Checking in on my MLB season predictions

So the MLB season has come and gone, with the exception of the 2 game 163’s yet to be played tonight. You might remember earlier this year when I did my 30 Clubs in 30 Days segment (which was more like 30 Clubs in 35 Days due to the fact I went on vacation in the middle of it). Well I capped that off with a preview of the MLB season where I made some predictions. I’m going to link to that blog here. I’m going to sum it up this way: all things considered, my predictions did better than I expected. So I’m going to highlight what I nailed and what I whiffed on before I do any season-ending stuff since the regular season is technically still going.

Predicted Records:

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AL East                        Predicted W/L Record             Actual W/L Record      W/differential

Boston Red Sox                  95-67                                       108-54                           +13

New York Yankees             98-64                                      100-62                            +2

Tampa Bay Rays                 68-94                                      90-72                              +22

Toronto Blue Jays               78-84                                      73-89                              -5

Baltimore Orioles               81-81                                     47-115                            -34

To my credit with the Orioles, I did say in their season preview that the predicted 81 wins were kind of a placeholder because I felt they had the talent to be really good, but they also had the volatility to be really bad. Granted, I didn’t expect them to be THAT bad, but still. Also, Kevin Cash is a serious candidate for AL Manager of the Year after taking a Rays team that I thought had the talent to win 68 games and making them a 90-win squad that was in the playoff hunt until the last week.

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AL Central                        Predicted W/L Record             Actual W/L Record      W/differential

Cleveland Indians                 99-63                                          91-71                               -8

Minnesota Twins                   84-78                                          78-84                               -6

Detroit Tigers                        64-98                                           64-98                               Nailed it

Chicago White Sox                70-92                                          62-100                            -8

Kansas City Royals                74-88                                          58-104                             -16

Aside from the Tigers, it seems I somehow managed to overrate every single team in the AL Central, which is saying a lot because this division sucked this year. I accurately predicted the Tigers would lose 98 games this year, however in my predictions, I predicted that would be the worst record in the American League. It wasn’t even the worst in their division, nor the second worst.

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AL West                        Predicted W/L Record             Actual W/L Record      W/differential

Houston Astros                 101-61                                      103-59                             +2

Oakland Athletics              77-85                                       97-65                               +20

Seattle Mariners                85-77                                       89-73                                +4

Anaheim Angels                 86-76                                      80-82                                -6

Texas Rangers                   82-80                                        67-95                               -15

To my credit, I did pick the A’s as my AL sleeper team this season. But never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed they’d win 97 games. That would normally win a division but this year they’re the second Wild Card team and will play a one-game playoff in Yankee Stadium. I whiffed pretty badly on the Rangers. I honestly thought they were more talented than people gave them credit for. Nope.

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NL East                        Predicted W/L Record             Actual W/L Record      W/differential

Atlanta Braves                     71-91                                     90-72                             +19

Washington Nationals        95-67                                     82-80                             -13

Philadelphia Phillies           75-87                                     80-82                             +5

New York Mets                     84-78                                     77-85                             -7

Miami Marlins                      62-100                                   63-98                            +1

One thing should be noted, the Marlins and Pirates did not reach 162 games played so my predicted W/L totals were going to be wrong regardless. So I take solace in that. But anyway, the Braves were a year ahead of schedule, taking the NL East in a year I figured they’d be testing out their youngsters. I was right, they did test out their youngsters. Except it turns out, those kids are really freaking good. The Nationals on the other hand, were a huge disappointment and will likely head into a downward spiral when Bryce Harper inevitably leaves them. I did predict the Phillies as my NL sleeper team and for a while that looked like a good pick until an AWFUL September doomed them.

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NL Central                        Predicted W/L Record             Actual W/L Record      W/differential

Chicago Cubs                       94-68                                            95-67                              +1

Milwaukee Brewers           88-74                                            95-67                              +7

St. Louis Cardinals             85-77                                             88-74                              +3

Pittsburgh Pirates               76-86                                            82-79                              +6

Cincinnati Reds                   69-93                                             67-95                              -2

The NL Central was the only division where I nailed the order of finish (provided the Cubs beat the Brewers in Game 163). It was also the only division where I didn’t have a single Win Differential that was off by double digits. So I guess I know the NL Central better than any other division?

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NL West                       Predicted W/L Record             Actual W/L Record      W/differential

Colorado Rockies                    81-81                                        91-71                              +10

Los Angeles Dodgers             100-62                                       91-71                              -9

Arizona Diamondbacks         91-71                                        82-80                               -9

San Francisco Giants              85-77                                        73-89                              -12

San Diego Padres                     70-92                                        66-96                              -4

My Rockies going .500 pick was looking pretty good until they went scorched earth on the rest of the league in September and are now playing game 163 against the Dodgers for the right to avoid the Wild Card Game. Arizona was also looking like a good pick to be in the playoff hunt until they did the exact opposite of the Rockies and sharply declined late in the season. The Dodgers recovered from a slow start to get back to the postseason, however they’ve still got to get past the Rockies if they hope to host a playoff game.

So overall I’d say I did pretty well on my win/loss predictions. I nailed the Tigers and was off by 1 on the Cubs and Marlins. In general, the teams I predicted would be good were good and the teams I predicted to be bad were bad. There were a few oddities (Giants, Rangers, Nationals), but in general my predictions were reasonably accurate.

Now on to the more specific predictions that I made at the end of that season preview blog.

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Prediction #1: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly

Result: Kershaw finished with an ERA of 2.73, which is high by his standards (he has a career ERA of 2.39), but considering he was dealing with injuries throughout the season, I was hearing no complaints. So I’d say I was half right on this one: Kershaw did post an ERA over 2.50, but nobody is outwardly panicking.

Prediction #2: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Result: Kind of? There were a couple stretches in the middle of the season where the Yankees looked vulnerable but in general their peaks were a LOT bigger than their valleys en route to 100 wins. Stanton finished with the 5th highest K-rate in the Majors and Judge would’ve finished right in front of him had he had enough at bats to qualify. I’ll admit, this was kind of a lame prediction in general.

Prediction #3: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Result: Machado was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers shortly after the All Star Game. The prospect package the Orioles got for Machado was pretty good overall, but considering Machado was on an expiring contract, getting elite prospects was probably not in the cards.

Prediction #4: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Result: Wrong. The Yankees did break the team home run record, but it took them 161 games to get to that mark. The Yankees finished with 267 team home runs, breaking the 1997 Mariners’ record of 264. They had 6 players with at least 20 home runs and 12 with at least 10. Giancarlo Stanton led the way with 38 dingers.

Prediction #5: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Result: The Marlins sucked, but they finished with basically the same record I predicted them to finish with (I predicted they would win 62 games, they won 63). They were the worst team in the National League, but because the Orioles were so bad, people kind of forgot about how bad Miami was.

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Prediction #6: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Result: Damn, did I nail this one. Khris Davis led the Majors with 48 home runs this season, beating out JD Martinez, who had 43. Meanwhile, Matt Chapman looks like a superstar. Olson didn’t progress as much as I’d hoped, but he was still a quality first baseman for the A’s.

Prediction #7: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Result: This one’s still up in the air because MVP voting isn’t until November. However, Trout had another fantastic season, slashing .313/.460/.630 with 39 homers and 24 stolen bags while finishing with the second-best WAR in the Majors (9.8) behind Mookie Betts (10.2). He will definitely get some first-place MVP votes but I think Betts takes home the hardware. However I think Trout is the runner-up, which would make this prediction wrong.

Prediction #8: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Result: Mattingly actually managed to survive the entire season as Marlins skipper. I was surprised that they didn’t serve him his walking papers, not because of his managerial skills (I think he’s one of the better managers in the game), but because the Marlins had already gotten rid of everyone else. Whether he’s back next year is a different story.

Prediction #9: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Result: Once everyone got used to seeing the number of mound visits up on the scoreboard, this rule change completely vanished from mind. There were literally zero issues with this rule that I can think of. Turns out it was a total non-issue.

Prediction #10: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

Result: Yu Darvish battled injuries all year but struggled mightily when on the mound, as he finished with an ERA of 4.95 in just 40 innings with the Cubs this season. Jake Arrieta was much better, finishing with an ERA of 3.96, though he had gotten off to a fast start with the Phillies. So I would say I was relatively accurate on this one.

So that’s what happened with my predictions this season. Before I close this blog, I just wanted to apologize for how infrequently I’ve been posting. I’ve been so busy recently that writing has taken a back seat. I don’t see this changing anytime soon. But when I get the motivation, I promise I’ll have something out. Thanks for sticking with me. Let me know what you thought of my prediction results in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

What the 2018 MLB All Star Team Would Look Like If We Went By WAR

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So as you’re probably aware, you have all the power to vote for the starters in Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classic. I’ve voted a few times and voting officially closes at the end of next week so I thought I’d share who I’m voting for. The All Star Game is something that has been dying in popularity in all sports of late mainly because the competitive fire between the two leagues on each side is pretty much gone, especially considering the risk of injury for a game that has no relevance to the standings. But I love it damnit! I flew out to San Diego in 2016 to work the Home Run Derby and go to the All Star Game so this still means something to me.

So for those of you who live under a rock, there is one stat that rules them all for baseball nerds: Wins Above Replacement, or WAR for short. WAR is slightly different depending on which site you use (Fangraphs and Baseball Reference are slightly different formulas) but they typically agree on who is really good. WAR takes into account a player’s hitting, fielding, baserunning, you name it to create how many more games his team is winning because he’s in the lineup rather than your basic replacement-level player. The league average is about 2.0. 2-3 is considered above average, 3-4 is considered really good, 4-5 is considered All Star level, 6+ is MVP level. The best single-season WAR of all time was Babe Ruth’s 1923 season where he was worth 14.1 WAR (second-best is also Ruth at 12.9 in 1921). That season Ruth slashed .393/.545/.764 with 41 home runs and 130 RBI. In the last 10 years, the best WAR belongs to Mike Trout, which is a tie between his 2012 (his rookie year) and 2016 seasons where he was worth 10.5 WAR. So here are the starting 9’s of each team if WAR was the only deciding factor. A couple things to note, for outfield, I’m combining the three positions, which is what actually does happen for All Star balloting. Also since the National League doesn’t use a DH, I’ll be choosing the NL player with the best remaining WAR who isn’t already a starter (the NL manager chooses his DH for the actual All Star Game).

American League

Catcher-Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees (1.3 WAR)

First Base-Matt Olson-Oakland Athletics (1.5 WAR)

Second Base-Jose Altuve-Houston Astros (3.6 WAR)

Third Base-Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians (5.1 WAR)

Shortstop-Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians (4.4 WAR)

Outfield 1-Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels (6.1 WAR)

Outfield 2-Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox (4.4 WAR)

Outfield 3-Aaron Judge-New York Yankees (3.6 WAR)

Designated Hitter-JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox (2.9 WAR)

Starting Pitcher-Trevor Bauer-Cleveland Indians (3.9 WAR)

National League

Catcher-JT Realmuto-Miami Marlins (2.9 WAR)

First Base-Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves (3.5 WAR)

Second Base-Scooter Gennett-Cincinnati Reds (2.4 WAR)

Third Base-Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies (3.3 WAR)

Shortstop-Trea Turner-Washington Nationals (2.4 WAR)

Outfield 1-Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers (3.3 WAR)

Outfield 2-Brandon Nimmo-New York Mets (2.8 WAR)

Outfield 3-Nick Markakis-Atlanta Braves (2.4 WAR)

Designated Hitter*-Eugenio Suarez-Cincinnati Reds (2.7 WAR)

Starting Pitcher-Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals (4.2 WAR)

Here are the current leaderboards for the All Star voting (as of the most recent update, which was 2 weeks ago). As a reminder, fans do not vote for pitchers so there aren’t any results on who the top voted pitcher would be, plus the manager selects the starting pitcher on both sides:

AL

C-Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees (1.3 WAR)

1B-Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox (0.6 WAR)

2B-Jose Altuve-Houston Astros (3.6 WAR)

3B-Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians (5.1 WAR)

SS-Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles (2.7 WAR)

OF1-Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox (4.4 WAR)

OF2-Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels (6.1 WAR)

OF3-Aaron Judge-New York Yankees (3.6 WAR)

DH-JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox (2.9 WAR)

So the fans and WAR are very much in agreement, as the only two positions that differ are first base and shortstop. Abreu is likely getting the recognition from the fans because not only of his starpower over Matt Olson, but also because of the batting averages (Abreu is hitting .272 while Olson is hitting .246). Abreu’s defense at first base is also subpar while Olson is in a 3-way tie for best DRS at first base in the Majors at +6 (Abreu is 4th worst at -4). Machado is also having a Hell of a year at shortstop, though his WAR is hurt by his defense because despite being known as a defensive wizard at third base, Machado is actually the worst shortstop in the Majors according to DRS. That’s probably why Machado is 1.7 WAR below Francisco Lindor despite their hitting stats being almost identical (seriously, look them up, they’re near carbon copies of one another right now). I’m not a fan of voting Gary Sanchez in for the catcher position not just because he’s a Yankee, but because he’s hitting .190. However he has the highest WAR among all qualifying AL catchers because there are only 2 catchers that actually have enough plate appearances to qualify: him and Tampa’s Wilson Ramos (whom I’ve been voting in over Sanchez).

NL

C-Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants (1.7 WAR)

1B-Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves (3.5 WAR)

2B-Ozzie Albies-Atlanta Braves (2.1 WAR)

3B-Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies (3.3 WAR)

SS-Brandon Crawford-San Francisco Giants (2.4 WAR)

OF1-Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals (1.2 WAR)

OF2-Nick Markakis-Atlanta Braves (2.4 WAR)

OF3-Matt Kemp-Los Angeles Dodgers (1.7 WAR)

As we can see, WAR and the fans only agree on 3 players starting the All Star game for the NL: Freddie Freeman, Nolan Arenado, and Nick Markakis. Lots of name value going on here, particularly for Bryce Harper, who is in the midst of his worst season, as he’s currently hitting a measly .219, a full 100 points below his final line from last season. Crawford is tied with Trea Turner for WAR so I guess technically the fans aren’t off on that one, but Turner was listed first so I picked him (I’ve been voting in Crawford on my ballot as well). Ozzie Albies is having a great season and is very deserving of an All Star spot, but I do not think he should be starting over Scooter Gennett. Now yes, Gennett is FAR from a household name. But since he joined the Reds last season, he’s been a revelation. He had a 4-homer game last season and he’s only kept it up this year, slashing .332/.369/.532 with 13 home runs and 51 RBI. His .332 batting average leads the National League and as far as I’m concerned, he’s having the best season out of any second baseman in baseball not named Jose Altuve. He should start and I will continue to stuff the ballot with his name.

And now for the grand finale, here’s how I voted in my most recent All Star ballot:

AL

C-Wilson Ramos-Tampa Bay Rays

1B-Mitch Moreland-Boston Red Sox (his WAR does not qualify, but it’s 1.7, which would be tops in the AL if he had enough plate appearances)

2B-Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

3B-Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

SS-Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

OF1-Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels-

OF2-Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

OF3-Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

DH-JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

NL

C-JT Realmuto-Miami Marlins

1B-Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

2B-Scooter Gennett-Cincinnati Reds

3B-Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

SS-Brandon Crawford-San Francisco Giants

OF1-Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

OF2-Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

OF3-Nick Markakis-Atlanta Braves

My DH for the NL would probably be Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers if I had that option for a vote. So as you can see, with my ballot, the only places I disagreed with fans AND WAR were with Wilson Ramos (who is hitting .289), Mitch Moreland (who doesn’t qualify just yet), and Odubel Herrera (who is on FIRE right now and may creep up both leaderboards before all is said and done).

If you want to cast your own vote, you can do so here. Vote up to 35 times, so ballot stuffing is a real thing in this (just don’t do what Royals and Cubs fans have been doing these last couple years and stuffing the ballot boxes with their guys). Let me know what your All Star ballot is looking like in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

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2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

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The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

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The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

World Series Game 7 Recap

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The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 to win the first World Series in franchise history. Charlie Morton was the winning pitcher and got the final 12 outs. Yu Darvish got the loss. Some takeaways:

-This had a similar feel to the Boston Red Sox winning the 2013 World Series months after the Boston Marathon bombings. Or the 2001 Yankees who were an inning away from winning it all a month and a half after the 9/11 attacks. The city of Houston was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in late August, leaving much of the city submerged under water. Since Harvey decimated Houston, the Astros lost a grand total of 3 home games the rest of the way. The city of Houston needed something to boost their spirits as they recover from all the damage and this Astros team delivered. Here’s some evidence:

-This is REALLY creepy. A Sports Illustrated cover from 2014:

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They even got the World Series MVP on the cover in George Springer, who was absolutely incredible since Game 1. Springer was a disaster in the opening game, striking out all 4 times he came up to bat. He is the first ever World Series MVP to have such a game. But after that he was impossible for the Dodgers to get out. Including Game 1, Springer slashed .379/.412/.1000 and tied a World Series record with 5 home runs (Reggie Jackson in 1977, Chase Utley in 2009) and set World Series records with 29 total bases and 8 extra base hits. He also had a pretty great MVP acceptance speech. “I love each and every one of you. From the coaching staff to the players. Even Marwin Gonzalez!”

-We also got this from Carlos Correa:

-Every single player on the Astros is winning their first World Series ring, and that includes some hardened veterans: Carlos Beltran, Justin Verlander, and Brian McCann have all put together stellar careers and finally have a World Series ring to show for their efforts.

-And here we have the final out:

I was amazed in the confidence AJ Hinch had in Charlie Morton in this game, but Morton delivered. He went the final 4 innings, allowing the lone run in the 6th, which I thought would spell a short outing for him because it had that feeling that the Dodgers were ready to break out. But he quickly silenced that by striking out the next batter in Chris Taylor and all of a sudden the Astros felt like they were back in control. Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander both got up in the bullpen, but Hinch stuck with Morton, who had been touching 98 miles per hour on his fastball. With all the struggles the Astros bullpen had in this World Series, they really came through in Game 7, especially considering starting pitcher Lance McCullers was pulled in the third.

-The main killer for the Dodgers was they were unable to do anything with runners on base. They had no problem getting on for the first few innings, but only an Andre Ethier single could drive in a run. The Dodgers stranded a boatload of runners in this game and it just felt like a rally was brewing but never materialized.

-I have to say, considering how insane some of the other games in this Series were, this game felt like kind of a letdown. This was basically the Godfather of World Series’: the final installment was a disappointment but the rest was so good that this Series will be remembered fondly. As well it should. It set a record with 25 home runs between the two teams and don’t even get me started on Games 2 and 5. It was also the first best-of-7 World Series where only two starting pitchers earned winning decisions (Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 and Lance McCullers in Game 3).

-The entirety of the Astros offense came in the first two innings, capped off by this BOMB by MVP Springer:

It traveled an estimated 438 feet and knocked Yu Darvish out of the game.

-Darvish was not himself in this Series. He failed to get out of the second inning in both of his starts (first time that’s happened since 1960) and all 5 runs the Astros scored were on his watch. I think one reason for Darvish’s struggles in this Series is the familiarity the Astros have with them. Darvish had been a member of the Texas Rangers for a few years prior to being added by the Dodgers at the 2017 Trade Deadline. The Rangers and Astros have been division rivals since the Astros joined the American League starting in 2013. They’ve seen Darvish far more than any other Dodgers pitcher and I’m sure that had something to do with his struggles. That, and his pitches were super flat all game. The one bright spot was that Darvish essentially got an on-field apology from Yuli Gurriel for the racist gesture before his first at bat, as Gurriel tipped his helmet to Darvish.

-Brandon Morrow pitched to one batter in this game in relief of Darvish and became the second pitcher to ever appear in all seven World Series games. Morrow’s World Series ERA was a tick under 9 but a vast majority of that damage came in Game 5, when he really shouldn’t have been in there. Otherwise, he looked very sharp this Series.

-Lance McCullers got the start for the Astros and was pulled in the third inning despite not allowing a single run. The main reasoning for this was a lack of control that McCullers was displaying. But how can that be? McCullers didn’t issue a single walk! So no walks, no runs, what gives? McCullers plunked a World Series record FOUR batters in his 2.1 innings of work, including Justin Turner twice.

-Cody Bellinger reverted back to his early-series struggles, adding three more strikeouts and breaking Aaron Judge’s postseason record with his 29th of the postseason (17th in the World Series, also a record). I think Bellinger will bounce back but his confidence has to be at an all time low. Again, it was the curveball low-and-in that was the bane of Bellinger’s existence. It also bit Corey Seager a few times, but not nearly to the extent of Bellinger. He also committed the error that allowed the first run of the game to score for the Astros.

-The Astros had to persevere through three 100-loss seasons to get to where they are today. A lot of credit goes to owner Jim Crane and GM Jeff Luhnow for building a stacked roster that will compete for a title for the next few years. Even more credit has to go to the Astros fans for their patience through this process. Their faith was rewarded with a title, as they packed Minute Maid Park to watch both Games 6 and 7.

-Kudos also go out to the Dodgers, who played their hearts out all season but just ran out of gas for the last game of the season. It’s a young team with a TON of payroll and great coaching, no matter how critical I may be of it. They’ll be back.

Looking Ahead:

No more baseball in 2017, I’m afraid. As far as baseball-related blogs go, I will try and keep you up to date on any offseason acquisitions and potential trade speculations. If there is a slow day in sports, I may even do a blog or two where I try and find good fits for trade candidates.

Prediction:

It’s going to be another depressing few months of no baseball. At least there’s football and basketball.

World Series Game 6 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 in Game 6 of the 2017 World Series to even the Series at 3 games apiece to force a winner-take-all Game 7 set for Wednesday night. Tony Watson was the winning pitcher, Justin Verlander got the loss, and Kenley Jansen was credited with the save. Some takeaways:

-Kenley Jansen looked like Kenley Jansen for the first time in this World Series. Dave Roberts brought him in to get the 6-out save, which did not go well in Game 2, however he was dominant this time out. Astros hitters looked completely lost up there as he retired all 6 batters he faced, including strikeouts of Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran to end it

-With Francisco Liriano’s appearance in the 8th inning, only Houston third-string catcher Juan Centeno has yet to appear in a game in this World Series. I don’t have any stat on if there has ever been a World Series where everybody played because Baseball Reference won’t return my Tweets. Sad.

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When everyone gets to play in the World Series except you (photo credit: Houston Chronicle)

-Cody Bellinger became a part of baseball immortality in this game for all the wrong reasons. He went 0-4 with 4 K’s for the second time in this World Series, which has never happened before, and has struck out 14 times in this series, which is a record.

-Again, I had a problem with Dave Roberts’ handling of Rich Hill. This video right here was the entire offense for the Astros:

Hill got pulled with 2 outs in the 5th inning. To start that inning, he let up a single to Brian McCann, which was a great play by Yasiel Puig in right to hold him to a single because that ball easily could have gone for extra bases. Then Marwin Gonzalez hit a double under the dive of Justin Turner at 3rd base to put runners on 2nd and 3rd with nobody out (McCann would have scored had Puig not held him to just a single). Hill then strikes out Josh Reddick after falling behind 3-0 then strikes out Justin Verlander. Dave Roberts leaves him in long enough to intentionally walk George Springer then pulls him for Brandon Morrow. The crowd met this decision with a chorus of boos, then a standing ovation for Hill, who was seen slapping at some cups in the dugout. Last time Roberts pulled him early in Game 2, he slammed his glove. I really feel for Rich Hill because he has pitched his heart out this World Series without the confidence of his manager.

-Speaking of Brandon Morrow, he has pitched in all 6 games of this World Series. The only man to pitch all 7 games was Darold Knowles in the 1973 World Series for the Oakland A’s. One thing to note, his team won. Morrow was significantly better in Game 6 than Game 5, where I broke down his outing pitch-by-pitch. In Game 5, Morrow’s fastball was about 95 mph. It’s supposed to be about 98, which it was in Game 6. Rest helps.

-Play of the game has to be this double from Chris Taylor:

He fights off the pitch for a double off Verlander, who had been DOMINANT up until that point. This was the moment where the Dodgers revived their hopes for this series, as next at bat was this Corey Seager sac fly that probably would’ve left the yard if this was Games 1-5

I can only imagine how loud the crowd would’ve been had it gone a couple more feet. It was wet and damp for the middle innings of this game and that likely was the main reason this was only a 1-run play and not 3. But it was plenty considering how well the Dodgers pitched.

-Joc Pederson is probably the most fun dude to watch round bases

He’s got 3 home runs this postseason and continues to make me look like an idiot for thinking Curtis Granderson should’ve gotten the roster spot over him. For as much shit as I have given Dave Roberts in these blogs, he has shown time and again that he knows more about baseball than me.

-Justin Verlander just couldn’t catch a break this series. In Game 2, he pitched 4.2 no-hit innings before serving up a home run to Pederson, then a 2-run homer to Seager in the 6th. In this one, he serves up an excuse-me double and a sac fly for the only runs he allowed and he gets hit with the loss. He had allowed only 1 hit through the first 5 innings and that was on a blooper by Yasiel Puig that Springer MIGHT have been able to catch had he dove, though he may have been having second thoughts after what happened in Game 5, the last time he dove (he missed and Bellinger ended up with a triple).

-The home plate umpire was Dan Iassogna tonight. Bill Miller was relegated to right field duties. I’m not sure if Iassogna’s strike zone was good or not, but if I’m not thinking about your calls more than the actual game, that’s a good sign.

Looking Ahead:

The two best words in sports: Game Seven. The pitching matchup is going to be Lance McCullers vs Yu Darvish, a rematch of Game 3. McCullers was seen playing catch after Game 6 was done. Interesting call by him, that might be something worth talking about during his start in Game 7. But he pitched decently last time out in Game 3, better than his stat line might have suggested, while Darvish is coming off a disastrous performance. He’ll get a chance to redeem himself and face Yuli Gurriel for the first time since the little incident with Gurriel making squinty eyes after homering off Darvish. Though based on the way Darvish responded to the incident (about as professionally as humanly possible), I doubt that’s going to be too heavy on his mind. All hands will be on deck for this one because it will be do or die for this winner-take-all Game 7. Both starting pitchers will be pulled at the first sign of trouble and everyone except Hill and Verlander will be available for this game (Hell, Clayton Kershaw tried to convince Roberts to let him go in this game. He was the starting pitcher in Game 5).

Prediction:

Yeah, I’m not going to try and predict how this one’s going to go. The way these two teams have played, anything is possible. This has been an all-timer of a World Series and it’s only fitting that it goes 7 games. But I guess if you really want a prediction, I’ll flip a coin again. Heads Dodgers win first title since 1988, Tails Astros win first title in franchise history. *Flips coin*. Congrats Dodgers.

World Series Game 5 Recap

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The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings. Joe Musgrove was the winning pitcher. Kenley Jansen was saddled with the loss. The Astros take a 3-2 series lead as the series moves to LA for Game 6 with a chance to win the first championship in franchise history. Some takeaways from this game.

-I’m not going to go in as much detail as I wanted to about home plate umpire Bill Miller’s strike zone throughout this game. It was inconsistently huge and while players from both teams were affected, I felt like Dodgers hitters, particularly Yasiel Puig, got the bulk of the bad calls. So instead of going on an epic rant, here is a list of players who were victimized by Bill Miller’s strike zone: Puig, Kike Hernandez (worst strike 3 call I’ve seen in a looooooong time), Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Devenski, Austin Barnes, Alex Bregman. Those are just the players I bothered writing, I’m sure there were others I missed. Miller sucked in this game.

-This was one of the most batshit insane games I’ve ever seen and that’s the second time I’ve said that in this World Series. In a game started by Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw, we got a final score of 13-12 with 7 home runs hit between both teams.

-Kershaw had one really bad inning (4th inning) but otherwise I honestly thought he looked good in his limited outing. But again, that bad inning inflated the Hell out of his numbers and his performance is going to look a LOT worse than it actually was (4.2 innings, 6 runs, 2 of which were inherited runners Kenta Maeda allowed to score).

He had faced the minimum through 3 innings, then the Astros tag him for four runs, starting with a bad call by Bill Miller to walk George Springer (the pitch was definitely a ball, however Miller had called that pitch a strike on Yasiel Puig in the top half of that same inning).

-Keuchel, on the other hand, did not have the good stuff, but AJ Hinch pulled him before he could do too much damage to himself and leave enough gas in the tank to potentially appear in a relief role in a potential Game 7. Surprisingly, Keuchel didn’t get tagged for any home runs in this game.

-Here is the walkoff single from Alex Bregman.

Jansen had gotten the first two outs pretty easily, then he plunked Brian McCann on the wrist (the third fastball that inning that ran up and in like that on a hitter). Then he walked George Springer. That was when Hinch decided to pinch run McCann for Derek Fisher, who was making his first appearance in the World Series. First pitch to Bregman and he drops it into left. With how softly it was hit and the great jump gotten by Fisher, Andre Ethier stood no chance of throwing anybody out at the plate, even with how good the throw he did make actually was.

-Had the Dodgers won this game, I would have gone into a frenzy of love over Austin Barnes’ baserunning in the top of the 9th. After Yasiel Puig’s home run in the top of the 9th made the score 12-11 with 1 out, Barnes came up and hit a line drive into centerfield that got down. Springer didn’t do anything wrong on the play, but Barnes turned on the burners and was able to stretch it into a double, really impressive considering he’d been in a crouch all day behind the plate. Then, on Joc Pederson’s groundout, Barnes read it extremely well off the bat and was able to make it to third even though the ball was hit to the shortstop. Had he not legged out that double, Pederson’s groundout would’ve ended the game right then and there. Then with 2 strikes, Chris Taylor lines a single into centerfield to tie the game at 12. Beautiful baserunning by Barnes extended this game.

-Brandon Morrow had the worst inning I’ve ever seen. I’m going to break it down for you pitch-by-pitch (don’t worry, there were only 6).

Pitch 1: Home Run by George Springer

Pitch 2: Line Drive single by Alex Bregman

Pitch 3: Hanging breaking ball that Jose Altuve laid off of

Pitch 4: Altuve doubles into left-center

Pitch 5: Wild pitch that allows Altuve to get to third

Pitch 6: 2-run Home Run by Carlos Correa.

Dave Roberts did not plan on using Morrow in this game, as he had appeared in every World Series game thus far. However when Kershaw didn’t go as deep into the game as he had hoped, he decided to change his plans. I still don’t get the decision to send in Morrow. Aside from the fact that he had gotten so much use, the Astros definitely know what to expect out of him at this point, having seen him in 5 straight games. No matter how good a pitcher you are, when professional hitters get that familiar with you, you’re not getting anything by them. He was mercifully relieved by Tony Cingrani after that, who retired the side. One has to wonder if Roberts will consider using Morrow in Game 6.

-On Puig’s home run, we have a candidate for dickhead of the year:

Special place in Hell reserved for this guy. I get it, you’re mad your team just served up a home run to Yasiel Puig in the 9th inning. Don’t ruin other people’s experience because of it. Plus, it’s someone you’re going to have to sit next to for the next few innings or so, so that’s the last person you want to piss off.

-Want another reason this baseball game was freaking awesome? Exploding baseballs:

-Speaking of the baseballs, pitchers were complaining about the feel of the baseballs in this World Series and it got people to thinking that perhaps the baseballs are juiced. This wouldn’t be the first time MLB juiced the baseballs, it was very prominent around the 30’s and 40’s. Plus, the way the ball was flying around the yard in this game, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if the baseballs had been a little doctored.

-Cody Bellinger hit this home run:

and hit a triple that knocked in the go-ahead run. I think it’s safe to say he’s worked out the kinks in this Series.

-I feel like whenever Jose Altuve hits a home run, he gets absolutely ALL of it. Just look at the one he hit off Kenta Maeda that tied the game at 7:

Not only was that in the deepest part of the ballpark, but also a part of the park where you need to get some real lift under the ball if you want a home run. Yuli Gurriel hit a double in that part of the stadium in the bottom of the 9th that probably would’ve been a walk-off home run in a normal stadium but he didn’t get under it enough.

-This was the second longest game in World Series history (5 hours 17 minutes). The longest? Game 3 of the 2005 World Series (5 hours 41 minutes). That game also featured the Houston Astros.

-It’s crazy how a team can be up 12-9 in the top of the 9th inning and you can pretty much guarantee that this game is going to the bottom half, but that’s the way things were in this game. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we were getting more baseball even with a 3-run lead because that’s just the way the ball was flying. First Puig did this:

Then Barnes’ baserunning heroics that I mentioned before. The Astros have absolutely nobody they can trust to close out these games.

-We’re only 5 games deep and this Series has already set the World Series record for home runs in the entire Series (22. The previous record was 21 set by the Angels and Giants in 2002). Juiced baseball conspirators have even more ammunition.

Looking Ahead:

Thank God we get a day to recover from this amazing game. I had an exam the morning after but I stayed up for the whole thing and to write this blog, so I’m running on fumes. Game 6 is on Tuesday in LA and will be a Game 2 rematch between Rich Hill of the Dodgers and Justin Verlander of the Astros. I’m sure Dave Roberts will be much more inclined to give Hill a longer leash than Game 2, but Hill has to return the favor by giving Roberts the best innings of his life. This is do or die now for the Dodgers and Roberts has to go to the bullpen at the slightest sign of trouble.

Prediction:

No way this World Series doesn’t go 7 games. Not with what we’ve gotten already. That’s really all the reason I need to go with the Dodgers in Game 6. One thing’s for certain: I will not miss that goddamn train in Houston.

World Series Game 2 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

Before I get into this game, I have to mention Vin Scully’s ceremonial first pitch. That was probably the best ceremonial first pitch I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Mark Wahlberg airmail one to the backstop in person. Scully’s still got the flair for showmanship, too. Any more words just wouldn’t do it justice, so here it is below.

Now that that’s gotten its due:

-The Astros won their first World Series game in franchise history 7-6 in 11 innings, Chris Devenski got the win and Brandon McCarthy was saddled with the loss. Devenski technically also recorded the save but baseball doesn’t award saves to the winning pitcher for some reason.

-I don’t even know where to begin with this game. I really can’t. It should’ve been over on at least four different occasions. Here are a couple of facts surrounding what happened:

-8 home runs were hit by 8 different players (a World Series record), 6 of which occurred in the 9th inning or later

-5 extra innings home runs were hit, which is a record for an entire SERIES, let alone one World Series game

-The Dodgers used every single member of their bullpen

-The Dodgers bullpen had a postseason ERA of 0.83 entering this game. They allowed 6 runs in their 7 innings of work in Game 2, all of which came in their final 4

-Before I go much further, I have to get something off my chest. Big rant coming: Dave Roberts completely overmanaged this game. I’ve been singing his praises all year, rightfully so, but a large part of the way this game ended was on him. The first mistake was pulling Rich Hill after only 4 innings and 60 pitches. I get that you want to use your all-world bullpen. But Hill was looking pretty sharp in his 4 innings of work. Yeah he allowed a run on this play right here:

But otherwise he had been really sharp. In his 4 innings, he only gave up 3 hits with 3 walks (1 was intentional) and 7 strikeouts. The fact that he only had 60 pitches after 2 real walks and 7 strikeouts means that the Astros hitters were aggressive with him and weren’t having a ton of success, which was true. Hill was visibly pissed, and rightfully so, slamming his glove on the bench after he was told his night was done. Then came his usage of Tony Watson in the sixth inning. In the sixth, Kenta Maeda allowed a hit to Carlos Correa, then retired Yuli Gurriel. Roberts brings in the left-handed Watson to face the left-handed Brian McCann. Now for one, McCann hadn’t been swinging the bat really well all postseason, regardless of what handedness the pitcher was. You totally could’ve left in Maeda against McCann and probably gotten a similar result to what Watson got. That’s one beef I’ve had with managers is that they tend to play the lefty/righty matchups a little too fiercely, especially when it probably wouldn’t matter given the way a certain hitter has been hitting. But Roberts brings in Watson to face McCann and Watson gets a one-pitch double play. Awesome, Watson will be totally rested for the 7th inning. But instead, out trotting from the bullpen for the top of the 7th is Ross Stripling, who surrenders a four-pitch walk to Marwin Gonzalez and then HE gets pulled. That’s already four relievers that Roberts has gone through and you haven’t even gotten an out in the 7th inning yet. You’d think the Astros had put up 10 runs by that point, but they only had the 1 on the board. Morrow dominated the 7th inning, then let up a double to Alex Bregman that was nearly caught on what would have been an amazing play by Yasiel Puig. Roberts then baffles me by bringing in Kenley Jansen for a six-out save in a 2-run game. Look, Dave, I get it, Jansen is the best closer in the game. But he didn’t look that great in Game 1 the night prior and now you want him to get six outs with an inherited runner? The run does score and makes the game 3-2 but Jansen is able to get out of the 8th inning with the lead intact. Heading to the ninth and this happens:

And there goes Jansen’s record streak of consecutive converted saves to begin a postseason career (12). Jansen was able to recover and got the next three outs. But then the 10th inning happened. No issues here with Roberts’ decision to go with Fields, it’s not his fault that Fields decided to hang a couple of pitches to the Astros’ two best hitters:

Gurriel then hit a double to follow up the back-to-back home runs and Roberts had seen enough and pulled Fields for Tony Cingrani. Right call. Cingrani got the next three outs. It’s now the bottom of the 10th and the Astros hold a 5-3 lead. Closer Ken Giles, who had come in the 9th and sent the game into the 10th, was back out there to face Yasiel Puig. Puig proceeds to do this:

Love how Puig gently placed his bat on the ground after that. Giles gets the next two outs, then walks Logan Forsythe. He bounces a pitch and Forsythe takes second base with Kike Hernandez at the dish. Then Hernandez gets the first Dodgers hit that didn’t leave the yard.

Puig’s reaction was pretty great too.

That sent the game to the top of the 11th. Roberts brings in Brandon McCarthy to replace Tony Cingrani. I understand Roberts’ thinking here, McCarthy is normally a starter and you may need him to eat up innings. But McCarthy is your last remaining reliever! Cingrani only threw 5 pitches and has starter experience! McCarthy promptly gives up a single to Cameron Maybin, Maybin steals second to earn everyone a free Taco, then George Springer came up:

7-5 Astros. McCarthy gets the next 3 batters. Astros leave in Chris Devenski, who finished off the bottom of the 10th. He gets the first two batters, then Charlie Culberson gets in on the fun.

Based on the way Culberson was rounding the bases, it’s possible that he thought he had tied the game. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was trying to hype up his team similar to the way Joc Pederson rounded the bases on his home run way back in the 5th.

Devenski responded by striking out Yasiel Puig on a long and suspenseful at bat to finally end this instant classic. I have to say, Dave Roberts needs to do better with managing his bullpen if the Dodgers are to advance. Or perhaps he handled it as well as anybody and he just had the worst luck. That’s equally likely. But a lot of the blame has to fall on his shoulders. Rant over.

Some other notes from this game.

-Some de ja vu in Game 2. Game 1 saw Keuchel serve up a 2-run homer to the number 2 hitter in the order after a 2-out walk from Chris Taylor to make the score 3-1 Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. The exact same thing happened in Game 2 to Justin Verlander.

Baseball is weird.

-Verlander had been no-hitting the Dodgers up until Pederson’s home run that narrowly missed Josh Reddick’s glove. He was really good all night, going 6 innings allowing only 2 hits and striking out 5. Unfortunately for him, both hits he let up left the yard.

-I didn’t like the move to have Joc Pederson on the World Series roster instead of Curtis Granderson. Granderson’s experience and Pederson’s reckless swing made Grandy the obvious choice in my brain, but it worked in Roberts’ favor in Game 2, as Pederson’s home run gave the Dodgers the spark they needed against Verlander.

-What would’ve happened had Yasiel Puig been able to make that diving catch to rob Alex Bregman of a double, which started the scoring for the Astros? We can only wonder. Can’t blame Puig for not catching it, though. It was amazing he even had a chance to make a play at it.

Looking Ahead:

We have a full day off to digest this game before Game 3 on Friday in Houston. The Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the hill to face Lance McCullers. The Dodgers will need to rethink their strategy, as Houston has yet to lose a game at home this postseason (which had been the case for LA prior to this game). Lucky for them, they have a full day off to rest their bullpen, but Darvish NEEDS to go deep into this game to preserve the ‘pen.

Prediction for Game 3:

After what we just witnessed, I haven’t the slightest idea as to what’s going to happen in Game 3. Literally anything could happen. I’m just going to toss a coin. Heads the Dodgers bounce back, Tails the Astros keep up momentum. *Flips coin* It’s Tails.

 

2017 World Series Preview: Astros vs Dodgers

So it’s all come down to this. 2 teams remain from the 30 that came into Spring Training with such high hopes. Only one will end the season having accomplished the goal they set back in late February. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were my picks to go to the World Series back around the All Star break, but I changed my mind after how hot the Indians got in the AL and how cold the Dodgers went. You can check out how wrong my playoff picks were here. Nonetheless, both teams won 100 games this season (Dodgers won 104, Astros won 101), which hasn’t happened in the World Series since 1970, when the 108-win Baltimore Orioles beat the 102-win Cincinnati Reds. I picked the DBacks to represent the National League on a hunch and while they did win the NL Wild Card game, they got promptly disposed of by the Dodgers, whose number the DBacks seemed to have had in the regular season. The Astros were consistently good all season but were surpassed in the overall record department by the Indians, thanks in large part to a 22-game win streak. The Indians then choked away a 2-0 lead against the Yankees in the ALDS while the Astros convincingly dispatched the Red Sox. The Dodgers then proceeded to spank the Cubs in the NLCS in 5 games while it took 7 games for the Astros to defeat the Yankees. For this prediction segment, I’m going to go position by position to determine which team has the advantage at each. The rosters for the World Series aren’t set in stone, which may be a big factor at one of the positions later in this blog, but I will do my best to try and get an accurate projection of what each team will put forth in the best-of-7 series. So let’s get to it.

Starting Pitchers:

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood

Astros: Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Bleacher Report

My reasoning behind this is simple: the fourth starter. It’s pretty neck-and-neck for the first three guys but I’m not sure if I can trust Charlie Morton. He was terrific in his start in game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, going 5 innings, only letting up 2 hits and striking out 5. But prior to that he had an ERA over 10 in the playoffs. Alex Wood has had his issues in the postseason for the Dodgers, but he had been lights out all season prior to that and I’m more confident in him than I am in Morton. We may also see Brad Peacock for the Astros instead of Morton, or maybe even instead of McCullers. Since his relief effort in game 7 went so well, it wouldn’t shock me if Manager AJ Hinch decides to use McCullers in an Andrew Miller-type role, going multiple innings to set up the closer. But Keuchel and Verlander have already been announced for Games 1 and 2, respectively. Keuchel was back to his Cy Young form this season but dealt with some injuries. He appears to be healthy now, though. Justin Verlander has been absolutely ridiculous in the postseason, as he had an ERA of 0.56 in the ALCS, garnering him series MVP. Kershaw is still the best pitcher on the planet and his playoff performance is finally catching up to that reputation. While his ERA is only 3.63, those numbers were inflated by letting up 4 runs in the NLDS against the DBacks. Since then his ERA is 2.45, which is right around his career regular season average.

Bullpen:

Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson, Tony Cingrani, Brandon Morrow, Ross Stripling, Josh Fields

Astros: Ken Giles, Will Harris, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Joe Musgrove

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Kenley Jansen was probably the best reliever in baseball this season and he’s carried that success into the playoffs. He’s pitched 8 innings so far and has yet to allow a run while striking out 12. This Dodgers bullpen is also loaded with former starters, such as Maeda, Cingrani, Morrow, and Stripling, who are all capable of going multiple innings if need be. The Astros have a similar situation with McHugh, Peacock, and Liriano, but I trust the Dodgers’ guys a little more. This one was really tight but Jansen was the difference for me.

Catcher:

Dodgers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes

Astros: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH)

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

Defensively I give the edge to the Dodgers but I think there is too much potency amongst the Astros backstops. McCann and Gattis were arguably the two most important bats in the Astros Game 7 victory, as they drove in 3 of the 4 runs, including a BOMB by Gattis to get the scoring started in the fourth. Both Grandal and McCann are good at handling a pitching staff and Barnes is solid relief, but I still have to give the edge to Houston.

First Base:

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger

Astros: Yuli Gurriel

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Yahoo Sports

Bellinger will more than likely win NL Rookie of the Year this season, as he set an NL rookie record with 39 home runs this season. Gurriel, also a rookie (a 33 year-old at that), has finally provided some stability at first base for the Astros, something they’ve lacked for a few years. Gurriel had a big hit that set up McCann’s 2-run double in Game 7 but Bellinger has been one of the offensive powerhouses for this Dodgers team this season. Got to give the advantage to LA.

Second Base:

Dodgers: Chase Utley, Logan Forsythe

Astros: Jose Altuve

Advantage: Astros

Jose-Altuve

photo credit: Baseline Times

No shit. Jose Altuve is one of the five best players in baseball and is my pick for AL MVP this season and he’s been dynamite in the postseason. After lighting up the Red Sox in the ALDS, the 5’6 phenom continued to give the Yankees problems, including a big home run in Game 7. Utley and Forsythe are two guys whose best years are behind them and I don’t envision them being major factors in this World Series.

Third Base:

Astros: Alex Bregman

Dodgers: Justin Turner

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

photo credit: Dodgers Nation

Advantage: Dodgers

Justin Turner was Co-NLCS MVP with Chris Taylor against the Cubs, which included a walk-off home run to win Game 2. Bregman has been good in the postseason, hitting a couple of clutch home runs against the Red Sox in the ALDS and making a great play at third in which he made a beautiful throw at home to nab Greg Bird in Game 7. Bregman’s got a bright future in this league but Justin Turner has been too good for the Dodgers all year for there to be any other choice.

Shortstop:

Dodgers: Corey Seager*, Charlie Culberson

Astros: Carlos Correa

Advantage: Depends on Seager’s availability, but probably Astros

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

This is tricky because Seager was left completely off the NLCS roster due to a back injury. He’s one of the brightest young stars in the game and if he’s healthy enough to go, I think I would give a slight edge to him over Correa, who is a fantastic shortstop in his own right. But I think I’m going to give a bit of an edge to Houston because I would take a healthy Correa over an unhealthy Seager 10 times out of 10. I’m also not super confident Seager will even be able to go. Culberson is a nice player for the Dodgers but he’s not anywhere near Correa’s level, who reminds me of a young Alex Rodriguez.

Outfield:

Dodgers: Curtis Granderson, Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier

Astros: Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Beltran (DH)

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Marwin Gonzalez was a guy the Astros had used as a super utility guy for most of his career until he really started to hit this season and they decided they needed to find a way to get this guy’s bat in the lineup on a regular basis. He will slot into left field in what is an outstanding outfield. George Springer is one of the brightest young stars in baseball as a guy who can do it all from the leadoff spot. Josh Reddick struggled mightily in the ALCS (he started out 0-22 before getting his first hit in Game 7, which tied a record for longest hitless drought in a single playoff series) but he hit well all season so I expect him to pick it up a bit in the World Series. Chris Taylor is a super utility guy, much like Gonzalez, who may even see time at shortstop if Seager can’t go. He did play a couple games at short in the NLCS but one way or another, Dave Roberts will pencil him in to the starting lineup. Yasiel Puig’s antics have been a lot of fun in the postseason and his bat has backed it up on the brightest stage. The Astros get the advantage mainly because they are a bigger part of this offense than the Dodgers guys are, however the Dodgers outfielders, particularly Kike Hernandez, showed up big in Game 5 against the Cubs, as Hernandez hit 3 home runs including a grand slam in the clinching game.

Score: 4-4 Dodgers-Astros

Tie Breaker: Manager

Dodgers: Dave Roberts

Astros: AJ Hinch

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: MLB.com

Dave Roberts is arguably the best manager in the game today. He has had to deal with a lot of injuries in his 2-year stint at the helm of the Dodgers yet he still wins the NL West by a wide margin in both seasons and led the Dodgers to baseball’s best record at 104-58. AJ Hinch has led the Astros’ huge franchise turnaround from a team that would consistently lose 100 games into a team that went 101-61. I have to give the advantage to Roberts, though, as he has had to deal with more adversity.

My World Series Pick: Dodgers in 7

This is going to be a really good series. Both teams match up really well and it may come down to whose bullpen can lock it down. I have total faith in Kenley Jansen to get the job done for the Dodgers and I think they win their first World Series since 1988.

That’s my World Series preview. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

MLB Top 10 Players by Position for 2017

This is the next segment in my MLB postseason series. Here, I will be ranking the top players by position for this baseball season. 2017 performance won’t be the sole deciding factor, however it will be the biggest. Guys that missed significant time due to injury will not be considered, so guys like Noah Syndergaard, Michael Brantley, and Yoenis Cespedes will not be considered for these rankings even though they would rank highly when healthy. Also, if a player played at multiple positions throughout the year, I may have taken a little liberties by either putting them where I thought they were at their best or where they played the most. I also considered defense more heavily for some positions (shortstop, catcher) than others (first base).

Starting Pitcher

MLB: MAY 10 Dodgers at Rockies

Despite injury, Clayton Kershaw was still as dominant as ever (photo credit: Scout.com)

1.Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2.Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3.Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4.Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5.Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6.Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

7.Luis Severino-New York Yankees

8.Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

9.Marcus Stroman-Toronto Blue Jays

10.Jimmy Nelson-Milwaukee Brewers

While he did miss a good chunk of time due to injury, Clayton Kershaw nevertheless dominated when he was on the mound and he pitched enough (175 innings) for me to keep him in the rankings. His 2.31 ERA was second in the majors and tops in the NL. Robbie Ray was a guy I had high hopes for going into the season. He did have an ERA of 4.90 in 2016, but his FIP was more than a full run lower (3.76) which suggested he was in for an uptick in production. He did not disappoint, posting an ERA of 2.89 in 2017. Jimmy Nelson was a guy who was under the radar for the entire season. Despite his performance, he was overshadowed by Milwaukee’s prolific offense. Nevertheless, Nelson finished with the 5th best FIP (3.05) in the Majors, even better than Kershaw’s (3.07).

Non-Closing Relief Pitchers

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Andrew Miller continues to thrive in a unique role with the Indians (photo credit: USA Today)

1.Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

2.Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

3.Pat Neshek-Colorado Rockies

4.Chad Green-New York Yankees

5.Tommy Kahnle-New York Yankees

6.Anthony Swarzak-Milwaukee Brewers

7.Alex Claudio-Texas Rangers

8.Matt Albers-Washington Nationals

9.Ryan Madson-Washington Nationals

10.Dellin Betances-New York Yankees

This is a position that’s always in flux, as you never know what you’re going to get out of your relievers in any given year. For example, Matt Albers makes this list despite the fact that he had an ERA of 6.31 in 2016, his age-33 season. Dellin Betances surely would’ve topped this list at the start of the season had this blog been around at that time. His stuff was as good as ever but he seemed to have lost a bit of his command. But the Yankees don’t need him this season like they have in years’ past, as they have a plethora of reliable bullpen options, such as Chad Green and midseason acquisition Tommy Kahnle and the return of David Robertson.

Closing Pitchers

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Kenley Jansen has locked down the 9th inning for the Dodgers all season (photo credit: DodgerBlue.com)

1.Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2.Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3.Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

4.Wade Davis-Chicago Cubs

5.Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

6.Ken Giles-Houston Astros

7.Raisel Iglesias-Cincinnati Reds

8.Alex Colome-Tampa Bay Rays

9.Brad Hand-San Diego Padres

10.Felipe Rivero-Pittsburgh Pirates

Closer is hard to predict as well as relievers, but I find that typically the top few spots tend to remain roughly the same. I said this before in yesterday’s blog, but the difference between Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel this season is razor-thin, however I give a slight edge to Jansen mainly for the far lower walk rate.  Roberto Osuna ranks at #3 despite an ERA of 3.38 (relatively high for a good closer) in large part due to the fact that the majority of that damage was done in April and he didn’t get a lot of help from his defense (his FIP was 1.74)

Catchers

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Despite the Giants’ struggles, Buster Posey continued to put up big numbers (photo credit: Sportsnaut.com)

1.Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2.Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3.Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4.Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5.JT Realmuto-Miami Marlins

6.Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

7.Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

8.Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

9.Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

10.Christian Vazquez-Boston Red Sox

Catcher is a hard position to rank right now because it’s so top-heavy. There are only 3 catchers I consider to be elite at the position while the rest have a lot of flaws (in Yadi’s case, it’s just simply aging). I tend to value defense more at this position, which is why you see guys like Tucker Barnhart and Christian Vazquez on this list. If you go by Defensive Runs Saved, which I do, Barnhart was #1 by a large margin at 21. The next closest catcher was Martin Maldonado of the Angels at 10.

First Basemen

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Joey Votto may be the most under-appreciated player in the history of the game (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2.Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3.Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4.Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5.Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6.Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

7.Eric Hosmer-Kansas City Royals

8.Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9.Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

10.Justin Smoak-Toronto Blue Jays

To be honest, you could probably rearrange the top 3 or 4 guys on this list in any order and I probably wouldn’t fight you too much over it. But I have to give the nod to Joey Votto this season just because of how absurd some of the numbers he puts up are. For example, his infield fly percentage, or basically how frequently he hits a lazy popup, was 0.5%, second only to Freddie Freeman, who didn’t hit a single one. But Votto’s been doing things like this for a long time now and that’s without getting into how patient he is at the plate. But I’ll delve more into Votto tomorrow for the top 100 overall players list. Spoiler alert, he’s on it.

Second Basemen

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Jose Altuve may be the smallest MVP since Bobby Shantz at 5’6 (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2.Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

3.Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

4.Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

5.Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

6.Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

7.Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

8.DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

9.Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10.Starlin Castro-New York Yankees

I had a hard time with this one, mainly because second base was a lot deeper than I thought going in. I ended up having to leave guys like Ian Kinsler and Brandon Phillips off this list just because I simply couldn’t find a place for them. It was obvious to put Jose Altuve at the top of this one, given the year he’s had that I’ve talked about ad nauseam during this postseason MLB series of blogs about. In fact, I’d probably say the top 7 or 8 guys was pretty easy. It was rounding out this list that was difficult. In the end, I went with Kipnis and Castro over the other guys based simply on the idea of who I’d rather have at the plate with the game on the line this year, or in the field in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 7 of the world Series.

Third Basemen

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Kris Bryant has been one of the faces of the new Chicago Cubs dynasty (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2.Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

3.Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

4.Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5.Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6.Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7.Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

8.Travis Shaw-Milwaukee Brewers

9.Kyle Seager-Seattle Mariners

10.Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

Third base is absolutely loaded, especially when a guy like Manny Machado finds himself at number 7. Machado would normally be higher, but he had a down year, hitting only .259 and being worth 2.8 WAR. He was heating up by the end of the season, though, as he was hitting .334 in July and August. The Milwaukee Brewers committed highway robbery of the Red Sox by acquiring Travis Shaw in exchange for Tyler Thornburg. Shaw hit cleanup in a dangerous lineup, batting .273 with 31 homers and 101 RBI while Thornburg did not appear in a game this season due to injury and the Red Sox struggled mightily at third base until calling up Rafael Devers and trading for Eduardo Nunez in July.

Shortstop

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Francisco Lindor has been one of the most exciting players in the game since debuting in 2015 (photo credit: USA Today)

1.Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2.Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3.Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4.Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

5.Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

6.Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7.Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

8.Zack Cozart-Cincinnati Reds

9.Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10.Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Like first base, you could rearrange the top 3 in any order you want and I wouldn’t argue with your decision. Lindor, Correa, and Seager are superstars in this league and will be for at least the next decade. Xander Bogaerts was a tricky one to place. When he’s hot, you can’t get him out. When he’s not, he couldn’t get on base if you threw at him. His below average defense didn’t help either, which was a big factor for shortstop, which I consider to be the most important defensive position. But he seemed to be picking it up after a move to the leadoff spot, batting .284 in the month of September. Zack Cozart has struggled with injuries the last few years but when he’s been healthy he’s quietly been one of the better offensive shortstops in the game.

Left Fielders

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Marcell Ozuna has been one of the more under-the-radar stars thanks to teammates he shares an outfield with (photo credit: Sun Sentinel)

1.Marcell Ozuna-Miami Marlins

2.Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

3.Michael Conforto-New York Mets

4.Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

5.Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

6.Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

7.Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8.Eddie Rosario-Minnesota Twins

9.Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

10.David Peralta-Arizona Diamondbacks

This is probably the thinnest position in baseball right now. While I am a big fan of Ozuna’s, he’s probably the third best outfielder on his own team and would be in the middle of these other outfield top 10s. But getting back on track, there were a lot of breakout players at left field so we could see this position grow more prominent in the next couple of years. Michael Conforto, Tommy Pham, Andrew Benintendi, and Chris Taylor all had big breakout years after either underwhelming in the last couple seasons (Conforto), being primarily a utility guy (Pham and Taylor) or just simply being a prospect (Benintendi).

Center Fielders

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No surprise here, Mike Trout has been among the all-time greats since 2012 (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

1.Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2.Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3.George Springer-Houston Astros

4.Christian Yelich-Miami Marlins

5.Lorenzo Cain-Kansas City Royals

6.Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7.Andrew McCutchen-Pittsburgh Pirates

8.Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

9.Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

10.Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

Mike Trout is the Khal until he can no longer sit his horse and he’s been sitting the crap out of that horse. Despite missing a month and a half due to injury, Trout still belted 33 home runs , stole 22 bases, and hit .306 while exhibiting his usual great defense in center field. Byron Buxton FINALLY exhibited his potential late this season as his bat finally caught up to his stellar defense and base running. He hit .387 in July and .324 in August and if this kid can put it all together for an entire season, Mike Trout’s going to have to start looking over his shoulder.

Right Fielders

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Since debuting at age 19, Bryce Harper has been well worth the hype for the Nationals (photo credit: Sporting News)

1.Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2.Giancarlo Stanton-Miami Marlins

3.Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

4.Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

5.JD Martinez-Arizona Diamondbacks

6.Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

7.Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

8.Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

9.Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

10.Jay Bruce-Cleveland Indians

This was REALLY hard. As much as I wanted to put Judge or Stanton at the top of this list, I just have to give it to Harper, who likely would have coasted to NL MVP had he not stepped on a wet base wrong and missed the last month of the year. But Harper was back to his usual phenom self this season after a rough 2016, batting .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI with an OPS of 1.008. While I do think Judge is lurking, that July-August stretch he went through where he couldn’t even hit air is still too fresh in my mind. And 59 home runs is nice, but Stanton’s defense is nowhere near Harper’s. Yasiel Puig finds himself back into relevance after a quietly solid year after disappointing the last couple seasons. He hit .263 with 28 homers, 74 RBI, 15 stolen bases, and ranking first among NL right fielders in DRS.

Those are my top 10s. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.