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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Colorado Rockies

Buy or Sell: Colorado Rockies Starting Pitching

The Colorado Rockies play home games in a very unique environment. Their stadium, Coors Field, is located in Denver, Colorado, about one mile above sea level. The altitude factor at Coors Field has been notorious for negatively affecting pitchers and positively affecting hitters.

The two major forces acting upon a baseball are gravitational and frictional force. The gravitational force acts on a baseball by bringing it straight downward and is generally the same in all ballparks. The frictional force is the amount of friction caused by the baseball rubbing against molecules in the air. Due to the altitude at Coors Field, the air molecules are 15 percent less dense than at other ball parks.

For pitchers, this causes fastballs to be faster and curveballs to be flatter, which in theory could be positive or negative for specific pitchers. The Rockies tried to take advantage of this theory in 2001 when they signed 1998 CY Young runner-up Mike Hampton.

At that time, Hampton only threw a fastball, cutter and changeup, which the Rockies’ organization believed would be a successful arsenal for Coors Field. Short story even shorter, Hampton spent two seasons in Colorado and finished his tenure with a 21-28 record, 5.75 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in just over 380 innings pitched.

For hitters, lesser air density results in batted baseballs flying higher and further since there is less air resistance to decelerate the ball. These factors can be the difference between flying out to the warning track or hitting a home run.

Since being established in 1993, the Rockies have had only two Cy Young candidates with Jeff Francis in 2007 and Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010. With this in mind, many fantasy baseball owners disregard Rockies’ pitching.

However, the Rockies are in first place with a 22-13 record, showing that their pitchers may have more to offer than we originally thought.

 

BUY: Antonio Senzatela, RHP

Colorado Rockies

The electric rookie has provided a strong presence for the Rockies (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports).

  • 5-1 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 4.91 K/9

 

Senzatela has quietly been the Rockies’ best player so far. He has managed to compile five quality wins in his first seven starts. He has had trouble striking batters out, but that has never been his motive.

The 22-year-old has a minor-league career record of 41-19 with a 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 6.6 K/9. Senzatela’s transition from the minors to majors could not have gone more smoothly. His arsenal of pitches follows the Rockies blueprint, as he throws a fastball, slider and changeup.

What stands out about Senzatela is his incredible walk rates. His career walk percentage has never been over seven percent. For the analytical gurus, Senzatela’s xFIP is a poor 4.59, and his HR/FB ratio is only average at 8.9 percent. It is understandable to think his numbers are not sustainable, although I disagree.

I believe he has all of the qualities to succeed in Colorado. His arsenal seems suited for Coors Field, and his previous success has been immaculate. The sky is the limit for the Rockies interim ace.

 

SELL: Kyle Freeland, LHP

Colorado Rockies

Kyle Freeland looks to find success in his next start against the Minnesota Twins. (Photo by The Denver Post)

  • 3-2 with a 2.93 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 5.9 K/9

 

Freeland has astounded so far in 2017. However, a drop off in performance should be expected.

The Rockies rookie has a career minor-league record of 17-12 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 6.1 K/9. He has a career ground-ball rate of around 53 percent, although his current ground-ball rate is up at 66 percent. That is sure to drop. Once his ground-ball diminishes back to his career averages, his home run rate is sure to rise.

Also, the 23-year-old has an xFIP of 4.18 and BABIP of .272. Both suggest that his performance will decline soon enough.

 

BUY: Tyler Chatwood, RHP

Colorado Rockies

Tyler Chatwood tosses complete game shut-out against San Francisco. (Photo by Purple Row)

  • 3-4 with a 4.74 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 6.4 K/9

 

Chatwood has been subpar, although a turnaround is imminent. The 27-year-old has a career 4.24 ERA, which is obviously nothing to get too excited over, but he has shown signs of excellence on multiple occasions this season.

He threw a complete game shutout against the San Francisco Giants. He also held the league’s best offense, the Arizona Diamondbacks, to only one earned run in seven innings of work. His main pitches are his fastball and cutter, but he also uses a changeup and curveball to keep hitters off-balance.

Chatwood has a ground-ball rate of 57 percent and an xFIP of 3.87, which shows he is a ground-ball pitcher with average independent fielding stats. As long as he keeps the ball on the ground, he should find success in Colorado.

 

SELL: German Marquez

Colorado Rockies

German Marquez is filling in for injured Jon Gray quite nicely. (Photo by the Denver Post)

  • 1-2 with a 4.88 ERA, 1.29 WHIP and 7.9 K/9

 

Marquez has been very inconsistent in his first four starts after being called up to replace an injured Jon Gray. He has shown multiple signs of excellence, as he carried a no-hitter into the seventh against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. He also shut out the Diamondbacks in six innings on May 30.

The 22-year-old has a minor-league career ERA of 3.61 and has severally struggled with allowing home runs. He has a career home-run-to-fly-ball (HR/FB) ratio of 11.1 percent, which is considered poor. This trend is very worrisome since Coors Field is not forgiving to fly-ball pitchers.

Marquez also relies heavily on his curveball, which does not bode well at Coors Field either. This specific pitch will drop much less in Colorado than at any other big league park.

 

BUY: Tyler Anderson, LHP

Colorado Rockies

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

  • 2-3 with a 6.69 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9

 

Anderson has struggled in all six of his last seven starts. However, I believe it is too early to give up on the 27-year-old. He has a career minor-league ERA of 2.38, WHIP of 1.10 and K/9 of 7.4. Clearly the potential is there, but his early struggles have caused owners to drop him at alarming rates.

The first-round pick in 2011 has faced the Dodgers twice, the Nationals, Giants, Brewers and Diamondbacks so far. Four of these five teams have top-12 scoring offenses, while three of them are ranked one, two and three consecutively.

Anderson’s HR/FB rate is at an astronomical 24.3 percent, which will not sustain itself. Also, his career ground-ball rate is about 49 percent, which is ways apart from his current 40 percent ground-ball rate. His ratios will go back to normal, and he will surely find success this season.

BUY: Jon Gray, RHP

Colorado Rockies

Jon Gray and his lion’s mane currently have no timetable for return. (Photo by of Elise Amendola of the Associated Press.

  • 0-0 with a 4.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and 6.6 K/9

 

Gray finished 2016 in sixth place in the National League Rookie of the Year voting after recording a 10-10 record, 4.61 ERA and 185 strikeouts in 168 innings.

The 25-year-old was slated to be the Rockies ace in 2017, although he is currently on the 10-day disabled list with a stress fracture in his foot. He is without a firm timetable for his return, although he has been actively throwing and will go for a follow-up on his foot this Thursday.

Gray has an immaculate career K/9 of 9.5, which will make him fantasy relevant whenever he steps on the mound. Although foot injuries are usually serious and tend to linger, this may be the time to buy low on a possibly elite fantasy commodity.

 

(Featured image by MLB.com)

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The Future is Bright for the Colorado Rockies

Despite their latest slump, could the Rockies be one of the best out west in the near future?

Despite their latest slump, could the Rockies be one of the best out west in the near future?

As a fan of small market sports, it sucks when a team who is producing does not get the recognition they deserve. The Rockies fit this bill tremendously as a team who deserves more national hype, even if the team has been slumping lately. The Rockies are back 6.5 games in the wild card race while sitting four games under a .500 winning percentage. Despite the potent offense, the lack of strong pitching, especially in the rotation, has been killing the Rockies’ playoff chances. They are not out of the race yet, as there are still plenty of games to be played, but they are currently trending the wrong way. Even if 2016 isn’t the year, the Colorado Rockies future is certainly bright.

Colorado Rockies future

Arenado getting hyped about the potent offense of the Rockies. Image courtesy of MLB.com

If the 2016 season does not play out in the Rockies’ favor, there is still hope for the future. The Rockies have a good core of young studs on offense that can just flat out hit. Nolan Arenado is the centerpiece, but a healthy Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story are just a few of the other heads of the hydra that make the team so potent. That is not including the latest hotshot rookie craze David Dahl, who started his career with a rookie record 17-game hit streak.

Of course, that is just the squad in the majors; the Rockies still have plenty of firepower waiting in the wings. Brendan Rodgers is #7 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline. Drafted out of high school in 2015, he has been tearing the cover off the ball in Single A, hitting 18 homers with a .288/.353/.491 split this season (splits represent batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage). He still has a couple years before the majors, which will give the Rockies time to figure out where to put him with Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu manning the middle of the Rockies infield.

Rodgers isn’t alone, as other players higher up in the farm system have been producing as well. Names like Raimel Tapia (outfielder), Tom Murphy (catcher), and Jordan Patterson (outfielder/first basemen) are a few others who have been producing at a pretty strong clip this season. These names could be up sooner, rather than later, depending on injuries or the weakness of the position at the MLB level. Patterson has been taking reps already at first base in anticipation for the potential to take over there once September rolls around.

There is a reason, however, that the Rockies are still struggling this season. The lack of quality starting pitching at the MLB level is not for a lack of trying, as the Rockies have spent numerous first round picks the past few years on pitchers. Developing pitching takes time though, and it will be interesting to see how the experiment goes for the Rockies.

Colorado Rockies future

Jon Gray and his lion’s mane could be headlining the Rockies rotation for the next half decade. Photo courtesy of Elise Amendola of the Associated Press.

Some of the first rounders are already at the MLB level and actually pitching pretty decently. Jon Gray was drafted in the first round of 2013 MLB draft. Gray has pitched really well for most of the season, before imploding a bit in August. His 9.4 K/9 has been really strong; his 3.1 BB/9 is very good for a rookie pitcher, and all this despite pitching in the hitter’s haven of Coors Field.

Gray is not alone, as Tyler Anderson has made twelve starts as a rookie this season and has held his own as well. His 3.42 ERA supports his great command of his pitches. He does not have superior strike out stuff, but if he can keep the ball on the ground, he can be successful in Coors.

Riley Pint is the latest pitcher to be drafted by the Rockies in the first round. His upside is immense, but high school pitchers are known for being very risky as the player grows and matures. The Rockies Triple-A team is also in the Pacific Coast League, which is notorious for being very difficult for pitchers and tends to inflate hitters’ numbers a little bit. The challenge will be immense for the Rockies to harness Pint and develop him into the front of the rotation pitcher he has the potential to be.

The development of the Rockies’ starters, both in the rotation now and also in the minors, will be the key to the Rockies future. Offense will draw in the fans, but every team needs an elite pitcher in the rotation to take their team all the way. The Rockies have the farm system to potentially trade for one, but the team may want to keep those pieces if the team can believe that the team can turn the prospects into gold. The team has the offensive pieces already in place to succeed in the playoffs, and will have those pieces for the next couple years. Only time will tell whether the front office can find the supplements needed to fill out the rotation and bullpen to help make the Rockies playoff bound in the near future.