What Would Baseball Look Like Without Starting Rotations?

Tampa Bay Rays v Seattle Mariners

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

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

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

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

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

New York Yankees vs New York Mets

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

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

Seattle Mariners v Colorado Rockies

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

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

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

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

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.

2018 MLB Season Preview

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

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Season Predictions:

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

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

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

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Washington Nationals

More terror out of Boston sports as Chris Sale was drilled in the leg by a line drive in the first inning of his final spring training start. It’s apparently resulted in just a bruise and Sale claims that it looked a lot worse than it actually was so I’m breathing a sigh of relief, unlike with the Kyrie Irving news, whom I’ve just learned is expected to return in 3-6 weeks. Also, the Giants continue to get shit news as both Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija were injured, Bumgarner fracturing the pinky on his throwing hand and Samardzija suffered a pec injury. Both will open the season on the DL. But now we finally conclude this month-long series of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Washington Nationals.

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2017 Results:

Record: 97-65, won NL East, lost to Chicago Cubs in NLDS

Notable Offseason Additions: RP Joaquin Benoit, SP Jeremy Hellickson, SP Tommy Milone, 1B Matt Adams, C Miguel Montero

Notable Offseason Subtractions: LF Jayson Werth, C Jose Lobaton, SS Stephen Drew, RP Matt Albers, RP Oliver Perez, 1B Adam Lind, RP Joe Blanton, OF Alejandro de Aza

Best Offensive Player: RF Bryce Harper

Best Pitcher: Max Scherzer

Depth Chart:

C-Matt Wieters, Pedro Severino

1B-Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Adams

2B-Daniel Murphy, Howie Kendrick

3B-Anthony Rendon

SS-Trea Turner, Wilmer Difo

LF-Adam Eaton

CF-Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin

RF-Bryce Harper

SP-Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, AJ Cole, Jeremy Hellickson

Bullpen-Sean Doolittle (CP), Brandon Kintzler, Joaquin Benoit, Ryan Madson, Koda Glover, Shawn Kelley, Enny Romero, Sammy Solis

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Dave Martinez (1st season with Nationals)

Hitting Coach-Kevin Long

Pitching Coach-Derek Lilliquist

1st Base Coach-Tim Bogar

3rd Base Coach-Bob Henley

Bench Coach-Chip Hale

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The Washington Nationals were dominant in 2017, winning 97 games and finishing with the 2nd best record in the National League behind the Dodgers, however they continued to struggle in the postseason as they got bounced by the Cubs in 5 games in the NLDS. Since becoming the Nationals in 2005, this franchise has yet to win a playoff series. Their time is running out, though, as Bryce Harper is an impending free agent that they have very little chance of re-signing since they have a lot of money committed to other key players and people speculate that Harper may land the first ever $400M contract. Here’s how the Nationals are expected to line up in 2018.

1. Trea Turner-SS

2. Adam Eaton-LF

3. Bryce Harper-RF

4. Daniel Murphy-2B

5. Anthony Rendon-3B

6. Ryan Zimmerman-1B

7. Matt Wieters-C

8. Michael A. Taylor-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s arguably one of the most imposing lineups in baseball especially when you take into account the improvements a lot of these guys made. Bryce Harper is the obvious star here as the 2015 NL MVP likely would have won his second such award before his 25th birthday had he not stepped on a wet base the wrong way and missed the last month of the regular season. Harper finished 2017 hitting .319 with 29 home runs and 87 RBI and being worth 4.8 WAR in just 111 games, which was a huge step up from his disappointing 2016 season where a series of always getting walked put him in a funk at the plate. Anthony Rendon was probably the most underappreciated star in baseball, as he quietly topped the NL in WAR at 6.9 by slashing .301/.403/.533 and hitting 25 home runs, driving in 100 RBI and playing excellent defense at third base. Rendon also had the best single-game performance of the season when he went 6-for-6 with 3 home runs and 10 RBI in an April matchup against the Mets (which was also notable for being the game where Noah Syndergaard injured his lat and basically missed the remainder of the season). Trea Turner is also a dangerous player at shortstop as he hit .284 with 11 home runs and stole 46 bases. Daniel Murphy is another guy who will be tough to retire, though he’s going to miss Opening Day due to offseason knee surgery. Last season, Murphy hit .322 with 23 home runs and 93 RBI. The two best seasons of the 32 year-old’s career have come as a member of the Nationals, as he was particularly dominant in 2016 when he hit .347 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI. Top to bottom, this is a very dangerous lineup.

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The pitching rotation is just as dangerous as the batting lineup. The Nationals are spearheaded by ace and 3-time Cy Young Award winner (including each of the last 2 seasons) Max Scherzer. Last season, Scherzer dominated, going 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA and striking out over a dozen batters per 9 innings, which was the best number amongst righties in all of baseball. It doesn’t get much easier behind Scherzer as Stephen Strasburg was also a monster in 2017, particularly in the second half. Overall, Strasburg went 15-4 with a 2.52 ERA and struck out over 10 batters per 9 while having the best HR/9 in all of baseball at 0.67. After the All Star break, though, Strasburg was pitching out of his goddamn mind, as he had an ERA of 0.86 in 62.2 innings. With both guys pitching the way they did, you can pretty much pencil in the Nationals for 2 automatic wins in their 5-man rotation. Gio Gonzalez was strong on the surface last season as he had a 2.96 ERA, however his FIP was almost an entire run higher at 3.93, suggesting that his defense gave him a lot of help and that he may be due for some regression in 2018.

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The bullpen for the Nationals has always been what’s held them back in year’s past, though this season it looks more solid than usual. Sean Doolittle was strong after joining the Nationals from the Athletics in a midseason trade, pitching 30 games in DC and carrying a 2.40 ERA and recording 21 saves. Brandon Kintzler was also solid out of the bullpen for them, posting a 3.46 ERA for the Nationals after being acquired by the Twins. After them, though, there are a lot of question marks. Koda Glover has shown flashes of dominance at times but there have also been moments where he gets hit harder than a Colts quarterback. Ryan Madson has had stretches of dominance, like last season, but he’s 37 years old and at one point missed 3 consecutive Major League seasons due to injury. Considering all the talent the rest of the roster has, though, if the Nats can maintain just a top-15 bullpen, they’ll consider it a success based on the struggles they’ve had in the past.

Overall, I expect the Nationals to run away with the NL East. It’s a weak division and the Nationals are far and away the most loaded team. The issue for them is going to be whether or not they can advance in the postseason. They pretty much have to be all-or-nothing this season, as they won’t be able to retain Bryce Harper in free agency so I expect them to be heavy buyers at the Trade Deadline in an attempt to gear up for that elusive title run. After all, when you take into account their Montreal Expos days, the Nationals and Seattle Mariners are the only two franchises that have yet to even reach a World Series. Perhaps this is the year? After all, Sports Illustrated picked them to win it all for the third time in six years.

Projected Record: 95-67, win NL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tom…wait, that’s it. That’s all 30 clubs. I actually succeeded in finishing this series. To be quite frank, this series didn’t do as well as I had hoped, as I think people got a bit tired of me posting about a new team every day. I had a ton of fun doing this, though, which is why I kept at it and didn’t ditch it like I have with my NFL Draft scouting reports. For the future, though, I’ll probably bring it down to just a division-by-division preview and make it a week-long thing rather than month-long. So thank you for keeping with me for all this time and let me know what you think of the Nationals’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: New York Yankees

Lots of football news to talk about. The Seahawks released Richard Sherman as they continue to blow up the Legion of Boom, the Eagles traded Torrey Smith to the Panthers for Daryl Worley, and the Browns got BUSY, acquiring Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor, and Damarious Randall while also sending Deshone Kizer to Green Bay. And not one of them cost a first or second round draft pick. What kind of world is this where the Browns look like the most competent organization in football? Absolutely stunning haul. Now the Browns have Tyrod Taylor throwing to Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry with potentially Saquon Barkley in the backfield. The Browns may actually win a game this season. But enough football, let’s get to 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the New York Yankees.

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2017 Results:

Record: 91-71, 2 games behind Boston Red Sox, hosted AL Wild Card Game, defeated Minnesota Twins, defeated Cleveland Indians in ALDS, lost to Houston Astros in ALCS

Notable Offseason Additions: RF Giancarlo Stanton, 3B Brandon Drury, 1B Adam Lind, OF Shane Robinson

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Todd Frazier, 3B Chase Headley, SP Jaime Garcia, SP Michael Pineda, 2B Starlin Castro, DH Matt Holliday

Best Offensive Player: RF Aaron Judge

Best Pitcher: Luis Severino

Depth Chart:

C-Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine

1B-Greg Bird

2B-Ronald Torreyes, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade

3B-Brandon Drury

SS-Didi Gregorius

LF-Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier

CF-Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury

RF-Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton (DH)

SP-Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, Jordan Montgomery

Bullpen-Aroldis Chapman (CP), Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, Daniel Robertson, Adam Warren, Chad Green, Chasen Shreve

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Aaron Boone (1st season with Yankees)

Hitting Coach-Marcus Thames

Pitching Coach-Larry Rothschild

1st Base Coach-Reggie Willits

3rd Base Coach-Phil Nevin

Bench Coach-Josh Bard

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I can’t remember ever seeing a coaching staff where  every member (except Larry Rothschild, whom I feel like has been Yankees pitching coach forever) played in the Major Leagues during my childhood. But that’s beside the point because holy shit do the Yankees look dangerous this season. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll be successful, we still have to actually play the games, but just look at this lineup.

1. Brett Gardner-LF

2. Aaron Judge-RF

3. Giancarlo Stanton-DH

4. Gary Sanchez-C

5. Greg Bird-1B

6. Didi Gregorius-SS

7. Brandon Drury-3B

8. Ronald Torreyes/Gleyber Torres-2B

9. Aaron Hicks/Jacoby Ellsbury-CF

The Major League record for team home runs is 264 by the 1997 Seattle Mariners. Last season Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton combined for 112 between the two of them. If the Yankees don’t set the new single season team home run record, it’ll be considered a down year. After acquiring Stanton from the Marlins in the offseason for a bag of peanuts, the Yankees now boast both home run champs from the AL and NL from last season. Aaron Judge set a rookie record with 52 home runs last season en route to winning AL Rookie of the Year and runner-up for AL MVP while Stanton belted 59 bombs and won NL MVP. Now he moves to an even more hitter friendly ballpark in Yankee Stadium where the fences are about 30 feet closer than at Marlins Park. Give me a break. Even if you decided to intentionally walk both Judge and Stanton for some reason, you’ve got Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings, who led all Major League catchers with 33 home runs in 2017. Didi Gregorius has also become a power threat at shortstop, as he hit a career high 25 home runs last season. There isn’t an easy out in this lineup and opposing pitchers are going to have nightmares trying to prepare for them.

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Don’t sleep on the Yankees pitchers. Luis Severino was a breakout star in the Bronx last season, going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and striking out over 10 batters per 9 innings while being worth 5.7 WAR. Masahiro Tanaka had a down year in 2017, as his ERA of 4.74 was far and away the worst of his career. However Tanaka’s previous worst ERA in his 4 seasons in the Majors was 3.51, which is a quality number. Despite posting the worst ERA of his career in 2017, Tanaka actually posted his career-best strikeout rate of 9.79. He did get tagged by the long ball quite a bit, as his 1.77 HR/9 was third worst in the Majors and worst amongst pitchers who spent the entire season in the American League (Jeremy Hellickson’s 1.92 was worst but he went from the NL Phillies to the AL Orioles). Tanaka had previously been very good at keeping the ball in the yard, as he had a sub-1 HR/9 in 2 of his previous 3 seasons. Then there’s 2017 trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray, who was inconsistent upon joining the Yankees but overall had a very solid season, which was very encouraging given his poor 2016 in Oakland. Gray went 4-7 with a 3.72 ERA in pinstripes while striking out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings. And let’s not forget CC Sabathia, who had his best season since 2012 by going 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA while also pitching some inspired ball in the postseason. This unit is going to get overshadowed by the powerful lineup, but they are more than capable of shutting teams down for 9 innings.

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The bullpen for the Yankees last season was fantastic overall but there were some inconsistencies, particularly with their two best relievers, closer Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances. Chapman had a 3.22 ERA and only 22 saves last season but still struck out over 12 batters per 9, but that’s to be expected when you’re the author of the fastest pitch ever thrown in the history of the game at 105.4 mph. However Chapman was disastrous in May and August, as he had an ERA over 10 in May and 9 in August. Betances had his inconsistencies as well. While his overall numbers were pretty good (he had an ERA of 2.87 and struck out over 15 batters per 9), he struggled mightily with his control, walking over 6 batters per 9 innings. Betances has some of the most electric stuff in the game, as his fastball consistently hits 98 mph while his slider is like something out of the Matrix. He just needs to maintain better control. After those guys, though, there’s a lot of underrated talent in the Yankees bullpen. David Robertson returned to the Yankees after 2 and a half years with the White Sox and was fantastic in 2017, posting a 1.84 ERA and struck out nearly 13 batters per 9 innings. Tommy Kahnle was also tremendous with a 2.59 ERA and struck out nearly 14 batters per 9 as he too was an addition from the White Sox. This is an extremely talented bullpen but command is an issue. If they can limit the walks, this team will be even more dangerous.

Overall, the Yankees have one of the deadliest rosters on paper in all of baseball. The one knock against them that I could find is that they’re probably going to strike out a lot, as Judge and Stanton in particular whiff more than pretty much anybody in the league. But when this team does make contact, crooked numbers will follow. This Yankees team is a very legitimate threat to win their first World Series since 2009 and they’re going to be in a fight to the death with the Red Sox for the AL East title. Hopefully the acquisitions of Stanton to the Yankees and JD Martinez to the Red Sox are exactly what this rivalry needs to rejuvenate itself. It hasn’t felt the same since the 2004 ALCS because I mean, come on, how can you top that?

Projected Record: 98-64, win AL East

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Oakland Athletics, who always seem to teeter between “darkhorse” and “dumpster fire.” Let me know what you think of the Yankees’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10. Also, I will once again be on the call for college baseball on the Big Ten Network, so check out Indiana vs Pacific at 2.