Arizona Diamondbacks Strengths: While the Diamondbacks welcome back the power numbers of 1B Adam LaRoche (25 HR, 100 RBI) and OF Chris Young (27 HR, 91 RBI), they will need to improve their sub .265 AVGs. Closer J.J. Putz is a great addition to the bullpen, and SP Armando Galarraga, along with youngster SP Daniel Hudson, look to improve a starting rotation that struggled last year.
Weaknesses: 3B Mark Reynolds is gone. He took with him his 32 HRs from last season but also a .198 AVG. Veteran Melvin Mora will try to fill Reynolds’s shoes, but his career has been in decline for a few years now. This young team needs a leader and will remain at the bottom of the NL until someone emerges.
Analysis: Manager Kirk Gibson will begin his first year as a manager and will need to take control from the start. It’s going to be another long year in Arizona for a team that has a lot of talent but are not too sure how to use it.
Pittsburgh Pirates Strengths: Everyone on this team is young and a work in progress. 2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez, and OF Garrett Jones all have shown promise, but as long as they are playing in Pittsburgh, they won’t get much recognition. The addition of 1B Lyle Overbay will give the offense a much-needed boost.
Weaknesses: Pitching. They had a team ERA of 5.00 and lost 105 games last season. Need I say more?
Analysis: Hang on Pittsburgh fans, you are in for another long season. It probably won’t be as bad as last year, but you can expect another bottom-of-the-barrel performance. You have to give them credit for trying.
Kansas City Royals Strengths: Having an all-star closer like Joakim Soria is a great luxury, but getting the ball to him with a lead will be tough for the Royals. OF Jeff Francoeur is a nice addition in the outfield, and 2B Mike Aviles is a solid all-around player.
Weaknesses: The loss of SP Zack Greinke just adds to the woes of a very depleted pitching staff, and the outfield lacks a slugger after losing Jose Guillen last season. Pick a position, and the Royals have many questions to answer about it.
Analysis: It’s been 26 years since the Royals have made the postseason, and 2011 does not look to be the year that the streak ends. Second-year manager Ned Yost is going to have his hands full with this bunch.
Prediction: 5th in AL Central
Cleveland Indians Strengths: OF Shin-Soo Choo showed that he can put together back-to-back successful seasons and lead the team far and away in all-around offense with 22 HR, 90 RBIs, and 22 SB. Closer Chris Perez returns after posting a sub 2.00 ERA and 23 saves in 2010.
Weaknesses: OF Grady Sizemore needs to stay healthy if the Tribe wants to have any chance of contending in the AL Central. The pitching staff, which wasn’t very good in 2010, returns many familiar faces, but they have another year of experience. They aren’t going to look much better in 2011 unless the young guys in the field like 1B Matt LaPorta can hit better than the .221 AVG he put up last season.
Analysis: The Indians are in a rebuilding phase and will need to add some veterans. They did not do much in the off-season, so the pickings could be slim when they realize what they have isn’t worth very much.
Washington Nationals Strengths: The Nationals can only go in one direction: Up. They added some key pieces in OF Jayson Werth and 1B Adam LaRoche. Rookie sensation SP Stephen Strasburg hopes to pitch before the end of the season after undergoing surgery last year. If he’s half as good as he is hyped to be, the Nationals have a number-one pitcher for years to come. 3B Ryan Zimmerman will also be a key player in 2011.
Weaknesses: Losing 1B Adam Dunn doesn’t hurt so bad when you pick up Jayson Werth, but his presence will be missed. The pitching staff is scary to look at, in a bad way. SP Livan Hernandez and SP Jason Marquis are way past their prime, and the rest of their pitching options are young guys with little experience.
Analysis: It’s hard to predict good things for a team with no pitching. They made some big off-season moves, acquiring Werth and LaRoche, but the offense they provide isn’t going to be enough to turn this team around. Manager Jim Riggleman is going to have to work a miracle to save this team from itself.
Baltimore Orioles Strengths: Manager Buck Showalter joined the team late in the season last year and turned the Orioles into a respectable team. The additions of 1B Derrek Lee and 3B Mark Reynolds will add some much needed run producers to a team that had zero players with at least 80 RBIs.
Weaknesses: There are plenty to choose from, but the Orioles are very young. The pitching staff gave up runs in bunches last year and will need to improve if they hope to penetrate the .500 mark this season. If 2B Brian Roberts returns to form after an injury-plagued 2010, things will be looking good. If he struggles, a suitable replacement is nowhere in site.
Analysis: The AL East is arguably the best division in baseball; jumping over the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox is a monumental task. The leadership of Showalter will help, but the Orioles are a young team with few genuine stars. Look for them to improve over 2010 but struggle due to their weak pitching staff.
Maybe she was just as excited as he was and was rubbing his thigh vigorously — you know, to express her excitement… Or maybe she was using this inside of his leg to complete her clapping gesture…. Or maybe she was trying to find his cellphone.
Or maybe not.
Update: The way her hand is positioned over his, combined with the fact he is clapping, would cause her arm to move in such a motion. Get your minds out of the gutter (me included)!!!