2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

The Yankees fought to be here

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

Didi Gregorius smacked two dingers to lift the Yankees to the ALCS on Wednesday (WKYC)

Didi Gregorius and the New York Yankees stormed back against the Indians to move on to the ALCS on Wednesday. They found themselves in a 2-0 hole without any hope. Joe Girardi’s job even seemed to be on the line. After some questionable decisions early in the series, many were expecting him to have one foot out the door.

Just like they did in the Wild Card game, New York fought its way back to find themselves in the ALCS for the first time since 2012. While there were some offensive heroes such as Greg Bird, Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner, the Yankees won in large part thanks to outstanding pitching.

With their backs up against the wall, their starting pitchers in the last three games of the series turned in 18.1 innings with just five earned runs and 25 strikeouts. They made the Cleveland offense look foolish. On top of that, Aroldis Chapman shut down the Indians’ season for the second year in a row.

What already seems to be forgotten is how the Yankees battled their way in the Wild Card game. They were down quick to the Cinderella Twins, giving up three runs in the first 1/3 innings. They quickly responded though and Joe Girardi played a bullpen game for the ages.

Houston has New York’s number

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

Altuve has proven why he was the best hitter in baseball in 2017 (Yahoo Sports)

The Astros managed to go an impressive 5-2 against the Yankees during the regular season. What was especially impressive was that they managed to average 6.14 runs per game this season against the Bronx Bombers.

Houston played a great series against Boston and clicked on all cylinders. Their offense looked as good as ever and will be a challenge for New York to slow down. The Yankees’ pitching staff has had to work much harder than Houston’s, so something to look for in the series is fatigue.

Justin Verlander’s presence on the Astros pitching staff makes a significant difference this time of year. This Yankees team does not have a whole lot of experience against Verlander despite him pitching in the American League. This will be the first time that Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez will ever see him.

The only starter that the Yankees seem to have success against is Charlie Morton. The team as a collective have a career .327 batting average against him with seven home runs. It will be interesting to see if A.J. Hinch will give Morton the nod this series. Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. do have more success against the Yankees, but it is still in limited appearances. Look for the Astors’ starters to have some success in this series.

The main reason Houston is here, however, is their offense, something that went missing for the Indians in the ALDS. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa especially have good resumes against New York. Altuve is also swinging a hot bat after hitting three home runs in the first game of the ALDS.

How the series will play out

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

Heroics from Gregorius and Gardner have led to some postseason magic for New York (ABC News)

Despite the Yankees recent success in clutch moments, the Astros are favored to win the ALCS and move on to the World Series according to Vegas odds. It won’t be a cake walk for Houston though.

A large part of the series is going to depend on the Yankees starters keeping up what they were doing against Cleveland. New York had some impressive times at the plate whether it be the two bombs from Gregorius in game five, or the 12-pitch at-bat by Brett Gardner in the ninth that led to insurance runs for the Yankees.

However, the offense as a whole was nothing to write home about.

It is hard to determine whether or not the success of the New York staff came from an Indians offense going cold or an overpowering performance by their starters. They will not be running into a cold Houston offense however. Houston has not been shutout since Aug. 17 and has scored two runs or more in all but four games since that date. Seeing that Houston had the best overall offense in all of baseball in the regular season, it will be tough for Yankees pitching to slow them down.

The postseason is unpredictable of course. Many thought it was all but a lock when the Indians went up 2-0 in the ALDS. New York wasn’t even a favorite coming out of their own division, so anything can happen this time of year.

What has been especially fun to watch with the Yankees is their ability to fight back. Brett Gardner has been a catalyst for New York. His final at-bat on Wednesday was evidence of how badly he wants that second ring. Despite the advantage the Astros have on the offensive side of the ball, the Yankees seem to have that postseason magic that every team is desperate to have.

If the Yankees pitching staff keeps it up then things could get very interesting this series. Nothing will be given in this series because each team knows what is at stake.

ALCS Prediction: Yankees in 7

 

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avoiding elimination game drama

Avoiding elimination game drama in Game 5

The Houston Astros came from behind in Boston on Monday, becoming the first team to make their way in to a league championship series. They produced some late inning heroics and walked out of Fenway Park 5-4 winners. Avoiding elimination game drama in the division series is one of the most important tasks of any World Series hopeful.

The Los Angeles Dodgers also join the Houston in moving on to the next round of games, sweeping Zack Greinke and Arizona right out of the playoffs. They now await the winner of Chicago versus Washington in the NLCS.

Why it Matters

Elimination games are the proverbial pressure cooker in MLB. There is perhaps nothing that can reduce hardened veterans to looking like a rookie quite like an elimination game. Getting the wins early on in the series is the name of the game.

In all division series that have ever been played, you might think having that deciding game at home would be a big feather in your team’s hat. Surprisingly that’s not the case.

avoiding elimination game drama

Luis Severino celebrates a huge out against the Cleveland Indians in Game 4. (Photo courtesy of: Adam Hunger, USA TODAY Sports)

In the American league, there have been 17 divisional series elimination games since New York defeated Milwaukee in 1981 at Yankee Stadium. Since that inaugural Game 5, the home team has won nine, whilst the visitors have won eight. It’s a true pick ‘em type of proposition. Nothing could be more disastrous to a 102-win Indians team like losing a pivotal Game Five at home.

This is exactly the position Cleveland now find themselves in after last night’s 7-3 Game Four loss. The season, for both clubs, now rides on a fateful Game 5 showdown on Wednesday night at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

In the National League, the odds are far worse for the home club. There have been 13 Game 5’s in the history of the NL and, get this, the home team has a paltry four wins to the road crew’s nine collective Game 5 triumphs.

When you roll them all together, that’s a cumulative record of 13-17 for the home team in division series elimination games. The games have been played a litter tighter in the AL than in the NL, but those are odds that I’m not at all interested in tempting if it’s my team gunning for the league title.

The Astros

It would be fair to say this year’s incarnation of the Houston Astros has been brilliant. They pitch, they hit, they hit and they hit. They do a lot of hitting, that would be the main take away here.

Houston has the best team offense in MLB  powered by three-time American League batting champion Jose Altuve. The little spark plug had another momentous year taking home the batting title during the regular season. Altuve however, has saved perhaps his best for last in 2017.

avoiding elimination game drama

Jose Altuve goes deep in ALDS action. (Photo courtesy of: Shanna Lockwood, USA TODAY Sports)

The slight statured Altuve stands 5-foot-6, but he might have the sweetest stroke in the game this side of Tony Gwynn. The work he’s doing this postseason is shaping up to be legendary. If Altuve continues to hit at the torrid pace he’s thus far established, his could be one of the best performances of all-time in postseason play.

Like, Lloyd McClendon in 1992 good. For the Pirates that year, McClendon set the record for postseason batting average. He hit .727 in 16 plate appearances over five games. Of course, with the difference in the amount of games the playoffs entail post-1994, McClendon’s record is probably safe for all times.

Red Sox pitching finally solved Altuve in Game Four at Fenway Park. As a result, his average plummeted to a “meager” .533.  However, the sweet-swinging righty did manage to push across the game’s first run. Albeit he did so by grounding into a double play. Altuve won’t get credit in the box score for an RBI, but that run is no less important in the bigger picture.

Houston has come from off the deck not once, but twice. They’ve showed real resolve for a team with World Series aspirations. The Astros are for real.

The Dodgers

What can be said about the Dodgers that hasn’t already been said?

Los Angeles is certainly looking like the team that finished 2017 with the game’s best record. The Dodgers won 104 games during the regular season and has just kept on winning. And they are fresh off the only sweep in division series play this postseason, taking down Arizona 3-1 last night.

avoiding elimination game drama

Cody Bellinger had a huge Game 3, hitting a his first postseason homer and making this spectacular catch. (Photo courtesy of: fanragsports.com)

The best part of L.A. getting the sweep last night, is they get the extra rest for the pitching staff leading in to the NLCS. This could be the biggest advantage the Dodgers have. With the way Yu Darvish was throwing last night, the Dodgers are going to be a tough out this year. He looked strong.

Also, Count on perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw being ready to rock and roll come Game 1 of the NLCS. Take that to the bank. He’s easily been the most dominant pitcher of the last decade. Kershaw just needs some postseason glory to fully cement his status as living legend. Apparently his evil sorcery on the mound isn’t already enough.

Right now it appears the pitching for L.A. is getting stronger. Sure-fire Rookie of the Year Cody Bellinger is finding his playoff power stroke. And the rest of the lineup just continues to hit. There really is no question that the Dodgers are starting to play excellent baseball at the right time.

Dodgers fans are hoping for better tidings this year in the NLCS. This will mark the fifth appearance in the league championship series for Los Angeles since 2008. Is this the year L.A. takes it home?

The Rest of the Field

The Cubs lead their division series with Washington, two games to one after taking another closely pitched game 2-1. With 2016 playoffs hero Jake Arrieta taking the hill, Chicago has a chance to slam the door on this series at home. Washington and Chicago square off later today (5:30 EST) at Wrigley Field.

avoiding elimination game drama

Anthony Rizzo is the difference maker as he bloops a vital RBI single for Chicago in the eighth inning of an epic Game 4 showdown. (Photo courtesy of: AP/David Banks)

The division series between Washington and Chicago stands out because of the pitching. While the rest of the league should be considering protective netting around the outfield bleachers, pitchers in this series have been throwing well. The craziest game in the series has been the 6-3 Nationals win in Game 2. Whoa guys, slow down!

Don’t count Washington out yet though! This team has more than enough life in that pitching staff to put the clamps on any offense. The Cubs will be looking to seal the series tonight and stave off a dreaded Game 5. Washington on the other hand, will be looking to force a Game 5 meet-up in Washington D.C. for Thursday.

The Indians meanwhile, are now in a situation where the series comes back to Cleveland for Game 5. The silver lining for Indians fans is that staff ace Corey Kluber is bringing it back on the mound. Kluber will be looking for the win, but it remains to be seen whether that alone will be enough. It’s why they play the games.

There is no discernible trend of good outcomes for hosting an elimination game in the divisional round. In these types of sudden death meetings, home field advantage counts for very little.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Stan Grossfeld/Boston Globe)

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World Series baseball fans need

The World Series baseball fans need

The Houston Astros are off to a blistering start taking the opening two-game leg of their Division Series with Boston, winning both games in lopsided fashion 8-2. The Washington Nationals however, find themselves on the ropes early against the Cubs. Of the teams left in this year’s postseason, only Washington and Houston have never brought home a World Series title. This is the World Series baseball fans need.

Why not the Indians

The Indians are a popular pick this year to take home the hardware. After last night’s 13th inning emotional 9-8 win in which the Indians surged back from six runs down, it’s hard to argue they won’t win it all. At least for the moment, they look unbreakable.

world series

Tris Speaker hit 792 career two-baggers, still the most in MLB history. (Photo courtesy of: Charles Conlon / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

While it is true the Indians have a longer drought of championship seasons than both Houston and Washington,the fans in Cleveland still have Bob Feller and the 1948 series. They still have the glory of 1920 when player/manager Tris Speaker, all-time doubles champ, guided the Indians to the title. Behind Speaker’s steady hand, the Indians beat Brooklyn five games to two in a best of nine series.

Cleveland experienced the bitter taste of Game 7 defeat in last year’s World Series against Chicago. What’s more is that it happened on home soil. Ouch. The Indians came oh so close coming off the deck from three runs down and pushing the game into extra’s. It turned out only a tease however, as the Cleveland faithful watched Chicago exorcise that billy-goat voodoo that had kept them down for so long.

The novelty of an Indians World Series resonates with many, but this year we have real chance at seeing something none of us has ever seen. A World Series title in a city that’s never had one. Cleveland has had three shots at the title since 1995, let’s see someone else give it a go.

Why not the Yankees

No.

Futility in Washington… or is it Montreal?

Not wanting to put the horse before the carriage, there is still a long road to travel for both Washington and Houston. Reaching that promised land of World Series glory takes a focus and commitment that few realize. On top of that, it can take an incredibly long time to get there.

And some, like Washington, are still waiting to make their first appearance.

The Washington Nationals, formerly the Montreal Expos, have more combined city swaps and name changes than they do World Series appearances. They’ve never been there a single time in 48 years of existence, though they were close once.

world series baseball fans need

Gary Carter and some his 1981 Expos teammates pose for a photo prior to first pitch. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)

In 1981 the Expos lost a best-of-five NLCS. Due to the lockout occurring during the middle of the season, the playoff format was restructured. What sprang out of it were the first League Division Series’ in MLB history. All credit to Montreal, they dispatched the Phillies in five games.

This led to their first ever appearance in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It might seem unusual to us now, but until 1985 the League Championship Series were only best-of-five. Montreal lost in that 1981 NLCS series deciding Game 5 by a score of 2-1. Their hopes dashed by a ninth inning blast off the bat of Rick Monday.

The Nationals’ fortunes have been changing lately however. It’s amazing what a stable full of pitchers who are capable of winning a Cy Young Award will do for your hopes of taking home a championship. Washington’s nasty mixture of starting pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Max Scherzer make up a doomsday rotation that uses opposing bats to build a funeral pyre.

The Nationals can hit the lights out too. They are led by the exceptional Bryce Harper and a resurgent Ryan Zimmerman. Sprinkle in a few good breaks on the diamond and Washington might be cooking up some championship stew in 2017.

Houston Strong

Houston has been through a lot this year and that’s putting it lightly. A World Series win would be a welcome distraction from all that has happened, if only for a brief period. It would right the wrong of 2005, when the White Sox were hoisting the trophy before Houston even realized the series was on. The south-siders bounced them in four.

Houston has a spotty playoff history that seems to happen in waves, but this is undoubtedly the best grouping of players since the times of the Killer B’s.

world series baseball fans need

Sweet-swinging Jose Altuve won his third AL batting title this season hitting at a .346 clip. (Photo courtesy of: Baselinetimes.com)

Out is Jeff Bagwell, in is Jose Altuve. The 2017 edition of the Houston Astros is about as complete a team as you will see. If they do have an Achilles’ heel, it will be in the field. This season they rank number 24 of 30 teams in defensive efficiency. If defensive woes are going to be their undoing though, they certainly aren’t showing up right now. This team is playing like a team on a mission.

And it has been a long, hard, cruel road.

Consider this, Houston has had a franchise since their inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962. In the years since, they’ve been renamed as many times as they’ve appeared on baseball’s biggest stage; once. For those scoring at home, that’s 55 years without a title. That’s 55 years yielding only one World Series appearance. It’s time Houston, it’s time.

Should Houston and Cleveland match-up in the ALCS this year, the Indians will make the Astros earn it every step of the way. Unless you count the one-game wild card in 2013 as a sweep, you must go all the way back to 1954 to find the last, and only, time that Cleveland has ever been swept in any playoff series. That year, it was Willie Mays and the Giants who did the damage.

It would also be the first time since the Yankees battled the Royals for the AL pennant in 1977 that two 100+ win teams square off in the ALCS.

The World Series baseball fans need 

Washington versus Houston. Why is this the World Series we need? Because it’s something new. It’s something unique, and it’s something that’s never happened before. Heck, Washington hasn’t even been there before.

We need this World Series because of the match-ups it poses.

world series baseball fans need

Stephen Strasburg is planning a vacation to his favorite locale; Blew Bayou. (Photo courtesy of: AP / Mark J. Terrill)

Washington’s pitching versus Houston’s potent lineup is a story line just waiting to unfold. Who will win the day? Stephen Strasburg and his overpowering stuff? Or will it be the wily three-time American League batting champion, Jose Altuve finding the gap with the game on the line?

These two teams have unfinished business to attend to as well. In the regular season, Houston and Washington played a three-game set at Minute Maid Park in Houston. Washington took two of the three games, but both losses for Houston were one-run games that could have easily swung the other way. One was an 11 inning affair that slipped through Houston’s fingers in that final frame. Let’s have some more of that please.

An Astros versus Nationals World Series wouldn’t just be another sports novelty. It will be an epic World Series if it does indeed happen. So, if you’re on the fence, let this be your call to action to jump on either the Washington or Houston bandwagon. I’m sure both team’s fan-bases will be happy to have the extra hands on deck.

In a season that has offered us a lot of remarkable firsts, like rookies named Aaron Judge that hit 52 homers in a year. It would only be right to see another first for MLB. A new champion and “Leading City of Baseball” that has never before been crowned.

Let’s crown a champion that none of us has ever seen before in 2017. Let’s go you Astros! Let’s go you Nationals!

 

 

(feature photo courtesy of: doin-work.com)

 

 

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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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Cleveland Indians playoffs

Will anyone stop the Indians?

Whether you are a baseball fan or not, you are bound to have heard about the Indians’ win streak. Cleveland reached 22 wins without a single loss in September, and they have not slowed down since the Royals broke that streak. Since the streak ended, the Indians have still won seven of eight games. This makes it so they only lost two games in the past month.
Cleveland has picked the right time to heat up. Many managers and players will tell you that they will take the team that is the hottest going into the playoffs rather than who had the best record.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Cleveland Indians playoffs

Clayton Kershaw is looking to ditch his poor postseason reputation. (USA Today)

Speaking of best record, the Indians really are not far off from it. In the middle of August, it didn’t look like any team in the majors would come close to the Dodgers. The possibility of the Dodgers breaking the single season wins record was even floating around.
Instead, the win streak record was broken. Now the Indians are fighting for home-field advantage in the World Series as they only trail the Dodgers by two games.
Los Angles definitely had more sustained success than the Indians despite falling apart in the dog days of summer. They have been fighting to get back on track just before October and seem to be doing that with Clayton Kershaw back. The Dodgers have a stellar rotation after the acquisition of Yu Darvish and also have the bullpen that can shut down any lineup. Nobody is going to doubt their pitching.
The issue with this team, however, is that it may be just a little bit better than average on offense. That will not be enough to beat Cleveland. The Dodgers rank seventh in the National League in offense. While they have some real stars in Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Justin Turner, it may not be enough to beat the stellar pitching Cleveland has to offer.
With all of the talent the Dodgers have on the mound, the Indians still might beat them out. Their bullpen gained a lot of notoriety last postseason behind Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Corey Kluber would also be a lock for the Cy Young this year if it wasn’t for a man named Chris Sale in Boston.
It looks like Cleveland is the hotter and more well-rounded team out of the two. I wouldn’t count on the Dodgers slowing down the Indians if they were to meet in the Fall Classic.

Houston Astros

Cleveland Indians playoffs

Altuve is almost a sure thing for AL MVP. (MLB.com)

The Astros are the next best team in the American League after the Indians. This would be a fascinating ALCS if it were to happen. Houston was thought to be easily the team to beat in the AL, but Cleveland has taken that title from them in the past month.
Houston prides itself on its strong offense led by Jose Altuve. The veteran second baseman is wrapping up his MVP caliber season while leading the majors in batting average and WAR.
He does not have such a bad supporting cast either. Shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer are both forces at the plate. They will give any pitcher fits. If it was not for their injuries, they would be competing with Altuve for MVP.
The Astros easily have the best offense in the league and have the best shot at stopping Corey Kluber and the Indians. While they only managed to win one of six games against Cleveland this season, the playoffs are a different animal. Houston has been hot and looks to ride that into the playoffs,
Look for this matchup in October because if it happens, it may be the most intriguing one we see.

Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians playoffs

Devers has come onto the scene to add some pop to the Boston lineup. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The Red Sox may have the best pitcher in the league to go head to head with Corey Kluber. Chris Sale, along with Kluber, is a candidate for the AL Cy Young. Both have impressive strikeout rates and can dominate any lineup in the league.
Corey Kluber has only lost one game since the All-Star break, which was against Boston. While he may not have had a whole lot of run support or help from the bullpen, it still may be a sign that the Red Sox have what it takes to beat the hottest team in baseball.
Boston does not have many sluggers on their team, but they do have a group of young talent that can give any pitcher fits. With the emergence of Andrew Benintendi and call-up Rafael Devers, the Red Sox are sitting pretty for the postseason.
They will have a challenge in order to potentially get to the Indians. They will most likely play Houston in the ALDS in what should be an exciting series.
It will be tough for Boston to get past the Astros. However, if they do manage to play Cleveland, they will look to maximize their pitching efforts as they have the second best pitching staff behind the Indians in the AL.
Featured image from NPR

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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.

 

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Mike Trout MVP

Mike Trout could win MVP despite a DL stint

When Mike Trout slid into second base in late May and tore a ligament in his thumb, some thought that it prevented a potentially historic season from happening. However, Trout is proving that six weeks on the DL is not going to prevent him from getting the MVP.

Despite the fact that Trout has only played in 82 games, he still has 26 home runs and 60 RBIs. He also has a 5.6 WAR that ranks third in the American League behind Jose Altuve and Andrelton Simmons. Even the rookie sensation, Aaron Judge, falls behind Trout in WAR.

Quick recovery

Mike Trout MVP

Not even a torn ligament can get the best of Mike Trout. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

When it was all said and done, Trout only missed 39 games for the Angels. In that time, the Angles went a mediocre 19-20.

Since returning, the Angels are 19-15 and are second in the AL Wild Card race. All together, the Angels are 46-42 when Trout plays.

It is not a staggering difference, but it is enough to see that Trout gives the Angels the edge they need to sneak into the playoffs.

How Trout stacks up with other contenders

Mike Trout MVP

Altuve is easily having the best year of his impressive career. (Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports).

Trout is currently slugging at an all time high for his career. His .670 slugging percentage is the best in his career and is 78 points ahead of the next top percentage.

Trout just does not have enough plate appearances to actually qualify for that title at the moment though. His ability to hit for power is a good sign for the future though, because he does appear to be getting better.

There are several players that are in consideration for the MVP award this year. Aaron Judge was a name many people thought had a shot at winning the coveted award. His recent struggles may get in his way though. He has a lower WAR than Trout and over 100 more plate appearances. If Trout wasn’t hurt, he could have similar home run numbers that Judge has.

The biggest obstacle in front of Trout in the MVP race is Jose Altuve. Altuve is putting up astonishing numbers with a .358/.418/.565 slash line along with a 7.0 WAR. If I were a gambling man, I would say Altuve almost has the MVP on lock down.

However, Trout could still make a run at the Astros’ second baseman. He has the second best batting average behind Altuve, but does not qualify yet. Trout may be able to catch Altuve if he keeps playing at the rate he does and pushes his power numbers up even more. It also may help if Trout is able to help his team get into the playoffs for the first time in his career.

Is the MVP in reach?

The fact that this can be a topic of discussion is impressive in itself. However, once we bring reality into this, the answer is most likely no. If it was not for Jose Altuve’s stellar season then it would be much more plausible for Trout to snatch the MVP for the third time in his young but illustrious career.

There are some things that can still happen for the award to fall into Trout’s hands. It would be a series of events though. Altuve would have to miss time, and Trout would have to go on a tear in September. It isn’t out of the question, but Altuve has not once spent time on the DL since coming up to the big leagues.

It is important to keep in mind that his performance since coming back from his injury is something to behold. The future is very bright for this young stud and it is sad to see him slowing down.

One stat that is easy to look at and helps determine if a player has longevity is the strikeout per nine innings stat. Trout has been striking out less and has shown that he has one of the better eyes in the game.

Even though he may not get the MVP this season, he should be a favorite for the coming years.

 

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MLB award predictions

2017 has been an exciting year in the world of baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers may have one of the best teams of all time, while Aaron Judge is putting together an incredible rookie campaign in New York.

We are now reaching the point in the season where award contenders have separated themselves from the rest of the field. There is now a good idea for what names are going to make that final push for some of the most prestigious accolades in the game.

American League MVP: Jose Altuve

Awards

Altuve is the star of a loaded Houston lineup (MLB.com)

Jose Altuve is proving to be one of the most productive hitters in the major leagues. He also highlights a stellar lineup that consists of Carlos Correa and George Springer as well.

Despite his stature, Altuve has been able to belt 16 home runs this season. Those aren’t Aaron Judge numbers, but it is especially impressive considering he is leading the league in hitting with a .364/.424/.570 slash line. On top of that, he has the best WAR in the MLB with a 6.3.

With how Aaron Judge has been performing, it is hard to see him now win the MVP. However, he has been showing signs of his humanity since the start of July. Sine the All-Star break, he has only hit 5 home runs and has a batting average floating around the Mendoza line. Judge also does not have a multi-hit game since July 18th.

If Judge had kept up the rate he was going at then there would be no doubt he would be the favorite for MVP. Jose Altuve has just been more consistent and is overall a more valuable player to the team. He is stable and can do everything.

Honorable Mentions: Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, George Springer

National League MVP: Paul Goldschmidt

Awards

Goldschmidt is leading the Diamondbacks to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 (MLB.com)

This one is a real toss up. Harper, Goldschmidt, Votto and Arenado all have very similar stats, and they aren’t even all of the guys that deserve to be in the discussion. It was hard not to pick Harper or Arenado for this especially just because of how spectacular their seasons have been. The last 6 weeks of the season should help the voters come to a decision for who truly deserves it. Either way, you can’t go wrong on this one.

The reason Paul Goldschmidt was the decision in this case is that he adds the most value to his team. Now, there Bryce Harper shouldn’t take a hit because he has a stellar team around him. However, the Diamondbacks would be worse off without Goldy than the Nationals would without Harper. That is why he is the most valuable player in the National League.

Goldschmidt leads the National League with a 5.5 WAR as of August 8th. He also is second in OBP, second in RBIs, and fifth in batting average. Goldschmidt also has a great eye as he has racked up 75 walks which is tied for second in the league. Either way though, this award can go to several different people.

Honorable Mentions: Bryce Harper, Joey Votto, Nolan Arenado

American League Cy Young: Chris Sale

Unlike the NL MVP, this award should be a lock. Chris Sale has been so dominant this year as he is vying for the pitching triple crown in the American League.

The trade that Boston made with the White Sox where they gave up Yoan Mocada for Chris Sale seems to be panning out so far. Ultimately it may be a big win for both teams. Sale has had a striking presence on the mound, and the Red Sox feel good about winning every game he starts as they have only lost six games when he starts.

The only blemish that Sale has on his resume this season is from earlier in August against the Cleveland Indians. The game turned out to be a real thriller but Sale gave up seven runs in five innings. This shot up his ERA from a 2.37 to a 2.70. He should get the ERA back down so he can solidify his spot with the best ERA in baseball.

Honorable Mentions: Marcus Stroman, Luis Severino, Corey Kluber

National League Cy Young: Max Scherzer

Awards

Scherzer has taken over as the best pitcher in the National League (Sporting News)

Max Scherzer has begun to separate himself from Kershaw as the favorite for Cy Young. Scherzer leads the National League in strikeouts and is second behind Kershaw. The Dodgers ace however has been on the DL since July 23rd and may be out until mid-September.

The Dodgers have no reason to rush Kershaw back before the postseason other than to get him to settle in. That alone may give Scherzer the advantage over Kershaw in the final voting. Even before Kershaw went on the disabled list, many thought that Scherzer was overtaking him for pitching dominance in the NL.

Both of these pitchers are going to be key in the postseason. It would be very interesting to see if they match up in the NLCS how that would play out. However, the voting takes place right after the regular season. Because of that, Scherzer should have the award locked up at that point.

Honorable Mentions: Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Gio Gonzalez

American League Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge

This is a no-brainer. Aaron Judge may be having the most dominant rookie season since Albert Pujols and Ichiro came onto the scene in 2001. One could argue that it has been even better than Trout’s rookie year, where he led the AL in stolen bases and runs despite being called up in late-April.

Aaron Judge leads the American League in home runs with 35 and also has the third best WAR with a 5.3. That is ranked against everyone in the AL and not just rookies. Judge’s year has been overshadowing Trey Mancini’s rookie season, where he has 18 home runs and a .297 batting average. In most other seasons that may be enough to win rookie of the year. However, his name has hardly even come up on account of the Judge being in session.

Judge has led a Yankees lineup that is vying for supremacy in the AL East. The Astros didn’t make any notable moves at the trade deadline and seem to be limping a bit. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees close in on Houston at all. If Judge is able to help the Yankees do that, then he may even have a shot at MVP. However, Judge has been slumping since the All-Star break. He will need to turn it around soon if he wants a shot to beat out Jose Altuve for MVP.

Honorable Mentions: Trey Mancini, Andrew Benintendi

National League Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger

Awards

Bellinger has racked up 32 home runs which is second in the NL (Sporting News)

Cody Bellinger has been a huge surprise for the Dodgers this season. Corey Seager was highlighting the Dodgers young core but Bellinger is giving him a run for his money as the star of the team. Despite the fact that Bellinger was called up in late-April, he second in the NL in home runs with 32. While his average is at a pedestrian .264, Bellinger provides a fearful pop in the middle of the lineup.

Paul DeJong has also been a nice surprise for St. Louis. He has 16 home runs and a .283 batting average despite only playing in 59 games this season. He provides the best pop in the lineup for the Cardinals who are still looking for that key middle of the order guy, as he is now typically batting in the three spot.

There really is not much competition for Bellinger this season however. He has pretty much locked up the Rookie of the Year award much like Judge in the AL. What would be fascinating is if Judge and Bellinger were competing for the same award, who would deserve it more. Luckily, the writers do not have to make that tough decision though. Thus, both of them should receive the prestigious award.

Honorable Mentions: Josh Bell, Paul DeJong, Kyle Freeland

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Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check 2.0

In the beginning of June, we looked over some players who were on fire and analyzed if they should be sold. In this heat check, we will identify and analyze some more of the hottest players in baseball right before the deadline.

They are who we thought they were!

These players were drafted early, although they have reached or exceeded expectations. All players were selected within the top 25 overall picks, and are ranked within the top six at their respected position in ESPN standard scoring formats.

Jose Altuve, Second Baseman, Houston Astros

ADP (average draft position): 3.5

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: .369 AVG, 74 R, 15 HR, 59 RBI & 21 SB

Last seven: .615 AVG, 8 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI & 1 SB

Altuve is having a career year. The 5-foot-6 phenom is legitimately chasing .400 and is nearly a lock to earn his third batting title in four years.

He is currently on a 19-game hitting streak where he has tallied four home runs and 10 doubles, while driving in 19 and scoring 21 runs. Altuve is, and will remain, an elite fantasy asset for the long-term future.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Chris Sale is having a once in a generation season. (Photo by: USA TODAY Sports)

Chris Sale, Starting Pitcher, Boston Red Sox

ADP: 18.1

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: 148.1 IP, 13-4 W-L, 211 K, 2.37 ERA & 0.88 WHIP

Last three: 20.2 IP, 2-0 W-L, 33 K, 0.00 ERA & 0.73 WHIP

Sale’s expectations heading into 2017 were enormous, as for the first time in his career he found himself on a contending team. He is currently on pace to set career highs in wins and strikeouts, and career lows in WHIP and hits per nine.

After finishing as the ninth-best fantasy pitcher in 2016, it is safe to say that Sale has exceedingly outperformed his expectations. He is now firmly entrenched in the elite tier of fantasy pitching along with Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw.

Bryce Harper, Outfielder, Washington Nationals

ADP: 9.9

Position Rank: 2

2017 Season: .338 AVG, 86 R, 27 HR, 79 RBI & 2 SB

Last seven: .348 AVG, 6 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI & 0 SB

The first-overall pick in 2010 is healthy and performing like his former MVP self. Harper is on pace to hit 47 bombs, score 151 runs and drive in 139 runners, which would all be career highs.

He is leading the National League in OPS as well as OPS+ and is arguably the favorite to win the NL MVP award. His fantasy value moving forward is just a hair below Mike Trout’s, who is the undisputed number one fantasy player in baseball.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Corey Kluber has gone full-Klubot in 2017. (Photo by: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

Corey Kluber, Starting Pitcher, Cleveland Indians

ADP: 22.8

Position Rank: 6

2017 Season: 108.1 IP, 8-3 W-L, 149 K, 2.74 ERA & 0.96 WHIP

Last three: 20.0 IP, 1-0 W-L, 33 K, 2.25 ERA & 0.90 WHIP

Kluber missed almost all of May with a back injury, although he still manages to be ranked a top-10 starter in 2017. He has struck out double digit batters in eight of his last 10 starts and is on pace to set career lows in ERA and WHIP.

If he can stay healthy, the 31-year-old will be a Cy Young candidate for a fourth straight year and possibly an MVP candidate for a third time.

Nolan Arenado, Third Baseman, Colorado Rockies

ADP: 4.5

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: .313 AVG, 69 R, 23 HR, 89 RBI & 2 SB

Last seven: .350 AVG, 4 R, 1 HR, 7 RBI & 0 SB

Arenado is arguably the best third baseman in the game today. Many overlook his greatness, or dismiss it due to his home and away splits, although he will have the opportunity to go down as the greatest third baseman of all time.

Arenado is on pace to have 148 career home runs and 520 RBIs at the end of this his 26-year-old season, which puts him on pace to be more productive than Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett (74 HR & 461 RBIs at age 26) and Mike Schmidt (131 HR & 373 RBIs at age 26).

Kansas City Resurgence

The Kansas City Royals struggled mightily to begin 2017, as they sported a record of 7-16 through April. In the next three months, the club went 47-31 and now are in second place in AL Central behind the Cleveland Indians.

The Royals’ recent success is due to their red-hot bats, as within the last 14 days, the team is on a nine-game winning streak, in which they are batting .302 with 21 home runs, 76 runs scored and 70 RBIs.

Eric Hosmer, First Baseman, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 88.9

Position Rank: 6

2017 Season: .320 AVG, 63 R, 16 HR, 54 RBI & 6 SB

Last seven: .400 AVG, 8 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI & 2 SB

Hosmer began the year slow, batting only .225 with one home run, five runs scored and six RBIs in his first 23 games. On the contrary, in his last 23 games, he is batting .374 with 6 home runs, 21 runs scored and 19 RBIs.

Hosmer is beginning to prove his true value and is likely to return to the AL MVP conversation, which he has been absent from since 2015.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Mike Moustakas is an integral piece to this Royals lineup. (Photo by: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Moustakas, Third Baseman, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 187.6

Position Rank: 8

2017 Season: .279 AVG, 53 R, 30 HR, 69 RBI & 0 SB

Last seven: .333 AVG, 6 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI & 0 SB

Moustakas is on the final year of his contact, although he is expected to remain a Royal for the remainder of the year, as the Royals have recently became a contender. His team-high 30 home runs and 69 RBIs have helped carry the load, as he has accounted for over 12 percent of the team’s runs scored and 16 percent of their runs batted in.

The 28-year-old has been, and will continue to be, a great contributor in real life and in fantasy, as he offers well above average power and production in the heart of a red-hot lineup.

Salvador Perez, Catcher, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 177.0

Position Rank: 1

2017 Season: .284 AVG, 44 R, 21 HR, 63 RBI & 1 SB

Last seven: .278 AVG, 3 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI & 0 SB

Perez is the most important piece to the Royals’ puzzle due to his ability behind the plate. The fact that his bat is producing at its current levels is simply a plus.

The 27-year-old is currently ranked as the top catcher in fantasy due to his position-high 21 home runs and 63 RBIs. He is on pace to set career highs in almost every major hitting category and should treated as one of the MLB’s elite at his position.

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Heat Check

Whit Merrifield has taken full advantage of his everyday role in 2017. (Photo by Rotoprofessor.com)

Whit Merrifield, Second Baseman/Outfielder, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 260

Position Rank: 6

2017 Season: .294 AVG, 42 R, 11 HR, 43 RBI & 16 SB

Last seven: .360 AVG, 5 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI & 0 SB

Merrifield went undrafted in almost all formats, although he has managed to become a top-10 player at his position in 2017. He has found a home in the leadoff spot, as he has played 54 out of his 68 games in that position, which gives him a better chance to produce than if he were batting in the bottom third of the lineup.

Merrifield’s ceiling isn’t miraculously high, although a 15 home run and 30 steal campaign isn’t out of the question. The 28-year-old is taking full advantage of receiving everyday playing time and is sure to continue his production moving forward.

Jorge Bonifacio, Outfielder, Kansas City Royals

ADP: 260

Position Rank: 64

2017 Season: .265 AVG, 44 R, 14 HR, 32 RBI & 1 SB

Last seven: .400 AVG, 7 R, 3 HR, 4 RBI & 0 SB

Bonafacio is having a very solid rookie year. He was called up in late April and has been particularly impressive, as his 162-game average would predict him to hit 29 home runs, score 90 runs and produce 66 RBIs.

The 24-year-old has batted primarily in the two-hole for Kansas City, which is a pivotal spot in the lineup for production purposes.  His value is low right now, but it should increase as the Royals continue to find success.

 

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Big Three

Which Team has the Big 3 of Baseball?

With all the talk in the NBA about big threes and super teams, I got to wondering if there are any teams like that in baseball. Now, it is a bit different in the MLB as you don’t have as many superstars moving teams to create these unstoppable forces.

Baseball is also much more of a team game. One or two players in the NBA can carry a team far into the playoffs. In baseball, the entire team needs to be carrying their weight because each player doesn’t have the same opportunity to make a big play throughout the game.

On that note, let’s take a look and see who might have the best “big three” in their lineup in the 2017 season. This is referring to what three players contribute the most to their team as a collective.

Houston Astros: Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa

Combined WAR: 12.1

Altuve: .347/.417/.551 13 HR 50 RBI | Springer: .310/.380/.613 27 HR 65 RBI | Correa: .325/.402/.577 20 HR 65 RBI

Baseball super teams

Correa might be the best shortstop since Jeter (Bleacher Report)

The Houston Astros are proving to be one of the greatest teams in recent memory largely thanks to the work of the core hitters in their lineup. It seems though that their years with high draft picks are finally starting to pay off.

Houston has the best record in the American League and second-best in the majors behind the Dodgers, and they’re putting in a bid to win their first world series in franchise history.

All three of these young hitters are All-Stars in 2017 and it is well deserved. Correa may be the front-runner for MVP over Trout, seeing that Trout has been on the DL for the past few weeks. Not to mention, Correa is only 22 years old.

It is also hard to recall a middle infield combination that has been so threatening in recent years. The first one that comes to mind is Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano for the Yankees. Seeing how young Altuve and Correa are now, they may end up being more effective of a duo than Jeter and Cano ever were.

Springer is also really starting to come into his own now. Everyone always knew that he had some serious punch in his bat. At the All-Star break, he is already two home runs away from his single-season record. On top of that, he is hitting the ball much more effectively as his slugging percentage is at an all-time high.

Seeing as none of of these three players are going to be unrestricted free agents for another two full seasons, this powerhouse doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Even though the best player in baseball is in the same division, it seems that the Astros will be running the division for the coming years largely because of this hitting core.

Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy

Combined WAR: 8.4

Harper: .325/.431/.590 20 HR 65 RBI | Zimmerman: .330/.373/.596 19 HR 63 RBI | Murphy: .342/.393/.572 14 HR 64 RBI

Baseball super teams

Harper has continued to live up to his high expectations (Sports Illustrated)

Despite the fact that these three hitters are leading the National League in batting average, I had to think about who belonged in this big three. Anthony Rendon had a pretty good bid into this but it was just too difficult to leave the other three out.

Zimmerman has reignited his career and may be having his best year. He has only batted over .300 in his career once but now he is competing with his teammates for the best in the NL.

Harper has continued his rise to super-stardom and nobody seems to be getting in his way. After a somewhat slow 2016 he has reached new levels in 2017. He is currently on pace to break 100 RBIs for the first time in his career and could also reach 40 home runs for the second time.

Thanks to his teammates also hitting the long ball, it is not as easy to pitch around Harper either. Because of Murphy’s success with the Nationals thus far, it is giving Harper more opportunities do excel.

Daniel Murphy has far exceeded the expectations of the Nationals in his first two years with the club. He has become a power threat which he had never been before. We all know how valuable power-hitting second basemen are too. Murphy is also running for the hitting title for the second year in a row. The bottom line is that there is no break from this Nationals lineup. Every batter will be a battle, but these three especially will drive any pitcher nuts.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto, Zach Cozart, Adam Duvall

Combined WAR: 8.8

Votto: .315/.427/.631 26 HR 68 RBI | Cozart: .316/.394/.547 9 HR 35 RBI | Duvall: .278/.321/.557 20 HR 61 RBI

Baseball super teams

Votto, Duvall,and Cozart have continued to be the only bright spot for the Reds (USA Today)

The Reds have not been great this year. As I mentioned in the introduction, three players cannot carry a team to greatness. The Reds are a perfect example of that.

Votto and Cozart are both All-Stars this year and along with Duvall they have been a bright spot for Cincinnati. However, their abysmal pitching keeps them in last place in perhaps the worst division in baseball. We are not here to talk about poor pitching however.

Votto has continued a spectacular career despite him being on one of the worst teams in baseball in the past few years. He leads a club that currently ranks in the top 10 in hitting in the majors.

What makes Votto so difficult to pitch against is his smarts at the plate. He is not easy to fool, as he currently has 62 walks on the season compared to 42 strikeouts. With players that hit home runs as much as he does, it is more typical to have a higher rate of strikeouts. That is something that you can see with Votto’s teammate, Duvall.

Adam Duvall broke out as a serious power threat last season. However, he is striking out in 25 percent of his at bats and only walking in five percent of them. In order for him to be an even bigger threat, he is going to take after Votto. He has improved as an overall hitter though as he is on pace to have the highest average and OPS of his career.

Cozart may be a valuable trade piece at the deadline. He has still been hitting on all cylinders despite his injury issues. He provides good pop at the top of the lineup and is a good setup man for whoever follows him. Knowing the Reds’ need for young pitching, they may deal him because of his current value. Because of this, the Cincinnati big three may not be in tact much longer.

New York Yankees: Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious

Combined WAR: 9.3

Judge: .329/.448/.691 30 HR 66 RBI | Sanchez: .276/.360/.491 13 HR 40 RBI | Gregorius: .291/.346.458 10 HR 38 RBI

Baseball super teams

Judge has already passed Dimaggio for most home runs by a Yankees rookie (Sporting News)

Aaron Judge has come onto the scene and is already one of the best hitters in baseball. He largely carries this big three due to his ability to hit the ball out of the park as well as hit for average.

There is no getting around him and his surrounding hitters have made is especially difficult. While the Yankees are fairly banged up at the moment, his supporting cast has been coming through.

Gregorious is not typically known for his bat but rather his glove. He came onto the scene at the plate last season with 20 home runs. This year, he is picking back up where he left off and is nearly a .300 hitter. While he is just an above average hitter on the moment, he is proving to be a key part of the lineup.

Gary Sanchez is proving to be one of the better power-hitting catchers in the league. Despite only playing in 57 games at the midway point in the season, he has 13 home runs. He and Judge are bringing back the Bronx Bombers, and they will be hard to stop for the coming years.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner

Combined WAR: 10.0

Seager: .298/.395/.502 13 HR 45 RBI | Bellinger: .261/.342/.619 25 HR 58 RBI | Turner: .377/.473/.583 10 HR 37 RBI

Baseball super teams

Bellinger is the latest Dodgers rookie to make a splash in the bigs (Sports Illustrated)

These three All-Stars have led the best team in baseball to a 61-win season at the break. They are the best team in the National League while being in perhaps the best division in baseball. Cody Bellinger is a big reason for that with his breakout season at the plate.

Justin Turner won the final vote to get into his first All-Star game. The only reason he probably didn’t get in originally was because of the time he has missed. Once he gets enough at-bats to be eligible for the batting title, he may run with it.

Corey Seager is showing that he deserved to be ranked as one of the best prospects in baseball. After his Rookie of the Year campaign last year, it looks like he wants to pass the torch along to his teammate. With Turner coming onto the scene in Los Angeles at the right time, these young players are showing how the Dodgers can win their first championship in almost 30 years.

The Final Rankings

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Cincinnati Reds

Honorable Mentions:

Colorado Rockies: Nolan Arenado, Mark Renyolds, Charlie Blackmon: Each of these guys have some serious pop.

Tampa Bay Rays: Corey Dickerson, Evan Longoria, Logan Morrison: Dickerson and Morrison are having big years while Longoria continues his stellar career.

Chicago Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber: If this was any other year, they might be at the top of the list.

 

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