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.

The Hot Stove is Heating Up

To kick off, yes, I did say that I’m going to post the college football bowl picks. I’m a little over halfway done with them at the moment and I guarantee that they will be up by Friday. I originally planned to go a day without a blog posted to work more on the picks blog but too many moves in Major League Baseball happened on Wednesday night-Thursday morning that I can’t ignore. So I’m cranking this one out at 1:30 in the morning. I spoil you guys.

Marlins Trade Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals

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This is obviously the big one here. The Cardinals had a deal in place for Giancarlo Stanton before he exercised his no-trade clause and nixed the deal. However, they were able to land another star outfielder in Ozuna. It’s unclear whether or not the package headed to Miami was the one pitched for Stanton, but regardless I thought the Marlins got a decent haul, certainly a better one than the one they got for Stanton. In the trade, the Marlins received prospects Magneuris Sierra, Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen, and Daniel Castano. Sierra and Alcantara are the main focus of this package for the Marlins, as they ranked highly in the Cardinals’ system. So how does this trade affect the Cardinals? Let’s take a look at their potential lineup:

1. Dexter Fowler-CF

2. Paul DeJong-SS

3. Tommy Pham-LF

4. Marcell Ozuna-RF

5. Matt Carpenter-1B

6. Yadier Molina-C

7. Jedd Gyorko-3B

8. Kolten Wong-2B

9. Pitcher’s Spot

There was a bit of a logjam in the outfield for the Cardinals, as Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk are both viable options for them, however shortly after announcing the Ozuna trade, the Cardinals traded Piscotty to the Athletics for an unknown package that may include some relief help. There’s kind of a nice element to this, as Piscotty’s trade to Oakland allows him to be closer to his mother, who is currently battling ALS. Piscotty had a really strong 2016 season but struggled in 2017 after signing a 6-year extension. If he can return to form, Piscotty can be a huge asset for Oakland. As for Ozuna, he was fantastic in 2017, earning his second straight All Star nod as he hit .312 with 37 home runs and 124 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense in left field. He is currently owed about $20 million over the next couple of years before he’s eligible for free agency, which is pretty team-friendly considering the numbers he’s put up the last couple of years. If Ozuna can repeat this performance, he will likely become the face of the St. Louis Cardinals and put them right back in the thick of the playoff race.

Tigers trade Ian Kinsler to the Angels

<> at Comerica Park on September 23, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.

Kinsler had perhaps his worst year as a pro in 2017, as he only hit a career-low .236, though that could be due to shit luck, as he only hit .244 on balls in play. However he still is a valuable player and can really benefit this suddenly dangerous Angels lineup. As you may remember from my article on Shohei Ohtani, second base was the weakest link for the Angels heading into this season. Well they’ve sure shored that up nicely. Here’s how the potential lineup looks now.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Andrelton Simmons-SS

4. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Albert Pujols-1B

7. Kole Calhoun-RF

8. Luis Valbuena-3B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

Suddenly this lineup becomes not only deadly at the plate, but also very competent defensively and I’m pretty excited to see what a double play combo of Simmons and Kinsler might look like. The Tigers received prospects Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery, who weren’t ranked very highly in the Angels’ system, suggesting that this was more of a salary dump (the Angels will take on all of the $11 million still owed to Kinsler). The Tigers are in full rebuild mode so this trade doesn’t really come as a surprise.

Michael Pineda signs with the Twins

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Pineda has to be one of the most frustrating pitchers to come up in recent memory. Looking like the next big thing when he came up with Seattle, Pineda was traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in a swap of top prospects, neither of which really panning out for either side. Pineda was simply never healthy. After a strong rookie performance in 2011, Pineda didn’t make a start for the Yankees until 2014 due to injuries and multiple Tommy John surgeries. His 13 starts in pinstripes that year were excellent, as he pitched to a 1.89 ERA. However after that his ERA never dipped below 4.30. He pitched one full season in 2016, but his ERA was pushing nearly 5. Then there was that whole pine tar incident, where he was caught with the stuff on his neck and using it to doctor the baseballs, which cost him a start due to suspension. A change of scenery is really what this guy needs and if he is able to bounce back, then the Twins will finally have that lockdown ace they’ve been looking for since Johan Santana. Pineda is coming off another Tommy John surgery, which he had in July, so he will most certainly miss the first half of the season at least. It’s low risk, high reward, though, as Pineda signed a 2-year deal worth only $10 million. If he can show improvement on that early promise, the Twins could wind up with the steal of the offseason.

There are talks that the Diamondbacks are looking to trade ace pitcher Zack Greinke in order to free up some money to re-sign JD Martinez

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This was one of the more surprising things I read today, as Greinke bounced back in a big way for the DBacks this year and returned to the form that earned him the $200 million contract he signed to prior to the 2016 season. I know that the Phillies and Yankees have called asking about Greinke and there will likely be many more. I don’t envision him being traded to the Phillies because they simply don’t have the ammunition. However the Yankees are a very real possibility. They still have all their top prospects after they were able to keep them following the Stanton trade (collusion!) so they are definitely a team the DBacks should have open ears to. Of course if they do take on Greinke’s contract, that will be a LOT of money on the payroll, even for the Yankees. Sure they dumped Chase Headley’s contract on the Padres, who are looking to try and flip him, but there are still a lot of massive contracts on the payroll. Another team that could be a candidate to land him is his old team, the Dodgers, especially if they don’t end up re-signing Yu Darvish. Greinke had some of his best seasons in Dodger Blue and the Dodgers have the prospects to offer. Whether the DBacks elect to trade within the division is another story entirely.

Orioles are reportedly shopping Manny Machado

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Well this is one I didn’t expect to see. While Machado is due to hit free agency after the 2018 season, where he will command a MASSIVE contract, I still find it a bit surprising he’s being shopped. He did have a down year for the O’s in 2017, but he was heating up by the end of it. The O’s went where he did and struggled as well in 2017, but there are still plenty of pieces in the lineup to compete in 2018. However, based on moves other teams have made, namely the Yankees in the division and the Angels as potential Wild Card foes, perhaps the Orioles don’t like their chances in 2018 and are hitting the rebuild button sooner rather than later. Which makes sense and could be a very wise move. It’s rumored that the White Sox are the most aggressive suitors, which makes sense given their plethora of prospects. But it’s also rumored the White Sox could flip him, potentially to the Yankees, who have also called about Machado. Don’t even get me started there. I don’t want to think about that. Because I guarantee you the last thing the Orioles would want to do is trade Machado within the division. If the White Sox acquire Machado then flip him to the Yankees, they not only give the middle finger to the Orioles, but to the rest of Major League Baseball. I mean, look at this potential lineup were the Yankees to acquire Machado:

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Manny Machado-3B

3. Aaron Judge-RF

4. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

5. Gary Sanchez-C

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Greg Bird-1B

8. Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks-CF

9. Ronald Torreyes-2B

Please don’t do this to me.

So that wraps up a busy day with the MLB Hot Stove. On my honor as a Tully, on my honor as a Stark, my college football picks blog will be up tomorrow. What do you think of these moves? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

 

Giancarlo Stanton traded to the Yankees

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What in the actual fuck. This is perhaps the worst way I could’ve woken up this morning, not just for the news. So last night, I was flipping through channels on my TV and found a Star Wars marathon on TNT. It was the end of the Phantom Menace when I got there so naturally I had to watch for that kickass Darth Maul fight (because that’s really the movie’s only saving grace). Attack of the Clones was up next so naturally I figured I’d need some liquor to enjoy it. I decided to do a fun little drinking game where I take a shot of the Kraken rum (94 proof) every time a lightsaber was ignited. I’m paying for it right now. Then I open my blinds and see some snow on the ground. Child me would be absolutely beaming right now but adult me is pissed off because I hate snow. Luckily I have nowhere to be so the roads aren’t a real concern. Then I get a cryptic text from a friend saying “this sucks so much” and somehow I knew what had happened. So I wake up hungover, there’s snow on the ground, and Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees for basically a washing machine.

So I did a Stanton trade speculation blog a little while ago, which you can read here, and in that blog I did outline the Yankees as potential suitors. But Jesus I didn’t think it would actually happen! I was so convinced it would be the Dodgers because it just seemed too obvious. They had so many prospects to offer. The Yankees have some good ones too, but reports are they’re not even included in the deal! That’s right, it appears that neither Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, or Estevan Florial are involved in this deal. Hey Miami, why the fuck would you accept a trade package for the reigning NL MVP that didn’t include the best prospects the other team has to offer?! It’s unknown what the exact package Miami is receiving in this deal, but reports are that Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro is among those headed to Miami. Okay, fine, he’s a good player and is coming off a good stint in pinstripes. But wasn’t the goal to cut your payroll? Castro is set to make $22.8 million over the remaining 2 years on his contract, averaging out to about $11 million a year. This essentially halves what would have come off the books had the Stanton trade just been for prospects. But the Yankees aren’t even taking on the whole salary either! Sure, they’re taking on the vast majority of it, but over the life of the deal the Marlins will be taking on around $30 million of it (about $3 million a year). Why in the Hell would you trade the guy voted as the best player in the league and still pay him $3 million a year to play for another team? While for an MLB team that’s not much in the grand scheme of things, it’s still baffling how little the Marlins are really receiving for this guy. It’s not like he’s a locker room cancer that they had to get out of there, though to be fair I don’t really know anything about Stanton’s personality but he doesn’t strike me as a toxic dude. The only explanation I can think of is because it’s Derek Jeter in the owner’s box. That’s just the salty Red Sox fan in me speaking, but you can’t deny it looks fishy (see what I did there? Marlins? Fishy? God I don’t know how I’m still single).

I’ve done all this bitching and haven’t even mentioned the fact that it’s going to be Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hitting back-to-back with Gary Sanchez lurking behind them. Just look at this potential fucking lineup.

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Didi Gregorius-SS

6. Greg Bird-1B

7. Chase Headley-3B

8. Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks-CF

9. Ronald Torreyes-2B

How the Hell do you pitch to that?! The Yankees scored the second most runs in the Majors last season and they just added the guy who hit the most home runs! The Yankees now have the AL home run king in Judge and the NL home run king in Stanton hitting back-to-back with the best power hitting catcher in Gary Sanchez right behind them. Now yes, both guys do strike out a lot and the Red Sox have the best strikeout artist in the majors in Chris Sale. But that is an imposing duo to have to pitch to. Judge is about 6’7 and 280 pounds while Stanton is 6’6 and 245, both all muscle. Add in the fact that Yankee Stadium has one of the shortest fences in baseball and we may be seeing some records get shattered. The foul poles in both left and right field are 314 feet from home, which Stanton could reach if he were holding the bat with his feet. That’s about 30 feet shorter than the poles at Marlins Park. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but that’s the difference between a flyout and a run on the board. Stanton hit 59 home runs this season while doing much of his damage in a relatively pitcher-friendly park. Now he gets to do it with the walls 30 feet closer? If he doesn’t achieve his goal of passing Roger Maris (who he has stated is the real single season home run king, not Bonds, McGwire, or Sosa), I will be shocked.

Fuck I’m so mad. I’m so mad I dropped more f-bombs in this blog than I had in all my other blogs combined (I try and keep it relatively SFW here). I’m so mad, I’m not even going to bother asking you to leave a comment or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 or even contribute to my damn Patreon. I’m just so steaming right now. This is not going to be a fun season for anybody outside of the Bronx. Sure it will be fun seeing how far these guys can hit it, but they’ll be doing it in the wrong uniforms. FUCK!

Angels sign Shohei Ohtani

Finally, the first domino of the MLB offseason has fallen. After the Marlins traded Dee Gordon to the Mariners for a bunch of prospects, it seemed like only a matter of time before the floodgates opened. Well, they have, as the Anaheim Angels have signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani just a day after Gordon was traded. Ohtani is probably the most intriguing player to come out of Japan since Ichiro mainly because of the prospect of his being a 2-way player. Not only can he hit 100 mph with his fastball on the mound, but he is also very capable of hitting a baseball a very long way.

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Ohtani has been a professional baseball player for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League since he was 18 years old. When he wasn’t pitching, he was playing the outfield there. His best all-around season was easily his 2016 season, as he hit .322 with 22 home runs and 67 RBI, while on the mound he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and struck out 174 batters over 140 innings. So naturally, when it was made public that he had intentions to play overseas in the United States, Major League Baseball got interested.

It was a very interesting signing process, as Ohtani would tell several high profile teams that he didn’t want to play for them, most notably the Red Sox, Yankees, and Twins, all of whom made the postseason in 2017. He even put the Phillies in a bodybag with this comment.

There was some backlash from fans and some members of the media, many of whom criticized Ohtani for being arrogant and seeming to not care so much about winning. Eventually, he narrowed his list down to 7 teams: the Angels, Mariners, Padres, Dodgers, Cubs, Rangers, and Giants. Last I had heard, it appeared that the Mariners were the frontrunners to acquire the talented star, which didn’t surprise me as the Mariners had always been a preferred destination for Japanese players, as it is the closest team to their home country (Ichiro and Kenji Johjima come to mind as well as a few others whose names I’m spacing on). This was as recently as Friday morning, just hours before it was reported he was signing with Anaheim.

Earlier Friday afternoon, Ohtani had made his decision and will be signing with the Anaheim Angels (I refuse to call them the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after all these years because that’s stupid. They’re in Anaheim. They’ve been called the Anaheim Angels. What’s the point of putting Los Angeles in front?). Reportedly one of the deal makers for Ohtani was a Facetime call with Angels superstar outfielder Mike Trout, who couldn’t meet in person because his wedding is today. It’s unknown what Trout said, but it must have been really convincing because the Angels were never really considered to be favorites to land Ohtani. The most in international bonus money they can offer is around $2.3 million, which is significantly less than what the Mariners and Rangers could have offered. Ohtani’s booking fee is less than the likes of Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, luckily for the Angels, as it’s only around $20 million, whereas the former two had booking fees of around $50 million each. As of right now, we don’t know what his actual contract is going to be, but I doubt it’s going to be anywhere near what other Japanese superstars have gotten based on the most recent CBA.

So where does Ohtani fit in with the Angels? It’s hard to say, really. They’d be fools not to give him a chance to be a two-way player so it will certainly be intriguing to see how manager Mike Scioscia decides to use him. He’s battled injuries throughout his career in Japan so he’s a guy they may want to keep a close eye on health-wise. I have a feeling that being a two-way player may have something to do with his injury history and it could impact him greatly in the Major Leagues. I think after enough DL stints, Scioscia will decide enough is enough and have him stick to one or the other. But for the beginning of the year, at least, he will more than likely do both. It’s likely that he will be in the starting rotation for much of the year and in games he doesn’t pitch in, we could see him DH for the Halos, allowing him to go through a normal regimen for a starting pitcher while also getting a few hacks in. I doubt he’ll see much time in the field, as the Angels already have one of the better outfields in baseball, with Mike Trout in centerfield, Justin Upton in left, and Kole Calhoun in right. Albert Pujols is currently the DH but the only reason he’s still on the roster right now is because of that monstrous contract. If Scioscia really wants to keep him in the lineup, that will likely bump the incumbent CJ Cron from his duties at first base. It seems that Cron is the odd man out in this situation and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded sometime in the near future. Cron is only 27 years old and is making the Major League minimum right now, so you can bet there will be teams calling GM Billy Eppler about him. Here’s what the Angels lineup would look like with Otani:

1. Andrelton Simmons-SS

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH/P

4. Albert Pujols-1B

5. Justin Upton-LF

6. Kole Calhoun-RF

7. Luis Valbuena-3B

8. Martin Maldonado-C

9. Jefry Marte-2B

That has the potential to be a very formidable lineup. It’s also worth mentioning that on days that Ohtani is pitching, the Angels could decline their option to use a DH and have him bat for himself. People often forget the DH in the AL isn’t mandatory, it’s an option that’s given to each team, but naturally they use it because most pitchers aren’t exactly Shohei Ohtani with a bat in hand. As for the starting rotation, it would look something like this:

1. Garrett Richards

2. Shohei Ohtani

3. Matt Shoemaker

4. Tyler Skaggs

5. Andrew Heaney

Not as formidable-looking, but it has the potential to be very good if these guys can stay healthy (which has been a MAJOR issue for this bunch the last couple years). Personally, I think Ohtani is better as a pitcher, as his fastball can hit as high as 102 mph with a splitter/sinker that just falls off the table at the end. He was also most consistently good as a pitcher in Japan, as his highest batting average outside of his 2016 season is .274, while his ERA has consistently been under 3 since his rookie year. The main issue for this kid has been health, as he missed a large chunk of his 2017 season due to injury. But when healthy, this is what he can do (just a heads up, it’s long as shit, about 22 minutes).

So that ends one of the more interesting free agent sagas of recent memory. Once the details of his contract are finalized, we can get back into focusing on what other high profile players will do, which I’m chomping at the bit for because the highest-profile free agent to sign with a new team so far is Doug Fister with the Rangers. Not exactly what I’d call earth-shaking.

Also, what is the deal with the spelling of his last name? Every site I go to that talks about this guy, they either spell his last name “Otani” without the ‘h’ or “Ohtani” with the ‘h.’ For this blog, I went with the ‘h’ because that was how it was spelled on the back of his jersey in the video I embedded. But seriously, try googling both spellings. Google doesn’t correct you for the wrong one. If anybody knows why that is, PLEASE tell me, because it is so confusing to me.

So this is what a Saturday is like without college football picks. I know, I did promise I would do a whole Army-Navy segment before, but when I got to writing it, I came to the realization that I don’t know nearly enough about them to do the kind of blog I wanted to do. Then Ohtani signed and I felt that would take precedent. Fear not, I will still pick that game.

Projected Score: Navy 20 Army 17

Sorry West Point, but the Midshipmen regain bragging rights after losing last year for the first time since 2001. But it’s going to be a quick game as neither team commits many penalties and there is a LOT of running the football and very few reasons to stop the clock.

That’s my semi-double-blog for this week. What do you think of the Ohtani signing? How about your thoughts on the Army-Navy game? Let me know in the comments section below and on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

Potential Giancarlo Stanton Trade Destinations

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Whenever a team falls under new ownership, change throughout the organization is inevitable. That’s why when Jeffrey Loria sold the Miami Marlins to a group that included Derek Jeter and Jeb Bush, people started speculating about the futures of several of those in the organization. Those talks caught fire when Jeter announced that he wanted to drop their $130 million payroll down to around $95 million. All heads turned towards superstar rightfielder Giancarlo Stanton, who still has $295 million remaining on the 13-year $325 million extension he signed a few years back. The Marlins brass have already begun fielding offers for Stanton, so let’s take a look at where the MVP candidate could land.

But first, let’s get to know Giancarlo. He’s been with the Marlins since he debuted in 2010 at the age of 20 and was known as “Mike” Stanton until 2012, when he elected to start going by his birth name of Giancarlo. Mike is a middle name. Stanton is known for not only his great size but prolific power. He stands at 6’6 and 245 pounds of solid muscle and at the age of 28, he is already the Marlins franchise leader in career home runs with 267, including a franchise record 59 in 2017. Stanton won the 2016 home run derby (which I had the honor of helping set up for) by SHATTERING all kinds of records. Before Stanton in 2016, the record for home runs in a single derby was 41 by Bobby Abreu in 2005. Stanton hit 61. I could go on about this guy’s accomplishments but I think you get the point.

It’s also important to know the details of Stanton’s contract. The bulk of the contract will take into effect starting in 2018, where he will earn at least $25 million for the remainder of it and will top out at $32 million between 2023-25. He can, however, opt out of this deal in 2020 and become a free agent. His contract also includes a full no-trade clause, so no matter what kind of deal the Marlins are able to strike, Stanton has the final say on where he goes. Stanton has made it clear he wants to play for a contender, which is something the Marlins have not been since they won the World Series in 2003. But given how large his contract is, not only from a financial standpoint but in duration as well, a lot of teams may be scared off, particularly the smaller market teams. So with all these factors in mind, let’s take a look at some potential landing spots for Stanton.

Los Angeles Dodgers

This one almost makes too much sense. First of all, money isn’t an issue for this franchise. At one point under the current ownership group that includes Magic Johnson, the Dodgers had nine players making at least $20 million a season. NINE. They’re more than capable of taking on another big contract in Stanton, who is from Panorama City in the Los Angeles area. The Dodgers also have the prospects to send the Marlins. This list includes (with their MLB.com prospect ranking in parentheses) pitcher Walker Buehler (10), outfielder Alex Verdugo (23), pitcher Yadier Alvarez (45), outfielder Jeren Kendall (73), outfielder Yusniel Diaz (76), and catcher Keibert Ruiz (100). The Marlins have arguably the weakest farm system in the majors, as they don’t field a single player in MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects. If I’m the Marlins, Stanton is going to command at least three of these guys. Let’s look at what the Red Sox gave the White Sox for Chris Sale as an example. The White Sox received four prospects, two of which ranked in MLB.com’s Top 10 (Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech). So one would have to think that Stanton would have to command at least that much, given that he plays everyday whereas Chris Sale, a pitcher, only plays every five days. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Marlins asked for all of them. Not only is Stanton a heck of a player, but his power will bring in large crowds and will sell a lot of jerseys, so the risk would be worth it to me.

New York Yankees

This could be an interesting one. The Yankees are notorious for how much money they can dedicate to their payroll so Stanton’s contract isn’t an issue. What could be an issue is the Yankees don’t have a ton of prospects left after a bunch of them either reached the majors or were dealt for talent. However they do still have Gleyber Torres, who is MLB.com’s number 1 prospect. He missed much of last season with Tommy John surgery (he’s a shortstop) but as a developmental guy it’s hard not to be excited about his potential, especially considering the Marlins don’t have much at shortstop after trading defensive wizard Adeiny Hechavarria. The Yankees also have pitcher Chance Adams (52), outfielder Estevan Florial (78), pitcher Justus Sheffield (79), and third baseman Miguel Andujar (91). It’s a lighter group than what the Dodgers have to offer, however the Yankees do have one trade chip that could rock the baseball world if they were to include him and that’s AL Rookie of the Year and MVP candidate Aaron Judge. Judge only made a little over $500K this season so that’s a LOT of cap space the Marlins could clear away for a similar style of player. I don’t think the Yankees would be willing to part with their young superstar, but if I’m the Marlins, I definitely would try and throw the name in there.

Boston Red Sox

This one is a little less likely because Stanton said that the Red Sox are one of two teams that he likely wouldn’t waive his no trade clause for (the Cardinals being the other). But if Stanton could be convinced otherwise, then the Red Sox could present an interesting package of players. The Red Sox have the money to support the contract, however they lack the prospects. Pitcher Jason Groome and shortstop Michael Chavis are the only Red Sox prospects in MLB.com’s Top 100 list and they come in at numbers 42 and 92, respectively. However the Red Sox have a bunch of young talent currently in the Majors, such as outfielders Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and third baseman Rafael Devers. Betts is likely off limits but the others are very possible. Of the guys I listed, only Bogaerts and Bradley make over $1 million ($4.5M and $3.6M, respectively) so they make sense as contracts for the Marlins to take on. I don’t envision the Red Sox pulling off a trade for Stanton, but they do have some options should they become desperate.

Chicago White Sox

Now this one might seem a bit random, but hear me out. The White Sox may have struggled a bit this season but they’ve pulled off a lot of savvy moves to rid themselves of a bunch of big contracts and acquire a lot of top prospects. The White Sox have the deepest farm system in baseball and it’s not even close. Not counting former #1 prospect Yoan Moncada, who used up his eligibility this season, the White Sox can offer outfielder Eloy Jimenez (4), Michael Kopech (9), outfielder Luis Robert (22), outfielder Blake Rutherford (39), pitcher Dylan Cease (57), and pitcher Alec Hansen (90). The White Sox also have pitchers Lucas Giolito and Carson Fulmer, who have spent time at the top of many prospect lists. Only 3 players that finished the season with the White Sox made over $1 million last season so they have all the cap space in the world for Stanton. I can’t imagine that Stanton would accept a trade to the White Sox, however, as they are a few years from contending, unless they make a couple of big free agent pickups to help build around first baseman Jose Abreu. But the White Sox could be a sneaky team in this scenario.

San Francisco Giants

This is actually the team I’ve heard the most rumblings about in regards to a potential Stanton deal. Like with the Dodgers, Stanton’s California roots could incite him to accept a trade to San Francisco. The Giants were BAD in 2017, but with a manager as good as Bruce Bochy, I don’t anticipate them being down for long. Plus, odd number years have been struggles for the Giants this decade, so that would suggest that they are due for a big 2018, though I doubt Stanton is looking too deep into that. The Giants may be a little strapped cash-wise, as they’ve got a lot of money dedicated to a few players, including over $10 million each for Denard Span and Hunter Pence, both of whom were very ineffective in 2017. Prospect-wise, the Giants have third baseman Christian Arroyo (56) and that’s about it. Arroyo played a decent amount for the big club last season, however he hit just .192 in 125 at bats in his brief stint. Ultimately, I don’t really get why the Giants are a candidate, but they are the team I’ve heard about the most as being in on Stanton so that’s why they make this list.

There are of course numerous others that could be in on the Stanton sweepstakes but these are the teams that I think have the most to offer. I personally think that the Dodgers make the most sense, as they have the cap space and the developmental talent. Are there any teams I missed? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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 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.