General Sports: February 12

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-The Indianapolis Colts have hired former Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich to be their next head coach. Reich had been the Eagles’ OC each of the last two seasons as the team saw a significant uptick in production between year 1 and year 2. While many credit Doug Pederson for calling the “Philly Special” (despite it being an illegal formation…yes I’m still salty), Reich played a huge role in designing and developing that play. As Trey Wingo noted on Twitter, this may actually be an upgrade over the failed Josh McDaniels hire, as the Colts will now be landing the OC that won the Super Bowl, rather than the one that lost. Reich’s offensive scheme relies heavily on run-pass options, or RPO’s, and they were extremely effective in the Eagles’ wins over the Vikings and Patriots. Under his system, Carson Wentz went from an intriguing quarterback with a lot of potential to the MVP frontrunner and after his injury, Nick Foles went from a guy who hadn’t been good since 2013 into Super Bowl MVP. With so much uncertainty surrounding the Colts’ quarterback situation given Andrew Luck’s unknown health, getting a guy like Reich could become an excellent hire.

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-Paul Pierce had his number 34 retired by the Celtics and it was quite the ceremony as Celtics legends were spotted all over the place, from Bill Russell to Kevin Garnett to Rajon Rondo. It didn’t end well for the Celtics as the new-look Cavaliers smoked the boys in green 121-99, but it was a nice moment for the Celtics legend Pierce. Speaking of the Cavs, they looked really sharp as a new unit and it seems like they made all the right trades at the deadline. It’s still early, but early returns are promising.

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-People are just now freaking out over Eagles tackle Lane Johnson’s comments about the Patriots’ culture even though the interview in which that took place on Pardon My Take aired on Friday. I’m what PMT refers to as an “Award-Winning Listener” and when I heard what Johnson had to say, I didn’t really care. He said that the Patriots seem to build their culture around fear and doesn’t get the sense that Patriots players really enjoy their time in Foxboro. He also went on to state that he would rather win 1 Super Bowl and have a blast doing it than win 5 and be miserable. I don’t know why people are making such a fuss over this. One little complaint I’d have with this statement is word choice and it’s literally just one word I disagree with: fear. I don’t think the Patriots build their culture around fear, I think they build it around what’s best for business. It’s no secret that playing for the Patriots requires one to be pretty uptight and about as professional as humanly possible. But professional football is a business, it’s not about having fun at that stage. If you are having fun, great, you’re one of the luckiest people on Earth that you get to not only play football for a living, but have a blast doing it. But that business-like mentality isn’t exclusive to the Patriots. Most teams try and conduct themselves in a similar fashion, the Patriots get more publicity for it because of their run of success. You could tell that the Eagles were a much more laid back group from as early as Week 1, as their endzone celebrations were some of the best in the newly relaxed league. It worked out well for them, just like the Patriots’ business-like approach works well in Foxboro. So really, I think people need to calm down about Johnson’s comments.

-I almost got caught looking very silly during my wrestling broadcast on Sunday.

During this match, I was reading my notes and giving off information about each wrestler when I happened to glance up at the perfect possible moment when Devin Skatzka landed the pin. This would’ve gotten pretty ugly because it was a huge win for Indiana to get themselves back into the meet with Northwestern. Northwestern ended up winning reasonably handily, but this pin made things interesting. It actually happened so fast (28 seconds) that I never even got a chance to introduce the Northwestern wrestler. Had I missed the pin, it could’ve derailed the whole broadcast. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

-The NCAA released their first bracket preview where they showcased where each team stands right now in the March Madness rankings, only doing the top 4 seeds for each region. The teams are:

1 Seeds: Virginia (#1 Overall), Villanova, Xavier, Purdue

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

3 Seeds: Michigan State, Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

I haven’t been keeping up with college basketball like I wanted to but I promise I’ll at least post my bracket when the time comes. But overall I find these seedings to be very interesting, especially considering where a lot of these teams were at the start of the season. I doubt very many people would’ve guessed that traditional football schools like Auburn, Clemson, and Ohio State would rank very highly as well as Xavier and Purdue being 1 seeds along with Cincinnati and Texas Tech being amongst the 16 best teams. But I’m very excited for March Madness season because I have no effing clue who’s going to win. Usually there’s one team you can confidently point to and say “those guys are going to go far” but I could very easily see all of these teams collapsing at any given time. Is it March yet?

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-There have been reports that the Nationals are interested in signing Jake Arrieta, which should be absolutely TERRIFYING for the rest of the National League. A potential rotation of Max Scherzer, Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark is so wildly unfair that the Nats may go weeks without letting up a run. Roark could be the number 1 pitcher on a weak staff but on this possible Nationals’ staff, he’s the fifth man. Though signing Arrieta would take the Nationals from slim chances to re-signing Bryce Harper to zero chance. We saw that Yu Darvish got a 6-year $126M deal with the Cubs on Saturday and Arrieta has a far more impressive resume so he’s certainly going to command more money. He may want to sign soon, though, because pitchers and catchers report for most teams on Valentine’s Day.

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

Cubs Sign Yu Darvish

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NOW we get into the juicy stuff. After a long while, Yu Darvish has signed a 6-year $126M contract with the Chicago Cubs after 5 and a half years with the Rangers and half a season with the Dodgers, where he helped them on a World Series run (even if his actual World Series performance left a lot to be desired). Darvish is one of the most talented pitchers in the game but hasn’t been able to realize a lot of his potential due in large part to injury, namely Tommy John surgery which cost him much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016. Darvish was finally healthy in 2017 and he had a solid year, going 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and 209 strikeouts between the Rangers and Dodgers. He looks for a fresh new start with a talented Cubs rotation that underperformed in 2017 but looks to get back on track to try and return to their championship glory from 2016.

Here’s how the Cubs’ rotation is expected to look with Darvish in the mix and the now expected departure of former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, whom I will get to in a moment:

1. Jon Lester

2. Yu Darvish

3. Kyle Hendricks

4. Jose Quintana

5. Tyler Chatwood/Drew Smyly

That’s a pretty formidable rotation provided everybody pitches to their ability. Couple that with an extremely potent lineup and the Cubs have all the makings of a World Series favorite. Though pitching to their ability is the big concern here. Lester is coming off his worst season since 2012, as he went 13-8 with a 4.33 ERA and 180 strikeouts. He turned 34 last month so one has to wonder if his skills may be on the decline. Quintana was very inconsistent last season. His month-by-month ERA was a big indicator to that. Starting in April, Quintana’s monthly ERA’s were 5.22, 5.91, 1.78, 3.45, 5.73, 2.51. So of those 6 months, 3 were really bad and 3 were either solid or excellent. It all averaged out to an ERA of 4.15, which is a far cry from what we know he’s capable of. Hendricks was probably Chicago’s most consistent starter in 2017 as he went 7-5 with a 3.03 ERA and 123 strikeouts during an injury-plagued season. When healthy, Hendricks is capable of being the ace of this loaded staff but if Chicago is going to make another run at the World Series, they’re going to need him on the mound every five days.

Which brings me to Jake Arrieta. The 2015 NL Cy Young winner seems to not be returning to Wrigley with the signing of Darvish, however I expect now that Darvish has signed, Arrieta will soon follow. I think the main reason it’s taken this long for either guy to sign was because they were waiting each other out, trying to see what the other would get so that they could use it as a comparison in their negotiations. Now that Arrieta has seen that Darvish is valued by the Cubs at $21M per year, he can use that to his advantage to make even more. All he has to say to teams that want to pay him comparable money to Darvish is “Yu is valued at $21M, he’s injured all the time, he doesn’t even have a Cy Young award and he sucked in the World Series. I have a Cy Young Award and a 2.38 ERA in the 2016 World Series.” Immediately that’s going to land him at least $25M. So Arrieta ought to send Darvish a thank you card for signing first, though this for sure means that Arrieta won’t be returning to the Cubs.

However this presents an interesting conundrum for the Cubs and it has everything to do with next offseason. Bryce Harper has made it known, whether intentional or not, that his first choice to sign in the 2018 offseason would be with the Chicago Cubs. He’s childhood friends with Cubs superstar third baseman Kris Bryant and he named his dog “Wrigley.” The writing is on the wall for that one. However, Harper will be just 26 years old when he hits free agency and many have speculated he may command Major League Baseball’s first ever $400M contract. Will the Cubs be able to afford that with the current payroll they have? Not likely. So there will need to be some work done on the salary front and many potentially key players needing to be moved in order to afford that deal. It can be done, though, and I do expect we’ll be seeing Harper in Cubby blue starting in 2019.

That’s going to do it for this piece on the Yu Darvish signing. Let me know what you think this does for the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: January 24

NBA All Star Teams Announced

<> at Pepsi Center on January 22, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.

So the NBA announced who will be playing in the all star game in Los Angeles. The players that will compete are LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Kristaps Porzingis, Klay Thompson, Karl Anthony-Towns, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. I found it interesting how Oladipo made the team but Paul George didn’t, which is making Pacers’ GM Kevin Pritchard look pretty smart right now. I’m also very happy for Damian Lillard for making the team for the first time, though I could’ve done without his annual bitching about his getting snubbed. All in all I’d say they did a pretty good job with the rosters. Interesting how the game’s in LA but there aren’t any Lakers or Clippers being featured. Often times you’ll see them try and shoehorn a player to ignite some excitement in the home crowd, but the league will probably save that for the skills competition. Though I wouldn’t have objected to them sneaking DeAndre Jordan onto the team over someone like Al Horford or Kevin Love, which pains me to say because Horford’s on my Celtics and I still believe in Love.

Milwaukee Brewers Are a Team to Keep an Eye on for the Next Few Days

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I say this mainly because there are a boatload of rumors surrounding the Brewers and what kinds of moves they’re open to, yet there is one player that has been linked to these discussions that I’m particularly interested in, that being free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. The Brewers have reportedly made a 5-year offer to the former Rangers and Dodgers pitcher who would immediately become the ace of their staff (Jimmy Nelson has earned that nod after his stellar 2017, but come on, it’s Yu Darvish. You’re not going to shell out the kind of money he’s going to command to have him be the #2). I also heard rumblings that the Brewers were looking to trade an outfielder for an impact bat. Immediately when that was said I thought of 2011 MVP Ryan Braun because I’ve seen several articles suggesting Milwaukee should trade him. There is some young talent in the Brewers outfield so it could also be one of them in order to acquire a bigger impact bat. Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips could also be on the move as Milwaukee looks to build on an 86-76 season where they missed out on the Wild Card Game by 1 game. I’ve also seen that they’ve made an offer to the Marlins for disgruntled outfielder Christian Yelich. So perhaps some of these outfielders will be involved in that potential trade.

Josh Allen is Saying Things

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So last time I did this type of blog I ripped Mel Kiper Jr for making Josh Allen his #1 pick in his first mock draft. Well just a few days later, Allen conducted a few interviews at the Senior Bowl where he stated that he “sleeps with a football” and devotes all his free time to playing football, which includes playing Madden. He has also said that it would be “special” to “be the guy” for the Browns, making his case for number 1 pick. As you may have read, Sam Darnold allegedly made a statement that he would return to school if the Browns had the top pick, a statement he has since denied and further enforced his denial by entering the Draft despite the Browns owning the first and fourth picks. Josh Rosen, on the other hand, has blatantly stated he does not want to play for the Browns, saying he’d rather fall in the Draft than go to the wrong team. So I guess some pros for the Browns considering Allen: he actually wants to be there. It’d be super risky for the Browns to take a Wyoming quarterback, where the competition is pretty low and didn’t even put up that great of numbers. And as for the “sleeping with a football” line, I’m sure it’s an exaggeration. If not, then damn dude, don’t know how that helps your game but whatever floats your boat. Also, that photoshoot that I included a picture from above. Uncle Rico must be salivating.

Patriots Will Wear Their White Uniforms In Super Bowl LII

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The AFC and NFC alternate on who is the “home team” in the game and therefore gets to choose their jerseys. This year, it’s the AFC’s turn and the Patriots are going to go with their white uniforms. Now before you say “Jim, you’ve lost your goddamn mind blogging about this, in what way is this important,” I present to you this stat: Since 2004, every Super Bowl winner with the exception of the Packers in Super Bowl XLV wore their white uniforms. Literally all of them (except the Packers). Plus the Patriots are undefeated in their whites in the Brady-Belichick era at 3-0 and are 2-2 in their blues. You may resume telling me that it doesn’t matter what uniforms the teams wear.

LeBron James Becomes Youngest Player to 30,000 Career Points

I would congratulate LeBron on his achieving this milestone, except for one thing. He already did that. For himself. Before the game in which he’d reach the milestone even happened. To clarify for those who don’t know, LeBron posted this on Instagram.

Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it! The House you’re about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it(as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside. There’s so many people to thank who has help this even become possible(so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment(alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King 🤴🏾! 1 Love! #striveforgreatness🚀 #thekidfromakron👑

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Now granted, LeBron getting the 7 points he’d need was pretty much a foregone conclusion, especially since his opponent, the Spurs, are without defensive stud Kawhi Leonard, who undoubtedly would’ve drawn the assignment. 30K points is a fantastic achievement and LeBron has earned every bit of praise. But come on dude. Congratulating your past self on the accomplishment is pretty cheesy, even for LeBron. But making the post before the game even happens is downright disrespectful to Danny Green, who had to guard him. If it were anybody else, I would love this cocky move. But it’s LeBron, who is the poster child for the stereotypical primadonna NBA player that we get today, so he’s not getting a pass.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the topics I discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

MLB Free Agent Power Rankings

Before I get into the power rankings, I want to just say Rest in Peace to Roy Halladay, who died in a plane crash on Tuesday. He was 40 years old. Halladay was a husband and father of two and was widely considered to be one of the best human beings in baseball, as he was very involved in the community, from charity work to coaching little league. He was also a phenomenal pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, winning the Cy Young Award in 2003 and 2010, an 8-time All Star, and the embodiment of a workhorse. Since 1998, when Halladay made his Major League debut, no pitcher has thrown more complete games than Halladay’s 67. He retired in 2013 and that number since 1998 still hasn’t been caught. For a while, it was pretty safe to say that Halladay was the best pitcher in baseball, as his stretch between 2008-2011 was some of the most dominant years of pitching I’ve ever seen. His 2010 season was particularly special, as it included a perfect game against the Marlins and a no hitter in his postseason debut (second in postseason history) against the Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS. Rest in Peace, Roy Halladay (1977-2017), you will be missed by all.

On a happier note, free agency has officially kicked off in Major League Baseball and speculation as to who’s headed where and who is due for a big contract will be the talk of the next four months or so. This year’s class is essentially the warmup to the Bryce Harper/Manny Machado class of 2018 that will be sure to shake the foundation of baseball to its core, but it is still loaded with plenty of star power. So without further ado, let’s get into the rankings.

#10. Zack Cozart-Shortstop

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photo credit: FirstAndMonday

Zack Cozart has been the shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds for a few years now but has battled injuries and hasn’t played a full season since 2014. However when he has been healthy, he’s been very effective, especially in the last two seasons, 2017 being his best. He hit .297 this season in 122 games with 24 home runs and 63 RBI while also playing some solid defense, which accumulated to a WAR of 5.0. He also earned his first All Star nod, and in turn, won a donkey from Joey Votto. You read that correctly. Here’s the story. Cozart may not be a household name, but he’s been playing the best baseball of his career and whichever team signs him will have themselves a heck of a player, provided he can stay healthy.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Mets

#9. Carlos Santana-First Baseman/DH

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photo credit: Waiting for Next Year

Carlos Santana is an oddity mainly because he often batted leadoff for the Cleveland Indians despite being a first baseman that lacks speed. It’s mainly because he draws a LOT of walks thanks to having one of the best eyes for the plate in baseball. He’s been really consistent these last two seasons, as he batted .259 in both 2016 AND 2017, and his on base percentage was .366 in 2016 and .363 in 2017. His power numbers were down from 2016, he hit a career-high 34 in 2016 and 23 in 2017, but he is still a threat to go yard if a pitcher hangs one on him.

Projected Team: Returns to the Cleveland Indians

#8. Jay Bruce-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sporting News

Jay Bruce has spent the majority of his career with the Cincinnati Reds but since being traded to the Mets in 2016, he’s had some of his best success at the plate. He hit 33 home runs between the Reds and Mets in 2016, then hit 36 bombs and drove in 101 runs between the Mets and Indians in 2017. He has only hit fewer than 20 home runs in a season once (2014) and that was by far the worst year of his career. He also has one of the strongest outfield arms in the game and many teams are hesitant to run against him.

Projected Team: Signs with the Toronto Blue Jays

#7. Mike Moustakas-Third Baseman

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: MLB Trade Rumors

Moustakas had a MONSTROUS offensive breakout this season, hitting 38 home runs (his previous best was 22) and 85 RBI while hitting a solid .272. Moustakas was a key cog in the Royals’ 2015 championship run, and his defense has typically been a major positive at the hot corner (however it has been steadily trending downward since 2012). Moustakas is one of four players on this list from the 2015 champion Royals team (three of which were still with KC at the end of the 2017 season) and he will be a big factor for whomever signs him.

Projected Team: Signs with San Francisco Giants

#6. Wade Davis-Closing Pitcher

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photo credit: Bleed Cubbie Blue

Wade Davis is one of a plethora of pitchers with promise who flamed out as starters, but once they moved to the bullpen, they rescue their careers. Davis is probably the best example of this and has been absolutely dominant since he was named the closer of the Royals in 2015 and he was a big boost for the Cubs’ bullpen in 2017. Davis was Chicago’s only All Star in 2017 and had a 2.30 ERA, which was actually his WORST since he became a reliever in 2014. Just let that sink in.

Projected Team: Returns to Chicago Cubs

#5. Lorenzo Cain-Outfielder

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Kansas City Royals

photo credit: Baseball Prospectus

Lorenzo Cain has been pretty consistent since 2014, his average typically hovering around the .300 mark with moderate power while playing some solid defense in centerfield. I wouldn’t say Cain is an elite player, but he’s a good one who will be an impact on any lineup, best part being you pretty much know what you’re going to get out of him. Health was an issue for him in 2016 but he was totally healthy in 2017, playing in 155 games.

Projected Team: Signs with New York Yankees

#4. Eric Hosmer-First Baseman

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photo credit; The Inquisitr

Eric Hosmer is the last of 4-straight members of the 2015 Royals on this list. While I did note in my luck blog that he was probably the luckiest hitter in baseball in 2017, he is still one of the better first basemen in the game. He’s coming off his best season as a pro, slashing .318/.385/.498, all career highs, and tied his career high of 25 home runs while playing in all 162 games. He’s a below-average defender at first base, but that’s probably the one position where I don’t care too much about defense, unless they are absolutely abysmal.

Projected Team: Signs with Boston Red Sox

#3. Jake Arrieta-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Jake Arrieta’s second half of 2015 was perhaps the most dominant stretch of pitching I have ever seen. It’s kind of been downhill since, though it is almost impossible to do much better. He’s still one of the game’s better pitchers, as he had an ERA of 3.53, his worst since joining the Cubs, but still better than what you get out of most pitchers. He was hurt, however, by the fact that opponents had a .279 BABIP against him, a career-worst, which may suggest that he just got unlucky last season.

Projected Team: Signs with Texas Rangers

#2. Yu Darvish-Starting Pitcher

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photo credit: Sports Illustrated

Yu Darvish had a terrible showing in the Dodgers’ World Series loss to the Astros but that shouldn’t put a damper on peoples’ opinions on his abilities as a pitcher. When healthy, Darvish is one of the most electrifying righties in baseball. He had a 3.86 ERA on the year, 3.38 since his trade to the Dodgers from the Rangers at the Trade Deadline, as he played his first full season since missing much of 2014, all of 2015, and much of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery. He’s never struck out fewer than 10 batters per 9 innings in his career and his control has gotten better each season, as he has cut down on his walks per 9 every year (technically it did go up by 0.02 from 2016-17, but that’s so minuscule that I think it’s fair to overlook).

Projected Team: Resigns with Los Angeles Dodgers

#1. JD Martinez-Outfielder

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photo credit: Sports from the Basement

Holy shit did JD Martinez have a big year. Between the Tigers and Diamondbacks (where he was traded at the Trade Deadline), Martinez hit .303 with 45 home runs and 104 RBI, numbers that would easily have him in the MVP discussion had he not switched leagues. 29 of those 45 bombs came in his 2 months in Arizona, as he helped catapult the Diamondbacks to a playoff run. Martinez missed the first month of the season due to injury but upon his return he was unstoppable, and I think it’s fair to expect that he continue to thrive, as he only just turned 30 in August.

Projected Team: Resigns with Arizona Diamondbacks

Others that just missed the list: Todd Frazier-Third Baseman, Eduardo Nunez-Utility, Alex Cobb-Starting Pitcher, Carlos Gonzalez-Outfielder, Jonathan Lucroy-Catcher

Those are my free agency rankings for this season. Agree with my list? Disagree? Let me know 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 3 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

The Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-3 to take Game 3 of the World Series and have a 2-1 series lead. Lance McCullers was the winning pitcher, Yu Darvish got the loss, and Brad Peacock earned the save. Some takeaways:

-Yu Darvish did not have the good stuff at all. He looked solid in the first inning but in the second all movement on his breaking pitches just vanished. The pitch he served up the homerun to Yuli Gurriel on was about as flat a pitch can be.

He was yanked after 1.2 innings of work, allowing 4 runs. I wrote in the Game 2 blog that Darvish needed to go deep in this game to help Dave Roberts and the bullpen. He did no such thing, of course.

-Dave Roberts still used a ton of relievers in this game, but to significantly more success than in Game 2. They didn’t allow a single earned run (1 unearned run was charged to Tony Watson on an error he himself committed) in their 6.1 innings of work. The Astros were constantly getting on and threatening to do damage but they couldn’t push the runner home after that 4-run second inning.

-Kenta Maeda was a godsend for Roberts. After using every single reliever in Game 2, Roberts had to be sweating bullets when he had to pull Darvish in the second inning. But Maeda was able to go 2.2 strong innings, only letting up 1 hit and striking out 2, throwing fewer pitches than Darvish while pitching one more total inning.

-This game really wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate. The Dodgers couldn’t get anything going offensively all night. Their first run was scored on a double play after Lance McCullers walked the bases loaded with nobody out in the third. That was their only run until the 6th when they got runners on second and third with nobody out. Cody Bellinger then struck out, Yasiel Puig got an RBI groundout, then Justin Turner scored from third on a ball that skipped through Brian McCann’s legs. So the Dodgers score 3 runs but only 1 RBI on 4 hits.

-Corey Seager’s aggressiveness at the plate came back to bite him in this game. I’m talking in particular about his at bat in the third inning after McCullers had walked three straight hitters to load the bases after waiting 30 minutes between pitches because of the Astros’ offensive outburst. In that situation, if a guy isn’t throwing strikes, don’t swing unless he can prove he can get it in there, ESPECIALLY, if he just walked the bases loaded with nobody out. But instead, Seager went up there hacking on a couple of pitches that were definitely out of the zone. The first one he fouled off, the second he bounced into a very aesthetically pleasing 3-6-1 double play. I know he’s only 23, but he’s smarter than that.

-Brad Peacock has to be your player of the game. Lance McCullers was really shaky and was lucky to come out of this game with a decent line (5.1 IP, 4 hits, 3 runs, 4 walks, 3 K’s) and Peacock got off to a shaky start, as he let Puig hit the RBI groundout and threw the wild pitch that allowed Turner to score. But after that the Dodgers couldn’t touch him. Peacock went 3.2 innings, didn’t allow a single hit, walked one batter and struck out 4. He was in such a groove that manager AJ Hinch left him in there in the 9th inning with a 2-run lead despite having Ken Giles in the bullpen. In fact, he didn’t have anybody warming up in the bullpen in the 9th. Chris Devenski did warm up in the 8th, but that’s about it. The fact that Hinch only had to use one reliever sets the Astros up nicely for the remainder of the series. If it were Roberts in this situation, he would’ve sent out Kenley Jansen, Clayton Kershaw, Sandy Koufax, and Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn to get the final six outs.

-Another note about Peacock’s performance. Basically the same formula that won Game 7 of the ALCS for the Astros against the Yankees worked here in Game 3 of the World Series: let your starter go just enough innings, then have another guy who started games this year finish the last few innings. I also bitched about Peacock in Game 1 and how he kept going to the same pitch in the same spot and wasn’t fooling a single Dodgers hitter. He did the exact opposite in Game 3. He was mixing his spots really well and I don’t know if I really saw any Dodger get a good piece on any of Peacock’s pitches

-Are Cody Bellinger and hitting coach Turner Wade having some sort of feud or something where they refuse to talk to each other? Because Astros pitchers keep throwing Bellinger the same pitch, curveball low and inside, and he keeps whiffing at them. It came to a head in Game 3 as he struck out 4 times in 4 at bats, the second youngest player to do that in World Series history (youngest was Mickey Mantle, so Bellinger has that going for him). But I can’t believe Wade hasn’t had some sort of conversation with Bellinger saying “hey, they’re probably going to throw you a curveball low and in. Don’t swing at it.” Or at least something along those lines because it’s getting really frustrating to watch a young hitter with as much talent as Bellinger make the same mistake over and over and over and over and over again. It wasn’t just this game, either, he’s been doing this all series. Normally, when a guy is slumping like this (Bellinger is 0-11 in the World Series), you sit him down and let him reset and work on things. But you can’t do that now in the World Series with one of your most potent hitters. Wade and Bellinger NEED to come up with something right now if the Dodgers want to even things up in Game 4 because whatever they’re doing isn’t working.

-This could get problematic for Gurriel:

I’m not just talking about his hair either, which looks like a cross between Pidgeot and Yu-Gi-Oh. It was a very brief shot where Gurriel seems to grab his eyes in a squinting motion, seemingly making fun of the fact that Yu Darvish is Japanese after Gurriel hit a bomb off the Dodgers pitcher. It was done so quickly that I’m not so sure if that was intentional or if he was just grabbing his face for some reason, but nonetheless there will be questions for the Astros first baseman and possibly a punishment on the way

-Should Gurriel get suspended for this gesture, there is a relatively easy fix despite Gurriel being the only player listed as a first baseman on the roster. Marwin Gonzalez, who has been the left fielder for most of the season, has a lot of experience at first base and the Astros can slide in Cameron Maybin into left field in his stead. I don’t think a suspension will come of this unless Major League Baseball can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gurriel’s gesture was racially charged.

-When Alex Wood makes the start for the Dodgers tomorrow, every single Dodger on the World Series roster will have appeared in the World Series, which is pretty crazy, but that’s what happens when your manager makes every move imaginable. If all goes well for the Dodgers, Roberts will only have to use Josh Fields, Brandon McCarthy, and Jansen in Game 4 because those were the only guys he didn’t go to in Game 3. Unfortunately for him, the fact that it’s Wood on the mound doesn’t bode too well for that outcome. He averages fewer than 6 innings per start this season and the way the Astros have been hitting of late, we may get more of the same.

Looking Ahead:

Game 4 pits Alex Wood of the Dodgers against Charlie Morton of the Astros. The Dodgers will have a very tired bullpen while the Astros have everyone except Peacock at their disposal. It’s going to be up to the Dodgers offense to wake up and get some runs on the board because they haven’t been able to consistently manufacture runs (8 of their 12 runs this series have come via the home run). We don’t know what we’re going to get with Morton in this game. He was absolutely terrific against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, but prior to that he had been a punching bag for opposing offenses. If the Dodgers are going to pounce on a guy and try to regain some momentum, this would be the guy because after him it’s Dallas Keuchel in Game 5 and Justin Verlander in Game 6 if they even get that far.

Prediction:

The coin toss called it right last time out and right now I’m not super confident in the Dodgers so I think I’m going to stick with the Astros in Game 4. They’re riding a huge wave of momentum right now and they have the city of Houston rallying behind them after they were devastated by Hurricane Harvey. I’m going to predict Astros win 6-3.