Cleveland Indians winning streak

A look at the Cleveland Indians’ historic winning streak

In case you have been living under a rock for the past three weeks, the Cleveland Indians have been the hottest team in baseball with a historic winning streak.

On Wednesday, the Indians won their 21st straight game, breaking the Oakland Athletics’ American League record of 20 straight wins and tying the Chicago Cubs record of 21. Last season the Tribe set a franchise record with 14 straight wins and are looking better than ever this year.

During the streak, the Indians have been putting up video game numbers. They have dominated their opponents with incredible pitching and hitting. They have made it a point to strike first and not look back.

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers behind the Indians’ historic streak.

Lights out pitching

It all starts with pitching on the Indians. They lead all of baseball in ERA, strikeouts, complete games and shutouts, while also throwing the fewest walks.

The pitching has been even more dominant during these last 21 games. The Tribe have posted a 1.67 ERA (1.70 by starters), 193 strikeouts and just 36 walks.

The pitching staff has also posted seven shutouts, which is just as many or more than 18 teams have thrown all season. As stated before, the Indians lead the MLB with 19 shutouts. The Dodgers come in second at 14.

The starting rotation has been outstanding and are led by their ace and Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber. Kluber has pitched in four games during the streak and has gone 4-0 with 35 strikeouts and just two walks in 32 innings pitched. Kluber on the season has a record of 16-4 (tied for most wins in AL) with 243 strikeouts (second) and a 2.44 ERA (first).

Cleveland Indians winning streak

Carlos Carrasco has been one of the Indians’ dominant pitchers during this streak. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Carlos Carrasco has also been dominant during this stretch. Carrasco has gone 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched.

Trevor Bauer, who was on the mound when the Indians started this streak, has also been impressive, going 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched.

Mike Clevinger has also gotten in on the fun. In his four starts during the streak, he has gone 4-0 with a 0.38 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 23.2 innings pitched.

Cody Allen and the bullpen have also been fantastic closing games out. Allen has picked up six saves and a win in 10 appearances. He has also thrown 13 strikeouts and allowed zero runs off of five hits.

It all starts and ends with the Indians’ pitching. When you are allowing under two runs every nine innings, the bats don’t have to do too much damage. That hasn’t stopped the Indians from putting up runs on the scoreboard though.

Big bats

The Tribe has not been wasting the good pitching they have gotten. They have been contributing plenty on the offensive end as well with a team batting average of .305.

The Indians have been blowing out their opponents with a run differential over 100. The Tribe has outscored their opponents 139-35 over these 21. They have also only trailed in four of the 189 innings they have played. They have been taking the lead early in the game as they have scored first in 19 of the 21 wins. They have also outscored opponents 68-13 in the first three innings.

It all starts with Francisco Lindor. The switch-hitting shortstop and leadoff man has hit .370 and leads the Indians in hits (30), runs (19), home runs (nine) and RBIs (19). Lindor also hit his 30th home run of the season on Tuesday, which is the most by a shortstop 23 years or younger since Alex Rodriguez hit 42 during the 1999 season as a 23-year-old.

Cleveland Indians winning streak

Jose Ramirez has been proving his case for American League MVP. (Photo by Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Lindor made league and team history with the mark. He joined Hal Trosky and Manny Ramirez as the only players 23 years old or younger to hit 30-plus homers in Indians history. It also tied Jimmy Rollins and Jose Valentin for the most home runs by a switch-hitting shortstop in baseball history.

Speaking of home runs, the Indians have hit 41 home runs during this streak, opposed to 35 runs allowed by the pitching staff. You read that right. 41 home runs hit and 35 runs allowed in 21 games.

Lindor isn’t the only one hitting with fire power. Edwin Encarnacion has hit five homers in this stretch and 34 on the season. Carlos Santana has also hit five of his 23 homers during this streak. Jay Bruce has only hit two during the streak while missing eight games, but also has 34 on the year.

Jose Ramirez has hit eight during the streak and 26 total. Ramirez has been quietly putting up an MVP-caliber season with a .309 batting average, 73 RBIs, 48 doubles and 80 extra-base hits.

Comparison to the A’s and Cubs

How does the Tribe stack up against the last team to win 20-straight games?

Through 20, the Indians posted a 1.60 ERA, .942 OPS and a 102 run differential. The A’s posted a 2.65 ERA, .885 OPS and a 76 run differential.

The A’s went on to finish their season with a 103-59 record and won the AL West. However, they lost the division series to the Minnesota Twins 3-2.

The Chicago Cubs won 21 straight games back in 1935. They finished the year with a 100-54 record, but lost in the World Series to the Detroit Tigers 4-2.

The New York Giants have the record for most straight games without a loss. They won 26 games and had a tie after the 12th win back in 1916. They finished fourth place in the National League that year.

All these teams got hot during the regular season, but couldn’t translate it to a World Series trophy. Even the Los Angeles Dodgers, who started this season off hot, have lost 16 of their last 18 games. They went from a 91-36 record to a 93-52 record. It is still impressive, but they have gone incredibly cold.

Cleveland Indians winning streak

Ryan Merritt has been one of the many Indians to step up and perform when needed. (Photo by Getty Images)

Another impressive thing to note about the Indians’ streak is that they have won all these games without stars like Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Andrew Miller and Danny Salazar. Brantley hasn’t played since Aug. 8 due to an ankle injury. Kipnis has been out since Aug. 23 after reaggrivating a hamstring injury. Miller hasn’t pitched since Aug. 21 due to a knee injury. Salazar returned last week after missing 17 games due to an elbow injury, but only for limited action. The team said he will be coming out of the bullpen the rest of the season.

Rookie center fielder Bradley Zimmer also went down this week with a hand injury and could miss the rest of the season.

Despite all these injuries, the Indians have had many young players step up. Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela, Greg Allen, Erik Gonzalez and Ryan Merritt have all stepped up when needed and helped the Indians continue their elite play.

The Indians are also chasing home field advantage for the World Series as this is the first season in a while in which the winner of the All-Star Game does not get home field advantage. It will be determined by record, and the Indians are currently 3.5 games behind the Dodgers for home field advantage.

The Indians of course are playing for something bigger than a winning streak or even home field advantage. They are looking for redemption after losing the World Series to the Cubs last year after having a 3-1 lead.

It is a long season. A lot can happen in a 21-game stretch. Teams enjoy hot and cold spurts. Will the Indians continue to stay hot? Only time will tell.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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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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2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

With only a week until opening day, it is time to revisit my starting pitcher rankings for 2017. My original rankings can be found at Thegamehaus.com, which were done on January 27th, 2017.

The top 120 starting pitchers have been grouped into eight tiers. The average draft position, (ADP), of each player according to FantasyDraftPros.com, are listed adjacent to the player.

Exceptions include: Rasiel Iglesias (CIN) and David Phelps (MIA) who both will be primarily relievers in 2017.  

 

Tier 1

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Clayton Kershaw looks to return to Cy Young form in 2017 (Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

  • Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Max Scherzer is looking to add hardware to his cabinet in 2017 (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, (13)
  • Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (14)
  • Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets, (18)
  • Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox, (19)
  • Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians, (22)
  • Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers, (39)
  • Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals, (50)

 

 

 

 

Tier 3

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Justin Verlander will hope his 2016 success carries over to 2017. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

  • Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs, (34)
  • Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers, (39)
  • Jake Arrieta, Chicago Chicago, (29)
  • Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants, (41)
  • Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays, (52)
  • Jacob deGrom, New York Mets, (58)
  • Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals, (66)
  • Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians, (59)
  • Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs, (64)
  • Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees, (73)
  • Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers, (79)
  • David Price, Boston Red Sox, (73)

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. (Courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today)

  • Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox, (88)
  • Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox, (91)
  • Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, (99)
  • Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians, (111)
  • Felix Hernandez, Seattle Marines, (115)
  • Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays, (106)
  • Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals, (97)
  • Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates, (91)
  • Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers, (98)
  • Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks, (89)
  • Lance McCullers, Houston Astros, (146)
  • Michael Fullmer, Detroit Tigers, (123)

 

Tier 5

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Marcus Stroman anchors teams USA’s rotation in route to a WBC title. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays, (124)
  • Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers, (114)
  • Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals (139)
  • Steven Matz, New York Mets, (142)
  • Dallas Kuechel, Houston Astros, (122)
  • Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles, (130)
  • John Lackey, St. Louis Cardinals, (136)
  • Jared Eickhoff, Philadelphia Phillies, (217)
  • Matt Harvey, New York Mets, (134)
  • Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates, (150)
  • Jonathan Gray, Colorado Rockies, (176)
  • Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox, (177)
  • Vincent Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies, (179)
  • Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics, (167)
  • Julio Jurias, Los Angeles Dodgers, (180)
  • Jake Ordorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays, (171)
  • Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels, (211)
  • Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals, (195)
  • Drew Smyly, Seattle Mariners, (185)

 

Tier 6

(Courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today)

Michael Pineda has untapped potential, can he progress in 2017?(Courtesy of Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Michael Pineda, New York Yankees, (183)
  • Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks, (204)
  • Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels, (186)
  • James Paxton, Seattle Mariners, (153)
  • Aaron Nola, Philadelphi Phillies, (162)
  • Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants (164)
  • J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays, (168)
  • Matt Moore, San Francisco Giants, (181)
  • Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays, (191)
  • Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox, (208)
  • Taijuan Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks, (211)
  • Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics, (212)

 

Tier 7

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Anthony Desclafani was named the Ace for 2017, although an injury may cause him to begin the year on the DL. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Anthony Desclafani, Cincinnati Reds, (242)
  • Junior Guerra, Milwaukee Brewers, (249)
  • Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals, (263)
  • Collin McHugh, Houston Astros, (253)
  • Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals, (256)
  • Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians, (274)
  • Robert Gsellman, New York Mets, (267)
  • Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates, (268)
  • Joe Ross, Washington Nationals, (224)
  • Jharel Cotton, Oakland Athletics, (240)
  • Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins, (256)
  • Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays, (220)
  • Daniel Norris, Detroit Tigers, (272)
  • Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays, (277)
  • Francisco Liriano, Toronto Blue Jays, (282)
  • Zach Davies, Milwaukee Brewers, (285)
  • Mike Montgomery, Chicago Cubs, (274)
  • Jason Hammel, Kansas City Royals, (278)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners, (235)
  • Jordan Zimmerman, Detroit Tigers, (278)
  • Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates, (254)
  • Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins, (266)
    2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

    Eduardo Rodriguez has made the necessary corrections to start the year with the big club. (Courtesy of Nancy Lane)

  • Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals, (266)
  • Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles, (268)
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox, (295)
  • Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels, (303)
  • Joe Musgrove, Houston Astros, (300)
  • Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies, (310)
  • Dan Straily, Miami Marlins, (312)
  • Brandon Finnegan, Cincinnati Reds, (336)
  • Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks, (376)
  • Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Dodgers, (350)
  • Tyler Chatwood, Colorado Rockies, (361)
  • Adam Conely, Miami Marlins, (321)

 

Tier 8 (The Rest)

  • Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles, (308)
    2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

    Chris Tillman looks to recover from his disastrous second half of 2016. (Courtesy of csnmidatlantic.com)

  • Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals, (341)
  • Edinson Volquez, Miami Marlins, (390)
  • Michael Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves, (298)
  • Jamie Garcia, Atlanta Braves, (338)
  • Steven Wright, Boston Red Sox, (321)
  • Wie-Yin Chen, Miami Marlins, (332)
  • C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees, (361)
  • Clay Buchholz, Philadelphia Phillies, (355)
  • Charlie Morton, Houston Astros, (386)
  • Tyson Ross, Texas Rangers, (314)
  • Andrew Triggs, Oakland Athletics, (358)
  • Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox, (331)
  • Chris Devenski, Houston Astros, (336)
  • Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals, (341)
  • Luis Severino, New York Yankees, (344)
  • Jose De Leon, Tampa Bay Rays, (350)
  • Zack Wheeler, New York Mets, (361)
  • Mike Fiers, Houston Astros, (384)
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, (414)
  • Nathan Karns, Kansas City Royals, (420)
  • Ricky Nolasco, Minnesota Twins, (432)
  • Seth Lugo, New York Mets, (412)

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Intriguing Opening Day Games

April 2, 2017, is the date all baseball fans are looking forward to. Opening Day is less than two weeks away and fans and players are gearing up for the start of the season.

It may be hard to forget all of the Spring Training “news” and prepare for the regular season, but don’t worry. Here you will find every game you need to watch to start off the 2017 MLB season on the right foot. So dust off that ball cap and bust out those peanuts because the regular season is about to begin.

Opening Day

Zack Greinke will look to lead the Diamondbacks to the post season in 2017 (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Francisco Giants

The battle for the NL West begins on Sunday, April 2 at 4:10 p.m. (EST). Many aren’t expecting much from the Diamondbacks this season after a disastrous 69-93 record last season.

They will return in 2017 looking to right the ship. The return of a healthy A.J. Pollock and a deep lineup could be something special in Arizona. Zack Greinke should return to form, and the already good pitching staff added Taijuan Walker. The Diamondbacks are slithering into the 2017 season under the radar.

Arizona is probably off the radar due to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants finished second in the division with a 87-75 record before they were ousted by the team of destiny: the Chicago Cubs.

Don’t think the Giants spent much time licking their wounds. They enter the 2017 season with one of the deepest pitching staffs in all of baseball, crowned by Madison Bumgarner. Pair that with a solid offense and the Giants are poised for another playoff run in 2017.

The starters haven’t been announced yet, Greinke and Bumgarner are projected to start. This marquee match up of aces will be energized by the atmosphere of Opening Day. Look for this matchup to be a defining factor in the NL West playoff race late into the season.

Cleveland Indians vs. Texas Rangers

Opening Day

Edwin Encarnacion will bring his power south of the border this season (Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports).

The Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers are both projected to be among the elite AL teams in 2017. They both had solid playoff runs, but it’s their offseason moves that help make this a must-watch game.

The Indians wasted no time improving their roster after dropping the World Series to the Chicago Cubs 4-3. The addition of slugger Edwin Encarnacion to an already potent lineup makes Cleveland an offensive juggernaut. Cleveland’s deep pitching staff also makes them a force to be reckoned with. No team is perfect, and the Texas Rangers will have the first crack at trying to expose the weaknesses in the Indian’s roster.

The Texas Rangers finished the season with a 95-67 record and earned the AL West crown. The Rangers needed to improve their club after being swept by the Blue Jays in the postseason.

Pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross were brought aboard to stabilize the rotation, and fan-favorite Mike Napoli returns to man first base. They are not as flashy as Encarnacion, but they surely boost Texas’ talent level. The Rangers are set to return to the postseason in 2017, and earning an Opening Day victory sure would help.

Cleveland’s Danny Salazar and Texas’ Yu Darvish are projected to square off on on Monday, April 3 at 7 p.m. (EST). A matchup between two of the top teams in the AL is sure to be informative. How will Encarnacion do in the Indian’s stacked line up? Will Mike Napoli be able to recreate his 2016 season? Those questions won’t be answered Opening Day, but we will be given a glimpse of the answers.

Opening Day

Adam Wainwright has been a mainstay atop the Cardinals’ rotation (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports).

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs are in an odd position after completing their Cinderella season and winning the World Series. Instead of being the hunters, they are now the hunted.

The St. Louis Cardinals will have the first chance to knock off the defending champions on Sunday, April 2 at 8:30 p.m. (EST). The Cardinals finished with 86 wins in 2016, but it wasn’t good enough to earn them a playoff spot. They will look to make the postseason in 2017 with the majority of their roster returning. A deep pitching staff and above average offense will define this team.

The Cubs enter 2017 with sky-high expectations. They boast one of the best cores of young talent in the majors with Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez forming the nucleus of the team. Include veterans like pitcher Jon Lester, outfielder Ben Zobrist and a number of other solid players, and you have the monstrosity that is the Chicago Cubs. They will need every ounce of their talent to repeat their 2016 success due to their tough division.

Lester and St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright are expected to start the game. Both are grizzled veterans and fierce competitors and will give even more of an edge to this rivalry game. Look for both of these teams to battle for the top spot in the division throughout the season.

 

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Why the Indians Will Be World Series Champions

The Indians have surprised many national MLB pundits due to them being national underdogs coming into the playoffs. Despite having the second best record in the American League, the Indians were not the favorites, according to Vegas, against either the Boston Red Sox or the Toronto Blue Jays. Once again, the Indians will assume the title of underdog, as the Chicago Cubs have been the best team in baseball all season. This may be the toughest challenge yet for the Tribe, but I am here to tell you why the Indians will be victors when the dust settles.

It starts with the manager. The Indians have Terry Francona, one of the best managers in the business. Francona has two World Series rings under his belt already from his time managing the Red Sox. He knows what it takes to succeed in the postseason, as seen by his bullpen management in the previous series. Joe Maddon, the Cubs manager, may be one of the top managers as well, but Maddon has never had to manage a World Series game. Any sort of edge helps in the World Series, and Francona’s experience puts him at a higher level than Maddon.

coco-crisp

Coco Crisp has been hot for the Indians this postseason. Considered nothing more than a veteran addition at the waiver deadline, can he keep up the momentum going into the final series? Photo courtesy of cleveland.com

The Indians lineup has been so successful this postseason because the lineup is so balanced. Coco Crisp, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez all provide hitting from both sides of the plate. Switch hitting is important because that means these four hitters cannot be manipulated so the pitcher’s breaking balls break away from the hitter. These four hitters are match-up proof. The Indians have also received home runs from all parts of the lineup this postseason. Coco Crisp, who was picked up at the waiver deadline, had only 2 HR’s in 20 games with the Tribe during the regular season. He has already matched that this postseason, stepping up at key moments to put the Indians ahead in games.

Most important, however, may be the Indians bullpen this postseason. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen have combined this postseason to produce amazing results while being inserted into the game anywhere from the 5th inning to the 9th. Francona has shown that he is not afraid to lean on Miller at the first sign of trouble from one of his young starters. It is a move that is surprising, especially so early in games, but also proven effective this postseason. Miller and Allen have shown that if the Indians’ starter can get through five innings, the dynamic duo can get the Indians through the last four unscathed.

danny-salazar

Danny Salazar had the best k/9 ratio of any of the Indians starters this regular season. He could provide some valuable work in a tired bullpen or potentially start Game 4 for the Tribe. Photo courtesy of Chuck Crow of the Plain Dealer.

All the talk this Pre-World Series has been that the Cubs have added Kyle Schwarber (shoutout Middletown, Ohio) to the 25 man roster to be the designated hitter when at Progressive Field.  The media has not been discussing the return of Yan Gomes and Danny Salazar to the Indians 25 man roster. Yan Gomes will strengthen the weakest position in the lineup, as Roberto Perez has only amassed .174 avg this postseason. Even as just a pinch hit situation, Gomes could provide a lift much like Schwarber can for the Cubs. Salazar’s limit has been set at 60 or 70 pitches, but it could prove vital in either a long relief role or a potential game 4 start.

Finally, the Indians will have home field advantage during the series due to the American League winning the All-Star Game. This may be just something minor, but it gives the Indians the opportunity to establish momentum through the first two games, before being able to play the last two at home (if necessary). It may be just something small, but any edge helps come World Series time.

The Chicago Cubs may have the better team on paper, but the same could be said of the Red Sox and Blue Jays in prior series. The Indians have thrived in their underdog role this postseason and will rely on the experience Terry Francona provides to pull out another championship for Cleveland. The bullpen will be used early and often these upcoming games, so it will be interesting to see how Francona utilizes Miller and Allen as the series unfolds. Combine that bullpen with a lineup that does not rely on one single guy to carry the team, and we could see one last upset this season as the Indians beat the Cubs in six games.

American League Division Race Outlook

There is a month left in the season and there are about ten teams fighting for five spots in the American League (AL). The inclusion of the second wild card spot, though stimulating much debate at the time of introduction, has led to much more excitement down the stretch for fans as competition becomes fierce for the extra playoff spot. It is not just the wild card that is competitive, however, as two of the three divisions are still open to change.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

As of writing, the Toronto Blue Jays are sitting atop the AL East. The Jays have been very hot lately, winning four of their last five games. Josh Donaldson has been putting together a MVP caliber season for the Jays, and yet, this may be the hottest he has been all season with his six homers in the last five games. Bat flip champion Jose Bautista is healthy again and will make the potent lineup even stronger as the postseason looms.

Jose Bautista will forever be remembered in baseball lore for his ALCS Game 5 bat flip after a go ahead three run dinger in the bottom of the 7th inning. Photo courtesy of Chris Young of the CP.

Jose Bautista will forever be remembered in baseball lore for his ALCS (American League Championship Series) Game 5 bat flip after a go ahead three run dinger in the bottom of the 7th inning. Photo courtesy of Chris Young of the CP.

 

Chances are, the Jays should be able to hold off competition to keep a playoff spot, as the offense is just too dominant not to win games this September. The biggest question will be whether the rotation can keep the Jays in the lead in the east. The Jays rotation can be described in one word: inconsistent. The talent is there, but starters R.A. Dickey, Francisco Liriano, Marcus Stroman, and even Marco Estrada lately have been entirely too inconsistent for a team that has World Series aspirations. Look for the Jays to have to lean on their offense and Aaron Sanchez, who is not currently in the rotation due to innings constraints, to force their way into the playoffs. The Jays will get into the playoffs in a wild card spot, as the Red Sox are a more complete team and will catch them by season end.

 

Cleveland Indians

The tribe has all of the pieces that make small market fans salivate. The young stud pitching core is complimented with a successful small ball lineup that is headlined by their middle infielders Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis. Lindor leads the MLB in three hit games this season with twenty-one and is a true cornerstone piece the Indians can build around for the next few years. The Indians also upgraded their bullpen at the deadline, adding one of the best setup men in baseball, Andrew Miller. A complete team on paper, the Tribe seems like a playoff lock, so long as the young team does not run out of fuel down the stretch.

 

Lindor smiling as the postseason moves closer into his grasp. Photo credit courtesy of Ken Blaze at USA Today Sports

Lindor smiling as the postseason moves closer into his grasp. Photo credit courtesy of Ken Blaze at USA Today Sports

Yet the Tribe’s offense has gone cold, producing more than one run in a game once in the past week. Danny Salazar, the best starter for the Indians in the first half of the season, has been sputtering lately and may be sidelined with injury for the foreseeable future. A series with the Twins could be just what the Indians need, however, to right the ship and gain some momentum heading into the home stretch of the regular season. The Indians will hold off the Tigers and Royals and win the AL Central.

 

Texas Rangers

The Rangers are another team that just looks complete on paper. The lineup has the potential for true production from top to bottom, especially after the reinforcements purchased at the trade deadline at a prospect premium. The pitching rotation has two heads at the top, Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish, which can guarantee a quality start for the team. Even the backend of the bullpen has stabilized after starting August rather shaky. Sam Dyson has reeled off three saves in a row and Matt Bush may have been one of the best under the radar signings in the 2016 offseason.

Hamels pitching in incredible form as the postseason looms. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Becker USA Today Sports

Hamels pitching in incredible form as the postseason looms. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Becker USA Today Sports

The Rangers have almost a nine game lead in the AL West, a number that seems rather insurmountable during the last month of the season. Carrying the best record in the AL, the Rangers should breeze into the playoffs and play whoever wins the one game wildcard playoff. The key for the Rangers will be the bullpen, which took a blow with the Jeremy Jeffress DWI. Sam Dyson has managed to pitch pretty well so far in the closer role, but his WHIP (Walks + Hits per innings pitched) has been 1.50 since July and his K:BB ratio (Strikeout vs. Walk Ratio) is 16:9, which shows signs of regression for Dyson. The Rangers do have alternatives though, including the aforementioned Jeffress, Jake Diekman, and Matt Bush who have all pitched very well lately from the bullpen.

 

All stats are courtesy of baseball reference and are as current as 08/31/2016

 

AL Central Weekly: 4/11-4/17

Eric Hosmer is swinging a hot bat for the Royals. Photo courtesy of cjonline.com.

  1.  Kansas City Royals: 8-4, This week: 4-3

The Royals started off the week hot by beating the Astros three out of four games, but then faltered late in the week by losing two out of three to the Athletics. Eric Hosmer had a really hot week, hitting .367 with 4 rbi and 3 runs scored. His hitting is what will lead the way for the Royals for the whole season. Ian Kennedy has been solid on the mound for Kansas City, with 0.66 era and a 2-0 record. This week he had seven innings pitched with only two hits and one run allowed in a win over the Astros.

Upcoming Games: vs. Detroit (3 games), vs. Baltimore (3 games)

Mat Latos had a bad season last year, but has had a hot start. Photo courtesy csnchicago.com.

2. Chicago White Sox: 8-4, This week: 4-2

Chicago won their first four games of the week (three against the Twins and one against the Rays), before losing their last two games to Tampa Bay. Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie have both been carrying the weak White Sox offense, as they hit over .400 for the week. Mat Latos has had a nice bounce back season so far with a 0.75 era and a 2-0 record. In his one start this week he pitched six innings and only allowed one run in the Chicago win over the Twins.

Upcoming Games: vs. LA Angels (4 games), vs. Texas (3 games)

J.D. Martinez is an x-factor for the Tiger offense. Photo courtesy themajors.net.

3. Detroit Tigers: 7-4, This week: 4-3

The Tigers took three out of four from the Pirates to win their first series, but lost two out of three to the Astros to end the week. J.D. Martinez has been the key player for Detroit’s offense this week. He hit .435 with 1 home run and 5 rbi. Jordan Zimmerman has two starts this season for the Tigers and hasn’t given up a run yet. Surprisingly he only has seven strikeouts in his two wins.

Upcoming Games: at Kansas City (3 games), vs. Cleveland (3 games)

Cleveland has been riding the hot arm of Danny Salazar. Photo courtesy cleveland.com.

4. Cleveland Indians: 5-5, This week: 3-3

The Indians only got to play four games in their opening week and split them. In week two they played six and split them again. Jason Kipnis pulled his average up by hitting .368 with one home run and three rbi this week. Danny Salazar leads the team in wins with two and era with a 0.79 mark.

Upcoming Games: vs. Seattle (3 games), at Detroit (3 games)

Trevor Plouffe has given the Twins two great hitters so far, with Joe Mauer.

5. Minnesota Twins: 3-9, This week: 3-3

Minnesota had an 0-6 record after the first week, but played .500 baseball in their second week to rebound. After losing their first nine games the Twins swept the Angels and are now on a hot streak. Joe Mauer still leads the offense, but Trevor Plouffe has chipped in with a .368 average and 4 rbi this week. Ryan Pressly has been the most impressive pitcher this year for the Twins with 7 appearances and no runs allowed. This week he pitched four innings of no run baseball, which helped them get two of the wins against the Angels.

Upcoming Games: vs. Brewers (2 games), at Brewers (2 games), at Nationals (3 games)

Player of the Week: J.D. Martinez

Martinez was an integral part of the Detroit offense this week with his .435 average and 5 rbi. His ability to provide another good bat in the middle of the lineup will make him an x-factor for the rest of the season.