MLB Midseason Awards

So it’s the All Star Break and it’s technically the midpoint even though most teams have played around 98 of the 162 games. But whatever. That’s not important. What is important is that the season has reached its virtual halfway point and it is now appropriate to start recognizing who’s been killing it and who hasn’t. So without further ado, let’s get to some midseason awards as well as my prediction for the Home Run Derby on Monday at the end.

AL MVP: Mike Trout-CF-Anaheim Angels

<> at Angel Stadium on July 8, 2018 in Anaheim, California.

This would be Trout’s third MVP before his 27th birthday should he hold on to the run he’s been on. At the break, he’s slashing .310/.454/.606 with 25 home runs and 50 RBI while leading the Majors with a WAR of 6.6. However Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts are both on a tear right now and both could catch him by the end of September.

Runners Up: Jose Ramirez-3B-Cleveland Indians, Mookie Betts-RF-Boston Red Sox

NL MVP: Nolan Arenado-3B-Colorado Rockies

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I would argue that Arenado should have won NL MVP last year but he’s picked up where he left off last season by slashing .309/.391/.585 with 23 homers and 67 RBI while leading the NL with a 3.8 WAR and playing an excellent defensive third base. Lorenzo Cain and Freddie Freeman aren’t far behind him and it’s a pretty wide open race.

Runners Up: Lorenzo Cain-CF-Milwaukee Brewers, Freddie Freeman-1B-Atlanta Braves

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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Chris Sale is the hottest pitcher in baseball right now, as he has been absolutely dominating opposing hitters of late, as he had an ERA of 1.76 in June and 0.69 in July. He leads the Majors with 188 strikeouts and has over 13 K/9. However if you were to argue for Luis Severino or Justin Verlander, I wouldn’t fight you over it.

Runners Up: Luis Severino-New York Yankees, Justin Verlander-Houston Astros

NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom-New York Mets

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Since cutting his hair, Jacob deGrom has gone from really good to great, as he has far and away the best ERA in the Majors at 1.68 with a K/9 over 10 and a minuscule HR/9 of 0.51. As far as I’m oncerned, the only way deGrom doesn’t win the NL Cy Young Award is if he’s traded to an American League team. The Mets are currently fielding offers for him and may ship him before the Trade Deadline July 31st.

Runners Up: Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals, Aaron Nola-Philadelphia Phillies

AL Rookie of the Year: Gleyber Torres-2B-New York Yankees

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Gleyber Torres has been nothing short of phenomenal since his callup on April 22nd. He’s slashing .294/.350/.555 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI en route to making the All Star team as a 21 year-old rookie despite being in the Minor Leagues for the first month of the season. His own teammate, Miguel Andujar is also having a heck of a rookie campaign and likely isn’t far from Torres. Shohei Ohtani could also be considered but his UCL injury has a lot of things up in the air.

Runners Up: Miguel Andujar-3B-New York Yankees, Shohei Ohtani-SP/DH-Anaheim Angels

NL Rookie of the Year: Brian Anderson-RF-Miami Marlins

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There aren’t many legitimate candidates this season for the NL Rookie of the Year race, however Brian Anderson has been having a pretty solid season, slashing .288/.363/.429 with 8 homers and 49 RBI. Not a lot has gone right for the Marlins this season but Anderson has been pretty solid for them.

Runners Up: Alex Reyes-RP-St. Louis Cardinals, Christian Villanueva-3B-San Diego Padres

AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash-Tampa Bay Rays

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The fact that the Rays are headed to the All Star break with a record of 49-47 despite having literally no talent on the roster should alone earn Cash the nod for AL Manager of the Year. But he’s also had a ton of success using a 4-man rotation then a bullpen day for the 5th day. The “opener” is what they’re calling it. Cash’s Rays are starting to revolutionize starting relievers more frequently and even teams like the Red Sox have begun adopting the strategy.

Runners Up: Alex Cora-Boston Red Sox, Bob Melvin-Oakland Athletics

NL Manager of the Year: Brian Snitker-Atlanta Braves

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The Braves are several years ahead of schedule and the development of the young talent such as Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Mike Soroka, and Sean Newcomb has been huge for the rise of the Braves and manager Brian Snitker deserves a lot of credit. The Braves look like legitimate pennant contenders this season in a very wide open NL field just a year after finishing 72-90 last season and making very few significant additions in the offseason.

Runners Up: Gabe Kapler-Philadelphia Phillies, Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

Home Run Derby Winner: Kyle Schwarber-LF-Chicago Cubs

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I’m a little biased since Kyle Schwarber and I both attended Indiana, but his power is made for a Home Run Derby. I will not only be rooting for my fellow Hoosier, but also picking him to win it.

That’s going to do it for my midseason awards, let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Injury News in Baseball

So there have been several injuries this season of note and while it doesn’t really FEEL like it’s a lot of guys going down, the talent of the players who have gotten hurt in recent weeks has been what is more of the story. Here are some guys who have gone down in the last few weeks and what their timetable is for return to form.

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-Shohei Ohtani, the two-way Japanese phenom for the Angels, has a partially torn UCL, which almost always requires Tommy John surgery, which would end his 2018 season and possibly his 2019 season as well. The Angels are holding out hope that it doesn’t come to Tommy John and they are even considering continuing to use him as a DH while he recovers from the surgery. That sounds like a REALLY bad idea. While I get that Anaheim might feel a little desperate since they have a legitimately good team this year that is contending for a playoff spot in a VERY tough AL West, you have to learn from the mistake the Washington Redskins made with Robert Griffin III in 2013. RG3 was rushed back from a torn ACL in the postseason to play week 1 and all of his elusiveness was sapped away and his flaws as a passer were amplified, thus destroying his once promising career. You could be facing a similar situation with Ohtani. Ohtani has been very successful in his first couple months in the States, slashing .289/.372/.535 with 6 homers and 20 RBI in 43 games as a hitter and carries a 4-1 record with a 3.10 ERA while striking out over 11 batters per 9 innings as a pitcher, both very good performances. There hasn’t been a player who was both a high-caliber pitcher and hitter since Babe Ruth. Don’t fuck this up, Anaheim. Let him recover. You risk destroying this man’s career by rushing him back before he’s ready. UCL’s are nothing to screw around with, swinging a bat can be just as damaging as throwing a baseball and since Ohtani bats lefty, it will be his right (throwing) arm that does the bulk of the swing and therefore takes the brunt of the pressure. Just bite the bullet and try and make a move at the deadline to compensate for the loss. I hear the Mets may make Jacob deGrom available. If you rush Ohtani back before he’s ready, you could risk an RG3 situation in which a phenomenal talent gets destroyed because you weren’t patient enough to let him recover. Do the right thing, Angels.

-Tigers first baseman and 2-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera is out for the remainder of the 2018 season after undergoing bicep surgery, which upsets me for a number of reasons, the main of which being that Miggy is one of my favorite players in baseball even as his skills start to decline with age. However this could be a blessing in disguise for Detroit. Cabrera was slashing .301/.394/.451 in 37 games played (he had another DL stint earlier this season) with 3 home runs and 22 RBI. While the power numbers aren’t what we’re used to from the future Hall of Famer, he was still a productive hitter in this lineup. The Tigers are sitting in third place in the AL Central at 31-37 as I write this and aren’t nearly bad enough to be in serious contention for another high draft spot. If you’re going to rebuild, you have to be all-in and Miggy hitting well does not help a rebuild. They landed Auburn ace Casey Mize with the top pick in this year’s MLB Draft and he was one of the few prospects I felt had superstar potential. If they hope to land a talent like that again, they really need to hit the tank button. While it does suck to lose an impactful hitter like Miguel Cabrera, it can be potentially beneficial for the future of this franchise as they stockpile high draft picks.

-While Mookie Betts did return from the DL after missing 14 games due to a hip injury, the Red Sox superstar hasn’t looked quite at 100% in his first couple games back and I think that the team could afford to give him some more rest every now and then as he attempts to return to the form that was dominating baseball for the first two months of the season. Despite the recent DL stint, Mookie has garnered the most votes in the first All Star ballot update by slashing .354/.431/.735 and hitting 17 home runs and driving in 37 RBI while continuing to play the best right field in baseball. However in his absence, the Red Sox went a decent 8-6, showing that the team can win without their superstar. They still have guys like the deadly JD Martinez and the suddenly red-hot Andrew Benintendi, so I think giving Mookie more frequent breathers to make sure he gets to 100% would be most beneficial to this team’s long-term goals.

-Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka injured his hammy running the bases and had to hit the DL and I’m sorry, but his happens far too often when American League pitchers have to hit in National League stadiums. Yankees fans should be especially weary of this after what happened to Chien-Ming Wang a decade ago. Wang was absolutely dominant for the pinstripes but after hurting himself running the bases in Houston, he was never the same and it destroyed his career. If ever there was a reason to install the DH throughout Major League Baseball, this would be a big one. Pitchers aren’t focused at all on their hitting (unless they are Shohei Ohtani) and the AL ones only ever have to hit on the rare occasion they pitch in an NL ballpark, which is maybe two or three times a season for each starter. Even then they don’t expect to get on base so when they do they’re totally unprepared to actually run bases, which is an important part of the game if you hadn’t noticed so they can’t exactly dog it out there. This leads to leg injuries like the one suffered by Tanaka. I don’t know, man, I mean what other professional sport are you going to find that has such different rules depending on what league/conference they’re in? I get the tradition thing, really, I do. But MLB has already installed video replay systems to overturn calls, why can’t they just make the DH rule universal? I enjoy AL baseball more than NL baseball simply for the fact that I don’t have to watch these pitchers half-ass their at bats because they know they’re trash at the plate anyway and nobody expects them to get a hit.

That’s going to do it for this injury update, let me know what you think of the recent trends in injuries in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: April 10

Sorry for there not being a blog yesterday, I spent basically the whole day watching Wrestlemania (because it was 7 hours long) and I was several beers deep so I wouldn’t be able to go in depth with sports topics. It was a good show, though. More highs than lows. Luckily for me, Monday didn’t really have a ton of sports going on so I can talk about stuff that happened Sunday in addition to Monday. So I think this works out. Anyway, on to the topics.

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-Giancarlo Stanton went 0-for-7 in an extra innings game against the Orioles and struck out 5 times. This is the second time this season he’s struck out 5 times in a game without any hits. This is the first time in the Live Ball Era that any player has had such a game twice in 1 season. It was done by April 8 by Stanton. To be fair, Stanton had never struck out 5 times in a game prior to this season, but his strikeout rate is cause for early-season concern. He’s striking out 41.7% of the time, which somehow isn’t the highest rate a week and a half into the season. That belongs to Ian Happ, who is striking out 56.7%(!) of the time. Now, obviously, those numbers are going to go down. You just don’t strike out that frequently and continue having a job in the Majors. But still, those numbers for Stanton and Happ are cause for concern.

-The Red Sox once again stole a win from the Rays, this time coming back from down 7-2 in the 8th inning to win. It was basically just double-after-double. This was the first weak performance by a starting pitcher this season, as Eduardo Rodriguez made his 2018 debut after recovering from injury. He went 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs and his stuff just looked a little off. But the offense exploded in the 8th inning to save the game and push the Red Sox to an 8-1 start, their best start in franchise history (since 1901). This makes them the hottest team in baseball headed to their first matchup with the Yankees on Tuesday.

-Aldon Smith got arrested AGAIN, third time in 2 months, this time for violation of a protective order after he was arrested for alleged domestic violence. He’s being held on bond for half a million dollars. Smith was one of the brightest young stars in the NFL with the 49ers, recording 44 sacks in his first 3 seasons, but he has been arrested an uncountable number of times, including things like the domestic violence incident to yelling “bomb” in an airport. I really hope for his sake that he gets the help he clearly needs because when someone gets in trouble as frequently as Smith does, there’s something not quite right with them.

-Shohei Ohtani’s second start as a pitcher was spectacular, as he carried a perfect game into the 7th inning. His final line was 7 shutout innings, 1 hit, 1 walk, and a dozen strikeouts. Like I mentioned on multiple occasions, Ohtani had a miserable Spring Training but his regular season has been nothing short of amazing. As a hitter, he’s batting .389 with 3 home runs and 7 RBI while on the mound he’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings pitched. Through 11 games, Ohtani has been well worth the hype.

-Indiana baseball hit a walkoff home run in extra innings against Purdue a day after beating the Boilermakers 14-1. Nothing really else to go off of there, just wanted to leave that there for all the world to see and appreciate(ignoring the fact Purdue won the series opener).

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-The Alliance of American Football, which is a football league that will start in 2019 that is being headed by Charlie Ebersol and former Colts GM Bill Polian, made news over the weekend, particularly as it pertains to their Orlando-based franchise, which I don’t think has an official name yet. The Orlando team landed Steve Spurrier as its first head coach. Spurrier was a Heisman trophy winner in the 1960’s and was a very successful coach with his alma mater Florida and with South Carolina and he earned the nickname the “Ol’ Ball Coach.” Just ignore his tenures in the NFL as a player and a coach. The man has accomplished pretty much everything there is to accomplish at the collegiate level and I guess trying his hand at an upstart football league is another thing he wants to try his hand at. He’s 73 years old, a time when many are staying retired, but it’s been hard living in a world where Spurrier isn’t patrolling a sideline, so this is welcome news.

 

-Watching Wrestlemania, I thought Ronda Rousey looked REALLY good in her debut. The former UFC superstar looked right at home alongside former Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle (that’s not just a part of his gimmick, he actually does have an Olympic Gold Medal for wrestling) in her match against Triple H and Stephanie McMahon. The story is basically Rousey embarrassed the Power Couple with the help of the Rock at Wrestlemania a few years ago and they signed her so that they could get revenge on her, but Angle, who is an authority figure as RAW General Manager, was having none of it and revealed their intentions to Rousey, setting up a Mixed Tag Team match at Wrestlemania. Rousey looked like she belonged and won the match by getting McMahon to tap out in an armbar. It was awesome.

Sorry about the wrestling update, but there really isn’t any more else to talk about in sports, as there was a lot less going on than I thought there would be. There are other stuff outside of sports, like the Simpsons basically saying “fuck you” to the people who get offended by Apu’s stereotype, to which I say, calm down, people. The Simpsons stereotype EVERYBODY, Apu’s only getting hate from the Indian community because he’s so popular and recognizable that he’s become the poster boy for Indian stereotypes. In fact, let’s go down the list of other characters that the Simpsons stereotype.

Homer: stereotypical middle-aged American man

Lisa: stereotypical leftist

Groundskeeper Willie: stereotypical Scot

Chief Wiggum: stereotypical cop

Ned: stereotypical Christian

Fat Tony: stereotypical Italian (also Luigi, that cook with the broken English)

Bumblebee Man: stereotypical hispanic

Barney: stereotypical alcoholic

Otto: stereotypical junky

That Old Jewish Man that Grandpa Abe Simpson is friends with: kinda speaks for itself

I could probably go on but I think you get the point. Though now that I think about it, I don’t think there’s a stereotypical black character. Now that I think about it, black characters are pretty well off in that show. Dr. Hibbert is a medical doctor, there’s that judge who was white for the first few seasons, Lou’s a cop who seems to be more competent than his superior, Chief Wiggum but just goes with his shenanigans, Drederick Tatum the boxer who is clearly based on Mike Tyson, etc. But anyways, that’s a ramble if I’ve ever written one so I’m going to shut this one down. Thanks for reading, let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

General Sports: April 5

-Patriots receiver Julian Edelman helped thwart a potential school shooting. A user commented on one of Edelman’s Instagram photos saying he was going to shoot up his school and to “check the news tomorrow.” Another user went to Edelman’s DM’s and notified him of this comment. Edelman found it and, thinking of what happened in Parkland, Florida, had his assistant notify police. They were able to identify the subject as a 14 year-old in Michigan who admitted to being the user that made the threat and he was apprehended. There is a crowd that wonders why Edelman didn’t just call the cops himself, but I’m not one of them simply because I don’t care who calls the cops in this situation, as long as they get called. You can’t take these threats lightly, whether the kid meant it or not.

-Von Miller may be in trouble for catching a hammerhead shark on a fishing trip. For evidence, look no further than his Instagram.

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PETA wants to make sure that Miller didn’t catch this shark illegally, which apparently he may have done so since it’s a hammerhead (Group 3, whatever that means) and catching one is punishable by $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Miller did say that he threw it back, though. I really don’t think anything is going to come of this but I just have to say holy shit, Von. That’s a 9 and a half foot hammerhead fucking shark! The tail fin is almost as big as he is! As if Miller weren’t badass enough being one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, now he’s out here in Miami catching hammerhead sharks. This was off the coast in Miami, which has me a little retroactively nervous because I was just there a few weeks ago for spring break and I went swimming in the ocean a couple times. Sharks are up there on my “most-feared animals” list with bears and alligators/crocodiles, though I did work on my fear of the latter, as you can see below.

Gator? I hardly knew her

A post shared by Jim Wyman (@jimwyman10) on

Who cares if it was just a baby or if it’s mouth was tied up? Just let me take it one step at a time, dammit!

-The Ravens signed Robert Griffin III to a 1 year deal to back up Joe Flacco. I’m happy to see RG3 signing with a new team. The former Heisman Trophy winner is one of the biggest what-if’s in recent memory and I’m a firm believer in the sentiment that Mike Shanahan ruined RG3’s career by rushing him back from that ACL tear he suffered in the playoffs against Seattle far too soon. There was no reason he should’ve torn that thing in the playoffs then returned for Week 1. But I digress, Griffin seems like a good dude and I hope he succeeds in whatever he does. It’s also curious that the Ravens seem to be taking an interest in running quarterbacks of late. They drafted Tyrod Taylor a few years ago, were going to sign Colin Kaepernick if their owner didn’t veto it, and now they sign Griffin. I’m not sure what exactly this points to, if anything, but it’s good to see RG3 with a job again after not being on a roster in 2017.

-The Rockies gave Charlie Blackmon a 6-year extension worth up to $116M which will take him through his age-38 season, all but assuring he spends his entire career in Colorado. Blackmon is one of the most underrated athletes in all of sports, let alone baseball, as last season he set a Major League record with 104 RBI’s out of the leadoff spot to go along with a .331 batting average, 37 home runs, and a 6.5 WAR. He would’ve had my vote for NL MVP if I had one. This season he’s continuing his excellent play as he was hitting .316 with 4 homers, 6 RBI, and a 1.462 OPS in 5 games entering Wednesday night’s tilt with the Padres. Blackmon’s been in the Majors since 2011 but he didn’t really break out until 2016 and since then he’s been the best leadoff hitter in the game so this extension is well-warranted for the late bloomer.

-Shohei Ohtani is quickly making everyone forget how bad his Spring Training went. After going 4-32 at the plate and allowing 9 runs in 2.2 innings, Ohtani has been excelling now that the games count. In his first start on the mound, he went 6 innings giving up 3 runs, however all came on a 3-run homer and he was lights out otherwise. He went 1-5 in his first game as DH on Opening Day, then in his first game in Anaheim he homers in his first at bat then got a couple more hits. He homered again in Wednesday’s tilt with the Indians off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and as of this writing, he’s hitting .444. It’s still early, but Ohtani is looking like he’s worth the hype a few games into his career.

-Giancarlo Stanton struck out 5 times in his Yankee Stadium debut and received a chorus of boos for the showing. For a lot of guys, this would be crushing. But the thing about baseball is you play everyday so there’s always the chance to redeem yourself. Well…

I love how Michael Kay knew the ball was gone seemingly before it even touched his bat, that’s how hard Stanton crushed it. He’s going to strike out his fare share, but he’s also going to do that. You take the good with the bad with him.

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

Opening Day Recap

 

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It was a glorious Opening Day and baseball could not have returned with a bigger bang than it did on Thursday. While we were robbed of the “everybody opens at the same time” thing by rain in both Cincinnati and Detroit (and Bloomington, Indiana. Rained all day and when you have to walk as far as I do to and from class, you tend to loathe the rain), we still got some great baseball. So let’s get to some thoughts I had about what I saw (and didn’t see because of the goddamn technology ban in both my classes).

-Can’t start a season much better than the Cubs did. Their game against the Miami Marlins was the first game on tap so the first pitch of the season would be to a Cubs hitter. Leading off the season was Ian Happ. So how did the season’s first pitch go?

This was the first time since 1986 that the first pitch of the baseball season went yard. Dwight Evans did so for the Red Sox. Boston went on to lose the World Series in heartbreaking fashion (“BEHIND THE BAG! IT GETS THROUGH BUCKNER! HERE COMES KNIGHT AND THE METS WIN IT!”) so we’ll have to see if the Cubs can avoid that same fate.

-Speaking of the Red Sox, what a freaking choke job. They led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the 8th after an absolutely dominating performance by Chris Sale (6 innings, 9 K’s, 1 hit) and I’ll put how that 8th inning went with this: Joe Kelly’s ERA is 108.00. Just an absolute waste. However it is Game 1 out of 162 and the Red Sox lost Opening Day in both the 2004 and 2007 seasons, both of which ended with World Series victories. There were some positives from this game, though. Xander Bogaerts looked really good, getting 3 hits including 2 doubles. Eduardo Nunez hit the first Opening Day inside-the-park home run by a Red Sox player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1968. In fact, counting the postseason, the Red Sox have back-to-back games with an inside-the-park home run, as Rafael Devers hit one in the 9th inning of the Sox’ Game 4 ALDS defeat at the hands of the Astros. Here’s the play in question.

-The Chicago White Sox scored 14 runs on the Royals. Wait, that’s a typo, right? The same White Sox team that many people are picking to be the worst in baseball? Again, it’s Game 1, but you have to be excited about the future if you’re a White Sox fan. DH Matt Davidson was the star as he hit 3 home runs, the 4th time someone has ever done so on Opening Day. Also something to note with this game, the Royals got out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and the White Sox didn’t score a single run until the 4th, where they scored 5, then added on 3 more in the 5th, nothing in the 6th, then 3 in both the 7th and 8th inning. So when the White Sox scored, they scored in bunches.

-The Baltimore Orioles won via walkoff on Opening Day for the second consecutive season. A number like that is just unprecedented to me. Here’s the play.

It was a pitcher’s duel throughout between Dylan Bundy and Jake Odorizzi, which is surprising considering the fact that starting pitching appears to be the weakest part of both teams. I only caught the first couple innings of this one but I did notice that Manny Machado looks good to start the season. His first at bat he hit a laser over the right fielder’s head and coasted into second with an easy double.

-Offensively the Mets looked really good. I sporadically changed my feed between this game and the O’s-Twins for a little while and basically every time I watched, the Mets were compiling hits and scoring runs, which was great for them because Noah Syndergaard fell into some tough luck. He struck out 10 batters but gave up 4 runs, including a 2-run homer against Yadier Molina on a really nice pitch that you really can’t do anything about. I said before in their 30 Clubs in 30 Days, but I think the Mets are going to be a lot better than they were last year.

-If you weren’t terrified of the Yankees before, you should be now. Giancarlo Stanton homered twice in his Yankees debut, the second to ever do so (the first was Roger Maris). Here’s his first at bat as a Yankee.

His other homer also went to the opposite field. So you’ve got both Judge and Stanton who have stupid power to all fields. The Yankees cruised to a 6-1 win over the Blue Jays, who were honoring the late Roy Halladay before the game.

-Nick Markakis got his first career walkoff home run out of the way on Opening Day.

Gotta feel great for the 34 year-old. However Phillies fans were pretty bent out of shape by Gabe Kapler’s managerial decisions in his debut. He pulled Aaron Nola after just 68 pitches, 5.1 innings, and only a run allowed. The bullpen promptly imploded, allowing 6 runs after the 7th inning. So a rough debut for Kapler.

-I mentioned how Ian Happ homered on the season’s first pitch. Well George Springer was jealous that Happ’s game started first.

It is the second consecutive season that Springer led off his teams’s season with a home run, the only man ever to be able to say that. And last time the Astros had a guy homer to start Opening Day, they won the World Series. Just sayin’.

-Shohei Ohtani singled on his first at bat in the States, which has to be encouraging because he had a MISERABLE spring training. He went 4-for-32 at the plate and on the mound he gave up 9 runs in 2.2 innings. He DH’d and hit 8th for the Angels and will be the starting pitcher on Sunday against the A’s. Speaking of the A’s, they won on a walkoff as well on a Marcus Semien single in the 11th inning. The A’s were also able to absolutely shut down Mike Trout, who went 0-6 in a game for the first time in his career.

-Clayton Kershaw got outdueled by Ty Blach of all people. Kershaw traditionally is INSANE on Opening Day, as he entered the game with a career 0.99 Opening Day ERA. He was great again, as he only let up 1 run on a solo shot by Joe Panik that barely stayed fair and collected 2 hits of his own at the plate, but Blach didn’t let up a thing, going 5 innings and letting up just 3 hits.

It was a Hell of an Opening Day and I think we’re in for a great season. Let me know what you think Opening Day 2018 in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Anaheim Angels

With the baseball season quickly approaching, I thought I’d give this type of segment a try. Depending on how it goes, I may decide to do football as well when August rolls around. 30 MLB clubs in 30 days. My rules for when teams get to go are simple, it’s alphabetically in order of location. And yes, we’re starting with Anaheim because the Angels play for Anaheim, not Los Angeles of Anaheim. That’s stupid. Plus if you translate from Spanish, their name is The Angels Angels of Anaheim. Yes that was stupid to do but so is calling your team a city of a city. So enough bitching, before I get to the Angels, I want to bring to light the changes to pace of play that Major League Baseball has announced a few changes, the one major one being the limiting of number of mound visits per game. There used to not be a limit except that the pitcher had to be pulled if they were visited by a coach twice in one inning, but now they’re only allowed to be visited by coaches and players 6 times per 9 innings with an extra time being granted for extra innings. There are a couple of exceptions, for example if it is clear to the umpire that the pitcher and catcher were not on page with the last pitch, the catcher can ask for a mound visit that the umpire can grant without it counting against them so that he and the pitcher can get their signs straight. This change is long overdue because too many visits can cause a game to absolutely DRAG. Still no pitch clock but I’m still not sure how you’d be able to enforce that so I’m not bitching. Now, on to the Angels.

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2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 2nd in AL West, 21 games behind the Houston Astros, 5 games behind the Minnesota Twins for the 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: P/OF Shohei Ohtani, 2B Ian Kinsler, 3B Zack Cozart, OF Chris Young, 1B Chris Carter

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 1B CJ Cron, RP Fernando Salas, OF Ben Revere, 2B Brandon Phillips, RP Yusmeiro Petit, 3B Yunel Escobar, CP Bud Norris

Best Position Player: CF Mike Trout

Best Pitcher: Garrett Richards

Depth Chart:

C-Martin Maldonado, Carlos Perez, Rene Rivera

1B-Albert Pujols, Chris Carter

2B-Ian Kinsler, Jefry Marte

3B-Zack Cozart, Luis Valbuena

SS-Andrelton Simmons

LF-Justin Upton, Chris Young

CF-Mike Trout

RF-Kole Calhoun

SP-Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, JC Ramirez

Bullpen-Blake Parker (CP?), Jim Johnson (CP?), Cam Bedrosian, Alex Meyer, Blake Wood, Noe Ramirez, Jose Alvarez, Kenyan Middleton

Wildcard-Shohei Ohtani

Coaching Staff:

Manager: Mike Scioscia (18 seasons with Angels)

Hitting Coach: Eric Hinske

Pitching Coach: Charles Nagy

1st Base Coach: Alfredo Griffin

3rd Base Coach: Dino Ebel

Bench Coach: Josh Paul

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I included an additional position of “Wildcard” for Ohtani mainly because we’ve never really had a player quite like him. A guy who can hit 100 mph as a pitcher and hit over .300 as a hitter, the biggest story following the Angels this year will likely be him. And that’s saying something, especially considering the best baseball player on the planet plays centerfield in Anaheim in Mike Trout. Ohtani’s usage in Anaheim will be one of the more interesting tasks that manager Mike Scioscia has had in his tenure as Angels manager, his 18-year term is the longest among active managers. Ohtani has also battled injuries during his time in Japan so I wonder if being a two-way player has anything to do with that. I think that if things start compounding on him and he struggles, then Scioscia will can the experiment and relegate him to whichever he is performing best at, or wherever the Angels need him most.

The Angels seem to be gearing up for a run at a World Series based on the series of moves they made in the offseason. It started with the signing of Ohtani, then they acquired Ian Kinsler in a trade with the Tigers and signed Zack Cozart away from the Reds. On paper, their lineup is as imposing as they come, even with Albert Pujols’ albatross of a contract. Here’s a look at what the Angels could be rolling out there when opening day against the Indians comes.

1. Ian Kinsler-2B

2. Mike Trout-CF

3. Shohei Ohtani-DH

4. Justin Upton-LF

5. Kole Calhoun-RF

6. Zack Cozart-3B

7. Andrelton Simmons-SS

8. Albert Pujols-1B

9. Martin Maldonado-C

Whether the lineup actually ends up looking like this is a different story because if I’m Scioscia, I honestly have no effing idea what to do with some of these spots. We really don’t know what Ohtani is capable of at the dish against Major League pitching and batting him third out of the gate like where I’ve got him slated may be a little premature. Also trying to place 5-8 was extremely difficult, Pujols being the most frustrating considering he will be making $27M this season as a 38 year-old who is WELL past his prime but kind of has to be in the lineup because he’s making so much. He’s still dangerous but he’s a far cry from the player he was in St. Louis. I put him 8th trying to ignore his name value, even though that will likely slot him higher in the order. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see him batting cleanup just because he’s Albert Pujols. It’s also difficult to place guys like Kole Calhoun, Zack Cozart, and Andrelton Simmons because I think all three guys are capable of hitting at the top of the lineup. It’s just a matter of getting the most out of them. Calhoun has been a nice complement to Trout in the past whereas Cozart has struggled to remain healthy and one has to wonder if Simmons’ offensive breakout in 2017 was a fluke.

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One thing is for certain, though, this team will play defense. They’ve got two guys, Maldonado and Simmons, who rated #1 in the Majors at their position in DRS, with Simmons being #1 overall at any position, former gold glove winners in Kinsler, Pujols, and Calhoun, and Trout may have yet to put a gold glove on his mantle, but he’s one of the best home run thieves in the game. Last season the Angels were 2nd best in the Majors in Fangraphs’ defensive rating as a team, trailing only the Red Sox, and it appears that they have only improved defensively. Which they may need based on the issues they’ve had with their pitching.

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The Angels weren’t awful in pitching last season, as their team ERA of 4.20 was 12th in the Majors, but their performance outplayed their talent. Their best pitcher, Garrett Richards, made all of 6 starts last season due to injury (he pitched to a 2.28 ERA in those 6 starts) and he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2015. After him there really isn’t anything on the roster worth getting excited over. Ohtani will be interesting to watch, as I think he’s a better pitcher than hitter, but after him the Angels were sending out Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Parker Bridwell, and JC Ramirez primarily. Of that group, only Bridwell had an ERA under 4 (3.64) and that was probably a bit fluky because his strikeouts per 9 was abysmal (5.43). It leads one to believe that his lack of missing bats may come back to haunt him.

Their bullpen had some success last year, but they lost their best reliever, Yusmeiro Petit, to the division rival Athletics. Their closer role isn’t set after they lost Bud Norris to the Cardinals, but they do have some options. Newly-signed Jim Johnson appears to be the favorite, as amongst his competition he’s the only one with significant closing experience and success. He was excellent for a few years with the Orioles before falling off the face of the Earth for a couple years. The other legitimate option is Blake Parker. Parker had a very good 2017, where he pitched to a 2.54 ERA while striking out over 11 batters per 9 innings. If Johnson does win the closer’s job, which I anticipate he does, I expect Parker to be the 8th inning man and he’s a solid option for that.

Overall, I think Mike Scioscia is coaching for his job this year. It’s been 16 years since he led them to their only World Series title in franchise history and as of late they’ve been very inconsistent, as they’ve only made the playoffs once since 2010 (2014, where they got swept by the Royals in the ALDS). If the Angels fail to make the playoffs, I’ve got to imagine that ownership will be weighing their options. Scioscia’s a good manager, don’t get me wrong, but the production hasn’t been there of late. I don’t think they’ll win the division. The Astros are just too good to unseat at the moment. But I do think they’ll be right in the thick of the Wild Card race. Their pitching is going to be critical. They didn’t really do anything in the offseason to bolster their rotation so improving what they have and keeping them healthy is going to be the most important thing in Anaheim. If they can do that, I think they will at least make the Astros sweat because they’re going to hit and they’re going to play the field. But I think they’ll be one of the AL Wild Card teams.

Projected Finish: 86-76, Second AL Wild Card Team

That’s going to do it for the Angels on the first edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Arizona Diamondbacks, who look to improve on their huge breakout season that saw them win the Wild Card game but fall to the eventual NL champion Dodgers in the NLDS. Let me know what you think of the Angels’ chances this season in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.