MLB Midseason Awards

So it’s the All Star Break and it’s technically the midpoint even though most teams have played around 98 of the 162 games. But whatever. That’s not important. What is important is that the season has reached its virtual halfway point and it is now appropriate to start recognizing who’s been killing it and who hasn’t. So without further ado, let’s get to some midseason awards as well as my prediction for the Home Run Derby on Monday at the end.

AL MVP: Mike Trout-CF-Anaheim Angels

<> at Angel Stadium on July 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California.

This would be Trout’s third MVP before his 27th birthday should he hold on to the run he’s been on. At the break, he’s slashing .310/.454/.606 with 25 home runs and 50 RBI while leading the Majors with a WAR of 6.6. However Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts are both on a tear right now and both could catch him by the end of September.

Runners Up: Jose Ramirez-3B-Cleveland Indians, Mookie Betts-RF-Boston Red Sox

NL MVP: Nolan Arenado-3B-Colorado Rockies

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I would argue that Arenado should have won NL MVP last year but he’s picked up where he left off last season by slashing .309/.391/.585 with 23 homers and 67 RBI while leading the NL with a 3.8 WAR and playing an excellent defensive third base. Lorenzo Cain and Freddie Freeman aren’t far behind him and it’s a pretty wide open race.

Runners Up: Lorenzo Cain-CF-Milwaukee Brewers, Freddie Freeman-1B-Atlanta Braves

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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Chris Sale is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now, as he has been absolutely dominating opposing hitters of late, as he had an ERA of 1.76 in June and 0.69 in July. He leads the Majors with 188 strikeouts and has over 13 K/9. However if you were to argue for Luis Severino or Justin Verlander, I wouldn’t fight you over it.

Runners Up: Luis Severino-New York Yankees, Justin Verlander-Houston Astros

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom-New York Mets

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Since cutting his hair, Jacob deGrom has gone from really good to great, as he has far and away the best ERA in the Majors at 1.68 with a K/9 over 10 and a minuscule HR/9 of 0.51. As far as I’m oncerned, the only way deGrom doesn’t win the NL Cy Young Award is if he’s traded to an American League team. The Mets are currently fielding offers for him and may ship him before the Trade Deadline July 31st.

Runners Up: Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals, Aaron Nola-Philadelphia Phillies

AL Rookie of the Year: Gleyber Torres-2B-New York Yankees

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Gleyber Torres has been nothing short of phenomenal since his callup on April 22nd. He’s slashing .294/.350/.555 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI en route to making the All Star team as a 21 year-old rookie despite being in the Minor Leagues for the first month of the season. His own teammate, Miguel Andujar is also having a heck of a rookie campaign and likely isn’t far from Torres. Shohei Ohtani could also be considered but his UCL injury has a lot of things up in the air.

Runners Up: Miguel Andujar-3B-New York Yankees, Shohei Ohtani-SP/DH-Anaheim Angels

NL Rookie of the Year: Brian Anderson-RF-Miami Marlins

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There aren’t many legitimate candidates this season for the NL Rookie of the Year race, however Brian Anderson has been having a pretty solid season, slashing .288/.363/.429 with 8 homers and 49 RBI. Not a lot has gone right for the Marlins this season but Anderson has been pretty solid for them.

Runners Up: Alex Reyes-RP-St. Louis Cardinals, Christian Villanueva-3B-San Diego Padres

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash-Tampa Bay Rays

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The fact that the Rays are headed to the All Star break with a record of 49-47 despite having literally no talent on the roster should alone earn Cash the nod for AL Manager of the Year. But he’s also had a ton of success using a 4-man rotation then a bullpen day for the 5th day. The “opener” is what they’re calling it. Cash’s Rays are starting to revolutionize starting relievers more frequently and even teams like the Red Sox have begun adopting the strategy.

Runners Up: Alex Cora-Boston Red Sox, Bob Melvin-Oakland Athletics

NL Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker-Atlanta Braves

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The Braves are several years ahead of schedule and the development of the young talent such as Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Mike Soroka, and Sean Newcomb has been huge for the rise of the Braves and manager Brian Snitker deserves a lot of credit. The Braves look like legitimate pennant contenders this season in a very wide open NL field just a year after finishing 72-90 last season and making very few significant additions in the offseason.

Runners Up: Gabe Kapler-Philadelphia Phillies, Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

Home Run Derby Winner: Kyle Schwarber-LF-Chicago Cubs

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I’m a little biased since Kyle Schwarber and I both attended Indiana, but his power is made for a Home Run Derby. I will not only be rooting for my fellow Hoosier, but also picking him to win it.

That’s going to do it for my midseason awards, let me know what you think of them 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.

Injury News in Baseball

So there have been several injuries this season of note and while it doesn’t really FEEL like it’s a lot of guys going down, the talent of the players who have gotten hurt in recent weeks has been what is more of the story. Here are some guys who have gone down in the last few weeks and what their timetable is for return to form.

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-Shohei Ohtani, the two-way Japanese phenom for the Angels, has a partially torn UCL, which almost always requires Tommy John surgery, which would end his 2018 season and possibly his 2019 season as well. The Angels are holding out hope that it doesn’t come to Tommy John and they are even considering continuing to use him as a DH while he recovers from the surgery. That sounds like a REALLY bad idea. While I get that Anaheim might feel a little desperate since they have a legitimately good team this year that is contending for a playoff spot in a VERY tough AL West, you have to learn from the mistake the Washington Redskins made with Robert Griffin III in 2013. RG3 was rushed back from a torn ACL in the postseason to play week 1 and all of his elusiveness was sapped away and his flaws as a passer were amplified, thus destroying his once promising career. You could be facing a similar situation with Ohtani. Ohtani has been very successful in his first couple months in the States, slashing .289/.372/.535 with 6 homers and 20 RBI in 43 games as a hitter and carries a 4-1 record with a 3.10 ERA while striking out over 11 batters per 9 innings as a pitcher, both very good performances. There hasn’t been a player who was both a high-caliber pitcher and hitter since Babe Ruth. Don’t fuck this up, Anaheim. Let him recover. You risk destroying this man’s career by rushing him back before he’s ready. UCL’s are nothing to screw around with, swinging a bat can be just as damaging as throwing a baseball and since Ohtani bats lefty, it will be his right (throwing) arm that does the bulk of the swing and therefore takes the brunt of the pressure. Just bite the bullet and try and make a move at the deadline to compensate for the loss. I hear the Mets may make Jacob deGrom available. If you rush Ohtani back before he’s ready, you could risk an RG3 situation in which a phenomenal talent gets destroyed because you weren’t patient enough to let him recover. Do the right thing, Angels.

-Tigers first baseman and 2-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera is out for the remainder of the 2018 season after undergoing bicep surgery, which upsets me for a number of reasons, the main of which being that Miggy is one of my favorite players in baseball even as his skills start to decline with age. However this could be a blessing in disguise for Detroit. Cabrera was slashing .301/.394/.451 in 37 games played (he had another DL stint earlier this season) with 3 home runs and 22 RBI. While the power numbers aren’t what we’re used to from the future Hall of Famer, he was still a productive hitter in this lineup. The Tigers are sitting in third place in the AL Central at 31-37 as I write this and aren’t nearly bad enough to be in serious contention for another high draft spot. If you’re going to rebuild, you have to be all-in and Miggy hitting well does not help a rebuild. They landed Auburn ace Casey Mize with the top pick in this year’s MLB Draft and he was one of the few prospects I felt had superstar potential. If they hope to land a talent like that again, they really need to hit the tank button. While it does suck to lose an impactful hitter like Miguel Cabrera, it can be potentially beneficial for the future of this franchise as they stockpile high draft picks.

-While Mookie Betts did return from the DL after missing 14 games due to a hip injury, the Red Sox superstar hasn’t looked quite at 100% in his first couple games back and I think that the team could afford to give him some more rest every now and then as he attempts to return to the form that was dominating baseball for the first two months of the season. Despite the recent DL stint, Mookie has garnered the most votes in the first All Star ballot update by slashing .354/.431/.735 and hitting 17 home runs and driving in 37 RBI while continuing to play the best right field in baseball. However in his absence, the Red Sox went a decent 8-6, showing that the team can win without their superstar. They still have guys like the deadly JD Martinez and the suddenly red-hot Andrew Benintendi, so I think giving Mookie more frequent breathers to make sure he gets to 100% would be most beneficial to this team’s long-term goals.

-Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka injured his hammy running the bases and had to hit the DL and I’m sorry, but his happens far too often when American League pitchers have to hit in National League stadiums. Yankees fans should be especially weary of this after what happened to Chien-Ming Wang a decade ago. Wang was absolutely dominant for the pinstripes but after hurting himself running the bases in Houston, he was never the same and it destroyed his career. If ever there was a reason to install the DH throughout Major League Baseball, this would be a big one. Pitchers aren’t focused at all on their hitting (unless they are Shohei Ohtani) and the AL ones only ever have to hit on the rare occasion they pitch in an NL ballpark, which is maybe two or three times a season for each starter. Even then they don’t expect to get on base so when they do they’re totally unprepared to actually run bases, which is an important part of the game if you hadn’t noticed so they can’t exactly dog it out there. This leads to leg injuries like the one suffered by Tanaka. I don’t know, man, I mean what other professional sport are you going to find that has such different rules depending on what league/conference they’re in? I get the tradition thing, really, I do. But MLB has already installed video replay systems to overturn calls, why can’t they just make the DH rule universal? I enjoy AL baseball more than NL baseball simply for the fact that I don’t have to watch these pitchers half-ass their at bats because they know they’re trash at the plate anyway and nobody expects them to get a hit.

That’s going to do it for this injury update, let me know what you think of the recent trends in injuries in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Las Vegas Golden Knights Are Headed To The Stanley Cup. Here’s A Look At How Other Expansion Franchises Did

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Before I get into this blog, I just want to apologize for how infrequent my posting has been. I haven’t been able to post much given my work schedule and it’s probably not going to get any easier. So for those of you who are bearing with me, thank you. I’m also coming off an illness. Saturday morning was AWFUL. I woke up at my buddy’s place in Lowell, Massachusetts about 45 minutes from my house. I’m puking my brains out and eventually dry-heaving. I then remembered my brother needed the car to go to work in a few hours so I couldn’t hang out on the toilet for much longer. Finally, when I decided I was done puking, I got in my car and just drove off. I’m about halfway home when I feel something coming up. I pull into a Starbucks parking lot in Littleton, open my car door, and puke in the space. I think someone who was sitting in their car saw me. I went into the Starbucks and put my head in their toilet for a few minutes before someone knocked on the door needing to go so I sucked it up and got back in the car, but not before texting my boss telling him I couldn’t make it to work that night. There weren’t any more problems until I just got back into my home town. I was too close to home to pull over and in a bad spot to do so, so I made the decision to puke on my shirt while I was driving. I don’t know how, but I made it home without causing an accident. It was one of the most miserable mornings of my life.

So with that, I don’t normally talk about hockey because I understand hockey about as well as I understand women (which is to say I know the basics but if you try and go into any depth, I’m lost). But I just can’t ignore the fact that the Las Vegas Golden Knights won the Western Conference and will be playing for the Stanley Cup in their inaugural season. That’s just insane. It’s a patchwork team full of castoffs and young guys and they won the Western Conference. They still have to face either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Washington Capitals, but the fact they got this far is absolute insanity. They really are the new gold standard for expansion franchises in professional sports now. So let’s put the Golden Knights’ season into perspective by looking at how other expansion franchises in sports did. I’m only doing the leagues I know, though (MLB, NFL, NBA) because otherwise this blog would take FOREVER. I probably should include the NHL seeing as how I’m comparing expansion franchises to an NHL team, buuuuut…

MLB

1961 Los Angeles Angels-The Angels were the first expansion franchise and went 70-91 in their inaugural season, finishing 8th out of 10 teams in the American League. They did not appear in a championship game until 2002, when they beat the Giants in the World Series.

1961 Washington Senators (later became the Texas Rangers)-The Washington Senators were revived after the previous rendition of the franchise became the Minnesota Twins. They eventually became the Rangers and finished tied for last place in the AL with a 61-100 record in their inaugural season. They first appeared in a championship game in 2010 where they lost to the Giants and have yet to win their first title.

1962 New York Mets-The expansion New York Mets had the worst season in Major League history, going 42-120. However, they appeared in and won their first title just 7 years later in 1969, in a team that is now referred to as the “Miracle Mets.”

1962 Houston Colt .45’s (later became the Houston Astros)-The Colt. 45’s had to change their name shortly after their inaugural season due to people being concerned over rooting for a team named after a gun. They finished 64-96 in their first season, 8th in the National League. They didn’t appear in a World Series until 2005 and won their first title in 2017.

1969 Kansas City Royals-The Royals went 69-93 in their inaugural season, finishing in 4th place out of 6 teams in the AL West. They did not appear in a World Series until 1980 and won their first title in 1985.

1969 Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals)-The Montreal Expos went 52-110 in their inaugural season and things haven’t gotten much better. They became the Washington Nationals in 2005 and neither rendition of the franchise has reached a World Series yet, one of two MLB franchises that have yet to do so (the Mariners being the other).

1969 San Diego Padres-The 1969 San Diego Padres also went 52-110 in their first season, matching the expansion Expos, who debuted in the same season. The Padres have yet to win their first World Series, but they appeared in their first in 1984.

1969 Seattle Pilots (now Milwaukee Brewers)-The Seattle Pilots went 64-98 in their first season, finishing in the basement of the AL West and were quickly moved to Milwaukee to become the Brewers. The Brewers reached their first World Series in 1982, but they have yet to win the Fall Classic.

1977 Toronto Blue Jays-The Blue Jays went 54-107 in their first season, finishing in last place in the AL East. They reached and won their first World Series in 1992 and repeated in 1993 on Joe Carter’s walk-off home run (only the second time the World Series ended on a home run, the first being Bill Mazeroski for the Pirates in 1960).

1977 Seattle Mariners-The Seattle Mariners went 64-98 in their first season, finishing in second-to-last place in the AL West. They have yet to reach a World Series, though the 2001 Mariners have the winningest regular season ever at 116-46.

1993 Colorado Rockies-The Colorado Rockies went 67-95 in their inaugural season, finishing second-to-last in the NL West. They reached their first World Series in 2007 but have yet to win one.

1993 Florida Marlins-The Florida Marlins went 64-98 in their first season, finishing second-to-last in the NL East. They won their first World Series just 4 years later in 1997 and again in 2003. They have never lost a playoff series. They changed their name to the Miami Marlins in 2012.

1998 Arizona Diamondbacks-The 1998 Arizona Diamondbacks had a very similar path to the Marlins, going 65-97 in their first season but winning their first World Series 3 years later in 2001.

1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays-The 1998 Tampa Bay Devil Rays went 63-99 in their first season, finishing in last place in the AL East. They appeared in their first World Series in 2008, which is also the same year they dropped the “Devil” from their name. They have yet to win their first title.

NFL (post-merger with AFL)

1976 Seattle Seahawks-The 1976 Seattle Seahawks went 2-12 in their first season. They did not appear in a Super Bowl until the 2005 season and won their first Super Bowl in 2013.

1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers-The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 0-14 in their inaugural season and proceeded to lose the first 12 games of the 1977 season before finally beating the Saints for the franchise’s first win. The 26 consecutive losses remain an NFL record to this day. The Buccaneers reached and won their first Super Bowl in 2002.

1995 Carolina Panthers-The Carolina Panthers went 7-9 in their first season, tying for last place with the Saints in the NFC West. They appeared in their first Super Bowl in 2003 but have yet to win one.

1995 Jacksonville Jaguars-The Jacksonville Jaguars went 4-12 in their first season but were in the AFC title game the following year with a 9-7 record. They have yet to appear in a Super Bowl.

1996 Baltimore Ravens (kind of)-The Ravens are technically an expansion franchise even though they were formed after the old Browns franchise moved to Baltimore. However when the Browns were reformed in 1999, they re-assumed their franchise’s history, retroactively making the Ravens an expansion franchise. The Ravens went 4-12 in their first season. They appeared in and won their first Super Bowl in 2000.

1999 Cleveland Browns (again, kind of)-As previously mentioned, the Browns were reformed three years after the original version moved to Baltimore but re-assumed their history. The new Browns went 2-14 in their first season. Neither rendition of the Browns has ever reached a Super Bowl.

2002 Houston Texans-The 2002 Houston Texans went 4-12 in their inaugural season, but set an NFL record for rookie quarterback David Carr getting sacked 76 times. They have yet to reach a Super Bowl.

NBA (post-merger with ABA)

1980-81 Dallas Mavericks-The Mavericks went 15-67 in their inaugural season. They appeared in the Finals for the first time in 2005-06 and won their first title in 2010-11.

1988-89 Miami Heat-The Miami Heat also went 15-67 in their first season. They appeared in the Finals for the first time in 2006, which they won.

1988-89 Charlotte Hornets (now New Orleans Pelicans)-The Charlotte Hornets went 20-62 in their first season. They have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1989-90 Minnesota Timberwolves-The Minnesota Timberwolves went 22-60 in their first season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1989-90 Orlando Magic-The Orlando Magic went 18-64 in their inaugural season and reached their first NBA Finals in 2009. They have yet to win a title.

1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies-The Grizzlies went 15-67 in their first season and later moved to Memphis. They have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

1995-96 Toronto Raptors-The Toronto Raptors went 21-61 in their inaugural season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

2004-05 Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets)-The whole situation between which Hornets were the Bobcats at one point is similar to the Browns/Ravens situation but a lot more confusing so just go with it. But the Bobcats went 18-64 in their inaugural season and have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

So as we can see, expansion franchises are NOT supposed to be good out of the gates. The best winning percentage by an expansion franchise prior to the Golden Knights was the 1995 Carolina Panthers with a .438 winning percentage. Now they’ll be playing for the Stanley Cup in just their first year in existence after going 51-24-7 (.622) and obtaining the #3 seed in the Western Conference.

Let me know what you thought of today’s blog in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

 

General Sports: May 5

-Albert Pujols got his 3000th hit on a dink into right field off of Mariners right hander Mike Leake. Kind of the opposite of what you would expect from a guy with 3000 hits and over 600 home runs, one of four guys to ever do so (Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez are the others). Here’s the historic knock.

https://twitter.com/MLBONFOX/status/992609290123816960

It’s also interesting to note, as ESPN Stats and Info pointed out, this is the fourth consecutive season that saw a player get their 3000th hit. 2015 was A-Rod, 2016 was Ichiro, 2017 was Adrian Beltre, now Pujols in 2018. Baseball is weird. But I couldn’t be happier for Pujols. He was my favorite player when I was a kid and while he fell on hard times with the Angels, that has done nothing to diminish my memory of his greatness in St. Louis. I mean Hell, for each of the first 10 seasons of his career he hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI. And he just missed out on an 11th in 2011 when he hit .299. A great moment for perhaps the greatest hitter of his generation.

-The Dodgers got a huge positive in a season full of negatives as their pitching staff threw the 12th combined no hitter in Major League history. The combination of Walker Buehler, Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia, and Adam Liberatore shut down the Padres lineup for a special series in Monterrey, Mexico for the first combined no hitter since 2014 when the Phillies used 4 pitchers to no hit the Braves. Fun fact, the first ever combined no hitter was started by Babe Ruth in 1917 when he was with the Red Sox. He walked the first batter, chewed out the umpire, got himself ejected, then his replacement Ernie Shore retired the next 27 batters, which included Ruth’s inherited runner getting caught stealing. There wasn’t another combined no hitter until 50 years later in 1967 when the Orioles used 2 pitchers to no hit the Tigers and LOST (starting pitcher Steve Barber went 8.2 innings and walked 10 batters. His reliever, Stu Miller, got just one out). Normally I’m not a fan of guys getting pulled in the middle of a no hitter, but in this case I think it was warranted. Walker Buehler turns 24 in July and he’s had a history of health issues with his arm during his young career. He was at 93 pitches after completing 6 innings of work so it was only inevitable he was going to get pulled. I felt like he could’ve gone another inning, but ultimately it didn’t matter. This isn’t the first time Roberts has done this sort of thing. A couple years ago, Ross Stripling was making his Major League debut and had a no hitter going into the 8th but got pulled by Roberts due to his pitch count being over 100. That time it backfired, as the Giants pummeled the relievers and won the game. But Stripling’s family actually thanked Roberts for pulling Stripling because they knew Roberts was concerned about protecting the kid’s arm. So if they’re cool with it, I’m cool with it. And once again, Roberts pulls a young starter with immense potential (his season ERA is just a little over 1) due to health concerns in the middle of his no-hit bid. This time it worked out. What a treat for the people of Monterrey, Mexico, though. They get Major League Baseball coming to town and the first game is a no hitter.

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-Matt Harvey was DFA’d by the Mets after refusing an outright assignment to AAA. This has been a pretty steep fall from grace for the guy who was looking like the next big ace for the Mets. Hell he was nicknamed “The Dark Knight” as a 24 year-old. He debuted in 2012 and started the All Star Game for the National League in 2013 when the game was at Citi Field. He struggled with injuries for much of his career but when healthy, he was one of the best right handers in the game, carrying a sub-3 ERA each of the first 3 years of his career. Then Game 5 of the 2015 World Series happened. Harvey was spinning an absolute GEM. The Royals failed to score all game against Harvey and the Mets were entering the 9th inning up 2-0 and Terry Collins was about to pull Harvey for closer Jeurys Familia. Harvey convinced Colins to leave him in the game and Collins listened. Then Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain and served up an RBI double to Eric Hosmer to make it 2-1 before Collins finally pulled Harvey. Hosmer was able to score to tie the game up then the Royals scored 5 runs in the 12th and won the World Series. Ever since that game Harvey has been a shell of his former self, as he not only pitched poorly, but emotional problems began to take hold. In 2016 he had a 4.86 ERA and in 2017 it was 6.70. In 2018 Harvey was carrying an ERA of 7.00 before being DFA’d after being sent to the bullpen. Harvey’s issues were also off the field, as he missed a game last season after a night of drinking resulting from seeing his ex-girlfriend, super model Adriana Lima, with Patriots receiver Julian Edelman. This was one of many personal issues that Harvey allowed to affect his performance and now he’s being DFA’d by the Mets. If Harvey goes unclaimed by another team, he can accept a minor league assignment or be outright released. A part of me feels bad for the guy because he’s as talented as they come but he can’t get out of his own head. Hopefully a change of scenery is exactly what he needs to get his career back on track.

-I wanted to blog this yesterday but some school-related issues forced me to put this off until today. But Ichiro Suzuki’s career is basically over. Yes, his agent said he isn’t retiring, just moving to a front office position with the Mariners, but come on. Have you seen Ichiro lately? He’s not the hitter he once was by a LONG SHOT. He’s not the man who opened his Major League career with a record 10 consecutive 200 hit seasons nor the guy with the most hits ever as a professional hitter (Japan and Major Leagues combined). Hell he didn’t join the Major Leagues until he was 27 and he still managed to join the 3000 hit club. Now? He’s 44 years old, going to be 45 in October, and he was slashing .205/.255/.205 prior to the announcement. There were talks amongst Mariners Twitter whether or not the team should demote him because it was becoming apparent that his presence on the roster was becoming a liability. I doubt a Major League team’s going to pick him up given how apparent the deterioration of his skills has been. If he does want to continue playing baseball, I think his best bet is going to be a return to Japan where I guarantee he will get a hero’s welcome. The guy is as classy as they come and one of the greatest pure hitters of all time and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

-The Milwaukee Bucks are going to interview Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon for their vacant head coaching position. Hammon made airwaves by being a female assistant coach in the NBA but from what I understand she’s very well-respected and must be a damn good coach because she’s held the position for 4 years, which is a long time for an assistant coach to be with a franchise. She takes over head coaching duties for the Spurs during the Summer League so it’s not like this is uncharted waters for her. Oh and there’s the whole nugget that she’d be the NBA’s first ever female head coach if she does land the job with the Bucks, who fired Jason Kidd midseason and had been running with Joe Prunty through their playoff exit against the Celtics. Hammon won’t be the only member of the Spurs organization the Bucks will be interviewing, though, as assistant coaches James Borrego, Ettore Messina, and front office member Monty Williams are all expected to be interviewed as well. Probably trying to recreate the magic that is Greg Popovich. It’ll be interesting to see how her interview goes because she will be under a LOT of scrutiny if she does land the position. But if you can work under Pop, you can work in any situation so I’m confident she’d be able to handle it.

-Ben Roethlisberger was seemingly not a fan of the Steelers taking Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph in last week’s NFL Draft, saying he doesn’t think that a backup or third stringer in the third round was such a good pick to help the team win now. He also said (perhaps jokingly) that he wasn’t going to mentor Rudolph and if he had any questions, Roethlisberger would just “point to the playbook.” Whether he’s joking or not, I actually love this move. I think too often we just assume a quarterback is going to just go quietly. But not Ben. He wants to let everyone know this is still his team and he’s going to give it up when he’s good and ready. And to be fair, he’s earned that right. He’s a 2-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback and his numbers are actually getting better with age (having a receiver like Antonio Brown probably helps). I think it’s also good for Rudolph that he isn’t given anything. I think too often we just assume that when a guy might be a franchise quarterback that they’re going to be given everything they need to succeed. Well Big Ben wants you to earn what you get and I fully respect it. But now that you’ve made claims like these, you’ve got to go back it up with your play. You have to prove that this is in fact still your team and the fact you’re 36 years old isn’t an issue.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: April 10

Sorry for there not being a blog yesterday, I spent basically the whole day watching Wrestlemania (because it was 7 hours long) and I was several beers deep so I wouldn’t be able to go in depth with sports topics. It was a good show, though. More highs than lows. Luckily for me, Monday didn’t really have a ton of sports going on so I can talk about stuff that happened Sunday in addition to Monday. So I think this works out. Anyway, on to the topics.

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-Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-7 in an extra innings game against the Orioles and struck out 5 times. This is the second time this season he’s struck out 5 times in a game without any hits. This is the first time in the Live Ball Era that any player has had such a game twice in 1 season. It was done by April 8 by Stanton. To be fair, Stanton had never struck out 5 times in a game prior to this season, but his strikeout rate is cause for early-season concern. He’s striking out 41.7% of the time, which somehow isn’t the highest rate a week and a half into the season. That belongs to Ian Happ, who is striking out 56.7%(!) of the time. Now, obviously, those numbers are going to go down. You just don’t strike out that frequently and continue having a job in the Majors. But still, those numbers for Stanton and Happ are cause for concern.

-The Red Sox once again stole a win from the Rays, this time coming back from down 7-2 in the 8th inning to win. It was basically just double-after-double. This was the first weak performance by a starting pitcher this season, as Eduardo Rodriguez made his 2018 debut after recovering from injury. He went 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs and his stuff just looked a little off. But the offense exploded in the 8th inning to save the game and push the Red Sox to an 8-1 start, their best start in franchise history (since 1901). This makes them the hottest team in baseball headed to their first matchup with the Yankees on Tuesday.

-Aldon Smith got arrested AGAIN, third time in 2 months, this time for violation of a protective order after he was arrested for alleged domestic violence. He’s being held on bond for half a million dollars. Smith was one of the brightest young stars in the NFL with the 49ers, recording 44 sacks in his first 3 seasons, but he has been arrested an uncountable number of times, including things like the domestic violence incident to yelling “bomb” in an airport. I really hope for his sake that he gets the help he clearly needs because when someone gets in trouble as frequently as Smith does, there’s something not quite right with them.

-Shohei Ohtani’s second start as a pitcher was spectacular, as he carried a perfect game into the 7th inning. His final line was 7 shutout innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, and a dozen strikeouts. Like I mentioned on multiple occasions, Ohtani had a miserable Spring Training but his regular season has been nothing short of amazing. As a hitter, he’s batting .389 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI while on the mound he’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings pitched. Through 11 games, Ohtani has been well worth the hype.

-Indiana baseball hit a walkoff home run in extra innings against Purdue a day after beating the Boilermakers 14-1. Nothing really else to go off of there, just wanted to leave that there for all the world to see and appreciate(ignoring the fact Purdue won the series opener).

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-The Alliance of American Football, which is a football league that will start in 2019 that is being headed by Charlie Ebersol and former Colts GM Bill Polian, made news over the weekend, particularly as it pertains to their Orlando-based franchise, which I don’t think has an official name yet. The Orlando team landed Steve Spurrier as its first head coach. Spurrier was a Heisman trophy winner in the 1960’s and was a very successful coach with his alma mater Florida and with South Carolina and he earned the nickname the “Ol’ Ball Coach.” Just ignore his tenures in the NFL as a player and a coach. The man has accomplished pretty much everything there is to accomplish at the collegiate level and I guess trying his hand at an upstart football league is another thing he wants to try his hand at. He’s 73 years old, a time when many are staying retired, but it’s been hard living in a world where Spurrier isn’t patrolling a sideline, so this is welcome news.

 

-Watching Wrestlemania, I thought Ronda Rousey looked REALLY good in her debut. The former UFC superstar looked right at home alongside former Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle (that’s not just a part of his gimmick, he actually does have an Olympic Gold Medal for wrestling) in her match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. The story is basically Rousey embarrassed the Power Couple with the help of the Rock at Wrestlemania a few years ago and they signed her so that they could get revenge on her, but Angle, who is an authority figure as RAW General Manager, was having none of it and revealed their intentions to Rousey, setting up a Mixed Tag Team match at Wrestlemania. Rousey looked like she belonged and won the match by getting McMahon to tap out in an armbar. It was awesome.

Sorry about the wrestling update, but there really isn’t any more else to talk about in sports, as there was a lot less going on than I thought there would be. There are other stuff outside of sports, like the Simpsons basically saying “fuck you” to the people who get offended by Apu’s stereotype, to which I say, calm down, people. The Simpsons stereotype EVERYBODY, Apu’s only getting hate from the Indian community because he’s so popular and recognizable that he’s become the poster boy for Indian stereotypes. In fact, let’s go down the list of other characters that the Simpsons stereotype.

Homer: stereotypical middle-aged American man

Lisa: stereotypical leftist

Groundskeeper Willie: stereotypical Scot

Chief Wiggum: stereotypical cop

Ned: stereotypical Christian

Fat Tony: stereotypical Italian (also Luigi, that cook with the broken English)

Bumblebee Man: stereotypical hispanic

Barney: stereotypical alcoholic

Otto: stereotypical junky

That Old Jewish Man that Grandpa Abe Simpson is friends with: kinda speaks for itself

I could probably go on but I think you get the point. Though now that I think about it, I don’t think there’s a stereotypical black character. Now that I think about it, black characters are pretty well off in that show. Dr. Hibbert is a medical doctor, there’s that judge who was white for the first few seasons, Lou’s a cop who seems to be more competent than his superior, Chief Wiggum but just goes with his shenanigans, Drederick Tatum the boxer who is clearly based on Mike Tyson, etc. But anyways, that’s a ramble if I’ve ever written one so I’m going to shut this one down. Thanks for reading, let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

General Sports: April 5

-Patriots receiver Julian Edelman helped thwart a potential school shooting. A user commented on one of Edelman’s Instagram photos saying he was going to shoot up his school and to “check the news tomorrow.” Another user went to Edelman’s DM’s and notified him of this comment. Edelman found it and, thinking of what happened in Parkland, Florida, had his assistant notify police. They were able to identify the subject as a 14 year-old in Michigan who admitted to being the user that made the threat and he was apprehended. There is a crowd that wonders why Edelman didn’t just call the cops himself, but I’m not one of them simply because I don’t care who calls the cops in this situation, as long as they get called. You can’t take these threats lightly, whether the kid meant it or not.

-Von Miller may be in trouble for catching a hammerhead shark on a fishing trip. For evidence, look no further than his Instagram.

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PETA wants to make sure that Miller didn’t catch this shark illegally, which apparently he may have done so since it’s a hammerhead (Group 3, whatever that means) and catching one is punishable by $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Miller did say that he threw it back, though. I really don’t think anything is going to come of this but I just have to say holy shit, Von. That’s a 9 and a half foot hammerhead fucking shark! The tail fin is almost as big as he is! As if Miller weren’t badass enough being one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, now he’s out here in Miami catching hammerhead sharks. This was off the coast in Miami, which has me a little retroactively nervous because I was just there a few weeks ago for spring break and I went swimming in the ocean a couple times. Sharks are up there on my “most-feared animals” list with bears and alligators/crocodiles, though I did work on my fear of the latter, as you can see below.

Gator? I hardly knew her

A post shared by Jim Wyman (@jimwyman10) on

Who cares if it was just a baby or if it’s mouth was tied up? Just let me take it one step at a time, dammit!

-The Ravens signed Robert Griffin III to a 1 year deal to back up Joe Flacco. I’m happy to see RG3 signing with a new team. The former Heisman Trophy winner is one of the biggest what-if’s in recent memory and I’m a firm believer in the sentiment that Mike Shanahan ruined RG3’s career by rushing him back from that ACL tear he suffered in the playoffs against Seattle far too soon. There was no reason he should’ve torn that thing in the playoffs then returned for Week 1. But I digress, Griffin seems like a good dude and I hope he succeeds in whatever he does. It’s also curious that the Ravens seem to be taking an interest in running quarterbacks of late. They drafted Tyrod Taylor a few years ago, were going to sign Colin Kaepernick if their owner didn’t veto it, and now they sign Griffin. I’m not sure what exactly this points to, if anything, but it’s good to see RG3 with a job again after not being on a roster in 2017.

-The Rockies gave Charlie Blackmon a 6-year extension worth up to $116M which will take him through his age-38 season, all but assuring he spends his entire career in Colorado. Blackmon is one of the most underrated athletes in all of sports, let alone baseball, as last season he set a Major League record with 104 RBI’s out of the leadoff spot to go along with a .331 batting average, 37 home runs, and a 6.5 WAR. He would’ve had my vote for NL MVP if I had one. This season he’s continuing his excellent play as he was hitting .316 with 4 homers, 6 RBI, and a 1.462 OPS in 5 games entering Wednesday night’s tilt with the Padres. Blackmon’s been in the Majors since 2011 but he didn’t really break out until 2016 and since then he’s been the best leadoff hitter in the game so this extension is well-warranted for the late bloomer.

-Shohei Ohtani is quickly making everyone forget how bad his Spring Training went. After going 4-32 at the plate and allowing 9 runs in 2.2 innings, Ohtani has been excelling now that the games count. In his first start on the mound, he went 6 innings giving up 3 runs, however all came on a 3-run homer and he was lights out otherwise. He went 1-5 in his first game as DH on Opening Day, then in his first game in Anaheim he homers in his first at bat then got a couple more hits. He homered again in Wednesday’s tilt with the Indians off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and as of this writing, he’s hitting .444. It’s still early, but Ohtani is looking like he’s worth the hype a few games into his career.

-Giancarlo Stanton struck out 5 times in his Yankee Stadium debut and received a chorus of boos for the showing. For a lot of guys, this would be crushing. But the thing about baseball is you play everyday so there’s always the chance to redeem yourself. Well…

I love how Michael Kay knew the ball was gone seemingly before it even touched his bat, that’s how hard Stanton crushed it. He’s going to strike out his fare share, but he’s also going to do that. You take the good with the bad with him.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Opening Day Recap

 

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It was a glorious Opening Day and baseball could not have returned with a bigger bang than it did on Thursday. While we were robbed of the “everybody opens at the same time” thing by rain in both Cincinnati and Detroit (and Bloomington, Indiana. Rained all day and when you have to walk as far as I do to and from class, you tend to loathe the rain), we still got some great baseball. So let’s get to some thoughts I had about what I saw (and didn’t see because of the goddamn technology ban in both my classes).

-Can’t start a season much better than the Cubs did. Their game against the Miami Marlins was the first game on tap so the first pitch of the season would be to a Cubs hitter. Leading off the season was Ian Happ. So how did the season’s first pitch go?

This was the first time since 1986 that the first pitch of the baseball season went yard. Dwight Evans did so for the Red Sox. Boston went on to lose the World Series in heartbreaking fashion (“BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT!”) so we’ll have to see if the Cubs can avoid that same fate.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, what a freaking choke job. They led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th after an absolutely dominating performance by Chris Sale (6 innings, 9 K’s, 1 hit) and I’ll put how that 8th inning went with this: Joe Kelly’s ERA is 108.00. Just an absolute waste. However it is Game 1 out of 162 and the Red Sox lost Opening Day in both the 2004 and 2007 seasons, both of which ended with World Series victories. There were some positives from this game, though. Xander Bogaerts looked really good, getting 3 hits including 2 doubles. Eduardo Nunez hit the first Opening Day inside-the-park home run by a Red Sox player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1968. In fact, counting the postseason, the Red Sox have back-to-back games with an inside-the-park home run, as Rafael Devers hit one in the 9th inning of the Sox’ Game 4 ALDS defeat at the hands of the Astros. Here’s the play in question.

-The Chicago White Sox scored 14 runs on the Royals. Wait, that’s a typo, right? The same White Sox team that many people are picking to be the worst in baseball? Again, it’s Game 1, but you have to be excited about the future if you’re a White Sox fan. DH Matt Davidson was the star as he hit 3 home runs, the 4th time someone has ever done so on Opening Day. Also something to note with this game, the Royals got out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and the White Sox didn’t score a single run until the 4th, where they scored 5, then added on 3 more in the 5th, nothing in the 6th, then 3 in both the 7th and 8th inning. So when the White Sox scored, they scored in bunches.

-The Baltimore Orioles won via walkoff on Opening Day for the second consecutive season. A number like that is just unprecedented to me. Here’s the play.

It was a pitcher’s duel throughout between Dylan Bundy and Jake Odorizzi, which is surprising considering the fact that starting pitching appears to be the weakest part of both teams. I only caught the first couple innings of this one but I did notice that Manny Machado looks good to start the season. His first at bat he hit a laser over the right fielder’s head and coasted into second with an easy double.

-Offensively the Mets looked really good. I sporadically changed my feed between this game and the O’s-Twins for a little while and basically every time I watched, the Mets were compiling hits and scoring runs, which was great for them because Noah Syndergaard fell into some tough luck. He struck out 10 batters but gave up 4 runs, including a 2-run homer against Yadier Molina on a really nice pitch that you really can’t do anything about. I said before in their 30 Clubs in 30 Days, but I think the Mets are going to be a lot better than they were last year.

-If you weren’t terrified of the Yankees before, you should be now. Giancarlo Stanton homered twice in his Yankees debut, the second to ever do so (the first was Roger Maris). Here’s his first at bat as a Yankee.

His other homer also went to the opposite field. So you’ve got both Judge and Stanton who have stupid power to all fields. The Yankees cruised to a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays, who were honoring the late Roy Halladay before the game.

-Nick Markakis got his first career walkoff home run out of the way on Opening Day.

Gotta feel great for the 34 year-old. However Phillies fans were pretty bent out of shape by Gabe Kapler’s managerial decisions in his debut. He pulled Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches, 5.1 innings, and only a run allowed. The bullpen promptly imploded, allowing 6 runs after the 7th inning. So a rough debut for Kapler.

-I mentioned how Ian Happ homered on the season’s first pitch. Well George Springer was jealous that Happ’s game started first.

It is the second consecutive season that Springer led off his teams’s season with a home run, the only man ever to be able to say that. And last time the Astros had a guy homer to start Opening Day, they won the World Series. Just sayin’.

-Shohei Ohtani singled on his first at bat in the States, which has to be encouraging because he had a MISERABLE spring training. He went 4-for-32 at the plate and on the mound he gave up 9 runs in 2.2 innings. He DH’d and hit 8th for the Angels and will be the starting pitcher on Sunday against the A’s. Speaking of the A’s, they won on a walkoff as well on a Marcus Semien single in the 11th inning. The A’s were also able to absolutely shut down Mike Trout, who went 0-6 in a game for the first time in his career.

-Clayton Kershaw got outdueled by Ty Blach of all people. Kershaw traditionally is INSANE on Opening Day, as he entered the game with a career 0.99 Opening Day ERA. He was great again, as he only let up 1 run on a solo shot by Joe Panik that barely stayed fair and collected 2 hits of his own at the plate, but Blach didn’t let up a thing, going 5 innings and letting up just 3 hits.

It was a Hell of an Opening Day and I think we’re in for a great season. Let me know what you think Opening Day 2018 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.