The answers to the questions you want to know......
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Q: Which pitcher has surprised you the most so far?
Edwin Jackson's start to the season has definitely been the biggest surprise to me. So far, through two starts this season, Jackson is 2-0, with a 0.64 era and 10 strikeouts in 14 inningsr. Jackson was a 15 game loser last season that had an era of almost 6. He once was considered the top pitching prospect in the Dodgers organization, but became an afterthought after he struggled with them early on. Jackson is only 24 years old this season and if he reaches the potential that scouts once thought he had, the Rays will have a pretty solid rotation with him, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and James Shields.
Q: Of the batters off to hot starts, which one surprises you the most?
So far there have been two players starts that have surprised me so far. The first one is definitely Joe Crede of the White Sox. After 7 games this season, Crede is batting .393 with 2 home runs and 10 RBI. After a slow spring, Crede is making other GM's look foolish for not trading for him and he's also making Kenny Williams look like a genious for keeping him on the big league roster over Josh Fields, who had a solid year with the White Sox last year.
The second player that has completely surprised me is Jason Kendall of the Milwaukee Brewers. Through the first half of last season with the Oakland Athletics, Kendall was struggling just to stay above the .200 mark in batting average. Moving him behind the pitcher to the 9th spot in the order has seemed to work out so far as Kendall has started off the year hitting .526 with 5 RBI, 5 runs scored, and one steal. I knew Kendall would help Milwaukee's pitchers (2.95 team era), but I don't think anyone thought he'd be this effective with the bat. I always thought Kendall was a better National League player, and his performance so far has shown me why I still believe that.
Q: Baltimore, Kansas City, Chicago (AL), Florida, and St. Louis have all gotten off to hot starts so far. Of those teams, which one has the greatest chance of reaching the postseason?
This question had me thinking for a very long time. I guess the best way to answer this question is to start off with teams that I can pretty much guarantee won't reach the postseason. Even though the Orioles have gotten off to a hot start, they play in baseball's toughest division this season and don't have much of a chance. There is no way Florida would beat out Atlanta, New York, or Philly in the NL East without Miguel Cabrera, and even though Kansas City has great potential, I think they are going to cool down once Detroit and Cleveland start playing better. So that leaves me with the White Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals......Even though the NL Central has been the weakest division in baseball the past couple of seasons, I still don't see the Cardinals emerging on top. Their mediocre pitching staff will catch up to them and the offense isn't much outside of Albert Pujols. The White Sox, on the other hand, have the offense to compete with teams in the Central, and they spent big money to revamp the bullpen this offseason. The only question remains is the starting pitching, yet they have a decent ace in Buehrle and potential in the back with Danks, so if I had to choose one of these five to make the postseason, it'd be them.
Q: Should the Giants try to trade for Dan Johnson now that the A's designated him for assignment?
In my opinion, the Giants are the only team where Johnson would make sense. Although Johnson hasn't had great success in the big leagues, the success that he has had is certainly a lot better than both Rich Aurilia and Dan Ortmeier (who the Giants are playing at first base). If Johnson could just raise his batting average, he'd become a much better player. He already has a solid eye, as he walked 72 times last season. Maybe a move to the National League is just what he needs. If the Giants want him, I say they don't risk another team posting a claim on him and go ahead and trade for him. At the very most, it'd cost a player that the Giants don't utilize much like Fred Lewis and at the very least it would cost a low-A ball player.
Q: What do you make of the Dodgers outfield situation? Will Joe Torre finally figure it out?
When the news first broke that Andre Ethier would be starting in place of Juan Pierre, I thought Torre was making the right move. What the reports failed to tell us was that Juan Pierre would be eating up Matt Kemps at bats, which is worse than originally expected. Pierre only has 3 hits all season, zero walks, and has been thrown out trying to steal second. He doesn't deserve to start on the Dodgers and hopefully Joe Torre will eventually realize that. If he doesn't, it's going to start costing the team some wins.
Q: What is wrong with Andruw Jones? Will he ever be the player that he was 2-3 seasons ago for the Braves?
It remains to be seen. I remain optimistic that Jones can turn around his 2007 season, but he hasn't shown anything of the sort so far in 2008. I find it hard to believe that a player that has had as much success in this league as Jones, and is only 30 years old, will continue to decline. So far, Andruw Jones is proving me wrong about him. I hope by the end of the year that the "It's only April" excuse will apply to him because that would be a shame to see someone that good fall so fast.
Q: The Indians just locked up Fausto Carmona to a long term deal. Was this a good or bad move?
Indians GM Mark Shapiro is one of the best when it comes to locking up young talent. He did it with Grady Sizemore a few years back and now he's locking up Carmona to a deal that will buy out his first two seasons of free agency. While most general managers would usually wait another year before making such a deal, I think it was a smart move by Shapiro. If the Indians lose C.C. Sabathia in the offseason, they will be in trouble. At least this guarantees the team a front of the rotation starter for at least the next six seasons.
Q: Based on what we've seen so far, what are the best trades made this past offseason?
So far, I'd say the best trade made was the Diamondbacks acquisition of Dan Haren from the Athletics, simply because it helped both teams involved. So far, Haren has been lights out for the Diamondbacks, while both Dana Eveland and Greg Smith have pitched very well for the Athletics. Meanwhile, Brett Anderson was solid in his first minor league start and Carlos Gonzalez is batting .300 for the River Cats. Another trade that has worked out very well is the Orioles trade of Miguel Tejada to the Astros. Tejada's been hitting the ball well for the Astros, but Luke Scott has been hitting it even better. Scott leads the American League in batting average at .500. Meanwhile, both Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate have yet to give up a run in over 9 innings of relief (combined). Also, as expected, the Mets deal for Johan Santana is working out great.
The worst trade we've seen so far could be Seattle's trade for Erik Bedard. While Bedard has had a solid two starts for the Mariners, the team has lost many games because their bullpen is now extremely weak and the offense is worse than it was a year ago. We'll have to give it more time to play out though.
Q: What is wrong with the Yankees? They have gone from having the best offense in 2007, to having the worst so far in 2008?
The Yankees are typically slow out of the gate, so I wouldn't be worried too much. Since 2004, the Yankees record in April is only 46-51(not counting this season) and they've made the postseason each one of those years. With both Posada and Jeter injured, and Giambi, Damon, and Cano off to slow starts, they should be happy with the 4-5 record. As always, the only people performing in New York right now on offense are A-rod, Matsui, and Abreu. I think Joe Girardi needs to handle his pitchers a little better. Not starting Kennedy because the "threat" of rain is lame to begin with and then bringing him in when the team is down 2 runs in the 7th is even more pointless.