Checking in on my MLB season predictions

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

Predicted Records:

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

Boston Red Sox                  95-67                                       108-54                           +13

New York Yankees             98-64                                      100-62                            +2

Tampa Bay Rays                 68-94                                      90-72                              +22

Toronto Blue Jays               78-84                                      73-89                              -5

Baltimore Orioles               81-81                                     47-115                            -34

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

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

Cleveland Indians                 99-63                                          91-71                               -8

Minnesota Twins                   84-78                                          78-84                               -6

Detroit Tigers                        64-98                                           64-98                               Nailed it

Chicago White Sox                70-92                                          62-100                            -8

Kansas City Royals                74-88                                          58-104                             -16

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

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

Houston Astros                 101-61                                      103-59                             +2

Oakland Athletics              77-85                                       97-65                               +20

Seattle Mariners                85-77                                       89-73                                +4

Anaheim Angels                 86-76                                      80-82                                -6

Texas Rangers                   82-80                                        67-95                               -15

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

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

Atlanta Braves                     71-91                                     90-72                             +19

Washington Nationals        95-67                                     82-80                             -13

Philadelphia Phillies           75-87                                     80-82                             +5

New York Mets                     84-78                                     77-85                             -7

Miami Marlins                      62-100                                   63-98                            +1

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

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

Chicago Cubs                       94-68                                            95-67                              +1

Milwaukee Brewers           88-74                                            95-67                              +7

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

Pittsburgh Pirates               76-86                                            82-79                              +6

Cincinnati Reds                   69-93                                             67-95                              -2

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

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

Colorado Rockies                    81-81                                        91-71                              +10

Los Angeles Dodgers             100-62                                       91-71                              -9

Arizona Diamondbacks         91-71                                        82-80                               -9

San Francisco Giants              85-77                                        73-89                              -12

San Diego Padres                     70-92                                        66-96                              -4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MLB Trade Deadline Recap

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In all honesty, I actually forgot that yesterday was the trade deadline. I had some work-related things to take care of. BUT, as soon as I was done with that, it hit me and I scoured the internet for everything that happened during the Trade Deadline. Now to be clear, teams can still trade after this, however a trade can only occur after a player clears waivers. But this was the end of straight-up trades. So let’s take a look at 10 trades and what they mean for everyone involved.

10. Detroit Tigers trade CF Leonys Martin to the Cleveland Indians for prospects

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers

This trade was a little funny to me because I literally JUST saw Martin play centerfield for the Tigers AGAINST the Indians on Saturday. I had luxury box seating for that game, which the Tigers won 2-1 (the picture above is actually from that game). Martin didn’t really do anything in that game, just thought it was funny to me. Centerfield has been a black hole for Cleveland this season and while Martin doesn’t necessarily fill that hole, he does represent an improvement over what the Tribe had been sending out there all season.

9. Minnesota Twins trade SP Lance Lynn to the New York Yankees for 1B Tyler Austin

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

Aside from Luis Severino (who has been ice cold of late), the Yankees have had mediocre starting pitching this season. They already added JA Happ from Toronto and now they add Lance Lynn from Minnesota. However, Lynn is in the midst of the worst season of his career, as he currently carries an ERA of 5.10. Prior to this year, he had yet to record an ERA over 3.97 for an entire season so the talent is certainly there. They send Tyler Austin to Minnesota, who is most notable for getting his ass kicked by Red Sox reliever Joe Kelly. Probably good for Austin’s safety getting him out of Kelly’s division. Gotta’ love it when teams have a player’s best interests in mind.

8. Toronto Blue Jays trade CP Roberto Osuna to the Houston Astros for Ken Giles and prospects 

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

This is basically a swap of problematic closers for both teams, both of whom for VERY different reasons. For the Astros, Ken Giles has struggled so much that he actually got demoted last week. Osuna is working his way back from an 80-game suspension as a result of a domestic violence incident from back in early May. However, up until then, Osuna had been one of the game’s best closers, posting 2.93 ERA (2.05 FIP) with 9 saves in 15 games. So we’ll see how they deal that in the coming weeks.

7. Baltimore Orioles trade SP Kevin Gausman and RP Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for prospects and $2.5M in international signing bonus money

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Gausman has flashed the talent to be an ace but hasn’t been able to put it all together for an extended period of time. Darren O’Day is a submarine pitcher with vicious offspeed stuff that can make him a real asset to a team on a playoff run like the Braves. The Braves didn’t give up a ton to acquire them, though it was smart of the Orioles to get international signing bonus money in return, as they had very little to speak of and would struggle to sign international prospects in the future without the added boost. A good rebuilding move by Baltimore.

6. Baltimore Orioles trade 2B Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Jonathan Villar and prospects

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles

Jonathan Schoop has struggled mightily this season but over the last couple years, he has been one of the best power-hitting second basemen in the game. The Brewers hope that by giving him a change in venue he will return to the 2017 form that saw him hit .293 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI. If he can do that, the Brewers will be right back at the top of the NL Central, where they had spent most of the season prior to being eclipsed by the Chicago Cubs recently.

5. Anaheim Angels trade 2B Ian Kinsler to the Boston Red Sox for prospects

Philadelphia Phillies v Boston Red Sox

As I’ve said before, second base has been a black hole for the Red Sox and acquiring a 4-time All Star like Ian Kinsler won’t fix all of those issues, but he will certainly be an upgrade over the incumbent Eduardo Nunez. The 36 year-old Kinsler is hitting .239  with 13 home runs but is far superior defensively to Nunez. Aside from Mitch Moreland at first base, the Red Sox have really struggled defensively on the infield so a glove like Kinsler’s will be very welcomed even if he’s not the same guy who would average 20-20 seasons in Texas.

4. Tampa Bay Rays trade C Wilson Ramos to the Philadelphia Phillies for a PTBNL and cash

Tampa Bay Rays v Miami Marlins

I’m surprised how little it cost the Phillies to acquire Ramos from the Rays, especially considering he was supposed to start this year’s All Star game for the American League. I mean, I guess the fact that he’s currently injured would diminish his value, but a guy who can hit like he can and man the backstop the way he does should theoretically command more than a PTNBL and cash. But Michael Brantley was the PTBNL when the Brewers acquired CC Sabathia from the Indians for some prospects and the PTBNL so maybe that one becomes a gem (David Ortiz was a PTNBL before his MLB debut with the Twins in 1996).

3. St. Louis Cardinals trade CF Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays for prospects

St. Louis Cardinals v Cincinnati Reds

I don’t understand this move from Tampa’s perspective. They appear to be a team that is selling despite their decent record (53-53 before the start of play on July 31) yet the acquire a talented outfielder like Tommy Pham from St. Louis. They traded Ramos and another player I’m going to get into soon, suggesting that they were blowing the team up, yet they add a Major League talent in Pham. Pham hasn’t been nearly as good this year as he was last year, but he still possesses the talent both offensively and defensively to be a major contributor.

2. Minnesota Twins trade 2B Brian Dozier to the Los Angeles Dodgers for 2B Logan Forsythe and prospects

Minnesota Twins v Toronto Blue Jays

Brian Dozier is struggling mightily this season but he is still one of the deadliest second basemen if you aren’t careful. Dozier has hit 30 homers in each of the last two seasons, including 42 in 2016. Now he joins the Dodgers, who need help at second base, which has been a consistent revolving door for the last couple seasons. But look at this infield the Dodgers are now boasting, provided everyone performs to their abilities:

1B-Max Muncy/Cody Bellinger

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Manny Machado

Yeah. Just what the Dodgers needed. More talent.

1. Tampa Bay Rays trade SP Chris Archer to the Pirates for SP Tyler Glasnow and CF Austin Meadows

Miami Marlins v Tampa Bay Rays

This was a surprising move despite the fact that there had been rumblings about it for the last few days or so. Chris Archer had been rumored to be on the move for years now but the Rays had been hesitant to do so since Archer is not only one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he’s also had a big impact on the community. But with the haul the Pirates sent for Archer’s services, how do you say no? Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows are two of the best prospects in baseball. Glasnow has struggled in his brief stints in the Majors while Meadows is hitting .292 in his 49-game stint in the Majors. Pittsburgh’s recent 11-game winning streak likely prompted management to rethink their playoff odds as they’re now only a few games behind in the Wild Card hunt and 7.5 games out of the NL Central lead. But this is a BIG risk the Pirates are taking here because they are essentially mortgaging their future on one playoff run where they aren’t even in the driver’s seat. Luckily for them, though, Archer is under contract through 2021 so even if they miss out this year, they’ll have him for a couple more potential runs.

So another Trade Deadline has come and gone. Did you like the moves your team made or didn’t make? Or is your GM destroying your team from the inside? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.

The Red Sox Designate Hanley Ramirez for Assignment

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This came as an absolute SHOCK to me. At no point was I hearing ANY rumblings in regards to Hanley possibly being on the way out. With the rise of Mitch Moreland, I figured Hanley’s playing time was going to diminish, especially considering he wasn’t hitting as well in May as he was in April, but this is still an absolute shock. The move comes in order to make a roster spot for Dustin Pedroia, who is coming off the Disabled List and is expected to play this weekend against the Braves. Obviously Pedroia is going to have a roster spot but I figured other guys would be more likely to get the shaft. For example, Blake Swihart has barely played this season and is kind of just occupying space on the 25-man roster that could be used for a guy that will do something. He’s probably out of Minor League options, but still. Eduardo Nunez was another guy I figured could’ve gotten the shaft as he has struggled MIGHTILY this season. But Hanley? Never once crossed my mind.

Ramirez signed a 4-year $88M deal with the Red Sox prior to the 2015 season, the same team that developed him in the Minor Leagues before trading him to the Florida Marlins for a package that included Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Ramirez became a star with the Marlins, was eventually traded to the Dodgers after the move to Miami, then hit free agency and cashed in with the Red Sox. He had a tough 2015 season in Boston, as he was transitioning to left field. He was absolutely ATROCIOUS in the field and you could tell he just wasn’t having fun in Boston. Then 2016 happened and he was like his former self again after a move to first base. He wasn’t a great first baseman in the field, but he was good enough. However his bat was really going as he hit 30 bombs and drove in over 100 RBI and he looked like he was having an absolute blast. After the retirement of David Ortiz, Ramirez became the everyday DH and his struggles at the dish re-emerged. In 2018, new manager Alex Cora decided what Ramirez needed was a confidence boost and slotted him third in the batting order. For a while, it was working magically. In March and April, Ramirez hit .330 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI. However he fell off a cliff in May, batting .163 with 3 home runs and 12 RBI, including being currently on an 0-for-21 stretch. Overall, Hanley hit .254 with 6 home runs, 29 RBI, and -0.1 WAR. Now he’s been DFA’d, which means the Red Sox have 7 days to trade him or he gets claimed by another team, or they can demote him or release him. I doubt a team is going to claim him as he’s in the final year of a contract that pays him $22M a year and they’d be required to pay all of what remains on that deal. The Red Sox won’t keep him in the Minor Leagues so I’ve got to imagine he’s getting released unless another team is desperate enough to offer a trade to Boston. Hanley also had a clause in his contract that stated that he would gain a fifth year if he reached 497 plate appearances. He’s currently at 195 and worth negative-WAR so I understood why they were hesitant to give him a lot of plate appearances.

So what’s next for Hanley? I doubt he’ll remain teamless for long, especially considering how good he was in April. Teams will probably wait until he’s a free agent so that they’re not on the hook for the rest of the money he’s owed (which the Red Sox will be). Teams that need a first baseman include the Rockies, Orioles, and Twins. Hanley is also a capable DH option for an American League squad.

As for the Red Sox, Mitch Moreland is most certainly going to take over the everyday first baseman duties. Currently, Moreland is slashing .311/.390/.612 with 7 home runs and 22 RBI and is worth 1.2 WAR, which would tie him for 4th best in the Majors if he had enough plate appearances to qualify (only Brandon Belt, Freddie Freeman, and Joey Votto are better). Dustin Pedroia is going to resume his duties at second base while Eduardo Nunez gets relegated to a utility role. I anticipate the typical Red Sox lineup looking something like this.

1. Mookie Betts-RF

2. Dustin Pedroia-2B

3. Andrew Benintendi-LF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

With how hot Benintendi has been of late, it wouldn’t shock me to see him move into the 3-hole to replace Hanley, which would also do well to break up the string of right-handed hitters that would be coming up.

So that seems to be the end of the Hanley Ramirez era in Boston. I’m being legitimately honest when I say that I really did enjoy it. That’s going to do it for this update, let me know what you think of the DFA’ing of Hanley Ramirez in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 18

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-49ers linebacker Reuben Foster seems to be on the fast track to getting cleared of all charges. A little while ago, Foster allegedly assaulted his girlfriend so badly that he ruptured her ear drum and the charges he was facing could potentially land him in prison for up to 11 years. Well the “victim” gave her testimony where she basically stated that Foster never hit her and that she was actually the one who hit him (with a coat hanger) and that she wanted to “end him.” Now there is a possibility that she was paid “hush money” but I’m the type of person who will believe otherwise until it is proven to be true. But if the girlfriend did fabricate the story to try and derail Foster’s career, then quite frankly I’m sickened. Not only is she essentially trying to destroy an innocent man’s life, but she’s also making it harder for real victims to step forward. The reason there are people who will question victims of domestic assault is because of people like this chick who fabricate stories out of revenge. As long as people like this exist, there will people who will question the legitimacy of other assault victims and that’s just heartbreaking. That’s all I’m going to go into on the matter. It’s a sports blog.

-The Cleveland Browns have been chosen as this year’s Hard Knocks team and quite frankly, I’m kind of excited. It’s going to be risky choosing a team that’s coming off an 0-16 season but the Browns made so many moves in the offseason that they legitimately look like they could be halfway decent in 2018. There are also some legitimate personalities and some interesting storylines to boot. You can already tell that Baker Mayfield and Josh Gordon are going to be the stars of this show simply for their pasts and personalities. Hue Jackson, I feel, is going to be hit or miss. He’s been on Hard Knocks before as a runningbacks coach with the Bengals and he wasn’t that memorable so I’m interested to see if there’s going to be anything out of him. The best parts of these types of shows are coaches with personalities, which is a big reason why the 2010 Jets edition is pretty much unanimously considered to be the best season of Hard Knocks. Todd Haley and Gregg Williams are Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, respectively, so if Jackson doesn’t bring the energy to the show, these two will. The Browns were an excellent choice by HBO.

-So it’s the middle of May and at the top of the NL East Standings are the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, separated by just a game. What the Hell is going on out here? With Atlanta, it’s been the young guns, particularly Ozzie Albies, who is absolutely DESTROYING the ball through a month and a half, slashing .283/.320/.598 with 13 home runs and 31 RBI. His 13 home runs place him in a 6-way tie for the MLB lead and he leads the NL with 40 runs scored (next closest is Charlie Blackmon and Chris Taylor with 31). And he’s just 21 years old. Then there’s Ronald Acuna, who has picked up right where he left off after a big Spring Training, slashing .275/.348/.500 in his first 20 games. He’s 20 years old. These guys have lit a spark in this Atlanta lineup and it helps that Nick Markakis is having a HUGE year, slashing .333/.408/.518. Markakis hasn’t been relevant since 2014 so his presence on this Atlanta ball club has been huge for their turnaround. As for the Phillies, it seems like so long ago that Gabe Kapler was reportedly on the hot seat just 6 games into his big league tenure. Since toning it down after a rough first couple series, the Phillies have quietly been near the top of pretty much all major categories and are playing damn good baseball despite the fact that their prize offseason acquisition, Carlos Santana, is batting a measly .192. If the season were to end today, both clubs would make the playoffs. Might I remind you that these two teams finished in the cellar of the division last year. Crazy what difference a year can make.

-The Carolina Panthers are set to be bought by David Tepper, a hedge fund billionaire for $2.275 billion. This is a record purchase of an NFL franchise, eclipsing the $1.4 billion mark set by the Pegulas when they purchased the Buffalo Bills a few years ago. P Diddy, Steph Curry, and Colin Kaepernick all expressed interest in purchasing the Panthers when they went up for sale after sexual harassment allegations arose against now-former owner Jerry Richardson. But it’s going to be Tepper, a guy who I know literally nothing about except for what I read on an NFL.com article. But apparently he takes credit for coining the phrase “it is what it is,” which if that’s the case then I probably owe him some kind of royalties. Tepper does have experience in ownership to a degree, as he previously held a 5% stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, which he will now have to sell. So it’ll be interesting to see if there’s some kind of culture change in Carolina.

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: Atlanta Braves

The big story outside of baseball for me today is the fact that Dallas Mavericks owner and Indiana alumnus Mark Cuban got fined $600K by the NBA for openly admitting that it was in the Mavericks’ best interest to tank this season. I mean, he’s right and bad teams tanking is not some unknown phenomena going around, it’s pretty well established at this point. But you can’t openly say that’s what your team is doing, especially considering the league sees tanking as a big issue and is trying to take steps to prevent it. That being said, the $600K fine is ENORMOUS overkill. Let’s take it easy, here, Adam Silver. I know Cuban wipes his ass with $600K, but you’re setting a pretty rough precedent here. Tanking really isn’t THAT bad for the league, I actually think it’s good for eventual parity, as it ensures the top college prospects aren’t going to the teams that are already absolutely loaded already. Speaking of tanking, we are in Day 3 of my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and today we’re focusing on the Atlanta Braves. Let’s take a look at how the Braves are projected to do in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 72-90, 3rd in NL East, 25 games behind Washington Nationals, 15 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Peter Moylan, C Chris Stewart, RP Chase Whitley

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Jason Motte, RP Ian Krol, 1B Matt Adams, SP RA Dickey, 2B Jace Peterson, 3B Adonis Garcia, CP Jim Johnson

Best Position Player: 1B Freddie Freeman

Best Pitcher: Julio Teheran

Depth Chart

C-Tyler Flowers, Kurt Suzuki, Chris Stewart

1B-Freddie Freeman

2B-Ozzie Albies

3B-Johan Camargo, Rio Ruiz

SS-Dansby Swanson, Charlie Culberson

LF-Lane Adams, Preston Tucker

CF-Ender Inciarte

RF-Nick Markakis

SP-Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Sean Newcomb

Bullpen-Arodys Vizcaino (CP), Peter Moylan, Rex Brothers, Chase Whitley, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, Dan Winkler

Coaching Staff

Manager-Brian Snitker (2nd Season with Braves)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Seitzer

Pitching Coach-Chuck Hernandez

1st Base Coach-Eric Young

3rd Base Coach-Ron Washington

Bench Coach-Walt Weiss

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I’m not going to sugarcoat things, it’s going to be a long season for the Braves. The thing I would look forward to the most if I’m a Braves fan is the later part of the season, August-Septemberish, when they start making their September call-ups because their farm system is absolutely loaded and it’d be exciting to see what kind of young talent the team has for the future. Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies were the first in this talented group to really get their first taste of action but the Braves also feature Ronald Acuna (MLB.com’s #2 prospect), Kyle Wright, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Kolby Allard, and Max Fried, all of whom could get their shot with the big club this season. Something worth noting, all those guys I just mentioned with the exception of Acuna are pitchers so perhaps the Braves may be in for a Mets-like rotation within the next couple of years. But offensively, Atlanta is going to struggle. Here’s how they’re projected to look to start the season.

1. Ender Inciarte-CF

2. Ozzie Albies-2B

3. Freddie Freeman-1B

4. Nick Markakis-RF

5. Tyler Flowers-C

6. Dansby Swanson-SS

7. Lane Adams-LF

8. Johan Camargo-3B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Not good. Not good at all. One thing I pride myself in is knowing who everybody in baseball is. I’m sorry to report that going into this blog I had no idea who Lane Adams and Johan Camargo were. It’s bad that you have one guy I’ve never heard in your starting lineup but these guys have two. Plus they’ll be featuring Nick Markakis near the top of their order, who hasn’t been worth more than 2 WAR since 2014. The only positives are Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman. Granted, they are HUGE positives for this lineup, but not enough to get them out of the bottom third of the league in runs scored like they were last season. But these two guys really are the only offensive threats the Braves have right now. Inciarte is one of the most underrated centerfielders in baseball both defensively and offensively. Last season, Inciarte hit .304 with 11 home runs, 57 RBI, 22 stolen bags, a DRS of 5 in centerfield, and a WAR of 3.0. Meanwhile Freeman continued to put himself in the discussion for best first basemen in the game as he hit .307 with 28 home runs, 71 RBI, slugged .586, and was worth 4.5 WAR despite battling injuries all season. But if the Braves are going to head in the direction they need, Dansby Swanson has to take the next step forward. The former #1 overall pick that the Braves traded Shelby Miller to the DBacks to acquire (a trade that would an all-timer of a steal if he can develop) struggled in his first full season of action, hitting just .232 with 6 home runs and 51 RBI with -7 DRS and only had a WAR of 0.1 in 144 games played. Not good at all. He is a very talented player but another season like that could be really damaging for the Braves’ rebuilding process.

during a game  at Marlins Park on September 28, 2017 in Miami, Florida.

Pitching is not a strong suit for the Braves either. Julio Teheran is easily the most talented pitcher on the roster but he’s also the most inconsistent. His seasons seem to always be good-bad-good-bad. Last year he had a career-worst ERA of 4.49 a year after making the NL All Star team in 2016 and finishing with an ERA of 3.21. Teheran also had an ERA of 2.89 in 2014 but followed that up with an ERA of 4.04 in 2015. Based on that trend, it appears that 2018 will be a strong season for Teheran but the rest of the Braves staff leaves much to be desired. Mike Foltynewicz (pronounced FOLT-in-EV-ich) is very talented but he hasn’t been able to put that talent together for a full season. You’ve also got over-the-hill starters like Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir who were basically the excess from the Dodgers’ pitching staff that they were trying to get rid of. Once upon a time both guys were quality starters (in Kazmir’s case, an ace), but nowadays they’re just drifting off towards the sunset.

There are some decent pieces in the Braves’ bullpen that I think could be assets for playoff-caliber teams. Arodys Vizcaino has some really dominant stuff and pitched well last season with a 2.83 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Newly-signed Peter Moylan is an underrated middle relief guy who, despite being 39 years old, can still pitch well, as he had an ERA of 3.49 last year with the Royals. He’s one of those submarine pitchers, which I have noticed tends to add a couple of years to a pitcher’s career as long as they can remain productive. He could be a guy that can help the Braves out late in games. There’s also some young talent in that bullpen such as Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman, and Dan Winkler who could quietly have strong seasons for the Braves’ ‘pen.

Overall, I don’t expect much out of the Braves this season, but I’m sure they’re well aware of that. But their plethora of prospects is so loaded that I don’t think they’re going to suck for a whole lot longer provided their coaches can properly develop them (Swanson’s 2018 season will be a big barometer for whether or not these guys are up to the challenge). The only thing that’s really going to keep them out of the cellar of the NL East this season is a healthy Freddie Freeman because he’s such a good hitter that he can take over games if you’re not careful. Unfortunately, there is absolutely zero protection around him right now so if he’s on a hot stretch, opposing pitchers have literally no incentive to pitch to him. This season is basically an opportunity for the organization to see what the younger guys can do and plan for the future.

Projected Finish: 71-91, 4th in the NL East

That’s going to do it for Day 3 of the 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Join me tomorrow on my 22nd birthday where I will be previewing the Baltimore Orioles, who are kind of in no-man’s land at the moment, as the front office will have some HUGE decisions to make when July rolls around. Let me know what you think of the Braves’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: February 16

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-Eduardo Nunez is returning to the Red Sox on a 1-year deal with an option for a second year, pending a physical. At the time of this writing, it’s unknown how much money he’ll be making. As a Red Sox fan, I’m very pleased that the team is bringing Nunez back aboard. After acquiring him at the trade deadline from the Giants, Nunez went on an absolute tear for the Sox, hitting .321 with 8 home runs and 27 RBI in just 38 games while playing DH, 3B, 2B, and SS. Probably the main reason he went this long without being picked up by anyone was because he’s 31 years old and he struggled with injuries at the end of the season, including a scary knee injury during his first at bat of the 2017 ALDS against the Astros when he was trying to beat out an infield single. As of right now, I expect that Nunez is going to play second base for the Sox to start the season, as Dustin Pedroia is still recovering from offseason surgery and may not be ready to go until May. This also presents an interesting conundrum as it pertains to JD Martinez. The Red Sox were one of the last teams really in on him and they refused to budge on their 5-year $125M offer and now that they’re bringing back a guy who was really productive for them, it seems that there isn’t really a place in the lineup for Martinez. The only other team I can think of that is still pursuing him is his most recent team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are reportedly trying to get creative with their payroll to try and make room to bring him back.

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-AJ McCarron won his grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals and will become a free agent this offseason and possibly one of the more sought-after ones at that. After winning two National Championships as Alabama’s starting quarterback, McCarron was graded as a second-round pick (by me) but fell all the way to the fifth when he was taken by the Bengals in the 2014 NFL Draft. McCarron is most notable for when commentator Brent Musberger was drooling over his then-girlfriend-now-wife Katherine Webb on national television. However McCarron got his chance to shine late in 2015 and he performed reasonably well. He started three games, winning two of them while completing almost two-thirds of his passes and throwing 6 TDs against only 2 picks and a QB rating of 97.1. Not bad for a guy getting his first taste of NFL action. However he hasn’t made a start in the last 2 seasons as Andy Dalton has enjoyed perfect health with the Bengals despite their abysmal offensive line. However, things got very interesting as the Bengals had an agreement in place with the Browns to send McCarron to Cleveland in exchange for draft picks. However that trade fell through as the Browns failed to notify the league of the deal before the deadline and McCarron was to remain in Cincinnati in a classic Browns move. McCarron apparently filed the grievance pertaining to the 2014 season, when the Bengals placed him on the Non-Football-Injury list despite passing all his physicals. So now McCarron joins a free agent class of quarterbacks that includes Drew Brees (let’s be serious though, he’s not leaving New Orleans), Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown, etc. So there are going to be some options here. But I have to imagine the Browns are going to go after him hard, which would be huge for them if they’re able to land him. As I mentioned before with the botched trade, the Browns would still acquire McCarron without having to surrender any draft picks thanks to this move. So perhaps the Browns making a fool of themselves was a blessing in disguise?

-It’s the Chinese New Year and this year is the Year of the Dog, so here are some pictures of my dogs. The black lab is named Izzy, the mutt is Fred.

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-Left-handed pitcher Jaime Garcia inked a 1-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays worth $10M with a club option for a second year. Garcia had a very interesting 2017 season. He started the year with the Atlanta Braves, pitched kind of ‘meh,’ got traded to the Twins, made one start, then got traded to the Yankees a week later. He played for three teams, was traded twice, and now has a 1-year deal with the Blue Jays. Garcia isn’t a bad pitcher, he’s had some success in the past, most notably with the Cardinals. But he’s a guy who showed a lot of promise early in his career but just never really got better. He’ll probably be at the back of the Blue Jays’ rotation but we’ve seen Toronto take underachievers in the past and make something out of them (see: Marco Estrada, JA Happ).

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-Indians pitcher Danny Salazar will likely miss the start of the regular season due to shoulder inflammation during his offseason workout program. Normally I would say this is a huge blow given how talented Salazar is, but the Indians have a ton of depth behind him that has gotten plenty of experience, especially considering he’s been banged up each of the last couple seasons. The Indians already have 2-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer as well as Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger to round out the rotation. The weak link is Clevinger, who will likely either be moved to the bullpen or demoted to the minors upon Salazar’s return, but he’s a guy who could probably safely be a member of most other pitching rotations. The Indians can afford to let Salazar take his time in his recovery.

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-Larry Fitzgerald announced that he will return for his 15th NFL season, which is awesome because he is so close to climbing into the ranks of football immortality. He’s 390 yards away from passing Terrell Owens for second most all time (and about 7000 yards behind the leader, Jerry Rice) and is 92 catches away from passing Tony Gonzalez for second most of all time (about 200 behind Rice, which is actually kind of doable if Fitzgerald can hang on for a couple more years). Fitz has been one of my favorite receivers in the league since 2008 when he went on that amazing postseason run that nearly propelled the Arizona Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl victory and he’s such a good dude off the field that you really root for him to achieve these milestones. He’ll get the 390 yards pretty easily, maybe within the first two weeks of the season. The catches mark might be a little tougher but he did catch 109 passes as a 34-year old last season so it’s not out of the question.

That’s going to do it for this edition of general sports, let me know how cute you think my dogs are in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.