Just How Good Have the Red Sox Been This Season?

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Before I get into the blog, I just wanted to apologize for the lack of content lately. My schedule has been absolutely STUFFED, plus there hasn’t been a ton of major news worth blogging about. But I feel that since it’s been a week since my last blog, I figured I’d pull something out just to keep things going.

So how ’bout them Red Sox, eh? After destroying the Royals 15-4 despite David Price not having his good stuff, they now carry a record of 61-29 through 90 games, a winning percentage of .678. If the Red Sox kept this pace, they’d finish with a record of approximately 110-52, which would surpass the previous franchise record of 105-47 in 1912 (their second World Series-winning team, first time being known as the “Red Sox”). In fact, the Red Sox have not won 100 games in a season since 1946, when they lost the World Series in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals when Johnny Pesky infamously “held the ball.” Here are some interesting tidbits about the Red Sox’ historically strong first half.

-If the Red Sox keep this pace and do reach the 110-win threshold, it would obliterate the previous record for rookie manager success, as Alex Cora’s 110-win season would be a record for rookie managers (unfortunately I am having a very difficult time finding the actual record for rookie managers so I couldn’t tell you how much Cora would hold the record by, but I’m assuming 110 would be the record. The highest I’ve been able to find is Ken Macha’s 96 in 2003 with the A’s). Cora’s .678 winning percentage would make him the winningest manager of the modern era for managers that lasted at least 1 season  (George Wright went 59-25 in his lone season as a manager in 1879 for a .702 winning percentage, however Cora has already managed more games than that dude).

-Mookie Betts is currently leading the majors in batting average (.343), slugging (.672), and OPS (1.112) and is third in the Majors in WAR at 5.2 and that’s even with missing 21 games due to injury. He’s been a legitimate MVP candidate all year and would likely be the favorite if Mike Trout weren’t on his bullshit at the moment.

-JD Martinez leads the Majors in both home runs and RBI with 27 and 73, respectively, and is on pace to hit over 50 home runs and drive in nearly 150 RBI while also hitting .329 with an OPS of 1.038. Remember when nobody wanted to sign him in the offseason? He’s been the best high-profile free agent acquisition the Red Sox have had since Manny Ramirez (yes, David Ortiz also joined the Red Sox via free agency, but at the time of his leaving the Minnesota Twins, he wasn’t considered “high profile”), which isn’t saying a lot because the Red Sox have whiffed on quite a few of those recently. But regardless, Martinez has been a major part of this offense.

-Mitch Moreland is currently sitting on a 2-year, $13M deal. There are 16 first basemen in the Majors making more than him and the only ones with a higher batting average than his .288 are Freddie Freeman (.304), Brandon Belt (.289), and Joey Votto (.294). Moreland is currently slashing .288/.354/.533 with 11 homers and 40 RBI and is probably the lowest profile cleanup hitter that is doing the best job of it at the moment. He also plays a very strong defensive first base, which cannot be understated given that the rest of the Red Sox infield tends to struggled defensively (Eduardo Nunez has a lot of mental lapses in the field, Xander Bogaerts has limited range, and Rafael Devers leads the Majors in errors at any position with 18).

-Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant of late. He’s carrying an ERA barely over 1 in his last 5 starts since getting roughed up by the Braves and is currently holding a 2.36 ERA while striking out roughly the same amount of batters per 9 innings (12.98) as he did last season (12.93) when he hit 308 punchouts. At the rate he’s going, he may be in line to start his third consecutive All Star Game and perhaps land his first Cy Young Award (though Houston’s Justin Verlander may have something to say about that).

-David Price had been lights out prior to getting roughed up in his last two starts. Since the carpal tunnel problem, he had gone on a 7-start stretch where he was carrying an ERA of 2.63. Price seems to turn it on as soon as everybody starts talking about what a bust of a signing he was so perhaps we may see another string of stellar outings pretty soon.

-The Red Sox’ bullpen has quietly been pretty strong for the team, as they’re 6th in the Majors in bullpen ERA. That effort is spearheaded by Craig Kimbrel, who is again dicing up opposing hitters with a 2.02 ERA and 13.12 K/9. Matt Barnes has been going a bit under the radar for the team this year, as he’s carrying a 2.45 ERA with over 12 K/9 and actually has the same WAR as Kimbrel right now at 1.0. Hector Velazquez has been a welcome addition to the ‘pen, as his bullpen ERA is 2.91 and he’s also capable of making a spot start should the team need him.

-The Red Sox are tops in the Majors in runs scored and that’s despite the fact that they have gotten absolutely nothing out of their 6-9 hitters. The combination of Rafael Devers (who is admittedly starting to heat up a little bit), Eduardo Nunez, the catchers Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr have basically been liabilities this season. The Red Sox are basically only getting production out of Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Martinez, Moreland, and Bogaerts and they still lead the Majors in runs scored. But despite some of the poor hitting, some of these guys in the bottom of the order help your team in others ways. Jackie Bradley Jr is a magician in the outfield and quite frankly, I can give him some leeway for his hitting woes because of how good in the field he is (the fact he doesn’t have a gold glove is a crime). Christian Vazquez is basically impossible for base stealers to run on. Sandy Leon calls a very good game. Devers is a guy who can take you deep if you aren’t careful.

-Really the only black hole the Red Sox have had is at second base, where Eduardo Nunez has had a really tough season both offensively and defensively. He’s been losing a lot of playing time to Brock Holt, who is hitting a cool .296 at the moment but is best utilized as a swiss army knife. Dustin Pedroia’s knee problems have me VERY worried about his future and I wonder if the Red Sox will pursue a second baseman at the trade deadline (or just call up the recently signed Brandon Phillips).

So yeah, the Sox are really freaking good. But it’s going to be critical that they outpace the Yankees in the division, who currently hold the tie-breaker over them. The Yankees are just 2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East right now and with the new Wild Card stipulations, winning the division is that much more important. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ hot start in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Milwaukee Brewers

The deadline for the franchise tag has come and gone and here are the guys getting tagged: Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry, Lions edge rusher Ziggy Ansah, Cowboys edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner, Steelers runningback Le’Veon Bell, and the Bears hit corner Kyle Fuller with the Transition Tag. Out of all of these guys, we know the Dolphins are going to shop Landry. Everyone else is unclear. But with that, let’s get to this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Milwaukee Brewers.

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2017 Results:

Record: 86-76, 6 games behind Chicago Cubs, 1 game behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: CF Lorenzo Cain, LF Christian Yelich, SS Nick Franklin, SP Wade Miley, SP Yovani Gallardo, RP Matt Albers, SP Jhoulys Chacin, RP JJ Hoover, RP Boone Logan

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CF Lewis Brinson, SP Matt Garza, 2B Neil Walker, RP Jared Hughes, RP Anthony Swarzak, SP Wily Peralta

Best Offensive Player: CF Lorenzo Cain

Best Pitcher: CP Corey Knebel

Depth Chart:

C-Stephen Vogt, Manny Pina

1B-Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar

2B-Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard

3B-Travis Shaw, Hernan Perez

SS-Orlando Arcia

LF-Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun

CF-Lorenzo Cain, Keon Broxton

RF-Domingo Santana

SP-Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, Jhoulys Chacin

Bullpen-Corey Knebel (CP), Junior Guerra, Oliver Drake, Matt Albers, Boone Logan, Jeremy Jeffress, Josh Hader, Jacob Barnes

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Craig Counsell (4th season with Brewers)

Hitting Coach-Darnell Coles

Pitching Coach-Derek Johnson

1st Base Coach-Carlos Subero

3rd Base Coach-Ed Sedar

Bench Coach-Pat Murphy

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The Brewers were SO close to returning to the postseason for the first time since 2011 when they lost the NLCS to the eventual champion St. Louis Cardinals. It would’ve been as a Wild Card team, sure, but the opportunity was there. They were arguably the biggest breakout team in 2017, as they led the NL Central at the All Star break and really kept the Cubs at bay for much of the season before Chicago got hot at the right time. However, the Brewers decided that they were ready for the next step as they signed Lorenzo Cain away from the Royals and acquired Christian Yelich from the Marlins on the same day to bolster their already impressive lineup. Here’s how they’re projected to look in 2018.

1. Lorenzo Cain/Keon Broxton-CF

2. Eric Thames/Jesus Aguilar-1B

3. Christian Yelich-LF

4. Travis Shaw/Hernan Perez-3B

5. Domingo Santana/Ryan Braun-RF

6. Stephen Vogt/Manny Pina-C

7. Orlando Arcia-SS

8. Jonathan Villar/Eric Sogard-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

You might notice that basically every position in this lineup has a second player that could get significant playing time at that spot. Well that’s because offensively the Brewers might have the best depth in all of baseball. There are simply too many mouths to feed, which is a good problem for manager Craig Counsell to have. If Cain needs a breather, you have Keon Broxton to replace him, a guy who hit 20 home runs last season. If Travis Shaw twists his ankle, Hernan Perez can take over the hot corner. I mean this lineup is so deep that they don’t even have a guaranteed spot in the order for 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun. Braun’s 2017 wasn’t great as he dealt with injuries, but people forget he hit .300 and hit 30 home runs in 2016 so there’s still pop for the Brewers’ franchise home run king. So many guys broke out for the Brewers at the plate last season, too. Eric Thames returned to the Majors from overseas and set the baseball world on fire for the first month of the season, hitting 11 home runs in April (8 of which were against the Cincinnati Reds) and finishing with 31 on the year. Travis Shaw was dumped by the Red Sox for a reliever that has yet to pitch an inning for them and he exploded with his power stroke, as he hit .273 with 31 home runs and 101 RBI. If it weren’t for Rafael Devers’ emergence, I’d be very depressed as a Red Sox fan watching Shaw rake for the Brewers. Top to bottom this is a strong lineup that shouldn’t have any problems scoring runs. The one major concern will be whether this lineup is full of one-hit wonders and if that’s the case, then this could be a disaster. But I saw enough improvements made by this group to feel comfortable in their ability to continue their progress.

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Pitching might be a little tricky for the Brewers this season. Their best starter from last season, Jimmy Nelson, underwent shoulder surgery in September and it’s unknown when he’ll return, if at all. In the meantime there’s a lot of question marks. New acquisitions Wade Miley, Jhoulys Chacin, and the returning Yovani Gallardo have been very inconsistent these last few years. Miley has not been very good since he finished runner-up to Bryce Harper for 2012 NL Rookie of the Year while Chacin was at one point the ace of the Colorado Rockies and was inconsistent as the ace of the San Diego Padres last season. Gallardo was once the ace of the Brewers however he hasn’t had an ERA under 5.4 since 2015 and it doesn’t appear he’s really improved on anything. Chase Anderson was quietly very good for the Brewers last season, though, as he went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA and opponents only hit .220 against him. He may have to be the ace in Nelson’s absence. If the Brewers hope to contend for the postseason in 2018, this unit will need to step up.

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The Brewers did lose several good relievers in the offseason, such as Anthony Swarzak and Jared Hughes, however they replaced the departed with quality arms like Matt Albers and JJ Hoover. However the biggest story for the Brewers’ bullpen is Corey Knebel. Knebel was one of the best closers in the Majors last season as he saved 39 games while sporting a 1.78 ERA and struck out nearly 15 batters per 9 innings. I have to say that’s pretty good for a closer who had 2 career saves coming into last season. Setting him up might get a little tricky though. Albers was excellent with the Nationals last season but that came a year after posting an ERA over 6 so who knows what the Brewers are going to get with him. Josh Hader also burst onto the scene for the Brewers, posting a 2.08 ERA and struck out over 12 batters per 9 innings. But my favorite of the bunch is Oliver Drake, not for anything he does in particular, but because we went to the same high school (not at the same time, Drake’s about 8 years older than me). Yes, we’re both Northfield Mount Hermon Hoggers. He throws about 93 mph and he has a VICIOUS splitter, though his problem is that it seems like he has no idea where that pitch is going half the time. If he can gain some control, watch out.

Overall I think there’s a lot to like about the Brewers and I think they have a legitimate chance to reach the postseason. I don’t think they did enough to unseat the Cubs in the NL Central, but I do think they’re going to make them sweat. Last season the pitching was actually pretty good despite my criticism of them in this blog, as they posted the 9th best team ERA in the Majors at an even 4. However there’s a lot of uncertainty in their rotation especially with Jimmy Nelson’s injury status. Given how much pop there is in their lineup, though, I think finishing in the top half of the Majors in team ERA will be good enough to obtain a Wild Card berth.

Projected Record: 88-74, win 2nd Wild Card Spot, face Arizona Diamondbacks in Wild Card Round

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Minnesota Twins, who went from worst record in baseball in 2016 to a playoff team in 2017. Let me know what you think of the Brewers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Los Angeles Dodgers

Holy shit, Shaquem Griffin. Known primarily as UCF’s one-handed linebacker because he literally does not have a left hand, Griffin put on a show at the Combine. He did 20 bench press reps (he had to use a prosthetic left hand) and ran a 4.38(!) 40-yard dash, which is currently the 3rd fastest time of any player at the Combine, regardless of position. It’s also the fastest 40-yard dash time ever publicly recorded by a linebacker. I watched his Auburn game film and I knew he was fast but Jesus Christ! It’ll be interesting to see where teams value him in April. Now that I’ve got my Combine raving done, let’s get to the Dodgers for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

Record: 104-58, Won NL West by 11 games over Arizona Diamondbacks, defeated Diamondbacks in NLDS, defeated Chicago Cubs in NLCS, lost to Houston Astros in World Series

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Tom Koehler, OF Matt Kemp

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Tony Watson, SP Yu Darvish, OF Curtis Granderson, RP Brandon Morrow, RP Luis Avilan, OF Andre Ethier, SS Charlie Culberson, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Scott Kazmir, RP Brandon McCarthy

Best Offensive Player: SS Corey Seager

Best Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

Depth Chart:

C-Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal

1B-Cody Bellinger

2B-Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Corey Seager

LF-Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez

CF-Chris Taylor

RF-Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp

SP-Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Bullpen-Kenley Jansen (CP), Ross Stripling, Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, Adam Liberatore, Yimi Garcia, Pedro Baez, Tom Koehler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Roberts (3rd season with Dodgers)

Hitting Coach-Turner Ward

Pitching Coach-Rick Honeycutt

1st Base Coach-George Lombard

3rd Base Coach-Chris Woodward

Bench Coach-Bob Geren

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So close. The Dodgers were one win away from winning their first World Series since 1988 but their bats finally failed them in Game 7 against the Houston Astros. However they will be heavily favored to return to the Fall Classic and perhaps even to win the whole thing as they have about as deep a roster as any in Major League Baseball. They didn’t add very much in the offseason but they didn’t need to as it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. Here’s how the Dodgers will look to line up in 2018.

1. Chris Taylor-CF

2. Corey Seager-SS

3. Justin Turner-3B

4. Cody Bellinger-1B

5. Yasiel Puig-RF

6. Joc Pederson/Kike Hernandez-LF

7. Logan Forsythe/Chase Utley-2B

8. Austin Barnes/Yasmani Grandal-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Pretty damn solid if I do say so myself. Chris Taylor was a breakout star for the Dodgers last season. He hit .288 with 21 home runs, 72 RBI, and was worth 4.7 WAR after having had just one career home run prior to 2017. He appears to be slated to be their leadoff hitter this season. Corey Seager was tremendous as usual, as he hit .295 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI, and was worth 5.7 WAR as a follow-up to his amazing 2016 NL Rookie of the Year campaign. Justin Turner was also his usual terrific self in 2017, as he hit .322 with 21 home runs, 71 RBI, had the lowest soft-hit ball percentage in the Majors at just 9.8%, and was worth 5.5 WAR. The 33-year old just continues to get better with age. Cody Bellinger continued the long line of Dodger rookies of the year, as he took home the award in 2017 by hitting .269, an NL rookie record 39 home runs, drove in 97 RBI, and was worth 4.0 WAR. He struggled mightily in the World Series, as he struck out a whopping 17 times in 28 at bats, but that shouldn’t deter peoples’ opinions of just how good he was in 2017. There isn’t a single easy out in this lineup.

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If you try and convince me there’s a better pitcher on the planet than Clayton Kershaw right now, I’ll spit in your face. I mean for God’s sake, the man hasn’t had an ERA over 3 since his rookie year in 2008 and he didn’t even pitch enough innings for his ERA to qualify. Since then, his worst single-season ERA is 2.91 in 2010. Chris Sale’s best ERA was 2.90 last season. Kershaw doesn’t throw the hardest, his fastball is usually somewhere around 94 mph, but it’s the break on his slider and curveball as well as his pinpoint accuracy and the way he sets up hitters that make him the greatest pitcher on the planet. Plus he doesn’t turn 30 for another couple weeks. He recorded 2130 strikeouts before the age of 30. That’s just absolute insanity to me and he did it all while keeping his career ERA at an astoundingly low 2.36. To put that into perspective, I had a Road to the Show pitcher character who had all of his abilities maxed out. His career ERA was 2.41. They just don’t make them better than Kershaw. After Kershaw is a pretty solid rotation. Rich Hill is finally finding his groove as a pitcher in his late 30’s, as his curveball is one of the game’s very best. I thought he was used pretty poorly in the World Series, as despite pitching very well in both of his starts he never got out of the fifth inning. I thought Dave Roberts overmanaged in the World Series but that’s counterproductive to talk about at this point. Alex Wood also had a career year in 2017, as he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. I hate his jerky windup, but it clearly works for him and I can see how it can throw off hitters. I mean look at this thing.

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That windup is absolutely hideous but it clearly works.

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The Dodgers have one of the top bullpens in the game in addition to a stacked rotation. Kenley Jansen is arguably the best closer in the game and his 2017 season was a continuation of his dominance. He had a 1.32 ERA, recorded 41 saves, and struck out over 14 batters per 9 innings. Jansen is practically untouchable in the 9th inning although the Astros didn’t seem to have a problem with him, as he had a 3.12 ERA in the Fall Classic, though a lot of that can be attributed to Dave Roberts having him typically go longer than he normally does in games, as a lot of the damage done by the Astros came after Jansen had already pitched one inning. The Dodgers did lose quite a few pieces in their bullpen, such as Brandon Morrow, Luis Avilan, and Brandon McCarthy, but there are still several quality relievers left to set up Jansen. Ross Stripling struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings, Tony Cingrani had a K/9 of nearly 11, and Josh Fields had an ERA of 2.84. Pretty much all of these guys should have Roberts pretty comfortable with a lead late in the game, which should be something they’ll be used to given how potent their lineup is.

Overall, I expect the Dodgers to be the favorites to repeat as National League champions. They didn’t lose anybody of significant importance (unless you count Trade Deadline acquisition Yu Darvish, however he was only with the team for a couple months) from a team that won 104 games and was a win away from the World Series. They didn’t add much, either, however like I said at the outset, it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. This year might be a little more difficult for the Dodgers because the Diamondbacks look to be gaining on them in the division, the Rockies will be trying to repeat their breakout success, and the Giants totally reloaded in the offseason by acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. However I think the Dodgers are simply too deep to really be phased by this and I expect them to come out as NL West champs once again.

Projected Record: 100-62, Win NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Miami Marlins, who don’t seem to have changed a whole lot with new ownership, as they once again gutted their team the moment they showed promise. Let me know what you think of the Dodgers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

Some huge news in the college basketball world as some initial reports have been released regarding current and former players and improper benefits from either schools or agents. The biggest names listed are Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (as if Michigan State needed any more scandals), Alabama’s Colin Sexton, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers (attended Washington), Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers (attended Utah), and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks (attended NC State). The investigation is still ongoing so I’ll provide more details when more information is released. Also, a big trade was agreed upon between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, as the Chiefs are sending star cornerback Marcus Peters to LA for a package of draft picks. This just made an already good Rams defense absolutely terrifying. But today is 30 Clubs in 30 Days and I’m featuring the Boston Red Sox. As I’m sure readers of my blog are well aware, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I apologize if I go a little more in depth with them than other teams. I’m only human. So let’s get a look at the Red Sox’ chances in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, Won AL East over New York Yankees by 2 games, lost to Houston Astros in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF JD Martinez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young, RP Fernando Abad, RP Blaine Boyer, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Rajai Davis, SP Henry Owens, SP Doug Fister

Best Offensive Player: RF Mookie Betts

Best Pitcher: Chris Sale

Depth Chart:

C-Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

1B-Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez

3B-Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts, JD Martinez (DH)

SP-Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright

Bullpen-Craig Kimbrel (CP), Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Alex Cora (1st season with Red Sox)

Hitting Coach-Tim Hyers

Pitching Coach-Dana LeVangie

1st Base Coach-Tom Goodwin

3rd Base Coach-Carlos Febles

Bench Coach-Ron Roenicke

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The Red Sox regressed in a big way offensively in 2017. After scoring the most runs in the American League in 2016, they dropped off significantly and finished dead last in the American League in home runs. For a while, it didn’t look like they were going to do a whole lot to change things other than bring back guys from last year’s team (Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez). That was until they signed JD Martinez to a 5-year $110M deal. I won’t expand too much about his potential role in Boston, as I did so in the blog I just linked. Now they look to get back on track under rookie manager Alex Cora. Here’s a look at how the Red Sox are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia-2B

2. Andrew Benintendi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

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Now on paper that’s a pretty imposing lineup as long as they can return to their 2016 forms because only Christian Vazquez took a step forward at the dish in 2017. It’s an entirely new coaching staff with a different philosophy so it’ll be interesting to see how they do things. Alex Cora stated recently that he doesn’t really get the whole “lefty/lefty righty/righty” conundrum, stating something along the lines of “you’ve been hitting lefties all your life and now all of a sudden you can’t hit lefties when you reach the Majors? Doesn’t make sense to me.” He hasn’t even managed a meaningful game yet and I already love his style. But there is a ton of ability in this lineup if Cora and company can get the most out of it. The young stars have been nicknamed the Killer B’s, consisting of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi, all of whom can take over games when teams aren’t careful. Betts is the most dangerous of the bunch, as he was AL MVP runner-up in 2016 and despite taking a step back in 2017, was still their best hitter, batting .264 with 24 home runs, 102 RBI, 26 stolen bases, 32 DRS, and was worth 5.1 WAR. Bogaerts is another talented hitter but he’s also extremely streaky. When he’s hot, he’s impossible to get out. You’ll see 3-4 game after 3-4 game and his batting average will skyrocket up into the .350’s. But when he’s cold, you have to work your ass off to let up a hit to him. In fact, there was a long stretch in the middle of the season where Bogaerts was the worst statistical hitter in baseball. Jackie Bradley is another guy who can be streaky, like Bogaerts, but unlike Bogaerts, Bradley is an excellent defender at a premium position so when he’s not hitting well, he can still make excellent contributions in the field. I listed Bradley as the 9th hitter mainly because he’s had so much success in that position. In fact, it’s been a while since I updated this stat, but last I checked, Bradley was a career .346 hitter when batting 9th. Benintendi was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season and probably would have won it, too if Aaron Judge didn’t set the rookie record with 52 home runs and finished runner-up for AL MVP. Benintendi hit .271 with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, and 20 stolen bases while playing a solid left field. Another guy the Red Sox have to be excited about is third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers is a bad defender at the hot corner and I think that he’s going to have to eventually switch to either first base or start DH’ing before long. But he shows bat discipline well beyond his years (he turns 22 in October). Watching Devers’ at bats as a youngster, I noticed that he doesn’t try and do his own thing at the plate. He takes what the pitcher gives him and goes with the pitch. For example, he’s not going to try and pull everything. If he’s thrown a curveball low and away, he’ll wait patiently for it to get to him and will send it the other way. He’s a guy I’m really excited for in his first full season in a Red Sox uniform.

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The Red Sox pitching was fantastic in 2017, as they finished 4th in the Majors with a 3.73 team ERA. That was thanks in large part to their trade acquisition of Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in the 2017 offseason. Sale was an absolute monster in his first season in a Red Sox uniform, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. He was 5 strikeouts away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record, a record he likely would’ve broken had he been allowed to pitch his last start. However that start came at a time that would’ve affected his ability to start Game 1 of the ALDS so I think then-manager John Farrell made the right move there. David Price was battling injuries throughout the year but he was pretty solid when he was on the mound and even better when he was placed in the bullpen. He finished the year at 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA, which included an ERA of 0.00 in 5 relief appearances. A fully healthy season for Price would be huge for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello had a rough follow-up to his Cy Young-winning 2016 season, as he went 11-17 (most losses in baseball) with a 4.65 ERA. However he is still one of the more talented pitchers on the Red Sox roster and if he can return to form in 2018, that’s three aces at the top of the Red Sox rotation. And that’s without even mentioning Drew Pomeranz, who after a brutal first 2 months of the season, was absolutely terrific for the Sox. In the second half of the season, his ERA was 3.01, bringing his overall line to 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Not bad for your fourth starter.

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The Red Sox bullpen is also expected to be very strong, spearheaded by the American League’s Reliever of the Year in Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was dynamite in 2017, as he finished with 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA, and a Strikeout per 9 rate of 16.43, which is absolutely ridiculous. Provided Kimbrel can stay healthy, the 9th inning will be a sure thing for the Red Sox. It’s the rest of the bullpen that has some question marks. Joe Kelly had a breakthrough season as a reliever, including throwing the fastest pitch ever by a righty at 103.5 mph and finished with a 2.79 ERA but that was after being in the low 1’s for much of the year. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith hope to be big parts of the Red Sox bullpen but both guys are recovering from injuries. Smith was able to appear at the end of the 2017 season and he did pitch pretty well, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 8 appearances. Thornburg, however, has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox after being acquired from the Brewers in the Travis Shaw trade. He was Milwaukee’s closer prior to the trade so he’s another guy the Sox have to be excited for. The Red Sox could potentially have one of the top bullpens in baseball if they can stay healthy.

Overall, I think the Red Sox have a legitimate shot at a World Series. Basically every facet of their team could rank amongst the top 5 in baseball. The problem is going to be getting by the Yankees, who made the biggest move of the offseason when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Marlins. It’s going to be a fight to the death between those two teams. The return to form of the hitters in this Red Sox lineup will go a long way towards the success of Alex Cora’s first year as manager. If all goes well, this team could win 100 games.

Projected Finish: 95-67, Host AL Wild Card Game against Anaheim Angels

That’s going to do it for Day 5 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Chicago Cubs, who are looking to win the NL Central for the third straight season and will try and win their second World Series in 3 years. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ 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.

NBA Top 10 Players by Position

This is the next in my NBA season preview. You can check out my playoffs and awards projections here. In this, like my MLB postseason review, I will be ranking the top 10 players by position. All players on active rosters are eligible to make these lists, except for rookies, since they have yet to really show if they can make it in this league, however they will, of course, be eligible for the postseason version of this list, which will likely come out in April. As for the Top 100 that is set to be released tomorrow, I have yet to decide if I should break that up into smaller articles. Probably should get on that. Without further ado, let’s see the lists.

Point Guard

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The reigning NBA MVP, Russell Westbrook consistently stuffs the stat sheet for OKC (photo credit: NBA.com)

1.Russell Westbrook-Oklahoma City Thunder

2.Stephen Curry-Golden State Warriors

3.Kyrie Irving-Boston Celtics

4.John Wall-Washington Wizards

5.Isaiah Thomas-Cleveland Cavaliers

6.Damian Lillard-Portland Trail Blazers

7.Chris Paul-Houston Rockets

8.Kyle Lowry-Toronto Raptors

9.Kemba Walker-Charlotte Hornets

10.Mike Conley-Memphis Grizzlies

I was torn between Westbrook and Curry. On the one hand you have Curry, who drains shots like it’s nobody’s business and has some elite moves to go with it. On the other, Westbrook literally does everything well, as evidenced by his being the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple double for an entire season. I gave the nod to Westbrook since I have a soft spot for statsheet stuffers. 3-6 was pretty tight, and I would probably have IT a little higher if not for the hip injury that he’s dealing with that could cost him significant time to open the season. Kemba Walker has a special place in my heart because it was his UConn Huskies team in 2011 where I picked my first champion in a March Madness bracket. I’ve only done it twice, the other being Anthony Davis’ Kentucky team the following year, but I don’t brag about that one because literally everybody picked Kentucky that season.

Shooting Guard

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Since joining the Rockets, James Harden has been a scoring machine (photo credit: Grantland)

1.James Harden-Houston Rockets

2.Klay Thompson-Golden State Warriors

3.DeMar DeRozan-Toronto Raptors

4.Bradley Beal-Washington Wizards

5.Andrew Wiggins-Minnesota Timberwolves

6.CJ McCollum-Portland Trail Blazers

7.Avery Bradley-Detroit Pistons

8.Victor Oladipo-Indiana Pacers

9.Nicolas Batum-Charlotte Hornets

10.Devin Booker-Phoenix Suns

James Harden was a pretty easy selection for number 1 here for me. Despite the fact that he plays less defense than the Mountain in the Trial by Combat with Oberyn, Harden scores enough where I’m willing to look the other way. Also, he has a delicious candy that a coworker of mine randomly found at a mini mart down the street from where I work.

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James Harden was actually delicious

Gummi beards, I guess they’re called. They look terrifying but are actually quite good. After the top 6, this list got pretty difficult. I went with Avery Bradley at 7 and I think he is one of the most underappreciated players in the NBA. He plays fantastic defense and is quietly a very good shooter as well. Plus he has the respect of his peers:

One voter did claim that he left Bradley off of his All-Defense team because of the 70-point game by Devin Booker. Bradley did not play in that game.
Small Forward

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics

LeBron James is the best athlete perhaps in all of sports today (photo credit: Fortune)

1.LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers

2.Kawhi Leonard-San Antonio Spurs

3.Kevin Durant-Golden State Warriors

4.Paul George-Oklahoma City Thunder

5.Jimmy Butler-Minnesota Timberwolves

6.Gordon Hayward-Boston Celtics

7.Khris Middleton-Milwaukee Bucks

8.Andre Iguodala-Golden State Warriors

9.Otto Porter-Washington Wizards

10.Robert Covington-Philadelphia 76ers

LeBron James is a guy a lot of people like to compare to Michael Jordan, with many saying he’s better than MJ. I’m going to have to disagree with that, in fact, I would put Kobe ahead of LeBron. However, I think once LeBron is done I’ll have him above Kobe, maybe even Jordan. But with the body of work right now, he’s not there yet. That being said, LeBron is still the best player in basketball today, maybe even the best athlete in sports, period. As I wrote in my awards predictions yesterday, I have Kawhi Leonard taking home MVP honors this season. He is one of the more special talents I’ve seen in a while. I cringed at putting Kevin Durant at number 3, it just didn’t feel right. But in my heart and mind I feel that I would rather have LeBron or Kawhi than KD. Robert Covington is probably the more surprising entries on this list and that’s a shame. Sure, he’s not a household name by any means, but he’s a better player than most people give him credit for and I think that his name will gain more recognition should the 76ers improve the way I expect them too. However he will still be overshadowed by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz.

Power Forward

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Anthony Davis has been one of the most dominant forwards in the game since entering the league in 2012 (photo credit: SLAMonline)

1.Anthony Davis-New Orleans Pelicans

2.Giannis Antetokounmpo-Milwaukee Bucks

3.Draymond Green-Golden State Warriors

4.Kristaps Porzingis-New York Knicks

5.Blake Griffin-Los Angeles Clippers

6.LaMarcus Aldridge-San Antonio Spurs

7.Carmelo Anthony-Oklahoma City Thunder

8.Serge Ibaka-Toronto Raptors

9.Julius Randle-Los Angeles Lakers

10.Harrison Barnes-Dallas Mavericks

Anthony Davis’ unibrow is one of the most recognizable body features in all of sports, if not the most. Right up there with James Harden’s beard or Dennis Rodman’s…whatever it is he’s feeling like having on his body on a particular day. This may be because my brain is just geared towards sports, but anytime anyone mentions a unibrow (or monobrow, if you’re weird), I immediately think of the one living on Davis’ face. Davis is more than just a unibrow, though. He’s perhaps the most dominating forward in the game on both ends of the court. Giannis (please don’t make me write out his last name again) is one of the craziest athletes I’ve ever seen. He can make his body do things that just aren’t natural. I mean, look at this:

That’s just not right. Carmelo Anthony comes in here because he’s slated on the Thunder depth chart on RotoWorld as the team’s power forward despite playing small forward in Denver and New York. I’m still not totally convinced that Big 3 in OKC is going to work. Serge Ibaka’s a guy you can’t sleep on, especially since his 3-point shot has gotten better every season. He might not be as prolific as he was with the Thunder, but anytime you have a big that can defend the paint and pop threes, you’re going to have a good time.
Center

Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves

KAT has revolutionized the center position in the NBA (photo credit: Stack.com)

1.Karl-Anthony Towns-Minnesota Timberwolves

2.Rudy Gobert-Utah Jazz

3.DeAndre Jordan-Los Angeles Clippers

4.Hassan Whiteside-Miami Heat

5.Kevin Love-Cleveland Cavaliers

6.DeMarcus Cousins-New Orleans Pelicans

7.Joel Embiid-Philadelphia 76ers

8.Nikola Jokic-Denver Nuggets

9.Marc Gasol-Memphis Grizzlies

10.Al Horford-Boston Celtics

Karl-Anthony Towns, like Ibaka, is a sharpshooting big man who actually beat Isaiah Thomas in the NBA Skills Challenge a couple of years ago. Considering that IT is one of the fastest and quickest players in the game with great passing and shooting abilities, it’s no wonder Towns tops this list. Rudy Gobert is a guy I don’t think gets enough love, as I wrote yesterday in my awards predictions, and I think he got robbed for Defensive Player of the Year. Full disclosure, I totally forgot about Kevin Love while making this list at first, though to my credit, the Cavaliers plan on moving him to center and having Tristan Thompson come off the bench this year with the arrival of Jae Crowder in the IT-Kyrie trade (both Thompson and Crowder barely missed out on these lists). But Love is still one of the best big men in the game despite the fact that he’s kind of become the Chris Bosh of this Cavs team, being the big man that doesn’t get enough respect for what he brings to this team. Joel Embiid is a guy I just couldn’t leave off this list despite the fact that if he blinked wrong he’d be out for an unknown period of time. He’s just such a wonderful dude. How many guys can wear their own jersey to a night club and everybody still loves him for it?

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Where’s Joel? (photo credit: Twitter)

Guarantee you if any other player did that they would get crucified. But not Embiid. Nikola Jokic is another guy who is under the radar, but that tends to happen when you’re an eastern European with a difficult name to pronounce. The guy had a big season for the Nuggets last year and could be a sneaky contender in the Most Improved Player list.

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