mariners.
From a statistical standpoint, the Mariners improved their team. But, I cannot see them contending in the very competitive American League West as of right now. Most people agree that the Rangers and Athletics have better rosters than the Seattle Mariners. I would listen to an argument that said the Angels have a better roster than the Mariners. However, the Mariners roster may not be complete. They are continuing to be competitive in the rest of the dwindling offseason, becoming interested in the remaining top tier free agents, such as Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka.
As of right now, I believe that the Mariners will be the next disappointment team after "winning" the previous offseason. They could continue to add pieces, but their current roster coupled with the "playoff standards" in that tough division does not impress me overwhelmingly. However, I would not be surprised to see the Mariners be very improved. I could see them in the running for a Wild Card, but until they get the players on the field, it is truly unknown how well the Mariners will fare in the 2014 season.