What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

So on Wednesday night, I had just gotten home from work and was having a few beers while my brother and I watched a replay of the Edge vs Mick Foley Wrestlemania 22 Hardcore match. You know, this one:

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After we got done watching that, I was scrolling through Twitter and noticed a user pointed out that on mlb.com’s depth chart page for the Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer is the only starting pitcher listed. I thought that was weird and sent it to a buddy who said “looks like Archer will be getting his innings in.”  I then went and watched the James Cameron movie “Aliens,” which was badass, but the Rays’ pitching situation wouldn’t leave me alone. So finally, when the movie was done, I got to thinking: what if ALL of baseball did away with pitching rotations?

A little background first on why Tampa’s depth chart probably looks the way it does. So at the start of the season, manager Kevin Cash announced that the Rays would go with a 4-man rotation and would make the 5th day an all-bullpen day. A pitcher that usually comes out of the bullpen will get the start, go as long as he could (typically no more than 4 innings) before other bullpen arms got in the mix. It led to the creation of the term “opener,” rather than “closer.” Tampa opened the year with a starting rotation of Chris Archer-Blake Snell-Jake Faria-Nathan Eovaldi (who didn’t debut until a little over a month later). Snell and Faria are currently on the DL while Eovaldi was just traded to the Boston Red Sox for pitching prospect Jalen Beeks. So right now, of those four, only Archer is currently standing. As for who the “openers” are, the Rays have sent out Ryne Stanek, Ryan Yarbrough, Matt Andriese, Johnny Venters, and Sergio Romo among others. All in all, 14 pitchers have made a start for the Rays.

So how well has it worked? Well the Rays currently sit in 3rd place in the AL East at 52-50 (this blog was written before the start of play on July 26), 18.5 games behind the Red Sox in the division and 9 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. However that’s due in large part to the fact the Rays have struggled to score runs, as they’re 22nd in all of baseball in runs scored. Their pitching has put up very good numbers, though. Right now they’re currently 9th in pitching WAR at a combined 10.6 with the 7th best ERA at 3.70. That’s the main contributing factor for why a team as untalented on paper as the Rays has a winning record in late July. In fact, if the Rays were in the weak AL Central rather than having to face the Red Sox and Yankees a million times every year, it wouldn’t shock me at all to see them battling the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the division (they currently trail Cleveland by just 3.5 games overall).

So how would Major League Baseball look if they took Tampa’s formula a step further and did away with starting rotations? Well, for one, there would be a lot more opportunities for managers to get creative. I’m going to use the Red Sox as my example team in order to simplify things for myself. The pitchers at manager Alex Cora’s disposal are, in alphabetical order: Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Eovaldi, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, David Price, Chris Sale, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, and Brandon Workman (this is not accounting for the injured Eduardo Rodriguez, Carson Smith, and Steven Wright). Assuming each staff follows Tampa’s model, the Red Sox could send any one of these guys out to start and go up to four innings. Not only that, but they could appear in back-to-back games and pitch in more games overall over the course of a season. As if we couldn’t get enough Chris Sale already, now he could be pitching back-to-back days and 70 times in a season as opposed to now where he only pitches every 5 games and about 30 times in a season. We could also see David Price come in relief for Sale, meaning teams will have to face two Cy Young-caliber pitchers back-to-back. Which sounds pretty menacing to me. Or Hell, the Yankees could start the game with Aroldis Chapman, go to Luis Severino for the second-fifth inning, then send out Dellin Betances. The combinations managers would have at their disposal are endless. Plus, we won’t have to think of bullpens as having just 7 or 8 options available to choose from. When you add guys who normally start to the mix, that gives teams 11 or 12 guys to choose from.

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

We will also definitely see a rise in fastball velocity. The reason some of these starters aren’t hitting 100 mph on every fastball is due to the fact that they’re preserving some energy in case they need to go deep into the game, whereas relievers put everything they have behind every pitch because they know they’re probably only going the one inning. So take this into account: a few years ago, the Cincinnati Reds toyed with the idea of making their superstar closer Aroldis Chapman into a starting pitcher. They tried him out in the role in Spring Training. Chapman’s fastball in his career has topped out at an MLB record 105.1 mph. Chapman’s fastball as a starter never got over 94 mph. The 105.1 mph pitch is obviously an outlier, but Chapman’s fastball still is routinely clocked at around 101 mph. Now let’s take into account what some guys are throwing despite the knowledge that they’re going to have to go multiple innings. Luis Severino, Noah Syndergaard, Mike Foltynewicz, and Eovaldi’s fastballs all average about 97 mph. By the logic of Chapman’s dropped velocity as a starter of -7 mph (typical 101 to 94), we can imperfectly assume that these guys’ fastballs would rise by about 7 mph (the math that got me to that assumption is probably very wrong, but you get what I’m trying to say here), meaning we’d have four dudes averaging a 104 mph fastball. I’m not sure how teams would manage to hit that on a day-to-day basis, especially when you consider that guys who normally throw 91 are now throwing 98.

We would also see the absolute annihilation of the pitching wins stat. As if it wasn’t already useless enough in today’s game, now it will pretty much only favor the second pitcher to be used, since in order for a starter to qualify for a win, he has to go 5 innings and his lead can’t evaporate. If the first pitcher used only goes 4 innings with a 10-0 lead, whomever replaces him first will vulture his win even if he struck out all 12 batters he faced. However other stats would likely be significantly improved, such as the ERA and opponent batting average stat. Think of it this way. In seemingly every game where a pitcher is going deep into his outing, the broadcast shows a graphic that showcases how a pitcher does each time through the lineup. Usually, the hitters will have the pitcher figured out by their third time seeing him in the game. With this type of pitching staff, you deny hitters the opportunity to see a pitcher for a third time, thus relinquishing that late-inning value at their disposal, leading to potentially fewer runs being scored. Now, of course, bringing in a bunch of relievers makes it more likely that you’re going to bring someone in who is having an off-night, but I think overall the number of runs scored is going to drop substantially.

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

There will also be more talented pitchers take the next step and become studs than before. Consider the fact that Andrew Miller, Zach Britton, Archie Bradley, Wade Davis, and Brandon Morrow all began their careers as starting pitchers but flamed out and failed to realize their great potentials. Then consider the fact that they became dominant bullpen arms upon their move to that role. Well now everybody will make that switch so we could see extremely talented guys such as Kevin Gausman, Lucas Giolito, or Tyler Glasnow be given the opportunity to reinvent themselves. David Price even looked like his Cy Young-winning self during his brief stint in the Red Sox bullpen to finish the 2017 season, as he didn’t give up a run in his 9 relief outings.

Sadly, though, the individual no hitter would cease to exist as any future no hitter would be of the combined variety. The most exciting outcome for a pitcher where nothing happens has been something that has always been a goal of mine to see from start to finish would be a thing of the past since the starter would likely be gone by the third or fourth inning. However I’m sure there are plenty of managers out there who don’t really care, as long as they got the win, which is ultimately what really matters.

There will be a few changes that will have to happen, though, in order for this change to work. For one, guys who are currently starting pitchers need to COMPLETELY overhaul their routine. Starting pitchers have routines they do on their off days to get ready for their next start, but without the certainty that comes with being a starting pitcher, that will change dramatically and will more than likely affect some guys for the worst. Another change will be MLB’s requirement of teams announcing who will start each game. If a manager is going to run with this type of pitching staff, they’re going to have to give a few days’ notice for each pitcher. If this type of staff were to be rolled out, I’d personally be more invested in a surprise starter for every game, keeping opposing teams on their toes. Though I guess managers typically fill out their batting orders based on who the opposing pitcher is so that would probably cause a problem. Damn, thought I was on to something or a moment.

In short, I think that taking the Rays’ formula for a pitching staff a step further and doing away with starting rotations could potentially be a very innovative way to go about pitching and re-think the way teams construct their staffs. Did I just break baseball? Or did I have way too much to drink and this idea is stupid? Let me know what you think of the idea of no pitching rotations in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Los Angeles Dodgers

Holy shit, Shaquem Griffin. Known primarily as UCF’s one-handed linebacker because he literally does not have a left hand, Griffin put on a show at the Combine. He did 20 bench press reps (he had to use a prosthetic left hand) and ran a 4.38(!) 40-yard dash, which is currently the 3rd fastest time of any player at the Combine, regardless of position. It’s also the fastest 40-yard dash time ever publicly recorded by a linebacker. I watched his Auburn game film and I knew he was fast but Jesus Christ! It’ll be interesting to see where teams value him in April. Now that I’ve got my Combine raving done, let’s get to the Dodgers for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days.

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2017 Results:

Record: 104-58, Won NL West by 11 games over Arizona Diamondbacks, defeated Diamondbacks in NLDS, defeated Chicago Cubs in NLCS, lost to Houston Astros in World Series

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Tom Koehler, OF Matt Kemp

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Tony Watson, SP Yu Darvish, OF Curtis Granderson, RP Brandon Morrow, RP Luis Avilan, OF Andre Ethier, SS Charlie Culberson, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, SP Scott Kazmir, RP Brandon McCarthy

Best Offensive Player: SS Corey Seager

Best Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw

Depth Chart:

C-Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal

1B-Cody Bellinger

2B-Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Corey Seager

LF-Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez

CF-Chris Taylor

RF-Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp

SP-Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu

Bullpen-Kenley Jansen (CP), Ross Stripling, Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, Adam Liberatore, Yimi Garcia, Pedro Baez, Tom Koehler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Roberts (3rd season with Dodgers)

Hitting Coach-Turner Ward

Pitching Coach-Rick Honeycutt

1st Base Coach-George Lombard

3rd Base Coach-Chris Woodward

Bench Coach-Bob Geren

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So close. The Dodgers were one win away from winning their first World Series since 1988 but their bats finally failed them in Game 7 against the Houston Astros. However they will be heavily favored to return to the Fall Classic and perhaps even to win the whole thing as they have about as deep a roster as any in Major League Baseball. They didn’t add very much in the offseason but they didn’t need to as it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. Here’s how the Dodgers will look to line up in 2018.

1. Chris Taylor-CF

2. Corey Seager-SS

3. Justin Turner-3B

4. Cody Bellinger-1B

5. Yasiel Puig-RF

6. Joc Pederson/Kike Hernandez-LF

7. Logan Forsythe/Chase Utley-2B

8. Austin Barnes/Yasmani Grandal-C

9. Pitcher’s Spot

Pretty damn solid if I do say so myself. Chris Taylor was a breakout star for the Dodgers last season. He hit .288 with 21 home runs, 72 RBI, and was worth 4.7 WAR after having had just one career home run prior to 2017. He appears to be slated to be their leadoff hitter this season. Corey Seager was tremendous as usual, as he hit .295 with 22 home runs, 77 RBI, and was worth 5.7 WAR as a follow-up to his amazing 2016 NL Rookie of the Year campaign. Justin Turner was also his usual terrific self in 2017, as he hit .322 with 21 home runs, 71 RBI, had the lowest soft-hit ball percentage in the Majors at just 9.8%, and was worth 5.5 WAR. The 33-year old just continues to get better with age. Cody Bellinger continued the long line of Dodger rookies of the year, as he took home the award in 2017 by hitting .269, an NL rookie record 39 home runs, drove in 97 RBI, and was worth 4.0 WAR. He struggled mightily in the World Series, as he struck out a whopping 17 times in 28 at bats, but that shouldn’t deter peoples’ opinions of just how good he was in 2017. There isn’t a single easy out in this lineup.

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If you try and convince me there’s a better pitcher on the planet than Clayton Kershaw right now, I’ll spit in your face. I mean for God’s sake, the man hasn’t had an ERA over 3 since his rookie year in 2008 and he didn’t even pitch enough innings for his ERA to qualify. Since then, his worst single-season ERA is 2.91 in 2010. Chris Sale’s best ERA was 2.90 last season. Kershaw doesn’t throw the hardest, his fastball is usually somewhere around 94 mph, but it’s the break on his slider and curveball as well as his pinpoint accuracy and the way he sets up hitters that make him the greatest pitcher on the planet. Plus he doesn’t turn 30 for another couple weeks. He recorded 2130 strikeouts before the age of 30. That’s just absolute insanity to me and he did it all while keeping his career ERA at an astoundingly low 2.36. To put that into perspective, I had a Road to the Show pitcher character who had all of his abilities maxed out. His career ERA was 2.41. They just don’t make them better than Kershaw. After Kershaw is a pretty solid rotation. Rich Hill is finally finding his groove as a pitcher in his late 30’s, as his curveball is one of the game’s very best. I thought he was used pretty poorly in the World Series, as despite pitching very well in both of his starts he never got out of the fifth inning. I thought Dave Roberts overmanaged in the World Series but that’s counterproductive to talk about at this point. Alex Wood also had a career year in 2017, as he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. I hate his jerky windup, but it clearly works for him and I can see how it can throw off hitters. I mean look at this thing.

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That windup is absolutely hideous but it clearly works.

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The Dodgers have one of the top bullpens in the game in addition to a stacked rotation. Kenley Jansen is arguably the best closer in the game and his 2017 season was a continuation of his dominance. He had a 1.32 ERA, recorded 41 saves, and struck out over 14 batters per 9 innings. Jansen is practically untouchable in the 9th inning although the Astros didn’t seem to have a problem with him, as he had a 3.12 ERA in the Fall Classic, though a lot of that can be attributed to Dave Roberts having him typically go longer than he normally does in games, as a lot of the damage done by the Astros came after Jansen had already pitched one inning. The Dodgers did lose quite a few pieces in their bullpen, such as Brandon Morrow, Luis Avilan, and Brandon McCarthy, but there are still several quality relievers left to set up Jansen. Ross Stripling struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings, Tony Cingrani had a K/9 of nearly 11, and Josh Fields had an ERA of 2.84. Pretty much all of these guys should have Roberts pretty comfortable with a lead late in the game, which should be something they’ll be used to given how potent their lineup is.

Overall, I expect the Dodgers to be the favorites to repeat as National League champions. They didn’t lose anybody of significant importance (unless you count Trade Deadline acquisition Yu Darvish, however he was only with the team for a couple months) from a team that won 104 games and was a win away from the World Series. They didn’t add much, either, however like I said at the outset, it’s hard to improve on a 104-win season. This year might be a little more difficult for the Dodgers because the Diamondbacks look to be gaining on them in the division, the Rockies will be trying to repeat their breakout success, and the Giants totally reloaded in the offseason by acquiring Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. However I think the Dodgers are simply too deep to really be phased by this and I expect them to come out as NL West champs once again.

Projected Record: 100-62, Win NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Miami Marlins, who don’t seem to have changed a whole lot with new ownership, as they once again gutted their team the moment they showed promise. Let me know what you think of the Dodgers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Chicago Cubs

Arizona head coach Sean Miller being wiretapped by the FBI revealing that Arizona was offering $100K to recruit center DeAndre Ayton is easily the biggest news happening right now but the news I’m most concerned with is that Indiana might be involved with these same agents. Miller’s brother, Archie, is the head coach at IU and it was revealed that Indiana may have been a part of a bidding war for current South Carolina stud Brian Bowen. It doesn’t appear that Indiana has too much against it, but considering that they’re just 10 years removed from the Kelvin Sampson debacle, another discovery of violations could be really damaging. But on to more positive news, we’re talking baseball again as Day 6 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days features the Chicago Cubs. Let’s take a look at Joe Maddon’s club’s outlook for the season.

at Dodger Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

2017 Results:

Record: 92-70, Won NL Central by 6 games over Milwaukee Brewers, defeated Washington Nationals in NLDS, lost to Los Angeles Dodgers in NLCS

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Yu Darvish, RP Brandon Morrow, OF Peter Bourjos, RP Steve Cishek, SP Tyler Chatwood, SP Drew Smyly, C Chris Gimenez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Jake Arrieta, SP John Lackey, C Alex Avila, CP Wade Davis, RP Hector Rondon, C Rene Rivera, OF Leonys Martin, RP Koji Uehara, OF Jon Jay

Best Offensive Player: 3B Kris Bryant

Best Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks

Depth Chart:

C-Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini

1B-Anthony Rizzo

2B-Javy Baez, Ben Zobrist

3B-Kris Bryant, Tommy La Stella

SS-Addison Russell

LF-Kyle Schwarber

CF-Ian Happ, Albert Almora Jr

RF-Jason Heyward, Peter Bourjos

SP-Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood

Bullpen-Brandon Morrow (CP), Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr, Steve Cishek, Brian Duensing, Justin Grimm, Justin Wilson, Mike Montgomery

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Joe Maddon (4th season with Cubs)

Hitting Coach-Chili Davis

Pitching Coach-Jim Hickey

1st Base Coach-Will Venable

3rd Base Coach-Brian Butterfield

Bench Coach-Brandon Hyde

at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

The Chicago Cubs are shooting for another World Series title this season and one can’t argue against their chances in 2018. Offensively they boast arguably the brightest young core in all of baseball, as each of Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Bryant, Schwarber, Happ, and Almora are all under the age of 30. In fact, when they won the 2016 World Series, their entire infield of Rizzo-Baez-Russell-Bryant was under the age of 26. So expect the Cubs to be very good for a long time. Here’s how the Cubs expect to line up in 2018.

1. Ian Happ/Albert Almora Jr-CF

2. Kris Bryant-3B

3. Anthony Rizzo-1B

4. Willson Contreras-C

5. Kyle Schwarber-LF

6. Javy Baez-2B

7. Jason Heyward-RF

8. Addison Russell-SS

9. Pitcher’s Spot

My one issue with this lineup is that it lacks a true leadoff hitter. I more put Happ and Almora in that spot because I think they have the potential to take over that role rather than whether they truly deserve it or not. But Joe Maddon is known to tinker with his lineup to a degree that would make Ruxin from The League proud. Hell there was a time where he experimented with Rizzo in the leadoff spot, which actually worked to relative success, I might add. But no matter where you put a guy like Kris Bryant in the lineup, he’s going to do some damage. Last season, Bryant hit .295 with 29 home runs, 73 RBI, 111 runs scored, and was worth 6.7 WAR, which was 2nd best among all third basemen (Anthony Rendon’s 6.9 was tops). The 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and 2016 NL MVP will look to add to his mantle in 2018. His partner in crime, Rizzo, was also excellent in 2017. He hit .273 with 32 home runs, 109 RBI, 99 runs scored, and was worth 4.0 WAR. Rizzo’s been a model of consistency ever since 2014 and nowhere is that more apparent than in his home run totals. Since 2014, his home run totals have been 32-31-32-32. If that’s not consistent I don’t know what is but you can pretty much pencil in Rizzo for 32 home runs in 2018. Kyle Schwarber’s a guy they hope can really come into his own in 2018 as he’s got a ton of pop but hasn’t quite put it all together. However if you look at him in Spring Training right now, it is VERY clear that he’s in incredible shape so I expect a big year out of him. But the biggest factor for the Cubs offense in my opinion was the breakout of young catcher Willson Contreras. In his first full season as the Cubs’ everyday catcher, Contreras hit .276 with 21 home runs, 74 RBI, and was worth 3.2 WAR. His emergence was a big reason the Cubs continued to be the class of the NL Central despite the slow start out of Bryant and the others. Expect the Cubs to have one of the best offenses in baseball in 2018.

at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.

The Cubs struggled on the mound last season. Jon Lester’s ERA rose nearly 2 whole runs from 2016-17, Jake Arrieta’s ERA rose to the mid-3’s, John Lackey’s ERA skyrocketed to 4.59, and their most consistent starter, Kyle Hendricks, missed much of the season due to injury. Arrieta and Lackey will not be returning in 2018 as both remain unsigned as of this writing and the Cubs have filled out their rotation with the signing of Yu Darvish, which I covered a few weeks ago. If Lester can return to half the form he was in 2016 when he was a finalist for NL Cy Young and if Hendricks can stay healthy, the Cubs could have another dominant rotation. Jose Quintana, whom the Cubs acquired at the Trade Deadline from the White Sox last season, was pretty inconsistent in 2017 but after his trade to the Cubs, he seemed to settle down a bit and had a 3.74 ERA in the second half. So if all their guys can pitch to their ability, the Cubs will have four aces on their staff.

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The Cubs’ bullpen saw a bit of an overhaul in the 2017-18 offseason. Gone are former closers Wade Davis and Hector Rondon but they added Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek to replace them. The closer role is unclear but according to MLB.com’s depth chart for the Cubs, Morrow is slated to be the closer for the Cubs, a role he’s never really held before. The most saves he’s had in a season was 10 in 2008 with the Mariners but that was also a season where Seattle was trying to figure out what to do with him, as he also made 5 starts that year. However Morrow was excellent as the 8th inning guy for the Dodgers in 2017, as he had an ERA of 2.06 and struck out over 10 batters per 9 innings. In fact, manager Dave Roberts liked him so much that he became the second pitcher ever to appear in all 7 World Series games. New acquisition Steve Cishek has been a closer for the Marlins in the past so he is certainly an option to close out games if Morrow can’t go. Breakout youngster Carl Edwards Jr could also be an option. Edwards had a career year in 2017 as he pitched to a 2.98 ERA and struck out 12.75 batters per 9 innings. Plus he was the guy who was going to close out Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, getting the first two outs before letting up a run and being relieved for Mike Montgomery. If Edwards can continue his ascent, he could also find himself closing games by the end of the year.

Overall, the Cubs are looking really good for 2018. They boast a powerful young lineup with a plethora of talented pitching options. The key for them is going to be avoiding the slow start that plagued them for much of 2017. For much of the season, they found themselves playing catchup to Milwaukee in the NL Central before pulling away late in the second half. Milwaukee reloaded in the offseason, adding outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich so they mean business in the division. If the Cubs are going to stave them off, they’re going to need to be sharp for all 162 games, which they’re more than capable of. Joe Maddon is arguably the best manager in baseball and when you give him talent like he has in Chicago, it’s pretty easy to see why the Cubs have reached the NLCS in all 3 years of his tenure there.

Projected Record: 94-68, Win NL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days, join me tomorrow where I go cross-town to the Chicago White Sox, whose bright young prospects are lurking around, waiting to pounce on the rest of the Major Leagues. Let me know what you think of the Cubs’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

World Series Game 7 Recap

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

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

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

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

-We also got this from Carlos Correa:

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

-And here we have the final out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Prediction:

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

World Series Game 6 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Prediction:

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

World Series Game 4 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube User Baseball Breakdowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

Prediction:

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

World Series Game 1 Recap

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photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Except maybe Alex Bregman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead:

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

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

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

Game 2 Prediction:

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