2012 promises to be a special year. Albert Pujols in Los Angeles, the possible Major League debut of Bryce Harper and the first full season of Stephen Strasburg will make for an interesting baseball season. Away from the diamond, we will have a Presidential election, an Olympic Games and lower cable TV bills (or maybe not). Before we say goodbye to 2011, let’s look at some baseball happenings that flew slightly under the radar.
-The emergence of Kyle Farsnworth as a big-time closer. For years, scouts and analysts have raved about his close to 100 MPH fastball and sharp curve. It always seemed to be mental hurdles that prevented Farnsworth from reaching his potential. The big righty finally put together a wire-to-wire season worthy of his considerable talent. His 25 saves and 2.18 ERA were big reasons why the Rays won 91 games and made the playoffs. He will be expected to close again for Tampa, providing a little stability to both a position and a career that seems to be constantly in flux. If Farnsworth can duplicate his 2011 season, expect Tampa to be knocking on the playoff door once again.
-The revitalization of Lance Berkman. OK, so a guy who made the All-Star team and finished 7th in the MVP voting maybe didn’t fly that far under the radar. However, there was less focus on Berkman in the 2nd half when the Cards were declared dead and other stories emerged on the scene. As we look back, we can now examine how much of a turnaround it was for “The Big Puma”. Berkman had subpar 2009 and 2010 seasons and many people wondered if it was a career that had seen its better days. He fit in splendidly hitting fourth and fifth and helped keep St. Louis afloat when Pujols spent time on the DL. With Pujols in California, he will be asked to at least replicate his 31 HR, 94 RBI .301 average from 2011.
The maturing Kansas City Royals. When looking at their final 2011 record, one can assume it was just another typical 91-loss season for the Royals. When looking more closely, it was a foundation season for the future. Alex Gordon finally put together a season worth of his #2 overall draft selection. Fellow #2 overall pick Mike Moustakas got his first taste of the Big Leagues, finishing nicely after a very slow start. And of course, there was the big splash in the form of Eric Hosmer, who homered in Yankee Stadium five days after his May 6th call-up from Triple A Omaha. KC finished the season 15-10 in September exciting their fans so much that their attendance rose by 5,000 more per game during the month. With highly touted Lorenzo Cain ready to take over in Center Field, the trade for Jonathan Sanchez and the signing of Jonathan Broxton, it is easy to see why 2012 can’t get here fast enough for the Royals and their fans.
These are just three of my favorite highlights from last season. What are yours? Feel free to leave comments in the section listed below this post.
Before putting a bow on 2011, I would like to acknowledge http://www.baseball-reference.com/ which has been an invaluable asset in to this blog. I would not be able to reasearch and write nearly as effectively without that website.
Happy New Year everybody!