With the Oklahoma City Thunder hanging on to the 8th and final playoff seed in the Western Conference it was announced that last seasons M.V.P. Kevin Durant will miss the rest of the season. Durant has missed large chunks of the year after having “Jones fracture” surgery back in October, and the latest operation will see him sidelined for another four-to-six months. Durant returned to action in early December, but by the middle of February he started to feel pain again, and had a minor procedure to replace a screw that was rubbing against another bone. Durant consulted with multiple specialist and the decision was made that he will have bone graft surgery. This surgery is needed in five to eight percent of Jones fracture surgeries that do not initially have success or experience setbacks sometime within the recovery period. This latest operation will see Durant sidelined for another 4 to 6 months. Durant’s 2014-15 season saw him play in 27 games averaging 25.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 4.1 APG while shooting 51% from the field and 40.3% from behind the 3-point line. Durant will be entering the final year of his contract next season and the Thunder will have a big decision to make. Oklahoma City will have a year to decide if Durant is a max contract player or if they’ll actually let him walk away as a free agent. The Thunder have given themselves a little bit of a lead for that 8th playoff spot. They are 3 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans and 3 1/2 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns. Oklahoma City has 10 games left while the Pelicans have 9 games left and Phoenix has 8 games left in the regular season. In Durant’s absence Russell Westbrook has played at an M.V.P. type level, but going into the playoffs as the 8th seed the Thunder will match up with the Golden State Warriors. When there was a chance that Durant might return this season there was a lot of talk that the Thunder might ne able to upset the Warriors in the 1st round, but with just Westbrook what are the Thunder’s chances of that still happening. Is it time to start wondering that if your name isn’t LeBron James it’s a curse to win the M.V.P. award. Since 2008-09 James has won the M.V.P. award 4 times. Derrick Rose won the award in 2010-11 and Durant won it last season. Rose has pretty much had injury issues ever since and now Durant has a foot problem; just saying.

With Oklahoma City looking to have grabbed the last playoff spot in the Western conference teams can get ready for the playoff to start, but over in the Eastern conference there are 5 teams looking for those last 2 playoff spots. The Miami Heat gave the 7th playoff seed right now and the Boston Celtics are holding on to the 8th playoff seed. The Brooklyn Nets are 1/2 a game out of the 8th spot and 1 1/2 games out of the 7th spot. The Indiana Pacers are 1 game out of the 8th spot and 2 games out of the 7th spot and the Charlotte Hornets are still in the playoff hunt. The Hornets find themselves just 2 1/2 games out of the 7th spot and 1 1/2 games out of the 8th playoff spot. Even the Detroit Pistons haven’t officially been eliminated, but they are 4 games behind the Celtics and things would have to fall just right for the Pistons to find there way into the 8th seed. Do you think it would be better to finish 8th and play the Atlanta Hawks in the 1st round of the playoffs or finish 7th and draw the Cleveland Cavaliers in the opening playoff series?

On the Sports Time Radio podcast last night (Friday) we previewed to American League Central teams. We talked with Nick Dudukovich from FactoryofSadness.com about the Cleveland Indians upcoming 2015 season then Tony Fischer from DetroitJockCity.com came back on the podcast to preview the Detroit Tigers 2015 season. While both teams seem to have their everyday line ups ready to go both teams have pitching questions coming into the season. The Indians have Corey Kluber last seasons Cy Young award winner to anchor the starting rotation. Carlos Carrasco looks to be the #2 starter, but after that they’re filling the rotation with young talent. Trevor Bauer and lefty T.J. House look to be in the rotation and the last spot should come down to a choice between Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister. Most experts had Danny Salazar penciled in as the 5th starter, but the Indians demoted him yesterday after a difficult spring. If Salazar can get righted quickly in the minors he’ll be back and in the rotation for Cleveland. The Tigers starting rotation is set and ready to go for the season. David Price gets the opening day start with Justin Verlander behind him. Verlander left his spring start yesterday, but it’s being reported that there are long injury concerns and he’ll be ready for his 1st start of the season. Anibal Sanchez is #3 with newcomers Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene filling the #4 and #5 spots. The Tigers have a good rotation the problem will be who makes a start if there’s an injury. The Tigers would look to 24 year old Kyle Lobstein or 23 year old Buck Farmer. While it looks like the Tigers are in a little better shape in the rotation the Indians may hold the advantage in the bullpen. Detroit is looking for Joe Nathan to return to the form that made him one of the games best closers. Nathan has a 5.79 ERA over 9 1/3rd spring training innings. How quickly would the Tigers turn to Joakim Soria if Nathan struggles early in the season. Or would they turn to Bruce Rondon. Rondon was considered in 2013, but had control issues. He’s only walked 2 guys in 6 1/3 rd innings this spring; so could he be the next in line to close games in Nathan has issues. The Indians bullpen and their roles look set to open the season. Cody Allen will close with Brian Shaw, Scott Atchison and lefty specialist Marc Rzepczynski in front of him. Can these 3 relievers repeat their performances from last season and will the fact that they made a combined 223 appearances affect them at all. As both the Indians and the Tigers go into the season both of our guests last night had their teams right at the 91-92 win area; so will they both compete for the A.L. Central title?

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We wrap up the infield by taking a peak at the shortstop position. I used to know the reason why the shortstop position was #6 and 3rd base was #5, but I can’t remember. Maybe it’s because the shortstop plays deeper in the infield.

The Best; Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies. The gap may be closing a little bit at the shortstop position, but even with his injury history Tulowitzki is still the best. He played 91 games last season hitting .340 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI’s. If your the fantasy owner that takes a chance on Tulowitzki and he plays 140 games this season you’ll cash in big time. Of course there is also the chance that you spend a high draft pick on Tulowitzki and he plays 91 games again; so while he’s the best at his position you just never know what you’ll get out of him.

Underrated: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles. You don’t hear Hardy’s name come up when they talk about shortstop’s, but if he ends up being your fantasy shortstop you won’t be unhappy. His power numbers were down a little last season. He hit 9 home runs, but his doubles stayed at at 20 and if he gets back into the 20’s for home runs and hits his career batting average of .261 it would be a solid season for you. Defense doesn’t count in all fantasy leagues, but Hardy is a 3 time Gold Glove winner; so he’ll help you there as well.

Bounce Back; Asdrubal Cabrera, Tampa bay Rays. The Cleveland Indians dealt Cabrera last season; so there young guys could get more playing time. He went to the Washington Nationals as a 2nd baseman for there playoff run. Tampa Bay signed Cabrera to a 1 year $7.5 million dollar deal and he’ll be their everyday shortstop. Just the fact that he’s going to be the guy everyday should improve his stats. Look for Cabrera to hit about .275 with 15 to 20 home runs and 75 or more RBI’s. His RBI total will depend on if he hits in front of Evan Longoria in the line up or behind him.

Stay Away from; Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds. Cozart hit .221 with 4 home runs and 38 RBI’s last season in 147 games. Even if Cozart’s numbers were to jump up would you be happy with .240, 10 home runs and 50 RBI’s out of your shortstop. Cozart’s career high batting average is .254 in 2013. Cozart did hit 5 triples last season, but that’s about the only positive offensive stat he had. If he ends up as your everyday fantasy shortstop your team might have some issues.

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We move to the hot corner today to find the best player, most underrated player, the player who’ll have a bounce back year and a player to stay away from this season.

The Best; Adrián Béltre, Texas Rangers. While the Rangers where bad last season Beltre wasn’t. He hit .324 with 19 home runs and 77 RBI’s. With a healthy season out of some of the players in the batting order ahead of Beltre his RBI total may go up this season. It’s hard to believe that Beltre is entering his 18 major league season. Don’t be surprised to see .300, 20 home runs and 95 RBI’s out of Beltre in 2015.

On a side note here if Miguel Cabrera qualifies at 3rd base in your league I would take him over Beltre here. I took Beltre because he’ll be an everyday 3rd baseman this season.

Underrated; Aramis Ramírez, Milwaukee Brewers. Ramirez has announced that he will retire after the 2015 season. The question with Ramirez is will he stay healthy, but if he does he’ll put up solid numbers for any fantasy team. He did play 133 games last season and his power was a little down with 15 home runs. He did hit .285 and drove in 66 runs. If he could do that again or get to that 20 home run number it should be considered a fond farewell.

Bounce Back; David Wright, New York Mets. Wright played in 134 games last season; he hit .269 with a career low 8 home runs and 63 RBI’s. Wright was battling some injuries last season and as long as he’s healthy his home run total should improve. Also if the Mets are an improved team like some experts thin they are Wright’s numbers will have to go up for them to contend. Don’t be surprised if Wright hits close to .300 with 20 to 25 home runs and 90 plus RBI’s; he might even get back to double digits in steals as well.

Stay Away from; Chase Headley, New York Yankees. There are people who think Headley is still the player he was in 2012 when he hit 31 home runs, led the N.L. in RBI’s with 115, hit .286 and was a candidate for M.V.P. His numbers in 2013 were .250, 13 and 50. Last season between the San Diego Padres and the Yankees his numbers were .243, 13 and 49. Not the kind of numbers you’ll want from your 3rd baseman.

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We move over to 2nd base for our next set of picks; so let’s see who’s on top in are four categories.

The Best; Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners. Cano hit .314 with 14 home runs and 82 RBI’s and it was considered a down year for him. He even added a career high 10 steals. If he put up the same numbers this season it would be a good year, but since it’s Cano more is expected and he should deliver this season. With the addition of Nelson Cruz behind him in the batting order should help. The team is improved around him as well and the home runs should go back up to around 20. Don’t be surprised at the end of the season Cano is in the talk for MVP.

Underrated; Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Dodgers. With the deal to the Dodgers Kendrick will have a chance to show the baseball world what he can do. After spending 9 seasons with the Angeles in Anaheim he’ll get more attention as the Dodgers 2nd baseman. Kendrick hit .293 with 7 home runs and 75 RBI’s while picking up 14 steals. If Kendrick can get to that 15 home run plateau while the rest of his numbers stay the same he’ll be a solid 2nd baseman for any fantasy team this season.

Bounce back; Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians. Last season was suppose to be Kipnis’s break out season, but he hit .240 with 6 home runs and 41 RBI’s in 129 games. Injuries played a big part in Kipnis’ numbers being down last season and just him being healthy should improve them right off the bat. Even in a season were Kipnis struggled he still stole 22 bases. Kipnis needs to return to his 2013 numbers of 17 home runs and 84 RBI’s while hitting .284 and stealing 30 bases. The key of course is can he stay healthy enough to bounce back.

Stay away from; Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs. If your league deducts points for strikeouts take Baez off your board right now. While he does have big time home run potential he’s going to strikeout 200 plus time this season. Baez hit .169 with 9 home runs and 20 RBI’s last season, but struck out 95 times. His spring training average is .128 and has struck out 14 times in 13 games. If there are no negatives for strikeouts in our league Baez might be worth a risk very, very late in your draft because of his power, but again if strikeout are negative points in your league run far away from Baez.

With the baseball season getting ready to start and everyone setting up their fantasy drafts let’s go through the positions and see who’s the best, the underrated, the player who’ll have a bounce back year and the player to stay away from. Will start with 1st baseman.

The Best; Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks. An injured hand limited Goldschmidt to 109 games last season, but don’t forget that in 2013 he led the NL in home runs with 36 and RBI’s with 125. Look for his numbers to do close to that or better this season. Another fantasy plus for Goldschmidt besides the power numbers is he’ll also steal double digit bases a season as well.

Underrated; Justin Morneau, Colorado Rockies. Yes; you can be underrated and win the batting title like Morneau did last season. After concussion issues about 5 seasons ago it looked like Morneau might just be done, but he .319 for the Rockies last season and there’s no reason to think he can’t repeat that average. Fantasy owners would like to get more than 17 home runs out of Morneau, but if it’s later in your draft and you’re looking for a 1st baseman he’s a good pick.

Bounce back; Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. Mauer had quite a bit of value last season when he could still be used as a catcher, but this season he only qualifies as a 1st baseman. Mauer is a 3 time AL batting champion, but his average fell to .277 without having to catch. While Mauer was never a big home run hitter his total of 4 last season was terrible and he should reach double digits this season. The concerns as always with Mauer is injury, but that was part of the reason he moved to 1st base. Look for Mauer to bounce back in 2015.

Stay away from; Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves. Freeman himself isn’t the problem, but look at the Braves line up and give me one reason you’d pitch to Freeman. Freeman hit .288 with 18 home runs and 78 RBI’s last season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his average stay in that area or be even a little higher, but the Braves are going to struggle to score; so his RBI’s might drop. If your in a league that gives you points for walks Freeman may break the 100 walk total this season; he had 90 last season.

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I was a little surprised when I heard the mainstream media reporting that Brock Lesnar had chosen to re-sign with World Wrestling Entertainment instead of making a return to the UFC. Normally the mainstream media stays clear of professional wrestling unless the story is negative. It’s no real shock that Lesnar chose WWE over UFC. In case you don’t remember Lesnar has only had 8 fights in the UFC and his last two fights ended in 1st round KO/TKO losses. Lesnar lost to Alistair Overeem on December 30th of 2011 and before that he lost to Cain Velasquez on October 23rd of 2010. Lesnar only had eight total fights in the UFC and his record was 5 – 3. Lesnar is a former UFC Heavyweight champion and did defend his title successfully a couple of times. While there where no salary numbers disclosed I’m sure the figures where pretty close and maybe even favored the WWE a little. After losing C.M. Punk to the UFC last year I guess they can look at this as a win by being able to keep Lesnar. Brad Keselowski made a last lap pass on Kurt Busch to win Sunday’s Auto Club 400. It was the only lap that Keselowski led and it wasn’t even a full lap, but it was the most important lap; the last lap. In trying to hold off Keselowski Busch touched the wall and fell to 3rd place. So who ended up finishing 2nd you ask. Well of course it was Kevin Harvick. So in five NASCAR races this season Harvick has two wins and three 2nd place finishes. Harvick did lead 34 laps on Sunday and was a contender to win the race before the 2nd green, white, checker finish and a big Keselowski run to the front. Paul Menard took 4th and Ryan Newman rounded out the top 5. The NASCAR circuit heads to Martinsville this Sunday for the STP 500. Let’s see if Harvick can get another top 2 finish. I never put a lot of stock into early spring training stats. I always look at what a guy has done the last week or ten days of spring training and see if that player can take it into the regular season. So when I started looking at stats there were a few names most baseball fans would know or at least had heard of at the top of the stat lists. Mike Trout has been hitting this spring with an average of .462 and stayed at .500 for quite a while. Jose Abreu is 2nd in batting average to Trout at .459. Kris Bryant is leading everyone in home runs with 9 this spring, but he’s still headed to Triple A, Iowa; so the Cubs can get that extra year of control. After Bryant it’s Michael Cuddyer of the New York Mets, J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers and Steven Pearce of the Baltimore Orioles all tied with 5 home runs. Bryant also leads everyone in RBI’s with 15. Michael Morse of the Miami Marlins and Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox each have 14 RBI’s. Spring training pitching can be even tougher to judge than spring training hitting and you can pretty much throw all pitching stats out when the regular season starts. I’ll look for strikeout totals and it’s Collin McHugh of the Houston Astros and Drew Pomeranz of the Oakland A’s who are leading spring training with 19 strikeouts. I’ll also look at walk totals and it’s Rubby De La Rosa of the Ariznoa Diamondbacks is leading pitchers in walks with 10 so far. While Bud Norris of the Baltimore Orioles and Juan Jaime of the Atlanta Braves each have 9 walks. Norris along with Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland Indians and Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers have given up 5 home runs each this spring. Of course this all goes out the window on April 5th for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs and then on April 6th for everyone else as the baseball season gets rolling. Are the defending champion Los Angeles Kings going to miss the chance to defend the Stanley Cup and not make the NHL playoffs? With nine games remaining this season the Kings are tied with the Calgary Flames at 86 points and are two points behind the Minnesota Wild who have 88 points. Calgary also has nine games left in their season and Minnesota has  eight games left. Calgary has to play both Minnesota and Los Angeles, but the Kings and the Wild don’t play each other. It’s three teams for two playoff spots and there is a chance that the defending champion will be at home watching when the playoffs start.

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We wrap up the Vs. Series by taking a look into the bullpens of are shared city teams. With starters pitching less and less innings the bullpens become more important to a teams success; so let’s see who’s relieving starting in New York.

The New York Yankees let David Robertson and his 39 saves go in free agency; so someone else will be closing games for them and the leading candidate looks to be Dellin Betances. Betances set up for Robertson last season appearing in 70 games with a 5-0 record a 1.40 ERA finishing 8 games and picking up 1 save in 90 innings. Betances struckout 135 batters in those 90 innings while walking 24 and his WHIP was .0778. WHIP is Walks, Hits to Innings Pitched. While Betances looks like a closer the Yankees did go out and sign left-hander Andrew Miller to a 4 year $36 million dollar deal in the off season in case Betances struggles. Miller split his 2014 season setting up for the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. Miller appeared in 73 games total between both teams. He posted an ERA of 2.02; striking out 103 while walking 17 with a WHIP of 0.802 over 62 1/3rd innings. Miller doesn’t have a lot of closing experience as he has just 1 career save which he got last season, but he did finish 15 games last season. The Yankees sent minor leaguer Manny Banuelos to the Atlanta Braves for Chasen Shreve and David Carpenter. Carpenter will fill a bullpen role. He appeared in 65 games for Atlanta posting a 3.54 ERA and also picked up 3 saves. The Yankees also dealt catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates for left-handed reliever Justin Wilson. Wilson should help fill out the bullpen along with Esmil Rogers and Adam Warren if he doesn’t end up in the starting rotation for the Yankees in 2015.

The New York Mets bullpen situation is interesting going into 2015. The Mets actually have 2 closers. Going into the 2014 season it looked like Bobby Parnell had the Mets closer job all wrapped up. Parnell had 22 saves in 2013, but an injury forced him to pitch in just 1 game; actually just 1 inning in 2014. With Parnell back you have to wonder if the Mets will try to split up the closing duties between him and last season closer Jenrry Mejia. Mejia saved 28 games last season, but had a high ERA for a closer at 3.65. It has to be a good problem to have to guy who can close games; so we’ll have to see how the Mets manage this situation. Josh Edgin and his 1.32 ERA have been lost for the season and he will have Tommy John surgery. Jeurys Familia pitched in 76 games last season and posted a 2.21 ERA and should be the main set up guy. Carlos Torres appeared in 73 games last season and will be back in that same set up role this season. Vic Black and Scott Rice should help round out the Mets bullpen. 36 year old Buddy Carlyle has had a very solid spring for the Mets and it will be interesting to see if they find a bullpen spot for him.

With the numbers Betances put up last season this was an easy choice to go with the Yankees here. You have to wonder of having 2 closers is one to many for the Mets.

The White Sox bullpen really struggled last season; so they went into free agency and signed closer David Robertson to a 4 year $46 million dollar deal to finish games and then they signed Zach Duke to a 3 year $15 million dollar deal to set up in front of Robertson. Jake Petricka saved 14 games last season to lead the White Sox. Petricka appeared in 67 games and had an ERA of 2.96 last season and the experience will help him as a set up guy this season. Zach Putnam also picked up 6 saves last season in the White Sox pieced together bullpen. Putnam had an ERA of 1.98 in 54 2/3rd innings while appearing in 49 games and will be counted on to set up this season. The White Sox sent Andre Rienzo to the Miami Marlins for Dan Jennings who should be the lefty specialist out of the bullpen. Javy Guerra should help round out the White Sox bullpen.

The Cubs have a bullpen set up that became very popular during the playoffs last season. The starting pitcher goes 6 innings and then there’s a 7th inning guy, a 8th inning guy and then you turn it over to the closer. Neil Ramirez was the 7th inning guy last season appearing in 50 games with an ERA of 1.44 and even picked up 3 saves filling in at closer. Pedro Strop would be the 8th inning guy and he appeared in 65 games posting an ERA of 2.21 and picking up 2 saves last season. Then it’s turned over to closer Hector Rondon who saved 29 games with an ERA of 2.42 and a WHIP of 1.058 last season. The Cubs brought in Jason Motte to help in the bullpen, but he has had some struggles this spring and you wonder what his role will be. The Cubs will also have starters like Felix Doubront, Jacob Turner, Tsuyoshi Wada, Edwin Jackson and Travis Wood trying to win the 5th starter spot. Only one of them will get it’ so the others will have to find roles in the bullpen. The Cubs also have Justin Grimm and Brian Schlitter returning from last season and looking for spots in the bullpen.

While the White Sox went out and spent some money to fix their bullpen issues I like the set up the Cubs have. Robertson is a proven closer though while Rondon is still kind of learning on the job. Considering everything I think I’m going to go with the Cubs on this one.

Thanks for reading the Vs. Series I hope you enjoyed it and feel free to leave your comments.

You can follow me on Twitter @Burketime and listen to Sports Time Radio on BlogTalkradio.com

We’ve spent some time here looking at the NBA top teams and how the playoff match ups might go. Let’s turn our attention to the other end of the standings and teams that will be in the draft lottery. I started thinking about this after I heard some experts on television debating if the Boston Celtics should “tank” the rest of the season to get back into the draft lottery. The Celtics currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern conference. So your team gets into the draft lottery and by chance they win the #1 overall selection; great right. Not so fast; do you know the last #1 overall pick to win a NBA championship was LeBron Read the rest of this entry »

We move to the mound to take a look at each teams five man rotation for the coming season. Every team except the Cubs have a starter who’s going to miss some time and in one case the entire season. Let’s start in New York with pitching.

The New York Mets have some of the best young pitching in baseball, but they’ll have to find a way to replace Zack Wheeler who has a torn UCL ligament and is going to have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2015 season. After missing all of the 2014 because he had Tommy John surgery Matt Harvey is back and has looked good in his spring training outings. Harvey is set to be the ace of this staff for a long time as long as he’s healthy. Bartolo Colon looks like he’ll fit in as the #2 starter for the Mets. As a 41-year-old Colon went 15-13 last season, but more importantly he’ll give you innings. Colon has pitched over 200 innings 8 times in his career. Jacob deGrom won the National League Rookie of the Year award last season going 9-6 with and ERA of 2.69 in 22 starts last season. Being slotted as the #3 starter will help deGrom not have to carry the load for the Mets. Jon Niese will fill one of the last two spots in the rotation. Niese was 9-11 in 30 starts last season with an ERA of 3.40 in 30 starts. Dillon Gee will be the other pitcher in the rotation to start the season. Gee made 22 starts last season going 7-8 with a 4.00 ERA You’d have to figure that either Gee or Niese will be headed to the bullpen once the Mets are ready to turnover a spot in the rotation to top prospect Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard is 31-19 in 84 career minor league starts with an ERA of 3.25. With Wheeler out for the season and the Mets looking like they might contend for a playoff spot in 2015 you have to wonder how long they’ll leave Syndergaard in the minors.

It was the New York Yankees who won the Masahiro Tanaka derby last season and you wonder if they’re second guessing themselves for that right now. Tanaka put up great numbers for the Yankees last season. He was 13-5 with an ERA of 2.77 with 3 complete games and 1 shutout, but that was all in just 20 starts. Tanaka had arm issues last season, but passed on surgery to rehab it instead. He’s reportedly healthy and ready to go, but the Yankees will need to monitor him as the problem could come back. The Yankees even talked about going to a 6 man rotation to help Tanaka. He is undoubtably there #1 starter and the Yankees need him to stay healthy. C.C. Sabathia is another Yankees starter trying to bounce back from injury. Sabathia made just 8 starts last season covering 46 innings. The Yankees will need a return close to form from Sabathia if they’re going to compete in the American League East. It seems like I’m saying this about every Yankees starter, but Michael Pineda is also coming back from a season where ha made just 13 starts covering 76 1/3rd innings. To be fair Pineda did miss some starts due to a suspension, but the Yankees could use a healthy 30 plus start season from him. Now the 4th and 5th spots in the Yankees rotation might be a little up in the air. It was thought that Chris Capuano would fill one of those spots, but he’s likely to start the season on the disabled list with a strained right quad. Ivan Nova will also start the season on the disabled list. Nova is still recovering from the Tommy John surgery he had last season. It looks like former Miami Marlin Nathan Eovaldi will find a spot in the Yankees rotation. Eovaldi made 33 starts last season going 6-14 with an ERA of 4.37. Eovaldi will have to figure out how to miss some bats as he gave up 223 hits in 199 2/3rd innings last season. Will Adam Warren be the guy to take the 5th starters spot until Capuano comes back from injury. Warren made 69 relief appearances last season picking up 3 saves and posting an ERA of 2.97.

This turned out to be a pretty easy choice for me. I’ll go with the Mets starting rotation over the Yankees. Even if the Yankees had all 5 of their starters healthy; I’d still take the Mets.

The Cubs went out and paid Jon Lester $155 million dollars over 6 years to be the ace of their pitching staff. Lester has made 31 or more starts ever season since 2008. He has a career ERA of 3.58, but he should post a better number now that he’s pitching in the N.L. The Cubs where the only team willing to offer Lester a 6th year; so will see if their gamble pays off. Jake Arrieta had the best season of his 5 years career going 10-5 with an ERA of 2.53 in 25 starts with 1 complete game and 1 shutout. I’m sure the Cubs would like to see Arrieta get into that 30 start area, but keep his ERA around where it was last season. What a split season Jason Hammel had in 2014. Hammel was good with the Cubs 8-5 with a 2.98 ERA but he was bad after being traded to the Oakland A’s 2-6 with a 4.26 ERA Hammel is back in the Cubs rotation and they’re hoping he’ll just pitch like he did when he was with them last season. You would think Kyle Hendricks has a spot in this rotation, but all the reports out of Chicago is that the front office doesn’t like him. Hendricks went 7-2 in 13 starts with an ERA of 2.46. Those look like good numbers to me, but since Hendricks doesn’t hit 90 mph on the radar gun he’s not a front office favorite. With the demotion of top pitching prospect C.J. Edwards to Triple A Iowa yesterday (Thursday) it looks like the last spot in the rotation will go to Travis Wood. Wood made 31 starts last season going 8-13 with an ERA of 5.03. The ERA will have to come down if Wood is to keep his spot in the rotation as the Cubs have a couple of other options.

Chris Sale is the best left-handed pitcher in the AL and the 2nd best left hander in baseball behind Clayton Kershaw. Sale has a foot injury and will miss opening day, but should be back right after that. Sale was a Cy Young contender last season going 12-4 in 26 starts with an ERA of 2.17. Look for Sale to be in the Cy Young conversation again. The White Sox sent four players; Rangel Ravelo, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Marcus Semien to the Oakland A’s for Jeff Samardzja. Samardzija made 33 starts between the A’s and the Chicago Cubs posting an E.R.A. of 2.99 while going 7-13.  Samardzija lost a lot of close games with the Cubs last season; so if the White Sox can score fo him he might be able to turn his won-loss record around.  Jose Quintana is a very underrated starting pitcher. While his record was 9-11 his ERA was 3.32 in 32 starts last season. If the White Sox can get those numbers out of Quintana again with a better won-loss record they’ll be happy. John Danks should be #4 in this rotation. Danks was 11-11 with an ERA of 4.74 in 32 starts. Danks never turned into the starting pitcher a lot of experts thought he would, but he’s a solid guy to have in the 4th spot. It looks like Hector Noesi will start the season as the White Sox 5th starter. Noesi made 27 starts last season going 8-11 with an ERA of 4.39. Noesi will stay in the rotation until the White Sox decide if last season 1st round draft pick Carlos Rodon is ready for the majors. Rodon only has 9 games of minor league experience with 6 of those games being starts. He did make 3 starts at Triple A Charlotte last season and while he didn’t get a decision he did post an ERA of 3.00. He may be a factor in the White Sox rotation before the season is over.

These two rotations are close, but I’m going to go with the Cubs here. The 1 – 3 spots in the rotations are very, very close, but the 4th and 5th spots easily go the Cubs way and that was the deciding factor in me taking the Cubs here.

The Vs. series is off tomorrow for the regular How was your week blog to appear here. The Vs. Series comes back on Sunday with only one more comparison to do and that’s the bullpen.

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We move into your last match up and it’s behind the plate with the catchers. We do still have starters and bullpen to look at, but this is our last everyday sets of position player to compare. Let’s go to New York first with catchers.

The New York Mets have been trying for a couple of seasons now to give their catching job to Travis d’Arnaud. The biggest problem with this move is d’Arnaud hasn’t been able to stay healthy. d’Arnaud played just 31 games in 2013 because of injuries; he did increase his game total to 108 games, but the Mets are looking for d’Arnaud to catch more like a 130 games a season or so. Playing in more games saw d’Arnaud batting average go up 40 points to .242 last season and he did show some power as he hit 13 home runs. In 8 minor league seasons d’Arnaud averaged a combined .290 and you’d think the Mets would be more than pleased if he could get close to that kind of batting average. d’Arnaud is a solid defender behind the plate committing just 9 errors and posting a fielding percentage of .990. Where d’Arnaud needs to improve is throwing out runners attempting to steal; he caught just 19% of them last season. d’Arnaud finished 7th in the NL Rookie of the Year last season; the award was actually won by d’Arnaud’s teammate Jacob deGrom.

After 9 season with the Atlanta Braves Brian McCann signed a 5 year $83 million dollar deal in December of 2013 to join the New York Yankees. The deal also has a 5th year team option for $15 million dollars bring the total amount of McCann;s deal to $98 million dollars. While McCann showed good power tying his 2nd highest career home run total with 23 and adding 75 Runs batted In RBI’s he also tied his 2nd lowest career batting average hitting .232. Teams shifted their defense against McCann more than any other hitter and he’ll have to make some adjustments at the plate to get back to his career batting average of .272. McCann is one of the better defensive catchers in baseball; he had a fielding percentage of .998 he committed just 2 errors and threw out 37% of runners trying to steal. McCann is also one of the best pitch framers in the game which is the hot new stat for catchers even though catchers have been doing it since the beginning of baseball. The Yankees could use a bounce back year average wise from McCann while keeping his other numbers where they are if they hope to contend in the American League East.

Barring injury d’Arnaud should be the Mets catcher for a long time, but I don’t think he’s at the point in his career where I’d take him over McCann. I’d be willing to give McCann the opportunity to bounce back in 2015 over the young up and coming d’Arnaud.

Let’s start on the north side of Chicago with the Cubs catching, but neither Chicago team, the Cubs or the White Sox have a very good catching situation.

The Cubs sent Zack Godley and Jeferson Mejia a couple of minor leaguers to the Arizona Diamondbacks this off-season to acquire catcher Miguel Montero. Montero is a 2 time All-Star and even picked up some votes for NL MVP after both the 2011 and 2012 season. The Cubs are hoping that wasn’t the high point of his career, but in the last 2 seasons his batting average was .230 in 2013 and .243 last season. I’m sure the Cubs would be happy if he could hit his career average of .264. Montero’s not a power hitter, but should get to double-digit home runs as he has in the last 4 seasons. Montero has a reputation as a good defensive catcher, but struggled last season committing a career high 13 errors and posting a fielding percentage of .988. Montero threw out 28% of runners trying to steal which was right on his career number. Montero did lead all catchers in putouts with 1037 and double plays with 12 last season. I’m not sure that Montero was a big upgrade over the catcher the Cubs had on the roster (Wellington Castillo); he might be a little better defender, but that’s about it.

The Chicago White Sox want Tyler Flowers to be the everyday catcher and they’ve been trying it for 2 seasons now. Flowers 2013 season was cut short because of injury and he only played in 84 games. Last season he was able to stay healthy and played in 127 games catching 124 of them. Flowers showed a little bit of power hitting 15 home runs last season. He add 16 doubles. 1 triple and drove in 50 RBI’s while hitting .241 last season. You wonder if those are numbers the White Sox can live with and the best way for Flowers numbers to go up would be for him to cut down on his 2014 strikeout total of 159. Flowers averaged a strikeout every 2.5 at bats last season. Flowers was solid on defense posting a field percentage of .991. Flowers committed 8 errors, but was involved in 6 double plays and threw out 30% of base runners trying to steal. Flowers is 29 years old and you have to wonder how much longer the White Sox can wait for him to develop.

Not a great choice of catchers in Chicago, but you have to take Montero over Flowers. Montero has been a solid catcher during his career while Flowers is still trying to figure out who he’ll be. I’ll go with Montero.

Tomorrow will look at the starting pitching staffs in our Vs. Series.

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