Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Miranda Warnings": Panic in Motown?

Welcome to week #2 of "Miranda Warnings", your weekly guide to what's happening in the world of Major League Baseball, from a fantasy baseball perspective. Every late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning throughout baseball's regular season, "Miranda Warnings" will appear on SportsJudge.com. I'm your host Michael Miranda. Let's get to it...

Each year there are tons of sub-plots throughout baseball but, usually, one story stands out above the rest. In 2007, Barry Bonds' chase of Hank Aaron's all-time home run record took center stage. Thus far in 2008, the Detroit Tigers are center stage, for all the wrong reasons. If Tiger catcher Ivan Rodriguez and Tiger Manager Jim Leyland (both pictured above) aren't concerned about the Tigers 0-7 start, they should be (see
American League Central below).

American League East: The Yankee injuries continue to mount. 1B Jason Giambi (sore groin) returned to the Yankee lineup on Tuesday versus Kansas City, after a two game absence. As Giambi returns, SS Derek Jeter and C Jorge Posada appear headed to the DL. Jeter injured his quad against Kansas City. The Yankees don't expect him back before the the Red Sox series this coming weekend. Posada's injury appears to be more serious. According to rotoworld.com, Posada will undergo an MRI on Wednesday due to weakness in his throwing shoulder. Posada said his shoulder felt "dead," after the Royals were 4-for-4 stealing bases against him on Tuesday. Giambi, Jeter and Posada should not be active on your fantasy baseball roster until they prove that they are healthy... Speaking of injuries, the Rays are holding their breath. SP Matt Garza left Tuesday nights game in the third inning with “radial nerve irritation” in his throwing arm and was placed on the DL immediately after the game. The Rays better hope that Garza's injury isn't serious as they are already without SP Scott Kazmir (elbow strain), who has yet to start a spring training or regular-season game... Red Sox SP Daisuke Matsuzaka looks solid thus far. Dice-K boosted his record to 2-0 on the young season, defeating the Tigers 5-0 on Tuesday afternoon, in Boston's home opener. He went 6.2 innings, surrendered 4 hits and registered 7 k's... If you look at the AL East Standings on Wednesday, the Baltimore Orioles record is not a typo. The rebuilding O's are riding a six game winning streak and lead the AL East with a 6-1 record! Nobody in particular is carrying them. Everybody is contributing. OF's Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and 2B Brian Roberts are all must-starts in fantasy leagues, regardless of how the O's are playing.

American League Central: During the off-season, Detroit added 3B Miguel Cabrera to an already lethal lineup and, as a result, the Tiger's became the team to beat in the Central Division in 2008. Fast-forward to April 2008 and the Tiger's are 0-7! Yes, the Tiger's, a team with stars throughout its roster, a team with a payroll over $200 million, is winless in 2008! I'm stunned that the Tiger's are 0-7, but I'm not surprised that they are mortal. In last week's "Miranda Warnings", I said: "After SP Justin Verlander, Detroit's starting rotation is average. And, more importantly, the Tigers bullpen is, in one word, ugh!". I was right about their weak bullpen but, in addition to the weak bullpen, their starting pitching, hitting and defense also stink at the moment. Hence, 0-7! Also, key injuries to Gary Sheffield (torn finger tendon) and Miguel Cabrera (quad) have contributed to Detroit's poor start. Although it appears that the Tigers have enough talent to recover from this poor start and have a successful 2008, their starting pitching and bullpen are thin enough for me to make this prediction: Detroit doesn't recover from its horrid 0-7 start, they are beset by injuries and miss the playoffs, finishing 81-81, in third place in the Central Division, 14 games behind Central Division winner Cleveland... For the second consecutive April, Cleveland Indian's closer Joe Borowski surrendered a walk-off grand slam. In 2007, it was to the Yankees A-Rod. On Monday night, it was to LA's Torii Hunter, giving the Angels a 6-4 win. Borowski is a terrible closer (5.07 ERA in 2007 and 19.29 ERA in 2008!). Shame on you if he's on your roster!... Minnesota SP Francisco Liriano (elbow) has looked very, very shaky in two minor league rehab assignments. The Twins remain non-committal about when they'll promote him. The Twins placed starting OF Michael Cuddyer on the 15-day disabled list. Cuddyer dislocated his right index finger while sliding into third base against the Royals recently. In his absence, Jason Kubel will get most of the AB's... I discussed the surprising Orioles above. Another surprise team, thus far, is the Kansas City Royals. The Royals are 5-2 and have received quality starts from SP's Gil Meche, Brian Bannister and Zack Greinke. All three of these pitchers are solid fantasy baseball material, especially Greinke... The White Sox are 5-2. That's good news for Manager Ozzie Guillen, whose been rumored to be on the "hot seat", if the White Sox didn't get off to a solid start in 2008. So far, White Sox 3B Joe Crede's back (back surgery in 2007) is holding up just fine. He's second in the AL in RBI's with 10.

American League West: As if the Angels don't have enough pitching problems with SP John Lackey out until mid-May (strained triceps) and SP Kelvim Escobar's career in jeopardy (torn labrum). Now comes word that closer Francisco Rodriguez has a serious left ankle problem. K-Rod said recently that he has had persistent pain in his left ankle since spraining it last August. Last August! And it still hurts? Time to get concerned, if you have K-Rod on your team. His replacement, Justin Speier, gave up a game-winning 2-run homer to Cleveland's Travis Hafner Tuesday night... If you read last weeks "Miranda Warning's", you know I said this about Oakland SP Rich Harden: "Oakland SP Rich Harden was lights-out against Boston last week in Japan (6 IP, 3H, 9K). If you own Harden and you're a wise GM, you'll sell high ASAP! Harden is always, always injured. Sell!, sell!, sell!". Fast-forward to today. Oakland scratched Harden from his scheduled Tuesday start because of a strained muscle in his upper arm. Harden is expected to be ready to pitch at Cleveland on Saturday. If Harden's on your roster, rid yourself of this fantasy baseball headache. I will be stunned if Harden makes even 15 starts in 2008!... Texas C Gerald Laird exploded on Sunday night versus the Angels with 2 HR's and 6 RBI's!... Seattle is nearing its breaking-point with all or nothing 1B Richie Sexson. Sexson was removed from the four-hole recently for the first time in two years! He's batting sixth, until further notice.

National League East: The Mets traded for SP Johan Santana during the off-season and everyone handed them the 2008 National League Championship. Not so fast! The Mets have lost Pedro Martinez (strained hamstring) until mid-May, at the earliest, and the back-end of their rotation consists of Nelson Figueroa and Mike Pelfrey (ouch!). Oh, they've also lost three in a row. The 2008 Mets look like the same listless bunch of guys who performed last September's "Meltdown at Shea!"... Philadelphia activated closer Brad Lidge from the DL this past Saturday... Marlins SP Andrew Miller has gotten rocked in two starts (0-1, 12.91 ERA!), but don't give up on him just yet. He's gotten lit up for 16 hits in just 7 innings, but he has a 9-to-3 strikeout to walk ratio, a very good sign for a young pitcher. He's an elite talent. Be patient... Atlanta SP John Smoltz (shoulder) returned from the DL and beat the Mets this past Saturday, 3-1. Unfortunately, he left the game after five innings because "the shoulder wasn't feeling right". That's a bad sign, but there's no talk about him returning to the DL... If you need a 1B, get Washington Nationals 1B Nick Johnson (.296, 1 HR, 4 RBI's), if he's available in your league. He's seems fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered in 2006.

National League Central: Houston SP Roy Oswalt has given up double-digit hits in back-to-back games. In only 12 innings, Oswalt has surrendered 21 hits!... Cincinnati SP Johnny Cueto was on fire in his major league debut against Arizona, striking out 10, allowing no walks and beating the D-backs 3-2!... Milwaukee SP Yovanni Gallardo (knee) is currently on a minor league rehab assignment and might return for a 4/19 start against Cincinnati. When
Gallardo returns, either SP Carlos Villanueva or SP Manny Parra will be bumped from the Milwaukee starting rotation and head to the bullpen or the minors. My guess is that Parra remains in the Brewers starting rotation. He's got nice upside... The Chicago Cubs bombed Pittsburgh SP Tom Gorzellany for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings Monday afternoon, the worst start of his career.

National League West
: I'm a huge Joe Torre fan, always have been, but starting OF Juan Pierre over OF Matt Kemp? Huh? Kemp is clearly the better player, both in real-life and fantasy baseball. These days, the LA Dodger's manager is not thinking straight! I predict that Dodgers SP Esteban Loaiza gets bombed a few times and the team tires of him. The Dodgers then promote stud prospect SP Clayton Kershaw (by late-April/early-May) to replace
Loaiza in the Dodger's starting rotation... Colorado's light-hitting Jayson Nix won the starting 2B job out of spring training, but after his 0-3 on Tuesday, he's hitting .111!... Padres SP Mark Prior ended his throwing session early Tuesday after experiencing tightness in his surgically repaired shoulder. Don't expect Prior back before June... San Francisco SP Barry Zito has reportedly lost 2-3 mph on his fastball, an ominous sign for the man behind one of the most ridiculous sports contracts ever... Last, but not least, I wish Arizona Diamondbacks SP Doug Davis a speedy, healthy recovery from thyroid cancer surgery. Pitching in his final game before the procedure is performed Thursday, Davis was dominant, hurling 6 innings, surrendering 6 hits, 2 ER, walking 2 and striking out 7, as the D-backs pummeled the Dodgers, 10-5. Davis, who will be out indefinitely, left the game to a much-deserved standing ovation.

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