Now Panic and Freak Out: Week 1

NOW_PANIC_FREEK_OUT_POSTERWe may be only one week into the season, but whether your glass is half full, half empty or you believe there is no glass (hate those existentialist pricks), each of the teams we follow here at the MLA are showing some troubling signs. None are 0-6 so there are positives for each to grasp onto, but seeing the negative side of things is easy and fun so I may even make NP&FO into a weekly column, but I’m not “committing” to anything despite Theo & Co.’s lame marketing campaign.

Why should Cubs fans be concerned?
Are you kidding me? A century’s worth of failure would give anyone a complex, but a 2013 Cubs fan has even more than his/her fair share to be worried about after this past week’s pathetic performance. The “offense” (if you dare to call it that) ranks 29th in Runs, AVG and OBP. The bullpen looks like they’re being paid by the opposing team and Carlos Marmol is yet another Cubs’ asset rapidly depreciating in trade value. After giving up five earned runs and two home runs over 2.2 innings and blowing a save, Dale Sveum had no choice but to demote him out of the closer role. It’s hard to see Marmol turning things around while serving mop-up duty, buried deep in abyss that is the Cubs’ bullpen.

Why should Sox fans be concerned?
The good news: the Sox are on pace for 297 home runs. The bad news: no team has ever hi that many in a season so that rate is bound to drop like a rock. The really bad news: 68% of their offense has come from those #FillintheblankBombs (as PV so affectionately calls them) led by the chronically inconsistant Alex Rios. Now, hitting home runs is obviously not a bad thing, but when the ball isn’t flying out of the ballpark, you’ve got to find other ways to score and the Sox aren’t showing they can at this point. Heading out to DC this week to face the Nationals will be a huge test for the “Hash Tag Bombers” who will face one of the game’s best rotations without the luxury of the DH. It’ll be entertaining to see where Robin Ventura tries to force Adam Dunn to fit on the field.

Why should Tigers fans be concerned?
It doesn’t take a nerdy blogger to point out that the Tigers have closer issues. Dave Dombrowski showed signs of panic by signing Jose Valverde to a minor league deal mere moments after Phil Coke shit down his leg in only his second save opportunity of the season. Contrary to the stated strategy of closer-by-committee, Jim Leyland was clearly planning to rely on Coke to reprise his brilliant playoff role. But despite last year’s playoff success, Coke has proven he can’t get righties out and is far more effective in a lefty specialist role. So the question is who’s next? Plan A: Bruce Rondon showed he’s simply not ready and Valverde won’t even be available for another few weeks (which begs the question why didn’t the Tigers sign him during spring training?). So it looks like Leyland will be forced to make good on his closer-by-committee promise or as Grantland’s Jonah Keri calls it, “closer-by-matchup,” which might not be a bad thing:

“Someday, some team’s going to use a full-fledged bullpen-by-matchup structure, with a group of pitchers with complementary skills and a manager who’s patient, thoughtful, and not afraid of the criticism that’ll come the first time someone blows a save. When that day comes, this team will have an edge over nearly everyone else, able to match up with any hitter in any situation, when the stakes are highest. Short of having a Sandman or Cuban Missile at their disposal, this could be the next best thing.”

We’ll just have to wait and see if Leyland, Coke, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Darin Downs, Drew Smyly, and Brayan Villarreal are up to the task.

Why should Giants fans be concerned?
What the hell is wrong with Matt Cain? After being outshone by rival Clayton Kershaw in the opener, Cain imploded in his second outing, dishing up nine runs over 3.2 innings including in the worst inning by a Giants pitcher in 111 years to give him a record of 0-1 and a very un-Cain-like stat line of 8.38 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. It’s easy chalk it up to being just one bad inning, but you’ve got to wonder how Cain, or more importantly Bruce Bochy could let such a historically bad effort happen. The darker side of me would say it’s finally just the beginning of the inevitable correction of Cain’s inexplicably low career BABIP back up to those of mere mortals. Numbers don’t lie.

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