30 Clubs in 30 Days: Texas Rangers

Former USC quarterback Sam Darnold reportedly had a really good pro day (in the rain, no less), where a significant portion of the Browns’ staff was in attendance. This makes it all the more likely that Darnold will be the top pick in the draft next month. My preference is still former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, however he has publicly stated that he does not want to play for the Browns so I think it’s more likely he ends up with the Jets at number 3 or the Broncos at number 5. Also, the Giants traded defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers for some draft picks, so perhaps North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb may wind up being the second overall pick. But with that, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, as we begin to wind down with the Texas Rangers.

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2017 Results:

Record: 78-84, 23 games behind Houston Astros, 7 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Bartolo Colon, SP Doug Fister, SP Matt Moore, RP Mike Minor, 2B Darwin Barney, 3B Trevor Plouffe, C Curt Casali, RP Shawn Tolleson, SP Tim Lincecum

Notable Offseason Subtractions: CF Carlos Gomez, SP Andrew Cashner, 1B Mike Napoli, SP AJ Griffin, SP Miguel Gonzalez, SP Nick Martinez, SP Tyson Ross, 2B Phil Gosselin

Best Offensive Player: 3B Adrian Beltre

Best Pitcher: Cole Hamels

Depth Chart:

C-Robinson Chirinos, Juan Centeno

1B-Joey Gallo

2B-Rougned Odor, Jurickson Profar, Darwin Barney

3B-Adrian Beltre, Trevor Plouffe

SS-Elvis Andrus

LF-Drew Robinson, Ryan Rua

CF-Delino DeShields

RF-Nomar Mazara, Shin Soo Choo (DH)

SP-Cole Hamels, Doug Fister, Matt Moore, Mike Minor, Martin Perez, Jesse Chavez, Bartolo Colon

Bullpen-Alex Claudio (CP?), Jake Diekman (CP?), Matt Bush (CP?), Keone Kela, Jose LeClerc, Tony Barnette, Tim Lincecum

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Jeff Banister (4th season with Rangers)

Hitting Coach-Anthony Iapoce

Pitching Coach-Doug Brocail

1st Base Coach-Steve Buechele

3rd Base Coach-Tony Beasley

Bench Coach-Don Wakamatsu

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The Rangers had a tough season in 2017. After back-to-back division titles in 2015 and ’16, both of which concluded with unceremonious ALDS exits against the Blue Jays, they fell on hard times and ultimately had to start gutting the team, first by shipping off their ace Yu Darvish and then catcher Jonathan Lucroy. There may be more in store should the team struggle to compete in 2018, which I think they will given how tough the AL West is expected to be this season. Here’s how I’m expecting the Rangers to line up this season.

1. Delino DeShields-CF

2. Elvis Andrus-SS

3. Adrian Beltre-3B

4. Joey Gallo-1B

5. Nomar Mazara-RF

6. Shin Soo Choo-DH

7. Rougned Odor-2B

8. Robinson Chirinos-C

9. Drew Robinson/Ryan Rua-LF

There’s some pop in this lineup that will surely be enhanced by the conditions in Arlington, Texas. Joey Gallo is an interesting case here as he was a huge power threat, hitting 41 home runs and slugging .537. It’s this power that made Gallo worth a very respectable 2.9 WAR despite having the fourth-worst batting average in the majors at .209. Only Baltimore’s Chris Davis struck out at a higher frequency than Gallo’s 36.8%, but again, pretty much all of Gallo’s hits seemed to go for extra bases. In fact, 62 of his 94  hits (66%) were of the extra base variety. He hit more home runs (41) than singles (32). So despite the fact that Gallo doesn’t get a ton of hits, when he does he makes them count. Elvis Andrus quietly had his best season in 2017. He hit .297 with a career high 20 home runs (his previous best had been 8) and drove in 88 RBI while stealing 25 bags. He also played a quality defensive shortstop and had a career best 4.1 WAR. Rougned Odor is a guy I’ve never been a huge fan of (though you have to admit, that was a beautiful right hook on Jose Bautista) and last season he left a lot to be desired. He had the second worst batting average in the Majors at .204, the worst OBP at .252, and was worth -1.0 WAR despite hitting 30 home runs for the second straight season. He also played in all 162 games so it wasn’t like his performance was harmed due to injury. This seems to be more of an approach issue than anything and is something that he has to work on if he hopes to continue to be a part of this lineup. And of course, we can’t forget Adrian Beltre, one of the most underappreciated stars of the last 20 years. In fact, Beltre will be entering his 21st Major League season, which is amazing considering he’s not even 40 yet (he turns 39 in a few weeks). Beltre recorded his 3000th hit last season, a double down the left field line, and despite battling injuries that led him to playing his fewest games in a season since his rookie year, he still managed to hit .312 with 17 home runs and 71 RBI and playing his exceptional third base. His on-field antics are also the stuff of legend and have made him one of my all-time favorite players in this league. It will be a sad day when he finally decides to hang up the cleats. I just hope he can get a World Series win before he’s done.

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Pitching for the Rangers could get problematic. Cole Hamels is still an ace-level pitcher, though his 2017 season was a far cry to what he had done in the past. He had an ERA of 4.20 and struck out a career-worst 6.39 batters per 9. He turns 35 just after Christmas so perhaps he may be headed toward a steep decline, which should have Rangers fans nervous because after him there isn’t much to go off of. Doug Fister was a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox last season, but he was their 7th starter and really only joined the rotation because David Price and Steven Wright got hurt. However he did manage a 4.88 ERA, which isn’t good but his FIP was almost an entire run lower at 3.98. However if that’s your #2 starter, you’re in trouble. Matt Moore hasn’t lived up to the promise he showed as a rookie and had the worst ERA in the Majors last season among qualifiers with the Giants at 5.52. Things don’t get any easier as he moves from the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park to the very hitter-friendly Ballpark at Arlington. I also want to touch on Martin Perez real quick. Perez suffered an elbow injury in December after a bull at his ranch in Venezuela charged at him. How did Perez respond to this? He killed the bull and ate it. It’s unknown whether Perez will be ready to go for Opening Day, however this story is a good way to force hitters to take note of you.

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The Rangers bullpen is interesting. There hasn’t been a declared closer but there are so many options available. Alex Claudio had a strong 2017 with a 2.50 ERA though a low 6.10 K/9. Matt Bush continues to shed the “biggest draft bust of all time” label as he had a 3.78 ERA while striking out almost 10 batters per 9. The team also signed 2-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum to compete for the closer’s role. As of right now, I would say the favorite to land the job is Claudio, given he’s had the most recent success and he’s the reliever manager Jeff Banister went to the most last season and therefore has the most trust in. Though I think the Rangers would benefit in using a closer-by-committee kind of rotation where they have the left-handed Claudio appear in the 9th if the three batters due up are lefty-heavy and the right-handed Bush for when they’re righty-heavy.

Overall, I don’t expect the Rangers to compete too hard in this division. They’re way behind their in-state rival Astros in terms of talent and they didn’t do enough in the offseason to fend off the Angels and Mariners, either. If the Rangers aren’t competitors by the time the trade deadline rolls around, I would expect them to be sellers and begin their rebuild.

Projected Record: 82-80, 4th in AL West

That record could really fluctuate depending on how things go. It’s more of a place-holder, kind of like what I did with the Orioles. I would put more stock in the divisional finish rather than the actual record. That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when we go north of the border with the Toronto Blue Jays who, like the Rangers, are also at kind of a crossroads and will have some real decisions to make at the trade deadline. Let me know what you think of the Rangers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Oakland Athletics

Some little bits of news to discuss before I get into the A’s. Lance Lynn signed with the Twins, bolstering their rotation, and the Patriots traded for Browns nose tackle Danny Shelton. With Lynn gone, the only real free agents left of significance are Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Greg Holland. As for Shelton, the former 12th overall pick was a disappointment in Cleveland but I think he fits New England’s system a lot better, as they like to use a true nose tackle a lot more often than Cleveland does, which is what Shelton is at 6’3 345 pounds. And the big news of course is Richard Sherman agreeing to sign with the 49ers on a 3 year $39M deal. So without further ado, let’s get to this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Oakland Athletics.

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2017 Results:

Record: 75-87, 26 games behind Houston Astros, 10 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Stephen Piscotty, C Jonathan Lucroy, DH Brandon Moss, RP Ryan Buchter, RP Yusmeiro Petit

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Ryon Healy, SP Jesse Hahn, DH Chris Carter, RP John Axford

Best Offensive Player: DH Khris Davis

Best Pitcher: Kendall Graveman

Depth Chart:

C-Jonathan Lucroy, Bruce Maxwell, Josh Phegley

1B-Matt Olson, Brandon Moss

2B-Jed Lowrie

3B-Matt Chapman

SS-Marcus Semien

LF-Khris Davis (DH), Matt Joyce

CF-Dustin Fowler, Boog Powell

RF-Stephen Piscotty, Mark Canha

SP-Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mendgen, Andrew Triggs, Paul Blackburn

Bullpen-Blake Treinen (CP), Yusmeiro Petit, Chris Hatcher, Santiago Casilla, Liam Hendriks, Ryan Dull, Ryan Buchter, Danny Coloumbe

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bob Melvin (8th season with Athletics)

Hitting Coach-Darren Bush

Pitching Coach-Scott Emerson

1st Base Coach-Al Pedrique

3rd Base Coach-Matt Williams

Bench Coach-Ryan Christenson

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I feel like the Athletics are just the most obscure team in baseball and the only reason they really get any sort of attention is because of Moneyball, both the movie and the book. Otherwise, I doubt anybody would ever pay them a second thought. They don’t have any superstar players and they won’t compete for the postseason but they also won’t be so bad that they’re a talking point. They’re just kind of there. Here’s a look at their lineup to prove my point.

1. Jed Lowrie-2B

2. Stephen Piscotty-RF

3. Matt Chapman-3B

4. Khris Davis-DH

5. Matt Olson-1B

6. Jonathan Lucroy-C

7. Marcus Semien-SS

8. Matt Joyce-LF

9. Dustin Fowler/Boog Powell-CF

Jonathan Lucroy was considered one of the top catchers in the game for a while, but he had a down year in 2017. Having split time between the Rangers and Rockies, Lucroy hit .265 with 6 home runs and 40 RBI and a 1.2 WAR. He just agreed to a 1-year deal with the A’s a couple days ago and as of this writing, Lucroy has not been officially introduced as an Oakland A. If he can bounce back and return to his 2016 form, the heart of the A’s order could be deadly. Khris Davis has been an absolute monster at the plate since the A’s acquired him from the Brewers prior to the 2016 season as he’s had back-to-back 40 home runs seasons in Oakland. He’s been extremely consistent in his two years there, as he hit .247 in both seasons while hitting 42 home runs in 2016 and 43 in ’17, and was worth 2.4 WAR in ’16 and 2.3 in ’17. So you kind of know what you’re going to get with Davis in an A’s uniform. Where the projection comes into play is from the two Matt’s in this A’s lineup: Chapman and Olson. Chapman made his Major League debut last season and despite a low batting average of .234, he slugged .472, showcasing a pretty good power stroke while also playing excellent defense at third base. His 19 DRS in 84 games would’ve led all AL third basemen had he played enough to qualify and would’ve ranked just behind Nolan Arenado for best in baseball. As for Olson, he played 59 games for the A’s last season and hit 24 home runs, which equates to a 65 home run season over 162 games. He also plays above average defense at first base, being worth 4 DRS in his limited action. Both he and Chapman are two guys the A’s organization is really excited about. Centerfield is the one position in this lineup that is a question mark as to who is going to man it. Dustin Fowler is a highly rated prospect that the A’s acquired from the Yankees in the Sonny Gray deal at last year’s trade deadline while Boog Powell is a guy they acquired from the Mariners in exchange for Yonder Alonso around the same time. Fowler is notable as being the Yankees prospect who injured his knee in his first big league game last season and was shelved for the remainder of the season. He has yet to have his first big league plate appearance. Powell played in 52 games last season and hit a solid .282 while playing a good defensive outfield. I think I’m going to give the slight edge to Powell to be the Opening Day starter but I think it’s going to be Fowler in the long run.

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This is probably one of the least sexy pitching rotations in the Majors but it could also be one of the more underrated. Kendall Graveman is likely going to be the ace at the start of the season but he would probably be the #3 or 4 starter on most other teams. He’s not bad, his ERA is consistently in the low-4’s, but he’s not the guy you’re going to breathe a sigh of relief for when you see that it’s his turn in the rotation. The guys the A’s are hoping develop this season are Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton. Manaea was one of their top prospects and he’s gotten some significant action the last couple years. He had a 3.86 ERA in his 2016 rookie season and 4.37 last year, however that number was inflated due to a rough second half, as he had an ERA over 5 after the All Star break. He’s a talented lefty that the A’s hope can be their future ace. Cotton is another guy with a lot of talent but hasn’t quite figured out how to pitch in the Majors just yet. He debuted in 2016, making 5 starts and he pitched really well in those outings, posting a 2.15 ERA. He got a chance to pitch a full season in 2017 and he didn’t have nearly as much success, pitching to a 5.58 ERA in 24 starts. A lot of that was due to a very high HR/9 rate of 1.95, which would have led the Majors had he pitched enough innings to qualify. The dimensions of Oakland Alameda County Coliseum are pretty neutral towards hitters and pitchers so you can’t really blame the high home run totals on a bad pitcher’s ballpark like you can with Coors or Chase Field so Cotton’s going to have to work on not leaving the ball over the heart of the plate if he’s going to take the next step.

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The A’s bullpen has some decent pieces. Blake Treinen is going to be the closer and he was inconsistent in 2017, as he had an ERA well over 5 prior to being traded to Oakland by the Nationals. However upon joining the A’s, Treinen returned to his 2016 form by posting an ERA of 2.13 in 35 games, recording 13 saves in the process. If Treinen can keep that up, the A’s should feel very comfortable with a close lead in the 9th inning. After him, newly-acquired Yusmeiro Petit is a solid reliever and Santiago Casilla was at one point a stud closer across the bay with the Giants. One guy who could be a wildcard for the A’s is Ryan Dull. Dull had a very strong 2016 season, posting an ERA of 2.42, however he struggled mightily in 2017 despite an increase in his K/9, posting an ERA over 5. He’s a guy who has shown closer potential and can be a real asset to this bullpen if he can get more consistent.

Overall, I think I’m slowly talking myself into this Oakland team. On paper they’re not very impressive, but a lot of this will depend on how their young guys perform, particularly Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, and Dustin Fowler. If those guys can build on the promise they showed last year, Oakland could be a sneaky team in a tough AL West. I don’t think they’ll make the playoffs, but I can see them as a potential sleeper in the American League. If their young talent can continue to improve, I think the A’s could be my darkhorse team much like the Rockies were last season.

Projected Record: 77-85, Last in AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. I’m on Spring Break now and I’ll be partying it up in Fort Lauderdale but that doesn’t mean I won’t be keeping up with the blog. I’ll make sure I have each post scheduled before I go out so never fret. Join me tomorrow where I preview the Philadelphia Phillies, who have a lot of young talent just waiting to get an opportunity. Let me know what you think of the A’s chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Is There Any Punishment More Pointless than Vacating Wins?

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Not that I can think of. That’s going to do it for today’s blog let me know what you think of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

 

 

Oh…I guess you wanted something a little more…in depth. Fine. Well as you may remember (or not, because I certainly forgot there was an issue), Notre Dame just received their punishment for a cheating scandal from the 2012-13 seasons after an appeal they made back in 2016. That’s the judicial process for you. The punishment? Their 2012-13 seasons never happened. The NCAA vacated all 21 of their wins in those two seasons, which included an appearance in the BCS National Championship game after the 2012 season where they lost to Alabama. Allegedly what happened was a student athletic trainer gave improper benefits to 8 football players. More specifically, he did a significant amount of schoolwork for 2 players and gave impermissible aid to 6 others. So because an athletic trainer helped these kids cheat on their homework, the NCAA gets to say that their championship run didn’t happen which is just ridiculous. Now, based on a couple of articles I’ve read, we were not provided the names of the specific players involved in the cheating scandal, however it is noted that of the guys involved in the scandal, three of the eight players involved played while they should have been ineligible and of those three, one played in the National Championship.

Now, I’m more than willing to admit that I don’t have any perfect ideas for how to fix this, but there has to be a better way to go about things. Since the players involved had already moved on from the program prior to the NCAA’s investigation, it doesn’t really make sense for them to punish them since it won’t affect the program. But trying to tell the public that two seasons didn’t happen? Give me a break. College football fans aren’t stupid, unless they root for Purdue. It’s not like WWE where you can retcon certain things to fit the storylines you want to tell. This is college football where legacies and stats matter and fans don’t forget so easily. The 2012 season completely reinvigorated Notre Dame football and brought them back to relevance after years of being totally mediocre under Charlie Weis. You’re not going to make people forget so easily. So what punishment is there? Because I’m not trying to sit here and say there shouldn’t be some sort of retribution. Cheating on your schoolwork isn’t fair to the rest of the students/athletes that put in the work to get their education. But punishing the university isn’t fair to the players who were abiding by the rules by trying to devalue their efforts and it’s not fair to the coaches whose legacies and reputations could be tarnished because some guys decided to take shortcuts. The punishments should only apply to the people involved.  But you can’t exactly retroactively fine these guys because they weren’t paid by the university in the first place. I do have one idea for a punishment, though.

Revoke their degree. I know it sounds harsh and may not even be do-able, as I don’t know how this stuff works with degrees (or anything for that matter, since a miscommunication with my adviser is likely going to result in me graduating later than expected), but hear me out. They didn’t do the work themselves, so the credits that they had towards graduation in which these classes were cheated in should be taken away. They’d have to retake the courses at a community college because from what I understand about cheating, that’s pretty much going to get you kicked out of college. So I’d totally get it if they wanted to say “you’re not welcome back here.” A retroactive expulsion, if you will. Now of course, this is imperfect. It’s entirely possible that the players involved in the cheating scandal declared early for the NFL Draft and wouldn’t have their degree anyway. The credits could still be taken away, but I really don’t have an answer to the issue of players that didn’t have their degree anyway. You could probably just say they’re not welcome at the school anymore, which could be huge for some guys as college pride is still a big thing, especially at a university like Notre Dame. At least with this, only the offenders are punished and not the entire program.

It just sucks to see the NCAA take away wins because not only is it not a real punishment because non-Purdue college football fans aren’t stupid.  But also because it tarnishes legacies. If Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly were to be up for induction into the college football Hall of Fame, they wouldn’t be allowed to include the 2012 run as part of his credentials because some dumb kids decided they’d cheat and they just got caught too late. Like how is that fair to anyone? And don’t even get me started on the whole vacating awards because Reggie Bush won the 2005 Heisman Trophy and there’s nothing you can do or say to convince me otherwise. Yet the NCAA vacated it because he took some money to help his family that was living in poverty. The NCAA is just deciding to let these things happen without trying to come up with a better solution and it’s really frustrating to me that we’ve been dealing with these issues for so long and they still haven’t been able to come up with anything. Sure my revocation of degrees isn’t perfect, but I think it at least gives a little more fairness to the people who didn’t have anything to do with the situation.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog. Happy Valentine’s Day, I’m going to spend mine with my true love, Riley Reid. That’s the life of a blogger for you. Let me know if you have any ideas about how to deal with the NCAA’s retroactive punishment issues in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. I also accept valentines. It gets lonely in my creepy poorly-lit apartment.