World Series

Five World Series match ups we want to see

Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Indians

World Series

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

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

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

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

 

New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series

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

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

Houston Astros vs Los Angels Dodgers

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

Washington Nationals vs Houston Astros

World Series

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

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

Cubs vs Red Sox

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

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

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

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The Minnesota Twins proved the MLB is the best sport

MLB> NFL, NBA

Before the start of the NFL season, we already knew a few teams that had no shot at winning the Super Bowl, never mind clinching a spot in the postseason. Once the season began, the Bears, 49ers and Browns all had virtually no chance of making the playoffs.

The NBA is even worse. Due to the super teams, only a handful of squads have an opportunity to reach the Finals. According to ESPN’s NBA Basketball Power Index, the Lakers, Kings, Suns, Pacers, Knicks, Nets, Hawks and Bulls have less than a five percent chance to make the postseason. Keep in mind the season has not even started, and eight teams are already considered irrelevant. Another 12 or so teams, who could make the playoffs, have little to no chance at winning the championship.

2016 was a year to forget for Joe Mauer and the Twins (AaronGleeman.com)

In 2016, with a record of 59-103, the Minnesota Twins finished with the worst record in baseball. Today, the Twins will be playing the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. Minnesota became the second team in MLB history to have the number one pick in the MLB Draft and make the playoffs in the same year.

The 2008 Rays, who competed in the World Series, were the only other team to accomplish this outlandish feat. The Twins are also the first team to lose 100 games and then go to the playoffs the next year.

Imagine if the Nets or Browns made the playoffs this year. Except, what the Twins did is even crazier because in the NBA, 53.3 percent of teams make the postseason, and in the NFL, 37.5 percent make it. Only 33 percent of the 30 MLB teams get the chance to compete in October.

A 59-win team just made the playoffs the next year, with essentially the same exact roster. America’s pastime allows all 30 franchises to have a shot at reaching the postseason, while the other major sports can eliminate teams before the first game. So how exactly did the Twins manage to do this?

They learned how to field

At the end of the 2016 MLB season, the Minnesota Twins tallied 126 errors, which was good for worst in the league. In just 80 games on the field, Miguel Sano led the team with 18 errors. In 60 games, Jorge Polanco was right behind Sano, racking up 15.

This season, Minnesota finished first in the AL in fielding percentage. They made 48 less errors than in 2016. In 88 games, Sano cut his errors in half. Max Kepler and Byron Buxton both finished in the top five in total zone runs for their positions. According to Baseball Reference’s definition, total zone runs is “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.”

The best defensive centerfielder, Byron Buxton (Star Tribune)

A major factor for the Twins having the opportunity to play the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS is Byron Buxton. Defensively, nobody is better in centerfield than the 23-year-old from Georgia.

The former number two overall pick in the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, Buxton led all centerfielders in total zone runs, and finished third in defensive runs saved (DRS), which is, “how many runs a player saved or hurt his team in the field compared to the average player at his position” (Fangraphs). Buxton’s 24 DRS was the most among centerfielders. The Twins 2016 leader in DRS was Joe Mauer, with six.

Nobody covers more ground than this kid. Buxton’s .951 Revised Zone Rating, or “the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out” was the best in the majors (Hardball Times). He also ranked top five in out of zone plays, OOZ, which measure the number of plays a fielder makes on balls that were considered out of his zone.

Byron Buxton’s 2017 Defensive Ranks

STATISTIC RANK AMONG CF’S
DEFENSIVE WAR 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
DEFENSIVE RUNS SAVED 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
REVIZED ZONE RATING 1ST (1ST OVERALL)
OUT OF ZONE PLAYS 2ND (5TH OVERALL)
RANGE RUNS 1ST (2ND OVERALL)
PLUS MINUS RUNS SAVED 1ST (3RD OVERALL)
TOTAL ZONE RUNS 1ST (1ST OVERALL)

 

They hit for a better averagE

Last year’s Twins team really wasn’t that bad on offense. For all AL teams, they finished fifth in steals, fifth in walks, fourth in doubles, eighth in homers and first in triples. The problems stemmed from their averages, as well as an inability to score with runners on.

Minnesota finished 11th in batting average in and 11th in on base percentage in 2016. In 2017, the Twins finished fourth in both of those categories. Miguel Sano, who finished last year with a .236 batting average, ended the year at .264. The legend, Joe Mauer, had a rough 2016 and only hit .261. This year, Mauer led Minnesota with a .305 batting average. Buxton’s average also rose nearly 30 points.

Eddie Rosario took the biggest leap of all the Twins. In 2016, Rosario hit .269 with only 10 home runs and 32 RBIs. His breakout 2017 stat line included a .290 average, 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.

2016-2017 Minnesota Twins Offensive Ranks

 

STATISTIC 2016 AL RANK 2017 AL RANK
RUNS 9TH 3RD
SLUGGING PERCENTGAE 9TH 6TH
BATTING AVERAGE 11TH 4TH
OBP 11TH 4TH
RUNS WITH MEN IN SCORING POSITION AND TWO OUTS 14TH 3RD
BATTING AVERAGE WITH RUNNERS ON 13TH 4TH
BATTING AVERAGE WITH BASED LOADED 15TH 2ND

 

The Pitching improved

The 2016 Twins finished dead last in the AL in hits allowed, runs allowed, home runs allowed, earned runs, shutouts and saves. In regards to saves, the Twins only had 26 of them, and converted a save 56.6 percent of the time. It’s pretty hard to be worse than that.

5 complete games, 3 shoutouts for Ervin Santana (Sporting News)

This year’s Twins pitchers weren’t great, but they were much better. After posting a 5.08 ERA in 2016, they bounced back with a 4.59 ERA, which isn’t great, but they were able to knock off about half a run per game. The bullpen racked up 40 saves, and converted 66.7 percent of them.

Ervin Santana was the Twins’ best pitcher in 2017. He finished the year 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA. He was the only Twins pitcher to throw over 200 innings. The Twins finished second in the AL in complete games and shutouts. Santana ranked first in the league with five complete games, and also first in shutouts with three.

The Magical Run continues

With virtually the same roster, the Minnesota Twins were able to win 27 more games than they did in 2016. The MLB is the only sport in which the worst team of the previous year can make a run at the postseason with the same players. In a power surge year, the Twins only hit six more home runs this year than in 2016. The pitching was pretty similar both years, and the only thing that changed offensively was timely hitting.

Minnesota, who started the year 22nd in payroll, have a tough task going up against the New York Yankees, who currently rank second in payroll. Fortunately, this is the MLB, and anything can happen in a one game playoff. Ervin Santana will be on the bump, facing Luis Severino. Whether Minnesota wins or loses, their season was an absolute success, and proved that every team has a shot in the MLB. It is fair to say that coach Paul Molitor will be earning a few votes for AL Manager of the Year.

 

Featured image by MPR News

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MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

MLB Postseason 2017 wild card bonanza

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

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

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

Minnesota @ New York  

Probable starters:

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

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

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

Why Minnesota wins:

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

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

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

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

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

Why New York wins:

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

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

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

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

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

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

My pick:

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

 

Colorado @ Arizona

Probable Starters:

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

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

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

Why Colorado wins:

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

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

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

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

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

Why Arizona wins:

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

MLB Postseason 2017 Wild Card Bonanza

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

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

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

My pick:

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

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Boston CBS)

 

 

 

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The race to the top: The AL Wild Card

As the trade deadline draws nearer, teams have to determine if they will be buyers or sellers. The separation between the two is pretty evident in the National League (minus the NL Central). But with six teams within two games of the last American League Wild Card spot, the race is wide open. Even so, only two teams make it to the Wild Card game. Let’s take a look at the top four teams vying for the coveted Wild Card berths and determine if they have what it takes to make it to the playoffs.

New York Yankees (44-37)

AL Wild Card

C.C. Sabathia has been a key contributor in the Yankees rotation (Kathy Willens/Associated Press).

Current Wild Card Standing: 1st Wild Card

After spending the majority of the season atop the AL East standings, a rough patch has left them two and a half games back of the Boston Red Sox. Even so, the Bronx Bombers are making a comeback, with an offense that can rival any team in the American League. Just look at the numbers; fourth-best team batting average in the majors (.269), fourth-most home runs (125), and second-best on base percentage (.347). That also included AL MVP front-runner Aaron Judge, who has buoyed the Yankees offense.

The pitching staff has also performed well. With the sixth-best team ERA in the majors (3.93), fifth-best WHIP (1.24), and fourth-best batting average against (.237), the Yankees are a complete team. Even though team ace Masahiro Tanaka has struggled this season with a 5.56 ERA. Jordan Montgomery and C.C. Sabathia have been key contributors for Joe Girardi. And with Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman in the ‘pen, the Yankees can hold a lead as well as anyone. Look for them to be a lock for the AL Wild Card and to contend for the AL East for the remainder of the season.

Tampa Bay Rays (43-41)

Current Wild Card Standing: Tied for 2nd Wild Card

AL Wild Card

Corey Dickerson has been an excellent addition to a surprising Rays’ offense (mlb.com).

Even occupying the second Wild Card spot hasn’t been enough to earn the Rays the attention they deserve. But with only one player making the AL All-Star roster (Corey Dickerson), the Rays have relied on timely hitting and clutch pitching so far. The offense’s strength has been power, with the second-most home runs in the majors (128) and seventh-best slugging percentage (.447). Even though the offense has the ability to bludgeon opponents, it hasn’t had to. The pitching staff has done more than hold its own this season.

Ranking in 11th place in the majors in team ERA (4.18), WHIP (1.31) and tied for ninth in batting average against (.250), the pitching staff has given the offense plenty of opportunities to win games. Chris Archer and Alex Cobb have both had average seasons so far, and will need to turn it on down the stretch to ensure the Rays stay in contention. But if rookie Jacob Faria can maintain his 2.23 ERA, the pressure on Archer and Cobb will be vastly diminished. The Rays should hover around the top of the Wild Card standings and could make a run for the top spot.

Kansas City Royals (42-40)

AL Wild Card

Jason Vargas has put up a Cy Young caliber season in Kansas City (mlb.com).

Current Wild Card Standing: Tied for 2nd Wild Card

Of all of the teams in contention for the AL Wild Card, the Royals are the most interesting. Just two years removed from winning the Fall Classic, the majority of the championship roster remains intact. Although the team has a World Series pedigree, the offense has been sub-par. Ranking 20th in the majors in team batting average (.251), 29th in on base percentage (.303) and 22nd in slugging (.414) doesn’t bode well for their playoff hopes. Even strong seasons from Lorenzo Cain and All-Star starter Salvador Perez haven’t been enough to right the offense.

The pitching staff has fared better than the offense, but not by much. With the 13th best team ERA in baseball (4.26), 18th best WHIP (1.37) and 19th best batting average against (.260), the pitching staff has been below league average. The bright spot in the rotation has been Jason Vargas, who is a legitimate AL Cy Young candidate. Vargas and Danny Duffy have carried the pitching staff, but it’s not nearly enough to keep the Royals in contention. With a tough division and even tougher Wild Card race, the Royals don’t have enough to contend. Look for them to be big sellers at the trade deadline and gear up for a long rebuild.

Minnesota Twins (42-40)

Current Wild Card Standing: Tied for 2nd Wild Card

AL Wild Card

Sano has been terrific this season, earning his first All-Star appearance (mlb.com).

After years of rebuilding, the Twins are trying to turn promise into playoffs. But so far, the results have been mixed. Miguel Sano has turned into an All-Star third baseman, while second baseman Brian Dozier has put up an average season. Their contributions have led to the Twins 18th best team batting average in the majors (.252), 10th best on base percentage (.328) and 23rd best slugging percentage (.413). Even with a middling offense, it has driven the team’s success so far, as the pitching staff has struggled.

Ranking in the bottom third of the majors in team ERA (4.88, 27th), WHIP (1.44, 26th) and batting average against (.269, 26th) has kept the Twins from being true contenders in the AL. Even with Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios pitching well, the remainder of the Twins’ staff has let the team down. The Twins are in a precarious position; too young to rebuild but not quite good enough to be serious contenders. They could add a pitcher at the deadline, but it wouldn’t make much difference in a competitive AL Wild Card race. The Twins will ride out the remainder of the season and finish around the .500 mark.

Feature image by John Sleezer, TNS. 

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Biggest surprises of the 2017 MLB Season

Biggest Surprises of the 2017 MLB Season

This Major League Baseball season has brought many big surprises. One being that MLB hitters are on pace to hit about 500 more home runs this season than ever before. With this in mind, it’s time to look at five players who have been the biggest surprises of the 2017 MLB season.

Ryan Zimmerman, First Baseman, Washington Nationals

Biggest surprises 2017 MLB Season

Ryan Zimmerman is finally healthy and on pace for over 40 home runs in 2017. (Photo by Nick Wass/Associated Press)

At 32 years old, Zimmerman is having a career year. He is currently ranked within the top 10 in National League home runs, RBI and batting average.

Unfortunately, he has been riddled with injuries in the last three seasons, as he hasn’t played in 140 games since he was 28 years old in 2013. In 115 games in 2016, Zimmerman batted only .218 with 15 home runs.

Now finally 100 percent healthy, Zimmerman is batting .337 and is on pace to set a career-high with 40-plus home runs. He has been an integral piece to the Nationals league-best offense.

Ervin Santana, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

Santana was suspended for 80 games in 2015 after testing positive for PEDs. Post-suspension, he managed to have a solid 2016 campaign, as he mustered up a 7-11 record with a 3.38 ERA in 181 innings.

Due to Minnesota’s newfound success in 2017, Santana has a 10-5 record and sports an impressive 3.07 ERA. The analytics would suggest he is getting fairly lucky, as his FIP is 4.71 and xFIP is 4.86, although as they say, “it’s better to be lucky than good”, and in this case, Santana has been both.

Aaron Judge, Outfielder, New York Yankees

Biggest surprises 2017 MLB Season

Judge has become the best power hitter in baseball in 2017. (Photo by The New York Daily News)

Judge’s first major league stint came in August of 2016. He struggled mightily in his first 27 games, batting a mere .179 and striking out 44 percent of the time. Many questions arose to whether Judge’s raw power would translate to the major league level.

He has since proved all doubters wrong, as he is batting .326 with a league-leading 27 home runs and 62 RBIs. He has set the Statcast record for hardest hit home run at 121.1 mph, while also having the farthest home run recorded in 2017 at 495 feet and highest average exit velocity at 96.9 mph. The 25-year-old has officially emerged as an elite ballplayer and will continue to impress for years to come.

Jason Vargas, Starting Pitcher, Kansas City Royals

Vargas tore his UCL in 2015 which caused him to miss almost the entire 2016 season. After over a full calendar year of recovery, Vargas is back and playing better than ever.

He currently has a league-best 12 wins with a 2.22 ERA. The 34-year-old is in line to make his first All-Star team in his 12-year career.

Cody Bellinger, First Basemen/Outfield, Los Angeles Dodgers

Biggest surprises 2017 MLB Season

Cody Bellinger has been the most pleasant surprise of 2017. (Photo by Dodgers Photo Blog)

Bellinger had been tearing the cover off of the ball in the minors, hitting a combined 56 home runs and 174 RBIs in 245 games at three different levels. He was called up in late April after the Dodgers placed outfielders Joc Pederson and Franklin Gutierrez on the disabled list.

With a slew of outfielders including Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Scott Van Slyke, Kike Hernandez, Brett Eibner and Trayce Thompson along with the aforementioned Pederson and Gutierrez, Bellinger wasn’t expected to stick with the club, but rather be a short-term replacement.

The 21-year-old had different plans, as he took his opportunity and ran with it. Bellinger is currently batting .267 with an NL-high 24 home runs and 56 RBIs. The young phenomenon has been arguably the biggest surprise of 2017, as he has made a severe impact on a first-place Dodgers team that didn’t expect to see him until September call-ups.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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Fantasy Baseball Sell High Targets

Fantasy baseball 2017: Sell high targets

In fantasy baseball, it’s important to take advantage of selling high on players, rather than riding out their hot streaks until their value begins to fall. In the past, we have seen players like Joc Pederson be nearly untradeable after hitting 20 bombs in the first half of his rookie season, although his value dropped immensely after his batting average and home run totals plummeted in the second half.

On Saturday, I listed some players that you should buy low on in trade talks. Today, we’ll talk about who to ship away.

The following players may be having incredible seasons, but their values are clearly at their peak, making them perfect sell high targets.

Aaron Judge, Outfielder, New York Yankees

Fantasy Baseball 2017 Sell High Targets

It is time to sell high on Judge’s immense value. (Photo by The New York Daily News)

Judge has become one of the premier power hitters in the MLB, although now is the time to cash in. He is currently batting .328 with 26 home runs and 64 RBIs. If you were to move him now, you could likely get yourself an ace caliber pitcher in return, possibly a Chris Sale, Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw.

The 25-year-old’s BABIP of .420, or batting average on balls in play, is extremely unsustainable and has dropped about .13 points in the last seven days. Also, his HR/FB rate is at an astronomical 42 percent, which is also clearly unsustainable.

His batting average will drop and his home run pace will slow down. If you want to take advantage of Judge’s exorbitant trade value, now is the time.

Editor’s note: You can find more information on why Aaron Judge is a player to sell in this in-depth article.

Gio Gonzalez, Starting Pitcher, Washington Nationals

Gonzalez is having arguably his best season since 2012 when he finished third in the National League Cy Young voting. He is currently sporting a 2.96 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and an 8.30 K/9.

Even with the recently found success, this is the prime time to sell high on the 31-year-old. His left on base percentage is an unsustainable 85 percent, whereas his career rate is 73 percent. Gonzalez’s BABIP also seems unsustainable, as his career mark sits at .296 and his current mark is .268. Finally, his FIP of 4.28 is considered below average and his xFIP of 4.38 is considered poor.

Gonzalez seems to be getting very lucky in a multitude of ways. I would sell high before he is once again considered simply a streamer.

Marcel Ozuna, Outfielder, Miami Marlins

Fantasy Baseball 2017 Sell High Targets

Marcell Ozuna is notoriously a poor second half player. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

Ozuna has begun to emerged as one of the league’s best power hitters. So far in 2017, he is batting .320 with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs.

His career BABIP is .323, although his current BABIP sits at .355, suggesting that his batting average is bound to regress. Also, his current isolated power, or ISO, is .260 and his HR/FB rate is 29 percent, which both seem unsustainable as his career ISO is .175 and career HR/FB rate is 14 percent.

All of the analytics point towards regression, but if you also look at Ozuna’s track record of being a very poor second half player, it will make it easy to move on from the 26-year-old slugger.

On the career, his first half stats are .285 with 59 home runs, whereas his second half batting average is .243 with only 20 home runs. Now would be the time to move Ozuna before he likely burns out.

Ervin Santana, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

Santana is blatantly a sell high candidate. He is currently 9-4 with a 2.97 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and a 6.66 K/9.

His FIP of 4.81 and xFIP of 4.93 are considered poor and awful by fangraphs.com, showing that the fielders behind him have kept his ratios afloat. The 34-year-old’s BABIP of .190 is the lowest among qualified starters and is absolutely unsustainable. Also, his left on base percentage is 85 percent, which is about 12 percent higher than his career rate.

There is no doubt in my mind that Santana’s performance is bound to regress, so now would be the optimal time to sell.

 

Featured Image by MLB.com

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Pujols

Albert Pujols Appreciation Piece

Last Saturday night, Los Angeles Angels first basemen, Albert Pujols, hit his 600th career home run in style, a no doubt Grand Slam. Pujols is no stranger to Grand Slams, as this one, off Twins ace Ervin Santana, was his 14th of his career. Behind in the count 1-2, Pujols became the ninth member of the 600 club, and fourth youngest of those nine. Now, a week later, it is weird that Pujols did not nearly receive the amount of love from the media like he should have. All in all, it is time to acknowledge one thing, Albert Pujols is one of the best MLB players of all time.

THE FACTS

Let’s just start out with the facts. After being drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB June Amateur Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Pujols quickly found success and never looked back. In 2001, as a 21-year-old kid, Albert won the NL Rookie of the Year award. His ridiculous .329/37/130 stat line put him in the conversation for MVP. From 2001-2010, Albert Pujols had one of the greatest ten year stretches in the history of the sport. In each of the first ten years of his career, Pujols was able to maintain above a .300 average, hit 30 or more homers, and drive in over 100 RBI.

The only other player to put up those numbers for more than 10 seasons was Babe Ruth, who played in a time where one pitcher threw the whole game and there were only 8 teams in the league, but that is a story for a different day. Only three players in the history of the game maintained a career .300 average or better, hit 600 + home runs, and drove in over 1850 runs: Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and assuming he keeps his .308 career average up, Jose Alberto Pujols will become the fourth.

Pujols celebrating after Game 7 of the 2011 World Series (NewsOK)

The three time MVP is also an extremely clutch player. In 77 career playoff games, “The Machine” has posted a batting average of .323, launched 19 home runs (4th all time), and driven in 54 runs (6th all time), including an unforgettable three home run game in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. Because of his elite play, Albert helped his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals, win two World Series Championships (2006, 2011). On top of the clutch factor, Pujols is also a two-time Gold Glove award winner.

The GOAT at 1B?

I could even go as far to say that Albert Pujols is the best first basemen this league has ever seen. The only other players in contention would be Lou Gehrig, who played in Ruth’s era, and Stan Musial, who some would consider primarily an outfielder. Gehrig, as great as he was, only finished in the top 3 MVP voting four times. Pujols, who played in the heart of the steroid era, has eight top 3 finishes. Musial, who is one of the greatest Cardinals to ever play, had six seasons in which he hit 30 or more home runs. “The Machine” has 14 and counting.

 Off the Diamond

Off the field, Pujols has been nothing short of spectacular.  Before meeting Albert, Deidre, now Mrs. Pujols, had  given birth to a daughter named Isabella. At a young age, Isabella was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. In 2005, with the help of Deidre, Albert created the Pujols Family Foundation. While the main focus of the foundation is to raise money in implementing awareness and hope for those families affected by Down Syndrome, the Pujols family has also shifted their focus in assisting in the education, living, and medical fields for the less fortunate citizens of the Dominican Republic. Every year tons of families get their children dressed up and head off to the Pujols Family Foundation’s annual prom for Down Syndrome kids. Surprisingly, Albert is also a great dancer, and someone who will always show off his moves at the prom.

Pujols during the annual Pujols Family Foundation prom. (Stltoday.com)

Where is the Love?

So why do we, as a society, not acknowledge Albert Pujols’ greatness? A class act on and off the field, who has consistently dominated arguably the most difficult professional sport. What is there not to love? Recently, ESPN came out with the “World Fame 100”, which is a list of the world’s 100 most famous athletes. The order was based off endorsements with social media following and amount of searches on the internet. Shockingly, not one professional baseball player made the list. Why?

There is a list of reasons as to why baseball players are not as popular as they should be. The obvious one being the fact that the game is not intense enough, compared to other major sports. The game is too boring for kids, and can often be expensive for parents. It is not a sport where it is acceptable to show some flash, like you see with Odell Beckham Jr, or Stephen Curry. The season is so long that people often lose interest in April and will start watching again in October. Not only are there less viewers, but of the people who do watch, half of them are over the age of 50.

Whether you like baseball or not, one thing to realize is this, what Albert Pujols has done over his career is absolutely astonishing. A sure first ballot Hall of Famer, Pujols has defined what it means to be consistent, while acting like a true professional, on and off the diamond. When asked about chasing Barry Bonds’ home run record, Pujols said “I hope I get the opportunity. It would be so special.” (USA TODAY Sports) As a fan of the game, I would love to see him play for a couple more years and chase 762. No one would deserve it more than Albert Pujols.

Featured image by SI.com

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Fantasy Baseball 2017

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 9th – April 15th)

In week two of our fantasy baseball 2017 update, we will continue to notify owners about which players are hot, or cold, and whether they will continue to trend in that direction. The week one fantasy update can be found at thegamehaus.com.

 

Who’s Hot

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Marcell Ozuna is off to a red hot start in 2017. (Courtesy of Walsh Sports Analytics)

Marcell Ozuna, Center Fielder/Left Fielder, Miami Marlins

 

  • 7 for 22 with 4 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 11 RBI

 

Ozuna struggled through March and April in 2016, but rebounded to finish with a .307 batting average in the first half. He finished the 2016 season batting .266, after a .209 second half, which shows that he is a streaky hitter. So far in 2017, Ozuna is making the most of his opportunities. When batting while ahead in the count, the 26-year-old is hitting .500. The Marlins’ slugger is thriving in the sixth spot in the batting order this season, as he is the National League leader in RBI.

His hot start can be contributed to his inflated isolated power and walk rates, although there is no reason to say this cannot continue moving forward. He is currently top 15 in five major hitting categories, (BA, RBI, HR, SLG, OBP), and if you are lucky enough to have him on your roster, you will continue to reap the benefits.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Ervin Santana goes nine strong, allowing only one hit and one walk. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Ervin Santana, Starting Pitcher, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 2-0 allowing 0 earned runs, 3 hits, and 3 walks in 15 IP with 12 Ks

 

After being suspended in 2015 for violating MLB’s drug policy, Santana rebounded with a fairly successful 2016 campaign, resulting in a 7-11 record, 3.38 ERA, and 149 strikeouts in 181 1/3 innings pitched. The 13-year veteran is off to red hot start in 2017, currently being 3-0, with a minuscule 0.41 ERA, and 15 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched. The fastball, slider, change-up pitcher has found profound success, as he has managed to allow only 20% hard contact on batted balls this season, which is excellent for a starting pitcher.

The 34-year-old has found some of Johan Santana’s left over mojo in Minnesota, as he managed to pitch a complete game, one hitter, in his last outing. The fact that he has yet to struggle in any of his first three starts gives me confidence to trust him moving forward. Santana may see himself traded to a contender if the Twins begin to struggle, which could help Santana’s fantasy value rise even further.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Eric Thames’ success in the KBO is translating quite smoothly to the MLB. (Courtesy of Madison.com)

Eric Thames, Left Field/First Base, Milwaukee Brewers

 

  • 8 for 18 with 7 runs scored, 4 home runs, and 7 RBI

 

Former KBO star Eric Thames is coming off of three consecutive 37 plus home runs and 120 RBI. Obviously, we can’t expect anything even close to this level of production out of the Brewer in 2017, although he is off to quite a start. The 30-year-old is currently batting .382, which is sure to fall, although he has mashed four home runs in his last four games. The KBO MVP may have found a home in Milwaukee, as he is playing nearly every day at first base, while also being comfortable occasionally moving to left field.

Thames will continue to see playing time, as Milwaukee is invested in him for the long term. Thames has issues striking out, although in today’s game, striking out is not a deal-breaker, especially when you match them with home runs.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

James Paxton is anchoring down a struggling Seattle rotation. (Courtesy of Generated by IJG JPEG Library)

James Paxton, Starting Pitcher, Seattle Mariners

 

  • 2-0 allowing 0 earned runs, 6 hits, and 3 walks in 15 IP with 17 Ks

 

Paxton has yet to make 30 starts in a season, as he made a career high 20 last season, resulting in a 3.79 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings. The 26-year-old is having a breakout 2017 campaign, as he is currently 2-0 with 22 strikeouts, without letting up an earned run in 21 innings pitched. He has worked in his curveball at a 10% higher rate than in previous seasons, which has helped him increase his strikeout rate.

The Mariners’ offense is currently struggling, although with their stacked lineup, they are sure to turn things around. Paxton is sure to set career bests in wins and ERA this season. He has never logged more than 121 innings in a season, so struggles down the line are sure to occur, although he is off to the hottest start among lower profile pitchers this season.

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Aaron Judge looks to lead the way for rookie mashers. (Courtesy of NJ.com)

Aaron Judge, Right Fielder, New York Yankees

  • 6 for 18 with 5 runs scored, 3 home runs, and 6 RBI

 

The Yankees rookie had struggled when originally called up in 2016, as he batted a mere .179 in 27 games. His 2017 campaign has gotten off to solid start, as he has already hit three home runs in his first ten games. The 24-year-old is currently the league leader in highest exit velocity this season, with a ball going 116.5 MPH.

Judge is a great young talent, although he is not a great hitter for average and struggles with strikeouts, making me believe his success will be short lived this season. I would sell high on Judge in 2017.

 

Who’s Cold

Josh Bell looks to help the Pirates get back on track in 2017. (Courtesy of Rumbunter.com)

Josh Bell, First Baseman, Pittsburgh Pirates

 

  • 3 for 21 with 1 run scored, 0 home runs, and 1 RBI

 

Josh Bell’s best attributes are his approach and plate discipline, although he has begun the season batting a mere .156. In five minor league seasons, Bell has batted .303 with 44 home runs, showing he has the potential to be a very productive asset at the top half of the Pirates lineup.

The 24-year-old has similar upside to Brandon Belt, although, Bell will continue to lose playing time to counter-part John Jaso if his struggles continue. He is worth riding out in dynasty or keeper formats, although it may be time to go in another direction in traditional formats.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Jose Quintana will bring a strong presence to team Colombia (Getty Images North America).

Jose Quintana, Starting Pitcher, Chicago White Sox

 

  • 0-2 allowing 7 earned runs, 14 hits, 6 walks in 12 IP with 12 Ks

 

Yet to record a victory, White Sox ace Quintana has had some severe struggles. The 28-year-old has allowed 13 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings pitched, while striking out 14. The White Sox are sure to struggle all year, although Quintana should find success within his next few starts.

He has a career 3.47 ERA and has struck out over 160 batters in his last four seasons. Quintana has quietly been one of the league’s most consistent pitchers since 2012, and should have no problem overcoming his early struggles in 2017.

 

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Dexter Fowler is the leadoff man the Cardinals were looking for, although his cold start is unnerving.(Courtesy of Viva El Birdos)

 

 

Dexter Fowler, Center Fielder, St. Louis Cardinals

 

  • 2 for 24 with 4 runs scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI

 

The veteran center fielder is off to an atrocious start in 2017, batting .137 with seven runs scored, zero RBI, zero home runs, and one steal. The Cardinals leadoff hitter has yet to make a real impact on the stat sheet, although success is sure to come soon for the 31-year-old.

He has a career .270 average, and will be a threat to score 100 runs a top a talented and hungry Cardinals lineup which missed the playoffs in 2016 for the first time since 2010. Fowler will be a solid producer in batting average, runs, and stolen bases as the season continues. The only caveat with Fowler is his inability to stay on the field, as he has only reached the 150-game mark once in his nine-year career. Besides his health problems, owners should be confident in Fowler turning it around sometime in the near future.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Tyler Anderson is a young stud off to a rough start in 2017. (Courtesy of Purple Row)

Tyler Anderson, Starting Pitcher, Colorado Rockies

 

  • 0-2 allowing 9 earned runs, 10 hits, 5 walks in 9 IP with 4 Ks

 

Anderson has also struggled mightily in 2017, having an ERA of 8.59 in three starts. He has yet to log six or more innings in a game this season, which is due to his brutal WHIP of 1.64, as he cannot keep batters off of base.  He has made two of his three starts at Coors field, so it may be too early to ride off the 27-year-old.

Anderson has a career 2.38 ERA in 358 2/3 innings in the minor leagues. He is not a huge strikeout pitcher, as his career K/9 is just 7.5, but he has plenty of success at recording outs in the past. In 2016, Anderson recorded a 3.54 ERA at the major-league level, although he had an astounding 3.00 ERA at home, which is unheard of for a Rockies pitcher. All the signs point up for Anderson, who will have a long leash as the Rockies have a severe lack of starting pitching in 2017.

 

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Devon Travis may be feeling the lingering affects of his knee wurgery from 2016. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Devon Travis, Second Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

 

  • 1 for 19 with 1 run scored, 0 home runs, and 0 RBI

 

Travis has been ice cold in first month of the 2017 season, which has been a common occurrence with many Blue Jays. He has only four hits in nine games, with zero going for extra bases. He has also struck out ten times, which puts him at a pace to set a career high.

Travis had missed 60 games in 2016 due to a knee injury, which may be contributing to his struggles this season. The 26-year-old was benched for his last two games, and had even been moved down to the nine spot in the batting order, taking away his at bats and scoring chances. Travis has shown flashes of great potential in the past, although 2017 does not seem like his year.

 

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Major League Baseball Weekly Wrap-Up: Opening Week

The experience of an opening day is like few others in sports. There is something truly special about the crack of the bat after a long winter. A new season means new hope and the chance at unforeseen excitement from around the league.

162 games is a haul, but opening week always presents a reminder of the great things to come every year. This year is certainly no different. The Game Haus is committed to highlighting all the action from around baseball all season long, starting with Opening Week.

Off to the Races

A few teams always seem to start hot out of the blocks. With many games to be played, there is certainly no crowning of a champion yet. However, for fans around the league, it’s hard not to get excited about a great start. Here are a few teams that have emerged quickly out of the gates.

Colorado Rockies

MLB Opening WeekThe Colorado Rockies are off to a hot start with five quick wins under their belt. They are tied for the best record in the MLB with the equally hot Diamondbacks. The NL West looks extremely exciting.

Nolan Arenado has led the charge, treating fans to a ninth inning shot giving Colorado an early season 2-1 win.

Later in the week, Clayton Kershaw experienced the power of this offense after giving up back-to-back home runs to Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra.

We knew the offense was going to be good, but up to this point, the pitching has been impressive as well. A solid young rotation and the resurgence of Greg Holland makes this Rockies team look incredibly promising in 2017.

Baltimore Orioles

Mark Trumbo showed everyone just why he was worth that contract in an opening day display. He blasted a walk-off home run in an 11-inning showdown with Toronto to help Baltimore set the tone early. The power on this Orioles team is unquestioned, but it was the pitching that presented the biggest unknown.

This Orioles’ staff has collectively posted a 3.64 ERA through five games. With Chris Tillman out, the remainder of the rotation was thought to be suspect at best. This hasn’t stopped Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy from picking up the slack and putting on impressive displays in week one. Look out AL East. Don’t sleep on the Orioles.

Minnesota Twins

MLB Opening Week

The hot start in the Central belongs to the defending AL champions, right? Not quite. Minnesota currently leads the Central and is tied for the most wins in the AL with five.

The Twins weren’t exactly saddled with high expectations to start the season, but this doesn’t seem to bother Minnesota. So what’s going on?

The return of Ervin Santana has certainly helped to anchor the rotation, and the bullpen has shown surprising upside. Names like Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and Byron Buxton should give Twins fans something to be excited about.

If veterans Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer can lead the way for these young players, the Twins may end up much better off than originally thought.

The Twins haven’t exactly played world beaters in the Royals and the White Sox, but a W is a W, and you can’t take those away.

 

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AL Central Weekly: 4/3/16-4/10/16

The first week of the American League Central wasn’t complete as there were a lot of games cancelled, but there was still a lot of baseball played. Here is how the week went for the teams in the AL Central:

Mike Moustakas’ bat has been solid for the Royals so far. Photo courtesy dromfhg.top.

  1. Kansas City Royals 4-1

The Royals had a solid opening week to the season. In their opening series, they split games with the New York Mets in a rematch of the World Series. They followed that up by sweeping the Minnesota Twins. Kansas City has only scored 19 runs this season, but have only allowed 11 through their first five games.

Mike Moustakas has been the best player on offense so far for the Royals, hitting two home runs and totaling three RBIs on 12 total bases.

The pitcher of the week for Kansas City, as will be the case a lot of weeks, is Wade Davis. He has yet to give up an earned run and notched two saves already.

Upcoming games: at Houston (4 games), at Oakland (3 games)

Ian Kinsler is hitting over .400 so far this season. Photo courtesy bcsn.tv.

2.  Detroit Tigers 3-1

Detroit beat the Marlins in the first two games of their season and then split two games with the Yankees. They had one of their games against the Yankees postponed.

Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler are both hitting over .400 on the season, which could be one of the best offenses in baseball this season.

The best pitcher for the Tigers has been new acquisition Jordan Zimmerman, who only gave up two hits and no runs against the Yankees. If he can continue to pitch well, the Tigers may be able to get into the playoffs.

Upcoming games: vs. Pittsburgh (2 games), at Pittsburgh (2 games), at Houston (3 games)

Adam Eaton can be a lethal lead off hitter. Photo courtesy m.mlb.com.

3. Chicago White Sox 4-2

The White Sox had their first game of the season postponed against the Indians and split the remaining two games. They then took three out of four from the A’s on the road. They have the fifth-best offense in the AL Central thus far with 24 runs scored, but have played six games, which is tied for most in the division.

Adam Eaton has been a spark-plug for the offense, hitting .450 with an OBP of .500.

Chris Sale has two wins already for the pitching staff and Mat Latos has a win and no runs allowed in one start.

At 4-2, the White Sox have had a solid start to what could be a promising season.

Upcoming games: at Minnesota (3 games), at Tampa Bay (3 games)

Francisco Lindor has picked up the slack for the injured Michael Brantley. Photo courtesy cleveland.com.

4. Cleveland Indians 2-2

Cleveland has had three games postponed already this season, two against the Red Sox and one against the White Sox.

Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are both hitting above .300 to lead the Tribe. Their offense has been good, as they have scored 19 runs thus far, but they have already given up 20 runs on the short season.

Joba Chamberlain has two quality appearances where he hasn’t allowed a run.

So far the Indians are coping well without Michael Brantley, who is due to return from injury soon.

Upcoming games: at Tampa Bay (3 games), vs. New York Mets (3 games)

Joe Mauer has been crushing the ball in the first week of the season. Photo courtesy cotternews.com.

5. Minnesota Twins 0-6

The start to the season has been rough for the Twins. They were swept by the Orioles and the Royals.

Joe Mauer has been a force on offense. He leads the Twins in average, OBP, HR, RBIs and hits.

Ervin Santana has been a bright spot for the pitching staff with two starts with a 2.25 ERA.

Upcoming games: vs. Chicago White Sox (3 games), vs. Los Angeles Angels (3 games)

Chris Sale has two wins to lead the White Sox at this point. Photo courtesy sportingnews.com.

Player of the Week: Chris Sale, SP, White Sox

Sale had two wins in the opening week and has the White Sox in good position to compete.