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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Ted Williams 2017 market valu

Ted Williams’ 2017 Market Value

In a time when player salaries are increasing to ridiculous levels, what is Ted Williams’ 2017 market value?

Putting aside the three seasons Ted Williams missed (1943-1945) while flying combat missions for the Marines during WWII, it is likely that Williams’ salary would dwarf those of every other ballplayer on earth if he were playing today. In fact, they would be so far apart it is comical to think about. Considering his superior skill at the dish and how much better than every other batter he was, and still is—born and unborn, for, let’s go with eternity—that would be ok by me. It is fair to say Ted Williams’ 2017 market value would be nothing to sneeze at. General Managers around the league would most certainly feel that puckering sensation at the negotiation table.

Ted Williams 2017 market value

Ted Williams and Babe Ruth. What kind of salary would these two be on in 2017? (Photo: Sports Illustrated

For those unfamiliar with Major League Baseball’s rules on free agency, a player is only eligible to become a free agent after he has accrued six seasons of Major League service (or a full season in the bigs). He is also eligible for arbitration after three years of accrued service, but generally arbitration only awards a fraction of what a player can get on the open market.

Cleveland, get ready to pay Francisco Lindor in 2019. And above all, enjoy him while he is not in Yankee pinstripes!

Teddy the Bargain

Salaries in MLB are climbing as 36 ballplayers are set to make at least $20 million for the 2017 season. According to Spotrac, the game’s best pitcher and highest paid player, Clayton Kershaw will take home a cool $35.57 million this season. Considering Kershaw is only asked to play every fifth day it makes me ponder: What would Ted Williams, the finest hitter of all-time, be worth on the free agent market if his contract were up at the end of the 2017 season?

To put things into perspective, in 1942 Ted Williams made $30,000. Also in 1942, Ted Williams won his first of two career triple crowns, putting together a beastly (.356/37/137) campaign.

Just in case the significance is lost here, $30K adjusted for inflation works out to $451,875. Could you imagine paying a triple crown winner that type of dough in today’s extravagant world? There’s little doubt that Williams was probably the best bargain in baseball history at that price.

While you are thinking about that, think about this, Jason Heyward is making $28.16 million this season in Chicago.

Ted Williams 2017 market value

To American League pitchers, it must have sometimes felt as if Ted Williams brought three bats to the plate. (Photo: Getty Images)

Williams, at 23 years of age, surely would have won a landmark arbitration case after the conclusion of 1941. A season in which he plundered American League pitching to the tune of (.406/37/120).

Yes, the money Teddy would have been awarded in his arbitration settlement after his third season in the bigs would have undoubtedly been silly money. But it pales in comparison to the feeding frenzy hot stove season would have become in MLB once he became eligible to test the market. It would almost certainly be the biggest story in sports if it were unfolding right now.

Rise of Big Money Players

In an era of big money in sports, we have seen player salaries rocket skyward in the decades since Nolan Ryan became baseball’s first million-dollar man in 1980. What started with Ryan, baseball’s preeminent strikeout artist at the dawn of the 80’s, came to a close in November 1989 when Minnesota Twins legend and Hall of Famer, Kirby Puckett, put pen to paper becoming baseball’s first $3 million man.

On the heels of that 1989 transaction in Minnesota, Roger Clemens became the sport’s first $5 million player by the spring of 1991. And that’s when player salaries really shot through the roof.

By the end of the 90’s Kevin Brown (remember him?) was baseball’s leading money man, signing up to be the Dodgers’ ace after an improbable run to the 1998 World Series with San Diego. Brown’s contract made him the first $100 million dollar player, on a $15 million per season average.

Ted Williams 2017 market value

Mike Trout digs for third. (Photo: artofbaseball.net)

Enter Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, and Katy bar the door! A-Rod and Manny would become the game’s first $20 million players, signing with the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox respectively.

While this did usher in an era where A-Rod was the highest paid player for the better part of a decade and a half, because of his back-loaded contract, what was happening in effect was the rest of the league was catching up.

The standard would rise again with Mike Trout’s contract extention in 2014 with the Angels making him the first $30 million dollar man. This club has since been joined by David Price, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw.

On a side note, this is the period we saw the introduction of the $5 million a year utility infielder. A damn good gig if you can swing it! But a bad one if you are David Stearns, the young GM of the Milwaukee Brewers.

One thing we can almost be certain about? Ted Williams could have never dreamed of the type of money that modern ballplayers are on and his 2017 market value would be off the charts.

Ted Willams’ 2017 Market Value

How can you even begin to quantify Ted Williams’ 2017 market value? Is it even possible to speculate? I would say we can reasonably assume based on the salaries we see in MLB currently (looking at you, Jason Heyward) that the salary due Ted Williams, if he were playing in front of Fenway’s Green Monster in 2017, would be astoundingly high.

Ted Williams 2017 market value

The notoriously filthy, Clayton Kershaw. (Photo: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)

The notoriously filthy Clayton Kershaw is the game’s highest paid star. Accounting for the fact that a starting pitcher in perfect health plays about 33 games a year, give or take, what is 150 games of Ted Williams worth? Clayton Kershaw is on $35 million a year. Or roughly a million dollars per start, but only if he has perfect health. If he misses time, like he has this year, his cost per start to the Dodgers increases dramatically.

Let’s drop Williams’ three lost years in his early 20’s, and just take 1947 as his true sixth season. Let’s realize that Williams at that point was coming off his second triple crown season (.343/32/114) in 1947.

Let’s realize that this is what you are paying for, (.352/28/125). That line is Williams’ six year statistical averages in the triple crown categories.

Still not impressed? The man had a .488 OBP in that stretch. That’s an average season, folks. Think about what kind of value you might put on a player that reaches base safely in nearly one of two plate appearances for six years! Not surprisingly, this mirrors his MLB record in career OBP (.482). What is the 2017 market value of a player that reaches base safely in just under half of all his plate appearances?

Teddy Ballgame was a one of a kind. And in today’s game, he easily becomes the first $50 million per season man, if not $60 million. I have absolutely no doubts about that.

 

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2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak: Today’s Moneyballers

The Cleveland Indians have now won 21 consecutive games, which is tied for the longest winning streak in MLB history. The last time this happened, a gallon of gas was 10 cents, a loaf of bread was eight cents and the average cost of a new house was $3,450. Yeah, the only other team to win 21 games in a row was the 1935 Chicago Cubs.

2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak

The last time a team won 21 straight, this was in the papers. (Old Car Advertising)

Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers moved the Indians past the 2002 “Moneyball” Oakland Athletics for the American League’s all-time consecutive win streak record.

In certain ways, the 2002 Athletics and 2017 Indians are similar. Both were among the bottom half in payroll, but when it comes to statistics, the 2017 Indians have a clear advantage.

In fact, as of today, the Indians are among the top two in the AL in on base percentage, slugging percentage, weighted runs created plus, adjusted ERA, adjusted FIP, wins above replacement and winning percentage. Among those statistics, winning percentage was the only one that the Athletics were first or second in. This is a dangerous team who can clearly do it all.

So how does a team that ranked 17th in payroll on Opening Day appear virtually unstoppable? Well, in previous articles, we have talked about the keys to building a championship team. Among these holy keys are drafting/signing young studs, smart free agent additions, good trades, a strong starting rotation and a lockdown bullpen. Based on these qualifications, the 2017 Indians look ready to capture their first World Series since 1948.

It is important to note three of their top five paid players, Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis and Andrew Miller. They have spent a lot of time on the DL, which makes the win streak even crazier. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why the Indians are the hottest team in baseball.

Young Studs for not so big bucks

Francisco Lindor, SS

2017 Salary: $579,300 (34th highest paid SS)

.276BA 86R 30HR 78RBI 13SB

Lindor was taken eighth overall by Cleveland in the 2011 MLB June amateur draft. After a somewhat slow start to his 2017 campaign, Lindor has been on a tear. During this outlandish 21-game win streak, Lindor is slashing .364 with a 1.229 OPS, along with nine home runs and 19 RBIs. In only his third season, Lindor is turning into a superstar, and one of the best all-around players this game has to offer.

Lucky for the Indians, drafting Lindor could turn out to be one of the best moves this team has made in years. Since he is still in the pre-arbitration part of his career, Lindor is making less than $600K. Here are a few players at his position, and their statistics, who are a tad wealthier.

Troy Tulowitski SS, Toronto Blue Jays

2017 Salary: 20,000,000

In 66 games: .249BA 16R 7HR 26RBI

Brandon Crawford SS, San Francisco Giants

2017 Salary: 8,200,000

 

2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak

All Smiles for Jose Ramirez (USA Today)

In 129 Games: .247BA .297OBP 13 HR

 

Jose Ramirez, 2B, 3B

2017 Salary: $571,400 with a $400,000 signing bonus (28th highest paid 3B)

In 138 Games: .309BA 94R 26HR 73RBI 15SB

As a Red Sox fan, I am patiently waiting for this guy to get caught with some sort of HGH. But seriously, Jose Ramirez is a legit MVP threat. He leads the Indians in batting average, slugging percentage and runs, as well as leading all of baseball in doubles with 47. Ramirez is also extremely versatile, starting 88 games at third, and 57 at second. In his second season as an everyday player, the 24-year-old has shown that he is deserving of his five-year contract extension that he signed in March.

Comparisons:

Todd Frazier, 3B, New York Yankees

2017 Salary: 12,000,000

In 131 Games: .209BA .337OBP

Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

2017 Salary: 13,000,000

In 142 Games: .264BA .318OBP

Elite Starting Pitching

Carlos Carrasco– 15-6 201K 3.41ERA (2017 Salary: $6,500,00)

Mike Clevinger– 10-5 3.21ERA (2017 Salary: $535,000)

Trevor Bauer– (last 30 days) 6-0 2.87ERA 10.51K/9 (2017 Salary: $3,550,000)

The total 2017 salary of these three Indians pitchers is $10,585,000. Johnny Cueto (4.58 ERA), Rick Porcello (4.64 ERA) and James Shields (5.40 ERA) are all making over $20,000,000 this year.

Corey Kluber– Frontrunner for the AL CY Young

Did I mention the Klubot? Yes, Corey Kluber is more like a robot than he is a human. In 2017, Kluber is 16-4 with a 2.44 ERA, 243 strikeouts and an insane .191 BAA. Not only does he lead the league in wins and ERA, Kluber is also first in complete games, shutouts, ERA+ and WHIP.

Lockdown Bullpen

Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Zach McAllister, Andrew Miller and Nick Goody are all holding opposing hitters to a .240 BA or below. In the last 30 days, Dan Otero has an ERA of 0.71. During that same span, Bryan Shaw has a .229 BAA and a K/9 of 13.5. This bullpen is just filthy right now, and with Andrew Miller coming back in the near future, the Indians may never lose again.

Key Signings/Trades

Edwin Encarnacion: Signed this past offseason

2017 Cleveland Indians winning streak

EDWING (BleacherReport)

In 141 Games: 87R 34HR 88RBI

Encarnacion has been everything that the Indians hoped for. In the last 15 days, Encarnacion is hitting .327 with 12RBI.

Jay Bruce: 8/9/17 Traded by the New York Mets to the Cleveland Indians for Ryder Ryan

2017 Season: 33HR 90RBI

In 26 games with the Indians, Bruce has hit four home runs, and driven in 15. With major injuries to the outfield, Bruce will play a key role down the stretch.

Conclusion

No one is really overpaid on this team, and the players are playing out of their minds. With smart drafting, outstanding pitching and good offseason/in-season moves, it is no surprise the Indians are in first place. Today, Cleveland looks to make it 22 straight against Jake Junis and the Kansas City Royals.

 

Featured image by NPR.org

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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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Jose Ramirez MVP

Where is the love for Jose Ramirez?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone is missing

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

Jose Ramirez MVP

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

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

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

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

Ramirez’s stats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where is the love?

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

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

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

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

Jose Ramirez MVP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Featured image by Jason Miller/Getty Images

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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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Fantasy Baseball Buy Low Targets

Fantasy baseball 2017: Buy low targets

In fantasy baseball, the best time to trade for a player is when their value is at its lowest point. The buy low theory is clearly the best way to acquire top-tier talent for fairly cheap prices. Below are four players that could be considered buy low targets, as they offer immense upside despite their current levels of performance.

Manny Machado, Third Base/Shortstop, Baltimore Orioles

Fantasy Baseball 2017 Buy Low Targets

Manny Machado is on pace for 35 home runs, but his low batting average makes him a perfect buy low target. (Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images).

Machado’s 2017 campaign has not gone as planned. After batting over .285 with at least 35 home runs in his two previous seasons, he was considered one of the top 10 fantasy hitters in the game. So far in 2017, he is batting only .224 with a raised strikeout rate by over four percent.

His career BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, is .303, although his current BABIP sits at a mere .234. BABIP tends to represent whether a hitter is getting lucky or unlucky. According to fangraphs.com, a BABIP “in the .230 range is very atypical for a major league hitter”, so for Machado, it is clear he is getting extremely unlucky.

His home run totals have sustained as he has an ISO, or isolated power, of .224 and is on pace for 35 home runs. If you have an opportunity to pick up Machado, as his value seems to be at its deepest point, now is the time.

Francisco Lindor, Shortstop, Cleveland Indians

Lindor had gotten off to a slow start in 2017. His current BABIP of .251 is quite far off from his career BABIP of .315. This is negatively affecting his batting average as he is currently batting .255, whereas he is a career .295 hitter.

The 23-year-old’s strikeout rate has continued to drop in every consecutive season which shows how he is progressing as a hitter. Also, his ISO is an amazing .227 and his HR/FB rate is a fairly sustainable 13.3 percent, showing that his power seems sustainable.

Lindor will surely set a career high in home runs this season as he is currently on pace for 32. If you can get your hands on Lindor while his value is still low, it will be an incredible steal as his performance is sure to improve.

Rougned Odor, Second Base, Texas Rangers

Fantasy Baseball 2017 Buy Low Targets

Rougned Odor had an extremely slow start in 2017. (Photo by MLB Trade Rumors)

Odor’s struggles were very real in 2017, as he had been batting under the Mendoza line for about three months. So far in June, he is batting .228, although his BABIP remains under .240, suggesting he is in line for major progression as his career BABIP sits around .281.

In 2016, Odor exploded onto the scene, hitting 33 home runs and stealing 14 bases while batting .271. Odor’s current .212 batting average is due to be on the rise because of his extremely low BABIP.

If you can pick up Odor now before his performance improves, you will have found yourself a top-tier fantasy asset, as he has the potential to be a great producer of home runs, RBIs, runs and steals.

Kyle Schwarber, Outfield, Chicago Cubs

Schwarber was recently sent down to Triple-A Iowa to clear his head and improve his approach. According to reports, the minor league stint shouldn’t be long, although it is well deserved. The 24-year-old is slashing a poor .171/.295/.378 with 12 home runs and 28 RBI.

His production has been solid even while batting well under the Mendoza line. His .193 BABIP suggests that he is getting absurdly unlucky, as he currently has the lowest BABIP in the MLB out of qualified batters.

His value has declined due to his current struggles and demotion, so now is the time to make a move for the former fourth overall pick.

 

Featured image by David Klutho

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MLB Rookies

The Rookie’s Rise to Stardom

In a game with one of the biggest learning curves in sports, rookies have surprisingly been doing well. Baseball has had a number of young players develop into stars in recent seasons.

To fully comprehend this shift in the game, we must first examine how players make it from being a prospect in the minor leagues to making it to the show.

From Prospect to Pro

MLB Rookies

Even top picks like Colorado’s Brendan Rodgers must pay their dues in the minors (GJ Sentinel).

Major League Baseball is vastly different from the NFL and NBA when it comes to rookies. While there is no limit to how long a player must wait to be signed professionally, baseball still averages the oldest rookies of all three of the major sports.

That is due to the way the game is played. To be successful in the majors, most players need to be at their peak of maturation, normally around 24 to 25 years old. Being fully developed allows baseball players to utilize their bodies to the fullest.

Unlike the NFL or NBA where players can rely on physical talent alone, baseball requires a honed set of skills. It doesn’t matter if you can hit a fastball 450 feet. If you can’t handle a breaking ball, you will fail in the majors.

That is why baseball has such an advanced minor league system. The combination of developing a player’s physical and mental capabilities to be successful in the majors takes time. The average rookie last year was 24 years old, giving credence to the time it takes to develop. However, what happens when players start breaking the mold, and advance beyond our wildest dreams?

2012: just the beginning

MLB Rookies

Mike Trout and Bryce Harper transformed the way rookies played in 2012 (nbcsports.com).

The Rookie of the Year award has always been the bar that rookies strive for. However, not all ROY winners are made the same.

From 2007-2011, ROY winners averaged 3.1 wins above replacement (WAR). Baseball Reference rates that as better than an average starter in the majors, proving that the ROY winners were truly something special.

Many have noted the increase of rookie production in the past few years, and the numbers certainly support that. From 2012-2016, ROY winners have averaged 5.4 WAR. That is a staggering jump in production, and evidence of a new age dawning in baseball.

This trend really began in 2012 with a pair of ROY winners: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Both players had been premium draft picks for their respective teams, but it was Harper that was seen as the next big thing in baseball.

Some players fold under such lofty expectations, but Harper flourished. He put up 5.2 WAR in his rookie year, topping all NL ROY winners since 2007 by at least 1.3 WAR. If Harper signaled a shift in the way rookies played, Trout was the zenith of their potential.

No one saw what Trout had in store. At 20 years old in his rookie season, he blew away the competition with a staggering 10.8 WAR. That is MVP type production, and earned him a second place finish in the 2012 AL MVP voting. While it may be unfair to compare Trout to other rookies due to his Hall of Fame trajectory, his fast start should not be diminished. Even so, Trout and Harper were only the beginning, setting the stage for other acts to follow.

continued success

MLB Rookies

Even Nolan Arenado, one of the games best young players, couldn’t take home the ROY award. (The Denver Post).

Since that fateful 2012 season, the way we view rookies has never been the same. That’s not just Trout and Harper’s doing either.

The rookies that have followed have helped carry their success into new seasons. Seemingly gone are the days when players like Dustin Pedroia could put up 3.9 WAR in 2007 and bring home the ROY award. Pedroia’s 2007 season would have been good enough for the third most WAR by a rookie in 2016. A new type of player is taking over the majors, and they are raising the bar of rookie performance.

Never before have we seen such young players perform so well so quickly. The NL has had two ROY winners in a row post seasons of 6.0 WAR or higher: Kris Bryant in 2015 (6.1 WAR) and Corey Seager in 2016 (6.0 WAR).

From 2007-2011, five of the 10 ROY winners posted WAR over 3.5 in their rookie years. From 2012-2016, eight of the 10 ROY winners have posted WAR over 3.5 in their rookie years. ROY of course is not the be all end all of the story of growing rookie dominance.

We saw 11 rookies post seasons of 2.5 WAR or higher last year, compared to the 2007 season in which only six rookies reached the 2.5 WAR milestone. Players like Nolan Arenado, Trea Turner, Francisco Lindor and Gary Sanchez all had rookie seasons of at least 3.0 WAR, and still weren’t able to bring home the ROY award. It will only become more difficult to bring home the ROY award with the rise in production of rookies.

The way the game is being played is changing. Younger, less-experienced players are taking over the game. Don’t let their lack of experience fool you. These young studs will dominate the game for years to come. The youth movement in baseball is upon us, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down soon.

 

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History of the Game: Cleveland Indians

While the Cleveland Indians were within striking distance of winning the 2016 World Series, it was all for naught. The first entry into the History of the Game series covered the Chicago Cubs. And what better place to continue our series than with the Cleveland Indians. They put up a strong 2016 season and are off to a great start in 2017. But how did they get here? Let’s take an in-depth look at the history of the Indians, starting in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Cleveland Indians History

Nap Lajoie was a star for the Cleveland Indians (baseballhall.org).

From Humble Beginnings (1900-1920)

Baseball had long been a tradition in Cleveland since the mid 1850s. But the origins of the Cleveland Indians date much later, beginning at the turn of the century. After the Grand Rapids Rustlers moved to Cleveland in 1900, the changed their name to the Cleveland Lake Shores. Soon after their league changed it’s name from the Western League to the American League and established itself as a competing Major League, and the Lake Shores became the Cleveland Blue Birds. But baseball in Cleveland was in its infancy, and was already facing dire financial troubles.

But after acquiring Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie from the A’s in 1902, the Blue Birds began to see record crowds. Lajoie anchored some strong Blue Bird lineups until he was sold back to the A’s in 1915, signaling a major shift in the organization. Shoeless Joe Jackson was also shown the door in 1915, being traded halfway through the season to compensate for owner Charles Somers’ poor business ventures. But the moves never paid off for Somers, and he sold the team in 1916 to James C. Dunn. Under new ownership, manager Lee Fohl would make some moves that would drastically impact the Indians fortunes.

It was Fohl who acquired pitchers Stan Coveleski and Jim Bagby to go along with outfielder Tris Speaker in 1915 to form the nucleus of Cleveland’s first championship roster. Speaker took the reigns as player-manager in 1919 and quickly led the Indians to glory. The 1920 season would be the banner year for the young ball club, reaching their first World Series. But to get there, the Indians had to rely on one of the most infamous scandals in baseball history.

With Cleveland and Chicago neck and neck for first place, the Chicago Black Sox scandal came to the forefront. With eight Black Sox players benched for the season, Cleveland cruised to the playoffs. They handled the Brooklyn Robins soundly in the World Series, claiming the title 5-2.

Valleys and a Mountain (1921-1949)

Cleveland Indians History

Larry Doby made history for the Indians as the first African American to play in the AL (letsgotribe.com)

Even with the Indians dominance in the 1920 World Series, it would be short lived. The Yankees were on the rise, led by slugger Babe Ruth. The Indians would fall to the bottom of the pack, and by the 1930s were a perennial bottom feeder. But 1936 brought new hope to a disheartened fan base. A 17 year old from Iowa would carry the hopes of a franchise on his shoulders. Bob Feller came to the Indians with a dominant fastball, and put it to good use. Feller would lead the league in strikeouts from 1938-1941, providing Cleveland with a true ace. He would combine with Ken Keltner, Mel Harder and Lou Boudreau to lead the Indians to one game of the pennant in 1940. But dissension in the clubhouse led to the Indians downfall.

Change would come under the ownership of Bill Veek. Veek headed an investment group that would purchase the Indians in 1946. He would quickly change the fortunes of the franchise, moving them to Cleveland Municipal Stadium to take advantage of a massive fan base. Veek would also make baseball history, signing the first African American player in the American League. Larry Doby was signed in 1947 amid much controversy. But Doby would be vital to the Indians in 1948, posting a .301 batting average that season. He would also be joined by another Negro League player that season, Satchel Paige.

The 42 year old Page dominated in his time with the Indians that season, going 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA. Doby and Page helped lead Cleveland back to the World Series, beating the Boston Red Sox in a one game playoff to reach the World Series. They would best the Boston Braves 4-2 in the series to win their first World Series title since 1920. But after Veek sold the team in 1949, the Indians would again find themselves out of the playoff picture for years to come.

Cleveland Indians History

Ricky Colavito is still remembered in Cleveland, but not for what he did on the field (wahoosonfirst.com)

Treading Water (1950-1993)

After several changes in ownership, the Indians would put it all together in 1954. Doby and Feller were still effective players in 1954, and were supported by players like Minnie Minoso, Bobby Avila and Earl Wynn. The talented core would make baseball history, posting a 111-43 record in 1954. Their .721 winning percentage is still the best ever in the American League. But a record season wasn’t enough to bring Cleveland its third championship. The New York Giants would make quick work of the Indians in the World Series, supported by Willie Mays’ over the shoulder catch in Game 1 of the series. The team would hold onto most of it’s talent until the 1960s, when time would eventually catch up to the Indians star players.

The 1960s-1990s were lean years for Indians fans, able to finish only fourth or better seven times in a span of over 30 years. The 1960s would be defined by one trade, a curse that would follow them for years. Skipper Frank Lane earned a reputation for pulling off numerous trades, but none so defining like his trade of Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers. The Curse of Rocky Colavito would haunt the Indians for years, long after both Lane and Colavito moved on from the Indians. But the 1960s did provide some bright spots for fans, with Indians pitchers setting new strikeout records in the decade.

The 1970s would prove to be about the same for the Indians. Poor trades continued, with future stars like Dennis Eckersley and Graig Nettles all making the trip out of Cleveland. But there were two moments that defined the 1970s for the Indians. Frank Robinson was brought on to be the first African American manager in Major League Baseball history in 1975, and Cleveland experienced a night unlike any other. In an attempt to drum up more fans, the Indians implemented the ill-fated 10 Cent Beer Night. The Indians had to forfeit their contest against the Texas Rangers that night, but gained one of the most memorable events in sports history.

The 1980s brought more hardships for Indians fans, but little did they know, brighter times were just ahead.

A Triumphant Return (1994-Present)

Cleveland Indians History

Francisco Lindor leads the Indians resurgence (Jason Miller, Getty Images North America)

The return to glory began in the early 1990s with, oddly enough, a series of trades. After numerous horrible trades, the Indians pulled of some excellent trades. Sandy Alomar Jr., Kenny Lofton and Carlos Baerga were brought in to Cleveland, and made an immediate impact. After not winning the AL Pennant since 1954, the Indians made it back to the World Series, but were bested by the Atlanta Braves. Their success continued for the remainder of the 1990s and into the 2000s. But after Mark Shapiro took over in 2001, the Indians began to rebuild.

After trading away aging veterans, the Indians moves began to pay off in 2005 as they bested everyone’s expectations and finished the season 93-69. They were lead by C.C. Sabathia and Grady Sizemore. But after competing in 2006 and 2007, the Indians began to fall out of contention in 2008. Shapiro would again begin to rebuild, landing the Indians future starters like Michael Brantley, Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco. But the Indians would have to wait until 2013 for their rebuild to start showing dividends. Terry Francona was named the manager for the 2013 season, and the Indians began to return to their dominant form.

The Indians made it to the 2013 AL Wild Card game, but were ousted by the Tampa Bay Rays. It wouldn’t be until 2016 when they would return to the playoffs. But as many Indians fans can tell you, it was worth the wait. The Indians lost the 2016 World Series to the Chicago Cubs, but are set for the foreseeable future. With young stars like Francisco Lindor supported by Corey Kluber, Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion, the Indians will be in contention for years to come.

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World Baseball Classic Bracketology: Predicting the Semi-Finals

After an exhilarating first round in the World Baseball Classic, eight teams move on to the second round. With a few favorites and a few underdogs moving on, there is something for everyone. But as the competition grows more fierce, the cream of the crop will rise to the top. Who will make it out of the second round and make the coveted trip to Los Angeles? Pool E and Pool F have  plenty of talent, but only two teams from each pool will be able to say they are one of the four best national teams in the world. All records and standings are accurate as of March 14th.

Pool E

World Baseball Classic

Aoki brings a WBC championship pedigree to team Japan, winning the WBC championship in 2009 (Brad Mangin).

Japan (5-0 WBC Record)

After mashing their way through Pool B, Japan emerged with a decisive 3-0 record. After scoring 22 runs while giving up only eight in three games, Japan seems to be firing on all cylinders. And they have carried over that momentum into Pool E, running up their winning streak to five games. Supported by Astros outfielder Nori Aoki, NPB slugger Tetsuto Yamata and a 2-0 record in Pool E, Japan should already have their flight booked for Los Angeles.

The Netherlands (3-2 WBC Record)

As one of the four teams in Pool E, the Netherlands earned their spot with a solid 2-1 record in Pool A. Powered by the Ranger’s Jurickson Profar and Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious, the Netherlands was able to produce just enough offense to squeak by Chinese Taipei and score five runs against Korea. But with an offensive explosion that has brought them a 1-1 record in Pool E, their offensive woes seem to be long gone.

Israel (4-1 WBC Record)

With one of the deepest grouping of teams in WBC history, Israel stands out among Japan, the Netherlands and Cuba. But they have certainly earned their place in Pool E. They torched their way through Pool A, putting up an impressive 3-0 record. And they have held their own in Pool E, going 1-1. Jason Marquis and Nate Freiman hope to continue their strong play, as they have bolstered Israel up to this point. But with so much deep competition, Israel will need to play above their talent level to move on. And up to this point, they have.

Cuba (2-3 WBC Record)

Cuba has long been a national powerhouse in the baseball world. And after putting up a 2-1 record in Pool B, they earned their spot in the second round. But their performance in Pool B had many questioning Cuba, and it has only gotten worse since second round play has begun. With Cuba barely able to overcome upstart Australia 4-3 in Pool B, the doubt began to creep in. Cuba’s pitching has been their downfall, with Bladimir Banos and Yoennis Yera letting them down. And that has carried over to the second round with Cuba putting up a 0-2 record.

Pool E Representatives in Semis: Japan and Israel

Japan is just stacked across the board, with MLB players and NPB stars carrying the national team. Their 5-0 overall record in WBC play proves their depth, as they have beaten teams with relative ease. Surprise contender Israel is not far behind, with a 4-1 record in WBC play. They have advanced farther and done better than many thought they would. But don’t think their run is over, as Israel has the potential to be this WBC’s Cinderella.

Pool F

Dominican Republic (3-0 WBC Record)

World Baseball Classic

Robinson Cano led the Dominican Republic to the championship in 2013 (Al Bello/Getty Images).

As one of the most stacked squads in the WBC, the Dominican Republic certainly did not disappoint in Pool C. Their undefeated record (3-0) was the best of the Pool C competitors, and landed them a spot in the second round. With MLB stars like Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and Robinson Cano, to just name a few, dotting the roster, the Dominican Republic scored 26 runs in round one of the tournament. If they can keep their offense clicking, don’t expect the Dominican Republic to experience a loss anytime soon.

Puerto Rico (3-0 WBC Record)

Another undefeated team, another talent-rich roster. They rode their impressive MLB talent to a perfect 3-0 record in Pool D, besting each team they faced. With the likes of Carlos Beltran. Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa, their talent level is off the charts. They dominated offensively in Pool D, scoring 29 runs. That kind of offensive production is some of the best in the WBC. But don’t think Puerto Rico will run out of gas soon. Their offensive depth drives this club, and they are one of the heavy favorites to move on to the semis.

United States (2-1 WBC Record)

With the top professional baseball league in the world, you would expect the United States to dominate the WBC every year. But with MLB getting so much of it’s talent from all over the world, the United States has to recruit other MLB players to don their nation’s colors. Even so, the talent on the United States roster rivals any other team in the WBC. With Andrew McCutchen, Nolan Arenado and Buster Posey headlining the roster, the United States pummeled north of the border rival Canada 8-0 and eked out a close 3-2 win over Colombia in the first round. Their offense and pitching staff are deep, and they will need every bit of that depth to move on to the next round.

Venezuela (2-2 WBC Record)

After beating Italy 4-3 in the Pool D tiebreaker, Venezuela moved on to the second round. While they have been playing .500 ball in the tournament, they will look to their stars to turn it on in Pool F. With players like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Rougned Odor, Venezuela certainly has the talent to compete in the second round. But they will need to tie it all together, as they were outscored 23-24 in Pool F. If Venezuela’s pitching staff can perform well, the offense will be able to power them all the way to the Championship Round.

Pool F Representatives in Semis: Dominican Republic and United States

The talent for the Dominican Republic is undeniable, and it’s that talent that will drive them to the Championship Round. They boast legitimate MLB stars both on the mound and at the plate. This balance in talent gives the Dominican Republic a massive advantage over some of the other teams in the WBC. But one of those teams is not the United States. Their only loss so far was to, you guessed it, the Dominican Republic. Even so, the offensive firepower of the United States lineup is deafening. And with all of the quality arms skipper Jim Leyland has to call on, a Championship Round appearance seems likely for the United States.

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