2018 MLB Season Preview

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

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Season Predictions:

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

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

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

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Cleveland Indians

Some NFL news to talk about before I get into the Tribe. The Lions are going to place the franchise tag on defensive end Ziggy Ansah, which is a smart move as there aren’t a ton of pass rushers for Detroit to pursue and they’re already thin at the position as it is. It was also announced that the Vikings would not tag Case Keenum, which would suggest that they may be holding out hope that they can land Kirk Cousins. Jarvis Landry and DeMarcus Lawrence will be getting tagged if they aren’t signed by the Dolphins and Cowboys, respectively, so that’s two more names off the market. At some point after the deadline to franchise tag, I’ll post a Top 10 NFL free agents blog in addition to that day’s 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Also, in baseball news, Tim Lincecum will be signing with the Texas Rangers. It’ll be interesting to see if he even has anything left in the tank at this stage in his career. Let’s get into the Cleveland Indians.

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2017 Results:

Record: 102-60, Won AL Central by 17 games over Minnesota Twins, lost to New York Yankees in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: 1B Yonder Alonso, OF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Napoli, RP Matt Belisle, RP Adam Wilk, RP Evan Marshall

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B Carlos Santana, OF Jay Bruce, RP Bryan Shaw, RP Joe Smith, RP Craig Breslow, OF Austin Jackson, RP Boone Logan

Best Offensive Player: SS Francisco Lindor

Best Pitcher: Corey Kluber

Depth Chart:

C-Roberto Perez, Yan Gomes

1B-Yonder Alonso, Edwin Encarnacion (DH), Mike Napoli

2B-Jason Kipnis, Michael Martinez

3B-Jose Ramirez, Giovanny Urshela

SS-Francisco Lindor

LF-Michael Brantley, Rajai Davis

CF-Bradley Zimmer, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte

RF-Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer

SP-Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger

Bullpen-Cody Allen (CP), Andrew Miller, Matt Belisle, Adam Wilk, Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Evan Marshall

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Terry Francona (6th season with Indians)

Hitting Coach-Ty Van Burkleo

Pitching Coach-Carl Willis

1st Base Coach-Sandy Alomar Jr

3rd Base Coach-Mike Sarbaugh

Bench Coach-Brad Mills

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I really thought for sure that last season was the Indians’ year. They won 102 games, including an American League (and debatably Major League) record 22 in a row. I say debatably for Major League record because the actual record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants included a tie due to darkness, since this was before any stadiums had any lights installed. But the Indians entered the postseason as arguably the hottest team in baseball and they even got out to a 2-0 lead in a best-of-5 ALDS against the Yankees. However, they blew that lead much like they blew their 3-1 World Series lead against the Cubs in 2016 and had to watch the Astros win their first ever World Series from their couches. But the Indians are in prime position to make another run this year as a loaded roster combined with a weak division (I believe the 3 worst teams in the American League all hail from the AL Central) should point to an easy path to another division crown. Let’s take a look at how the Indians could stack up.

1. Jason Kipnis-2B

2. Jose Ramirez-3B

3. Francisco Lindor-SS

4. Edwin Encarnacion-DH

5. Michael Brantley-LF

6. Yonder Alonso-1B

7. Lonnie Chisenhall-RF

8. Roberto Perez/Yan Gomes-C

9. Bradley Zimmer-CF

That’s a pretty dangerous lineup. While Kipnis had a down year in 2017, I fully expect him to return to form because when he’s on, he’s one of the best second basemen in the game. And I expect he’s going to get more opportunities to do so because following him in the lineup is some pretty dangerous company. Jose Ramirez was a beast last season as he hit .318 with 29 home runs, 83 RBI, slugged .583, and was worth 6.6 WAR en route to finishing third in AL MVP voting. After him is Francisco Lindor, whom many would argue is the best shortstop in all of baseball. Last season Lindor hit .273, clubbed 33 home runs, drove in 89 RBI and was worth 5.9 WAR while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Then there’s Edwin Encarnacion, who may be the biggest right-handed power threat in the game outside of New York. Encarnacion has slugged at least .500 in every season since his breakout 2012 campaign and there’s no reason to think he won’t keep up that trend. And if Michael Brantley can finally get healthy and return to form, look out. The only position that’s not really set here is centerfield but they’ve been testing out their young talent. Bradley Zimmer has the most potential between him and Tyler Naquin and it helps that he has blazing speed to go along with some pretty good pop. If he ends up breaking out this year, the Indians could be challenging the 2001 Mariners’ 116 wins.

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One could argue that the Indians’ pitching is just as good, if not better, than their hitting. They ranked #1 in all of Major League Baseball in team ERA and were the only pitching staff to collectively strike out 10 batters per 9 innings all season. They’re spearheaded by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, who was once again dominant in 2017 as he pitched to a record of 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA and struck out 11.71 batters per 9 innings. His sinker and breaking ball are two of the filthiest pitches in the Majors and will likely make him one of the favorites to win the Cy Young once again. Behind him is Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and while Salazar is injured and likely to miss the start of the season, there’s still Carrasco, a guy who would likely be the ace of most staffs. Last season, Carrasco went 18-6 with a 3.29 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are two other guys who could be big contributors to this rotation. Bauer went 17-9 with a 4.19 ERA and struck out 10 batters per 9 innings but his skill is so much greater than that when he’s not slicing his finger open on drones. If he can realize his potential, there’s a 4-headed monster in Cleveland’s rotation.

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The Indians also have one of the best bullpens in baseball. Cody Allen has been one of the better closers in in the game for the last three years, as he has had at least 30 saves, struck out 11 batters per 9 innings, and a sub-3 ERA in all three seasons. However despite being the closer, he’s not even the best reliever in their ‘pen. That distinction belongs to the left-handed Andrew Miller. Manager Terry Francona and his staff have carved out a unique role for Miller in today’s game. Miller will often set up Allen for at least 2 innings at a time and is probably the only reliever in the game who typically pitches more than one inning in any given outing. It hasn’t hurt his numbers either. Last season he had a 1.44 ERA while striking out over 13 batters per 9 innings. Absolute dominance. They did lose a quality reliever in Bryan Shaw to the Colorado Rockies in the offseason, but there is still plenty of depth in the Indians bullpen that ought to make Francona comfortable with a lead late in games.

Overall I would say that the Indians are the favorites to win the American League, maybe even the World Series. It will likely be a dogfight in the American League this season as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros all look like dangerous threats to the Tribe’s title hopes. The Yankees added the biggest slugger in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton, the Red Sox added a guy who rivals Stanton’s power in JD Martinez, and the Astros lost nothing from a team that won the 2017 World Series. In fact, they added another ace to their already stellar rotation in Gerrit Cole. It’s going to be a tough road to the top for the Indians but they are more than well-equipped to try and win their first World Series since 1948.

Projected Record: 99-63, Win AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Colorado Rockies, who look to build on their breakthrough 2017 season, which was a surprise to everyone except me (as you may have known, I had the Rockies as my darkhorse team last season in a paper I wrote for a column-writing class). Let me know what you think of the Indians’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Awards Season

Yesterday was my playoff preview, which you can read here. Today, we discuss who I think should win the major awards in baseball, as well as a few that aren’t technically real awards. Some are obvious (AL Rookie of the Year), some are not (NL MVP). Without further ado, let’s begin.

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, 2B, Houston Astros

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Jose Altuve has been a front-runner for AL MVP the last 3 years. (photo credit: Grantland)

This was a tough one, as Yankees right fielder and rookie sensation Aaron Judge has been unbelievable this season (more on him later). But Jose Altuve has been the catalyst for arguably the best team in baseball and has been doing so at a steady pace throughout the season. He hit .346 this year with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, and 32 stolen bases to go along with 112 runs scored. In addition to his offensive prowess, he has also been an excellent defender at a premium position and is a menace on the basepaths. You could also argue that nobody is more important to his team. Altuve is what makes the Astros go and he has been doing this for quite some time now. It’s time he gets the recognition he deserves.

Others receiving consideration: Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankes; Corey Kluber, P, Cleveland Indians; Jose Ramirez, UTIL, Cleveland Indians

NL MVP: Charlie Blackmon, CF, Colorado Rockies

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Charlie Blackmon put on perhaps his finest performance in 2017 (photo credit: The Denver Post)

This was one of the toughest decisions I had to make. You would need three or four hands to count how many guys could feasibly win MVP in the NL this season. There’s Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins, whose 59 home runs captivated the nation. There’s Nolan Arenado of the Rockies, whose defensive wizardry and capacity for driving in runs was a sight to behold. Joey Votto did things human beings shouldn’t be allowed to do.

But Charlie Blackmon, Arenado’s teammate, has to be my pick here. He hit .331 with 37 home runs, 104 RBI, 137 runs scored and slugged .601. All out of the leadoff spot in the lineup. He made the Rockies prolific offense go and Arenado doesn’t lead the Majors in RBI for most of the season without Blackmon at the top of this lineup. Blackmon even drove in 100 runs himself out of the leadoff spot, something unheard of throughout the history of the game. Blackmon’s 104 RBI is actually a Major League record for a guy who primarily batted leadoff. Blackmon does it all for this Rockies team that finds itself in a playoff spot for the first time since 2009.

Others receiving consideration: Giancarlo Stanton, RF, Miami Marlins; Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies; Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds; Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks; Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

AL Cy Young: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

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Corey Kluber has been absolutely dominant down the stretch (photo credit: Chicago Tribune)

Yes, I wrote a blog saying that Chris Sale should win the award. But that was before delving into their September stats. In September, Sale’s ERA was 3.72, with 3 games giving up at least 3 runs and 2 games where he gave up 0. His inconsistency this month forced me to drop him from the race. Kluber, on the other hand, has only gotten hotter. His September ERA was 0.84, allowing all of 4 earned runs through the entire month. Sale allowed 4 runs on 2 separate occasions in September. It’s tough to pick against a guy who struck out 308 batters, but his inconsistency when the other guy was as dominant as ever is hard to overlook.

Others receiving consideration: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

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Max Scherzer seems destined to win his second straight Cy Young Award, third overall (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Scherzer missed a little bit of time late in the season due to injury but that didn’t stop him from reaching 200 innings for the fifth consecutive season. He’s the ace of a dominating Nationals pitching rotation, striking out 12 batters per 9 innings while holding an ERA of 2.51. Clayton Kershaw was as nasty as he always is but he missed far too much time for me to seriously consider him unseating Scherzer, who I have winning this award for the second consecutive season.

Others receiving consideration: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers; Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees

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One of 52 bombs hit by Aaron Judge this season (photo credit: MLB.com)

Was there any other option? The argument could be made that Judge should be MVP as well, which would be the third time ever a rookie of the year also won MVP (Fred Lynn and Ichiro were the other two). Judge hit .284 with 52 home runs and 114 RBI, leading the majors in Fangraphs WAR at 8.2. His 52 dingers were the most ever by a rookie, breaking the previous mark of 49 set by Mark McGwire back in 1987.

Others receiving consideraton: Andrew Benintendi, LF, Boston Red Sox; Mitch Haniger, RF, Seattle Mariners

NL Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Cody Bellinger has been a driving force behind the Dodgers 104-win season (photo credit: True Blue LA)

Like Judge, this was also an easy pick. When Adrian Gonzalez went down for the Dodgers, it fell on Bellinger to pick up the slack. He did that and then some. Bellinger hit 39 home runs and drove in 97 runs for the Dodgers this year, keeping up the franchise’s long history of rookie success. Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies was also a consideration, as the start he got off to was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen. He ended up hitting 18 home runs in just 50 games this year, which would put him on pace for over 55 for an entire regular season. However, Hoskins didn’t play enough to seriously be considered a threat to Bellinger.

Others receiving consideration: Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies; Paul DeJong, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

Reliever of the Year: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers

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Kenley Jansen has been about as deadly as any reliever in baseball (photo credit: InsideSoCal.com)

Another nail-biter, Jansen barely beats out Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel. While Jansen’s K rate is lower (14.36 against Kimbrel’s 16. 43), his walk rate is half of Kimbrel’s and his home run rate is lower as well. There is a slight ERA difference in Jansen’s favor (1.32 vs 1.43). I wouldn’t argue against Kimbrel winning this award by any means, but I give Jansen the slight edge here.

Others receiving consideration: Craig Kimbrel, Boston Red Sox

Platinum Glove (best defender): Andrelton Simmons, SS, Anaheim Angels

Simmons is well-known for his defensive wizardry (he had a heck of a season at the plate as well, but we’re not going to talk about that when discussing a defensive award) and he kept up his reputation by leading the Majors in Defensive Runs Saved with 32. Mookie Betts of the Red Sox was next at 31 but after those two there was a steep drop-off. In fact, the next closest shortstop to Simmons was Trevor Story with 11. To clear things up, Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) measures how many runs you prevent with your defense throughout the season. A DRS of 0 is considered average. Simmons repeatedly turns insane highlight plays on a daily basis and every year this award will be his to lose.

Others receiving consideration: Mookie Betts, RF, Boston Red Sox; Byron Buxton, CF, Minnesota Twins

AL Gold Gloves:

P-Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays

C-Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

1B-Mitch Moreland, Boston Red Sox

2B-Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers

3B-Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

SS-Andrelton Simmons, Anaheim Angels

LF-Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

CF-Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins

RF-Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

NL Gold Gloves:

P-R. A. Dickey, Atlanta Braves

C-Tucker Barnhart, Cincinnati Reds

1B-Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

2B-DJ LeMahieu, Colorado Rockies

3B-Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

SS-Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

LF-Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

CF-Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds

RF-Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

AL Silver Sluggers

C-Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

1B-Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

2B-Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

3B-Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

SS-Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians

LF-Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers/Anaheim Angels

CF-Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels

RF-Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

DH-Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

NL Silver Sluggers

C-Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

1B-Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

2B-Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

3B-Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

SS-Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds

LF-Tommy Pham, St. Louis Cardinals

CF-Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies

RF-Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

P-Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates

Comeback Player of the Year: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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Giancarlo Stanton’s 59 home runs put the world on notice (photo credit: CBS Sports)

This is the start of the MLB awards that aren’t technically real. I’ll be giving this award to a guy who had a poor season the year prior but bounced back with a great one. This year, it’s Giancarlo Stanton. Last season, when I was at the Home Run Derby in San Diego, Stanton put on a damn clinic, hitting 61 home runs (the previous derby record had been 41). He wasn’t in the All Star Game that season, having been hitting in the low .200s at the break. Pedro Gomez asked Stanton after he had won why he did the Derby when he wasn’t in the All Star Game (a weird question to ask, if not a little mean if you ask me), Stanton looked a tad offended but shrugged it off, raised the trophy, and said “I came here for this bad boy.” This season, Stanton has turned the entire Major Leagues into his own personal home run derby, belting 59 home runs, the most since Barry Bonds’ record-setting 73 in 2001. Stanton wasn’t just all about the long balls, though. He also managed to hit .281 and walked 12.3% of the time.

Others receiving consideration: Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals; Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates; Zack Greinke, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Breakout Star of the Year: Aaron Judge, RF, New York Yankees

Last season, when he played only 27 games after a late-season callup, Judge did not look great. There was a hole in his swing the size of a hipster’s ear lobe as he struck out at a 44.2% rate. This season, while his strikeout rate is still high (30.7%), Judge has been sending the pitches he does end up hitting into other area codes. The thing that impressed me most about Judge wasn’t how many home runs he was hitting, but where they were going. And I don’t just mean distance. Judge was hitting just as many home runs to left field as he was to center field and right. You couldn’t focus on one spot to try and get him out like you can with most other power hitters because Judge can take the outside pitches just as far as the inside ones. Below is Aaron Judge’s spray chart this season, courtesy of Fangraphs.chart

Others receiving consideration: Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies; Tommy Pham, LF, St. Louis Cardinals; Jimmy Nelson, SP, Milwaukee Brewers; Robbie Ray, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks; Cody Bellinger, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers; Chris Taylor, UTIL, Los Angeles Dodgers; Tim Beckham, SS, Tampa Bay Rays/Baltimore Orioles

Defensive Play of the Year: Austin Jackson, OF, Cleveland Indians

Hitting Performance of the Year: Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals

Rendon’s line on April 30th against the New York Mets: 6-6 with 3 home runs, 10 RBI, and a double.

Also receiving consideration: Scooter Gennett on June 6th against the St. Louis Cardinals. 5-5 with 4 home runs and 10 RBI

Pitching Performance of the Year: Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers

Poor guy. Rich Hill pulls a Harvey Haddix and goes 9 no-hit (nearly 9 perfect but for a Logan Forsythe error) innings but his team doesn’t get him a single run, then he gives up a walk-off home run to Josh Harrison in the 10th. First time ever that a no hitter is broken up by a walk-off home run in extra innings. Oddly enough, this game came the day after Sports Illustrated published a cover that asked if the Dodgers were the greatest team of all time. Rich Hill’s line on August 23rd against the Pittsburgh Pirates: 9+ innings, 1 hits, 0 walks, 1 run, 10 strikeouts, 99 pitches needed.

Others receiving consideration: Edinson Volquez’s no hitter on June 3rd against the Arizona Diamondbacks

Most enjoyable player to watch: Javy Baez, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs


There’s more, but I think these two videos get the job done.

Others receiving consideration: Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians; Andrelton Simmons, SS, Anaheim Angels

Those are my awards picks. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Chris Sale vs Corey Kluber: The enigma that is the 2017 American League Cy Young race

Following the 2016 American League Cy Young Award race was like following the presidential election: nobody deserved to win, but somebody had to, and the controversy surrounding the results was the big story. Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox won the award over Justin Verlander, then of the Detroit Tigers, by 5 points. However it was revealed afterwards that two Tampa Bay writers completely left Verlander off of their ballots, omissions that, quite frankly, are inexcusable given the strong showing Verlander put forth. Not that Porcello wasn’t deserving of the award (compared to the rest of the American League, that is), but Verlander simply had a better season by most standard and advanced metrics. This year, however, the AL Cy Young Award race has been made far more intriguing by a teammate of Porcello’s and the guy who finished in third place for this very award last season.

Corey Kluber (left) and Chris Sale (right) are the top 2 contenders for the 2017 AL Cy Young Award (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Chris Sale of the Red Sox and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians have been in a battle the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Jurassic World ending. I gathered together a bunch of statistics to try and get a glimpse at who has truly been the best pitcher in the AL. I kid you not, Sale and Kluber are number 1 and number 2 in the AL in the following categories: ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, K/9, BB/9, K%, Opponent Batting Average, FIP, and WAR (all stats acquired are according to FanGraphs). Both guys are the aces of strong pitching staffs on division leaders (in Cleveland’s case, champs) and have two of the filthiest sliders in the game. Here’s an example of Sale’s and Kluber’s.  To have to face either of these guys at any point in the year makes every Major Leaguer worthy of their 8-figure salaries.

The Case for Sale:

Chris Sale came to the Red Sox in a trade with the Chicago White Sox during the 2016-17 offseason for prized prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others. To say that the trade has been an early success for the Red Sox is about as big an understatement as saying The Godfather is a good movie. Right out of the gate, Sale tied a Major League record with 8 consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts and he hasn’t let up since. Because, seriously, how does anyone expect to hit this? During Wednesday night’s start against the Orioles, he became the second pitcher in Red Sox history to reach 300 strikeouts and is 13 away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record set during his historic 1999 season. Sale has the kind of stuff to achieve that in his next start. With one or two starts remaining in the regular season, Sale has a line of 17-7 with a 2.75 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 300 K, 12.90 K/9, and 8.2 WAR. In fact, Sale’s WAR not only tops all pitchers in Major League Baseball, it tops all players. But the stat that really amazes me about Sale is his FIP. For those who aren’t familiar with sabermetrics, FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching is a stat that takes out all plays that are outside of a pitcher’s control, such as singles, doubles, triples, and fielding outs and only takes into account plays that are within the pitcher’s control: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. It is meant to try and predict what a pitcher’s ERA would be if he were given a neutral defense, one that doesn’t really help him, nor hurt him. The difference in ERA and FIP can often be used to measure exactly how much a pitcher is helped or hurt by his defense. Sale’s FIP is 2.22, half a run lower than his 2.75 ERA, meaning that the Red Sox defense behind him is actually hurting his production. And considering how dominant he has been this year, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AL. And for those who were wondering, Sale’s FIP is the best in the majors (Kluber happens to be number 2 at 2.49, but I’ll get into that later).  Not to mention, the guy is completely psychotic. I don’t have video evidence of this and I don’t even remember who the opponent was, but earlier this season I was watching a Red Sox game when Chris Sale walked the leadoff batter in the 7th inning. Sale never allowed that runner to reach second base, yet when he recorded the final out of the inning, he was screaming at himself into his glove for walking that leadoff batter. I remind you that the baserunner did no damage and he had no issue with the next three batters, yet he was screaming at himself like he just gave up an 0-2 grand slam. And when Sale gives you “that look,” you bend your will to him. Seriously. Look him in the eye and tell me you aren’t freaked out by this dude.

Chris Sale

I do not envy Red Sox Manager John Farrell having to tell this guy his night is done. Lucky for him, he hasn’t had to do that too often: Sale leads the Major Leagues in innings pitched at 209.1.

The Case for Kluber

Corey Kluber’s last start of the 2016 season came in Game 7 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs. He had dominated all postseason and had continued his run against the Cubbies in each of his first 2 starts in the Fall Classic. However, he didn’t make it out of the 5th inning, surrendering 4 runs and 2 home runs and the Indians lost the World Series to the Cubs, a franchise that hadn’t won in 108 years. It seemed that he hadn’t gotten over that defeat to start 2017, as his ERA after the first month was 5.06. That was when he hit the Disabled List and missed all but one start in the month of May due to a lower back strain. That DL stint seemed to fix him, however, as he has been absolutely lights out ever since. He has gone 17-2 since coming off the DL with a minuscule ERA of 1.69, including 0.87 in the month of September. Despite missing almost an entire month, Kluber still ranks 6th in the AL in innings pitched. He ranks 2nd in WAR at 6.9 (nice), trailing only Sale and he leads the AL in ERA (2.35), WHIP (0.85), BB/9 (1.60), and opponent batting average (.187). The one real knock I can think of against Kluber is his FIP, which is 2.49, which when compared to his 2.35 ERA, suggests that the Indians’ defense has actually aided Kluber’s numbers. Regardless, that FIP still ranks second in the AL and would still lead the league if it were his actual ERA. Kluber’s performance also helped spark the Indians’ 22-game winning streak, the longest in AL history (longest ever if you don’t count the 1916 New York Giants 26-game winning streak, which had a tie mixed in). During that historic run, Kluber won all 4 of his starts and had an ERA of 1.41, striking out 45 batters in the process. Where Kluber goes, the Indians seem to go as well. When Kluber hit the DL, the Indians were 15-12 and appeared to be having a World Series hangover. They went 13-13 in his absence and were struggling to fend off the pesky Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Since his return, though, the Tribe have gone 68-32, clinching their division and stealing the top record in the AL from the Houston Astros, who held that honor from the beginning of the season, up until midway through the Indians’ streak a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to argue there’s a pitcher more important to his team than Kluber.

Conclusion: It’s insanely difficult to pick one of these guys to win the Cy Young Award over the other, yet come November, one of these two guys will be taking home the hardware. I’m just thankful that I don’t have a vote, because writing this article and trying to take a side was damn near impossible. Though, if you were to force me into a Ramsay Bolton- Theon Greyjoy Reek-type situation, I’d have to say I would give the Cy Young Award to Chris Sale, but I’d rather have Corey Kluber in a must-win playoff game, as Sale has never appeared in the postseason, having pitched for the White Sox the first 7 years of his career. See? No cop outs here.