American League MVP

American League MVP: Altuve or Judge?

The Astros and Yankees are in the middle of a riveting ALCS. However, this article will not be focusing on the teams involved, but rather the stars that have gotten them to this point.

Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge are both largely responsible for the success of each team. The question though is which star had a bigger impact?

Jose Altuve

American League MVP

Altuve is thirsty for his first career MVP. (Photo from Yahoo Sports)

.346/.410/.547 24 HR 81 RBI 8.3 WAR

For a 5-foot-6 second baseman, Jose Altuve has got some pop. He proved that in Game 1 of the ALDS when he hit three home runs off the Boston Red Sox.

His power is not what separates him from the rest of the game though. What separates Altuve is his ability to excel in the basic fundamentals of the game.

Whether it be on offense or defense, Altuve is who the Astros relied on. Not only that, but he doesn’t spend time off the field. He only missed nine games all season long while some of the other stars on Houston spent some time on the DL. He kept Houston in the thick of things when they were struggling with injuries.

Altuve was also strong on the base paths, stealing 32 bases on 38 attempts. This makes him awfully close to being a 30-30 man while coming up just six homers shy of the feat.

What has not even been mentioned yet is that Altuve led the majors in batting average at .346. He was consistent all year long and did not have any major dips in performance. His best month was in July where he had a stellar .485 batting average. His worst month was in September where he hit .298, the only month where he hit below .300.

This is where Altuve bests Aaron Judge. There were no major slumps in Altuve’s season, unlike Judge, and he was extremely reliable for his team.

Aaron Judge

American League MVP

Aaron Judge quickly made himself one of the most recognizable players in baseball. (Photo from Sporting News)

.284/.422/.627 52 HR 114 RBI 8.1 WAR

Aaron Judge is the story of the season. Coming off a 2016 season where he hit .179 in the 27 games he appeared in, Judge shocked the majors by being one of the most intimidating figures at the plate.

The 25-year-old rookie led the American League with his 52 home runs, which also broke the all-time rookie record for home runs in a season. Not only that, but now that we are in the Statcast era, we love looking at the advanced metrics. Judge led the league with an average exit velocity of 95.6 mph. This shows his ability to make solid contact with the ball along with the pure power he has.

Judge has the ability to change the game with any at-bat. His power was one of the biggest attractions at All-Star weekend, and it left everybody speechless.

Judge did have some negative moments during his season. The month of August was abysmal for Judge. He set the record for most consecutive games with a strikeout and only hit .185 during the month with three home runs. He was able to bounce back though by hitting .311 and and impressive 15 home runs in the month of September.

Don’t let Judge’s high strikeout rate fool you either. He still led the league with 127 walks in 2017. Judge does not have a bad eye, which is always good to see among rookies.

Judge being a rookie should not come into play when talking about the MVP. Yes, Judge is all but a lock for Rookie of the Year in the American League. However, that will not improve his chances in this discussion.

Verdict

Both of these guys had stellar seasons, and there is no taking away from that. The month of September made the race much closer after it looked like Altuve had really separated himself from Judge. However, those 15 home runs really brought Judge back into the conversation.

While Judge is the guy with game-changing ability, Altuve has the reliability that makes any manager or fan base comfortable. Altuve is the guy a team can rely on to make the right decision and minimize mistakes.

Altuve has also led the league in stolen bases twice as well as batting three times. Now that he leads the league in WAR as well, it is time for him to have his MVP.

While it makes sense that “Judge” would win the verdict, Altuve has the edge here.

AL MVP: Jose Altuve

 

Featured image from The Big Lead

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2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

The Yankees fought to be here

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

Didi Gregorius smacked two dingers to lift the Yankees to the ALCS on Wednesday (WKYC)

Didi Gregorius and the New York Yankees stormed back against the Indians to move on to the ALCS on Wednesday. They found themselves in a 2-0 hole without any hope. Joe Girardi’s job even seemed to be on the line. After some questionable decisions early in the series, many were expecting him to have one foot out the door.

Just like they did in the Wild Card game, New York fought its way back to find themselves in the ALCS for the first time since 2012. While there were some offensive heroes such as Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner, the Yankees won in large part thanks to outstanding pitching.

With their backs up against the wall, their starting pitchers in the last three games of the series turned in 18.1 innings with just five earned runs and 25 strikeouts. They made the Cleveland offense look foolish. On top of that, Aroldis Chapman shut down the Indians’ season for the second year in a row.

What already seems to be forgotten is how the Yankees battled their way in the Wild Card game. They were down quick to the Cinderella Twins, giving up three runs in the first 1/3 innings. They quickly responded though and Joe Girardi played a bullpen game for the ages.

Houston has New York’s number

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

Altuve has proven why he was the best hitter in baseball in 2017 (Yahoo Sports)

The Astros managed to go an impressive 5-2 against the Yankees during the regular season. What was especially impressive was that they managed to average 6.14 runs per game this season against the Bronx Bombers.

Houston played a great series against Boston and clicked on all cylinders. Their offense looked as good as ever and will be a challenge for New York to slow down. The Yankees’ pitching staff has had to work much harder than Houston’s, so something to look for in the series is fatigue.

Justin Verlander’s presence on the Astros pitching staff makes a significant difference this time of year. This Yankees team does not have a whole lot of experience against Verlander despite him pitching in the American League. This will be the first time that Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will ever see him.

The only starter that the Yankees seem to have success against is Charlie Morton. The team as a collective have a career .327 batting average against him with seven home runs. It will be interesting to see if A.J. Hinch will give Morton the nod this series. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. do have more success against the Yankees, but it is still in limited appearances. Look for the Astors’ starters to have some success in this series.

The main reason Houston is here, however, is their offense, something that went missing for the Indians in the ALDS. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa especially have good resumes against New York. Altuve is also swinging a hot bat after hitting three home runs in the first game of the ALDS.

How the series will play out

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

Heroics from Gregorius and Gardner have led to some postseason magic for New York (ABC News)

Despite the Yankees recent success in clutch moments, the Astros are favored to win the ALCS and move on to the World Series according to Vegas odds. It won’t be a cake walk for Houston though.

A large part of the series is going to depend on the Yankees starters keeping up what they were doing against Cleveland. New York had some impressive times at the plate whether it be the two bombs from Gregorius in game five, or the 12-pitch at-bat by Brett Gardner in the ninth that led to insurance runs for the Yankees.

However, the offense as a whole was nothing to write home about.

It is hard to determine whether or not the success of the New York staff came from an Indians offense going cold or an overpowering performance by their starters. They will not be running into a cold Houston offense however. Houston has not been shutout since Aug. 17 and has scored two runs or more in all but four games since that date. Seeing that Houston had the best overall offense in all of baseball in the regular season, it will be tough for Yankees pitching to slow them down.

The postseason is unpredictable of course. Many thought it was all but a lock when the Indians went up 2-0 in the ALDS. New York wasn’t even a favorite coming out of their own division, so anything can happen this time of year.

What has been especially fun to watch with the Yankees is their ability to fight back. Brett Gardner has been a catalyst for New York. His final at-bat on Wednesday was evidence of how badly he wants that second ring. Despite the advantage the Astros have on the offensive side of the ball, the Yankees seem to have that postseason magic that every team is desperate to have.

If the Yankees pitching staff keeps it up then things could get very interesting this series. Nothing will be given in this series because each team knows what is at stake.

ALCS Prediction: Yankees in 7

 

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World Series baseball fans need

The World Series baseball fans need

The Houston Astros are off to a blistering start taking the opening two-game leg of their Division Series with Boston, winning both games in lopsided fashion 8-2. The Washington Nationals however, find themselves on the ropes early against the Cubs. Of the teams left in this year’s postseason, only Washington and Houston have never brought home a World Series title. This is the World Series baseball fans need.

Why not the Indians

The Indians are a popular pick this year to take home the hardware. After last night’s 13th inning emotional 9-8 win in which the Indians surged back from six runs down, it’s hard to argue they won’t win it all. At least for the moment, they look unbreakable.

world series

Tris Speaker hit 792 career two-baggers, still the most in MLB history. (Photo courtesy of: Charles Conlon / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

While it is true the Indians have a longer drought of championship seasons than both Houston and Washington,the fans in Cleveland still have Bob Feller and the 1948 series. They still have the glory of 1920 when player/manager Tris Speaker, all-time doubles champ, guided the Indians to the title. Behind Speaker’s steady hand, the Indians beat Brooklyn five games to two in a best of nine series.

Cleveland experienced the bitter taste of Game 7 defeat in last year’s World Series against Chicago. What’s more is that it happened on home soil. Ouch. The Indians came oh so close coming off the deck from three runs down and pushing the game into extra’s. It turned out only a tease however, as the Cleveland faithful watched Chicago exorcise that billy-goat voodoo that had kept them down for so long.

The novelty of an Indians World Series resonates with many, but this year we have real chance at seeing something none of us has ever seen. A World Series title in a city that’s never had one. Cleveland has had three shots at the title since 1995, let’s see someone else give it a go.

Why not the Yankees

No.

Futility in Washington… or is it Montreal?

Not wanting to put the horse before the carriage, there is still a long road to travel for both Washington and Houston. Reaching that promised land of World Series glory takes a focus and commitment that few realize. On top of that, it can take an incredibly long time to get there.

And some, like Washington, are still waiting to make their first appearance.

The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have more combined city swaps and name changes than they do World Series appearances. They’ve never been there a single time in 48 years of existence, though they were close once.

world series baseball fans need

Gary Carter and some his 1981 Expos teammates pose for a photo prior to first pitch. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)

In 1981 the Expos lost a best-of-five NLCS. Due to the lockout occurring during the middle of the season, the playoff format was restructured. What sprang out of it were the first League Division Series’ in MLB history. All credit to Montreal, they dispatched the Phillies in five games.

This led to their first ever appearance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It might seem unusual to us now, but until 1985 the League Championship Series were only best-of-five. Montreal lost in that 1981 NLCS series deciding Game 5 by a score of 2-1. Their hopes dashed by a ninth inning blast off the bat of Rick Monday.

The Nationals’ fortunes have been changing lately however. It’s amazing what a stable full of pitchers who are capable of winning a Cy Young Award will do for your hopes of taking home a championship. Washington’s nasty mixture of starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer make up a doomsday rotation that uses opposing bats to build a funeral pyre.

The Nationals can hit the lights out too. They are led by the exceptional Bryce Harper and a resurgent Ryan Zimmerman. Sprinkle in a few good breaks on the diamond and Washington might be cooking up some championship stew in 2017.

Houston Strong

Houston has been through a lot this year and that’s putting it lightly. A World Series win would be a welcome distraction from all that has happened, if only for a brief period. It would right the wrong of 2005, when the White Sox were hoisting the trophy before Houston even realized the series was on. The south-siders bounced them in four.

Houston has a spotty playoff history that seems to happen in waves, but this is undoubtedly the best grouping of players since the times of the Killer B’s.

world series baseball fans need

Sweet-swinging Jose Altuve won his third AL batting title this season hitting at a .346 clip. (Photo courtesy of: Baselinetimes.com)

Out is Jeff Bagwell, in is Jose Altuve. The 2017 edition of the Houston Astros is about as complete a team as you will see. If they do have an Achilles’ heel, it will be in the field. This season they rank number 24 of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. If defensive woes are going to be their undoing though, they certainly aren’t showing up right now. This team is playing like a team on a mission.

And it has been a long, hard, cruel road.

Consider this, Houston has had a franchise since their inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962. In the years since, they’ve been renamed as many times as they’ve appeared on baseball’s biggest stage; once. For those scoring at home, that’s 55 years without a title. That’s 55 years yielding only one World Series appearance. It’s time Houston, it’s time.

Should Houston and Cleveland match-up in the ALCS this year, the Indians will make the Astros earn it every step of the way. Unless you count the one-game wild card in 2013 as a sweep, you must go all the way back to 1954 to find the last, and only, time that Cleveland has ever been swept in any playoff series. That year, it was Willie Mays and the Giants who did the damage.

It would also be the first time since the Yankees battled the Royals for the AL pennant in 1977 that two 100+ win teams square off in the ALCS.

The World Series baseball fans need 

Washington versus Houston. Why is this the World Series we need? Because it’s something new. It’s something unique, and it’s something that’s never happened before. Heck, Washington hasn’t even been there before.

We need this World Series because of the match-ups it poses.

world series baseball fans need

Stephen Strasburg is planning a vacation to his favorite locale; Blew Bayou. (Photo courtesy of: AP / Mark J. Terrill)

Washington’s pitching versus Houston’s potent lineup is a story line just waiting to unfold. Who will win the day? Stephen Strasburg and his overpowering stuff? Or will it be the wily three-time American League batting champion, Jose Altuve finding the gap with the game on the line?

These two teams have unfinished business to attend to as well. In the regular season, Houston and Washington played a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Washington took two of the three games, but both losses for Houston were one-run games that could have easily swung the other way. One was an 11 inning affair that slipped through Houston’s fingers in that final frame. Let’s have some more of that please.

An Astros versus Nationals World Series wouldn’t just be another sports novelty. It will be an epic World Series if it does indeed happen. So, if you’re on the fence, let this be your call to action to jump on either the Washington or Houston bandwagon. I’m sure both team’s fan-bases will be happy to have the extra hands on deck.

In a season that has offered us a lot of remarkable firsts, like rookies named Aaron Judge that hit 52 homers in a year. It would only be right to see another first for MLB. A new champion and “Leading City of Baseball” that has never before been crowned.

Let’s crown a champion that none of us has ever seen before in 2017. Let’s go you Astros! Let’s go you Nationals!

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: doin-work.com)

 

 

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How the Yankees can challenge the Indians

The New York Yankees matched up against the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night in the AL Wild Card game. And boy, was it wild. After a slug-fest of a first inning that saw six total runs scored, the Yankees were able to bullpen their way to an 8-4 victory. But even with a rough outing from starter Luis Severino, the Yankees showed why they belong in these playoffs. They also showed something more; the grit and determination to give the Cleveland Indians a run for their money.

Four is better than one

Yankees starter Luis Severino was chased from the AL Wild Card game after just 1/3 IP (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

Playoff baseball is different animal, as Luis Severino quickly found out. He couldn’t tame the Twins, allowing three earned runs in 1/3 IP. But after ousting the startled starter, the Minnesota Twins could only muster one run for the remainder of the game. The Yankees sent four different relievers to the mound, and the Twins were baffled by each one. Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Khanle, and Aroldis Chapman combined to whiff 13 Twins, en route to a dominate bullpen performance.

This masterful performance by the Yankees bullpen cannot be understated. The Minnesota Twins were one of the highest scoring offenses in the late stages of the season, catching fire at the plate at the beginning of August. But after Severino’s struggles, the Yankees were able to throw out four high-quality relievers to shut the game down. The starting rotation may be the weakest link of this Yankees team, but when Girardi can rely on a bullpen as deep as his, it almost doesn’t matter.

Deeper than the long ball

Matt Holliday will provide the Yankees with clutch ABs off the bench. (sportingnews.com)

After rookie sensation Aaron Judge mashed 52 long balls to take the rookie HR crown, he began his search for a new crown Tuesday night. His quest began in style, taking Twins reliever Jose Berrios on a two-run ride to left field. But it wasn’t just Judge providing the offense, as the Yankees had contributions from the whole lineup. Only three players were held without a hit, as Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury and Todd Frazier went 0-fer on Tuesday night.

The Yankees offense also extends to it’s bench, as grizzled veterans Matt Holliday and Chase Headley ride the pine. Both players had 60-plus RBIs in the regular season, and have 30-plus homer seasons under their belts as well. With that much power on the bench, the Yankees are one of the deeper offense in the playoffs.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

The former Cy Young winner will look to continue his renaissance season in the playoffs (Kathy Willens/Associated Press).

While the starting rotation may be the weakest link of the team, having a former Cy Young winner in C.C. Sabathia can help strengthen that link. Being able to pair Sabathia with prized trade deadline acquisition Sonny Gray and Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka gives the Yankees a solid starting rotation.

But they may not even need it. With the bullpen showing its mettle in the Wild Card game and the offense being one of the deepest in the playoffs, the Yankees have multiple ways to win. And they will definitely need to employ each one to have a chance against the Cleveland Indians.

With a combination of savvy veteran starters, fire throwing relievers, and a dynamic offense, the Yankees have a collection of talent to rival any other team in these playoffs. Whether its the baby bombers Judge and Sanchez, or the dynamic duo Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances, the Yankees can score with anyone and completely shut down everyone. Needless to say, the Indians will have a challenge on their hands. The Yankees are similar to the Indians of the past; a young and hungry team with the talent to match up against anyone.

Feature image from Associated Press. 

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World Series

Five World Series match ups we want to see

Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Indians

World Series

Cleveland is looking for redemption after their skid in the 2016 World Series (ABC Chicago)

A rematch of the 2016 World Series is on the eyes of many. Last year was one of the most successful World Series of the century in terms of viewership. The narrative of the two teams and their droughts captured the hearts of America.

The series went to extra innings in game seven, and the Indians are surely looking to redeem themselves after giving the title to the Cubs. Cleveland had a 3-1 game lead and were not able to end their drought.

The Indians look like the better and more complete team this year with all the inconsistencies that Chicago has been dealing with. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor look stronger than ever and would be difficult to stop.

 

New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series

Kershaw would love to reverse his postseason woes (Photo Courtesy of: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

We all know the networks are pulling for this one. The two largest markets in the country battling it out in October may be what the league needs to keep the World Series ratings on pace with last year. A rematch between the Cubs and Indians is enticing, but it may not have quite the same sparkle to it as this match up of two iconic teams.
Not only will the markets be battling it out, but the two rookie sensations in Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger would be highlighted. Both of these young stars broke home run records that were thought to be near impossible to break. Both teams have well-rounded hitting and would make for a long series.
The Yankees have had much more success out of these two titans of baseball. The Dodgers have a drought they are looking to break of not going to the World Series in 20 years. A Dodgers-Yankees World Series would make for a great final hurdle for LA to get over in order to win the series.

Houston Astros vs Los Angels Dodgers

Cleveland may have ended up with one more win than Houston, but the Astros and Dodgers were the two teams that had a stronghold as the best two teams in the majors for most of the year. The Astros have the hitting edge with their three headed monster of Correa, Altuve, and Springer. However, the Dodgers have the pitching edge with Kershaw, Wood, and Hill. Not to mention Kenley Jansen, who was one of the best closers in baseball this year.
This would be the superstar match up that many would have predicted in June. Things have changed since then, but they are still 100+ win teams that are not messing around. Both teams are hungry for a World Series title. The TV networks would love this as well as Houston is looking for a win after Hurricane Harvey. A Fall Classic in Houston would bring life to a city that needs it.

Washington Nationals vs Houston Astros

World Series

Bryce Harper is looking to prove the Nationals can play in the postseason (Sports Illustrated)

The last few years we have been talking about World Series droughts. The Cubs broke their 100+ year losing streak last fall, and the Indians are prime candidates to break their drought that goes back to 1948. However, the Astros have never won a Fall Classic, and the Nationals have never even been to one!
The Nationals (formally Montreal Expos) have only been around since 1969, and the Astros were founded in 1962. They reached their first and only World Series in 2005 when they lost to the Chicago White Sox.
So who wouldn’t want to see two teams duke it out for the right to bring the title to their hometown for the first time (excluding the 1924 Washington Senators)?

Cubs vs Red Sox

A rematch of the 1918 World Series, would feature two baseball teams that have the most historic World Series droughts in the game. Both were lead by Theo Epstein, who is probably the best executive we have seen this generation. This match up would be centered around the history behind these two teams as well as the connection with Theo.

Boston and Chicago played at similar levels this season, with a little bit of edge given to Boston. The Red Sox have a solid pitching staff centered around Chris Sale and their stud closer Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox have their own version of Andrew Miller now as well with David Price. It will be interesting to see how he is worked into a World Series.

Another intriguing similarity between the two teams is Jon Lester and John Lackey. That is just one other connection between these two teams that seems to be endless. If these two teams had met in the Fall Classic 15 years ago, it would be a whole other level of excitement. Now that they have both broken their streaks now, it doesn’t have the same pop. However, it would not be surprising for this match up to keep those ratings on par with 2016.

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MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

MLB Postseason 2017 wild card bonanza

As the final chapter of MLB’s regular season comes to a close, a new chapter in baseball’s postseason lore is about to be written. Baseball fans are about to witness the MLB Postseason 2017 wild card bonanza!

The one game “play in” scenario is in its sixth season and there is no shortage of drama. We have an upstart young group in Minnesota heading in to Ruth’s house. Then we have division foes Colorado traveling to the desert to face the Diamondbacks. In the match-ups between slugger and pitcher, something’s got to give.

Before we turn the page to both the ALDS and NLDS however, we must first crown our two fully fledged members of the playoff court. When the dust settles, who will have slain the wild card dragon?

Minnesota @ New York  

Probable starters:

Minnesota: Ervin Santana (16-8) 3.28 ERA 7.1 K/9

New York: Luis Severino (14-6) 2.98 ERA 10.7 K/9

During the regular season the Yankees owned the head to head match up with four wins from six games. Each team bagged the home series as Minnesota took two of three from New York in Minneapolis, while New York swept the Twins right out of Yankee Stadium.

Why Minnesota wins:

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

The Minnesota Twins are hoping to ride another 85-win season to Wold Series glory like in 1987. (Photo courtesy of: sportslogos.net)

Minnesota, while not being world beaters by any stretch of the imagination, are a team that just finds a way to get it done. Finishing in the final wild card spot on the back of an 85-win season is a heck of a turnabout from their diabolical 59-win output a year ago. Included in those 85 wins is a (44-37) road record, which is better than how they fared at Target Field (41-40).

This is the Twins’ saving grace. They have been a slightly better road team this year than they have played at home. In a one game do or die situation on the road they will rely on their best pitcher, Ervin Santana, put together a strong outing. Last time he faced New York, Santana pitched 5.1 innings of two run ball, but the Twins found themselves on the wrong end of the box score losing 2-1.

If the Twins can get to Severino early and Santana can use his veteran guile and steady hand to silence the Yankee bats, they will win this game. The good news for the Twins is that all the pressure is off of them and lies squarely at the feet of New York.

Why New York wins:

Because… well, they are New York. They have a team that is loaded to bear and could do some tremendous damage in the postseason. They have a pitching staff anchored by the amazing young righthander, Luis Severino and a lineup bolstered by baseball bashing phenom, Aaron Judge.

Let’s face it. Most people probably expect the Yankees to walk away with this game and they might be right to think that come Wednesday.The Yankees are better in almost every category, though these teams offensively are much closer than you might expect.

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

Luis Severino will challenge any hitter brave enough to dig in against him. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

The true difference that separates these clubs is pitching. New York has the fifth ranked pitching staff in all of MLB, and the Twins will get a taste of that when they face Severino on Tuesday. This young hurler is a strikeout artist in the making, and the Twins will most certainly be on their heels (or swinging from them).

And then there is Aaron Judge. What hasn’t already been said about this guy? He’s probably put together the greatest (arguably!) rookie season in the history of baseball. He will be looking to double down on his already growing reputation by stamping his name on Yankee postseason history like the greats that came before him.

My pick:

Look, I love an underdog and Minnesota is just that. New York will be heavy favorites but I’m taking Minnesota to win 5-4. On the back of a big day for the returning Miguel Sano, the Twins will find enough juice to do the unthinkable; break the Yankee Mystique.

 

Colorado @ Arizona

Probable Starters:

Colorado: Jon Gray (10-4) 3.67 ERA 9.1 K/9

Arizona: Zack Greinke (17-7) 3.20 ERA 9.6 K/9

Colorado edged out the Milwaukee Brewers by a slim margin to set up a fateful meeting between two teamsthat see each other often. Arizona leads the 19-game season series (11-8), but the teams split the season in Arizona winning five games each. The Rockies will be looking to turn the tables on Cy Young candidate Zack Grienke and his Diamondbacks teammates.

Why Colorado wins:

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

Charlie Blackmon runs the bases in his spare time… probably. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Their offense. Colorado has some nice young pitchers who may well bloom in to a fine staff, but the name of the game for the Rockies is scoring runs and they do it well.

It’s not often you will see a lineup that boasts not one but two candidates for league MVP, but this is exactly what Colorado has in 3B Nolan Arenado and CF Charlie Blackmon. Arenado (.309/.373/.586) mashed 37 long balls and drove in 130 runs to keep with the tradition of strong seasons he’s already compiled. While Blackmon (.331/.399/.601) sent his own set of 37 baseballs into the lucky arms of those ball-wanting bleacher bums in the outfield cheap seats.

Jon Gray has been the best pitcher in Colorado’s (shaky at times) rotation. This 25-year-old hurler is the best chance they have at beating Arizona in a one-off game at Chase Field. In his last 11 starts, Gray is (7-2) with a 2.44 ERA.

Why Arizona wins:

Zack Greinke. If Greinke has his best stuff, it’s going to take a Harvey Haddix-esque fluke to derail Arizona’s hopes in this game. Greinke dominates with a heavy heater and a knee buckling curve that, year after year, make the best look weak. Over his last 11 starts though, he’s been a tad shaky at (4-3) with a 3.95 ERA. Of course, when those competitive juices get going though, Greinke should be able to get dialed right in.

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

Few are as overpowering as the hard throwing Zack Greinke, but hey batter,
watch out for the hammer. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Also in Arizona, you will find an offense that can score at will. If they are feeling the groove at the plate, look out. Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldshchmidt has put together a MVP caliber (.297/.404/.563) season in the arid climes of Phoenix. In a crowded field though, Goldschmidt is a dark horse contender for the NL MVP. He likely won’t take home that hardware, but it doesn’t make his 120 RBI any less valuable to the fans or his team.

For those that don’t know, Arizona won it all in 2001. Backed by a pitching staff bolstered by Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Diamondback fans will be hoping to catch a little of that lightning in a bottle once again in 2017.

My pick:

Greinke is too tough to solve for the Rockies. Zack’s recent run of performances haven’t looked that great, but giving up eight runs in a four inning outing will tend to do that. At any rate, Greinke rebounds with a dominant seven innings and the Diamnondbacks win 6-3 on a late Goldschmidt three-run tater.

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Boston CBS)

 

 

 

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Justin Bour

Justin Bour’s outlook for the 2018 MLB season

With the 2017 MLB season winding down, it is time to assess different player’s outlooks moving forward.

In this piece, Justin Bour’s 2017 campaign and 2018 outlook will be analyzed and discussed.

Background

Justin Bour

Bour’s professional baseball career began after being drafted in the 25th round of the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft by the Chicago Cubs. (Photo by The Trading Card Data Base)

Bour’s professional baseball career began after being drafted in the 25th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. The first baseman spent three seasons between low, single and high-A from 2009 until 2011, hitting 39 home runs and driving in 212 RBIs in 322 games. Bour continued to find success in two seasons at the double-A level, hitting 35 home runs and driving in 174 RBIs in 221 games.

After failing to be placed on the Cubs 40-man roster, he was subsequently drafted in the 2013 rule-5 draft by the Miami Marlins. Bour then spent one season in triple-A, batting .306 with 18 home runs and 72 RBIs in 103 games. His first major league action came with the Marlins in 2014, where he appeared in only 39 games, batting .284 with a home run and 11 RBIs. In his first full season in Miami, Bour batted .262 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs in 129 games.

In 2016, the Marlins signed corner infielder Chris Johnson to be the right-handed side of a platoon with Bour, which lessened expectations for the then 28-year-old Bour. In the first half of the season, Bour batted .268 with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs through 68 games. Unfortunately, Bour suffered a high-ankle sprain on July 2, forcing him to miss 57 games.

After returning, Bour logged 79 plate appearances, failing to hit one home run. A healthy Bour’s presence in the lineup was clearly missed, as his platoon mate and replacements Chris Johnson, Xavier Scruggs and Don Kelly failed to hit half as many home runs as Bour did in 2016.

2017 Season

Justin Bour

Bour participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby, hitting 22 home runs in his final round against New York Yankee Aaron Judge, who mashed 23. (Photo by Getty Images)

In 2017, Bour assumed more of an everyday role, ceding the occasional at bat to righty Tyler Moore and switch hitter Tomas Telis. Bour’s season began modestly, hitting only four home runs while batting .222 in April. Once May came around, Bour began to explode, batting .344 while mashing 11 home runs and driving in 21 RBIs over the course of 28 games. He ended the first half of the year with a .289 batting average, 20 home runs and 59 RBIs, putting him on pace to hit 42 bombs and drive in 124 RBIs over the course of a complete 162-game season.

Bour participated in the 2017 Home Run Derby, hitting 22 home runs in his final round against New York Yankee Aaron Judge, who mashed 23. The electric performance began to propel Bour’s popularity.

Unfortunately, he strained his right oblique on July 24, resulting in him missing all of August and early September. He has been magnificent in his 13 games since returning, batting .362 with four home runs and 15 RBIs.

2018 Outlook

Justin Bour

The 29-year-old will head into 2018 as an integral piece of a dangerous Marlins lineup. (Photo by WSBuzz.com)

First base is one of the deepest positions in fantasy baseball with 39 first base eligible players (on ESPN.com) with at least 20 home runs. Also, there are 10 first base eligible players ranked within the top-50 batters in standard ESPN fantasy leagues, making lower profile players like Bour fall by the way side in terms of average draft position and percentage owned.

The 29-year-old will head into 2018 as an integral piece of a dangerous Marlins lineup, spearheaded by Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon. It is clear that Bour can be a serious threat to hit 40 home runs and drive in over 100 RBIs next season. I predict his 2018 campaign to mirror that of Justin Smoak, who has nearly identical isolated power, walk and strikeout rates as Bour.

It is safe to say Bour will be overlooked in 2018 due to so many bigger names, like Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Eric Hosmer, Jose Abreu and Cody Bellinger. However, if healthy, there is no reason Bour cannot join this tier of elite first basemen.

 

 

 

Featured Image by ESPN.com

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Rhys Hoskins MLB

Why Rhys Hoskins stands out among young MLB sluggers

The 2017 Major League Baseball season has been nothing short of astounding. On Tuesday, September 19th, the collective single season home run record was broken, as Kansas City Royal Alex Gordon mashed home run number 5,694 of the MLB season. On top of this amazing feat, the MLB has seen a rapid immergence of young power hitters, like Aaron Judge, Cody Bellinger, Matt Olson, Joey Gallo and Rhys Hoskins, who would all on pace for over 45 home runs if they played a complete 162 game season. I’m here to tell you why Hoskins has been the most impressive of the bunch in 2017.

Background

Rhys Hoskins MLB

Hoskins’ standout season came in 2016, where in 135 triple-A games, he batted .281 with 38 home runs, 116 RBIs and 95 runs scored. (Photo by Yahoo Sports)

Expectations weren’t immediately set high for Hoskins, who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. In low-A, he batted just .237, while striking out almost 20 percent of the time. Hoskins progressed in 2015, batting a combined .319 in 135 games in single and high-A.

His standout season came in 2016, where in 135 triple-A games, Hoskins batted .281 with 38 home runs, 116 RBIs and 95 runs scored. Previous to this season, Hoskins was ranked the 11th best prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system by Baseball America, after, he was ranked sixth, behind only J.P. Crawford, Mickey Moniak, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams and Sixto Sanchez.

2017 Season

Rhys Hoskins MLB

Hoskins has been astonishing, batting .293 with 18 home runs, a record 11 coming in his first 64 at bats. (Photo by Rotoprofessor)

Hoskins began 2017 in triple-A, where he continued his minor league dominance, batting .284 with 29 home runs and 91 RBIs in 115 games. One of the most important attributes Hoskins possesses is plate discipline, as he had walked (64) nearly as many times (75) as he struck out in triple-A. His minor league success, along with Tommy Joseph’s struggles made a call-up for Hoskins inevitable.

So far in the big leagues, Hoskins has been astonishing. Through 41 games, he is batting .293 with 18 home runs, a record 11 coming in his first 64 at bats, 45 RBIs and 34 runs scored. He is penciled into the clean-up spot of a young Phillies lineup is trending in the right direction.

What separates Hoskins from the rest

Rhys Hoskins MLB

In terms of contact rates, Hoskins’ 48 percent hard contact would rank him first among MLB hitters, ahead of Gallo (46 percent), Judge (44 percent), Bellinger (43 percent) and Olson (42 percent). (Photo by Theintelligence.com)

An interesting analytic to look at this season is Hoskins’ BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, which represents how often a ball hit into play results in a hit. For hitters, this stat can be used to identify trends in performance. More specifically for Hoskins, his .264 BABIP suggests that he is getting very unlucky at the dish, as his BABIP in the past has consistently been above .280, most notably above .360 in 2015. To compare, New York Yankees star Aaron Judge is batting .277, although his BABIP is currently an exorbitant .355, suggesting that his batting average is fairly unsustainable. I understand that other factors like exit velocity need to be taken into consideration with BABIP, although Judge’s BABIP has been falling since June.

In terms of strikeout rate, Hoskins sits at a very respectable 20 percent compared to other young stars like Judge (31 percent), Bellinger (26 percent), Gallo (37 percent) and Olson (28 percent), who clearly struggle mightily with striking out. In counts were there is one ball and two strikes, Hoskins is batting an impressive .293, compared to Judge (.190), Bellinger (.188), Gallo (.112) and Olson (.144), exemplifying Hoskins’ pure ability, resilience, plate discipline and overarching mentality of not wanting to strikeout.

Getting on base is an integral part of baseball, and Hoskins is doing it better than almost anyone. He currently has a .425 on base percentage, putting him behind only Joey Votto in this category. Another impressive stat for Hoskins is his walk rate, as although he is not qualified due to a lack of at-bats, he would be ranked third in the MLB in walk rate behind only Votto and Judge. In terms of contact rates, Hoskins’ 48 percent hard contact would rank him first among MLB hitters, ahead of Gallo (46 percent), Judge (44 percent), Bellinger (43 percent) and Olson (42 percent).

I understand he does not qualify due to a lack of major league at-bats, although his 41-game sample size is nothing to scoff at. Calling him the next Paul Golschmidt or Joey Votto may sound crazy to some, but not to me. His stats are incredible and his analytics support growth and sustainability. If not already, Hoskins is bound to become a household name in major league baseball.

Featured image by The Ringer

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Jose Ramirez MVP

Where is the love for Jose Ramirez?

The MLB’s regular season is less than a month away from coming to a close. Since it is almost over, it is becoming more clear which players are in the running for the league’s most prestigious awards.

For example, take the American League MVP race. Jose Altuve seems to be in the lead and for good reason. The Astros’ second baseman is leading the league with a .351 batting average and 7.3 WAR. He has also hit 21 home runs and 72 RBIs.

Other players in MVP talk have been Aaron Judge, Jonathan Schoop and Mike Trout. Judge sure looked like he was going to win MVP along with rookie of the year at the all-star break. The Yankees’ outfielder was hitting .329 with 30 home runs and 66 RBIs. Since the break, he has hit just .183 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. Judge’s hot start was still enough to keep him second in home runs though.

Trout missed over a month due to an injury or else he would be a more serious candidate. In 93 games, Trout has hit .324 with 27 home runs and 61 RBIs. With all that lost time, he most likely won’t be winning his third MVP award.

Schoop is new to the scene with a breakout year in Baltimore. The Orioles’ second baseman is hitting .306 with 31 home runs and ranks second in RBIs with 102.

Judge’s cold streak and Trout’s lost time will most likely keep them from winning. So why are they still in the MVP talk? MLB.com released an article a few days ago with who they felt was in the MVP race. The article mentioned Altuve, Judge and Trout, but more surprisingly Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. Sale and Kluber have been duking it out for the Cy Young, but have not really been mentioned in MVP talk. Pitchers also rarely win the MVP.

Someone is missing

There is one guy that nobody has been talking about that should be getting some consideration. That man is Cleveland infielder Jose Ramirez.

Jose Ramirez MVP

Ramirez was just named player of the week. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Ramirez has been hot at the plate recently. He was just named American League Player of the Week ending Sept. 3 after hitting .538 (14-26) with 11 extra-base hits and a 1.308 slugging percentage. It was the second time this season Ramirez has been player of the week.

He also made history with a 5-5 performance with two homers and three doubles. It made him the first switch-hitter to hit five extra-base hits in a game and the 13th player in history to do so.

I’m not saying Ramirez should win over Altuve. Altuve’s numbers are just too good. What I’m saying is Ramirez has had too good of a season to go unnoticed.

Ramirez’s stats

Ramirez is fifth in batting average at .309 and also has 25 home runs and 69 RBIs. Those numbers may not scream out like Altuve’s batting average or Judge’s home runs, but lets dig deeper into Ramirez’s season.

Ramirez leads the American League in extra-base hits with 78, 11 ahead of second-place Justin Upton and 14 ahead of Schoop. Ramirez also leads in total bases with 296, six ahead of second-place Altuve and seven ahead of Schoop. Ramirez is also leading in doubles with 47, which is 11 ahead of sixth-place Altuve.

Let’s talk about those doubles for a little bit. Ramirez could become only the seventh player in history to hit 60 doubles in a season. That is a feat that hasn’t been done since 1936 when Joe Medwick and and Charlie Gehringer both did it in the same season.

Ramirez is also second in triples with six. He’s also not an easy out as he has the seventh-fewest strikeouts with just 64. Judge is tied for the lead at 182 and Schoop struck out 123 times. Ramirez is also has a .564 slugging percentage, which ranks second behind Judge at .570.

In total hits, Ramirez is fifth with 162 behind fourth-place Schoop (163) and first-place Altuve (183). He is also fourth in runs scored with 93 behind third-place Altuve (95) and Judge, who is the leader (102). 

All the candidates are excellent defenders too, all with fielding percentages over .970.

Where is the love?

So why hasn’t Ramirez gotten more love? That is the real question.

Judge’s cold stretch and Trout’s injury will most likely keep them out, so why are they still being talked about?

Trout has won the award before and is an established star. Judge burst on the scene at the end of last year and captured the MLB’s audience with his hot start. He’s most likely going to be the next Yankee great.

Ramirez, as well as Schoop, are new to stardom. Schoop’s career highs before this year were a .279 batting average, 25 home runs and 82 RBIs. He’s exceeded all of those numbers in this season and also made his first all-star game.

Jose Ramirez MVP

Ramirez has been a big part of the Indians’ hot streak. (Photo by John Kuntz, cleveland.com)

Ramirez also made his first all-star appearance this season, and for good reason. At the break, he was hitting .332 with 17 home runs and 48 RBIs. Ramirez has continued to step up in Cleveland and contribute while some of the team’s biggest stars like Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis have gone down with injuries.

Another reason Ramirez may not be getting the credit he deserves is because of the way he is marketed in Cleveland. Baseball fans know the Indians by guys like Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Francisco Lindor. Kluber has won a Cy Young and is always competing for one. Miller made a name for himself last year as one of the league’s best setup men and demonstrated it in the postseason. Lindor is a two-time all-star and great defensive asset to the team.

Miller has struggled with injuries lately and Lindor has had a down year by his standards. Somehow Ramirez’s production has gotten buried amongst the city’s other stars. Perhaps the Cavaliers’ stars like LeBron James and the attention of the Kyrie Irving trade have also kept Ramirez out of the headlines.

Make no mistake, Jose Ramirez is a baller. While his core numbers may not compete with Jose Altuve’s, he has still produced tremendously and should be in the MVP talk with Altuve and maybe Schoop. Judge and Trout should not be in the talk due the the circumstances previously discussed.

Start following Ramirez now, because you are going to see plenty of him in the postseason as Cleveland has been the hottest team in the American League and are well on their way to contend for another World Series appearance. 

Oh, and he is only 24 years old, so there is plenty more to come from Ramirez in the future.

 

Featured image by Jason Miller/Getty Images

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Judge

What in the world has happened to Aaron Judge?

Aaron Judge has hit a wall since coming off the All-Star break. His slash line before the break was an impressive .329/.448/.691. That line was a big compliment to his 30 home runs and 66 RBIs in that span.

Since the break, his line reads as an underwhelming .182/.349/.358 along with eight home runs and 19 RBIs. The most alarming stat out of all of this though is his MLB leading 181 strikeouts on the season, 72 of them coming since the break.

The streak

Judge

Judge leads the majors in strikeouts this season (SB Nation)

Usually when talking about in a streak in baseball, it has a positive connotation. For example, the Oakland Athletics had a 20-game winning streak in 2002. Joe DiMaggio also had one of the most famous streaks ever, hitting in 56 consecutive games which is believed to be unbeatable.

Aaron Judge has a streak of his own that has given him some notoriety this season. He broke Adam Dunn’s record with 37 consecutive games with a strikeout this season. Now that isn’t the sole reason for his struggles. Judge had been big on strikeouts all season long, so it was not a surprise when they started to catch up to him.

One of the problems that Judge has been facing during these struggles is his BABIP. This stat can be used to measure how lucky or unlucky a hitter can be. It stands for batting average on balls in play, and it excludes home runs. This helps people who evaluate a player’s performance determine whether or not they find holes in the defense or maybe defenders pull off great plays against him.

In the first half of the season Judge had a .426 BABIP which was tops in the league. In the second half he has a .256 BABIP, which ranks 142nd in all of baseball. This shows that his strikeout streak is not the sole reason why he is struggling, rather the defense opposing him has been playing better.

That is not to say the strikeouts have been getting worse. He has been striking out in 43 percent of his at-bats in the second half which is a very alarming rate. It is especially alarming for a young hitter still trying to learn the game at the big league level.

Home run derby hangover?

One reason that we may not have seen Bryce Harper in the derby yet is because he is more concerned with his play during the season. Many people have wondered if the derby is detracting players from participating because it messes with their regular swing too much.

Brandon Inge participated in the derby in 2009 and even though he regressed significantly in the second half, with only six home runs compared to 21 in the first half, he still stated that he did not believe the derby had any impact on it. He would say that baseball players are professionals, and one night of changing their swing should not do significant damage down the road.

In Judge’s case, he took many more swings during the derby than Inge did in 2009. Inge did not hit a single home run while Judge hit a staggering 47 (which will probably be more than he ends with this season). Therefore, his performance may have a more lasting effect on his season.

It is also worth noting that Miguel Sano, who reached the derby final counter to Judge, has also struggled since the event in comparison to his first half. Although, he has missed time with a shin injury. Other than Sano though, all the other participants have been having as good if not better seasons since the derby (other than Justin Bour who only has 31 at-bats in the second half).

Charlie Blackmon and Giancarlo Stanton both come some home run swings in at the derby, and they are both tearing up the league in the second half. This makes it difficult to blame the derby for Judge’s struggles.

He is still a rookie

Judge

Judge stole the show during All-Star Weekend (The Courier)

Judge got caught up in talks for MVP when he was at his peak this season. It seemed like nobody was able to stop him. At the All-Star festivities in Miami, he looked to be the face of baseball. With Mike Trout injured and not participating, there was a void that Judge was able to fill.

At that point it would be easy to consider Judge the best player in baseball. There was one simple thing we were all forgetting though, and that is he is still a rookie. Rookies do not put up 50 home run years with a .330 batting average to go along with it. Judge showed us that it was still not going to happen with him even though he was on pace to do so.

The thing with rookies is they are also new to the league, so teams are still learning more about them just like how the rookie is learning more about the league. Once Judge got enough exposure at the big league level, teams learned to exploit his weaknesses.

What does this mean for his future?

There is one classic saying in sports and that is, “The one thing you can’t teach is speed”. This statement is true, to an extent. A coach can teach a hitter power, but only so much. What they can’t teach is how to hit a ball as far as Aaron Judge.

Judge has the top four highest exit velocity hits this season along with the longest home run in the majors at 495 feet. That kind of power is not going to just go away. What may go away is his ability to hit to all fields and get good solid hits at clutch times. Those are qualities of some of the best hitters ever, and much like some other hitters in the league today such as Joey Votto and Mike Trout.

What may become of Judge may be similar to the guy whose record Judge broke this year, Adam Dunn. In coming seasons, Judge could take the Dunn approach and crank 40 homers a year while batting .220 and striking out 180 times.

Aaron Judge is still only 25 years old and has a career in the majors that should last for a while. He may have looked like the best player in baseball this year at times, but that may not be what his future holds. That does not mean that he will not be a quality player for the Yankees, but it may mean that fans should maybe bring him a notch down from legend potential.

 

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