2018 MLB Season Preview

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

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Season Predictions:

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

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

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

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

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

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2017 Results:

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

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

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

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

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

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

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

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

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

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

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

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

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

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

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

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

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

World Series Game 7 Recap

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

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

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

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

-We also got this from Carlos Correa:

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

-And here we have the final out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Prediction:

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

World Series Game 6 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Prediction:

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

World Series Game 5 Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Here is the walkoff single from Alex Bregman.

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

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

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

Pitch 1: Home Run by George Springer

Pitch 2: Line Drive single by Alex Bregman

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

Pitch 4: Altuve doubles into left-center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Cody Bellinger hit this home run:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Prediction:

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

World Series Game 4 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 4. Tony Watson was the winning pitcher, Ken Giles got the loss. The series is tied 2-2 heading into game 5. Some thoughts:

-Words cannot express how important Alex Wood’s performance was for the Dodgers. The bullpen was depleted and they needed him to go deep in this ballgame. While I wouldn’t call 5.2 innings deep, per se, the quality of those innings cannot be overstated. He was no-hitting this potent Astros lineup for 5.2 innings before serving up a laser home run to George Springer.

But he gave the Dodgers what they needed and while he didn’t get the winning decision, he was arguably the most important Dodger in this game.

-It seemed at first that Cody Bellinger hadn’t learned a thing from the last few games of this World Series, as he continued to look lost against that low curveball running in. But he finally snapped out of it in the 7th inning when Charlie Morton hung him a curveball and he was able to put it in the gap in left center. The FOX mics were able to pick him up saying “it’s a miracle” as he looked to the heavens. He had been 0-13 with 8 strikeouts in the World Series leading up to that at bat. His next time up?

Hopefully for the Dodgers this is what their rookie first baseman needed to break out of that slump.

-One fact about Bellinger’s 9th inning go-ahead double: it was the first time all postseason that the Astros trailed at home, a Major League record (over 70 innings, I don’t have the exact number at the moment).

-Dave Roberts did a lot less managing in this game and trusted the guys he had in there to get the job done and his faith was rewarded with a big victory. I thought he did much better managing his bullpen, as now he’s got plenty of options available tonight for Game 5.

-Something has to be done about Ken Giles. Coming into this appearance he had an ERA over 8 in the postseason and he let up 3 runs in this game without recording an out. This late in the season, I’m not so sure there’s a legitimate solution to his problem other than just sitting him down and bringing in other guys to shut the door, such as Chris Devenski or Will Harris.

-I wrote for Game 2’s blog that I didn’t like Roberts’ decision to put Joc Pederson on the World Series roster instead of Curtis Granderson. Once again, Roberts shows he knows more about baseball than I do.

Pederson has hit 2 clutch home runs this postseason, the first one came in Game 2 to knot it up off of Justin Verlander, this time to give the bullpen some breathing room, which was much needed considering Jansen let up a solo home run to Alex Bregman in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs.

-Speaking of Bregman, don’t run on him.

He did something similar to this in Game 7 of the ALCS, only the play was much tougher in that one than this one. The Dodgers are going to have to rethink their strategy when it comes to runners on third with less than two outs. Maybe freeze on a chopper to third.

-Charlie Morton gave a repeat performance of Game 7 of the ALCS, going 6.1 innings, allowing 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, and 7 K’s. The one run was Bellinger on this Logan Forsythe game-tying single.

It was his reliever Will Harris allowing the inherited runner to score that was the only blip on Morton’s line. He gave a fantastic performance and one has to think we haven’t seen the last of him in this World Series as well as Alex Wood (neither pitcher is scheduled to start the remainder of the Series, we may see both in relief in Games 6 or 7).

-Alex Bregman’s home run has to have Dodger fans worried about Kenley Jansen (my apologies, I can’t find the footage of the blast). Jansen has been getting tagged by Astros hitters all Series and you’ve got to be nervous about his ability to shut the door in a clincher. But Jansen is also the best closer in the NL and I think he finds a way to figure it out. But this is the second time in his career that he’s allowed home runs in back-to-back appearances (he allowed a home run to Marwin Gonzalez in Game 2 that tied the game and sparked the insanity).

-One more note on Bregman. He has hit four home runs this postseason. Two were hit off Chris Sale in the ALDS. One was off Clayton Kershaw in Game 1. The most recent was off Jansen. 3 superstar pitchers couldn’t keep Bregman in the park this postseason. Note to self, if you’re going to pitch to Bregman, send in someone bad.

-Both Astros hits in this game left the yard. The long ball has been king in this series, as 15 home runs have been hit already between the two teams in these 4 games.

-Yuli Gurriel will serve a 5-game suspension in 2018 for his racist gesture at Yu Darvish’s expense in Game 3. Rob Manfred explained that the reasoning behind this was that it would be unfair to his Astros teammates to infringe on their World Series hopes because of the actions of one player. The Astros have stated that the forfeited salary by Gurriel for those 5 games will be donated to charity. I’m not sure how I feel about this suspension. On the one hand, I like that MLB didn’t want to disrupt the competitive balance of this nail biting World Series by suspending a hitter that bats in the middle of the team’s lineup. On the other, it’s unfair of Gurriel to put his team in that situation by making the idiotic gesture and he should pay for what he did. Though I did read an article on Barstool Sports by Jared Carrabis that stated that no matter what, the destruction of Gurriel’s image is punishment enough because now he’s the guy who was racist towards Yu Darvish, one of the nicer guys in the league.

-Joe Buck and John Smoltz also mentioned during the game that AJ Hinch called Dave Roberts to apologize for Gurriel’s actions. It turns out, Roberts’ mother is Japanese. Roberts said he wasn’t surprised that Hinch made that phone call because that’s the type of guy he is.

-It’s also worth noting that Gurriel was a non-factor in this game. He hit into a double play in his first at bat and never seemed to make any good contact all night. I wonder what the media response to the suspension would be if Gurriel had himself a Hell of a game, say 2 home runs, including 1 in a clutch moment. Luckily for Major League Baseball’s PR team, Gurriel’s bat was nowhere to be found in this game.

-We may need to keep an eye on Justin Turner. There was a ball that skipped on him and hit him in the knee and it was clearly bothering him. He had to get pinch run for in the 9th inning, which oddly enough was the only substitution Roberts made to his lineup all game.

Looking Ahead:

Game 5 is a rematch of Game 1. The Dodgers will send Clayton Kershaw to the mound to face Dallas Keuchel of the Astros. Both guys were excellent in Game 1, Kershaw going 7 strong innings allowing 1 run (Bregman homer) and striking out 11. Keuchel let up 3 runs in his 6.1 innings of work, all on home runs to Chris Taylor and Justin Turner. Kershaw has a career ERA of 3.19 at Minute Maid Park in 5 career starts and will pitch with an even series, much like he did in Game 1. Keuchel had an ERA of 2.26 in 11 home starts this season with 6 wins so I expect a low-scoring affair.

Prediction:

It’s going to be tightly contested, but I think the Dodgers ride the momentum from their 5-run 9th inning and take Game 5 from the Astros to go back to LA up 3 games to 2. I think Kershaw is going to give the Dodgers another stellar performance and I think he will give the bullpen a well-deserved rest (except for maybe Jansen and Brandon Morrow, the latter of which has appeared in every game this World Series). I also think Keuchel will be really good in opposition of Kershaw, but I think a timely home run will be the difference. I’m going to predict a 3-2 Dodger victory.

World Series Game 2 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

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

Now that that’s gotten its due:

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

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

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

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

-The Dodgers used every single member of their bullpen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Puig’s reaction was pretty great too.

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

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

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

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

Some other notes from this game.

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

Baseball is weird.

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Prediction for Game 3:

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

 

World Series Game 1 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

The Los Angeles Dodgers won their first World Series game in 29 years by a score of 3-1 over the Houston Astros. Clayton Kershaw was the winning pitcher, Dallas Keuchel was saddled with the loss, and Kenley Jansen converted the save, the 12th straight save to start a postseason career, longest streak in MLB history. Some takeaways from the game:

-This game only took 2 hours and 28 minutes. As Joe Buck pointed out, it was the shortest World Series game since Game 4 of the 1992 World Series. Somewhere, Rob Manfred is trying to blame all the “ectoplasm” on a “spooky ghost.”

-Only 3 players on either World Series roster combined had ever played in a World Series prior to Tuesday night (Justin Verlander and Carlos Beltran for the Astros, Chase Utley for the Dodgers) and none of them started in this game (Beltran had a pinch hitting appearance in the 8th). Only Utley has a World Series ring.

-Can’t start much better than the Dodgers did. First pitch thrown by Keuchel to Chris Taylor nearly left Dodger Stadium.

Taylor is only 6’1 195 pounds, he should not be hitting a baseball that freaking far. That’s Stanton territory. Granted, the fact that it was 103 degrees probably helped (hottest World Series game ever).

-Can’t say enough about Clayton Kershaw. He was a machine all night. Not only did he strike out 11 batters, but he was also able to do it with minimal energy spent. He only threw 83 pitches over 7 innings of work. He easily could have gone all 9 had Dave Roberts not decided to play it safe and use his all-world bullpen. He’d had his struggles in the postseason in past years but they were non-existent tonight. The Astros, particularly George Springer, had no answer for him.

-Except maybe Alex Bregman.

This was the one mistake Kershaw made all night. A 1-1 93 mph fastball right down the middle isn’t going to miss too many bats, no matter how good you are and Bregman was able to tie the game up in the fourth. Bregman was the only hitter all night who seemed to have any semblance of success against Dodgers pitchers, as he also had a long at bat against Kenley Jansen before hitting a line drive to center that stayed in the air just a little too long. Also one thing to note about this home run. After it was hit, Kershaw had to face the heart of the Astros order in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel. He struck them all out. The great ones respond when adversity strikes.

-The Dodgers got a lot of contributions out of the leadoff spot. Taylor was hitting the ball hard all night, even on his outs, and he drew a 2-out walk to set up this Justin Turner go-ahead home run in the sixth.

-The Astros did not have the same luck. George Springer was 0-4 with 4 strikeouts in his World Series debut. 3 of which were against Kershaw.

-Kershaw’s final line was 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 11 strikeouts. As I said before, he totally could have gone the complete game, but you can’t really fault Roberts for playing it safe.

-The Dodgers relievers were almost as impressive. Brandon Morrow was untouchable in the 8th inning, consistently hitting 98-100 mph on his fastball. Kenley Jansen looked a little wild at times in the 9th, but he didn’t allow any baserunners so you can’t really complain if you’re a Dodgers fan.

-You can complain if you’re an Astros fan, though. Brad Peacock had to have been frustrating you, as he kept trying the same pitch over and over and over and over again (slider low and away). Dodgers hitters never swung at it once yet he still kept going to it. He only faced two hitters, walking Logan Forsythe and getting Austin Barnes to fly out, but his pitch locations left a lot to be desired.

-Chris Devenski, on the other hand, was dynamite. He pretty handily struck out pinch hitter Charlie Culberson and Justin Turner. It took a nice running catch by Springer to retire Taylor, but otherwise Devenski’s performance had to be encouraging for AJ Hinch

-Lost in all this was the performance of Dallas Keuchel. A lot of guys making their World Series debut would cave when they serve up a home run on the very first pitch. But Keuchel kept his cool. After that home run, the Dodgers couldn’t seem to get a good swing off the Astros ace. He only finished with 3 strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work, but from Justin Turner’s at bat in the first inning until his home run in the 6th, Keuchel was forcing weak contact and ground balls left and right. In fact, the Astros turned 3 double plays in the first 6 innings. But that won’t be remembered because of the two home runs, which didn’t even come on bad pitches, they were just better swings by the hitters.

-Corey Seager looked like it hurt him more emotionally to not play in the NLCS than the physical pain he felt in his back because he was swinging early and often, and it seemed to work for him. He went 2-3 with 2 hard-hit singles. I was a little surprised to see him in the starting lineup given the injury, but there he was batting 6th. I wonder if this performance has Roberts considering moving him up in the lineup for Game 2 against Justin Verlander.

-Home Plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was consistently giving the low strike all night, even if it was a little bit too low, such as on Altuve’s strikeout or on one call against Cody Bellinger. That plays into both pitchers’ strengths, which John Smoltz pointed out several times throughout the broadcast. Cuzzi’s zone might have been a little low, but he was consistent with it and called it fairly both ways. If an umpire is going to have a strikezone that’s too big or too small, I want him to be consistent with it so I know what to expect. Cuzzi did just that, so I don’t mind the calls. I thought the umpiring crew had a solid game, though there weren’t really any hard calls to make.

Looking Ahead:

-Dont expect the Astros offense to get shut down in Game 2 like they did in Game 1. Dodgers Game 2 starter Rich Hill is a good pitcher, but he isn’t Kershaw. He throws a LOT of curveballs so the Astros will have to be a lot more patient with Hill than they were with Kershaw. The Astros were the number 1 offense in baseball in both runs scored and batting average this season so I don’t expect they’ll be down for too long.

-Don’t sleep on Hill, either. He went 12-8 with a 3.32 ERA in the regular season and has an ERA of 3.00 in the playoffs this year. He’s got one of the best curveballs in the Majors and he uses it a lot.

-Astros will send out Justin Verlander, who is coming off an absolutely dominant ALCS, where he went 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA. This will be his third Fall Classic, so I don’t think he will have the jitters that some of these other guys will. I expect him to continue his postseason dominance.

Game 2 Prediction:

I think we’re going to get another low-scoring affair with a fast pace. However I think this time it will go in the Astros’ favor. Sure both teams are unbeaten at home this season, but the World Series is a whole different kind of animal and nobody will be more ready for this than Justin Verlander. There wasn’t a whole lot of action on the bases in Game 1 (not counting the three home runs hit between the two teams, I don’t think either team ever once had a runner standing on third base) as all scoring was done via the long ball. We may see that again in Game 2. I’m going to pick the Astros to knot up the series with a final score of, oh I don’t know…..2-1.

 

2017 World Series Preview: Astros vs Dodgers

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

Starting Pitchers:

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

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

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Bleacher Report

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

Bullpen:

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

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

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

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

Catcher:

Dodgers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes

Astros: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH)

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

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

First Base:

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger

Astros: Yuli Gurriel

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Yahoo Sports

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

Second Base:

Dodgers: Chase Utley, Logan Forsythe

Astros: Jose Altuve

Advantage: Astros

Jose-Altuve

photo credit: Baseline Times

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

Third Base:

Astros: Alex Bregman

Dodgers: Justin Turner

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

photo credit: Dodgers Nation

Advantage: Dodgers

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

Shortstop:

Dodgers: Corey Seager*, Charlie Culberson

Astros: Carlos Correa

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

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

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

Outfield:

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

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

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

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

Score: 4-4 Dodgers-Astros

Tie Breaker: Manager

Dodgers: Dave Roberts

Astros: AJ Hinch

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: MLB.com

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

My World Series Pick: Dodgers in 7

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

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