Tag Archives: Rankings

The 2013 Dubsism All-Star Break Baseball “Sucks/Doesn’t Suck” Rankings

pirates victory billboard

For me, the All-Star break has always represented the “far turn” in the horse race that is the Major League Baseball season. This is the point when general managers acting as jockeys must decide whether they are contenders or pretenders; whether to go to the whip (trade for talent to augment a “stretch run”) or “wait for next year” (have a fire sale). Not to mention, this another great opportunity to see how wrong we really were from the pre-season predictions.  And let’s be honest…we were wrong on a lot of stuff.

1)  Pittsburgh Pirates ↑ 15

What We Said:

Even though the Bucs just missed out on a .500 record, it had to be considered a successful campaign because their farm system took a big leap forward. Pirates fans need to be patient because I really think the turnaround is coming.

Really.

I get that it is hard to ask fans of a team that has sucked swamp water to two decades to be patient, especially in the light of two straight second-half collapses.  Breakout superstar Andrew McCutchen needs to lead an offense featuring Russell Martin, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider, and promoted prospect Starling Marte. The starting rotation has potential with a top three of A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald, but that three still has some questions. Beyond there’s more :what ifs,” such as Francisco Liriano Jonathan Sanchez. Boil it all down and I see the Pirates as an even bet to reach .500 for the first time in two decades.

What Happened:

Pitching wins, and the Pirates lead the National League in team ERA. The question is after two straight post All-Star Game folds, is this the year the Bucs finally can make a run all the way to they way.

2) Boston Red Sox ↑ 16

What We Said:

For the second year in a row, the mantra is Boston is as follows: The Red Sox are not nearly as bad as their record last year would indicate, it was just a storm of everything falling apart at exactly the same time.

The difference is that they seem to have grasped what the really need to do to rebuild over the long haul.  Namely, they needed to not make the same mistakes when it comes to giant money, long-term contracts. This past off-season, the Red Sox only signed free-agents who were willing to accept contracts of three years or fewer, who wouldn’t cost them a compensatory draft pick and who aren’t pains-in-the-ass.  Having said that, third-place is the upside for this team.

What Happened:

Remember what I just said about pitching? Well, Boston is second in the American League in team ERA. Top that off with the fact the Red Sox are also second in the AL in team batting average, and their #2 ranking, while surprising to me given what I though of this team at the beginning of the season, really shouldn’t be surprising.

3) St. Louis Cardinals ↑ 4

What We Said:

The Cardinals nearly repeated as National League pennant winners in 2012, and they looked to be just as good in 2013 until the news came down that they would be without Chris Carpenter; likely for good. The Cardinal lineup is more than adequate, but the loss of Carpenter coupled with the free-agency debacle of Kyle Lohse raises some question marks for the Cardinal pitching staff. Namely they will be looking to Adam Wainwright to continue the form he showed coming down the stretch in 2012, and they may find themselves relying on “blue chip” prospects Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal.

What Happened:

You tell me and we’ll both know. The Cardinals are hitting, the Cardinals are pitching, and I didn’t think either of those things were going to happen. Three of the league leaders in batting average are in CardinaI uniforms, and that’s not going to last.

4) Oakland Athletics ↑ 9

What We Said:

Last year’s surprise AL West winners won’t have to rely on an all-rookie rotation as they did down the stretch. Those pitchers now all have a full season and a play-off appearance under their belts, and more importantly, will have help from the full-time availability Brett Anderson and veteran Bartolo Colon who returns from a PED suspension. They’ll still be platoon-heavy and the home runs, strikeouts, and defense they had in abundance last year should be augmented by the addition of Chris Young.

What Happened:

Since the last All-Star game, nobody has had a better record than the Oakland A’s. As far as this season is concerned, they have managed to get 60 homers and 150 RBI combined out of Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss, and an 11-3, 1.10 WHIP performance (including eight-game an wining streak) out of Bartolo Colon before he lost to the Cubs on July 3rd.

5) Atlanta Braves ↔

What We Said:

The dirty little secret about the Atlanta Braves?  They had a better staff ERA (3.42) than the vaunted championship San Francisco staff (3.68). The dirty little secret about the Atlanta Braves they wish you didn’t know? The Braves production from its right-handed hitters was the worst in the National League (49 HRs and a .671 OPS).

That’s why it’s no secret the Braves looked to improve on offense with the addition of B.J. and Justin Upton.

What Happened:

Pretty much what we though would happen. The Braves lead the National League in home runs, and lead the NL East in runs scored and team ERA. They strikeout way too much, but this need to be the year they Braves reclaim the division.

6)  Cincinnati Reds ↓ 3

What We Said:

Despite two bad decisions, the Reds will still be one of the best teams in baseball.  Thinking that Shin-Soo Choo can be a center fielder despite the fact he’s been a right fielder his whole career is going to be a problem. Cincinnati’s lead-off hitters last year had the worst OPS (.581) and the worst on-base percentage (.254) in both leagues. Choo is not likely to fix that hitting lead-off (which he’s never done on a regular basis) and learning a position he’s never played.

Moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation right now is the right call, if you want to see his arm in a display case in about three months. We must never forget what Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker does to pitching staffs.

Having said that, an offense powered by Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto is going to score a shitload of runs.

What Happened:

Remember when everybody regarded the NL Central as a baseball graveyard. Well, three of the top six teams on this list come from that graveyard, and the Reds are the one I was the most right about. The only big whiff was that Shin-Soo Choo has adapted quite well to the lead-off role, although he is not a terribly gifted base stealer.

7) Detroit Tigers ↑ 2

What We Said:

Because the American League Central is the weakest division in baseball, the Tigers should have no problem riding their starting rotation into the postseason.  Once there, the weaknesses that got them swept by the Giants will re-emerge. The hitting tends to disappear at key times,  the bullpen is a train wreck, and the Tigers are notoriously awful on defense. If the Tigers can fix any one of those issues, they can rocket up this list.

What Happened: 

With all the weapons we already knew about with the Tigers, now you can add Max Scherzer. The bats are producing, but they are still streaky.

8 ) Texas Rangers ↑ 2

What We Said:

Ok, so losing Josh Hamilton is going to hurt. But look at the upsides the Rangers still have.  First of all, If Yu Darvish maintains his form from last September and October (2.21 ERA, 39 strikeouts, and 20 hits allowed in 36.2 innings), Texas will have a legitimate #1 at the front of the rotation. They have the best prospect in baseball in Jurickson Profar (who will start the season in the minors), a power-hitting third baseman ready to play every day (Mike Olt) and pitching depth in the minors with Martin Perez and Cody Buckel. The Rangers may or may not be a play-off team this year, but they will be a factor yet for a while.

What Happened:

The Rangers don’t miss Hamilton as much as we thought, and Yu Darvish is leading a pitching staff which is second in the American League in team ERA.

9) Baltimore Orioles ↑ 5

What We Said:

OK, Oriole fans, don’t get pissed at me when I tell you your season last year was a result of luck. There’s nothing wrong with that, honestly, the fact the O’s were a single win away from playing in the American League Championship Series was one of the best baseball stories of the entire season.

But it all happened because everything went right. The bullpen, which was like a car built from spare parts, managed to come together to form one of the best units in baseball. The team went 29-9 in one-run games during the regular season and won 16 consecutive extra-inning games.

To that roster, they seem to be looking largely to internal improvements to fuel the 2013 season, with a full season of Manny Machado, a re-signed Nate McLouth, a hopefully healthier Nolan Reimold, and at some point the call-up of Dylan Bundy. The one addition they made was bringing in Jair Jurrjens to the starting rotation.

All the luck that the Orioles needed last year, plus the fact that Jurrjens has a solid shot at having a Baltimore-area MRI machine named after him means I have a hard time picking the O’s to be in October again.

What Happened:

OK, Oriole fans, so far you can legitmately tell me to shove my luck comment straight up my ass. Chris Davis is powering an offense  leading the league in home runs and which is second in runs scored.  But in my defense, the pitching is a bit a shaky, and I don’t think it gets better by adding guys like Scott Feldman.

10) Washington Nationals ↓ 9

What We Said:

Remember when it was easy to belittle the Nationals by calling them the Gnats? Well, those days are over.

Last year’s major league leader in wins promises to be even better this year. The addition of Denard Span gives the Nationals the bona fide  center fielder and lead-off hitter they have sorely needed, and Dan Haren marks a solid upgrade over the inconsistent Edwin Jackson. Rafael Soriano jock-strap bursting power to a bullpen that already makes opposing hitters crap their pants.

The Nats also boast a great core of young players who are only going to get better…ace Stephen Strasburg, future all-star Bryce Harper, reliever Drew Storen, and catcher Wilson Ramos.

What Happened:

They aren’t back to being the Gnats, but they are circling the pesky housefly neighborhood.

11) Cleveland Indians ↑ 10

What We Said:

Speaking of teams that need some help from Jobu…

In 2012, Cleveland allowed the most runs in the American League and scored the second-fewest. You don’t really need to the super-computers at NASA to figure out that isn’t good.  The Indians hit the fewest home runs by right-handed batters of any major league club, so they added guys like Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, and the switch-hitting Nick Swisher.  to the lineup. They added Michael Bourn to set the table in front of those guys.

The problem is the pitching staff is still pretty shaky. To improve a staff which had the league’s second-worst ERA at 5.25, they added the perenially-durable-yet-mediocre Brett Myers. To shore up the league’s second-worst bullpen ERA of 3.97, they added the career under-achiever Matt Albers.

The addition of manager Terry Francona will certainly help, and the offense should improve, but that pitching staff simply isn’t going to cut it. Maybe the Indians ought to bring back Eddie Harris and Rick “Wild Thing Vaughn.”

What Happened:

Over the last few years,short of the Pittsburgh Pirates, there hasn’t been a team we’ve been more consistently wrong about than the Indians. They win when we think they will lose. They lose when we think they will win. Despite that, there really are what we thought they would be; a team that can slug in runs, but can’t pitch. They can stay in second place in a weak division, but they can’t contend to be around in October.  Now that we said that, this team will face Pittsburgh in the World Series.

12) New York Yankees ↔

What We Said:

I fully admit I have no idea what to do with the Yankees. This ranking is on the optimistic side, given that it will all depend on how long it takes them to get healthy. As it stands now, they are going to start the season with Derek Jeter, Mark Teixiera, and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list; not to mention it is very possible Alex Rodriguez will never wear a Yankee uniform again. There’s really no ready-to-go talent in the farm system, and the pitching staff gets thin behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Top it off with the fact that Phil Hughes is already hurt, Mariano Rivera is 43 years old and coming off major knee surgery, and it becomes clear that the Yankees could easily drop to being the 70-win “also-ran” role usually reserved for Toronto.

What Happened:

Somehow, the Yankees keep finding a way to win considering they really aren’t hitting, the pitching is OK-to-mediocre at best, and their “magic number” is 25 – that’s the total number of games played by Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixiera, and Alex Rodriguez combined.

13) Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 5

What We Said:

There’s two big factors that will determine where the Rays 2013 campaign goes…the health of Evan Longoria and the development of Wil Myers (assuming he starts the season in the major).

Beyond that, even after losing James Shields and Wade Davis, the Rays still have one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball.  The Rays allowed the fewest runs (577) in the majors last season, which was far better than anyone else in the AL East. The trouble was they failed to score 700 runs for the first time since 2006.

What Happened: 

The pitching got worse and the offense got better. However, the Rays can still be a factor if the pitching staff solidifies a bit.

14) Arizona Diamondbacks ↑ 1

What We Said:

While the Diamondbacks made a lot of off-season moves, they seemed to be like a dog on a tile floor; expending a lot of effort and not really going anywhere. The bottom line is they are a solid team, but they aren’t nearly as good as the Giants and the Dodgers. Not to mention, there’s no way you can expect this team to be better without Justin Upton.

What Happened:

The Diamondbacks found production in places not named Upton. They have tow guys with 100 hits and 50 runs scored. They have only one player with more than 70 RBI, but they have seven with more than 25. That might be a ton of production, but it is enough when you also have 10 pitchers with a WHIP under 1.40

15)  Philadelphia Phillies ↑ 2

What We Said:

Because the Phillies have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels at the top of their rotation, the perception is that they will be able to mask a lot of problems. The trouble is one of those problems is Halladay. He has been so shaky in spring training, he’s not getting the ball on Opening Day for the first time in ten years.

Here’s the other problems they can’t hide.

They added two mediocre bats who suck defensively (Michael Young and Delmon Young) in a league where there is no designated hitter.

No matter who they put in the outfield, Ben Revere is going to be the only one who isn’t a defensive liability.

Philadelphia’s offensive production in terms of total runs scored has ben in decline for three straight seasons.

Don’t look now, but they are old. On Opening Day the Phillies’ four infielders and catcher will all be 33 or older, and the only player in that group who hasn’t shown signs of decline is catcher Carlos Ruiz, who just happens to be suspended the first 25 games of the season for a failed PED test.

It is time for Phillies fans to come to terms with the fact this team will be mediocre until further notice.

What Happened:

Everything we said would happen did in fact happen. The pitching staff is clearly in decline, led by the injury to Roy Halladay. But the Philllies have reversed their offensive slump up until now. Granted the recent injury to Ryan Howard is a problem at key point in the season, but much of this offensive resurgence in Philadelphia has been led by the long-awaited breakout of Domonic Brown.  In other words, the Phillies are still mediocre, but they are happily so at this point.

16) Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 5

What We Said:

There’s no question the Blue Jays pulled the biggest “load-up” job in the off-season, but I’m not sure I buy this team yet.

My first concern is the pitching staff. Yeah, they added a lot of names, but let’s take a hard look at that whole staff. I am not a believer in that voo-doo bullshit knuckleball, and hence I think R.A. Dickey’s 2012 season was a fluke. Plus, he’s 38 years old. Mark Buehrle isn’t exactly young anymore either, and to see my concerns about him, just look at his stats before he pitched that perfect game, and look at them after.  Josh Johnson and  Brandon Morrow have a track record of not being able to stay healthy, And Ricky Romero is an implosion waiting to happen.

The bottom line: The Blue Jays are “all-in” with an attempt to go from being a  70-win “also-ran” to a play-ff contender.  Aside from the aforementioned changes on the hill, they’ve added Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, and Adam Lind, but it cost them the depth in their farm system  they spent years building.

What Happened:

Early on, the plummet for this team was in full-on mode. This team couldn’t buy a win, but has since righted the ship. This team can score as expected, but the pitching staff can only be considered a failure considering the amount of money spent to be bottom-half in the American League in ERA.

17)  Los Angeles Angels ↓ 11

What We Said:

Offense will be no problem for the Angels; a lineup featuring Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, and Mike Trout should have opposing pitchers praying. Meanwhile, Angels fans will be praying that C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, and Joe Blanton can provide something more than just eating up innings behind Jered Weaver.

What Happened:

Here’s another team that hit the rocks early, but now seems to be getting things in order. The Angels have bounced back from a woeful start to now rank 3rd in the AL in team batting average and 5th (and climbing) in home runs. The fact that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton finally went yard in back-to-back at-bats the other day is another encouraging sign. The problem is that they are chasing the team who has been the best in baseball since the last All-Star break and the pitching is still shaky.

18) Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 14

What We Said:

A lot of people want to anoint the Dodgers as champions given the load-up they’ve had in the last six months. Those people are over-looking a couple of key facts.  First, you can only consider Brandon League as an elite reliever because he gets an elite-sized paycheck.  The slide-rule, sabremetrics crowd has a Dodger blue boner for Zack Greinke, but the fact that he hasn’t notched an ERA below 3.48 since 2009 should give them blue balls. Josh Beckett couldn’t even get a rise of that same crowd; he’s been coasting on days gone by for far too long now.

Offensively, there are some other worrisome signs. Carl Crawford is a complete question mark. So is Hanley Ramirez now given his hand injury. Adrian Gonzalez’s drop in power  production last year should really have the Dodgers concerned, especially since they added him to cure the fact Dodger lefty hitters had a .661 OPS last year, the second-worst of all major league clubs.

What Happened: 

Who is faster that a speeding bullet, more powerful than a speeding bullet, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Superman.

Who can do all that shit and still not make the Dodgers a contender? Yasiel Puig.

The Puig story is one of those that will captivate the baseball world for the rest of this season at least, and he’s clearly already etched his name in the annals of Dodger history, if not because he is yet another Dodger phenom on scale with Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Fernando Valenzuela, and the emergence of Sandy Koufax, but because he is the only guy I have ever seen ion 40 years of watching Dodger baseball that made Vin Scully speechless.

vin scully puig meme

As far as why the Dodgers have tanked this season, it is all in the numbers:

  • Carl Crawford is hitting .270 with no power, scant stolen bases and little run production.
  • Andre Ethier is hitting .273 with no power and no production.
  • Matt “Opening Soon at a Disabled List Near You” Kemp is hitting  .254 with no power and no production. He hasn’t made it a point to be this hitless since he dated Rihanna.

In comparison, Yasiel Puig (as of this writing) has played in 35 games and is shocking high in team rankings:

  • 27 runs scored – 5th amongst Dodgers (leader Adrian Gonzalez has 37 in 87 games)
  • 56 hits – 6th amongst Dodgers (leader Adrian Gonzalez has 97 in 87 games)
  • 8 home runs -2nd amongst Dodgers (leader Adrian Gonzalez has 14 in 87 games)
  • 5 stolen bases – 2nd amongst Dodgers (leaders Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford have 9 in 61 and 57 games respectively)

What it comes down to is even with Puig, the Dodgers still hit a lot of useless singles, can’t manufacture runs, and can’t give their pitchers any run support.

19) Kansas City Royals ↔

What We Said:

There was a big change in Kansas City this off-season, but it may be a distinction without a difference. Under general manager Dayton Moore, the Royals spent years building the game’s best farm system, then they traded it all in an attempt to bolster a dismal pitching staff.

At first glance, it isn’t hard to see why the Royals would want James Shields and Wade Davis. The Royals had a horrendous rotation in 2012, notching a 5.01 ERA. Granted, Shields and Davis may help that, but when you stop to consider that they gave up the fruit of their farm system in future potential star Wil Myers and major-league ready pitcher Jake Odorizzi, plus the fact the offense depends on first baseman Eric Hosmer coming back from his sophomore slump and hoping that Mike Moustakas can learn that drawing the occasional walk is OK, this team still won’t be much better than .500 at best.

What Happened:

Don’t look now, but the Royals are third in the AL in team ERA at 3.73, and are first in the same division that contains a team which has reigning the Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander and the 13-0 Max Scherzer. But to quote Crash Davis, they still couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a fucking boat.

20)  Colorado Rockies ↑ 7

What We Said:

At least the Rockies got rid of one headache when Jim Tracy resigned.  Troy Tulowitzki will be back, and Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler are still two of the most exciting young players in the game.

What else do the Rockies have? (insert cricket noises here…)

What Happened:

The Rockies are living proof of the old adage about pitching beats hitting. The Rockies are 2nd in the NL in team battign average, runs scored, home runs, and they’ve done that with out having Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki in their line-up for significant periods. But even that miraculous performance can’t atone for having a pitching staff comprised of  1,250 pounds of pimento loaf.

21)  San Francisco Giants ↓ 19

What We Said:

In 2010, when the Giants won the World Series, they virtually overhauled their batting order in the off-season. That’s not the case this year, but then again, in 2010, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval were non-factors. This time, Posey is coming off an MVP season, and Sandoval crushed enemy pitchers in October.  The Giants also made sure all the crucial free-agents who helped drive the 2012 championship team left their hearts (and contract signatures) in San Francisco.  What happens at the really is just icing on the cake; the strength of the Giants is the pitching staff, which only really has one question: Which Tim Lincecum will they get…will it be the two-time Cy Young winner of years past, or will it be the guy who got rocked for a 5.18 ERA in the regular season, or will it be the dominant October closer?

What Happened:

Yeah, we knew about Lincecum, but nobody saw the collapse of  Matt Cain coming. That’s right, the same Matt Cain who didn’t give up an earned run in the Giants 2010 blitzkrieg through the 2010 playoffs is now the Matt Cain who is giving it up faster than a cheerleader on prom night in 2013? He didn’t even get oput of the first inning in his last start.  Without that pitching staff firing on all cylinders, the Giants suddenly become the Oompa-loompas.

22)  San Diego Padres ↑ 2

What We Said:

The 2013 San Diego Padres look almost exactly like the 2012 version that finished fourth in the NL West, 18 games behind the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.  Many fans don’t think that’s a good thing.  It actually is a good thing.

Don’t look now, but soon, the Padres will not be this far down on this list. The Padres were among the National Leagues’s five best teams in the second half, finishing the year on a 48-36 run. They had the league’s top defense and they still have a first-rate farm system.  They gave Carlos Quentin and Huston Street contract extensions.  If Quentin can stay healthy to support burgeoning star Chase Headley in the lineup, the Padres should only be a starting pitcher or two away from being wild-card contenders.

What Happened:

The Padres are still better than their record suggests, but they really need to get over this idea than Clayton Richard is a #1 pitcher.  He’s a solid #3 or #4, but it isn’t fair to expect him to out-duel the Clayton Kershaw-types in the NL West.  The Padres eventually have to spend some dough and put two or three honestly scary pitchers in that airport of a ball park they have.

23)  Seattle Mariners ↑ 1

What We Said:

The Mariners locked up Felix Hernandez. That’s the good news.

They’ve got nothing else to go with him. That’s the bad news.

It’s not like they didn’t try. The tried to land Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher. Failing that, they were left with the likes of Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, and Robert Andino in trades and Raul Ibañez, Jason Bay, and Kelly Shoppach in free agency. Granted, those are certainly improvements over what they had, but to compete in the stacked AL West, they’ll need a hell of a lot more, especially in terms of pitching.

What Happened:

Don’t look now, but the M’s are third in the AL in home runs. Michael Morse was killing the ball in the Cactus League, and brought that noise north by slamming 9 home runs in April, but he’s disappeared since then. In his absence, the slack has been picked up by the AARP-ready Raul Ibanez (22 HR, 51 RBI), and the Angel-castoff Kendrys Morales (14 HR, 52 RBI), and the prospect-turned-quasi-surprise Kyle Seager (13 HR, 41 RBI). But they still don’t have appreciable pitching behind “King Felix.”

24) Minnesota Twins ↑ 4

What We Said:

The Twins traded two center-fielders and received three pitchers, the 25-year-old Vance Worley and two blue chip prospects, Alex Meyer and Trevor May, neither of whom have yet reached Triple-A.  Once again, the Twins have built one of the best farm systems in baseball, but as far as 2013 is concerned, all of the real talent in the minors is  at least two years away (if not more), so Twins fans are going to have to clinch up and gut out a few more awful seasons before the turn around.

What Happened:

The Twins didn’t get  better; everybody behind them got worse. The Twins need to abandon this “pitch to contact” mentality and get some guys who are hard to hit.

25) Chicago Cubs  ↑ 1

What We Said:

As they enter the second year of the Theo Epstein regime, the Cubs are saying the pieces are falling into place and they are ready to contend for a division title.

They’ve been saying that every year for decades now.

If Jeff Samardzija is your Opening Day starter, you aren’t a contender.

If the hope for your starting rotation is for Matt Garza and Scott Baker to get healthy, you aren’t a contender.

If your next best proven offensive threat after Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro is arguably Nate Schierholtz, you aren’t a contender (don’t write me any shit about Anthony Rizzo…I said PROVEN, and he ain’t that yet).

If the best guy out of you bullpen is Carlos Marmol, you aren’t a contender.

The upside for the Cubs is this: there’s plenty of help in the minors getting ready to flesh out a team around budding stars Castro and Rizzo.  The strting will be under-impressive, but they should eat a lot of innings.. The Cubs’ win-loss record should show a marginal improvement from last year’s 61-101 debacle, and now there are only two more years left of Alfonso Soriano before the Cubs are out from under that stupid contract.

What Happened:

I’m not a Cubs’ fan, but I live in greater Cubs-land, and therefore I’m surrounded by Cubs fans. I’ll make it official right now…I have to eat it on the Jeff Samradzija thing.  He still won’t make the Cubs into a contender, but he is a legitimate major league starting pitcher.

26) New York Mets  ↓ 1

What We Said:

In typical fashion for the Mets, they offered a big contract extension to David Wright. Then he got hurt.  The offense is going to be a complete mess, adn teh pitching staff isn’t much better. There’s a few more lean years on the horizon for the Mets before things get better.

What Happened:

God bless ‘em, but the Mets are trying so hard not to suck. They are near the bottom of the league in hitting, but somehow they are middle of the pack in scoring. The pitching staff is in the middle of the pack in team ERA, but can you imagine where they would be without Matt Harvey?

27 -tie) Chicago White Sox ↓ 7

What We Said:

The White Sox are another team for whom everything went right in 2012…until the calendar read September.

Jake Peavy stayed healthy for the first time in recent memory. Chris Sale was a surprise contributor, but hisdelivery makes me wonder how llong befgore he becomes a major injury problem. Alex Rios and Adam Dunn remembered how to hit a baseball, which a big part of why the Whiteys had five players who hit at least 25 homers.  No other big league team had more than three, which helps to explain how the White Sox powered their way to a division lead for two-thirds of the season.

Then, what happens to teams that rely too much on the long-ball finally happened. That bats went to sleep, and even Jobu couldn’t wake them up . The White Sox stumbled across the finish line with an 11-17 September record. There weren’t any major changes to this team in the off-season; they signed Jeff Keppinger to replace Kevin Youkilis and re-signed Jake Peavy…that’s really it. That’s why I really can’t see this team getting over the hump and making the play-offs.

What Happened:

The Whiteys are the poster-child for teams that rely on the long ball, then don’t get them, which is exactly why the Whiteys are dead-last in the AL in scoring.  Adam Dunn is doing his part, and Alejandro De Aza has been a nice surprise, but somebody really needs to explain Ken Harrelson’s fascination with Dayan “C’mon, Tank!” Viciedo. For that matter, somebody needs to explain Ken Harrelson to me.  But to paraphrase “The Hawk:” You can put it on the board YESSS! The White Sox are terrible.

27 -tie) Milwaukee Brewers ↓ 4

What We Said:

The Brewers’ pitching staff in 2012 allowed the fourth-most runs in the National League last year. That staff included Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum. The 2013 Brewers’ staff will not include those two.  Kyle Lohse is not going to be the answer to that problem.

What Happened:

From now on, if anybody thinks Kyle Lohse is the answer, I don’t even want to know the question. To be fair, Lohse is actually pitching well for Milwaukee, but he’s the only one.

29) Miami Marlins ↔

What We Said:

Remember that old Who song that has the line “meet the boss…same as the old boss?” Well, meet the new Marlins, same as the old Marlins. You know the drill; spend a shit-load of money in an attempt to win a title, and whether it works or not, sell off the team for spare parts after a year or so.

The team tried to spend money to compete last season as it moved into a new ballpark. It didn’t happen, fans still didn’t show up, so the front office did what it felt necessary to turn a profit. They also got good talent in return for all the players they dealt. But they won’t matter for two years.

What Happened:

At least the fans are still not showing up. It says volumes about a franchise when they are closing seats so the stadium doesn’t look as empty (see the 1993 Los Angeles Raiders). The only bit of suspense left for the Marlins is can this team crack 60 wins?

30) Houston Astros

What We Said:

Until further notice, the Houston Astros will be considered a Triple-A team.

What Happened:

Until further notice, the Houston Astros will be considered a Triple-A team.

The Dubsism 2013 NFL Draft Review – What We Told Them vs. What They Did vs. What ESPN Won’t Tell You

JW and Goodell draft

Things to Remember:

  • References to the “Kiper Theory” are ironically based on our Dubsism Anti-Kiper NFL Draft Board. The “Kiper Theory” is the one that states teams must take the best player available, regardless of team needs.
  • We rate drafts using the proprietary formula of the Dubsism Draft Quotient. This formula rates drafts picks based on rankings of players players based on overall ratings and within each position, balanced against team needs and when the pick was made.
  • We refused to change our board based on hype, workouts, or whatever Todd McShay or any of those other hacks says. As the only draft prognosticators who actually watches college football games and not just film clips earlier than December, we based our rankings on something simple: the guy we thought would be the best NFL player. We covered as to why we reject conventional wisdom in our Team-by-Team warning about the NFL Draft.
  • The more Mel Kiper disagrees with us, the more we believe we are right.  At the same time, we have undying respect for a guy we also think is a complete fraud. Kiper never stands behind things he says unless he happened to be right, and he changes his mind constantly in the run up to the draft. On the other hand, how can you not respect a guy who has made a whole career and millions of dollars out of saying “Trev Alberts sucks?”

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The Dubsism 2013 Pre-Season Baseball Power Rankings: What You Need To Know About All 30 Teams

baseball openiong day

It’s that time again. With Opening Day less than a week away (for the record, we will never count those games played in Japan as the real opener (if for no other reason Opening Day is about consuming your weight in hot dogs and beer, not sushi and sake), it is time to give you some solid opinions on all 30 Major League teams from somebody who actually watches baseball.

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The Dubsism Baseball Power Rankings: The Homestretch Edition – The Contenders vs. The Pretenders

In my last baseball rankings,  I said the All-Star break to me has always represented the “far turn” in the horse race that is the Major League Baseball season. This means Labor Day marks the beginning of the home stretch; everybody has less than thirty games to play; everybody’s made their non-waiver and waiver trade deadlines, and everybody is bringing up the September “cups of coffee.”

But this is also the time of year where we discover who the “contenders” are; that select group at the front of the pack who may still be playing baseball a month from now. It’s that time we can start looking at how those teams will fare in that wonderful month of October. Not to mention, this another great opportunity to see how wrong we really were.

The Contenders:

1) Washington Nationals ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Nationals have one of the best young rotations in baseball.  Strasburg appears ready to return to his pre- Tommy John surgery condition, and the acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson were huge.  If Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Chien-Ming Wang can stay away from the injury problems that have bugged them, the Nationals should be able to stay in most games based on their pitching alone.  But the Nats should be stronger in the middle of the order since Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, and Danny Espinosa all could be 25 HR, 90 RBI guys.

Downside: The Nats have three question marks. The first is at first base; Adam LaRoche played only 43 games last year before season-ending surgery and hit just .172. Can he return to the form of his previous years? However, Michael Morse blossomed at first base once LaRoche went down.  Secondly, the Nats have an issue in the lead-off spot. Ian  Desmond is going to start the season there, but he’ll have to learn to be more patient.  He’s drawn only 63 walks in 308 games during 2010 and 2011. Lastly there’s the matter of timing. This needs to be the year the Nats take a step toward the future because this is the last year before the expectations are going to go up. They can still be mediocre this year, but if they finish third or worse in 2013, they may just become a red version of the Cubs.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Best starters in league

Team pitching stats are crazy

Bats awakening

The Bottom Line:

You see that line about “a red version of the Cubs.” Yeah, you can forget about that. The Nationals are the best and most complete team in baseball. They are the photo-negative of the Cubs.  The Nationals and the Cubs represent the polar opposites of the baseball world.

The Nationals have a solid core of young emerging stars. The Nationals starting rotation is one of the best in the game, and the bullpen is even more complete.

The lineup lacks a .300 hitter, and may only feature one guy who will drive in 100 runs, but when you look at how the Nats hit with runners in scoring position, the difference becomes clear. If you were to take the performance of this team in RISP situations and balance it statistically to all potential scoring situations, the average National batter would be (in 500 at-bats) a guy who hit 21 home runs, drove in 132, scored 127 runs, and stole 22 bases. That, despite the pitching staff, is the reason why this team is 30 games above .500. They simply don’t waste opportunities.

Taking all of that into consideration, and adding this team has a future regardless of what happens today. This is why I so completely do not understand all the hand-wringing over Stephen Strasburg and the fact the Nationals intend to “shut him down.”

First of all, this is about making sure the guy can pitch in the future.  Don’t forget the guy is coming off “Tommy John” surgery, and I would bet there are plenty of doctors in this equation who know a hell of a lot more about Strasburg’s elbow that the dipshits at ESPN know.  Don’t forget this plan to limit Strasburg’s innings pitched was in place coming out of spring training.  Nobody cared then, because nobody saw this team being the best in baseball six months down the road.  Now, all of a sudden, the blow-dries at ESPN think this is a problem.

Secondly, the National team you see on the field today was actually built for 2013 or 2014, and just so happens to be achieving ahead of schedule.  In April, nobody saw the collapse of the Phillies, the injury-depletion of the Braves, and the train-wreck called the Marlins. Nobody saw the changing of the guard in the National League East happening in 2012, but it did.  Frankly, I think the Nationals should be commended for not changing their long-term plan based on what microcephalics like Buster Olney think. After all, this team has been built on a philosophy of not mortgaging tomorrow to pay for today. Why change that now?

If that isn’t enough for you, consider the following two facts. One, Strasburg isn’t even the Nationals best pitcher. Don’t look now, but Gio Gonzalez has more wins, more innings pitched, and nearly identical ERA and WHIP.  Second, history has shown us that to win in playoff baseball, you need two strong starters and a dominant bullpen. Look at the Nationals’ pitching staff top-to-bottom and tell me they don’t have that with or without Strasburg.

2) Texas Rangers ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The only team in the A.L. West they have to worry about is the Angels. The Rangers have a line-up tailor-made to their hitter-friendly park, so there is no reason they can’t lead the league in team batting average again. Not to mention, they placed top five in runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Downside: The Rangers are gambling in the wake of losing C.J. Wilson to division-rival Los Angeles with their $103 million investment in Yu Darvish and moving  Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation for the first time in his major league career. Then there’s the Josh Hamilton situation…we all know about the off-the-field issues, but don’t forget the former AL MVP has been hampered by injuries lately as well.  Now contract talks are stalled, and who knows what impact that will have.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Texas bats don’t fail

Texas pitching often fails

This year is just same

The Bottom Line:

Three facts define the Rangers’ success this season:

1) The emergence of David Murphy. On Monday, Murphy finally got enough at-bats to qualify in the American League batting race.  Murphy is now hitting .324 in 416 plate appearances.  He is now third behind Mike Trout (.332) and Miguel Cabrera (.331).

2) Adrian Beltre is a serious MVP candidate, and he’s getting hot at the right time.  Since Aug. 16, Beltre is hitting .423 with nine homers and 20 RBI, and he has an  1.398 OPS in that time.

3) Yu Darvish became the fourth Japanese pitcher to have a 14-win season in the Major Leagues. The others are Hideo Nomo (four times), Daisuke Matsuzaka (twice) and Kazuhisa Ishii (once).  For another milestone, Darvish only need 12 more strikeouts to become the third Japanese pitcher to reach 200 in a Major League season.

As far #3 is concerned, here’s the dirty little secret.  While Darvish has fanned 10 in back-to-back starts, he walks waaaaaaay too many batters.  This is why his ERA in the second half of the season is a stratospheric 5.71. The Rangers have never seemed to learn that you can out-bomb opponents to 90+ wins in the regular seson, but when you get into a play-off series with a team that can pitch, you can’t give away a lot of free base runners.

3 – Tie)  Cincinnati Reds  ↑ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  General Manager Walt Jocketty managed to improve the starting rotation by adding former Padres ace Mat Latos, the bullpen by bringing in Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, and added some needed depth by acquiring Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, and Ryan Ludwick. With these additions to the existing weapons like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and the fact the N.L. Central no longer has the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the Reds have the potential once again to seize the top spot in the division.

Downside: That pitching staff is managed by Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker, the same Dusty Bake who think base-runners “just clog up the basepaths.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Great American

Ballpark holds team powered by

Mostly foriegners

The Bottom Line:

The Reds are summed nicely in this quote from Jay Bruce:

“If we continue to play baseball like we can play, it doesn’t matter what the Cardinals do. And I’m not saying that to be arrogant.  I’m just saying if we continue to play well like we have been, then they’re not going to be able to catch us.”

They are 7-3 in their last ten games, they are 40-29 on the road, and 37-24 against division opponents.

3 – Tie) Baltimore Orioles ↑ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside: As bad as there were in 2011, their offense wasn’t all that bad and they’ve kept the core of it.  If Mark Reynolds can produce another 30-plus home run season, and Adam Jones and Nick Markakis continue their consistent hitting, the Orioles could end up being a mediocre team.

Downside:  The Orioles had the worst off-season of any Major League team.  If you don’t agree, here are their off-season acquisitions: pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jason Hammel, and Matt Lindstrom; and position players Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez and Taylor Teagarden.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Baltimore baseball

Loves meaningless history

Two decades of proof

The Bottom Line:

To be honest, I have no idea how this team is contending: But they are, and I just have to accept that.

5)  San Francisco Giants ↑ 3

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner form one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in the game.

Downside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the worst offenses in baseball. With the losses of Cody Ross and Carlos Beltran, this team may find itself relying on a 3-4-5 heart of the order consisting of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching carries team

Even though Lincecum sucks

Melky keys offense

The Bottom Line:

When Melky Cabrera got suspended, the prevailing wisdom was the Giants’ offense would implode. Rather, the Giants hit a season-high on Monday being 19 games above .500, and offense is having no problems scoring despite the fact they are last in the National League in home runs.  Matt Cain said it best:

“All these guys are finding different ways to get on base, drawing out the at-bats or getting a hit or walk. They’re doing a good job getting timely hitting.”

6)  Los Angeles Angels ↓ 3

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: This team has ownership that isn’t afraid to make a move. Due to the free-agent signing of first baseman Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson, the Angels committed $331.5 million, which left little room for the team to add anyone else significant during the offseason. New GM Jerry DiPoto did, however, get his hands on a decent bat bat behind the plate in Chris Iannetta, and reliable veteran relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins becomes the latest on the list of guys who have played for both of my two favorite teams (Angels and Twins).

Pujols adds to a lineup which featured six players with double-digit home runs, and six with over 59 RBI. Top prospects in catcher Hank Conger and outfielder Mike Trout will also be in the running for a full season with the club.

C.J. Wilson adds to a rotation which already featured 2011 A.L. All-Star Game starter Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana.

Downside: Which Vernon Wells do the Angels get in 2012?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Weaver and Haren

Awesome one-two starting punch

Pujols is Pujols

The Bottom Line:

There is no understating the importance of the current stretch for the Angels.  Starting Monday, the Angels entered a 10-day span that sees the Angels playing two of the teams they have been trying to catch in the race for one of the American League’s two wild-card playoff spots.  Right now, they have taken two of a three-game series in Oakland, which will be followed by a seven-game homestand during which the Angels will host the Detroit Tigers for three and then face the A’s for a four-game rematch.

7) Detroit Tigers ↑ 8

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last season, the Motor City Kitties finished in the top four in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. The numbers can only get better with the offseason acquisition of first baseman Prince Fielder, who just happens to be a career .282 hitter averaging over 32 home runs and 93 RBI per season over the last six years.

Downside: How does the move of Cabrera back to third base work out? What will be the impact of losing DH Victor Martinez? And I’m not sold on the rotation beyond Justin Verlander and Doug Fister.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Slugger’s paradox

Cabrera and Fielder

Yet team lacks power

The Bottom Line:

Rick Porcello needs to sue the Tigers offense for non-support.  Porcello hasn’t seen a Tiger touch the plate in 23 innings in which he’s pitched. The shutout run began with the sixth inning of Porcello’s start Aug. 12 at Texas, continued through the next 17 innings of three starts and through the first five innings Tuesday night at Comerica Park against Cleveland.

8 ) Oakland Athletics ↑ 13

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  America’s favorite breakfast cereal, Coco Crisp,  will still man the Oakland outfield after signing a $14 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2014 after hitting .264 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 49 stolen bases last season. Then there the Cuban grab-bag known as Yoenis Cespedes. This kid could be the real deal.

Downside: The A’s are without many of their pitchers who brought success to the team in recent years. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Outman are out of the starting rotation, while Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey are no longer in the bullpen. The one proven offensive power bat in the lineup has also departed; Josh Willingham hit 29 home runs and 98 RBI in 2011, but is now part of the Minnesota Twins.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

A’s have Cespedes

Ryan Cook and little else

At least no Manny

The Bottom Line:

The A’s continue to get production from a no-name roster. For example, pitcher Tommy Milone has tossed 13 consecutive starts in which he has walked no more than one batter, which so happens to be one start shy of the team record set by Gil Heredia in 1999.

9) New York Yankees ↓ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Yankees upgraded their pitching staff by adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, and by subtracting A.J. Burnett.  Prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos will soon find their way to the major league rotation as well. If the pitching staff gels and Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira perform as expected, this team will prove formidable.

Downside:  Don’t look now, but this team isn’t getting any younger.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching Staff Falling

Sabathia Pettitte hurt

Ivan Nova is best left

The Bottom Line:

The Yankees are old, hurt, can’t pitch and are fading fast.

10) Chicago White Sox ↓ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: General Manager Ken Williams also showed a desire to rebuild his club by getting rid of longtime White Sox starter Mark Buehrle and letting go of Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Jason Frasor, Sergio Santos, and Omar Vizquel.

Downside: General Manager Ken Williams has no idea how to rebuild a club. He replaced staff ace Mark Buerhle by over-paying for the ever-fraudulent John Danks.  The rest of the starting rotation will depend on the fragile Jake Peavy and the unproven Chris Sale.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Smoke and mirrors

Houdini made this mirage

Contender won’t last

The Bottom Line:

The South Side fade is on, largely because the Mighty Whiteys can’t beat the Tigers. This is a big problem, since they have six games left with the Tigers this season, all coming over the next two weeks. After the most recent loss, the Sox are now 4-8 against the Tigers, including five straight.

11) Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young last year and is a contender for the award again. He is signed with the Dodgers through 2013.  Matt Kemp was the runner-up for the NL MVP Award, and was a single dinger away from joining the 40HR/40 stolen base club.  The Dodgers have him locked up through 2019.

Downside: They still have yet to rid themselves of Frank McCourt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Matt Kemp Clayton Kershaw

Ethier on the list too

Why Dodgers contend

The Bottom Line:

The Dodgers have undergone a nearly complete revamping, and yet they still can’t catch the Giants.

12) Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Their pitching staff will carry them in 2012.  David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Moore form a six-man rotation that just might let the Rays continue their average 92 wins over the last four seasons. Only three teams in the majors had a higher average with one of the lowest four-year payroll totals in baseball at $222 million.

Downside: The Rays need a new fanbase and stadium.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Six-man rotation

Yet none of them really suck

Yet Rays kind of suck

The Bottom Line:

The Rays have gained 9 games on the Yankees and Orioles from (10.5 back to 1.5) since the All -Star break.  A big part of that gain is Jame Shields.  Shields has 13 wins, and has pitched into the seventh innings in 11 of his last 15 starts.  He only went that deep in four out of his first 13 starts.

13) Atlanta Braves  ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last year, I said the Braves were a collection of “what-ifs” built around a solid core of just enough hitting and just enough pitching. Now, enough of those questions became facts so that barring injuries, the Braves can contend in the NL East.

Downside: The Braves finished 13 games back of the Phillies last season, and they way the season ended for them still has to sting. The question is did they improve enough to fix those issues?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Chipper’s last hurrah

While team disintegrates like

Chipper’s ligaments

The Bottom Line:

The story in Atlanta is the arrival of pitcher Kris Medlen, who was named National League Pitcher of the Month for August.  Medlen pitched both of the complete games of his young career last month; one against the Rockies and another against the Padres.  Medlen had a stretch from from August 11-28 during which he had a 28 1/3 scoreless-innings streak , and his  ERA in his five August starts was a scant 0.50.

14 ) St. Louis Cardinals ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Despite losing Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals still have enough weapons to be a factor in the N.L. Central. Starter Adam Wainwright comes back from Tommy John surgery, and he leads a rotation featuring Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, and Kyle Lohse. Also, could this be the breakout year for World Series MVP David Freese? His 21 RBI over 18 postseason games last October could signal the start of something big.

Downside: Let’s face it…losing Albert Pujols would hurt any line-up. This means Lance Berkman has to at least come close to the .301/31 HR/94 RBI campaign he put up in 2011, and Matt Holliday has to be a .300/25 HR/RBI guy as well.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Lance Lynn lifted staff

Lance Berkman’s big lefty bat

Replaced by Beltran

The Bottom Line:

The Lance Lynn miracle is over.  Since his banishment back to the bullpen after posting five positively pathetic starts, manager Mike Matheny at least expected he’d be adding another arm to a staff desparate for depth in front of closer Jason Motte.  But Lynn, who was an All-Star this season, has stunk in relief as well; in his most recent appearance he allowed four hits and two runs in one inning.

The Pretenders:

15) Pittsburgh Pirates ↓ 10

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  The Bucs are quietly cobbling together a respectable offense.  Outfielders Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and All-Star Andrew McCutchen are likely to be the the 1-2-3  hitters; all of them hit over .275 last year, and all of them swiped over 20 sacks. Neil Walker looks like a #4 hitter after hitting 17 home runs and 62 RBI in only 460 at-bats.  Plus, the Pirates may have emerging power at the corner infield spots; Garrett Jones showed some pop with 17 homers last year, and Pedro Alvarez is due for his breakout year any time now.

Downside: Last year, the Pirates gave up the third-worst opponents batting average (.270) and received the fifth-fewest quality starts from their starting five.  A.J. Burnett is supposed to be the cure for that?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pirates no surprise

Tons of young talent living

In bad division

The Bottom Line:

The Pirates are dropping out of the race for one simple reason: they forgot how to win.  Pittsburgh’s record since August 9 is 8-18, in which time they have gone from 3 .5 games ahead in the National League Central to 11 games back now.

16) Arizona Diamondbacks ↑ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: In a division heavy in pitching, the D-backs chose bulk by getting potential question mark Trevor Cahill from Oakland and re-signing their own free agent, Joe Saunders, after non-tendering him at the December deadline for arbitration-eligibles. Kennedy, Hudson and Saunders logged career highs in innings last season, and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat that…see below…

Downside:  Even though the Arizona Diamondbacks finished first place in the NL West Division at 94-68, their starting rotation was filled with career-best seasons:

  • Ian Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 earned run average and 198 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Daniel Hudson went 16-12 with a 3.49 earned run average and 169 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Joe Saunders went 12-13 with 3.69 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 212 innings pitched.
  • Josh Collmenter went 10-10 with a 3.38 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 154.1 innings pitched.

The D-backs line-up can be inconsistent as well – they struggled to hit over .250 as team despite everyday players Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero hitting .292, .289 and .282 respectively.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Arizona snakes

Swallowing their own venom

No playoff repeat

The Bottom Line:

The Diamondbacks’ youth movement has begun, at least among the starting pitchers. On their most recent turn through the rotations, the D-backs had the youngest rotation in the Major Leagues, beginning with left-hander Tyler Skaggs who turned 21 on  Monday.

17) Milwaukee Brewers ↑ 5

What We  Originally Said:

Upside:  Even though Miller Park is known for being tough on right-handed sluggers, the Brewers brought in third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He will need to have a Beltre-like season (.300/25 HR/90 RBIs) to help off-set the loss of Prince Fielder.

Downside: The big questions: Can Mat Gamel prove he is ready to be a major league first-baseman, including posting some power numbers at the plate? Can Wily Peralta develop into a credible big-league starter? Then there’s the elephant in the room…the Ryan Braun situation and what impact it may have…

The Mid-Season Haiku:

No Prince Fielder

Leaves Ryan Braun alone with

His tainted sample

The Bottom Line:

Even after the loss of Prince Fielder, this team can hit.  They have a streak of 73 games in which they have at least one extra base hit. Ryan Braun (96) and Aramis Ramirez (89) have combined to drive in 185 runs, the most of any teammates in the National League.

Now for the scary number…Carlos Gomez (16 home runs, 30 stolen bases) and the Angels ‘ Mike Trout (25/43) are the only players in the major leagues who have at least 15 homers and 30 stolen bases. Gomez had never hit more than eight homers in a season until this year.

18)  Seattle Mariners ↑ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Felix Hernandez.

Downside: This is the last year of Ichiro Suzuki’s contract with the club. The 38-year-old has seen his batting average drop 80 points over the last two seasons, so you can only expect that this will be his final season with the club unless he’s back to being the old Ichiro. In addition to Ichiro’s decline, the Mariners finished dead last in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage last year.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Felix Hernandez

Can only pitch, but team needs more

More of everything

The Bottom Line:

There’s no gold medal for a .500 finish in baseball, and in the red-hot American League West, a .500 record is still likely to leave a team in last place.  But considering where the Mariners have been, .500 would be an excellent finish to the season. For them, it would be like going to bed with Oprah and waking up with Halle Berry.  One game into the second half of the season back on July 13, the Mariners were 16 games under .500. They’ve trimmed that deficit by 75 percent, and if they can make up four games in the final four weeks, Seattle will have a huge reason to celebrate. They finally won’t suck anymore.

19) Philadelphia Phillies ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The starting rotation is as good as it gets with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. New closer Jonathan Papelbon should help shore up the bullpen.

Downside:  If the Yankees and the Phillies make the World Series, they may want to get the games done before 4 p.m., so they can all hit the early-bird specials at Denny’s. This is another team that is aging before our eyes. Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are 33, Chase Utley is 32, and Placido Polanco tops the list at 36. Not to mention, the Phillies have lost have lost four of their last five postseason series.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Team can’t be a winner

When it can’t even get right

Roy Halladay doll

The Bottom Line:

Tyler Cloyd, Phillipe Aumont, and the hope of getting healthy give the Phillies a reason to look forward to next season. They won’t the the Phillies of the last decade, but they won’t be as dreadful as the 2012 version.

20) New York Mets ↓ 9

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Whether its up or down, the theme once again for the Mets is hope. Hopefully, all the distractions that surrounded last season are gone with the departure of Jose Reyes. Hopefully, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana are healthy, will stay that way, and will perform up to expectations. Hopefully, there will be a resurgence of third baseman David Wright and Jason Bay now that the outfield wall has been moved in.

Downside:  Hopefully, all those things I just mentioned will happen.  Right after they all do happen, we can all join hands and visit the fairy princess together. Not only that, but this team goes nowhere as long as Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz own the team.  Let’s face it, meltdown, dumpster fire, train wreck…they all are synonymous with “Mets.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

When R.A. Dickey

Is by far your best pitcher

Your life is mirage

The Bottom Line:

Note the above haiku-based snarkiness about knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey. Well, you can add catcher Kelly Shoppach to that list.  It seems “the Shopp” has whacked three homers since being acquired from the Red Sox a few weeks ago. Prior to that, all Mets catchers had hit only two this season.  That’s what the Mets are down to…non-important production from a career journeyman.

21)  San Diego Padres ↑ 5

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Again, you really can’t beat the weather in San Diego…and the Padres, despite the loss of Mat Latos, Aaron Harang, and Heath Bell still have a serviceable  (not great, serviceable) pitching staff currently slated to feature Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, and Cory Luebke.  Heath Bell’s closer role has been replaced by Huston Street.

Downside:  The Padres offense last year was in the bottom three in runs scored (593), batting average (.237), on-base percentage (.305) and slugging percentage (.349). The only improvements to that came in the form of Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, and current AARP member Mark Kotsay.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Diego baseball

Much in common with Bigfoot

Rumored to exist

The Bottom Line:

Signs of life in San Diego…Chase Headley has 16 homers and 50 RBI since the All-Star game.

22) Boston Red Sox ↓ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The Boston Red Sox are taking on an entirely new look in 2012.  For the first time in recent memory, Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox. And it’s about time, especially after what happened last September.  Despite this new look, New GM Ben Cherington will be faced with the challenge of keeping the Sox a contender.

Downside: I don’t give a damn what anybody says, I don’t buy this pitching staff.  Jon Lester has always been over-rated in my book. The loss of John Lackey is a case of “addition by subtraction.”  Clay Buchholz walks too many guys. Who knows what Daniel Bard and Vincente Padilla really are?

Then, there’s the whole issue of that idiot Bobby Valentine. I can’t wait for the Terry Francona “Miss Me Yet?” billboards to break out all over New England.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Worst .500 team

Valentine captains a ship

Which hit iceberg twice

The Bottom Line:

Last Friday night’s lopsided 20-2 loss to the Oakland A’s may have represented the bottoming out for the 2012 Red Sox. The 20 runs were the most scored against the team this season and the margin of defeat was the greatest since a loss in 2000.  It didn’t help that much of the damage — 13 of the 20 runs — were produced by former Red Sox players Brandon Moss (four RBI), Josh Reddick (four RBI), and George Kottaras (five RBI).

23) Cleveland Indians ↓ 9

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Shin-Soo Choo seems to be healthy. Vinne Pestano and Nick Hagadone could be the foundations of a solid, young bullpen.  Carlos Santana is a potential All-Star.

Downside: Fausto Carmona (or whoever he really is) may never get ba They also have the best home record in all of baseball.ck into the country and Grady Sizemore is probably finished as an effective major league player. The heyday for this team was fifteen years ago, and unless you can find a way to add Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Jake Taylor to the roster, there will be more than one long summer in Cleveland’s near future.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Somehow not shitty

Can pitch but have no offense

Shin-Soo Choo Korean sneeze

The Bottom Line:

Signs of life in Cleveland:   The Indians’ have a record of 17-8 in one-run games, the second-best mark in the majors.

24) Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 5

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: Jose Bautista.  In 2010, he hit .260 with 35 doubles, 54 home runs and 124 RBI. In 2011, he hit .302 with 24 doubles, 43 home runs, and 103 RBI. He has to figure in the MVP race.

Downside: The Blue Jays could have a bright future, but the future isn’t today.  Ricky Romero has also been nothing short of excellent for the club. Last season, the 27-year-old went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA and 178 strikeouts. It’s time to see if youngsters Brett Lawrie,  Anthony Gose, and catcher Travis D’Arnaud can live up to expectations.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Canada’s baseball pride

Needs pitchers who are not in

Intensive Care Unit

The Bottom Line:

When healthy, this team can be quite interesting. But that just doesn’t seem to happen

25) Miami Marlins ↓ 7

What We Originally Said:

Upside: I don’t think there could be a more interesting team to watch in 2012. Miami is one of three teams in the Dubsism Top Ten from the N.L. East Division and got there through having by far the most active off-season. Tey’ve got a new name, new uniforms, new logos, a new stadium, a new manager,  and of course, new players. The new Marlins Park will play host to the new-look squad under new manager and old loud mouth Ozzie Guillen, who will be leading new shortstop and reigning N.L. batting champ Jose Reyes, new closer Heath Bell, and new starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Added to existing Marlins Hanley Ramirezx and ace Josh Johnson, there’s no way this team won’t be entertaining at least.

Downside: This also just could be the loading of a gigantic powder-keg. Zambrano and Guillen in the same dug-out? The Marlins may want to keep the bomb squad handy at all times, not just for the volatility I just mentioned, but for the fact if this team doesn’t win right away, look for it to get blown up quick.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Guillen loves Castro

As he not as huge asshole

As Ken Williams

The Bottom Line:

Year One of the the Great Marlin Experiment was an abject failure. What will Year Two bring?

26) Kansas City Royals ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The club is loaded with young talent like Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar.  Alex Gordon turned a corner in 2011. Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, and Jason Kendall provide veteran leadership, and there are more top prospects on the way like Wil Myers and Bubba Starling. The Royals also added pitching with starter Jonathan Sanchez and closer Jonathan Broxton.

Downside: General Manager Dayton Moore is a bit of an unproven commodity, so there’s no guarantee that he isn’t going to mortgage the future if the fans expectations suddenly outstrip the team’s talent.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

The ghost of George Brett

Cries when sees yet another

Great player leave town

The Bottom Line:

For the 27th consecutive year, Royals fans wait for next year.

27) Minnesota Twins  ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: It is possible they get production from the faces of the franchise, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Last year thanks to injuries, Mauer hit .287 with three home runs and 30 RBI, while Morneau hit a horrid .227 with four home runs and 30 RBI.

Downside: Only three players on the Twins saw more than 100 games of action last year. There’s Michael Cuddyer, who is now getting his mail in Colorado, outfielder Ben Revere, and third baseman Danny Valencia. These might be the only Twins who matter in 2012.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Willingham and Plouffe

Deserve shampoo ad more than

Overpaid slap hitter

The Bottom Line:

Jamey Carroll –  Your Winner of the Duane Kuiper Award, given to weak-hitting middle infielders.  Before hitting a solo shot on Monday, Carroll had gone 1,384 at-bats without leaving the yard, which was the longest active streak in all of baseball.

28)  Colorado Rockies ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Troy Tulowitzki hit .302 with 36 doubles, 30 home runs, and 105 RBI in 2011. Carlos Gonzalez hit .295 with 27 doubles, 26 home runs, and 92 RBI in only 127 games. Casey Blake, Marco Scutaro, Ramon Hernandez, and Michael Cuddyer will all be joining the Colorado this season, which can only provide more cushion in a lineup that already features some of baseball’s best hitters. The crisp air in Colorado with these players and Todd Helton at the forefront can only mean runs, runs, and more runs.

Downside: The starting rotation will consist of Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, and then any three out of about six possibles, including the 49-year old Jamie Moyer.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Even Yoda knows

Tulowitzki and Car-Go

The whole of team is

The Bottom Line:

The Rockies have won nine of their last 13 home games, improving their overall home record to 30-41. They must win eight of their remaining 10 home games to avoid finishing with their fewest number of home victories in any season not interrupted by a labor dispute. Other than the strike-shortened 1994 season when the Rockies went 25-32 at home, they have won no fewer than 38 home games. The remaining home schedule includes three games with the Giants, four with the Diamondbacks and three with the Cubs.

29) Houston Astros ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  They have some nice young talent on the team like Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and Fernando Martinez, and they still have Carlos Lee as the lone power source on the roster.

Downside: Last year, the pitching staff was bottom five in league rankings with a 4.51 cumulative ERA, 1.42 WHIP and a .266 opponents batting average en route to a league worst 56-106 record. That staff didn’t get any better.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Houston, we have a

Problem of epic status

Football months away

The Bottom Line:

Until further notice, Houston will be regarded as a AAA team.

30) Chicago Cubs  ↓ 1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Its spring, when Cubs fans everywhere have hope that at long last, this will finally be the year the winning drought in Wrigley Field ends. Plus, they off-loaded head-case first class Carlos Zambrano on the Marlins. Starlin Castro might be the bona fide star in Wrigley.

Downside: It’s not going to happen. Getting rid of Zambrano now means a pitching staff comprised of Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood; along with threat of Jeff Samardzija getting work as a starter in spring training. The Cubs have an average-at-best rotation and no replacement for Aramis Ramirez on offense. Snicker if you must, but A-Ram stacks up favorably against some historic third-basemen. He’s complied the second-most 25-home run seasons (9) for a third baseman, behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews who each had 12. Not to mention, only Chipper Jones has more seasons with at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. Once again, spring becomes summer; the Cubs’drought continues.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Cubs under Ricketts

Like bad date when one wants sex

Gets only hand-job

The Bottom Line:

I get that the Cubs have won nearly ten more games than Houston, but like I said before, the Astros are really a AAA team.  The Cubs have far too much talent to be as lousy as they are.  For example, they have scored two or less runs in ten of the last eleven of Jeff Samardzija’s starts.  They still can’t get out from under Alfonso Soriano’s obscene contract, and they just made it worse by giving Starlin “Future Soriano” Castro big money as well.

The Dubsism 2012-2013 College Football Bowl Predictions

EDITOR’S NOTE: This list is being completed based on who has been ruled ineligible for post-season play as of today’s date.

Having said that, there are some noteworthy points concerning this bowl season. From CollegeFootballPoll.com:

BCS Selection Order: The order of selection for this year’s BCS games is Fiesta, Sugar, Orange. However, the bowls that lose host conference champions to the BCS title game get to replace those teams before other selections are made.  See the complete BCS Selection Procedures here.

Notre Dame is eligible for all bowls in which the Big East has a commitment, as well as the BCS.  It also serves as the backup for the Big 12 in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Navy will be invited to the Kraft Hunger Bowl if it qualifies for selection. If Navy is ineligible, the #9 team from the ACC is next in-line to be invited. Navy has secured a similar deal with the Armed Forces Bowl in 2013 and 2016.

Army will be invited to the Military Bowl if it qualifies for selection. Army has secured a similar deal with the Poinsettia Bowl in 2013, and the Armed Forces Bowl for 2014 and 2017.

BYU will be invited to the Poinsettia Bowl if it qualifies for selection. The Cougars have secured a similar deal with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in 2013.

Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl gets the first pick of MAC teams in 2012. The GoDaddy.com Bowl gets the second pick in 2012, and the first selection in 2013.

The MAC has secondary bowl agreements in 2012 with the New Mexico, Beef O’Brady’s, BBVA Compass, Ticket City and Poinsettia Bowls.

Hawaii is automatically invited to the Hawaii Bowl if it has at least 7 wins.  Otherwise, the MWC sends its 3rd-place team.

Payouts: Amounts shown do not necessarily reflect what each school receives. The conferences have different methods by which bowl money is divided among its membership. Some bowl agreements call for higher payouts to one conference than the other, depending on such factors as which is the “host” conference. Most of the above payouts are based on actual figures from the Football Bowl Association for the 2010-2011 season, while others are published estimates of anticipated payouts for the current year.

There has also been a change in eligibility requirements because it is very possible the NCAA will not produce enough eligible teams at the prior 6-win mark. Those changes beyond the 6-wins are as follows.

1. First consideration goes to 6-6 teams with one win against Football Championship Subdivision teams, regardless of whether that FCS school meets NCAA scholarship requirements. Until now, an FCS win only counted if that opponent met the scholarship requirements.

2. Next up for consideration are 6-6 teams with two wins over FCS schools. It’s really rare for an FBS school to schedule two FCS opponents in a single year.

3. Teams that finish 6-7 and lose in the conference championship game are next. Call this the UCLA rule. The Bruins, staring at a 6-6 record before the Pac-12 Championship Game last season, got a waiver from the NCAA to be bowl-eligible even if they lost, which they did. UCLA then lost in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl to finish 6-8.

4. Then come 6-7 teams that normally play a 13-team schedule, such as Hawaii and its home opponents.

5. Up next are FCS teams making the transition to the FBS, if they have at least a 6-6 record. Big winners under that rule: South Alabama, Texas-San Antonio, Texas State and UMass, who are all in the process of reclassifying from FCS to FBS. Suddenly and bizarrely, South Alabama’s Aug. 30 opener against Texas-San Antonio in Mobile carries some potential bowl significance.

6. Finally, the nod would go to 5-7 teams that have a top-5 Academic Progress Rate score. So there’s new hope for Duke, which hasn’t gone to a bowl since 1995.
This process was created as the bowl system faces significant pressure to fill every postseason game in 2012. Ohio State, Penn State, North Carolina and Central Florida face bowl bans this season, although UCF is appealing and may still be eligible in 2012. Also, there are unresolved NCAA cases involving Oregon and Miami, which self-imposed a bowl ban in 2011.

This is being done because last season, college football had only 72 eligible teams for 70 bowl slots.

Taking all of that into consideration, here are the Dubsism 2012-2013 Bowl Predictions.

Bowl Championship Series:

BCS Championship:

  • Jan. 7
  • BCS #1 vs. BCS #2
  • Payout: $18,000,000
  • USC (Pac-12 #1) vs. LSU (SEC #1)

Fiesta Bowl:

  • Jan. 3
  • Big 12 vs. At-large
  • Payout: $17,000,000
  • Oklahoma (Big 12 #1) vs. Michigan (Big Ten #2)

Sugar Bowl:

  • Jan. 2
  • SEC vs. At-large
  • Payout: $17,000,000
  • Alabama (SEC #2) vs. Clemson (ACC #2)

Orange Bowl:

  • Jan. 1
  • ACC vs. At-large
  • Payout: $17,000,000
  • Florida State (ACC#1) vs. West Virginia (Big 12 #2)

Rose Bowl:

  • Jan. 1
  • Big Ten vs. Pac-12
  • Payout: $17,000,000
  • Wisconsin (Big Ten #1) vs. Oregon (Pac-12 #2)

Other:

Capital One Bowl:

  • Jan. 1
  • Big Ten #2 vs. SEC #2
  • Payout: $4,550,000
  • Michigan State (Big Ten #3) vs. Georgia (SEC #3)

Chick-fil-A Bowl:  

  • Dec. 31
  • ACC # 2 vs. SEC # 5
  • Payout: $3,967,500 ACC; $2,932,500 SEC
  • Virginia Tech (ACC #3) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC #5)

Cotton Bowl:

  • Jan. 4
  • Big 12 #2 vs. SEC #3/4
  • Payout: $3,625,000
  • Kansas State (Big 12 #3) vs. Arkansas (SEC #6)

Gator Bowl :

  • Jan. 1
  • Big Ten #4/5 vs. SEC #6
  • Payout: $3,500,000
  • Iowa (Big Ten #6) vs. Auburn (SEC #7)

Outback Bowl:

  • Jan. 1
  • Big Ten #3 vs. SEC #3/4
  • Payout: $3,500,000
  • Nebraska (Big Ten #4) vs. South Carolina (SEC #4)

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl (formerly the Insight Bowl):

  • Dec. 29
  • Big 10 #4/5 vs. Big 12 #4
  • Payout: $3,350,000
  • Purdue (Big Ten #7) vs. TCU (Big 12 #5)

Alamo Bowl:

  • Dec. 29
  • Big 12 #3 vs. Pac-12 #2
  • Payout: $3,175,000
  • Oklahoma State (Big 12 #4) vs. Utah (Pac-12 #3)

Russell Athletic Bowl (formerly the Champs Sports Bowl):

  • Dec. 28
  • Big East #2 vs. ACC #3
  • Payout: $2,275,000
  • Louisville (Big East #1) vs. Georgia Tech (ACC #5)

Holiday Bowl:

  • Dec. 27
  • Pac-12 #3 vs. Big 12 #5
  • Payout: $2,075,000
  • Stanford (Pac-12 #4) vs. Baylor (Big 12 #6)

Sun Bowl:

  • Dec. 31
  • ACC #4 vs. Pac-12 #4
  • Payout: $2,000,000
  • Virginia (ACC #6) vs. Washington (Pac-12 #5)

Music City Bowl:

  • Dec. 31
  • ACC#6 vs. SEC #7
  • Payout: $1,837,500
  • North Carolina State (ACC #7) vs. Florida (SEC #8)

Pinstripe Bowl:

  • Dec. 29
  • Big East #4 vs. Big 12 #7
  • Payout: $1,800,000
  • Rutgers (Big East #3) vs. Notre Dame

Meineke Car Care of Texas Bowl:

  • Dec. 28
  • Big 12 #6 vs. Big Ten # 6
  • Payout: $1,700,000
  • Texas (Big 12 #7) vs. Northwestern (Big Ten #9)

Belk Bowl:

  • Dec. 27
  • Big East #3 vs. ACC #5
  • Payout: $1,700,000
  • South Florida (Big East #2) vs. Miami (Fla.) (ACC #8)

Liberty Bowl:

  • Dec. 31
  • C-USA #1 vs. Big East/SEC # 8/9
  • Payout: $1,437,500
  • Houston (C-USA #1) vs. Mississippi State (SEC #9)

Independence Bowl:

  • Dec. 28
  • SEC #10 vs. ACC#7
  • Payout: $1,150,000
  • Texas A&M (SEC #10) vs. Wake Forest (ACC #9)

Maaco Las Vegas Bowl:

  • Dec. 22
  • MWC #1 vs. Pac-12 #5
  • Payout: $1,100,000
  • Boise State (MWC #1) vs. UCLA (Pac-12 #7)

TicketCity Bowl:

  • Jan. 1
  • Big Ten #7 vs. C-USA
  • Payout: $1,100,000
  • Arizona (Pac-12 #8) Southern Methodist (C-USA #6)

BBVA Compass:

  • Jan. 5
  • SEC #8/9 vs. Big East #5
  • Payout: $1,000,025 SEC; $900,000 Big East
  • Missouri (SEC #11) vs. Pittsburgh (Big East #4)

Military Bowl:

  • Dec. 27
  • ACC #9 vs. Army/C-USA
  • Payout: $1,000,000
  • Army vs. East Carolina (C-USA #5)

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl:

  • Dec. 29
  • Pac-12 #6 vs. Navy/ACC #9
  • Payout: $837,500
  • California (Pac-12 #7) vs. Navy

GoDaddy.com Bowl:

  • Jan. 6, Mobile, Alabama
  • MAC #2 vs. Sun Belt #2
  • Payout: $750,000
  • Northern Illinois (MAC #2) vs. Florida International (Sun Belt #2)

Armed Forces Bowl:

  • Dec. 29
  • C-USA #3 vs. MWC #4/5
  • Payout: $600,000
  • Tulsa (C-USA #3) vs. Fresno State (MWC #4)

Little Caesars Bowl:

  • Dec. 26
  • MAC #1 vs. Big Ten # 8
  • Payout: $750,000
  • Western Michigan (MAC #1) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt #3)

Hawaii Bowl:

  • Dec. 24
  • C-USA #2 vs. Hawaii/MWC#3
  • Payout: $650,000
  • Southern Mississippi (C-USA #2) vs. Wyoming (MWC #3)

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl:  

  • Dec. 21
  • Big East #6 vs. C-USA #4
  • Payout: $537,500
  • Cincinnati (Big East #5) vs. Ohio (MAC #4)

New Orleans Bowl:

  • Dec.22
  • Sun Belt #1 vs. C-USA #5
  • Payout:$500,000
  • Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt #1) vs. Louisiana Tech (WAC #2)

Poinsettia Bowl:

  • Dec. 20
  • MWC #2 vs. BYU/WAC
  • Payout: $500,000
  • Nevada (MWC #2) vs. Brigham Young

New Mexico Bowl:

  • Dec. 15
  • MWC #4/5 vs. Pac-12 #7/WAC
  • Payout: $456,250
  • San Diego State (MWC #5) vs. Bowling Green (MAC #6)

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl:

  • Dec. 15
  • WAC #1/2 vs. MAC #3
  • Payout: $325,000
  • San Jose State (WAC #1) vs. Toledo (MAC #3)

The 2012 Dubsism Pre-Season College Football Rankings

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. There is a rule in the blogosphere that says if you tag more than three posts with “college football,” you are required to do a pre-season ranking. Failure to do so will get your nose flayed and your genitals set on fire.

With that…teams are rated within their conference, and the conferences are ranked in order of overall strength.

Plus, since here at Dubsism we are believers in the yin and yang of things, we felt it necessary not only to do the obligatory Top 25 list, but a comprehensive list as well. Why? Because for every team that should be admired for its prowess, there is one that should be pitied for its ineptitude.

* – denotes bowl ineligible teams (as of this writing)

Independents:

Frankly, nobody in this group will likely matter in terms of a Top 25, Navy and Notre Dame are the best shots to make bowl games, and even Army has a contactually-obligated shot if they make eligibility. Notre Dame has a brtual schedule, and what talent they do have is being suspended at an alarming pace.

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Navy
  3. Army
  4. Brigham Young
  5. Georgia State

11) WAC

This year, this conference might as well be the “Leftovers Conference.”  By this time next year, the WAC will officially no longer exist. Two years ago, the WAC had a marquee program in Boise State which bolted for the Mountain West Conference, and after last year year,  consistent bowl programs Nevada, Fresno State, and Hawaii, made the same move.  The bottom line is this conference is really irrelevant. This conference will put a couple of teams into a couple low-end bowl games; unless you are a hard-core college football junkie, there’s no real reason to pay attention to this league.

  1. San Jose State
  2. Louisiana Tech
  3. Utah State
  4. Idaho
  5. New Mexico State
  6. Texas-San Antonio
  7. Texas State-San Marcos

10) Sun Belt Conference

The second trimester is denoted by a road win over a BCS conference team.

In the world that is conference realignment, the Sun Belt had remained untouched until Conference USA began raiding its ranks for members to replace the teams it will be losing to the Big East in 2013.

The Sun Belt adds South Alabama from the FCS this season, and next year will add Georgia State and first-year WAC member Texas State.  This is to offset the losses  FIU and North Texas to Conference USA to help that league with its losses of Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF to the Big East. In other words, this is still an FBS conference in its fetal stages.

  1. Louisiana-Lafayette
  2. Florida International
  3. Arkansas State
  4. Louisiana-Monroe
  5. North Texas
  6. Western Kentucky
  7. Troy
  8. Middle Tennessee
  9. South Alabama
  10. Florida Atlantic

9) Conference USA

This conference reminds me of an NBA All-Star game. Everybody can score and nobody plays defense.  Naturally, it can be said that a conference with such offensive output would have some seriously weak defenses…and it would be correct to say that. Most of the defenses in this league “couldn’t stop a nosebleed” and are perfectly represented by East Carolina. The Pirates were at the bottom in nearly every defensive statistic and were joined by three other C-USA members in the bottom 20.

In other words, expect a lot of 50-45, four-and-a-half hour conference games, and don’t expect anybody below Southern Methodist to be on your radar in November.

  1. Houston
  2. UCF*
  3. Southern Mississippi
  4. Tulsa
  5. East Carolina
  6. Southern Methodist
  7. Marshall
  8. Texas-El Paso
  9. UAB
  10. Memphis
  11. Tulane
  12. Rice

8 ) MAC

How many other College Football Previews will give you a Charles Nelson Reilly reference?

This season, the MAC might as well be renamed “meh.” Their will be its usual creative play-calling, but don’t expect any teams from this league to make a miracle run to the top 25.

  1. Western Michigan
  2. Northern Illinois
  3. Toledo
  4. Ohio
  5. Bowling Green
  6. Miami (Ohio)
  7. Eastern Michigan
  8. Central Michigan
  9. Kent State
  10. Buffalo
  11. Akron
  12. Ball State
  13. Massachusetts

7) Mountain West

The Mountain West Conference is another league which had been hurt by the rash of realignment. Not long ago, the MWC was on the verge of gaining acceptance as the “7th BCS conference,” now it is essentially becoming what the dying WAC was three years ago.

The MWC is now much more akin to other small conferences like the MAC rather than even the weakest BCS auto qualifying conference like the Big East.  Just look at how this conference did in bowl games last season.  TCU (now gone) downed Louisiana Tech 31-24 in the Poinsettia Bowl and Boise State (now gone) trashed Arizona State 56-24 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas.  The three losses are far more telling; Wyoming lost to Temple (then in the MAC), Air Force lost  to Toledo (MAC) and San Diego State lost to Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt).

As alluded to, the conference loses TCU to the Big 12 ,  adding to the defections of BYU and Utah a season ago.  Worse yet, it is scheduled to lose Boise State and San Diego State to the Big East next year.  Cementing the transition to being the new WAC is the fact that former WAC members Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada joined the league  for 2012, and next year, the Mountain West is scheduled to add two more WAC teams in San Jose State and Utah State.

  1. Boise State
  2. Nevada
  3. Wyoming
  4. Fresno State
  5. San Diego State
  6. Colorado State
  7. Air Force
  8. Hawaii
  9. UNLV
  10. New Mexico

6) Big East

Here’s another conference in transition.  This year, West Virginia left and Temple re-joined.  Next year, Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, SMU and UCF will join. 2014 will see the departure of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and 2015 will see the addition of Navy.  But for 2012, you can expect one bit of consistency…This conference hasn’t produced a team with fewer than 3 losses in three of the last four seasons.  Even when Cincinnati emerged with a 12-1 record in 2009, the Bearcats were routed by Florida in the Sugar Bowl after head coach Brian Kelly had already left for Notre Dame. In other words, nobody in this conference will legitimately be in the Top 20 in December.

  1. Louisville
  2. South Florida
  3. Rutgers
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Temple
  7. Connecticut
  8. Syracuse

5) Pac-12

Ironically, it is the weakness of this conference which will make it appear to be so strong. USC, Oregon, Utah, and Stanford could all finish the regular season 11-1, thanks to the lack of depth in this league. This is also the reason why USC will be under-rated, despite that if healthy, they likely will be the best team in the country, and certainly the team not in the SEC.

  1. USC
  2. Oregon
  3. Utah
  4. Stanford
  5. Washington
  6. UCLA
  7. California
  8. Arizona
  9. Washington State
  10. Oregon State
  11. Arizona State
  12. Colorado

4) ACC

In what proves to be a tradition, the ACC is incredibly over-rated. There are a lot of people out there who think Florida State, Clemson, and/or Virginia Tech are BCS Championship quality teams. They aren’t.  While all three of these teams are legitimate big-bowl contenders, they are not championship teams. The ACC is one of the big reasons why there is a perception of “East Coast Bias” in the sports media; every year we get told one of these teams will win it all, and they never do.

  1. Florida State
  2. Clemson
  3. Virginia Tech
  4. North Carolina*
  5. Georgia Tech
  6. Virginia
  7. North Carolina State
  8. Miami (Fla.)
  9. Wake Forest
  10. Boston College
  11. Maryland
  12. Duke

3) Big 12

The Big 12 has six legitimate football teams, a wildcard in Texas, and three schools who pad everybody else’s schedules.  The Big 12 will once again operate as 10-team league as it continues to explore options to expand back to 12 teams.  This means the league will play a round-robin regular season schedule, which will make this league interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is its own strength.

The strength of this conference is a far cry from where it appeared the Big 12 would be just two years ago.   It wasn’t that long ago that this league looked ready for extinction in the uncertainty after the defections of Nebraska and Colorado in 2010.   Now, even after losing Texas A&M and Missouri, the Big 12 traded up by getting TCU and West Virginia; both of those schools are among the six that figure to compete for the conference title.

  1. Oklahoma
  2. West Virginia
  3. Kansas State
  4. Oklahoma State
  5. TCU
  6. Baylor
  7. Texas
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Iowa State
  10. Kansas

2) Big Ten

For the real story in the Big Ten, just look toward Columbus. The dawn of the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State may just do the same for the leviathan known at the  Big Ten as it did for the SEC. In other words, perhaps Meyer’ball will turn Big Ten offenses into something watchable rather than the plodding leviathans of the Paterno era.

  1. Wisconsin
  2. Michigan
  3. Michigan State
  4. Nebraska
  5. Ohio State*
  6. Iowa
  7. Purdue
  8. Penn State*
  9. Northwestern
  10. Illinois
  11. Indiana
  12. Minnesota

1) SEC

Pope Urban I has moved the Vatican of College Football from Gainesville to Columbus.

The Post-Urban Meyer SEC is the best conference in college football. From the day Pope Urban I landed in Gainsville, the SEC transformed into a juggernaut which has won the last six BCS titles. Everything changed when Urban Meyer took his coaching talents to Gainesville.

It’s almost heresy now in college football to point out the days when nobody, and I mean NOBODY thought the spread offense would thrive in the SEC.  But it didn’t take long for Pope Urban I to win a host of apostles. Within a couple of years, the SEC was no longer a league of jurassic, knuckle-walker offenses and defenses which came with their own coroner.

In 2006, only one team in the league averaged more than 30 points per game. Four years later, that number had increased to seven, and ten averaged 29 or better.  It happened because those teams all used some sort of spread offense. Even the cro-magnon leather helmets in Tuscaloosa dabbled in something other than a tailback-based attack.

This is the bottom line. The SEC has more talent and more good coaches.  It’s that combination that makes this league a serious contender to win a seventh BCS title.

  1. LSU
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. South Carolina
  5. Vanderbilt
  6. Arkansas
  7. Auburn
  8. Florida
  9. Mississippi State
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Missouri
  12. Tennessee
  13. Mississippi
  14. Kentucky

Overall Rankings

  1. USC
  2. LSU
  3. Alabama
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Oregon
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Georgia
  8. Florida State
  9. South Carolina
  10. Michigan
  11. Vanderbilt
  12. Arkansas
  13. West Virginia
  14. Michigan State
  15. Clemson
  16. Kansas State
  17. Nebraska
  18. Ohio State*
  19. Oklahoma State
  20. TCU
  21. Auburn
  22. Virginia Tech
  23. Florida
  24. Utah
  25. Boise State
  26. Stanford
  27. Baylor
  28. Texas
  29. North Carolina*
  30. Georgia Tech
  31. Mississippi State
  32. Washington
  33. Notre Dame
  34. Louisville
  35. Houston
  36. Navy
  37. UCF*
  38. South Florida
  39. Iowa
  40. Southern Mississippi
  41. Louisiana-Lafayette
  42. Western Michigan
  43. Northern Illinois
  44. Florida International
  45. Purdue
  46. Nevada
  47. Toledo
  48. Penn State*
  49. Rutgers
  50. Wyoming
  51. Arkansas State
  52. Virginia
  53. Ohio
  54. Bowling Green
  55. Tulsa
  56. Pittsburgh
  57. Fresno State
  58. Cincinnati
  59. UCLA
  60. San Diego State
  61. Texas A&M
  62. Northwestern
  63. California
  64. Illinois
  65. Missouri
  66. North Carolina State
  67. Miami (Fla.)
  68. Tennessee
  69. Arizona
  70. Wake Forest
  71. Miami (Ohio)
  72. Washington State
  73. Texas Tech
  74. San Jose State
  75. Louisiana Tech
  76. East Carolina
  77. Louisiana-Monroe
  78. Iowa State
  79. Oregon State
  80. Colorado State
  81. Utah State
  82. North Texas
  83. Arizona State
  84. Western Kentucky
  85. Air Force
  86. Southern Methodist
  87. Mississippi
  88. Temple
  89. Kentucky
  90. Indiana
  91. Boston College
  92. Connecticut
  93. Marshall
  94. Army
  95. Eastern Michigan
  96. Syracuse
  97. Hawaii
  98. Brigham Young
  99. Troy
  100. Central Michigan
  101. Texas-El Paso
  102. Minnesota
  103. Colorado
  104. Maryland
  105. Kent State
  106. Middle Tennessee
  107. Duke
  108. Kansas
  109. UAB
  110. Idaho
  111. New Mexico State
  112. Buffalo
  113. South Alabama
  114. Akron
  115. Memphis
  116. Ball State
  117. Florida Atlantic
  118. Tulane
  119. UNLV
  120. New Mexico
  121. Georgia State
  122. Rice
  123. Texas-San Antonio
  124. Massachusetts
  125. Texas State-San Marcos

The Dubsism 2012 Pre-Season NFL Power Rankings

As we find ourselves on the verge of another NFL season, it is time for the degenerate gambler in me to preview the carnage.  Let’s face it, the NFL is comprised of three classes: Really Good, Mediocre, and Lousy. This means NFL predictions are pretty easy to get reasonably correct.  For example, the online sports book experts find it easy to predict the AFC East standings each year.  As long as quarterback Tom Brady is healthy and playing for a non-senile head coach Bill Belichick in New England, that will be your division favorite.  Another point that should be obvious is that if you are reading this article and expecting anything more clever than a sports book expert, maybe you shouldn’t be gambling in the first place.

Having said that, here’s how we see these teams come January (playoff teams noted in green).

Rankings by Division

AFC East:

The Patriots looked invincible last season until the New York Jets and Giants found their Achilles’ heel yet again.  The Jets beat the Patriots twice and the Giants won the Super Bowl based on one dirty little secret about the Patriots.  Once you take away their running game, their offense suddenly can’t create plays.

The Brady/Belichick offense needs at least the threat of a running game to keep the opposing safeties honest. Once the defensive secondary can cheat back into pass coverage, a lot of the “easy” passing lanes Brady depends on slam shut like a steel bear trap.

The Jets got worse, the Bills got better, but neither did enough to really make a difference. The Jets get the second spot in the AFC East by default; the Bills and Dolphins are both in that “Lousy” category. The Jets season hinges on two things: the defense has to live up to expectations by being the dominant unit it should be, and Mark Sanchez has to not suck.  Frankly, it is time for Sanchez to prove he is worthy of the star status he has been accorded.  If he finally shows us he is the “San-chise,” another deep play-off run is possible.  But it isn’t likely…get ready for Tebow-Mania – The New York Edition.

  1. New England Patriots
  2. New York Jets
  3. Buffalo Bills
  4. Miami Dolphins

AFC North:

The Ravens defense used to be radioactive to offenses, but like all radioactive elements, eventually they pass their half-life and the decay becomes noticeable. This may not be the year that happens, but it is getting more likely with time.  Not to mention, the Ravens are no longer offensively-challenged. Now that Ray Rice is locked up, expect this to be the year Joe Flacco shows that he is a Top 5 quarterback in this league.

Flacco isn’t flashy, but he’s never thrown more than 12 interceptions in a single season. Quarterbacks that don’t give the ball away are infinitely more valuable than those who toss 20+ interceptions. This is also the year the Bengals force a changing of the guard in this division.  At the same, Cincinnati is young and full of talent and the Steelers are old and already hurt.  The constant will be the Browns, who will prove yet again to be a non-factor.

  1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Pittsburgh Steelers
  4. Cleveland Browns

AFC South:

Once again, here’s another division winner by default. This division goes to the Texans largely because the Titans are depending on an unproven rookie Tebow-esque quarterback in Jake Locker, a now-unreliable Chris Johnson by default, and Kenny Britt is a variable nobody needs.  Jacksonville is just plain bad, and I don’t even want to picture that team without Maurice Jones-Drew.  Lastly, while it may be the dawn of the Luck era in Indianapolis,  the offensive line still looks weaker than no-alcohol beer and the defense acts more like the express lane at the toll-booth.

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Tennessee Titans
  3. Indianapolis Colts
  4. Jacksonville Jaguars

AFC West:

Welcome to the AFC “7-9 Division,” or as I like to call it, the “Somebody’s got to win it” Division. Here’s another default situation which drives me nuts.  Every year,  I get sucked in by the Chargers, only to watch them underperform. Those days are over, because I will never say a kind thing about the Chargers ever again as long as that organization doesn’t realize that Norv Turner is to football coaches as Benito Mussolini is to successful fascist dictators.

As I said before about the AFC West, nobody is really good enough to win this division. The Chiefs look the best on paper, but they have so many question marks nobody can tab them for sure.  We already know the Chargers won’t be a factor, thanks to Norv the Numbskull.  The Raiders have the usual Raider drama, and I refuse to annoit the Denver Mannings because I am not convinced that Peyton’s neck won’t explode at some point during the season., although they will likely be a play-off team.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs
  2. Denver Broncos
  3. San Diego Chargers
  4. Oakland Raiders

NFC East:

Granted, the Giants are once again the defending Super Bowl Champions, which is less a function of their talent level and more a product of the fact Patriots are the league’s new big-game choke artists.

However, the Giants are still the class of this division.

As a life-long Eagles’ fan, I hate Michael Vick as my quarterback because he excels at getting the crap beaten out of him, which helps explain why he gets progressively worse as the season progresses.  Not to mention he is age-wise already north of 30, and I don’t know of too many athletes that aged like wine; running quarterbacks age like milk.

Then there’s the Cowboys. To buy this team, I need to do two things that make me nervous. First, I have to buy Tony Romo as a quarterback who can win a game that means something; here’s a guy who is also past 30 who I keep hearing “needs to live up to his potential.” Isn’t there a point where you realize this is what you get, there is nothing in terms of “potential” left to live up to?

The only thing for sure about this division is that the Redskins will be a vortex of inter-galactic suckittude; the kind that generates such a gravitational pull it threatens to collapse under its own mass. Robert Griffin III has no chance to solve all the problems this team has; his best chance might be if he shot Mike Shanahan in the back of the head.

  1. New York Giants
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. Dallas Cowboys
  4. Washington Redskins

NFC North:

When healthy, the Packers are amongst the best team in the league.  But since the advent of the salary cap era, there have been very few truly complete teams, and Green Bay is no exception to that rule. They are really a green and yellow version of the Patriots; they have a big-time quarterback, an offense built around that quarterback, and they both like to lose to the Giants.

Meanwhile, three hours to the south lies the enigma known as the Chicago Bears. How can a team have so many ex-head coaches on its staff (Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli, and Mike Tice) and not know that a key to a successful offense is not letting the other team turn their quarterback into lawn mulch? It is easy to beat on Jay Cutler, but’s let’s be fair, he could sue his offensive line for non-support.

If there’s a guy in Chicago who should be getting called out, it’ s Lovie Smith. He’s done the least with the most talent of nearly any coach in this league, and yet his job never seems to be in danger. One can make an argument that a coach who didn’t have his head up his ass could have won two Super Bowls with the Bears during the Lovie regime, but nobody ever seems to mention that…

I don’t care what anybody says, I don’t buy the Lions. Sure, Calvin Johnson is a freak show, but I’m convinced that Matthew Stafford is a one-trick pony and Jim Schwartz is one of the worst coaches in the league.  The Lions have no discipline and they play really stupid football far too often.

This will be the second year of the post-Favre debacle in Minnesota; an era that will continue to be marked by 5-win seasons and a continued failure to understand the value of the quarterback position and the talent required to make a winner. Oh, and Adrian Peterson will never be the same. Get used to it.

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC South:

This division is an exercise in the process of elimination. The Saints are a question mark after having been nuked by Kommissar Goodell. Drew Brees still captains one of the most potent offenses in the league, but nobody has noticed the offensive line isn’t what it used to be.  The Panthers are like a race-car engine; will its’ main Cam-shaft hold up?  Cam Newton isn’t going to surprise anybody this season; NFL defenses are going to be geared to stop him as he really represents the motor that drives the Panther offense. Then, there’s the sad state of affairs in Tampa. The Buccaneers might use their pirate ship to sail for Cuba to plead for asylum.

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Carolina Panthers
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West:

Remember a few years ago when  we had to live through all the belly-aching that went on about how a team with a losing record shouldn’t be in the playoffs? Yeah, the 7-9 record of the SeaHacks won fair and square, the SeaHacks won under the architecture provided, and the people who bitched the loudest about the NFL playoff system are the same ones who beat on college football for not having a playoff.

That won’t be a problem this year, since the 49ers may very well be the best team in the league. They are certainly the most complete.  They have a solid offensive line, a great defense, and a coach who has been a winner at every level he’s competed.  The million dollar question is this: Can Alex Smith repeat last season’s performance in which he finally looked like a legitimate NFL quarterback?  The rest of this division can be summed up by the Mettalica classic…Nothing Else Matters.

  1. San Francisco 49’ers
  2. Arizona Cardinals
  3. St. Louis Rams
  4. Seattle Seahawks

Overall Rankings

  1. San Francisco 49’ers
  2. New England Patriots
  3. Green Bay Packers
  4. Baltimore Ravens
  5. New York Giants
  6. Chicago Bears
  7. Atlanta Falcons
  8. Cincinnati Bengals
  9. Houston Texans
  10. Philadelphia Eagles
  11. Pittsburgh Steelers
  12. Detroit Lions
  13. Kansas City Chiefs
  14. Dallas Cowboys
  15. Denver Broncos
  16. New Orleans Saints
  17. New York Jets
  18. Arizona Cardinals
  19. Tennessee Titans
  20. San Diego Chargers
  21. Oakland Raiders
  22. Buffalo Bills
  23. Carolina Panthers
  24. St. Louis Rams
  25. Miami Dolphins
  26. Washington Redskins
  27. Seattle Seahawks
  28. Minnesota Vikings
  29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  30. Cleveland Browns
  31. Indianapolis Colts
  32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Penn State Football 2012: The Rebuilding Begins

This will be the first Penn State post I’ve written in months which is solely about football.  I’ve got plenty of other posts in which I discuss the obvious problem we’ve just dealt with.  There are a bunch of kids who showed the one thing Paterno always preached: loyalty.  Now its time to talk about them and the game they play; there’ s plenty of other places to discuss the ugliness of the past nine months.

I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel a bit strange to be writing about a Nittany Lion football team which now finds itself without the man who built the program.  Not only is this team entering the post-Paterno era, but its also one that has some immediate needs on the field.

The dawn of the Bill O’Brien era in State College is going to face some immediate challenges. Contrary to what people may think, this isn’t the year Penn State football is going over the cliff due to the sanctions NCAA imposed. With the exception of the bowl ban, those penalties won’t start to show their effects until 2013.

So, let’s talk about the upcoming season.  Don’t let PSU’s nine-win season in 2011 get in the way of the truth.  The Nittany Lions have many personnel issues to address, and even without the obvious distractions, they were at best a fringe Top-25 team going into 2012.  They can forget about that now.  A breakdown of the 2011 season illustrates why.

Penn State’s 2011 wins over Temple, Iowa, Northwestern, Illinois, and Ohio State (by a combined total of 33 points) kept the Big Blue’s faithful hopes alive that the Nittany Lions were a team of destiny in the Big Ten; they had the inside rail to the inaugural Big Ten championship game.  But those dreams ended on the turf in Camp Randall Stadium in Madison when Wisconsin used 22 starting Big Blue Nittany Lions jerseys as floor mops.  Wisconsin provided a physical mismatch along the lines of what Alabama did to Penn State at Beaver Stadium in early September.

Both were telling losses.

In both the cases of Alabama and Wisconsin, Penn State’s offense went nowhere against a competent defense.

In both cases, the hallmark blue bulldozer offensive line of a Paterno team proved to be only adequate at best.

In both cases, the Nittany Lions proved they lacked a difference-maker at quarterback.  Penn State’s sole touchdown against Alabama came in garbage time; it was clear the Big Blue offense had no shot at finding the end zone against the Crimson Tide when it mattered. The drubbing at Wisconsin was even worse.  If there was a silver lining in the last few dreadful months, it was that Penn State is finally rid of alleged quarterback Rob Bolden with his transfer to LSU.  Now, the team is all Matt McGloin’s; which should be an improvement simply because there will be no more of this two-quarterback nonsense.

Any honest Penn State fan has no choice but to admit the issues along the offensive front and at quarterback.  McGloin helps to solve the problem under center, but the front five doesn’t look to be getting better anytime soon.  But there’s another big problem nobody is really discussing.  A Paterno team with a bad offensive line is shocking enough, but Penn State has a HUGE weakness on defense: they can’t stop the passing game.

Even with All-American Devon Still on the defensive line, Penn State throughout 2011 lacked the ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.  It didn’t get any better going further back; the defensive secondary was the Nittany Lions’ hidden weakness.  Paterno’s trademark defensive style depended on a brutal defensive line and linebackers who treated opposing offenses like the Vikings treated the villages they invaded. Without that sort of pillaging power, Penn State’s 2011 defense relied far too much on a second-rate secondary in an era when the Big Tweleveten is no longer a conference based on “three yards and a cloud of dust.”  Today, as we speak, you can beat the shit out of Penn State all day long throwing the football because their soft zone defense just doesn’t cut it in a league that transformed with the Joe Tiller/Drew Brees approach.

It didn’t get any better in the low-rent bowl game where Penn State’s defense got humiliated by Case Keenum of Houston and the offense couldn’t muster more than two touchdowns against a glorified FCS team.

Having said all that, Bill O’Brien has three major on-field challenges.  By the way, don’t be that guy who is going to comment with the obvious when it comes to sanctions, recruiting issues, and the like.  We all already know that…save your breath and try thinking outside of the box.  Now, back to the on-field challenges facing Bill O’Brien.

The Silver Lining: getting rid of Rob Bolden means the quarterback job is all Matt McGloin’s.

1) The Offensive Line:

Ironically, it will be how O’Brien tackles the blocking issue which will determine how deep the recesses of NCAA sanction-land are going to be. It’s a football fundamental.  If you can’t block, you can’t win.  If Penn State can’t at least get guys off the line of scrimmage, the ghost of Joe Paterno will go to the undisclosed location where they are hiding his dismounted statue and chop it up himself.

2) The Defensive Line:

As he has said throughout his time at Penn State, O’Brien said on Thursday that the defensive front seven would the strength of the 2012 Nittany Lions.  This may very well be an improved unit as Jordan Hill, Da’Quan Jones, Pete Massaro, and Sean Stanley are on track to start up front, but this unit will be deep. The same is true for the linebacker corps with Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti,  and Glenn Carson in starting spots, but there are several players capable of providing significant playing time.

3) The Secondary:

The secondary has a number of good returning players like Stephon Morris, Malcolm Willis, Adrian Amos, and Stephen Obeng; but there are also some youngsters who have a chance to help improve this unit, such as Da’Quan Davis and Jordan Lucas.

The Bottom Line:

There were three times last year when the Nittany Lions were clearly over-matched. They couldn’t handle the speed of Alabama, Wisconsin’ s dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson gave them fits, and Houston’s pure-passer in Case Keenum did little more than expose the Penn State secondary. Even though this marks the beginning of a new era in Penn State football, the solutions to these problems have roots in the past. For Penn State to have a winning season, they must control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.  They also must improve on pass defense; the Big Twelevten is now full of offenses which love to throw the ball.

The Schedule:

September 1st – Ohio

Ohio is a good MAC team, but they are still a MAC team traveling to Happy Valley. Three years from now, Penn State may be Purdue’s homecoming bitch, but even Purdue can beat MAC teams.

September 8th – at Virginia

Here’s the first road test, and the first chance to see how brutal road fans are going to be.  Both Virginia and Penn State figure to be middle-of-the-pack team in their respective conferences.

September 15th – Navy 

See the synopsis of the Ohio game and replace the term “MAC” with “Service Academy.”

September 22nd – Temple

Temple never once beat a Joe Paterno team. This is isn’t a Joe Paterno team anymore, but this also isn’t the year this streak ends.

September  29th – at Illinois

Penn State opens conference play on the road, and Big Blue doesn’t have a very good record in conference openers away from Happy Valley.  Both these teams had disastrous ends to their seasons last year, and this will be a question of who made the right moves to right their respective ships.

October 6th – Northwestern 

The last time these two teams met in Pennsylvania, Northwestern rocketed out to a three-touchdown lead before Matt  McGloin led the Nittany Lions on a 2nd half comeback.  Neither team will be as good as they were two years ago.

October 20th – at Iowa 

Even good Penn State teams have been snake-bit against the Hawkeyes in the last decade, and that streak doesn’t look likely to end this season, especially not in Kinnick Stadium.

October 27 th  – Ohio St. 

I really hope this is the beginning of a great rivalry between Bill O’Brien and Pope Urban I.  Since both teams are bowl-ineligible, this could prove to be a slug-fest for bragging rights in one of the hotbeds of football in America.

November 3rd – at Purdue

Here’s the bitter rivalry game, not for what happens on the field, but because this represents a division in the Dubsism house.  As previously mentioned, J-Dub is a Penn State alum and Mr.s Dubsism graduated from Purdue.  Either way, the local police will surely be at the Dubsism house; it’s just a question of who is leaving in handcuffs.

November 10th – at Nebraska

Once again, Penn State has some of its toughest games late in the season. This likely will be a long day for the Nittany Lions.

November  17th –  Indiana

Indiana never once beat a Joe Paterno team in conference play. This is isn’t a Joe Paterno team anymore, but this also isn’t the year this streak ends.

November 24th –  Wisconsin

I’m not going to be a fan of this game at the end of the schedule, considering for at least the next four years this will mean my last view of Nittany Lion football will be a 30-point drubbing at the hands of the Badgers.

Wins: 

Ohio, at Virginia, Navy, Temple, Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana

Losses:

at Illinois, at Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin.

The Results:

If it weren’t for the ineligibility, Penn State would likely find itself in another low-rent bowl for the second-division Big Tweleveten. But, since that won’t be the case, the Nittany Lions will have to settle for a seven-win season and continue to focus on the future.

The Baseball Trading Deadline – The Shark Week Comparison

Don’t look now, but did you know that last year was the first time since 1999 that none of the five California teams made it to October? Barring a drastic tectonic shift in either baseball or the Golden State, that’s not going to be the case this October.  We are at the beginning of August and the Dodgers, Giants, Angels, and  (believe it or not) Athletics are all contending. That’s why you shouldn’t be surprised to see some California teams ranked high on this list.

If you haven’t figured out by now, the whole premise is that trading is a shark-eat-shark world, and some sharks do the eating, and some sharks get eaten. That’s how we here at Dubsism compare the performance of baseball teams at the trading deadline.  Why do we do that?  Because no matter what, one thing is certain; where there is trading is there is bleeding, and nothing draws the sharks like blood in the water.

The bottom line: since we here at Dubsism are not willing to wait for two years to see who are the bleeders and who are the eaters, we decided to give the rating of winners and losers a ”swim with the sharks” twist.

Oh, and don’t be that guy who points out it isn’t Shark Week yet. We know the Olympics screwed up our timeline, but this comparison has become a Dubsism tradition, so just play along and don’t be a big pain in the ass.

Great White Shark:

Los Angeles Angels:

First-year Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto scored big once again as he did with Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson during the winter.  Zach Greinke was the biggest single impact player available, and the Angels snatched him out from under division rival Texas.

San Francisco Giants:

There’s a reason why the peninsula on which the Giants play was named “Tiburon” by the  Spanish.  The ocean off San Francisco is so full of these giant, flesh-eating fish the Spanish named the area after their word for “shark.”  Had Brian Sabean been on that peninsula in the 1770’s, the Spanish may have named him “Tiburon” as well.

Thanks to Brian the Shark, the Giants once again addressed major needs at the trade deadline.  The G-Men grabbed Cody Ross off  waivers in 2010.  Last year, they acquired Carlos Beltran. To that record amassed by Brian Sabean, this year you can add Hunter Pence to the outfield and Marco Scutaro to the infield.  Not to mention, how does that Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera deal look right about now?

Tiger Shark:

Detroit Tigers:

I hope the coincidence of the Tigers being ranked as a tiger shark doesn’t cloud the fact that Detroit believes it can eat the rest of the American League Central.  For the second year in a row, general manager Dave Dombrowski has acquired rotation help for the stretch run, but the million-dollar question is can Anibal Sanchez become this year’s version of Doug Fister in Detroit? The Tigers also shored up their infield with Omar Infante, but they honestly coveted another bat.

Bull Shark: 

Los Angeles Dodgers:

The Dodgers had high hopes to do something spectacular, but really only made it to “pretty damn good.”  They coveted Ryan Dempster, but one can make an argument not getting him is a blessing in disguise. Adding Hanley Ramirez to the lineup can only help,  and while Shane Victorino is nowhere near the payer he was even three years ago, he certainly adds a bit more Bugs Bunny-style defense to the outfield over the Herman Munster-like stylings of Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu.  Brandon League adds some needed bullpen depth.  The sole flaw in what the Dodgers did…they are still needing Chad Billingsley to…wait for it…wait for it…step up his game.  This officially marks the 100,000th time the words “Chad Billingsley” and “needs to step it up” have appeared in the same sentence.

Mako Shark:

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Cue completely predictable joke in 3…2…1.  Somehow, the Pirates managed to nab some buried treasure in hitters Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez, plus a pretty solid starting pitcher in Wandy Rodriguez.  On top of that, through these deals the Pirates still kept their best young prospects.

Hammerhead Shark:

Houston Astros:

Yeah, I know this sounds a bit bizarre at first, but consider the following. First of all, the advantage of being at the bottom is you have nowhere to go but up. Second of all, look at what Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow just pulled off.  He managed to unload all the contracts that had him handcuffed…he got rid of Wandy Rodriguez , Brett Myers, Carlos Lee, J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon, and Chris Johnson, and he got 13 prospects plus two players to be named later in return.  Granted, watching the Astros now is like watching a fraternity softball team well into its third keg of beer, but it is distinctly possible this slew of deals may mark the turning point for the Houston Astros.

Blacktip Reef Shark:

Cleveland Indians:

The Indians likely made their best move by not making a move.  Even though they picked up Lars Anderson from Boston, and even though Cleveland was pretending to be a contender before the deadline, the simple fact of the matter is that no trade they could have made now would have made the Indians as good as the White Sox and Tigers. In other words, those who think the Indians should have dealt Shin-Soo Choo fail to realize his price will only go up this winter.

San Diego Padres:

Clearly, there is a new philosophy in the Padre front office.  The days of the Padres being sabotaged by their own ownership looks to be a thing of the past., if the retention of Carlos Quentin, Huston Street, and Chase Headley.  Make no mistake, the Padres still could use a couple of busloads of better players, but even a journey of a thousand signings starts with but one.

Washington Nationals:

Here’s a team that really didn’t need to make a move, and didn’t hit the panic button to do so.

Stingray:

Cincinnati Reds:

Hello? Has anybody in Cincinnati seen a lead-off since the turn of the century? The Reds made bids for Shane Victorino and Denard Span, and it’ doesn’t require the FBI Crime Lab to understand why. The guys slotted at the top of the Cincinnati order have combined to rank dead last in on-base percentage and batting average. Even during their recent winning streak,  Reds’ leadoff hitters contributed a measly .213  on-base percentage.

So, while failing to address a weakness, the Reds built on a strength. The acquisition of Jonathan Broxton means the Reds can use him as setup guy in front of  Aroldis Chapman. This only adds depth to a bullpen with the lowest ERA in the majors.

Milwaukee Brewers:

On the plus side, the Brew Crew landed three top prospects from the Angels (shortstop Jean Segura, and pitchers Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena) for Zach Greinke. On the minus side, Francisco Rodriguez imploded so badly even teams in the Serbo-Croatian league weren’t interested, and there was absolutely no real interest in Aramis Ramirez or Randy Wolf.

Toronto Blue Jays:

The Blue Jays know they need pitching, but they also now they don’t need to get it now.  The contention calendar in Toronto doesn’t even start counting days until 2013, and to be honest, 2014 is more realistic.  The Blue Jays did shop for starters; they courted Matt Garza, Josh Johnson, and James Shields, but they also were the last team willing (to this point) to give Jamie Moyer a shot.  Failing that, they also looked at a lefty bat in Justin Morneau to go with Jose “Joey Bats” Bautista.  At the end of the day, they built on the bullpen by adding relievers Brad Lincoln from Pirates and Steve Delabar from the Mariners.

While general manager Alex Anthopoulos is building quite the reputation for being aggressive, even he knows that with as many injured starting pitchers as Toronto currently has, the better move is to build toward that calendar date rather than building for this October.

Nurse Shark:

St. Louis Cardinals:

The Cardinals knew they needed starting pitchers, which is hwy they entertained deals for James Shields and Francisco Liriano. But they couldn’t move those deals from talks to reality, which is largely why they ended up with reliever Edward Mujica from the Marlins’ fire sale.  This is a bit surprising considering it was only a year ago when when the Cardinals pulled of major deals — adding shortstop Rafael Furcal, reliever Octavio Dotel, and starter Edwin Jackson — which played a big role in their World Series title.

Skate:

Tampa Bay Rays:

To be fair, the Rays are stuck in “neither-nor” land.  They aren’t shitty enough to be a seller, but they are nowhere good enough to be a buyer. That means the dreaded “small/failing market” rule kicks in.  This is why dealing James Shields would have made sense.  It’s also why dealing James Shields makes more sense.

To play the small market game, the Rays would need to subscribe to the idea that any year in which you have no shot at October, you should trade current talent for future talent. However, in Tampa, there’s some wildcards that punch some “stingray barbs through Steve Irwin’s heart“-type holes in the conventional wisdom.

First of all, the Rays just aren’t that far out of the race to burn everything down.  Second of all, it is entirely possible that Evan Longoria could come back and go back to hitting the shit out of American League pitching.  More importantly, just rewind your baseball clock to last September for a graphic display of the Rays’ comeback ability.

Dogfish:

New York Mets:

Their fall from grace came with the worst possible timing.  They died too early to be a buyer, and too late to be a seller. The long story short: they fucked up and held on to  Scott Hairston. Welcome to the history of the New York Mets since 2002.

Oakland A’s:

Oakland is that classic high-school guy who realizes moments too late that the girl of his dreams would have totally gone to the Prom with him i fhe had only asked two days before he did.  Had the A’s grown some balls a few days earlier, they very likely could have netted Hanley Ramirez before the Dodgers got him.  +At the end of the day, the A’s added no offensive help while watching division rivals Texas and Los Angeles bulk up.

Remora:

Minnesota Twins:

The Twins are a bad team which is desperate to flesh out its farm system young starting pitchers  in the hopes they can find five that don’t suck.   However, that really didn’t happen.  Granted, the Liriano trade netted lefty pitching prospect Pedro Hernandez and a minor-league infielder.  But by failing to move Justin Morneau and Denard Span, the Twins will be fielding trade prospects for both of them for quite some time.

New York Yankees:

We can officially stop the “Yankees just stock up on the best available player” wheeze.  There is no way a high-mileage car like Ichiro Suzuki and a semi-serviceable bat like Casey McGehee qualify as “the best available.”

Bathtub Toy Shark:

Arizona Diamondbacks:

For all the hype which surrounded the D-backs and their wants to make some real noise in the NL West, then nothing really did happen.  Sure, they added third baseman Chris Johnson, but they really coveted a big-name pitcher, they clearly wanted to ship Stephen Drew out of town, they made it clear Justin Upton was available, and none of it happened.  Meanwhile, their division rivals in the Giants and Dodgers both significantly upgraded.

Boston Red Sox:

The Red Sox can’t really decide if they are buyers or sellers, but it really doesn’t matter as they aren’t relevant to a pennant race anyway.  The deals they made aren’t relevant either.  Like the D-backs, they looked to be bold, then meekly folded.  They didn’t deal Josh Beckett, but they did deal Lars Anderson and Matt Albers. Gone are the days when the Sox made ballsy trade deadline calls, like arranging a three-way deal to ship Nomar Garciaparra out of town.

Florida Marlins:

In what will be known as yet another unmitigated Marlins disaster, not only did they go from loading for bear last winter to becoming a fire-sale in July. They still thought they were buyers as recently as three weeks ago when they acquired the fat, worthless Carlos Lee and his even more bloated paycheck.  But then they dealt Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez amongst others, and clearly were willing to move Josh Johnson and Carlos Lee.

The Chum Bucket:

Chicago Cubs:

Here’s how Ryan Dempster screwed everybody.  Obviously, he dicked the Cubs when he nixed the proposed deal to Atlanta. That cost the Cubs any leverage they might have had, while simultaneously dropping his trade value. This led to the Dodgers passing on a deal which would have involved one or both of their  two desired young pitchers, Zach Lee or Allen Webster.  At the end of the day, the Rangers gave up two Single-A prospects for an aging pitcher in Dempster whose ERA is almost certain to balloon in the American League.

The Cubs had a Plan B with Atlanta by dealing Paul Maholm, but they didn’t get the young starter they wanted in Randall Delgado.  Instead, they got Arodys Vizcaino whose is  21 years old and already recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Matt Garza came up lame at the deadline and the Cubs couldn’t move him, nor could they find a sucker to take Alfonso Soriano.  Three years from now, the Cubs will still suck, largely because Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have such an incredibly deep hole from which to crawl out.

Colorado Rockies:

A description of how bad things are in Coloradc:  They couldn’t even trade closer Rafael Betancourt, and they actually traded Jeremy Guthrie to get Jonathan Sanchez, which is like trading a brown turd for a green one.

Kansas City Royals:

A description of how bad things are in Kansas City: They were Colorado’s partner on the aforementioned turd trade.

What We’ve Learned: The Baseball Power Rankings at the All-Star Break – The “Haiku” Edition

So, if you are one of the six regular readers of this blog, right now you are asking yourself just what in the hell is Haiku? In short, traditional Haiku is a very short form of Japanese poetry typically characterized by a very restrictive format consisting of 17  syllables in phrases of 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively.

This restriction forces a juxtaposition of imagery or ideas and generally mixed with what the Japanese call kireji, or “cutting.” It isn’t “cutting” as you would normally think of it; it isn’t really something slicing through something else, but at the same time it is just that. To make a long story short, it’s a lot of that artsy-fartsy shit like “a crystal clear picture painted with a vague brush’ that’s only appreciated  those hipster-doofuses who smoke clove cigarettes and hang around the liberal arts building at (insert your local college here) when they are working part-time at Barnes & Noble.

In fact, I had just such a doofus explain this “cutting” thing to me as “the juxtaposition of two images or ideas with a kireji word between them acting as a verbal punctuation mark which signals the moment of separation and colors the manner in which the juxtaposed elements are related.”

I tried figuring out just what the fuck that meant until some brown stuff started leaking out of my ears, then it dawned on me. It’s exactly the same undefinable reason why baseball is a great metaphor for life while at the same time being a shitty metaphor for life.  It’s why the colloquial American lexicon is full of baseball terms, and yet anybody who uses more than two of them in any one sentence is likely a sub-literate.

After that revelation, I thought why should I wrestle with this alone? Why not do one of my Power Rankings entirely in Haiku? Why not make some baseball fans’ brains bleed as well?

1) Washington Nationals ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Nationals have one of the best young rotations in baseball.  Strasburg appears ready to return to his pre- Tommy John surgery condition, and the acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson were huge.  If Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Chien-Ming Wang can stay away from the injury problems that have bugged them, the Nationals should be able to stay in most games based on their pitching alone.  But the Nats should be stronger in the middle of the order since Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, and Danny Espinosa all could be 25 HR, 90 RBI guys.

Downside: The Nats have three question marks. The first is at first base; Adam LaRoche played only 43 games last year before season-ending surgery and hit just .172. Can he return to the form of his previous years? However, Michael Morse blossomed at first base once LaRoche went down.  Secondly, the Nats have an issue in the lead-off spot. Ian  Desmond is going to start the season there, but he’ll have to learn to be more patient.  He’s drawn only 63 walks in 308 games during 2010 and 2011. Lastly there’s the matter of timing. This needs to be the year the Nats take a step toward the future because this is the last year before the expectations are going to go up. They can still be mediocre this year, but if they finish third or worse in 2013, they may just become a red version of the Cubs.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Best starters in league

Team pitching stats are crazy

Bats awakening

2) Texas Rangers ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The only team in the A.L. West they have to worry about is the Angels. The Rangers have a line-up tailor-made to their hitter-friendly park, so there is no reason they can’t lead the league in team batting average again. Not to mention, they placed top five in runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Downside: The Rangers are gambling in the wake of losing C.J. Wilson to division-rival Los Angeles with their $103 million investment in Yu Darvish and moving  Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation for the first time in his major league career. Then there’s the Josh Hamilton situation…we all know about the off-the-field issues, but don’t forget the former AL MVP has been hampered by injuries lately as well.  Now contract talks are stalled, and who knows what impact that will have.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Texas bats don’t fail

Texas pitching often fails

This year is just same

3)  Los Angeles Angels ↑ 6

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: This team has ownership that isn’t afraid to make a move. Due to the free-agent signing of first baseman Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson, the Angels committed $331.5 million, which left little room for the team to add anyone else significant during the offseason. New GM Jerry DiPoto did, however, get his hands on a decent bat bat behind the plate in Chris Iannetta, and reliable veteran relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins becomes the latest on the list of guys who have played for both of my two favorite teams (Angels and Twins).

Pujols adds to a lineup which featured six players with double-digit home runs, and six with over 59 RBI. Top prospects in catcher Hank Conger and outfielder Mike Trout will also be in the running for a full season with the club.

C.J. Wilson adds to a rotation which already featured 2011 A.L. All-Star Game starter Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana.

Downside: Which Vernon Wells do the Angels get in 2012?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Weaver and Haren

Awesome one-two starting punch

Pujols is Pujols

4) New York Yankees ↑ 3

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Yankees upgraded their pitching staff by adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, and by subtracting A.J. Burnett.  Prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos will soon find their way to the major league rotation as well. If the pitching staff gels and Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira perform as expected, this team will prove formidable.

Downside:  Don’t look now, but this team isn’t getting any younger.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching Staff Falling

Sabathia Pettitte hurt

Ivan Nova is best left

5) Chicago White Sox ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: General Manager Ken Williams also showed a desire to rebuild his club by getting rid of longtime White Sox starter Mark Buehrle and letting go of Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Jason Frasor, Sergio Santos, and Omar Vizquel.

Downside: General Manager Ken Williams has no idea how to rebuild a club. He replaced staff ace Mark Buerhle by over-paying for the ever-fraudulent John Danks.  The rest of the starting rotation will depend on the fragile Jake Peavy and the unproven Chris Sale.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Smoke and mirrors

Houdini made this mirage

Contender won’t last

6) Pittsburgh Pirates ↑ 15

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  The Bucs are quietly cobbling together a respectable offense.  Outfielders Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and All-Star Andrew McCutchen are likely to be the the 1-2-3  hitters; all of them hit over .275 last year, and all of them swiped over 20 sacks. Neil Walker looks like a #4 hitter after hitting 17 home runs and 62 RBI in only 460 at-bats.  Plus, the Pirates may have emerging power at the corner infield spots; Garrett Jones showed some pop with 17 homers last year, and Pedro Alvarez is due for his breakout year any time now.

Downside: Last year, the Pirates gave up the third-worst opponents batting average (.270) and received the fifth-fewest quality starts from their starting five.  A.J. Burnett is supposed to be the cure for that?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pirates no surprise

Tons of young talent living

In bad division

7) Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young last year and is a contender for the award again. He is signed with the Dodgers through 2013.  Matt Kemp was the runner-up for the NL MVP Award, and was a single dinger away from joining the 40HR/40 stolen base club.  The Dodgers have him locked up through 2019.

Downside: They still have yet to rid themselves of Frank McCourt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Matt Kemp Clayton Kershaw

Ethier on the list too

Why Dodgers contend

8 )  San Francisco Giants ↑ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner form one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in the game.

Downside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the worst offenses in baseball. With the losses of Cody Ross and Carlos Beltran, this team may find itself relying on a 3-4-5 heart of the order consisting of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching carries team

Even though Lincecum sucks

Melky keys offense

9) Baltimore Orioles ↓ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: As bad as there were in 2011, their offense wasn’t all that bad and they’ve kept the core of it.  If Mark Reynolds can produce another 30-plus home run season, and Adam Jones and Nick Markakis continue their consistent hitting, the Orioles could end up being a mediocre team.

Downside:  The Orioles had the worst off-season of any Major League team.  If you don’t agree, here are their off-season acquisitions: pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jason Hammel, and Matt Lindstrom; and position players Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez and Taylor Teagarden.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Baltimore baseball

Loves meaningless history

Two decades of proof

10) Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 8

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Their pitching staff will carry them in 2012.  David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Moore form a six-man rotation that just might let the Rays continue their average 92 wins over the last four seasons. Only three teams in the majors had a higher average with one of the lowest four-year payroll totals in baseball at $222 million.

Downside: The Rays need a new fanbase and stadium.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Six-man rotation

Yet none of them really suck

Yet Rays kind of suck

11) New York Mets ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Whether its up or down, the theme once again for the Mets is hope. Hopefully, all the distractions that surrounded last season are gone with the departure of Jose Reyes. Hopefully, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana are healthy, will stay that way, and will perform up to expectations. Hopefully, there will be a resurgence of third baseman David Wright and Jason Bay now that the outfield wall has been moved in.

Downside:  Hopefully, all those things I just mentioned will happen.  Right after they all do happen, we can all join hands and visit the fairy princess together. Not only that, but this team goes nowhere as long as Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz own the team.  Let’s face it, meltdown, dumpster fire, train wreck…they all are synonymous with “Mets.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

When R.A. Dickey

Is by far your best pitcher

Your life is mirage

12) Cleveland Indians ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Shin-Soo Choo seems to be healthy. Vinne Pestano and Nick Hagadone could be the foundations of a solid, young bullpen.  Carlos Santana is a potential All-Star.

Downside: Fausto Carmona (or whoever he really is) may never get ba They also have the best home record in all of baseball.ck into the country and Grady Sizemore is probably finished as an effective major league player. The heyday for this team was fifteen years ago, and unless you can find a way to add Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Jake Taylor to the roster, there will be more than one long summer in Cleveland’s near future.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Somehow not shitty

Can pitch but have no offense

Shin-Soo Choo Korean sneeze

13)  Cincinnati Reds ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  General Manager Walt Jocketty managed to improve the starting rotation by adding former Padres ace Mat Latos, the bullpen by bringing in Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, and added some needed depth by acquiring Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, and Ryan Ludwick. With these additions to the existing weapons like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and the fact the N.L. Central no longer has the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the Reds have the potential once again to seize the top spot in the division.

Downside: That pitching staff is managed by Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker, the same Dusty Bake who think base-runners “just clog up the basepaths.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Great American

Ballpark holds team powered by

Mostly foriegners

14) Atlanta Braves ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last year, I said the Braves were a collection of “what-ifs” built around a solid core of just enough hitting and just enough pitching. Now, enough of those questions became facts so that barring injuries, the Braves can contend in the NL East.

Downside: The Braves finished 13 games back of the Phillies last season, and they way the season ended for them still has to sting. The question is did they improve enough to fix those issues?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Chipper’s last hurrah

While team disintegrates like

Chipper’s ligaments

15) Detroit Tigers ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last season, the Motor City Kitties finished in the top four in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. The numbers can only get better with the offseason acquisition of first baseman Prince Fielder, who just happens to be a career .282 hitter averaging over 32 home runs and 93 RBI per season over the last six years.

Downside: How does the move of Cabrera back to third base work out? What will be the impact of losing DH Victor Martinez? And I’m not sold on the rotation beyond Justin Verlander and Doug Fister.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Slugger’s paradox

Cabrera and Fielder

Yet team lacks power

16) Boston Red Sox ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The Boston Red Sox are taking on an entirely new look in 2012.  For the first time in recent memory, Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox. And it’s about time, especially after what happened last September.  Despite this new look, New GM Ben Cherington will be faced with the challenge of keeping the Sox a contender.

Downside: I don’t give a damn what anybody says, I don’t buy this pitching staff.  Jon Lester has always been over-rated in my book. The loss of John Lackey is a case of “addition by subtraction.”  Clay Buchholz walks too many guys. Who knows what Daniel Bard and Vincente Padilla really are?

Then, there’s the whole issue of that idiot Bobby Valentine. I can’t wait for the Terry Francona “Miss Me Yet?” billboards to break out all over New England.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Worst .500 team

Valentine captains a ship

Which hit iceberg twice

17) Miami Marlins ↓ 7

What We Originally Said:

Upside: I don’t think there could be a more interesting team to watch in 2012. Miami is one of three teams in the Dubsism Top Ten from the N.L. East Division and got there through having by far the most active off-season. Tey’ve got a new name, new uniforms, new logos, a new stadium, a new manager,  and of course, new players. The new Marlins Park will play host to the new-look squad under new manager and old loud mouth Ozzie Guillen, who will be leading new shortstop and reigning N.L. batting champ Jose Reyes, new closer Heath Bell, and new starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Added to existing Marlins Hanley Ramirezx and ace Josh Johnson, there’s no way this team won’t be entertaining at least.

Downside: This also just could be the loading of a gigantic powder-keg. Zambrano and Guillen in the same dug-out? The Marlins may want to keep the bomb squad handy at all times, not just for the volatility I just mentioned, but for the fact if this team doesn’t win right away, look for it to get blown up quick.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Guillen loves Castro

As he not as huge asshole

As Ken Williams

18 ) St. Louis Cardinals ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Despite losing Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals still have enough weapons to be a factor in the N.L. Central. Starter Adam Wainwright comes back from Tommy John surgery, and he leads a rotation featuring Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, and Kyle Lohse. Also, could this be the breakout year for World Series MVP David Freese? His 21 RBI over 18 postseason games last October could signal the start of something big.

Downside: Let’s face it…losing Albert Pujols would hurt any line-up. This means Lance Berkman has to at least come close to the .301/31 HR/94 RBI campaign he put up in 2011, and Matt Holliday has to be a .300/25 HR/RBI guy as well.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Lance Lynn lifted staff

Lance Berkman’s big lefty bat

Replaced by Beltran

19) Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 3

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: Jose Bautista.  In 2010, he hit .260 with 35 doubles, 54 home runs and 124 RBI. In 2011, he hit .302 with 24 doubles, 43 home runs, and 103 RBI. He has to figure in the MVP race.

Downside: The Blue Jays could have a bright future, but the future isn’t today.  Ricky Romero has also been nothing short of excellent for the club. Last season, the 27-year-old went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA and 178 strikeouts. It’s time to see if youngsters Brett Lawrie,  Anthony Gose, and catcher Travis D’Arnaud can live up to expectations.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Canada’s baseball pride

Needs pitchers who are not in

Intensive Care Unit

20) Arizona Diamondbacks ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: In a division heavy in pitching, the D-backs chose bulk by getting potential question mark Trevor Cahill from Oakland and re-signing their own free agent, Joe Saunders, after non-tendering him at the December deadline for arbitration-eligibles. Kennedy, Hudson and Saunders logged career highs in innings last season, and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat that…see below…

Downside:  Even though the Arizona Diamondbacks finished first place in the NL West Division at 94-68, their starting rotation was filled with career-best seasons:

  • Ian Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 earned run average and 198 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Daniel Hudson went 16-12 with a 3.49 earned run average and 169 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Joe Saunders went 12-13 with 3.69 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 212 innings pitched.
  • Josh Collmenter went 10-10 with a 3.38 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 154.1 innings pitched.

The D-backs line-up can be inconsistent as well – they struggled to hit over .250 as team despite everyday players Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero hitting .292, .289 and .282 respectively.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Arizona snakes

Swallowing their own venom

No playoff repeat

21) Oakland Athletics ↑ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  America’s favorite breakfast cereal, Coco Crisp,  will still man the Oakland outfield after signing a $14 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2014 after hitting .264 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 49 stolen bases last season. Then there the Cuban grab-bag known as Yoenis Cespedes. This kid could be the real deal.

Downside: The A’s are without many of their pitchers who brought success to the team in recent years. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Outman are out of the starting rotation, while Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey are no longer in the bullpen. The one proven offensive power bat in the lineup has also departed; Josh Willingham hit 29 home runs and 98 RBI in 2011, but is now part of the Minnesota Twins.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

A’s have Cespedes

Ryan Cook and little else

At least no Manny

22) Milwaukee Brewers ↑ 3

What We  Originally Said:

Upside:  Even though Miller Park is known for being tough on right-handed sluggers, the Brewers brought in third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He will need to have a Beltre-like season (.300/25 HR/90 RBIs) to help off-set the loss of Prince Fielder.

Downside: The big questions: Can Mat Gamel prove he is ready to be a major league first-baseman, including posting some power numbers at the plate? Can Wily Peralta develop into a credible big-league starter? Then there’s the elephant in the room…the Ryan Braun situation and what impact it may have…

The Mid-Season Haiku:

No Prince Fielder

Leaves Ryan Braun alone with

His tainted sample

23) Philadelphia Phillies ↓ 8

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The starting rotation is as good as it gets with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. New closer Jonathan Papelbon should help shore up the bullpen.

Downside:  If the Yankees and the Phillies make the World Series, they may want to get the games done before 4 p.m., so they can all hit the early-bird specials at Denny’s. This is another team that is aging before our eyes. Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are 33, Chase Utley is 32, and Placido Polanco tops the list at 36. Not to mention, the Phillies have lost have lost four of their last five postseason series.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Team can’t be a winner

When it can’t even get right

Roy Halladay doll

24) Kansas City Royals ↑ 3

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The club is loaded with young talent like Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar.  Alex Gordon turned a corner in 2011. Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, and Jason Kendall provide veteran leadership, and there are more top prospects on the way like Wil Myers and Bubba Starling. The Royals also added pitching with starter Jonathan Sanchez and closer Jonathan Broxton.

Downside: General Manager Dayton Moore is a bit of an unproven commodity, so there’s no guarantee that he isn’t going to mortgage the future if the fans expectations suddenly outstrip the team’s talent.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

The ghost of George Brett

Cries when sees yet another

Great player leave town

25) Minnesota Twins ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: It is possible they get production from the faces of the franchise, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Last year thanks to injuries, Mauer hit .287 with three home runs and 30 RBI, while Morneau hit a horrid .227 with four home runs and 30 RBI.

Downside: Only three players on the Twins saw more than 100 games of action last year. There’s Michael Cuddyer, who is now getting his mail in Colorado, outfielder Ben Revere, and third baseman Danny Valencia. These might be the only Twins who matter in 2012.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Willingham and Plouffe

Deserve shampoo ad more than

Overpaid slap hitter

26)  San Diego Padres ↑ 2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Again, you really can’t beat the weather in San Diego…and the Padres, despite the loss of Mat Latos, Aaron Harang, and Heath Bell still have a serviceable  (not great, serviceable) pitching staff currently slated to feature Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, and Cory Luebke.  Heath Bell’s closer role has been replaced by Huston Street.

Downside:  The Padres offense last year was in the bottom three in runs scored (593), batting average (.237), on-base percentage (.305) and slugging percentage (.349). The only improvements to that came in the form of Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, and current AARP member Mark Kotsay.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Diego baseball

Much in common with Bigfoot

Rumored to exist

27)  Colorado Rockies ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Troy Tulowitzki hit .302 with 36 doubles, 30 home runs, and 105 RBI in 2011. Carlos Gonzalez hit .295 with 27 doubles, 26 home runs, and 92 RBI in only 127 games. Casey Blake, Marco Scutaro, Ramon Hernandez, and Michael Cuddyer will all be joining the Colorado this season, which can only provide more cushion in a lineup that already features some of baseball’s best hitters. The crisp air in Colorado with these players and Todd Helton at the forefront can only mean runs, runs, and more runs.

Downside: The starting rotation will consist of Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, and then any three out of about six possibles, including the 49-year old Jamie Moyer.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Even Yoda knows

Tulowitzki and Car-Go

The whole of team is

28)  Seattle Mariners ↓ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Felix Hernandez.

Downside: This is the last year of Ichiro Suzuki’s contract with the club. The 38-year-old has seen his batting average drop 80 points over the last two seasons, so you can only expect that this will be his final season with the club unless he’s back to being the old Ichiro. In addition to Ichiro’s decline, the Mariners finished dead last in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage last year.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Felix Hernandez

Can only pitch, but team needs more

More of everything

29) Chicago Cubs ↑ 1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Its spring, when Cubs fans everywhere have hope that at long last, this will finally be the year the winning drought in Wrigley Field ends. Plus, they off-loaded head-case first class Carlos Zambrano on the Marlins. Starlin Castro might be the bona fide star in Wrigley.

Downside: It’s not going to happen. Getting rid of Zambrano now means a pitching staff comprised of Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood; along with threat of Jeff Samardzija getting work as a starter in spring training. The Cubs have an average-at-best rotation and no replacement for Aramis Ramirez on offense. Snicker if you must, but A-Ram stacks up favorably against some historic third-basemen. He’s complied the second-most 25-home run seasons (9) for a third baseman, behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews who each had 12. Not to mention, only Chipper Jones has more seasons with at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. Once again, spring becomes summer; the Cubs’drought continues.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Cubs under Ricketts

Like bad date when one wants sex

Gets only hand-job

30) Houston Astros ↓ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  They have some nice young talent on the team like Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and Fernando Martinez, and they still have Carlos Lee as the lone power source on the roster.

Downside: Last year, the pitching staff was bottom five in league rankings with a 4.51 cumulative ERA, 1.42 WHIP and a .266 opponents batting average en route to a league worst 56-106 record. That staff didn’t get any better.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Houston, we have a

Problem of epic status

Football months away

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