These Bruins are Playing for the Stanley Cup

Back on April 6, I wrote a post titled “These Bruins Won’t Go Far.”  In case you need further proof of that previous statement here it is:

Now it is May 31 and the Bruins will playing the Vancouver Canucks tomorrow night in Vancouver in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals.  Clearly , I was wrong about the these Bruins right?  The fact is I wasn’t wrong.  The Bruins that are flying high right now are not the same Bruins that entered the 2011 playoffs. Through the first two games of the playoffs I was right as Montreal embarrassed the Bruins on their home ice.  My neighbor down the street was maybe the only one that was confident in the Bruins at that point.  He even told me that he was trademarking the phrase, “The Miracle in Montreal” for when the Bruins won the Cup.

At that point in time maybe he saw something no one else did.  Or he had a DeLorean and wasn’t telling anybody about it.  Everything I said in my post back on April 6, the Bruins answered.  I said that the Bruins would not be able to just rely on Tim Thomas and his supernatural abilities in net to carry them in the playoffs.  Thomas has no doubt been magnificent but he has also benefitted from stellar play from his defense led by Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.  Andrew Ferrence has been an unsung hero of sorts. And the Bruins have been able to win in spite of Johnny Boychuk’s overall lackluster play.

On April 6,  I argued that the Bruins didn’t have the star power that was necessary to contend for the Cup.  Since that time Nathan Horton has emerged as a go to guy for the Spoked B.  As a matter of fact the Bruins are undefeated in the playoffs in games in which he has scored.  He netted both Game 7 winner’s for the Bruins as well.  My colleague on this blog, Tazzi, was adamant that the Bruins had arguably the best line in all of the NHL in Krejci-Lucic-Horton.  I didn’t believe him at the time, but he has proven me wrong.  The Bruins also received a memorable spark from 18-year-old Tyler Seguin in a game against Tampa Bay where he skated circles around the Lightning giving Bruins fans a glimpse of things to come for the next 15 years. How’s that for superstar talent?

I also criticized Claude Julien on April 6 (amongst other days) that he was stubborn and felt the need to play all four lines at all times.  In Game 7 of the Tampa series, Julien finally doubled up his top line after playing his fourth line late in Game 6.  While I still prefer the top lines play the most minutes, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly have given the Bruins outstanding minutes in time on the ice.  Peverley was the best Bruin on the ice in Game 7 as his energy and hustle created many opportunities for the B’s.

On April 6, I said that the only hardware coming back to Boston when the ice had melted would be the Vezina Trophy.  The Bruins have already proven me wrong by bringing home the Wales Trophy.  Now they are 4 wins away from bringing home Lord Stanley’s Cup.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

Projecting the Red Sox Stats After 54 Games

The Boston Red Sox are through one third of their season with a record of 30-24 and have are tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the AL East.  It is no surprise the Red Sox are in first place with the roster they have assembled but it is a surprise in the respect that they got off to such a horrid start at 2-10.  They are currently missing 40% of their starting rotation, have been without their full complement of pitchers out of the bullpen, got no production out of Carl Crawford in the month of April, and Dustin Pedroia hasn’t been his usual self.  With all that being said they still are in first place and I guess that is all that really matters.

Most of you that read this blog know that I really enjoy making predictions.  Most of you also know that I am often wrong with my predictions.  But I like to give it a shot anyways.  Below are my statistical projections for the Red Sox for the 2011 season.  I will update this post after the 108th game of the season as that will amount to two thirds of the season.  Feel free to play the over/under game in the comments section.

Player                            Batting Average    Home Runs        RBIS                Stolen Bases

Jacoby Ellsbury                 .305                           18                   80                         57

Dustin Pedroia                   .275                           12                    54                         30

Adrian Gonzalez                .320                           35                   138                       1

Kevin Youkilis                    .280                           24                    105                      2

David Ortiz                          .290                           30                    100                     1

Carl Crawford                      .277                           12                      63                      35

Jed Lowrie                             .300                         15                       60                     2

Jarrod Saltalamacchia      .250                          12                       45                      0

JD Drew                                 .245                          11                       40                     2

Jason Varitek                        .215                         4                          25                    0

Mike Cameron                       .220                          5                         20                    2

Pitcher                       Wins                     Loss                     ERA                K

Jon Lester                         21                            7                           3.50                297

Josh Beckett                      18                          6                           3.25                189

Clay Buchholz                  14                            8                           3.45                182

John Lackey                      10                          10                           4.75                110

Alfredo Aceves                    7                             3                           4.15                   80

Tim Wakefield                    6                             5                           4.35                   48

Jonathan Papelbon   Saves- 30   ERA- 2.50   K’s- 90


These projections were not founded upon anything with any scientific formula or Bill James-esque crap.  It was just a mini game I liked to play and to see how close I come at the end of the season.  Feel free to bash me or praise me in the comments section or as I mentioned before play the over/under game.  I only projected the stats of players that will have significant value on the team.  Bullpen stats are extremely difficult to project so I just stuck with figuring out Papelbon.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF


Patterson’s Week 8 MLB Rankings

The 2011 baseball season is nearly two months old.  This past week has proven to be a week with a lot of movement in the rankings.  Some teams like the Red Sox have finally started to make their move up the rankings.  Surprise teams like the Indians and Marlins have held their ground.  Other surprising teams like the Diamondbacks and Mariners have shot up the list.  Teams I have expected to be atop the rankings like the Rockies and Twins have struggled.  Lastly, some teams, Phillies, Astros, and Padres are where we all thought they would be.  Without further adieu the Week 8 Rankings:

1) Philadelphia Phillies (2)

After being knocked down to the 2 spot last week, the Phillies are right back where they belong.  Wilson Valdez became the first position player to get a win in the 19 inning game against the Reds last Wednesday.  Who needs Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, or Lee when you have Wilson Valdez?

2) Cleveland Indians (1)

The Indians have the best home record in all of baseball at 19-6.  They sit atop their division comfortably ahead of the second place Tigers.  But questions will remain throughout the season as to whether Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin will be able to hold up over the course of a 162 game season.  Fausto Carmona is showing signs of getting back to his 2007 form and that is certainly good news for the Tribe.

3) Florida Marlins (5)

Here is what amazes me about the Marlins.  Mike Stanton: 21 years old.  Hanley Ramirez: 27 years old. Gaby Sanchez: 27 years old.  Logan Morrison: 23 years old. Chris Coghlan: 25 years old.  Josh Johnson: 27 years old. Anibal Sanchez: 27 years old.  Leo Nunez: 27 years old. And Old Man Nolasco: 28 years old.  None of these players have reached their prime and they are the third best team in baseball.  That is scary good.

4) St. Louis Cardinals (4)

Lance Berkman continues to make sure I kick myself everyday for not picking him up in my fantasy baseball league when I had the chance.  He is hitting .354 with 11 home runs and 36 runs batted in.  People, like myself, that have been waiting for him to cool off have been waiting for quite some time.  If there is a silver lining in this whole thing it just makes me happy that in 37 games with the Yankees, he hit .255 with 1 home run and 9 runs batted in.

5) Boston Red Sox (8)

My good buddy Lopes text me earlier this week saying, “The Red Sox are fire.”  I replied “Nope. The Red Sox are who we THOUGHT THEY WERE!” All kidding aside the 2-10 start is in the rear view mirror.  Aceves and Wakefield have filled in great for Lackey and Dice-K.  Crawford and Pedroia are starting to come out of their funks.  Things are looking good.

6) San Francisco Giants (3)

There is no doubt the season ending injury Buster Posey endured earlier this week was unfortunate.  But all this talk about rule changes to protect the catcher has been nauseating.  The game is forever and the player is temporary.  Everyone is up in arms about the collision because Posey was a fan favorite and was destined to be in the same sentence as the Jeter’s and Mauer’s of the world.  The fact is: If this happened to anyone else, there would be no talk of rule changes.  To prove my point: The same thing happened to Astros catcher Humberto Quinteiro the next night and no one has said a word about protecting him.

7) Atlanta Braves (10)

The Braves continue to rely on their strong pitching.  They have the 3rd best ERA in the league at 3.03, the best WHIP in the MLB at 1.14, and the best batting average against at .224.  Jair Jurgens has been outstanding with an ERA of 1.54 and the back-end of the bullpen of Craig Kimbrel being set up by Jonny Venters has been great.  The Braves sit 3.5 games behind the Phillies and can make up some ground this week as they play the punchless Padres and Mets.

8) New York Yankees (9)

The rumor out of New York is that Yankee fans will be seeing a lot less of Jorge Posada in the lineup and a lot more of Andruw Jones.  Posada will certainly not being facing left-handed pitching anymore.  He is 0-26 from the right side this season and is hitting .174 overall on the season.

9) Arizona Diamondbacks (14)

All of a sudden the Diamondbacks are in first place in the NL West.  They are 14-2 in their last 16 games.  JJ Putz has saved 16 games without blowing one.  The Diamondbacks have certainly snuck up on a lot of people including myself.  At the beginning of the month they were ranked 26th.

10) Milwaukee Brewers (11)

The Brewers are 21-7 at home in Miller Park.  Yovanni Gallardo is 7-2 on the season and has won his last five starts.The problem is the Brewers need to figure out how to win the road. They are an abysmal 8-17.  It is no surprise that the Brewers offense is being carried by Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun.

11) Tampa Bay Rays (7)

Joe Maddon might be one of my favorite managers in all of sports.  He is so unconventional.  With his star player struggling he moved him to the lead off spot.  Evan Longoria was moved to the leadoff spot on Sunday to shake things up and it worked as the Rays won easily.  Also Maddon does themed road trips.  On the itinerary: Grunge to Seattle, beachwear to LA, and pajamas to Baltimore.

12) Texas Rangers (12)

As is the case with a lot of teams in baseball, the Rangers are having trouble closing out ballgames.  Last year’s rookie of the year Neftali Feliz has struggled mightily all year. In the off-season there was much debate as to whether he should be a starter or closer.  He was on the disabled list earlier in the season with shoulder issues.  And now he is not getting the job done.  He has already blown three saves in 13 opportunities.

13) Seattle Mariners (18)

People have been laughing at me because I continue to keep the Mariners ranked rather high.  I can’t stress enough the importance of quality pitching.  That is precisely what they have in Hernandez, Pineda, and Bedard.  Much like the Cardinals, the Mariners would be in a better position if their closer didn’t implode.  Brandon League was pretty awful a few weeks ago.  He has blown three saves so far this season.

14) Cincinnati Reds (9)

Jay Bruce has been scorching hot as of late.  This week he hit .353 with 4 home runs and 13 runs batted in.  Last week he hit .455 with three home runs and four runs batted in.  Bruce is starting to show signs of his unlimited potential and I feel he can be one of the best offensive players in the game.  And he is only 24 years old.

15) Toronto Blue Jays (15)

I remember when Corey Patterson came up through the Cubs organization and was labeled the next Ken Griffey Jr.  That is the problem with labels.  They are seldom true.  (See Miner, Harold)  Patterson bounced around from Chicago to Baltimore and on to Cincinnati with a quick stop in Milwaukee and then on to Washington, back to Baltimore before landing in Toronto.  Persistence has paid off and although he is no Kid Dynamite, he is playing well hitting .301 from the leadoff spot in Toronto.

16) Los Angeles Angels (17)

The American League West is the tightest division in all of baseball as all four teams are .500 or above and within 1.5 games from top to bottom of each other.  While the Angels have solid pitching, their lack of offense is troubling to me.  Torii Hunter is on his last legs and there is no way he can be your cleanup hitter if you expect to be in the thick of a pennant race.

17) Detroit Tigers (16)

Last year I really believed that Austin Jackson was deserving of American League Rookie of the Year.  Now I don’t know if he is going through a sophomore slump or if he really just is terrible.  So far this season he is hitting .222 from the leadoff spot in the Tiger order.  He gets on base 28% of the time failing to set the table for Miggy and VMart.  And he is yet to cut down on his strikeouts as he is on pace for about 190 for the season (he has 62 at the time of this writing).  This is not what you want out of your leadoff man.

18) Oakland Athletics (22)

The Athletics acquired second baseman Scott Sizemore from the Tigers in exchange for relief pitcher David Purcey.  This trade was a curious one to me as Sizemore is a .300 hitter but isn’t very good with the leather.  While the A’s do need the offense, they have a hot prospect in Jamail Weeks that is about major league ready and is a second baseman.  Maybe Sizemore is going to get moved to third base? Time will tell.

19) Colorado Rockies (13)

The Rockies are in the midst of an all out free fall.  Losing Jorge De La Rosa for the season and most of next season to Tommy John surgery certainly doesn’t help their cause.  Ubaldo Jimenez has not been nearly as good as he was last year.  As a matter of fact he’s been terrible.  If the Rockies want to get back into the mix of things they will need Ubaldo to get back on his game and get help from other pitchers in the rotation like Chacin and Hammel.

20) Pittsburgh Pirates (21)

The first year player draft will be taking place from June 6 through the 8th in New Jersey. The Pirates have the first pick in the draft.  After some research the name that will be announced first by Bud Selig will be Danny Hultzen, a left-handed starter from Virginia.  Don’t think the draft matters? Ellsbury, Pedroia, Bard, Papelbon, Lester, and Lowrie were all draft picks that made it to the Show.  The draft matters.

21) Baltimore Orioles (23)

The Orioles pitching is in flux.  They have sent two of their starters, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, down to Triple A Norfolk.  Bergesen was 1-6 with a 5.36 ERA and Tillman was 2-3 with a 4.69 ERA.  The Orioles remain 5 back in the ultra competitive AL East and they will get to square off against old friend Erik Bedard Tuesday.

22) Kansas City Royals (20)

Last year he was arguably the best closer in baseball.  This year has been the exact opposite for Joakim Soria.  He has only 7 saves with an ERA of 5.57 and four blown saves.  Last year he blew just 3 saves on the whole season.

23) New York Mets (19)

Jose Reyes is in a contract year.  Much has been made about the owner of the Mets, Fred Wilpon saying that Reyes will not get Carl Crawford money.  Reyes is doing everything possible this season to make his case for getting top dollar on the open market.  He is on pace for setting the franchise record in hits for a single season (227).  The 27-year-old is hitting .335 with 19 stolen bases.  Plenty of teams are in the market for a top flight shortstop and Reyes should cash in nicely this off-season.

24) Chicago White Sox (24)

The White Sox boosted their payroll to about $125 million this season for the first time in franchise history.  The results? They are one of the worst teams in baseball.  Adam Dunn has been an epic bust hitting .181 with just 5 home runs.  The bullpen has been awful and Ozzie Guillen is on the brink of a rant for the ages.  It is only a matter of time.

25) Chicago Cubs (26)

Where has the power gone? Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who is usually good for about 25-30 home runs a year, has just 2 so far this season.  Alfonso Soriano went 21 games in between home runs this month.  And Carlos Pena who is usually good for 30 home runs has 6 so far this season.  The Cubs need the big hitters to get going to support the young middle infield duo of Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney.

26) Los Angeles Dodgers (27)

I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Dodgers have been so bad through the first third of the season.  Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are studs and Clayton Kershaw has Cy Young potential.  Then I look at the stats and see they are 26th in the league in runs scored and are hitting a paltry .248.  Kershaw pitches every fifth day and Kemp and Ethier can’t carry the lineup on their own.

27) Washington Nationals (25)

It is Memorial Day and in my estimation three teams are completely out of any chance of getting into the playoffs.  Washington is one while San Diego and Houston are the others.  The Nationals will continue to try to build a roster around Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.  The Jayson Werth signing looks “werth and werth” everyday.

28) San Diego Padres (28)

The Padres are the latest team to be hit the by the injury bug.  Nick Hundley and Orlando Hudson are on the disabled list.  Cameron Maybin is day-to-day.  But the Padres have been able to win 2 in a row and are only 7 games out at this point in the season.  No small task for a team that seems to have zero major league talent on its roster.

29) Houston Astros (29)

This week I jokingly tweeted that I think the Red Sox will go after Hunter Pence to replace JD Drew next season.  Then I thought about it a little more.  Would Houston be open to the Sox sending say, Reddick or Kalish, along with Lars Anderson, Kyle Weiland, and maybe Kolbrin Vitek? Or any other possible package that doesn’t include Jose Iglesias?  Bottom line I love Hunter Pence and make any moves other than sending Iglesias to bring him to town.

30) Minnesota Twins (30)

Even though the Twins are 14.5 games back, I still can’t entirely write them off yet.  They have burnt me in the past and I have learned my lesson.  Joe Mauer is playing in extended spring training.  The team is starting to get healthy again.  And I am not completely sold on the Indians being as good as what they have been so far.  The AL Central is incredibly weak and that seems to be the only thing the Twins have going for them.  I just can’t write them off yet.

I can be followed on Twitter @ScottieNTCF (49 followers)

Bruins vs. Canucks (The 2010-11 Stanley Cup Finals)

The Boston Bruins in my concious lifetime as a fan have never won a bigger game than that of Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, at the Garden, on May 27, 2011. A one to nothing shutout which will go down as the greatest Game 7 I have had the privilege of being apart of. I repeated a mantra in my head throughout the game, preparing myself for defeat, not in a pessimistic way, but as a defensive Bruins fan, who has watched this team avidly for fourteen years. I have done so all season, in fact, in situations where my mouth screams out contesting their mistakes, but my head remains scared and impatient. I have called for the Cup all season, staking claim that they will succeed on the skates and pads of the eventual Vezina Trophy winning goaltender. I praised their offseason and mid-season lineup adjustments and made it known that Julien’s structured defensive system, without a superstar goal scorer, would lead them to victory none the less, promoting a level of skill achieved only by heart and resilience. During Game 7 I hinted towards my fear by claiming that win or lose, if they left it all out there, a loss would be easier to overcome. I claimed that if it had to be anyone out of the East, I prefer it be the Lightning, because they have that rare combination of heart, skill and respect, that I see in only a handful of other teams in this league. The Bruins are one of those teams. The Canucks, are one of those teams.

 There are no keys to winning a Stanley Cup final. There are strategies and they will skate hard in practice and pinpoint who to shut down, when to commit, when to take shots, take hits, make plays, and ultimately overshadow the Vancouver powerhouse, and solve Luongo. This will all be talked about, and hockey analysts will have a field day breaking it down, stride by stride, game by game, and look back and say we were wrong or we were right. No one has a clue what team will show up for each city in any given game, or who will be the eventual hero. At this point, having muddled through personal and team rivalries, overcoming the demons from last year in near poetic fashion, and out skating their opponent in what was the most evenly matched series to date, in the 2010-11 playoffs, the Bruins have nothing left to do but play hockey. Win or lose each game, they are as prepared as they can be, and if they needed more or if they deserve to win it all, it will show on the ice.

Nothing to be said anymore of Nathan Horton, and the surprising level of tenacity and skill he showed throughout the year, and this playoff season. Nothing to be said of Tyler Seguin, and an oppurtunity seizing performance in the Lightning series, which will go down in Bruins lore in the years to come. Since that first day when they both stood side by side, garnering the black and gold for the first time, numbers 19 and 18 in succession, Bruins upper management and all of Bruins fandom looked at them to play like Bruins, maintain the respect this franchise brings to the NHL, and leave it all on the ice. They both earned the right to play on this team, and earned the right to play for the Cup. Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly became that hidden depth, imperative to winning playoffs series, and with Michael Ryder forcing me to chew my own words, and all three of them playing cohesive and strong, Chiarelli and Neely can only sit back now, admittedly having put together the best team they new enough to realize; a well-oiled machine of fore-checkers, puck controllers, and who knew it, goal scorers.

Nothing to be said for who their number one goalie is.

Nothing to be said until the Cup is lifted.

The matchup for now reads that the two best goaltenders in the NHL will go head to head, while the best powerplay, meets the worst, and the “scrappiest” offense meets the most structured. The game will be won, not in the neutral zone, or down low, but all over the ice. The Bruins will need to win the entire rink, because the Sedin twins, Burrows and Kessler will be everywhere. This isn’t an Eastern Conference Team, and there is no Bruins edge, coming off of a Game 7 win. This is Vancouver’s year to win the Cup, and the Bruins year to take it from them.

Bruins-Lightning: Game 7

I have been very critical of the Bruins this regular season.  I have called for the coach’s head throughout various points in the regular season.  I have been surprised by the Bruins in the post season.  I even said that the Bruins were not going to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

I was wrong.  Tonight the Bruins will host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.  The winner will take on Vancouver for the right to have their names engraved on Lord Stanley’s Cup.  For the loser, there is no tomorrow.

It is not a time to criticize the Bruins weak power play.  It is not time to boo Tomas Kaberle or Claude Julien.  It is not time to be silent.  Tonight, at 8’o clock it will be time for Bruins fans everywhere to back their squad with everything they have.  It is time for the TD Garden to achieve unhealthy decibel levels that even the deaf can hear.  Tonight, it is all about the Bruins.  The Bruins are the closest to the Cup they have been in my lifetime. 

Tonight, wear the black and gold proudly.  Tonight be loud, be supportive, and will the hometown team to victory.  To quote Jack Edwards, “GET UP!”

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

Patterson’s Week 7 MLB Rankings

This week there has been a major shakeup in the rankings with a new number one.  The shakeup was so major that I had to post this write-up a day late.  Ok that last part may be a small white lie.  Interesting side note on the 2011 MLB Season: Through a month and a half there have already been more rainouts than all of last season.  That is unbelievable when you stop and think about it.  Well, let’s get to the rankings!

1) Cleveland Indians (2)

It took 7 weeks but finally there is a new number one in town.  The Cleveland Indians have made believers out of me and are worthy of hopping over the Philadelphia Phillies to claim the number one spot. Asdrubal (not Ass Dribble) Cabrera leads the team in close to every offensive category hitting .302 with 9 home runs, 32 runs batted in, and 32 runs scored with an OPS of .885.

2) Philadelphia Phillies (1)

The Phillies got Chase Utley back from the disabled list today, a couple of days after losing the Flyin’ Hawaiian Shane Victorino to injury.  Losing Victorino has allowed the Phillies to call up top prospect Dominic Brown who was scorching hot in Triple A Lehigh Valley.  In Leigh Valley, Brown was hitting .341.

3) San Francisco Giants (6)

Despite a lack of offense the Giants find themselves in the top 3 after winning five in a row.  They are also 13-5 at home this season.  But how bad is the Giant offense?  Tim Lincecum has an ERA of 2.06 and is 4-4.  Brian Wilson has 13 saves and 4 wins.

4) St Louis Cardinals (11)

The St. Louis Cardinals have finally found their closer.  Fernando Salas converted all 4 of his chances this week and looks to have a vice grip on the closer role.  Mitchell Boggs has been sent back to Triple A.  Ryan Franklin and his 9.20 ERA have been regulated to middle relief duties.  If only the Cardinals had the fortunes of not blowing an innumerable amount of saves, they would easily be the number one team on this list.

5) Florida Marlins (4)

The Marlins are on the receiving end of bad news when they learned their ace Josh Johnson was headed for the disabled list with a shoulder issue.  Johnson admitted that his shoulder had been bothering him the majority of the season.  With that shoulder issue, Johnson still had a 1.64 ERA with a 3-1 record through 9 starts.

6) New York Yankees (9)

Since changing his swing last season Curtis Granderson has been a home run hitting machine. Sure, he is fortunate to have the benefit of a short right field porch at Yankee Stadium but he is definitely taking advantage of it.  He has 16 home runs on the year, 8 against right-handed pitching and 8 against left-handed pitching.  Not bad for a guy who use to be renown for not being able to touch lefties.

7) Tampa Bay Rays (3)

After a 13 strikeout performance against the Marlins, James Shields may finally be earning the moniker “Big Game James.”  I once mocked this nickname for Shields and found him undeserving of it considering he never really pitched in a big game.  But to this point in the season, the stats speak for themselves.  Shields is 5-2 with an ERA of 2.

8) Boston Red Sox (17)

It was only a few weeks ago that I was considering other catching options for the Sox.  Now Jarrod Saltalamacchia has rewarded the Red Sox brass’ patience with three home runs in his last four games.  He has also had a hit or an RBI in 12 of his last 14.  Now if the Sox can only get Pedroia and Crawford going they will be the unstoppable team everyone projected them to be in the winter.

9) Cincinnati Reds (5)

Brandon Phillips further solidified being one of my favorite non Red Sox players in baseball this week.  A 14-year-old kid tweeted at Phillips that he should come to his game that night.  Phillips actually showed up to the game, watched it, and hung out with the kids on the team for a little while.  The guy is a class act.

10) Atlanta Braves (8)

The Braves are battling the injury bug at the present time losing Jason Heyward to the disabled list and Chipper Jones being bothered my lingering injuries.  The good news is they have had great pitching from Tim Hudson, Jair Jurgens, Derek Lowe, and Tommy Hanson.  With Brandon Beachy going to the DL as well, the Braves have used prospects Julio Tehren and Mike Minor.  Once the Braves get healthy and Dan Uggla turns it around they may actually compete with the Marlins and Phillies in the East.

11) Milwaukee Brewers (19)

In the beginning of the year, I said that Shaun Marcum would be a stud in the NL Central after having to pitch against the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox all of his career.  To this point in the season Marcum has proved me right dealing against inferior competition.  Marcum is 6-1 with 7 quality starts in 10 outings.  He has an ERA of 2.37 and 62 strikeouts in 64 innings.

12) Texas Rangers (13)

At long last the Rangers will welcome back Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton from the disabled list.  After starting the season as the hottest team in baseball the injuries have cooled the Rangers considerably.  Getting the two big boppers back in the lineup should help the defending AL Champs extend their half game lead in the AL West.

13) Colorado Rockies (12)

After starting the season red-hot, Troy Tulowitzki has come back down to earth.  I believe I even had the audacity to say he was the best player in the game at one point this season.  Tulo is now hitting a pedestrian .250 with 11 home runs and 27 runs batted in.

14) Arizona Diamondbacks (25)

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you.  After the Diamondbacks have won 6 in a row, 8 of their last ten, and gotten to a .500 record I felt compelled to launch the Diamondbacks 11 spots in the rankings.  Rookie Josh Collmenter has been awesome going 3-0 with an ERA of 0.69.  JJ Putz has also been outstanding closing the door for DBacks with 12 saves.

15) Toronto Blue Jays (15)

In Boston everyone is talking about Adrian Gonzalez going for the triple crown.  As of right now, Gonzalez’s numbers pale in comparison to Jose Bautista (last year’s home run king).  Bautista is hitting .353, with 18 home runs and 31 runs batted in.  If anyone could get on base in front of Bautista, there is no doubt in my mind we will see the first triple crown since Yaz did it.

16) Detroit Tigers (7)

Justin Verlander has had 10 starts this season and all of them have been quality starts.  Max Scherzer has been the starter getting the run support however as he is 6-1 with an ERA just under 3.  Verlander is 4-3 with an ERA of 2.96.

17) Los Angeles Angels (10)

With Kendry Morales out for the season, Mark Trumbo has provided the pop out of the Angels lineup.  The power hitting first baseman has 7 home runs and 21 runs batted in.  Vernon Wells is on the DL and that is a good thing for the Angels.  Being on the DL, it will be impossible for him to be the automatic out he is nowadays.

18) Seattle Mariners (28)

Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, and a healthy Erik Bedard form one of the best 1-2-3 punches in baseball.  Now if only the Mariners can learn how to hit the baseball.

19) New York Mets (20)

It’s not good when your owner is bashing your players.  According to Fred Wilpon, Jose Reyes is not worth Carl Crawford money, David Wright is a nice guy but not a superstar, and in self-deprecating fashion, Wilpon calls himself a “schmuck” for giving Carlos Beltran his massive contract.

20) Kansas City Royals (14)

The Royals have won 3 of their last 10 and are starting to come back to reality after a nice start to the season.  Eric Hosmer continues to impress hitting .287 with 3 home runs in 59 at bats.  Mike Moustakas is hitting .265 with 8 home runs and 34 runs batted in at Triple A Omaha.  Moustakas was my pick for AL Rookie of the year this season.

21) Pittsburgh Pirates (23)

The Rangers have inquired about Pirates closer Joel Hanranhan who is under Pirate control through 2013, which would make the price a bit high.  Hanrahan has been one of the few bright spots closing games down for the Pirates this season.  This will be something to watch until the trade deadline.

22) Oakland A’s (16)

The A’s have to be excited to be getting Andrew Bailey back rather soon.  Brian Fuentes is 1-6  with an ERA of 4.71.  Those are not good closer numbers at all. Bailey starts his rehab assignment today and could rejoin the A’s as early as the weekend.

23) Baltimore Orioles (18)

Vladimir Guerrero is starting to heat up for the Orioles.  Last week he hit .444 with a home run and 5 runs batted in and 5 runs scored.  For the season Vlad is hitting .309 with 5 home runs and 19 runs batted in.

24) Chicago White Sox (27)

The White Sox are showing signs of life after winning 7 of their last 10.  Matt Thornton was quoted as saying Sergio Santos is the best bullpen pitcher in all of baseball.  Hyperbole? Santos has an ERA of 1.69, a WHIP of 1.08, and 6 saves.  On a side note, Jake Peavy is back and in his one start so far he looked like the Peavy of old.

25) Washington Nationals (21)

The only news out of Washington that is worthy of being reported is what’s going on with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  The GM of the Nationals came out and said that Harper, despite ripping apart minor league pitching, will not be called up this season.  Harper is hitting .346 with 10 home runs and 34 runs batted in Class A.  Strasburg is expected to play catch for the first time since his Tommy John surgery this week, but isn’t expected to pitch this season.

26) Chicago Cubs (24)

Thoughts and prayers go out to Marlon Byrd after he was drilled in the face by an Alfredo Aceves fastball Saturday night that fractured his face.  It was a truly scary scene, and even scarier seeing how all the other players on the field reacted to the pitch.  Here’s to hoping a speedy recovery to Marlon Byrd.

27) Los Angeles Dodgers (22)

The Dodgers continue to make news off the field with the ugly McCourt divorce.  But on the field Matt Kemp has put together a nice little season so far hitting .316 with 10 home runs and 32 runs batted in, leading the team in all three categories.

28) San Diego Padres (26)

Heath Bell being the best closer in the game while pitching for San Diego is kind of like having a brand new chandelier in an abandoned house.  I will say that with absolute certainty Bell will be dealt prior to the trading deadline.

29) Houston Astros (29)

Mark Melancon has assumed closer duties in Houston after Brandon Lyon lost the job.  Not much else news to report here.  It wouldn’t surprise me if Astros don’t rank higher than 29 the rest of the season.

30) Minnesota Twins (30)

The Twins continue to be horrid and rank last in most statistical categories in all of baseball.  The good news? Joe Mauer has started playing in extended spring training games this week.

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF

A Star is Born

The career was conceived on June 30, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  Gary Bettman announced to the world that with the number 2 pick in the 2010 NHL draft the Boston Bruins selected Tyler Seguin.  Since the Phil Kessel trade on September 19 2009, Bruin World had been anxiously awaiting the 2010 draft.  With the Edmonton Oilers selecting fellow phenom Taylor Hall, Seguin fell to the Bruins.  Fans had visions of greatness. Orr, Espositio, Neely, Borque, and now Seguin.

While the NHL career of Tyler Seguin was conceived on June 30, it would be born (almost true to form) 9 and a half months later, May 17, 2011 in Boston.  On that night Tyler Seguin skated circles around everyone on the ice finding the back of the net twice and assisting on two other goals, leading the Bruins to a Game 2 win in the Eastern Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  The water broke a few days before, on May 14 when Tyler scored a goal and assisted on another, letting the world now he was about to arrive, in Game 1 of said series.

Continuing with the birth analogy, the nine months the Bruins were “pregnant” with Seguin there were good times and bad.  There were times when critics were already to call Seguin a bust.  There were times Seguin kicked back and showed brief flashes of what he was capable of.  The 74 games he played out of a possible 82 truly define the development of the 18-year-old.  He sat out the first 11 games of the playoffs and was likely to sit out more if Claude Giroux hadn’t laid out Patrice Bergeron.  Some fans wanted Seguin to play in the playoffs and were upset that he was forced to watch the game from high a top whatever arena the game was being played.  Other fans didn’t think Seguin was ready to contribute, the pressure of the playoffs could overcome and permanently scar the young man.

With the injury to Bergeron, Julien was forced to play Seguin.  In two games Seguin has provided a necessary spark to the Bruins offense and power play.  His speed, awareness, and fire are second to none and have Bruins fans beyond giddy for the first time in my lifetime.

With all that being said, people need to stop criticizing Claude Julien.  I am looking at you Michael Felger.  I am actually going to defend “Daddy” here. How does the emergence of Tyler Seguin correlate to firing Julien? The answer? It doesn’t.  If anything Julien has helped nurture and develop Seguin to where he is at today.  True, if Bergeron doesn’t go down Seguin wouldn’t play.  But why can’t we just enjoy the fact that right now the momentum in this series is wholly on the Bruins side right now because of the phenom? He has the fresh legs no one else has right now.  He has a skill set unlike any other player on the ice.  Let’s just celebrate that and not get on Julien for nonsense.

Lastly in defense of Julien, it takes time for players to develop.  Exhibit A: Dustin Pedroia.  In 31 games in 2006 and was hitting as low as .172 to start the 2007 season.  Fans were calling for Alex Cora to be the full-time second baseman.  How did that turn out?  Moral of the story: Good things take time! and Tyler Seguin? He’s a good thing. And he has arrived.

video acquired from colleague Gambo’s Facebook page

I can be followed on Twitter @ ScottieNTCF