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.

Super Bowl LII Recap

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The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots 41-33. Nick Foles was Super Bowl MVP after a very entertaining game in perhaps the greatest shootout in postseason history as records galore were set in this game. I have a few thoughts, though keep in mind, I’m a very emotional Patriots fan so forgive me if I get a little intense.

-I’ve got to write stuff for the winners first. The Philadelphia Eagles were the better team and Doug Pederson wore his big boy pants. He seemingly made every single correct call imaginable. That play call shortly before the half that everybody is raving over was nothing short of ballsy.

Who cares that it was an illegal formation that didn’t get called (only 6 men were on the line of scrimmage, need to have 7)? That’s what it takes to beat the Patriots.

-Have to give a ton of credit to Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. He played the game of his life. He went 28-43 with 373 yards, 3 TD’s and 1 pick that wasn’t really his fault. It was more Alshon Jeffery trying to make a one-handed grab that snuck out of his grasp and into the waiting arms of Duron Harmon. Now the question is what becomes of him because he certainly can’t be their backup after what he did this postseason. They’re either going to have to trade him or trade Carson Wentz so that he can start. Either way, they’re getting a huge haul.

-Corey Clement was a surprise star for the Eagles in this game. Now yes, the undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin was having a nice season leading up to this game, but he had 4 catches for 100 yards, including this questionable touchdown.

He was bobbling it as he was going out. Based on the way the game gets officiated nowadays, that should’ve been an incompletion. That’s 2 TD’s by the Eagles that the officials botched, the first coming on a 4th down play on an illegal formation, the other coming on third, which essentially put 8 points on the board that shouldn’t have been there. And I hate to be that salty asshole, but look at the score differential.

-Zach Ertz’s touchdown was about as clear as day and the fact that we went through so much trouble debating whether or not it was a catch is everything that’s wrong with the catch rule today. How could this possibly be misconstrued as not being a catch, he took about four steps after gaining possession before he dove into the endzone.

-The play of the game though was the strip sack by Brandon Graham. Both offensive lines played out of their minds in this one and Shaq Mason honestly didn’t do a bad job on Graham here. It’s Graham making that extra effort to stick his arm out there and he managed to get the football in a play that a lot of people are calling a reverse of fortunes to what happened with the Tuck Rule 16 years ago and quite frankly, it’s hard to argue with them.

-The fact that the Patriots still had a chance after that play is just amazing to me. For a moment, when Brady chucked this Hail Mary, I thought it might find a Patriots player’s hands. But alas, the ball hit the turf and I was stunned to see that the clock had hit zero. That play did not feel like it lasted 9 seconds.

-The Eagles are fortunate that they were able to make the plays they did because they needed literally every single one of them to beat Tom Brady, the way he was playing. 28-48, an NFL playoff record 505 yards and 3 TD’s. The great ones don’t lose, they just run out of time and that seems to be what happened in this game with Brady. Father Time is not a factor to the 40 year-old Tom Brady and neither really is the Madden Curse because it wasn’t Brady that lost the game, it was the defense. The NFL MVP curse is alive and well, though. Since 2001, the NFL MVP has played in the Super Bowl the same year 9 times (Kurt Warner 2001, Rich Gannon 2002, Shaun Alexander 2005, Tom Brady 2007, Peyton Manning 2009, Peyton Manning 2013, Cam Newton 2015, Matt Ryan 2016, Tom Brady 2017). They all lost. In fact, the NFL MVP has not won the Super Bowl in the same year since Kurt Warner in 1999.

-Epic rant coming. I’m not going to sit here and say I know more about personnel strategies than Bill Belichick because I obviously don’t. This is more just coming off what I see on the surface. But what the fuck was so bad about Malcolm Butler that he didn’t see a single defensive snap?!?! Now from what I know as of this writing, Butler wasn’t benched for disciplinary reasons, rather it was performance-based. Now yes, Butler was having a down season overall, but you’re going to bench him now? Or was his two weeks of practice leading up to the Super Bowl just so bad that he wasn’t worth playing? Because I can’t imagine that Johnson Bademosi was a better option to have in the critical stretches of the game. The way quick guys like Nelson Agholor and Corey Clement were burning Rowe and Bademosi all game, don’t you think a guy who can run like Butler would be a solid replacement? Again, I’m not Belichick and I’m not an insider with the Patriots. But this just seems like a horrible oversight, especially considering how poor all the corners not named Stephon Gilmore played all game. This basically guarantees Butler won’t be returning to the Patriots next season. He’s quoted as saying “they gave up on me,” after the game. No chance does he return, even if he does get franchise tagged.

-I just got an update on my phone that says Rob Gronkowski won’t commit to playing next season. As if I needed more of this shit piled on. If he does retire, he will be in the discussion for greatest tight end of all time. He vanished in the first half but was terrific in the second, including these two touchdowns.

Overall, Gronk finished with 9 catches for 116 yards and 2 TD’s in the big game after only having 1 catch for 9 yards at the half.

-We also got amazing games out of both Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan. Amendola continued his playoff mastery with 8 catches for 152 yards while Hogan recorded 6 catches for 128 yards and this TD grab.

-Losing Brandin Cooks early in the second quarter was a huge blow to the Patriots offense as they lost a guy who could really stretch the field. You saw how well Brady threw the ball all game, imagine if he had Cooks as well. Here’s the hit from Malcolm Jenkins, which would’ve definitely been targeting and an ejection if this were college.

-Special teams for both sides got off to an ugly start. Al Michaels did note that apparently there were some complaints about the paint job on the Super Bowl LII logo, which was located right where the kickers had to kick. Perhaps it was too slippery? Whatever the case, Jake Elliott and Stephen Gostkowski both missed extra points while Gostkowski also missed a field goal, as not great snaps played a factor for both. Also, that end-around try on the kickoff return on the Patriots final drive was fucking stupid. Don’t get cute, that’s the quickest way to lose games. If you’re going to do that, it had better work otherwise you’re going to look as stupid as the Patriots did on that play.

-Alshon Jeffery dominated Eric Rowe for the first quarter or so of the game including this beautiful touchdown grab in the first quarter.

You can’t teach that. Jeffery just used his size to bully Rowe and Foles put the ball in the absolutely most perfect spot possible. The caption the NFL’s twitter page put on this pretty much sums it up. However once the Patriots made the switch that I felt like they should have done from the very beginning by putting the bigger Stephon Gilmore on him, he was shut down.

-The Eagles’ clock management was also tremendous. They killed over 6 minutes on their opening drive, telling the world what type of game this was going to be, then killing about 7 minutes on the drive for the game-winning score. It just seemed like the Eagles had an answer for everything the Patriots tried defensively.

-I thought Pink gave a tremendous performance in the National Anthem and it’s made significantly more impressive by the fact that she currently has the flu. Michael Jordan has his flu game, Pink now has hers.

-Not sure which commercial was my favorite, there were some pretty good ones. I particularly liked the Danny DeVito M&M’s commercial because any day I can see him on my screen is a good day, regardless of what’s in store for my Patriots. The Giants Dirty Dancing commercial was also cute. I also saw teasers for the Han Solo spinoff and Jurassic World 2. Both are probably going to suck but I’m going to see them at least twice in theaters anyway because both franchises have me by the balls.

That’s going to do it for my recap of what was really an excellent football game that did not go the way I had hoped it would. But such is life. The Patriots have been playing with fire with all these close Super Bowls, it was only a matter of time before they got burned. Let me know what you thought of the game in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. It’s baseball season now, bitches.

Super Bowl LII Preview

So it’s all come down to this. Super Bowl Sunday. The Eagles and Patriots took very different routes to get to this point. The Eagles were running roughshod over the league before losing their potential MVP quarterback in Carson Wentz to an ACL tear. He gets replaced by Nick Foles, who had been inconsistent up until the NFC Championship game, where he absolutely lit up the NFL’s #1 defense in the Vikings. Meanwhile the Patriots got off to a rough start and everybody wondered if this was the beginning of the end of their dynasty. Then they remembered they were the Patriots and proceeded to collect win after win en route to another AFC Championship game appearance, where they had to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit to defeat the upstart Jaguars. So lets do what I always do with championship games and go position-by-position to see which team has the advantage.

Quarterback

Patriots: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer

Eagles: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld

Advantage: Patriots

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Was there really ever any doubt? Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time whether he has protective bandages over his throwing hand or not. While Nick Foles played extremely well in the NFC Championship game, he’s too inconsistent for me to really give him a chance here. And as much as I love Nate Sudfeld, him being the previous Indiana quarterback, he can’t hold a candle to Brian Hoyer. Hoyer was the 49ers starting quarterback to start the season and how many guys can say they have a winning record as a starter for the reborn Browns? Just Hoyer. So this was a pretty easy choice here.

Runningback

Patriots: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Patriots

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While I do think that the Eagles runningbacks are better rushers, the Patriots runningbacks are far more dynamic and versatile. Ajayi and Blount are good running the football, but they have bricks for hands out of the backfield. They usually have Clement receiving the passes. Lewis, White, and Burkhead are all not only good rushers, but they’re good receiving out of the backfield as well, which is why they’re getting the nod over the Eagles backs.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Patriots: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Eagles: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Mack Hollins, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, Trey Burton

Advantage: Patriots

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A healthy Julian Edelman would’ve made this an easy choice, but alas, we take what we get. This is probably one of the most balanced receiving groups the Patriots have had since the Moss-Welker days as they have a speedster who can take the top off (Cooks), possession receivers that can move the chains (Hogan and Amendola) and a huge red zone threat (Gronkowski). The Eagles have a similar group of guys (Agholor moving the chains, Smith the speedster, Jeffery the huge red zone threat), but I think the Patriots have utilized them most effectively this season.

Offensive Line

Patriots: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, La’Adrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming

Eagles: Hal Vatai, Stefen Wisniewski, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson

Advantage: Eagles

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Finally, the Eagles are on the board here and it’s thanks in large part to probably the best right side of an offensive line I think I’ve ever seen. You can make an argument for all three of Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson being the best at their respective spots on the offensive line in the entire NFL. While the Patriots’ O-line is solid, they don’t have nearly enough talent to contend with the Eagles. And imagine if Jason Peters were healthy on the left side. Vatai is the weakest link on either of these offensive lines, but his teammates are so good they make up for his shortcomings.

Defensive Line

Patriots: Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Adam Butler, Alan Branch, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Jean Francois, Eric Lee

Eagles: Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Beau Allen, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, Vinny Curry

Advantage: Eagles

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There’s just too much talent on this Eagles defensive front. In fact, I think Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan, the starting DT’s, are going to be the most critical pieces if the Eagles hope to beat the Patriots. Brady does pretty well when there’s pressure coming from the tackles but he’s like a deer in the headlights when there’s pressure coming up the middle. Cox and Jernigan are one of the best DT duos in the NFL and they’re going to need to get lots of pressure to stifle Brady. For the Patriots, their defensive line is a patch-up job as they lost a lot of their guys to either free agency in the offseason or to injury and it’s resulted in them being possibly the weakest unit on this team.

Linebacker

Patriots: Kyle Van Noy, James Harrison, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, David Harris

Eagles: Mychal Kendricks, Nigel Bradham, Najee Goode, Dannell Ellerbe, Kamu Grugier-Hill

Advantage: Eagles

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This was probably the closest one to choose from and I debated calling this a tie. But I hate ties so I decided to go with the pure talent aspect and that’s where the Eagles won out. Both teams lost their star middle linebackers midway through the seasons (Dont’a Hightower for the Patriots, Jordan Hicks for the Eagles) and they’ve both been trying to get by with the pieces they have. While Van Noy is having a career year, the talent around him in Elandon Roberts and a 39 year-old James Harrison doesn’t quite stack up to what the Eagles have in Mychal Kendricks and Nigel Bradham.

Secondary

Patriots: Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Johnson Bademosi, Brandon King, Jordan Richards

Eagles: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson, Rasul Douglas, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rodney McLeod

Advantage: Patriots

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It was a tale of two halves of the season for the Patriots’ secondary and no better was it personified than in the play of Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore looked lost in Matt Patricia’s system his first few weeks, as he would blow coverage after coverage while the Patriots would get lit up by quarterbacks that probably shouldn’t be doing so. He suffered a concussion midway through the year and after he returned, he’s been his old Pro Bowl-caliber self, locking down any receiver that he’s matched up on. Eric Rowe has also been a bright spot in this secondary as well and it’s interesting to note that the Patriots acquired him from the Eagles in a trade a couple years ago after a poor showing to start his career in Philly. For the Eagles, their secondary is considered their weak spot as their cornerbacks in particular have been very inconsistent this season.

Specialists

Patriots: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater, Brandon Bolden

Eagles: Jake Elliott, Donnie Jones, Nelson Agholor, Rick Lovato, Kenjon Barner

Advantage: Eagles

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I’d probably give this a tie to the kickers and punters, as both units for both teams have been very solid this season. The thing that puts the Eagles over the top is Kenjon Barner as their return man. While he isn’t Devin Hester by any means, Barner would definitely be an upgrade over Lewis and Amendola as returners.

Coaching

Patriots: Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia

Eagles: Doug Pederson, Frank Reich, Jim Schwartz

Advantage: Patriots

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Got to go with the Patriots here for obvious reasons. While it can’t be overstated the job that Pederson and company have done with this Eagles team, it’s Bill Belichick for Christ’s sake. Plus, he’s got two head coaches serving as his coordinators in McDaniels and Patricia, who will be taking over the Colts and Lions respectively after this game ends.

Scoreboard: Patriots 5, Eagles 4

No need to even watch the game now, congratulations to the Patriots on their sixth Super Bowl victory. As a Pats fan, I pray I don’t regret that sentence. This will be my third championship prediction segment, first time around I picked the Dodgers to win the World Series (I was wrong) then I picked Alabama to win the CFP National Championship (I was right). So really there isn’t anything to suggest how this is going to go based on my picks. Let me know who you think is going to win the Super Bowl 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.