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Milwaukee Brewers

NL Central Preview: Reds Ruling the Day

Cincinnati Reds. Open and shut case, right? NL Central Division winners. Preview, done.
Not so fast.
After years of rebuilding, tinkering and teasing, it seems that the Cincinnati Reds have what it takes to become the class of the National league. The Reds unexpectedly won 91 games in 2010 (leading to a sweep and a no-hitter at the hands of the Phillies in the NLDS) and bouncing back to  97 games in 2012 after a sub-.500 2011 (getting bounced in 5 games to the eventual champion SF Giants), but 2013 is the first year where organization is facing external expectations. Most writers, bloggers and talking heads are calling for an easy Cincy playoff lock. With good reason.
The Reds are positively stacked. They may have the NL’s best offense, starting with arguably the league’s best hitter in 1B Joey Votto, and a cast of All-Star-caliber sluggers: 2B Brandon Phillips, OF Jay Bruce, OF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Todd Frazier and OF Ryan Ludwick. The bullpen might actually be just as strong as the offense, with Aroldis Chapman re-taking his place as closer, and Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton and Manny Parra throwing in front of him.
The starting rotation begins with ace Johnny Cueto and nominal co-ace Mat Latos, but doesn’t give up much from there. Homer Bailey is a solid 3/4 starter that’s capable of ace-like performances (see his 7 inning, 1-hit, 10 strikeout start in the playoffs), while Mike Leake and Bronson Arroyo are steady options at the back of the rotation. Truly, the Reds don’t have any apparent weaknesses. They should win this division.
But as good as they’ll be, I don’t necessarily think they’ll be head and shoulders above the rest of the division, specifically the St. Louis Cardinals.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: Zack Greinke to the Anaheim Angels

Anaheim Angels get: SP Zack Greinke

Milwaukee Brewers get: SS Jean Segura, SP Ariel Pena, SP Jim Hellweg (all prospects)

Angels GM Jerry DiPoto earned his SoCal front office ninja stripes today, stealthily and suddenly trading for All-Star pitcher Zack Greinke of the Milwaukee Brewers. Much like the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak and the Dodgers’ Ned Colleti trading for stars Steve Nash and Hanley Ramirez, respectively, without much notification, DiPoto has made a deal that no only ranks as one of the most biggest of the trade deadline, but perhaps one of the most significant in regards to postseason play.

Anaheim had an absolutely brutal start to the season with a 9-15 April, but rebounded to a 54-45 mark, the third-best in the AL. The initially scuffling offense, featuring the stunningly impotent bat of Albert Pujols, the dead weight of Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu and the uninspiring play from the supporting cast members, has given way to the Mike Trout-led Halos destroying all comers. Trout, Mark Trumbo and a resurgent Pujols have essentially reinvented the Angels lineup, which ranks amongst the best in the American League. The bullpen, heavily questioned before the season, has exceeded expectations, thanks in part to San Diego Padres import Ernesto Frieri (who’s given up four earned runs in 29 innings as an Angels reliever). The starting rotation, remarkably in spite of the names on paper, has remained the team’s weak link.

The Angels’ five man corp consists of ace Jered Weaver, along with All-Stars CJ Wilson, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. Unfortunately for manager Mike Scioscia, only Weaver and Wilson have lived up to their billing, with Haren (has given up at least 5 earned runs in five of his last six stars) and Santana (a 6.00 ERA and 23 homers given up before August) struggling, to say the least. With the calendar turning towards the end of summer, DiPoto had to assume a turnaround to complete form for both men was unlikely. Thus, the clandestine deal for Zack Greinke was finished up tonight.

This is second time Greinke has been traded in the last 20 months, with the Brewers dealing for the starter two offseasons ago from the Kansas City Royals. Milwaukee knew that Zack would be a free agent in just two years time, which perfectly coincided with their “win-now” model they had put together in impending free agent Prince Fielder (now with the Detroit Tigers) and starter Shaun Marcum (another soon-to-be free agent). The Brewers started the day 14 games in back of division-leading Cincinnati, so the thought of losing Greinke for mere draft picks at the end of the season (seeing as he would almost undoubtedly sign with another squad) only added to the pains of dissapointment the Brew Crew felt with such a promising season gone horribly wrong. Before we go any further, Greinke is a world-class pitcher whose numbers (3.67 ERA, 1.20 WHIP) don’t come close to describing how great of a hurler he is. He’s one of the top 10 pitchers in the American League, and an absolute stud. Just to be clear.

As far as what I’ve read, the haul for Greinke was moderate, certainly not a future franchise-changing one. Shortstop Jean Segura was the best prospect in the Angels’ system, whose ceiling comparisons range from Howie Kendrick to Jose Reyes. He’s a bit on the small side, and could be headed for second base, but few doubt that he’ll be a major league player, though of what caliber is up to interpretation. Pena and Hellweg are both 23 year-old prospects with fire baller arms (… Read more...

Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 1)

Whoa! The 2012 MLB season snuck up on us like a new Rihanna LP – unexpected and yet, we’re incredibly happy it’s here. Like, way too happy.

As is tradition with the birth of every new season, we’re greeting it on MAMBINO like you would any old friend; with incredibly invasive questions, exploring the greatest weaknesses, storylines and potential surprises in the next year.

We’ve rounded up the MAMBINO stable better than Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern could, and written down some questions that HAD to be answered before the 2012 MLB season kicks off in earnest next week (yes, I realize that we’re ignoring “Opening Day” which is an opening series in Japan with the A’s and Mariners that started last Wednesday. No disrespect to my Japanese forefathers, but we’re pretending that baseball isn’t going on yet because those two teams are glorified Triple A squads. It’s not about Japan. For real. It was 80 years ago, everyone’s gotten over it).

Is the Phillies’ window closing? 

Pucklius: So here’s a fun fact for you. The Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies and some baseball-like organization known as the “New York Mets” all finished with losing records last year. Here’s another fun fact for you. All of these teams scored more runs last season than the Philadelphia Phillies.

As far as I can tell, prognosticators tabbing the Phillies for a sixth consecutive NL East title are doing so out of sheer habit and laziness while ignoring the fact that the Braves have been rising for years and the Marlins, who won’t be as good as Jeffrey Loria thinks but will still be good, have a solid crop of young talent (Josh Johnson, GianCarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison) that has been overshadowed by the big name free agent signings (Jose Reyes, Mark Beurhle) as well as some guy named Hanley Ramirez, all of which has closed the gap considerably. The Phillies meanwhile have an almost ancient short stop in Jimmy Rollins, an aging Chase Utley, who hit a paltry .259 last season and won’t be healthy for the start of this one, and a grand total of one player, Hunter Pence, who had a plus-.300 batting average (.314) or a plus-.500 slugging percentage (.502). Meanwhile, Ryan Howard, who according to recent sabermetric-centric story in ESPN Magazine doesn’t help a team that much more than he hurts one anyway, won’t even play until as late as June following a torn Achilles tendon on the final out of Philadelphia’s 2011 postseason. Essentially, this means that if you somehow manage to get lucky and score 4 or 5 runs against the Phillies remarkable starting rotation you probably have a pretty decent chance of beating them — and in the pitchers nightmare that is Citizens Bank Park, scoring 4 or 5 runs isn’t something a competent Major League offense should find all that hard to do. Just imagine what that offense will put up when it finds itself in places where batting average and runs created go to die like Citi Field or Petco Park.

I should note that Philadelphia did win 102 games last season — and outscored opponents by a league-best 184 runs — but those numbers are almost entirely a result of a stellar pitching rotation. Now, that rotation is stellar, and far be it from me to question the abilities of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, but Roy Oswalt is gone and Vance Worley, who struggled last September, and Joe Blanton are the likely men to jump into his position. They do not inspire the same kind of fear and th… Read more...

Our Best and Brightest – Thoughts on Ryan Braun’s positive PED test

“I would never do it because if I took steroids, I would hit 60 or 70 home runs.” – Ryan Braun
Ryan Braun hit .332, with a .994 OPS. He had 187 hits, 77 of which were for extra bases. His 33 homers, 111 RBI and 109 runs scored were amongst the majors’ best. As if that weren’t enough, he stole 33 bases and was the best player on one of the best teams this year. His charisma, leadership and enthusiasm for the game made him one of baseball’s most popular young players. Personally, he is one of my favorite major leaguers, with his cartoonishly gigantic windmill swing and the teeth-grinding effort he gives on every single play. He didn’t hit 60 home runs this year, but if you watched this guy for a single week’s worth of games, you’d think he was capable of it. He was that good.
Today, ESPN revealed that Ryan Braun had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The investigation was triggered by a spike in testoterone, which automatically led into further examinations of Ryan’s pee pee. After the lab had run a gamut of tests, they found that Braun had a large deal of synthetic testoterone in his body, which obviously would not appear there by any organic means. With any positive PED test, Major League Baseball administers a mandatory 50 game suspension for first time offenders. The only reason why the sports news headlines do not read “Braun suspended for 50 games” yet is that the punishment and jurisdiction of the commissioner’s office isn’t official yet; Braun and his representatives have appealed the PED test result. No player has yet successfully won such an appeal.
“… The best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth.” – Braun, on Alex Rodriguez’s steroid useRead more...