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

994054502-1024x1024

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

998132436-1024x1024

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

998715382-1024x1024

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

997319840

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

941653820-1024x1024

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

970611300-1024x1024

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

970047522-1024x1024

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

999175748-1024x1024

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.

Just How Good Have the Red Sox Been This Season?

991637770-1024x1024

Before I get into the blog, I just wanted to apologize for the lack of content lately. My schedule has been absolutely STUFFED, plus there hasn’t been a ton of major news worth blogging about. But I feel that since it’s been a week since my last blog, I figured I’d pull something out just to keep things going.

So how ’bout them Red Sox, eh? After destroying the Royals 15-4 despite David Price not having his good stuff, they now carry a record of 61-29 through 90 games, a winning percentage of .678. If the Red Sox kept this pace, they’d finish with a record of approximately 110-52, which would surpass the previous franchise record of 105-47 in 1912 (their second World Series-winning team, first time being known as the “Red Sox”). In fact, the Red Sox have not won 100 games in a season since 1946, when they lost the World Series in 7 games to the St. Louis Cardinals when Johnny Pesky infamously “held the ball.” Here are some interesting tidbits about the Red Sox’ historically strong first half.

-If the Red Sox keep this pace and do reach the 110-win threshold, it would obliterate the previous record for rookie manager success, as Alex Cora’s 110-win season would be a record for rookie managers (unfortunately I am having a very difficult time finding the actual record for rookie managers so I couldn’t tell you how much Cora would hold the record by, but I’m assuming 110 would be the record. The highest I’ve been able to find is Ken Macha’s 96 in 2003 with the A’s). Cora’s .678 winning percentage would make him the winningest manager of the modern era for managers that lasted at least 1 season  (George Wright went 59-25 in his lone season as a manager in 1879 for a .702 winning percentage, however Cora has already managed more games than that dude).

-Mookie Betts is currently leading the majors in batting average (.343), slugging (.672), and OPS (1.112) and is third in the Majors in WAR at 5.2 and that’s even with missing 21 games due to injury. He’s been a legitimate MVP candidate all year and would likely be the favorite if Mike Trout weren’t on his bullshit at the moment.

-JD Martinez leads the Majors in both home runs and RBI with 27 and 73, respectively, and is on pace to hit over 50 home runs and drive in nearly 150 RBI while also hitting .329 with an OPS of 1.038. Remember when nobody wanted to sign him in the offseason? He’s been the best high-profile free agent acquisition the Red Sox have had since Manny Ramirez (yes, David Ortiz also joined the Red Sox via free agency, but at the time of his leaving the Minnesota Twins, he wasn’t considered “high profile”), which isn’t saying a lot because the Red Sox have whiffed on quite a few of those recently. But regardless, Martinez has been a major part of this offense.

-Mitch Moreland is currently sitting on a 2-year, $13M deal. There are 16 first basemen in the Majors making more than him and the only ones with a higher batting average than his .288 are Freddie Freeman (.304), Brandon Belt (.289), and Joey Votto (.294). Moreland is currently slashing .288/.354/.533 with 11 homers and 40 RBI and is probably the lowest profile cleanup hitter that is doing the best job of it at the moment. He also plays a very strong defensive first base, which cannot be understated given that the rest of the Red Sox infield tends to struggled defensively (Eduardo Nunez has a lot of mental lapses in the field, Xander Bogaerts has limited range, and Rafael Devers leads the Majors in errors at any position with 18).

-Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant of late. He’s carrying an ERA barely over 1 in his last 5 starts since getting roughed up by the Braves and is currently holding a 2.36 ERA while striking out roughly the same amount of batters per 9 innings (12.98) as he did last season (12.93) when he hit 308 punchouts. At the rate he’s going, he may be in line to start his third consecutive All Star Game and perhaps land his first Cy Young Award (though Houston’s Justin Verlander may have something to say about that).

-David Price had been lights out prior to getting roughed up in his last two starts. Since the carpal tunnel problem, he had gone on a 7-start stretch where he was carrying an ERA of 2.63. Price seems to turn it on as soon as everybody starts talking about what a bust of a signing he was so perhaps we may see another string of stellar outings pretty soon.

-The Red Sox’ bullpen has quietly been pretty strong for the team, as they’re 6th in the Majors in bullpen ERA. That effort is spearheaded by Craig Kimbrel, who is again dicing up opposing hitters with a 2.02 ERA and 13.12 K/9. Matt Barnes has been going a bit under the radar for the team this year, as he’s carrying a 2.45 ERA with over 12 K/9 and actually has the same WAR as Kimbrel right now at 1.0. Hector Velazquez has been a welcome addition to the ‘pen, as his bullpen ERA is 2.91 and he’s also capable of making a spot start should the team need him.

-The Red Sox are tops in the Majors in runs scored and that’s despite the fact that they have gotten absolutely nothing out of their 6-9 hitters. The combination of Rafael Devers (who is admittedly starting to heat up a little bit), Eduardo Nunez, the catchers Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, and Jackie Bradley Jr have basically been liabilities this season. The Red Sox are basically only getting production out of Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Martinez, Moreland, and Bogaerts and they still lead the Majors in runs scored. But despite some of the poor hitting, some of these guys in the bottom of the order help your team in others ways. Jackie Bradley Jr is a magician in the outfield and quite frankly, I can give him some leeway for his hitting woes because of how good in the field he is (the fact he doesn’t have a gold glove is a crime). Christian Vazquez is basically impossible for base stealers to run on. Sandy Leon calls a very good game. Devers is a guy who can take you deep if you aren’t careful.

-Really the only black hole the Red Sox have had is at second base, where Eduardo Nunez has had a really tough season both offensively and defensively. He’s been losing a lot of playing time to Brock Holt, who is hitting a cool .296 at the moment but is best utilized as a swiss army knife. Dustin Pedroia’s knee problems have me VERY worried about his future and I wonder if the Red Sox will pursue a second baseman at the trade deadline (or just call up the recently signed Brandon Phillips).

So yeah, the Sox are really freaking good. But it’s going to be critical that they outpace the Yankees in the division, who currently hold the tie-breaker over them. The Yankees are just 2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East right now and with the new Wild Card stipulations, winning the division is that much more important. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ hot start in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: May 3

at Fenway Park on May 2, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.

-Mookie Betts is on a freaking tear. While he did miss some time with a leg injury (his absence was more precautionary than anything since it was determined to just be a bruise), he has been a monster for the Red Sox in the first month of the season, culminating with his 4th career 3-home run game, the most in franchise history. The Major League record is 6 by Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa. Oh and he’s still just 25 years old. Mookie is currently hitting .365 with a Major League-leading 11 home runs and 21 RBI and along with the hot-hitting Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogaerts, and JD Martinez, the Red Sox boast one of the deadliest lineups in baseball to go along with a stellar pitching rotation. This team is scary. 

-Not to be outdone, Indians DH Edwin Encarnacion also hit 3 home runs in a game, this one against the Rangers. As of right now, I have no idea if there has ever been 2 3-home run games on the same day in Major League history, but it sounds like one of those oddities that could be the case. Encarnacion really needed a game like this because heading into it, he was slashing .171/.250/.352, which are abysmal numbers for the notorious slow-starter. However once he gets going, there isn’t a deadlier right-handed bat in the Majors. As I mentioned, Encarnacion always gets off to a slow start to the season and by the end of it, he’s usually his typically dangerous self. He is 35, though, so perhaps a downward trend is on the horizon.

-Glenn Jacobs won the Republican nomination in the Knox County, Tennessee mayoral race. Since he is a Republican in Tennessee, that pretty much all but guarantees that he’s going to become Knox County’s next mayor. In fact, he won the Republican nomination by just 17 votes! Now, you might be wondering why I give a shit about this when I’ve made it known I hate politics and this is seemingly the most unimportant mayoral race ever. Well the fact of the matter is that I love Glenn Jacobs and he had a profound impact on my childhood and even now currently in my adulthood. Never heard of him? Well, that’s because he is better known to the public by a different name. HE’S FUCKING KANE FROM WWE!!! That’s right, the Big Red Machine, the Undertaker’s brother, the guy who had some very problematic storylines in the WWE (including an angle where he rapes a female wrestler, impregnates her, then another wrestler causes her to miscarry) is the favorite to become the mayor of a county in Tennessee. When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to perform wrestling moves on each other like any other kids. There were a few moves that we liked to do. The one we probably did the most was Chris Jericho’s “Walls of Jericho” mainly because it was a pretty easy move as well as John Cena’s “Attitude Adjustment” (which back then was called “The FU”). But Kane’s “Chokeslam” was one of our favorites to do. So I’m pretty excited for the Devil’s Favorite Demon to hit that Chokeslam on some ne’er-do-wells in Knox County, Tennessee and have Hellfire lining the sidewalks. Here are some Gifs to showcase just how great a mayor Kane is going to make.

TW6g

giphy

kaneringfire

tenor

tumblr_onlibiyzju1u7qbgxo1_400

Don’t you just love America? Also, Kane’s first name is “Glenn.” If that doesn’t destroy a man’s aura then I don’t know what does.

-Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer thinks that Astros pitchers may be doctoring the baseballs. In a Twitter thread, Bauer basically stated that the balls feel stickier there and that he feels that it’s very suspicious that Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have become absolute monsters since joining the Astros and went into a rant about gum and stuff like that. While I am a fan of Bauer and his lack of filter, I think this is a bit farfetched and just begging for somebody to get targeted when the Indians and Astros square off. First of all, yes, Verlander and Cole have seen significant upticks in production since joining the Astros. However these are also two of the most talented pitchers in baseball who needed a change in scenery and got that in Houston. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Verlander and Cole would be #1 and #2, respectively, in the AL in strikeouts, which is where they currently rank. These guys have always been strikeout pitchers and now they seem to be invigorated. I think it’s more likely that Astros pitching coach Brent Strom is doing a Hell of a job. I mean have you seen Charlie Morton lately? A 34 year-old hitting 99 mph has nothing to do with doctoring baseballs. Strom is just killing it with these guys right now.

-I finished All or Nothing’s Dallas Cowboys edition a few days ago but kept forgetting to give my thoughts on it like I did with their Michigan edition. Here’s a few things I noticed:

Michigan definitely employed a no-swearing policy because the Cowboys had some of the biggest potty-mouths in the league (Dez Bryant being a particularly big offender). I was also a little surprised by head coach Jason Garrett’s potty mouth. He strikes me as the kind of guy who says “flipping” when he means “fucking.” But nope. No he says “fucking” like a normal person.

Cowboys runningbacks coach Gary Brown was the breakout star of this show. His relationship with the runningbacks was kind of a mixture of a father who will be your best friend but will also impart his wisdom upon you. This was very apparent when he had the backs over his house for dinner with his family and you could just tell everybody loved each other. Darren McFadden showing up dressed like Brown and talking like he does was also pretty amusing. I actually had no idea McFadden actually retired during the season until All or Nothing talked about it. Shame, too. McFadden was a big “what if” in the NFL because he was extremely talented but was held back by injuries.

Dez Bryant and Jourdan Lewis talking trash to each other was my favorite part of the series. It was only a one-part segment but these guys were jawing at each other during their STRETCHING. It was pretty funny how much tension you could sense, though I kind of got the vibe that Lewis was just trying to provoke Bryant and Bryant was taking the bait. They then went one-on-one with each other and had to get separated because Lewis got pissed because he thought Dez pushed off of him when he made the catch (he kind of did, but it was pretty bang-bang).

My one complaint was that I don’t think they emphasized Tyron Smith’s importance to the offense enough. Yes, when he went down, they made sure to highlight that his replacements, Chaz Green and Byron Bell, got absolutely DESTROYED by Adrian Clayborn to the tune of 6 sacks. But while they were in the starting roles there was little to no mention of Smith’s absence or recovery timetable. In fact, they didn’t even acknowledge his return. Smith is the best left tackle in football now that Joe Thomas is retired but you wouldn’t know it based on All or Nothing. In fact, I think the entire offensive line kind of got the shaft in favor of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott.

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

 

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Houston Astros

The NFL Combine began yesterday and there are a couple of things I want to bring to light. Penn State runningback Saquon Barkley was a freaking monster, as he ran the second-fastest 40-yard dash among runningbacks at an unofficial 4.41 and tied for the most bench press reps at 29. You can’t really say Barkley helped himself at the Combine because his draft stock couldn’t have been much higher already. On the other end, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown was abysmal. He ran a 5.86 40-yard dash (nobody who has ever run worse than 5.7 has ever made the NFL) then only did 14 bench press reps. Brown is 6’8 340 pounds and he did 14 reps at 225 pounds. I’ve got a buddy I work out with who I’m confident can do that and he’s a college freshman. Brown also got chewed out by a coach for dogging his drills. Bad day for Brown. I had him as my #3 tackle and a late first round prospect at that but those numbers are alarming. I’ll do a Combine recap after the event is done so we can get my full thoughts on who helped their stock and who hurt it. But for now, it’s day 12 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days and today we have the defending champion Houston Astros.

869904400

2017 Results:

Record: 101-61, won AL West by 21 games over Anaheim Angels. Defeated Boston Red Sox in ALDS. Defeated New York Yankees in ALCS. Defeated Los Angeles Dodgers in World Series.

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Gerrit Cole, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon

Notable Offseason Subtractions: DH Carlos Beltran (retired), SP Francisco Liriano, SP Joe Musgrove, 3B Colin Moran, RP Luke Gregerson, OF Cameron Maybin

Best Offensive Player: 2B Jose Altuve

Best Pitcher: Justin Verlander

Depth Chart:

C-Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH), Juan Centeno, Max Stassi

1B-Yuli Gurriel, Tyler White

2B-Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp

3B-Alex Bregman

SS-Carlos Correa

LF-Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher

CF-George Springer, Jake Marisnick

RF-Josh Reddick

SP-Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, Lance McCullers, Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock

Bullpen-Ken Giles (CP), Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Hector Rondon, Buddy Boshers

Coaching Staff:

Manager-AJ Hinch (4th season with Astros)

Hitting Coach-Dave Hudgens

Pitching Coach-Brent Strom

1st Base Coach-Alex Cintron

3rd Base Coach-Gary Pettis

Bench Coach-Joe Espada

868802572

The Houston Astros won their first World Series in franchise history just months after Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Houston area. This victory meant a lot for the city of Houston as it was a moment of happiness for everyone in a time of grief. This is VERY similar to the 2013 Red Sox, who won the World Series just months after the Boston Marathon bombings. But the Astros are also about as loaded a team as you’re going to find in Major League Baseball. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. George Springer-CF

2. Alex Bregman-3B

3. Jose Altuve-2B

4. Carlos Correa-SS

5. Yuli Gurriel-1B

6. Josh Reddick-RF

7. Marwin Gonzalez-LF

8. Evan Gattis-DH

9. Brian McCann-C

There are superstars all over this lineup, most notably of course being reigning AL MVP Jose Altuve. Last season Altuve won MVP over the likes of Aaron Judge and Jose Ramirez by hitting .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBI, 32 stolen bases, 112 runs scored, and was worth 7.5 WAR. Not bad for a guy who’s the same height as my mom. Protecting him in the lineup is Carlos Correa, arguably the best shortstop in the game and a guy that has drawn comparisons to Alex Rodriguez. Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs, 84 RBI, slugged .550, and was worth 5.2 WAR in an injury-plagued season. And we cannot forget World Series MVP George Springer at the top of the lineup. Last season Springer hit .283 with 34 home runs, 85 RBI, 112 runs scored, and was worth 4.5 WAR. In the World Series, Springer was a monster after a poor Game 1 where he struck out in all 4 at bats (he was the first World Series MVP ever to have such a game in the same Series). He hit .379 with 5 home runs and 7 RBI in the Fall Classic, and this is including that Game 1 performance. If you don’t include that, Springer hit .440. There are so many other guys in this lineup that can kill you too. Alex Bregman was clutch in the postseason. Josh Reddick hit .314 and was worth 3.5 WAR. Marwin Gonzalez, their usual super utility guy, hit .303 and was worth 4.1 WAR. This lineup is absolutely loaded with young talent and the Astros expect to be bullies in the American League for quite some time.

868782946

The Astros’ starting rotation is arguably just as loaded as their lineup. They have two Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel at the top of their rotation with another Cy Young candidate in Gerrit Cole, whom they acquired from the Pirates in the offseason, right behind them. After being acquired by the Astros from the Tigers at the last minute, Verlander went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in 34 innings, striking out 43 batters in the process. Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young-winning form after a down 2016 season by going 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA in 23 starts. Gerrit Cole comes from the Pirates after a down season, however he is capable of fantastic numbers, such as his 2015 season where he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA. The big question mark is going to be who the #5 starter is. The candidates for that job are Colin McHugh, Charlie Morton, and Brad Peacock. The losers will likely wind up in the bullpen because they’re all too talented to keep in AAA, which is a good problem for the Astros to have. Plus if anybody in the rotation gets injured, they’ll have each of these guys on retainer. My pick to win the 5 spot is Charlie Morton, who is suddenly getting his fastball up in the high-90’s and earned manager AJ Hinch’s trust to close out Game 7 of the World Series.

917497458

The Astros’ bullpen struggled in the postseason, particularly in the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a talented bunch. Closer Ken Giles pitched to a 2.30 ERA and struck out almost 12 batters per 9 innings while saving 34 games. It looks pretty apparent that the Astros won that trade with the Phillies after they traded former #1 overall pick Mark Appel to get Giles as Appel is stepping away from the game without having reached the Major Leagues. Will Harris was an All Star in 2016 and in 2017 he had an ERA of 2.98 and struck out 10 batters per 9. Chris Devenski pitched to a 2.68 ERA and struck out 11.16 batters per 9. They also added submarine pitcher Joe Smith to the bullpen as well as former Cubs closer Hector Rondon. I expect this group to return to their regular season form and make people forget about how brutal they were in the World Series.

Overall, I expect the Astros to be favorites to repeat as World Series champions. AJ Hinch’s club didn’t lose anybody of major significance and only got better, as they added the likes of Gerrit Cole to an already deep pitching rotation. Their core is also very young, as each of Springer, Altuve, Correa, and Bregman are all under the age of 28. Not only is this team going to score a ton of runs, but they’re going to prevent a ton of runs as well with their stacked pitching staff. Unlike last season, they will face a bit stiffer competition in their division as the Angels have added a lot of pieces to their roster that could make them challengers to the Astros’ throne while the Mariners could be a sneaky team in that division.

Projected Record: 101-61, Win AL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Kansas City Royals, who will be in the first stages of life after their core that led them to their 2015 World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Astros’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Detroit Tigers

I’m sad to see that Hall of Fame Bills quarterback Jim Kelly’s cancer has returned once again. I can’t imagine what his family must be going through right now but if he can win 4 straight AFC championships, beating cancer again will be a breeze. On to happier news, we enter Day 11 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days with the Detroit Tigers. Let’s get to it.

842023344

2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 38 games behind Cleveland Indians, 21 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: SP Francisco Liriano, RP Travis Wood, CF Leonys Martin, IF Alexi Amarista, SP Mike Fiers

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Anibal Sanchez, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Alex Presley, RP Bruce Rondon, OF Tyler Collins, IF Andrew Romine

Best Offensive Player: 1B Miguel Cabrera

Best Pitcher: Michael Fulmer

Depth Chart:

C-James McCann, John Hicks

1B-Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez (DH)

2B-Dixon Machado

3B-Jeimer Candelario

SS-Jose Iglesias, Alexi Amarista

LF-Mikie Mahtook

CF-Leonys Martin, JaCoby Jones

RF-Nicholas Castellanos, Victor Reyes

SP-Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Fiers, Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris, Francisco Liriano

Bullpen-Shane Greene (CP), Travis Wood, Alex Wilson, Zac Reininger, Joe Jimenez, Daniel Stumpf, Drew VerHagen

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Ron Gardenhire (1st season with Tigers)

Hitting Coach-Lloyd McClendon

Pitching Coach-Chris Bosio

1st Base Coach-Ramon Santiago

3rd Base Coach-Dave Clark

Bench Coach-Steve Liddle

838903220

If ever there were a team in baseball that was in a rebuild, it’s the Tigers. They’ve practically gutted the team that started Opening Day for them. Gone are Justin Verlander, JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Justin Upton, and pretty much anybody else who made the Tigers one of the potentially more dangerous teams in baseball. However they were going nowhere fast so they decided now was as good a time as ever to commence with the rebuild, which got off to a pretty good start as far as rebuilds go as they managed to finish tied for the worst record in baseball at 64-98 and won the tie breaker over the Giants for the #1 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft.  It’s a pretty thin Major League roster for the 2018 season, as you can see from their projected lineup.

1. Leonys Martin-CF

2. Nicholas Castellanos-RF

3. Miguel Cabrera-1B

4. Victor Martinez-DH

5. Jeimer Candelario-3B

6. Mikie Mahtook-LF

7. James McCann-C

8. Dixon Machado-2B

9. Jose Iglesias-SS

The only guys really of note in this lineup are Cabrera and Martinez and they appear to be nearing the end of the line. Cabrera had his worst season in 2017, as he hit .249 with 16 home runs and 60 RBI and was worth -0.2 WAR. Granted, it may not have entirely been his fault, as according to a “study” I did, Cabrera was the unluckiest hitter in the game last season. So perhaps 2017 was a fluke for the future Hall of Famer. Victor Martinez also struggled last season as he battled injuries, as he hit .255 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 107 games for a -1.1 WAR. In fact it was the second time in 3 seasons the 39 year-old was worth a negative WAR. However they’re also the only two hitters in this lineup that can be deemed as dangerous even if they’re practically shells of their former selves at this point. Nicholas Castellanos is a guy that could be a positive for this lineup, as he had a breakout season in 2017. He hit .272 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI. He was only worth 1.8 WAR, however that could be due in fact to his poor defense in right field, which could be excusable given the fact he’s still learning the position. He came up as a third baseman and played there for the first couple years of his career. Other than that, there’s not a whole lot to be excited about in this Tigers lineup. It could also be a rough time at the plate for the foreseeable future as the Tigers don’t have a single hitter in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects.

840666964

The Tigers REALLY struggled on the mound in 2017, finishing with the worst team ERA in the Majors (5.36). The only real bright spot amongst pitchers who finished the season with the team was Michael Fulmer, who is basically the default ace right now. Last season, Fulmer went 10-12 with a 3.83 ERA and was worth 3.5 WAR in 25 starts. His strikeout rate was pretty poor, as his 6.23 K/9 was 7th worst in baseball, however he showed good control, as his walk rate of 2.19 BB/9 was 11th best in baseball. He was also excellent about keeping balls in the yard, as his HR/9 rate of 0.71 was 2nd best in all of baseball (Washington’s Stephen Strasburg was best at 0.67). So despite the fact that he doesn’t miss a lot of bats, Fulmer does a good job of not giving hitters great pitches to hit. After him, though, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Jordan Zimmermann has been a disaster since signing with the Tigers after a successful career in Washington, last season being particularly bad as he had an ERA of 6.08. Had he thrown 2 more innings to qualify for the Major League minimum, that would’ve given him the worst ERA in baseball by half a run (Matt Moore’s 5.52 was the worst among qualifying pitchers). New additions from the Astros Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano could provide some value in the rotation, but Liriano barely appeared for Houston late in the season while Fiers got bumped out of the rotation by younger pitchers.

842023376

The Tigers’ bullpen is pretty rough. The only guy who had a solid season last year was Shane Greene, who will be inheriting the closer’s role. He had an ERA of 2.66 last year however his FIP was 3.84, suggesting that his defense was helping out his overall numbers. He did manage to strike out nearly 10 batters per 9 innings and he was able to strand 84% of inherited runners. However he lacks experience in the closer’s role as he only has 11 career saves, though looking at the rest of Detroit’s options in the bullpen, he’s really the only legitimate candidate they have right now. Their only other quality relief pitchers, Travis Wood and Alex Wilson, have a combined 8 saves between them in their careers and neither was particularly good last season. Wilson had an ERA of 4.50 while Wood’s was a whopping 6.80. It’s not even a guarantee Wood makes the Tigers’ Opening Day roster. After that, it’s going to be a bunch of experimental guys. It wouldn’t shock me in the slightest to see some of Detroit’s top pitching prospects such as Franklin Perez, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, and Beau Burrows appear in the Motor City at some point in 2018.

Overall, the Tigers are going to suck, but that’s kind of the point. The only exciting players on this team, Cabrera and Martinez, are 34 and 39 years old, respectively, and they may be past the points in their careers where they can be of serious value to the team. There are far too many question marks on the mound and I’ll be very surprised if the Tigers don’t end up in the cellar of the AL Central this season, perhaps even for all of Major League Baseball. However I do believe there is one team that will have a worse season than the Tigers, but they’re not due for another few days in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series.

Projected Record: 64-98, Last in AL Central

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I transition from the worst team in the American League to the very best. We’ve got the defending champion Houston Astros on tap tomorrow as they look to try and defend their first ever World Series title. Let me know what you think of the Tigers’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

World Series Game 6 Recap

maxresdefault

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.

1024x1024

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 2 Recap

maxresdefault

photo credit: Youtube user Baseball Breakdown

Before I get into this game, I have to mention Vin Scully’s ceremonial first pitch. That was probably the best ceremonial first pitch I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Mark Wahlberg airmail one to the backstop in person. Scully’s still got the flair for showmanship, too. Any more words just wouldn’t do it justice, so here it is below.

Now that that’s gotten its due:

-The Astros won their first World Series game in franchise history 7-6 in 11 innings, Chris Devenski got the win and Brandon McCarthy was saddled with the loss. Devenski technically also recorded the save but baseball doesn’t award saves to the winning pitcher for some reason.

-I don’t even know where to begin with this game. I really can’t. It should’ve been over on at least four different occasions. Here are a couple of facts surrounding what happened:

-8 home runs were hit by 8 different players (a World Series record), 6 of which occurred in the 9th inning or later

-5 extra innings home runs were hit, which is a record for an entire SERIES, let alone one World Series game

-The Dodgers used every single member of their bullpen

-The Dodgers bullpen had a postseason ERA of 0.83 entering this game. They allowed 6 runs in their 7 innings of work in Game 2, all of which came in their final 4

-Before I go much further, I have to get something off my chest. Big rant coming: Dave Roberts completely overmanaged this game. I’ve been singing his praises all year, rightfully so, but a large part of the way this game ended was on him. The first mistake was pulling Rich Hill after only 4 innings and 60 pitches. I get that you want to use your all-world bullpen. But Hill was looking pretty sharp in his 4 innings of work. Yeah he allowed a run on this play right here:

But otherwise he had been really sharp. In his 4 innings, he only gave up 3 hits with 3 walks (1 was intentional) and 7 strikeouts. The fact that he only had 60 pitches after 2 real walks and 7 strikeouts means that the Astros hitters were aggressive with him and weren’t having a ton of success, which was true. Hill was visibly pissed, and rightfully so, slamming his glove on the bench after he was told his night was done. Then came his usage of Tony Watson in the sixth inning. In the sixth, Kenta Maeda allowed a hit to Carlos Correa, then retired Yuli Gurriel. Roberts brings in the left-handed Watson to face the left-handed Brian McCann. Now for one, McCann hadn’t been swinging the bat really well all postseason, regardless of what handedness the pitcher was. You totally could’ve left in Maeda against McCann and probably gotten a similar result to what Watson got. That’s one beef I’ve had with managers is that they tend to play the lefty/righty matchups a little too fiercely, especially when it probably wouldn’t matter given the way a certain hitter has been hitting. But Roberts brings in Watson to face McCann and Watson gets a one-pitch double play. Awesome, Watson will be totally rested for the 7th inning. But instead, out trotting from the bullpen for the top of the 7th is Ross Stripling, who surrenders a four-pitch walk to Marwin Gonzalez and then HE gets pulled. That’s already four relievers that Roberts has gone through and you haven’t even gotten an out in the 7th inning yet. You’d think the Astros had put up 10 runs by that point, but they only had the 1 on the board. Morrow dominated the 7th inning, then let up a double to Alex Bregman that was nearly caught on what would have been an amazing play by Yasiel Puig. Roberts then baffles me by bringing in Kenley Jansen for a six-out save in a 2-run game. Look, Dave, I get it, Jansen is the best closer in the game. But he didn’t look that great in Game 1 the night prior and now you want him to get six outs with an inherited runner? The run does score and makes the game 3-2 but Jansen is able to get out of the 8th inning with the lead intact. Heading to the ninth and this happens:

And there goes Jansen’s record streak of consecutive converted saves to begin a postseason career (12). Jansen was able to recover and got the next three outs. But then the 10th inning happened. No issues here with Roberts’ decision to go with Fields, it’s not his fault that Fields decided to hang a couple of pitches to the Astros’ two best hitters:

Gurriel then hit a double to follow up the back-to-back home runs and Roberts had seen enough and pulled Fields for Tony Cingrani. Right call. Cingrani got the next three outs. It’s now the bottom of the 10th and the Astros hold a 5-3 lead. Closer Ken Giles, who had come in the 9th and sent the game into the 10th, was back out there to face Yasiel Puig. Puig proceeds to do this:

Love how Puig gently placed his bat on the ground after that. Giles gets the next two outs, then walks Logan Forsythe. He bounces a pitch and Forsythe takes second base with Kike Hernandez at the dish. Then Hernandez gets the first Dodgers hit that didn’t leave the yard.

Puig’s reaction was pretty great too.

That sent the game to the top of the 11th. Roberts brings in Brandon McCarthy to replace Tony Cingrani. I understand Roberts’ thinking here, McCarthy is normally a starter and you may need him to eat up innings. But McCarthy is your last remaining reliever! Cingrani only threw 5 pitches and has starter experience! McCarthy promptly gives up a single to Cameron Maybin, Maybin steals second to earn everyone a free Taco, then George Springer came up:

7-5 Astros. McCarthy gets the next 3 batters. Astros leave in Chris Devenski, who finished off the bottom of the 10th. He gets the first two batters, then Charlie Culberson gets in on the fun.

Based on the way Culberson was rounding the bases, it’s possible that he thought he had tied the game. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he was trying to hype up his team similar to the way Joc Pederson rounded the bases on his home run way back in the 5th.

Devenski responded by striking out Yasiel Puig on a long and suspenseful at bat to finally end this instant classic. I have to say, Dave Roberts needs to do better with managing his bullpen if the Dodgers are to advance. Or perhaps he handled it as well as anybody and he just had the worst luck. That’s equally likely. But a lot of the blame has to fall on his shoulders. Rant over.

Some other notes from this game.

-Some de ja vu in Game 2. Game 1 saw Keuchel serve up a 2-run homer to the number 2 hitter in the order after a 2-out walk from Chris Taylor to make the score 3-1 Dodgers in the bottom of the 6th inning. The exact same thing happened in Game 2 to Justin Verlander.

Baseball is weird.

-Verlander had been no-hitting the Dodgers up until Pederson’s home run that narrowly missed Josh Reddick’s glove. He was really good all night, going 6 innings allowing only 2 hits and striking out 5. Unfortunately for him, both hits he let up left the yard.

-I didn’t like the move to have Joc Pederson on the World Series roster instead of Curtis Granderson. Granderson’s experience and Pederson’s reckless swing made Grandy the obvious choice in my brain, but it worked in Roberts’ favor in Game 2, as Pederson’s home run gave the Dodgers the spark they needed against Verlander.

-What would’ve happened had Yasiel Puig been able to make that diving catch to rob Alex Bregman of a double, which started the scoring for the Astros? We can only wonder. Can’t blame Puig for not catching it, though. It was amazing he even had a chance to make a play at it.

Looking Ahead:

We have a full day off to digest this game before Game 3 on Friday in Houston. The Dodgers will send Yu Darvish to the hill to face Lance McCullers. The Dodgers will need to rethink their strategy, as Houston has yet to lose a game at home this postseason (which had been the case for LA prior to this game). Lucky for them, they have a full day off to rest their bullpen, but Darvish NEEDS to go deep into this game to preserve the ‘pen.

Prediction for Game 3:

After what we just witnessed, I haven’t the slightest idea as to what’s going to happen in Game 3. Literally anything could happen. I’m just going to toss a coin. Heads the Dodgers bounce back, Tails the Astros keep up momentum. *Flips coin* It’s Tails.

 

2017 World Series Preview: Astros vs Dodgers

So it’s all come down to this. 2 teams remain from the 30 that came into Spring Training with such high hopes. Only one will end the season having accomplished the goal they set back in late February. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were my picks to go to the World Series back around the All Star break, but I changed my mind after how hot the Indians got in the AL and how cold the Dodgers went. You can check out how wrong my playoff picks were here. Nonetheless, both teams won 100 games this season (Dodgers won 104, Astros won 101), which hasn’t happened in the World Series since 1970, when the 108-win Baltimore Orioles beat the 102-win Cincinnati Reds. I picked the DBacks to represent the National League on a hunch and while they did win the NL Wild Card game, they got promptly disposed of by the Dodgers, whose number the DBacks seemed to have had in the regular season. The Astros were consistently good all season but were surpassed in the overall record department by the Indians, thanks in large part to a 22-game win streak. The Indians then choked away a 2-0 lead against the Yankees in the ALDS while the Astros convincingly dispatched the Red Sox. The Dodgers then proceeded to spank the Cubs in the NLCS in 5 games while it took 7 games for the Astros to defeat the Yankees. For this prediction segment, I’m going to go position by position to determine which team has the advantage at each. The rosters for the World Series aren’t set in stone, which may be a big factor at one of the positions later in this blog, but I will do my best to try and get an accurate projection of what each team will put forth in the best-of-7 series. So let’s get to it.

Starting Pitchers:

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood

Astros: Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton

Advantage: Dodgers

hi-res-fb41b3c9d307d1cf7288a252c1b774a5_crop_north

photo credit: Bleacher Report

My reasoning behind this is simple: the fourth starter. It’s pretty neck-and-neck for the first three guys but I’m not sure if I can trust Charlie Morton. He was terrific in his start in game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, going 5 innings, only letting up 2 hits and striking out 5. But prior to that he had an ERA over 10 in the playoffs. Alex Wood has had his issues in the postseason for the Dodgers, but he had been lights out all season prior to that and I’m more confident in him than I am in Morton. We may also see Brad Peacock for the Astros instead of Morton, or maybe even instead of McCullers. Since his relief effort in game 7 went so well, it wouldn’t shock me if Manager AJ Hinch decides to use McCullers in an Andrew Miller-type role, going multiple innings to set up the closer. But Keuchel and Verlander have already been announced for Games 1 and 2, respectively. Keuchel was back to his Cy Young form this season but dealt with some injuries. He appears to be healthy now, though. Justin Verlander has been absolutely ridiculous in the postseason, as he had an ERA of 0.56 in the ALCS, garnering him series MVP. Kershaw is still the best pitcher on the planet and his playoff performance is finally catching up to that reputation. While his ERA is only 3.63, those numbers were inflated by letting up 4 runs in the NLDS against the DBacks. Since then his ERA is 2.45, which is right around his career regular season average.

Bullpen:

Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson, Tony Cingrani, Brandon Morrow, Ross Stripling, Josh Fields

Astros: Ken Giles, Will Harris, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Joe Musgrove

Advantage: Dodgers

ASA1704051049_Padres_at_Dodgers

photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Kenley Jansen was probably the best reliever in baseball this season and he’s carried that success into the playoffs. He’s pitched 8 innings so far and has yet to allow a run while striking out 12. This Dodgers bullpen is also loaded with former starters, such as Maeda, Cingrani, Morrow, and Stripling, who are all capable of going multiple innings if need be. The Astros have a similar situation with McHugh, Peacock, and Liriano, but I trust the Dodgers’ guys a little more. This one was really tight but Jansen was the difference for me.

Catcher:

Dodgers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes

Astros: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH)

Advantage: Astros

920x920

photo credit: Houston Chronicle

Defensively I give the edge to the Dodgers but I think there is too much potency amongst the Astros backstops. McCann and Gattis were arguably the two most important bats in the Astros Game 7 victory, as they drove in 3 of the 4 runs, including a BOMB by Gattis to get the scoring started in the fourth. Both Grandal and McCann are good at handling a pitching staff and Barnes is solid relief, but I still have to give the edge to Houston.

First Base:

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger

Astros: Yuli Gurriel

Advantage: Dodgers

5b861638c603308c4fd88f6ed1431636

photo credit: Yahoo Sports

Bellinger will more than likely win NL Rookie of the Year this season, as he set an NL rookie record with 39 home runs this season. Gurriel, also a rookie (a 33 year-old at that), has finally provided some stability at first base for the Astros, something they’ve lacked for a few years. Gurriel had a big hit that set up McCann’s 2-run double in Game 7 but Bellinger has been one of the offensive powerhouses for this Dodgers team this season. Got to give the advantage to LA.

Second Base:

Dodgers: Chase Utley, Logan Forsythe

Astros: Jose Altuve

Advantage: Astros

Jose-Altuve

photo credit: Baseline Times

No shit. Jose Altuve is one of the five best players in baseball and is my pick for AL MVP this season and he’s been dynamite in the postseason. After lighting up the Red Sox in the ALDS, the 5’6 phenom continued to give the Yankees problems, including a big home run in Game 7. Utley and Forsythe are two guys whose best years are behind them and I don’t envision them being major factors in this World Series.

Third Base:

Astros: Alex Bregman

Dodgers: Justin Turner

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

photo credit: Dodgers Nation

Advantage: Dodgers

Justin Turner was Co-NLCS MVP with Chris Taylor against the Cubs, which included a walk-off home run to win Game 2. Bregman has been good in the postseason, hitting a couple of clutch home runs against the Red Sox in the ALDS and making a great play at third in which he made a beautiful throw at home to nab Greg Bird in Game 7. Bregman’s got a bright future in this league but Justin Turner has been too good for the Dodgers all year for there to be any other choice.

Shortstop:

Dodgers: Corey Seager*, Charlie Culberson

Astros: Carlos Correa

Advantage: Depends on Seager’s availability, but probably Astros

920x920 (1)

photo credit: Houston Chronicle

This is tricky because Seager was left completely off the NLCS roster due to a back injury. He’s one of the brightest young stars in the game and if he’s healthy enough to go, I think I would give a slight edge to him over Correa, who is a fantastic shortstop in his own right. But I think I’m going to give a bit of an edge to Houston because I would take a healthy Correa over an unhealthy Seager 10 times out of 10. I’m also not super confident Seager will even be able to go. Culberson is a nice player for the Dodgers but he’s not anywhere near Correa’s level, who reminds me of a young Alex Rodriguez.

Outfield:

Dodgers: Curtis Granderson, Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier

Astros: Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Beltran (DH)

Advantage: Astros

DBA160706_Mariners_vs_Astros58

photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Marwin Gonzalez was a guy the Astros had used as a super utility guy for most of his career until he really started to hit this season and they decided they needed to find a way to get this guy’s bat in the lineup on a regular basis. He will slot into left field in what is an outstanding outfield. George Springer is one of the brightest young stars in baseball as a guy who can do it all from the leadoff spot. Josh Reddick struggled mightily in the ALCS (he started out 0-22 before getting his first hit in Game 7, which tied a record for longest hitless drought in a single playoff series) but he hit well all season so I expect him to pick it up a bit in the World Series. Chris Taylor is a super utility guy, much like Gonzalez, who may even see time at shortstop if Seager can’t go. He did play a couple games at short in the NLCS but one way or another, Dave Roberts will pencil him in to the starting lineup. Yasiel Puig’s antics have been a lot of fun in the postseason and his bat has backed it up on the brightest stage. The Astros get the advantage mainly because they are a bigger part of this offense than the Dodgers guys are, however the Dodgers outfielders, particularly Kike Hernandez, showed up big in Game 5 against the Cubs, as Hernandez hit 3 home runs including a grand slam in the clinching game.

Score: 4-4 Dodgers-Astros

Tie Breaker: Manager

Dodgers: Dave Roberts

Astros: AJ Hinch

Advantage: Dodgers

cut

photo credit: MLB.com

Dave Roberts is arguably the best manager in the game today. He has had to deal with a lot of injuries in his 2-year stint at the helm of the Dodgers yet he still wins the NL West by a wide margin in both seasons and led the Dodgers to baseball’s best record at 104-58. AJ Hinch has led the Astros’ huge franchise turnaround from a team that would consistently lose 100 games into a team that went 101-61. I have to give the advantage to Roberts, though, as he has had to deal with more adversity.

My World Series Pick: Dodgers in 7

This is going to be a really good series. Both teams match up really well and it may come down to whose bullpen can lock it down. I have total faith in Kenley Jansen to get the job done for the Dodgers and I think they win their first World Series since 1988.

That’s my World Series preview. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Chris Sale vs Corey Kluber: The enigma that is the 2017 American League Cy Young race

Following the 2016 American League Cy Young Award race was like following the presidential election: nobody deserved to win, but somebody had to, and the controversy surrounding the results was the big story. Rick Porcello of the Boston Red Sox won the award over Justin Verlander, then of the Detroit Tigers, by 5 points. However it was revealed afterwards that two Tampa Bay writers completely left Verlander off of their ballots, omissions that, quite frankly, are inexcusable given the strong showing Verlander put forth. Not that Porcello wasn’t deserving of the award (compared to the rest of the American League, that is), but Verlander simply had a better season by most standard and advanced metrics. This year, however, the AL Cy Young Award race has been made far more intriguing by a teammate of Porcello’s and the guy who finished in third place for this very award last season.

Corey Kluber (left) and Chris Sale (right) are the top 2 contenders for the 2017 AL Cy Young Award (photo credit: Sports Illustrated)

Chris Sale of the Red Sox and Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians have been in a battle the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Jurassic World ending. I gathered together a bunch of statistics to try and get a glimpse at who has truly been the best pitcher in the AL. I kid you not, Sale and Kluber are number 1 and number 2 in the AL in the following categories: ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, K/9, BB/9, K%, Opponent Batting Average, FIP, and WAR (all stats acquired are according to FanGraphs). Both guys are the aces of strong pitching staffs on division leaders (in Cleveland’s case, champs) and have two of the filthiest sliders in the game. Here’s an example of Sale’s and Kluber’s.  To have to face either of these guys at any point in the year makes every Major Leaguer worthy of their 8-figure salaries.

The Case for Sale:

Chris Sale came to the Red Sox in a trade with the Chicago White Sox during the 2016-17 offseason for prized prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others. To say that the trade has been an early success for the Red Sox is about as big an understatement as saying The Godfather is a good movie. Right out of the gate, Sale tied a Major League record with 8 consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts and he hasn’t let up since. Because, seriously, how does anyone expect to hit this? During Wednesday night’s start against the Orioles, he became the second pitcher in Red Sox history to reach 300 strikeouts and is 13 away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record set during his historic 1999 season. Sale has the kind of stuff to achieve that in his next start. With one or two starts remaining in the regular season, Sale has a line of 17-7 with a 2.75 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 300 K, 12.90 K/9, and 8.2 WAR. In fact, Sale’s WAR not only tops all pitchers in Major League Baseball, it tops all players. But the stat that really amazes me about Sale is his FIP. For those who aren’t familiar with sabermetrics, FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching is a stat that takes out all plays that are outside of a pitcher’s control, such as singles, doubles, triples, and fielding outs and only takes into account plays that are within the pitcher’s control: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. It is meant to try and predict what a pitcher’s ERA would be if he were given a neutral defense, one that doesn’t really help him, nor hurt him. The difference in ERA and FIP can often be used to measure exactly how much a pitcher is helped or hurt by his defense. Sale’s FIP is 2.22, half a run lower than his 2.75 ERA, meaning that the Red Sox defense behind him is actually hurting his production. And considering how dominant he has been this year, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AL. And for those who were wondering, Sale’s FIP is the best in the majors (Kluber happens to be number 2 at 2.49, but I’ll get into that later).  Not to mention, the guy is completely psychotic. I don’t have video evidence of this and I don’t even remember who the opponent was, but earlier this season I was watching a Red Sox game when Chris Sale walked the leadoff batter in the 7th inning. Sale never allowed that runner to reach second base, yet when he recorded the final out of the inning, he was screaming at himself into his glove for walking that leadoff batter. I remind you that the baserunner did no damage and he had no issue with the next three batters, yet he was screaming at himself like he just gave up an 0-2 grand slam. And when Sale gives you “that look,” you bend your will to him. Seriously. Look him in the eye and tell me you aren’t freaked out by this dude.

Chris Sale

I do not envy Red Sox Manager John Farrell having to tell this guy his night is done. Lucky for him, he hasn’t had to do that too often: Sale leads the Major Leagues in innings pitched at 209.1.

The Case for Kluber

Corey Kluber’s last start of the 2016 season came in Game 7 of the World Series against the Chicago Cubs. He had dominated all postseason and had continued his run against the Cubbies in each of his first 2 starts in the Fall Classic. However, he didn’t make it out of the 5th inning, surrendering 4 runs and 2 home runs and the Indians lost the World Series to the Cubs, a franchise that hadn’t won in 108 years. It seemed that he hadn’t gotten over that defeat to start 2017, as his ERA after the first month was 5.06. That was when he hit the Disabled List and missed all but one start in the month of May due to a lower back strain. That DL stint seemed to fix him, however, as he has been absolutely lights out ever since. He has gone 17-2 since coming off the DL with a minuscule ERA of 1.69, including 0.87 in the month of September. Despite missing almost an entire month, Kluber still ranks 6th in the AL in innings pitched. He ranks 2nd in WAR at 6.9 (nice), trailing only Sale and he leads the AL in ERA (2.35), WHIP (0.85), BB/9 (1.60), and opponent batting average (.187). The one real knock I can think of against Kluber is his FIP, which is 2.49, which when compared to his 2.35 ERA, suggests that the Indians’ defense has actually aided Kluber’s numbers. Regardless, that FIP still ranks second in the AL and would still lead the league if it were his actual ERA. Kluber’s performance also helped spark the Indians’ 22-game winning streak, the longest in AL history (longest ever if you don’t count the 1916 New York Giants 26-game winning streak, which had a tie mixed in). During that historic run, Kluber won all 4 of his starts and had an ERA of 1.41, striking out 45 batters in the process. Where Kluber goes, the Indians seem to go as well. When Kluber hit the DL, the Indians were 15-12 and appeared to be having a World Series hangover. They went 13-13 in his absence and were struggling to fend off the pesky Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals. Since his return, though, the Tribe have gone 68-32, clinching their division and stealing the top record in the AL from the Houston Astros, who held that honor from the beginning of the season, up until midway through the Indians’ streak a couple weeks ago. It’s hard to argue there’s a pitcher more important to his team than Kluber.

Conclusion: It’s insanely difficult to pick one of these guys to win the Cy Young Award over the other, yet come November, one of these two guys will be taking home the hardware. I’m just thankful that I don’t have a vote, because writing this article and trying to take a side was damn near impossible. Though, if you were to force me into a Ramsay Bolton- Theon Greyjoy Reek-type situation, I’d have to say I would give the Cy Young Award to Chris Sale, but I’d rather have Corey Kluber in a must-win playoff game, as Sale has never appeared in the postseason, having pitched for the White Sox the first 7 years of his career. See? No cop outs here.