General Sports: February 12

912691758

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

917085756

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

911962700

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

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

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

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

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

2 Seeds: Cincinnati, Duke, Auburn, Kansas

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

4 Seeds: Tennessee, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arizona

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

862934690

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

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

A Look At the Managerial Hunts in MLB

So we’ve had five managers lose their jobs since the start of their team’s offseason: Terry Collins with the Mets, Pete Mackanin with the Phillies, John Farrell with the Red Sox, Brad Ausmus with the Tigers, and most recently, Dusty Baker with the Nationals. The Nationals and Phillies positions have yet to be filled and I will briefly discuss their situations. As for the other three teams, the Mets have hired away former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the Tigers have hired Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire, and the Red Sox will make their hiring of Astros bench coach Alex Cora official after the Astros finish the World Series. I talked in the John Farrell article that I linked above about what I think of Ron Gardenhire so I won’t go into too much depth about his hiring with the Tigers. So let’s look over the managerial hires.

Mickey Callaway to the Mets:

This was long overdue. Callaway is, or was, in my opinion the best pitching coach in baseball and now you give him an extremely talented group of starting pitchers that underachieved last season as a whole. It just makes too much sense for the Mets to hire Callaway. He had great success, particularly over the last two or three seasons as the Indians pitching coach. I think he did a great job getting the most he can out of Trevor Bauer, who is a really talented pitcher but can’t seem to get out of his own way. He also did a good job with Josh Tomlin, who would give up bomb after bomb but then when the Indians needed a big game out of him, like in the 2016 postseason, he stepped up and delivered. For the Mets, Noah Syndergaard missed almost the entire season due to a lat issue while Matt Harvey has pretty much disappeared into oblivion and Steven Matz refuses to take the next step. Jacob deGrom was the only member of that super rotation whom I felt had a strong season and even then his numbers were low-end number 2 starter high-end number 3 (3.53 ERA). Callaway is going to be a huge addition to getting this Mets team back into relevance because this is the most talented pitching staff he’s ever had to work with, and that’s really saying something considering the talent he had on that Indians staff.

Ron Gardenhire to the Tigers:

I like Gardenhire a lot, he did a great job with the Twins from 2002-2014 especially considering they never had much of a payroll to work with. The Tigers had one of the highest payrolls in baseball before things went south and they gutted the team. I don’t know if there will be immediate success with Gardenhire in Detroit, but I am confident that he will set the Tigers back on the right track in short time.

Alex Cora to the Red Sox

Alex Cora is a guy I’ve heard a lot of hype surrounding his potential managerial career even while he was still playing. There was a point in the 2007 season where rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia was struggling and Cora, seeing how much talent Pedroia had, worked with him to get better even though it would likely cost Cora his shot at a starting job at second base, which it did. Pedroia, with Cora’s help, went on to win the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and helped lead Boston to the 2007 World Series championship and he followed that up with the 2008 AL MVP, the first by a second baseman in over 50 years. Basically every single Red Sox hitter took a big step back last season, most notably Xander Bogaerts and Cora seems like the right guy to get these guys back on track to the potent offense they can be.

The Nationals Job

The Nationals got ousted in Game 5 of the 2017 NLDS and it proved to be Dusty Baker’s last game as manager of the Nationals despite easily winning the NL East with a 97-65 record. This has to be a very desirable job in the short term, long term we will have to wait and see. The short term is that this is a LOADED roster, with All Star potential all over the pitching rotation and up and down the lineup. The problem may revolve around Bryce Harper, the Nats superstar outfielder. He is set to hit free agency after the conclusion of the 2018 season and the Nats aren’t expected to be able to retain him. They shelled out a big contract to Stephen Strasburg last year and with the current salaries on payroll, there won’t be the cap space to give Bryce Harper the $300M contract he would likely be able to get. If I’m GM Mike Rizzo, I want to be in win-right-the-fuck-now mode. Bryce Harper’s going to be gone soon and there may be a Phillies-esque contract situation where you may have given out too many huge contracts that it weights your team down when the guys’ skills start to deteriorate. Hell, Max Scherzer signed a 7-year $210M deal, but they’re going to spread the payments out over 14 years. So for 7 years after Scherzer’s contract is up, he will be making $15M a year to not play for the Nationals. Great for Scherzer, awful for the future Nats. You want to at least be like Ruben Amaro Jr and be able to hang your hat on that one World Series title you got when you need to find your next job. For Amaro, that job was first base coach of the Boston Red Sox. But Rizzo has yet to have that manager that gets them over the top. So who fits the bill? Certainly not Brad Ausmus, he had loads of talent in Detroit and couldn’t do better than a 90 win season and a quick playoff exit. The other top candidates that I listed above are all gone. Gene Lamont doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in Detroit. One name I would keep an eye on for these Nats is their current pitching coach Mike Maddux. Maddux’s name was thrown all over the place as a potential managerial candidate when he was pitching coach of the Texas Rangers when they went to back-to-back World Series’ from 2010-11. Those talks never gained much traction and he has yet to get a real gig. The team won 97 games this year so I think an in-house hire might be a good idea in this situation because you want to keep up that regular season success. You just need a guy that can get you over the top. Maddux has potential, but he’s not a sure thing like what Joe Maddon was when he left the Rays and joined the Cubs. It’ll be risky because there has to be some sort of reason why Maddux never got a managerial job, but I think he would be the safest choice for Washington.

The Phillies Job

This has to be one of the most undesirable jobs in baseball. The Phillies are sorely lacking in the talent department and have been for quite some time. They are finally rid of Ryan Howard’s enormous contract and can at long last make some plays for some free agents. The problem will be convincing guys to come play for Philly. First of all, I know this is a little unfair but their reputation precedes them, is finding a guy who can deal with the fans. Philly fans are notorious for being ruthless when things aren’t going well and even when they are, they still find something to boo. That’s probably overgeneralizing, but the fact of the matter is these fans have been starved for good baseball for over 5 years now and those dominant teams of the late-2000’s seems like a long lost memory. I felt that Pete Mackanin got as much out of the lack of talent that the team had as he could, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Phillies went 66-96 in 2017, second worst record in the NL and they need to find a guy they can trust for the long haul to be part of a rebuild. Philly sports has been known for “Trust the Process” as the 76ers and Joel Embiid have made so popular, and it’s high time the Phillies showed some semblance of a process. They don’t appear to have any direction. Personally, if I’m Team President Andy McPhail, I would clean house and start from scratch. I’d trade every asset I have for top prospects and find a GM with a fresh take on how the organization should be run. That’s basically what the Astros did a few years ago and look at them now. The Phillies really don’t have much going for them and if you’re going to suck, you might as well build towards the future. But who should be the manager for this team? Well the Phillies are amazingly in week 4 of their search, which is bonkers to me. If you’re going to let a manager go, you’ve got to have some sort of succession plan. Hell, Dave Dombrowski was considering his options for next Red Sox manager during the ALDS when Farrell still held the damn job! One guy I think would be perfect for this job is Gabe Kapler. I may be biased because he was a beloved member of the Red Sox teams from my youth, but this guy was neck and neck with Dave Roberts for the Dodgers job a couple years ago. If an organization like the Dodgers is seriously considering you as comparable to as good a manager as Roberts, there’s got to be something to it. I don’t know a whole lot about Kapler’s abilities as an in-game manager, but I do know that he is a likable guy who really helps tie a clubhouse together. He’s currently the director of player development with the Dodgers and you’ve seen what kinds of rookies they’ve turned out over the last couple years as well as some of the breakout seasons they’ve had (ie: Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor). If a guy does that well with developing young talent, then he would be the perfect candidate to lead a rebuild.

Those are my thoughts on the current managerial situations around baseball. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

MLB Postseason Preview

So the MLB Regular Season has come and gone. The landscape of baseball has changed dramatically in these last several months. Who would’ve guessed that Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record, which had stood for 30 years, would get obliterated by some Judge kid that strikes out about as frequently as a guy wearing crocs at the bar? Who would’ve thought the winning streak that inspired a bestselling novel and critically acclaimed movie would evaporate and become an afterthought? And who would’ve believed it if I told you at the beginning of the season that Noah Syndergaard would throw more spears at Dothraki than he would baseballs to catchers? Yep, all this happened already in this baseball season and the playoffs haven’t even started yet. Last year, the Chicago Cubs ended their fans’ suffering by winning their first World Series in 108 years. This year another drought, while smaller in quantity but by no means less significant, will be in danger as the Cleveland Indians look to end their 69-years (nice) of suffering, a streak they were one inning away from ending just last year. Before we get into the projections, let’s take a look at how the baseball landscape shaped up this season.

mets-noah-syndergaard-game-thrones-cameo-video

Mets ace Noah Syndergaard serves the Lannister army as Drogon and the Dothraki deal serious damage to the Lannister cause. Syndergaard missed almost all of 2017 due to injury.

AL East

Boston Red Sox: 93-69

New York Yankees: 91-71

Tampa Bay Rays: 80-82

Toronto Blue Jays: 76-86

Baltimore Orioles: 75-87

AL Central

Cleveland Indians: 102-60

Minnesota Twins: 85-77

Kansas City Royals: 80-82

Chicago White Sox: 67-95

Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

Houston Astros: 101-61

Anaheim Angels: 80-82

Seattle Mariners: 78-84

Texas Rangers: 78-84

Oakland Athletics: 75-87

NL East

Washington Nationals: 97-65

Miami Marlins: 77-85

Atlanta Braves: 72-90

New York Mets: 70-92

Philadelphia Phillies: 66-96

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 92-70

Milwaukee Brewers: 86-76

St. Louis Cardinals: 83-79

Pittsburgh Pirates: 75-87

Cincinnati Reds: 68-94

NL West

Los Angeles Dodgers: 104-58

Arizona Diamondbacks: 93-69

Colorado Rockies: 87-75

San Diego Padres: 71-91

San Francisco Giants: 64-98

So that’s where each team stands following the conclusion of the 2017 MLB regular season. One thing that really stood out to me was three 100-win teams (Indians, Astros, Dodgers). This is the sixth time ever that three teams finished with 100 wins and the first time it’s happened since 2003. There’s a lot of firepower in the majors this season, so let’s get a look at each playoff team.

Minnesota Twins (85-77)

5c037c8ec7597e886986a6a7a84e6841

Brian Dozier and the Twins have been one of the biggest surprises in the Majors this season (photo credit: Twins Daily)

Projected Lineup:

C-Jason Castro

1B-Joe Mauer

2B-Brian Dozier

3B-Miguel Sano

SS-Jorge Polanco

LF-Eddie Rosario

CF-Byron Buxton

RF-Max Kepler

DH-Kennys Vargas

The Minnesota Twins were probably the last team I would’ve guessed at the start of the season would be in this position. They were abysmal last season and did not look like they had made any noticeable improvements between 2016 and 2017. Yet here they are, playing for their lives in the AL Wild Card game just a year after losing 103 games. A lot of credit goes to Manager Paul Molitor for this turnaround. Guys like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario have been huge for the Twins and their development has to have Twins fans very optimistic about their future.

New York Yankees (91-71)

aaron-judge_1oiee33qbbj3m114qczwqqy2yf

Aaron Judge has been the talk of Major League Baseball this season (photo credit: Sporting News)

Projected Lineup:

C-Gary Sanchez

1B-Chase Headley

2B-Starlin Castro

3B-Todd Frazier

SS-Didi Gregorius

LF-Brett Gardner

CF-Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks

RF-Aaron Judge

DH-Matt Holliday

Aaron Judge is obviously the big story here. He’s going to run away with the rookie of the year and may even take home AL MVP after hitting .284 with 52 home runs and 114 RBI while also playing a solid right field. But the Baby Bombers, as they’re being dubbed, are more than just their 6’8 280-pound slugger. Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius have both been outstanding at the plate this year as well as in the field and their bullpen has been incredible, even if the 9th inning may get a little exciting. There was a lot of talk about this year being a rebuilding year for the Yankees but if this is what they call rebuilding, I’m terrified at what they consider to be competing for a championship.

Boston Red Sox (93-69)

DSC_0076.JPG

Chris Sale’s 308 strikeouts have helped Boston to a second straight division title (photo credit: Boston Herald)

Projected Lineup:

C-Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon

1B-Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia

3B-Rafael Devers

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts

DH-Hanley Ramirez/Eduardo Nunez

It’s amazing to me that the Red Sox lose David Ortiz to retirement, have underwhelming seasons by the Killer B’s, and still finish with an identical record to last season. That is in large part due to the pitching staff, particularly Chris Sale. Sale has been downright nasty for the Red Sox, as I talk about in this article. But it hasn’t been just him that’s given this pitching staff a lift. Craig Kimbrel didn’t allow a hit to right-handed batters until JUNE!!! Drew Pomeranz may not have done anything spectacular, but from June-on, it seemed that every time he was pulled from a game in the middle of the sixth inning, the opponent only had one run against him. The Red Sox will have to clean up their inconsistencies if they’re going to have any hopes of unseating the Astros and Indians, though.

Houston Astros (101-61)

12942523

The 5’6 Jose Altuve has been one of the biggest all-around threats in all of baseball (photo credit: Hub Pages)

Projected Lineup:

C-Brian McCann/Evan Gattis

1B-Yulieski Gurriel

2B-Jose Altuve

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez/Jake Marisnick

CF-George Springer

RF-Josh Reddick

DH-Carlos Beltran

The Astros are a perfect example of how to properly build a team from the ground up. They were able to persevere through the 100-loss seasons and build a team that has as good a chance as any to win a World Series. They are perhaps the most dangerous team in the Majors offensively, as any player 1-through-9 can hurt you. But they’ve been doing that the last few years already. The big change that propelled them this high was the growth of their pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young form and Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh looked like perfect complimentary pieces. On top of that, Justin Verlander has been terrific for them since he was acquired in August, posting a 1.06 ERA in his 5 starts with the team after a trade from the Tigers.

Cleveland Indians (102-60)

untitled-highlight-1476464497-body-image-1476465328

Jose Ramirez was a major catalyst during the Indians’ 22-game win streak (photo credit: VICE Sports)

Projected Lineup:

C-Yan Gomes

1B-Carlos Santana

2B-Jose Ramirez

SS-Francisco Lindor

3B-Giovanny Urshela

LF-Michael Brantley/Austin Jackson

CF-Jason Kipnis/Tyler Naquin/Bradley Zimmer

RF-Jay Bruce/Lonnie Chisenhall/Brandon Guyer

DH-Edwin Encarnacion

See all those extra names I have in the Indians’ projected outfield? That’s how deep this team is. Any one of those guys could start and would have a big impact on this club. The jury is still out on Michael Brantley’s health, which has been a major concern for the Tribe the last couple of years. But top-to-bottom I don’t know if there is a more complete team in baseball. And I haven’t even gotten to the fact that this team won 22 effing games in a row! This team came an inning away from winning their first World Series in 68 years last season that was without a healthy pitching rotation. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are completely healthy now and ready to aid Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber on a championship run.

Colorado Rockies (87-75)

Arizona Diamondbacks v Colorado Rockies

Charlie Blackmon’s 213 hits have him as a leading candidate in the NL MVP race (photo credit: MLB.com)

Projected Lineup:

C-Jonathan Lucroy

1B-Mark Reynolds

2B-DJ LeMahieu

3B-Nolan Arenado

SS-Trevor Story/Alexi Amarista

LF-Ian Desmond/Gerardo Parra

CF-Charlie Blackmon

RF-Carlos Gonzalez

This team has two guys who could legitimately win NL MVP this season (Arenado and Blackmon). This has also been one of the best pitching staffs the Rockies have ever had, which admittedly isn’t saying much. Jon Gray, when healthy, is one of the most electrifying pitchers in the National League. The bullpen has been a huge bonus for this team this season as Greg Holland, Jake McGee, and Pat Neshek all had really nice seasons. This was a team that I had written in one of my classes was a dark horse team at the beginning of the season (granted, only my professor ever read that prediction so I guess it doesn’t really count) and they have proven me right every step of the way.

Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69)

Paul-Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt has the DBacks in prime position for a deep playoff run (photo credit: Stack.com)

Projected Lineup:

C-Chris Iannetta

1B-Paul Goldschmidt

2B-Brandon Drury

3B-Jake Lamb

SS-Ketel Marte

LF-David Peralta

CF-AJ Pollock

RF-JD Martinez

What a difference a good manager makes. Torey Lovullo had success as the Red Sox interim manager at the end of the 2015 season when John Farrell was diagnosed with Leukemia. When Mike Hazen became the GM for the DBacks, he brought Lovullo with him to the desert. The result has been a resurgent year where they find themselves in a Wild Card spot, but only because they share a division with the Dodgers. JD Martinez has been absolutely unconscious this season after being acquired from the Tigers at the trade deadline and Paul Goldschmidt continues to compete for MVPs and rank among the best first basemen in the game.

Chicago Cubs (92-70)

614076610

Javy Baez’s antics have made the Cubs one of the funnest teams to watch this season (photo credit: WGN)

Projected Lineup:

C-Willson Contreras

1B-Anthony Rizzo

2B-Ben Zobrist

3B-Kris Bryant

SS-Javy Baez/Addison Russell

LF-Kyle Schwarber

CF-Ian Happ/Jon Jay

RF-Jason Heyward

Despite winning 11 fewer games than last season, the Cubs still find themselves kings of the NL Central. The pitching hasn’t been what it was in years past but still carries a lot of ability. Kris Bryant has been as dominant as ever and Javy Baez’s energy fueled a late season run that saw them return to their 2016 form after a very mediocre first half of the season. Wade Davis was a steal of a trade for the Cubs and has returned to his 2015 form that was so dominant at the backend of a championship bullpen. This team isn’t as scary as they were last season when they won it all, but if you take them lightly you will find yourselves swept and watching the rest of the playoffs on your couch.

Washington Nationals (97-65)

washington-nationals-max-scherzer-behind-the-body-mlb-training-workouts-960

Max Scherzer seems to be set up for back-to-back NL Cy Young awards (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Projected Lineup:

C-Matt Wieters

1B-Ryan Zimmerman

2B-Daniel Murphy

3B-Anthony Rendon

SS-Trea Turner

LF-Jayson Werth

CF-Michael Taylor

RF-Bryce Harper

The Nationals have arguably the best pitching rotation in the majors. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez all carry sub-3 ERA’s and look to form a formidable postseason rotation. The problem has been their bullpen, but late season acquisitions Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have shored things up nicely. Despite losing superstar Bryce Harper for an extended period of time, the Nationals hardly missed a step thanks to a breakout season out of Anthony Rendon. This is a team built for a deep playoff run after running away with the NL East seemingly from the moment the season kicked off.

Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)

cody-bellinger-topper-jaffe

Cody Bellinger is just the latest in a long line of standout Dodgers rookies (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Projected Lineup:

C-Yasmani Grandal

1B-Cody Bellinger

2B-Chase Utley

3B-Justin Turner

SS-Corey Seager

LF-Chris Taylor/Curtis Granderson

CF-Joc Pederson/Kike Hernandez

RF-Yasiel Puig

This is the hardest team to project. Sure, they won 104 games, but ever since Sports Illustrated published a cover that asked if this Dodgers team was the greatest team of all time on August 22, the boys in blue have gone 15-23 with an 11-game losing streak mixed in. They seem to be recovering, though, finishing the year as winners in 8 of their last 10 games. Like the Indians, this is a very complete team with a deep pitching rotation that starts with a perennial Cy Young candidate with loads of support around him. Clayton Kershaw will look to shake his playoff struggles in order to lead the Dodgers to their first title since 1988.

Playoff Predictions

American League

Wild Card Round: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees

The Twins will be sending Ervin Santana to the hill to square off against Luis Severino of the Yankees. Both pitchers have been fantastic this season and this looks to be a low-scoring affair. However, the Yankees have too much firepower on offense and too deep a bullpen for the Twins to have much of a chance in this one.

Projected Score: Yankees 6 Twins 1

ALDS: New York Yankees (projected) vs Cleveland Indians

Last year the Indians swept the Red Sox in the ALDS very convincingly en route to a World Series appearance. Their playoff experience has them less wide-eyed than this inexperienced Yankees squad and they will likely make quick work of the Baby Bombers.

Projected Series: Indians 3 Yankees 1

ALDS: Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros

These two teams just got done playing a 4-game series in which the Astros took 3 out of 4. The Red Sox are limping into the playoffs, having only won 2 out of their final 7 games. The Astros will once again take 3 out of 4 in this series.

Projected Series: Astros 3 Red Sox 1

ALCS: Houston Astros vs Cleveland Indians

Two 100-win teams face off for the right to go to the World Series. Both teams have top-tier talent to go along with terrific managers. I give the Indians the edge, but they will be taken to the limit against this Houston team.

Projected Series: Indians 4 Astros 3

National League

Wild Card Round: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks

These two division rivals will square off for the 20th time this season, the DBacks having taken 11 of those games. Colorado sends Jon Gray to face off against Zack Greinke in the desert. I’m going to give the edge to Arizona and I think Greinke is the difference in this one, as he has bounced back spectacularly after a disastrous 2016 season.

Projected Score: Diamondbacks 5 Rockies 3

NLDS: Arizona Diamondbacks (projected) vs Los Angeles Dodgers

The DBacks are the absolute last team the Dodgers want to see in the NLDS. Arizona has won 11 of their 19 games this season but has won each of the last 6 meetings. The DBacks seem to be LA’s kryptonite and I think they pull off the shocking upset.

Projected Series: Diamondbacks 3 Dodgers 2

NLDS: Chicago Cubs vs Washington Nationals

The Cubs and Nationals are two of the hottest teams in the National League and both have put it all together at the perfect time. This will be a hotly contested series but I think the Nationals’ superior pitching will be the difference in this series, though the Cubs will have something to say about that in Game 5.

Projected Series: Nationals 3 Cubs 2

NLCS: Arizona Diamondbacks vs Washington Nationals

Two teams that are anything but traditional blue bloods throughout the history of Major League Baseball, Washington will be looking for the franchise’s first ever trip to the World Series, which includes their time as the Montreal Expos. However, momentum becomes a deciding factor when the playoffs come around as the 2016 Cubs, 2015 Mets, and 2014 Royals proved. I think the DBacks take this thing in 6 as their bats make the Nationals extraordinary pitching staff look ordinary.

Projected Series: Diamondbacks 4 Nationals 2

World Series: Arizona Diamondbacks vs Cleveland Indians

I have the Arizona Diamondbacks going from Wild Card darling to National League champions as they ride a big wave of momentum and appear in their first World Series since shocking the world in 2001. However, I think the Indians remind them who has been here before and the DBacks run out of steam and get stomped for what will ultimately be an uninteresting World Series, as the Cleveland Indians win the franchise’s third championship and first since 1948 in convincing fashion.

Projected Series: Indians 4 Diamondbacks 0

usa_today_10280287.0

Cleveland Indians celebrate during their long winning streak (photo credit: The Ringer)

So congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on being my projected World Series champions. Get the champagne ready! Don’t agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and give me your angry feedback.