Deadline

Dodgers, Cubs, others make big moves at trade deadline

One hour before the 4 P.M. MLB trade deadline, nothing was happening. There were rumors and whispers here and there. Some decent names had been moved but nothing that we have been looking for over the past few weeks. All of a sudden news broke that the Yankees would be acquiring Sonny Gray from the Athletics. Would this be the first domino to fall?

As the hour went on nothing else seemed to be happen. Everyone was expecting the Dodgers to make the big move they needed but nothing was coming. Is Los Angeles really going to stay put with the roster they have? Every World Series champion in recent memory had made moves at the deadline to bolster their team. Are the Dodgers really that good that they don’t have to go out and get anyone?

When 4 P.M. hit it seemed like that was the case. After about 20 minutes the news started to break however. The Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish from the Rangers in the blockbuster trade we were expecting. This trade also punctuated a trading season that emphasized pitching and had very little movement with hitters.

This was a very interesting deadline to track. There were some surprises as well as moves that we expected. Here are some of the notable teams that were making moves at the deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Acquisitions: Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson

Los Angeles bolstered its bullpen with two solid left-handed relievers in Watson and Cingrani. These guys are a great compliment to Kenley Jansen and it takes a lot of pressure off of the starting rotation, especially seeing that Kershaw will be out for the coming weeks.

Yu Darvish has been expected to go to Los Angeles for the last month. Most were surprised that no news had broke when the 4 P.M. deadline approached. I was ready to criticize the Dodgers for their lack of improvement. When the news was announced, it immediately became World Series or bust for this team.

Darvish provides the same sort of punch to the rotation that Zach Greinke provided when he was in LA with Kershaw. These pitching acquisitions may make the Dodgers the most complete team in the majors now. They filled their pitching needs and left their offense alone which has been fantastic. What might be the one of the biggest upsides from this trade season is that the Dodgers did not give up any of their top three prospects for Yu Darvish.

The Dodgers know that they will be making the postseason. These trades were specifically for October because they know that it is now or never if they want to break their 30-year championship drought.

Houston Astros

Acquisitions: Francisco Liriano

The Astros currently have the best record in the American League. Going into the deadline, it was obvious that Houston needed to bolster its pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel has been dealing with injury issues and may not be the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young. Lance McCullers has also not been consistent. On top of that, the Astros are in much need of bullpen help.

Houston acquired Liriano from Toronto, but this was not the attractive pitcher that many were looking for them to go out and get. They needed a pitcher to fill into a rotation that looks a bit shaky. However, Liriano will not be in the starting rotation and will be filling in the bullpen.

This had to be disappointing for Houston fans because they did not make the improvements that other contenders made. Even though they are sitting comfortably in first place in the West and are a sure thing for the playoffs, they may be sweating a bit.

Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and George Springer are all on the DL right now. The Astros must be comfortable with the injuries since they didn’t make any moves. However, the gap seems to be closing between them and the Yankees and Indians.

New York Yankees

Acquisitions: Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson

The Yankees made a big move a couple weeks ago acquiring Todd Frazier and David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox. Robertson really helps out a bullpen that needed some help and Frazier is a bat the Yankees needed to fill a hole in the lineup.

Deadline

The Yankees got one of the most valuable pitchers at the deadline in Gray (Getty Images)

The big news from Monday was the Yankees acquiring Sonny Gray from Oakland. This was a trade that made a lot of sense for the Yankees because it helps answer questions in their rotation for 2018 and 2019 as well.

The Yankees may lose the majority of their rotation after this year so getting this deal done is a big deal for New York. For this year though, Gray provides a big punch in the rotation for October seeing that the young pitcher already has postseason experience.

Starting pitching was one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees. Boston made a solid move in getting Addison Reed, but the excellent job at the deadline by Brian Cashman may make the Yankees the better team.

Look for the Yankees to separate themselves from Boston and give Houston some trouble in the postseason potentially.

Chicago Cubs

Acquisitions: Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila

The Chicago Cubs did exactly what they needed to do in order to finally separate themselves from the rest of the NL Central. They addressed a rotation issue, a bullpen issue and a catching issue.

Deadline

Quintana is the highlight of the deadline for the Cubs (Sporting News)

Quintana was a get for the Cubs that was way ahead of the rest of the field at the deadline. Chicago knew what they needed and got a pitcher in the prime of his career that will be under team control for the future.

The rotation has been underperforming for the most part and Quintana provides a spark that has gotten the rest of the team going. With the potential this team has, they may be one of the best teams built for the postseason after the acquisition of Quintana.

Alex Avila adds experience at the catching position that the Cubs really needed. Miguel Montero was sent to Toronto after he ragged on the pitching staff for the Cubs’ shortcomings. He was the veteran presence that the pitchers need behind the plate.

Wilson Contreras has been very productive with a bat in his hands but he does not have the skills needed to call a good game in the playoffs. He is a converted infielder that is still learning the craft, so Avila provides the presence that the Cubs needed.

Theo Epstein went out and addressed the exact problems that needed addressing. Cubs fans should be happy with how he approached the deadline. The only downside is that the Cubs now have no prospects in the MLB Top 100. Much of their talent is at the big league level so that is a big reason for that. However, their talent has been underperforming this year.

The Cubs are hoping that their players play to their potential. If they do, then they are as good as anybody in the league.

Washington Nationals

Acquisitions: Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle

The Nationals’ bullpen has pretty much been a joke this year. It is by far their biggest weakness, so much so that a fan ripped on the bullpen in his obituary.

Deadline

Scherzer got the bullpen help the rotation desperately needed (Getty Images)

Washington has one of the best hitting trios in baseball with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. They also may have the best starting pitcher in the game in Max Scherzer.

However, they were not taken as seriously to compete with the Dodgers in the postseason because of how important relief pitching is these days.

Sean Doolittle has been struggling this year, but he is still a step in the right direction for Washington. However, Ryan Madson has been a very reliable reliever and Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star this year. Kintzler has converted 28 of 32 saves this season and also provides reliability at the back end of the bullpen.

Relievers were a hot commodity at the deadline this year. The Nationals knew that relievers are what they needed in order to win their first playoff series in franchise history. Mike Rizzo did a good job of getting these guys in order to be a threat in October.

Chicago White Sox

Deadline

Jimenez is the 7th ranked prospect in the majors (Baseball America)

Acquisitions: Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford, AJ Puckett, Andre Davis, Tito Polo, Ian Clarkin, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, Byrant Flete, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez

As you can tell, the White Sox had a busy trade season. They traded away many major leagues such as Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera. Even though it is pretty apparent that you could say the White Sox are tanking, fans have to be happy with general manager Rick Hahn’s job this past month.

The White Sox now have two of the top 10 prospects in MLB, and eight in the top 70 according to MLB.com. Chicago is the only team on this list that are not contenders this season but they may have had one of the best months in the league.

The benefits from the past month will not show this season or next season. In a few years though the success of the front office will be apparent.

This may be a slight overreaction, but there is a possibility that we could see a Cubs-White Sox World Series down the road. That may be a bit dramatic but wouldn’t it be exciting to see a Chicago championship series? The only thing I would be concerned about is whether or not the city would still be standing in the aftermath.

Final thoughts on the deadline

The most glaring detail of this trade deadline was the emphasis of pitching. Outside of J.D Martinez, there were no major position players that were moved this year. Yes, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were moved as well. However, all of the big trades were centered around pitching.

It seems that many teams are content with the hitting they have. It may not be a coincidence that major league players are hitting home runs at one of the highest rates in history. Bullpen and rotation help is the attractive thing these days. Especially considering how difficult it is to close out a game in today’s game.

By no means is the 2017 season decided already. There is still a long way to go in the season and anything can happen in October. Championship teams do look back to the trade deadline though to see what they did right at that time. Monday was a pivotal point in the season, but baseball is a crazy game so it will be fun to see how these moves pan out.

 

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Boston Red Sox Pitching: The Success and Failure

Coming into this season, The Red Sox’ pitching was ranked at the top, if not the best. The Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the White Sox. Rick Porcello was coming off a Cy Young-caliber year. David Price was back, and hopefully healthy. Craig Kimbrel was coming off a 31-save year.

Although Boston sits in first place in the American League East, the pitching has taken a rocky path so far. Lets take a look.

Success: Chris sale

The American League All Star Game starting pitcher is on pace to winning his first Cy Young Award. The 28-year-old was traded in an offseason deal with the Chicago White Sox, involving four minor league prospects including Yoan Moncada.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (chicagotribune.com)

Sale is cruising with a 13-4 record and the most wins in the American League. He has tallied a whopping total of 211 strikeouts, the most strikeouts in all Major League Baseball.

Sale is on track to tally 300-plus strikeouts. He reached 200 strikeouts in his start this past Friday against the Angels, making him the fastest pitcher in American League history to obtain 200 strikeouts in a season. Sale did this in 141 1/3 innings.

He joins Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan in reaching 200 strikeouts in less than 20 starts. Keep in mind, Pedro did this in close to 150 innings, also known as one of the best pitchers to wear the Boston uniform.

The Red Sox are coming off a 2-4 road stretch. Sale recorded both wins. In a 6-2 win against the Angels, Sale went 6 innings on four hits with nine strikeouts. On Wednesday, he recorded a 4-0 win against the Mariners, going seven innings with three hits with 11 strikeouts.

Sale is dealing for this team. Even in his four losses, he’s been completely dominant. He’s tallied a total of 45 strikeouts in his four losses. Truly, the Sox did not produce runs for him.

Sale is the best pitcher in the American League, if not Major League Baseball. He will continue to dominate.

Success: Drew Pomeranz

For a guy who went 3-5 last season with a 4.59 ERA, Drew Pomeranz has made a complete turnaround for the first place Boston Red Sox.

Pomeranz has turned his record to an impressive 10-4 year. Yes, three wins shy of Chris Sale’s record, the American League Cy Young contender. Pomeranz has tallied 115 strikeouts on a 3.59 ERA.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (overthemonster.com)

Quite frankly, whatever Pomeranz did for change, its working. He’s defeated second-place rival New York Yankees twice this season, recording 14 strikeouts against them. He tossed 6 1/3 innings and only allowed four hits in the win against the best team in Major League Baseball, Houston Astros.

The Red Sox expected this from the lefty pitcher when they acquired him through a San Diego transaction. Pomeranz was an All-Star at the time of the transaction, and David Ortiz was one foot out the door to retirement, urging the Red Sox to add another All-Star to the team. They needed to add a starter to join forces with Rick Porcello and David Price.

Pomeranz has taken responsibility for his mistakes on the mound last year, and has transformed himself to a top pitcher on the team.

This is exactly what Boston needs, especially when the playoffs come around. The Sox will need their rotation to belly up and give it their all. Look at the 2013 World Series team. Clay Buchholz went 12-1, Jon Lester went 15-8 and John Lackey recorded 10 wins. You need depth to go deep in the playoffs. The facts show it.

success: Craig Kimbrel

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (masslive.com)

The Red Sox closer has been the reliable factor for manager John Farrell. Kimbrel has tallied 25 saves with nearly 80 strikeouts.

Kimbrel reminds the Boston fans of Jonathan Pabelbon and his dominance he had coming out in the bullpen in late save opportunities.

Kimbrel currently sits in fourth in the American League in saves, however many believe he is the best closer in the American League. He holds a 1.27 ERA, as well as a 2-0 record.

Boston looks to have Kimbrel keep his dominant self throughout the last two months of baseball.

failure: rick porcello

Red Sox Nation had big expectations for right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello this season. He was coming off a 22-4 year last season, capturing the American League Cy Young award.

Porcello was the Red Sox go-to guy, last season and this season. Yeah, they brought in Chris Sale, a guy who finished in the top five for the Cy Young race last season, but they were still depending on Porcello to be their number one guy this season.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (bostonglobe.com)

Last year, he finished with a 3.15 ERA in 223 innings pitched, finishing an impressive 22-4 year. He tallied nearly 200 strikeouts and was completely dominant the whole way through.

This year, he has a 4-13 record with a sub-5 ERA through 133 innings pitched. He’s currently tied in six place for the most home runs allowed (23). Porcello has let up a total of nearly 80 runs, the most on the team, with the second most having 48.

Truly nothing what Boston had wished for.

However, this can all be forgotten if change starts here. We are only two months shy of October. Boston is on track to winning the American League East, and the Red Sox will need Porcello to do his job to get far.

Failure: David Price

Here come the true opinions. As we all know, David Price has been a dominant pitcher in this league for as long as we can remember.

He signed with Boston in late 2015, agreeing to a record-setting contract of seven years, $2.17 million. That said, Boston is writing a check for $31 million a year for Price.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (usatoday.com)

Price recorded a 17-9 record last season for the Red Sox, making his Fenway career record a whopping 15-4. Pretty good, right?

Until, this season happened.

Price started off the 2017 season after missing two whole months with elbow pain. Not to mention at the time, Porcello was already starting his current cold streak that he has not broken out of.

Since he has formally recovered, he is 5-3 with a sub-4 ERA. Yeah, he’s pitched 11 games, but throughout those 11 starts, they have not been pretty. He has let up 62 hits with 28 earned runs, allowing eight homers and 22 total walks.

However, we know Price can tend to find himself with off-the-field situations as well. The Price/Eckersley altercation has stirred up in the media, finding yourself to have a new look on left-handed pitcher. For those who aren’t aware, Eckerlsey made a comment regarding Eduardo Rodriguez, which led to Price calling Eckersley out completely on the plane back home from Toronto.

Price, like Porcello, needs to find his old self back. We know what he’s capable of doing. If we didn’t, he wouldn’t be the big talk this season.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of overthemoster.com

MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

What is wrong with these 2016 Cy Young candidates?

Winning back-to-back Cy Young awards is quite the feat, as it has only been done by seven different players since the year 1956, most notably in 2013 and 2014 by Clayton Kershaw. Repeating as Cy Young is rarely anticipated, although having severe struggles are the last thing expected.

In 2017, we have seen six individuals suffer a hangover from their 2016 Cy Young-caliber seasons. In this piece, I will discuss why the player is struggling and what to expect from them moving forward.

The statistics below are accurate up to July 8, 2017

Rick Porcello

2016 Stats 33 GS 22-4 W-L 3.15 ERA 1.01 WHIP 7.63 K/9 223 IP
2017 Stats 18 GS 4-10 W-L 5.01 ERA 1.48 WHIP 8.25 K/9 111.1 IP
2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

(Masslive.com)

The reigning American League Cy Young award winner has regressed back to his normal self.

When looking at his pitches, Porcello has generally thrown his change-up at a 12 percent clip, although in 2017 he is only throwing it nine percent of the time, and for good reason.

According to his pitch values on fangraphs.com, where zero represents the average, Porcello’s 2016 change-up measured in at a 10.0, although so far in 2017, his change-up is valued at -2.2. His struggles with the change-up are possibly connected to his fastball woes as well, as in 2016 his fastball was valued at 13.0, although it is currently valued at -10.3.

His career BABIP sits at .312, although during his two most successful seasons in which he posted a 3.15 and 3.43 ERA, his BABIP sat comfortably below .300. Currently in 2017, his BABIP is an astronomical .346, which does scream for positive regression, although it explains part of his struggles.

His career home run to fly ball rate, or HR/FB, is a respectable 11.4 percent, although in his most successful seasons, he was able to keep it under 9.5.

Clearly, Porcello’s struggles have to do with the fact that he is extremely hittable. You can’t expect too much of a pitcher whose batting average against is almost .300.

Jon Lester

2016 Stats 32 GS 19-5 W-L 2.44 ERA 1.10 WHIP 8.75 K/9 202.2 IP
2017 Stats 18 GS 5-5 W-L 3.94 ERA 1.23 WHIP 9.22 K/9 107.1 IP

The 2016 National League Cy Young runner-up has been a serious disappointment this season.

He currently sports a left on base percentage, or LOB, of 71.6, which is much closer to his career average of 75.2 percent than his 2016 mark of 84.9 percent. Similarly, his current batting average against of .249 is also significantly closer to his career mark of .241, although his batting average against in 2016 was an incredible .209.

He is mixing his pitches in an almost identical fashion as he did in 2014, although his results have been quite the opposite. When looking at his pitch values and velocity, his fastball and curveball have both become negative in value while decreasing significantly in velocity.

It is fair to say that this 2017 Lester, opposed to the 2016 Cy Young-caliber Lester, is what we should expect moving forward.

Justin Verlander

2016 Stats 34 GS 16-9 W-L 3.04 ERA 1.00 WHIP 10.04 K/9 227.2 IP
2017 Stats 17 GS 5-5 W-L 4.96 ERA 1.52 WHIP 8.45 K/9 98 IP
2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Verlander’s 2017 season has been a serious anomaly. He has posted an ERA above four only twice in his 12-year career, although he seems to be on track to do so again this season.

The 2016 American League Cy Young runner-up won 16 games while posting a 3.04 ERA and an incredible .204 batting average against. Most people would say he was snubbed in the Cy Young vote, as his ratios far outshined Porcello’s, who won the award majorly because of his 22 wins and only four losses.

So far in 2017, Verlander has severely struggled with pitch location, as his career walk rate is 2.76 per nine innings, although his current walk rate is at a career high 4.39. This has caused his WHIP to rise from 1.00 in 2016 to 1.52 this year.

The 34-year-old’s BABIP of .316 suggests that he is due for some positive regression and his velocity has increased from last season, although his struggles seem control induced, which is not a good sign moving ahead.

Johnny Cueto

2016 Stats 32 GS 18-5 W-L 2.79 ERA 1.09 WHIP 8.11 K/9 219.2 IP
2017 Stats 17 GS 6-7 W-L 4.26 ERA 1.33 WHIP 8.18 K/9 105.2 IP

Cueto’s 2016 campaign reminded us of his 2014 Cy Young runner-up season, where at 28 years old, he finished the season with 20 wins and a 2.25 ERA.

In 2016, Cueto was astounding, recording 18 wins and a 2.79 ERA. Now in 2017, Cueto is having his worst career year since his sophomore season with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009.

The 31-year-old is currently allowing 35.4 percent hard contact, which is about seven percent higher than his career mark, and 13 percent higher than in his 2014 season. He seems to be getting a bit unlucky as well, as his HR/FB is very high at 16.8 percent, which is well off his career average of 10.3 percent.

The most notable change to his pitch values are with his change-up, which has been his best complimentary pitch over his career and measures in at 21.7, although in 2017 alone his change-up is valued at -3.5.

An ineffective change-up, mile-high HR/FB rate and excessive amount of hard contact all seem to be the prime causes of Cueto’s 2017 struggles. A turnaround is definitely possible if he can reign in his change-up and begin to limit hard contact.

Masahiro Tanaka

2016 Stats 31 GS 14-4 W-L 3.07 ERA 1.08 WHIP 7.44 K/9 199.2 IP
2017 Stats 17 GS 7-7 W-L 5.25 ERA 1.36 WHIP 9.03 K/9 97.2 IP
2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

(Photo by the Japanese Times)

Tanaka’s 2017 season has been nothing like we’ve ever seen from the Japanese international.

His current walk rate is at 2.40 per nine innings, although he had a walk rate under 1.62 in each of his last three seasons. Also, his BABIP is over .300 for the first time in his major league career, which is a bad sign for a ground ball pitcher like himself.

The major problem for Tanaka seems to be his lack of ability to throw the fastball. His four-seam fastball and cutter both rank in the deep negatives for pitch values. His off-speed pitches remain his bread and butter, although they are much less effective without a successful fastball to work off of.

Without a moderately effective fastball, Tanaka will remain unsuccessful.

Kyle Hendricks

2016 Stats 30 GS 16-8 W-L 2.13 ERA 0.98 WHIP 8.05 K/9 190 IP
2017 Stats 11 GS 4-3 W-L 4.09 ERA 1.20 WHIP 7.44 K/9 61.2 IP

Hendricks is a very interesting pitcher, as he managed to be a Cy Young candidate in 2016 while having on average an 86 mile per hour fastball.

He finished the 2016 season with 16 wins and an incredible 2.13 ERA, although in 2017, his command has decreased significantly. He is walking a full player more per nine innings than in both of his previous years.

The 27-year-old is also allowing 36 percent hard contact, which is over 10 percent higher than he has let up in his last four seasons. He is currently dealing with right middle finger inflammation, although he is scheduled for a rehab start on July 10 at the Double-A level.

It seems as though an injury has led to a lack of command, which is allowing hitters to make much better contact than in years past. If he can get healthy, there is a chance he can get back on track.

 

Featured image by the Chicago Tribune 

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Collecting the Hardware: National League Preseason Predictions

It’s finally here! After waiting all the cold and dreary months for baseball to return, it has finally arrived. Analysts from all over baseball continue to roll out their predictions for what’s sure to be an incredibly exciting 2017 season.

Last week I issued my picks for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP in the American League. In the AL, Andrew Benintendi, Marcus Stroman and Mookie Betts took center stage. This week we’ll take a look at the National League and take a shot at some additional bold predictions.

The National League

NL Rookie of the Year: Dansby Swanson

Collecting the Hardware: National League Pre-Season Predictions The rookie hype is undoubtedly surrounding Andrew Benintendi on what is sure to a very successful Red Sox team. The Braves aren’t likely to receive the same notoriety, but Dansby Swanson will be key to their success this season. After his second-half call up in 2016, Swanson slashed .302/.361/.442, with three home runs and three stolen bases.

That call-up coincided with a strong Braves performance after the All-Star break and positioned Atlanta nicely headed into 2017. The Braves didn’t stop there. They added veteran pitching and bolstered the farm system in the offseason. This sets the stage for a Braves’ resurgence led by one of the most exciting young rookies in the MLB.

Swanson absolutely cruised through the minors and has been a demonstrated winner at every level he’s played at. Some may argue for other rookies and their upside, but Swanson is poised to not only take NL ROY, but also have the best overall rookie performance in 2017, period.

NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard

Collecting the Hardware: National League Pre-Season Predictions The year-over-year obvious choice for the NL Cy Young is Clayton Kershaw. A pitcher who displays such incredible dominance at his position that it’s honestly a privilege to watch him play. With that said, I didn’t choose Kershaw for the award because where is the fun in that?

Noah Syndergaard met every expectation in his first full season, posting a 2.60 ERA with 218 strikeouts. Syndergaard is the clear ace of a Mets pitching staff whose entire rotation could act as the number one or two guy on most teams in the MLB. Coming in this season at 24 years old, the ceiling is scary high for this young flamethrower.

The Met’s have certainly battled injuries, but with “Thor” anchoring the rotation, the organization has to like their chances.

NL Most Valuable Player: Paul Goldschmidt

I admit this is a bit of a protest pick. I think conventional wisdom would say that the MVP typically belongs on a contender, Mike Trout being the exception. However, if we’re going to give Trout the credit (which he absolutely deserves) for carrying the Angels, than “Goldy” deserves some love here too.

Paul Goldschmidt quietly slashed .297 /.411 /.489 with 24 home runs and 32 stolen bases during the 2016 season. This was the same season where he experienced a significant slump early in the year that had many analysts in panic mode.

There are a number of worthy candidates for this pick, but I’d like to put the statistics in perspective. Goldschmidt stole 32 bases in 2016 as a first baseman. That put him ninth overall right behind speedster names like Jean Segura and Trea Turner. Goldy smacked 24 homers in a down year when he’s displayed power of 30 plus and strong slugging percentages.

Most impressive of all is his on-base and walk ratio. Goldschmidt walked 110 times in 2016, second only to Mike Trout. That was down from his previous year where he walked 118 times. Ranking number four in OBP, two spots behind “best eyes in baseball” Joey Votto, Goldschmidt sees the ball as well as anyone in the game.

The Diamondbacks may still be a few pieces away from contention, but without Paul Goldschmidt, it’s not even a discussion.

These predictions are truly fun because there are almost too many good options. This writer could make a case for any number of stars in the game today. Who knows how the season will play out or if any of the name on the list will be up for their listed award? What we do know is that baseball is back and we are in store for another exciting season of America’s great pastime!

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Collecting the Hardware: American League Pre-Season Predictions

*Feature Image courtesy of Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Stringer (Getty Images)*

The regular season is so close you can almost taste that dollar hot dog promotion. That means it’s time for baseball analysts to release their “Bold” (and not so bold) predictions for the 2017 season.

The names here would hardly be considered daring, but each will need a monster year to secure the hardware. This list looks at the potential league leaders we may be discussing at the end of the 2017 season.

 

American League

AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Benintendi

(Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire)

Largely viewed as the consensus top prospect heading into the 2017 season, Andrew Benintendi carries some significant expectations. Slashing .292/ .364 / .905 with 2 home runs during spring training, Benintendi appears poised to exceed those projections. Batting third amidst and absolutely stacked Red Sox lineup, the opportunities will be there and the runs should be plentiful.

The questions that faces all young players is how that level of production holds up over the course of 162 games. Many, if not all of Benintendi’s AL rookie counterparts will start the 2017 in the minors. This positions him perfectly to establish an early track of success and lock up the award come year end.

 

AL Cy Young: Marcus Stroman

This may be the “boldest” prediction on this list given the volatile nature of Stroman’s past performances. However, fresh off an outstanding World Baseball Classic performance Marcus Stroman appears poised to make a statement in 2017.

The career statistics don’t exactly backup this assertion, but when Stroman’s locked in, his performance certainly passes the eye test. He’s currently listed as number four in the rotation, a testament to the strength of the Jay’s staff. Given his skillset, Stroman can establish himself as the team ace if he can demonstrate some consistency throughout the season.

The fiery young pitcher represented well in the WBC, and should be an absolute treat to watch in 2017.

 

AL Most Valuable Player: Mookie Betts

(Photo courtesy of Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The young Red Sox star was already hot on the heels of the best player in baseball during the 2016 season. Mike Trout isn’t going anywhere anytime soon but that doesn’t mean Mookie Betts won’t be challenging for top dog every year. Betts has already established himself as a top player in the game, but where is his ceiling?

In 2016 Betts slashed .318 / .363 / .897 with 34 home runs and 26 stolen bases. Entering the Majors at age 21 Betts has already displayed incredible improvement year over year. Granted, Betts played the most games of his career in 2016, but the improvement in ratio statistics validates the jump.

Given his current performance, Betts is already incredibly close to 30/30 performance. Most players power and slugging improves as their career progresses while speed typically diminishes. Based on Betts youth, speed doesn’t appear to be in danger and his stellar OBP ensures he will have the opportunities to steal. If these factors play out in a traditional way it wouldn’t be surprising to see Betts trend even closer to a 40/30 or even 40/40 season, if health permits.

There is an amazing amount of young talent throughout the MLB today. The margin between the top players may be closer than ever. Baseball has always been a game of parity between competing teams. The fact this has extended to individual competition truly adds to the excitement and enjoyment of the game. Whether it’s witnessing the best young player or best overall, there is no doubt the 2017 season should be chalk full of amazing performances.

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Chris Sale Goes From One Sox to the Other

In case you had been living under a rock, Chris Sale has been a major trade target ever since he had his major outburst and cut up a bunch of jerseys. This made him by far and away the most attractive trade or free agent target for teams looking to contend. He is a true ace in a league that no question lacks number ones.

With the Winter Meetings in full swing and trades and signings happening left and right, this is probably the most notable deal. Honestly, this is probably the biggest deal in the last 365 days and probably will be until the next trade deadline.

Most rumors had been that up until this morning the clear front-runner was the Washington Nationals, but today the Red Sox came in and gave the White Sox an offer they could not pass up.

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In return for the illustrious but troubled ace, the White Sox got arguably the best prospect in baseball, 2B/3B Yoan Moncada. With him they also got the Red Sox’ number five prospect, RHP Michael Kopech, the number eight prospect OF Luis Alexander Basabe, and their number 29 prospect in Victor Diaz. All ranking and stats below are courtesy of MLB.com.

This deal works out well for both teams. Let me break it down for you.

For the White Sox, this is probably the best deal that they could have hoped for. Moncada is an absolute stud who can either play 2nd, 3rd, or DH. It will depend on if they feel he is a better fielder than either Todd Frazier or Brett Lawrie. Frazier has always had a solid glove so I doubt they move him. My bet is Moncada either plays 2nd or DH and bats in the 2 or 6 hole in the lineup. Either way they will make sure his bat is in that lineup everyday.

But Moncada is not the only player in this deal. Yes, he is possibly the best prospect, but the White Sox also get Michael Kopech with him. He was drafted in the first round in 2014, has great size at 6’3”, and can hit the upper 90’s with a developing slider. The hope is that he becomes a top of the rotation guy as he gets older. I imagine he will realistically be looking at a 2018-2019 call-up time.

Basabe is also a very interesting piece. He is someone who can hit from both sides and is starting to show some power. If he can keep hitting well as he moves up and gets those strikeout numbers down he could be a middle of the order bat. This is not something that you see very often in young played anymore as they are encouraged at a young age to focus on one side of the plate.

Lastly, the White Sox get Victor Diaz. This kid has a cannon for an arm. His only problem is that it is taking him a little while to learn to be a pitcher instead of a thrower. With time this guy could develop into a top-end closer if he can continue to learn his slider and splitter in tandem with the fastball.

What this signifies is that the White Sox are probably renewing the farm and will soon start to sell off other players. I imagine this will not be the last deal they make this winter.

For the Red Sox, they are getting a bonafied major league ace. The lanky lefty had a league high six complete games, 226.2 innings pitched, and 233 strikeouts. He’s also a perennial All-Star, Cy Young candidate, and someone who even garners MVP votes.

during game one of the American League Divison Series at Progressive Field on October 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

They are adding him to a rotation of this year’s surprising Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello, previous Cy Young winner David Price, knuckleballer Steve Wright, and Padres Former ace Drew Pomeranz. This is easily a top 5 pitching rotation next season if everyone stays healthy.

Along with the high powered offense the Red Sox have, this team is easily a top early World Series contender.

While it will hurt the Red Sox farm quite a bit, it is clear with this move, the pick up of Tyler Thornburg, and their current pursuit of Mitch Moreland, that the Red Sox are going for it all.

Overall it seems as though both teams got exactly what they are looking for. With starting pitching at such a high demand, it is no surprise that the Red Sox had to give up this much in order to grab Sale.

AL Regular Season Award Predictions

As the season begins to wind down, all sorts of guesses as to who will win the MVP and Cy Young awards. So many factors are taken into consideration including team record, individual statistics, and how the player has been performing as of late. Inside this article, I make some predictions for who will be the winner of each American League award as the season concludes.

 

MVP Award

Early on I thought the award would go to Houston Astros second basemen, Jose Altuve. He was on a tear the first couple of months. However, as the season progressed, Altuve has cooled off, and the award has become a tossup. The award now belongs to one of three people; either, Josh Donaldson, Mookie Betts, or Mike Trout.*

*The Angels are not contending for the playoffs, which for better or worse, eliminates Trout from the close race.

Betts has been a true five-category player, hitting 31 home runs, a .318 average, 25 stolen bases, and triple digit rbi’s and runs. Despite Donaldson displaying more power, Betts gets the nod for his substantial lead in stolen bases and batting average (RBI’s are hard for me to argue as it is dependent on people getting on in front of you.) The Red Sox moving to first in the division with a five-game lead on the Blue Jays is just the icing on the cake for Betts getting the MVP award.

 

Cy Young

The Cy Young Award is always tough to predict because people all the pitching stats differently. Rick Porcello leads the American League in wins but has 50 less strikeouts than Corey Kluber. Masahiro Tanaka has the lowest ERA in the AL, but has only amassed 14 wins. Justin Verlander accumulated a 5.5 WAR and a 1.01 WHIP in a career rebounding season but his team is currently on the outside looking in for the wild card.

 

I do not even think Kluber thought he was going to have the season he is currently having back in spring training. Photo courtesy of Chuck Crow of the Plain Dealer.

I do not even think Kluber thought he was going to have the season he is currently having back in spring training. Photo courtesy of Chuck Crow of the Plain Dealer.

In the end, I think Corey Kluber is most deserving of the award. He had a rough first couple of starts to the season, but once he settled in, produced strong numbers for the rest of the season for the Cleveland Indians. Kluber leads the American League with 224 Ks, the Indians are on top of the Central Division and is third and fourth respectively in ERA and WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched). 18 wins, though dependent on the team, would rank him third in the AL and leads all AL pitchers in WAR. All these numbers, coupled with the Indians making the playoffs should be all the voters need to pick Kluber for the Cy Young.

 

Rookie of the Year

After the first month of the season, the award would have gone to Nomar Mazara. The MLB season is long, though, and a lot has changed. Mazara slumped, and Michael Fulmer started to rise to on the board. Fulmer has produced at an elite level for the Tigers, with a 3.03 ERA. Fulmer had the award locked up, well, until September rolled around and teams started calling up young prospects. Controversial, but the award belongs to Gary Sanchez.

Gary Sanchez is sitting at forty-three games on the season but has hit 19 home runs and is producing a .337 batting average. He has spent half of those games at the catcher spot, a position usually devoid of strong hitters. His WAR is already 2.2 (an average an MLB starter will accumulate 2-3 over the whole season) and it is not crazy to think that even if Sanchez started slumping, he could have produced a WAR hovering near five, which would be top 20 in the American League. The only thing holding back Sanchez is his lack of playing time, but I think the production over a month and a half is more than enough for Sanchez to usurp Fulmer by season’s end.

 

Mariano Rivera/Rolaids Relief Award

This award is probably the easiest to decide as there is one closer who has been heads and shoulders above the rest of the American League. Zach Britton not only leads the American League in saves, but his WHIP and ERA are both below one. Britton has only given up four earned runs all season in 61 innings, meaning every 15 appearances he makes, he gives up one lone run. To put this in perspective, Mariano Rivera’s lowest ERA in a single season was 1.38 (He gave up 12 ER’s in 78 innings), and he is considered one of, if not the best, closer of all time.

Britton has done way more than his expected workload for the season as he has been the best closer in the American League. Photo courtesy of Joy R. Absalon of USA TODAY Sports

Britton has done way more than he was expected to this season as he has been the best closer in the American League. Photo Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon of USA TODAY Sports

Britton has not blown a save all season, and three of his runs came in the first month. This means that in 52 appearances since the beginning of May, he has only given up one earned run. Britton has never been a dominant strikeout guy like Aroldis Chapman, which makes the ERA even more impressive as Britton relies on inducing groundouts. Britton is the only answer to who should win the Mariano Rivera award, regardless if the Orioles snag the last wild card spot or not.

 

Manager of the Year

This answer is not as clear-cut as the Britton one, but I believe there is still only one clear answer for Manager of the Year. Terry Francona has had playoff success in the past with the Red Sox, but nowadays, he has the MLB world buzzing about the Cleveland Indians. The Indians were not expected to win the division by a majority of baseball experts at the beginning of the season, as the Royals were the reigning World Series champs. The Indians were not even expected to make the playoffs, as the AL East was projected to lock up at least one playoff wildcard spot and the Detroit Tigers would have too hot of an offense to be slowed down for the second spot. Buster Olney, Jerry Crasnick, Tim Kurkjian, and Jon Morosi are all experts who predicted that the Indians would not even be in a playoff spot by the end of September.

As of now, however, the Indians are sitting seven games ahead of the second-place team in the AL Central. Francona has a potential Cy Young winner on the staff complemented by more young pitching.  He messed around with a lineup that led to Carlos Santana, a 210 pound first basemen, leading off for the better part of a season. All this culminated in success for a young team that may not win it all this

Francona has a potential Cy Young winner on the staff complemented by more solid, young pitching.  He messed around with a lineup that led to Carlos Santana, a 210-pound first basemen, leading off for the better part of a season. All this culminated in success for a young team that may not win it all this

All of this culminated in success for a young team that may not win it all this year. However, they have the core pieces in place long-termterm success for the better part of the future. The Manager of the Year has the second best record in the MLB, despite rather lackluster preseason expectations for the team headed into the season.

 

All stats courtesy of baseball reference