Lewis Brinson's 2018 season outlook

Lewis Brinson’s 2018 season outlook

The Milwaukee Brewers came out of nowhere to finish within striking distance of MLB’s playoffs in 2017. Looking back to the start of the season, there was nobody giving Milwaukee much of a chance. And why should they? There was little to suggest this team would go on to do what it did. The Brewers led the NL Central most of the season’s first half before getting roughed up after the All-Star break. The Brewers, however, to their credit fought back and were in contention for a playoff spot into the final week of 2017. They lost Jimmy Nelson, just as he was finding a dominant form on the mound, and closer Corey Knebel had some uncharacteristic break downs in some of the season’s most important games. General manager David Stearns is looking to reload for another run. Without further ado, here is Lewis Brinson’s 2018 season outlook.

How Brinson was acquired

CF Lewis Brinson was the centerpiece of a trade with Texas. (photo from: tulsaworld.com)

Brinson has done nothing but hit the ground running since coming over in a 2016 trade with the Texas Rangers. The move sent long-time catcher Jonathan Lucroy to the Rangers, and in return the Brewers netted Brinson and pitcher Luis Ortiz. It was a heck of a haul for Milwaukee, and a nice feather to stick in GM David Stearns’ cap. The move has set up Milwaukee’s roster nicely for the future. And that future, is about to become the present.

Lewis Brinson’s 2018 season outlook

In 2017, Brinson, who is also billed as the top prospect in the Brewers’ organization put together a monster year at Triple-A Colorado. He put together an incredible slash line .331/.400/.562 as a member of the Sky Sox. It was due to this type of output that he was recalled from Colorado on June 11. His first taste of major league ball, however, didn’t necessarily go to plan.

In his first 21 games with Milwaukee, he struggled to hit major league pitching. In his 47 official at-bats, his slash line .106/.236/.277 leaves a lot to be desired. At the tender age of just 23 though, he has plenty of time to get the ship righted and back on course. Based on his skill set and his minor league track record, Brewers fans should expect a good rookie year from Brinson.

For 2018, Brinson should break camp with as a member of the Brewers’ 25-man roster. It will be interesting to see what happens at the upcoming winter meetings in Orlando. The Brewers find themselves in the position of having a ton of outfielders who are ready to contribute. But with only a handful of spots to go around, one would expect some moves to be forthcoming.

With the emergence of center fielder Brett Phillips in 2017, Brinson’s road has gotten a little tougher. At the end of the day, however, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the physical tools of Brinson win the day and see him firmly entrenched as Milwaukee’s everyday center fielder by the All-Star break.

 

(feature photo from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

 

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Backyard Baseball 2001

Most disrespected pros of Backyard Baseball 2001

Produced by Humongous Entertainment, the Backyard Sports franchise has been a staple of amusement for children since 1997. The Backyard Sports franchise included games such as Backyard Football, Backyard Soccer, Backyard Basketball, Backyard Hockey and yes, even Backyard Skateboarding. The majority of the games featured one or more professional athletes, which added a sense of realism to this imaginary sports realm.

More specifically, Backyard Baseball 2001 starred 31 different major league players from all 30 MLB teams. Out of the 31 players, nine have already been inducted into the Hall-of-Fame (Ken Griffey Jr., Cal Ripken Jr., Ivan Rodriguez, Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, Randy Johnson, Frank Thomas, Barry Larkin and Tony Gwynn), while Derek Jeter, Vladimir Guerrero and Chipper Jones promise to propel that number to 12 by 2019.

For myself, Backyard Baseball 2001 was the original catalyst for my obsession with the sport itself. I was able to learn about the players and teams that made the professional game so great. All baseball fans will remember icons like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez, who were all featured in Backyard Baseball 2001, although I will forever remember and respect lower-profile players like Marty Cordova and Alex Gonzalez, specifically because of this incredible game.

The final remaining active player from the 2001 class was Carlos Beltran, who just recently retired after winning his first World Series in his 20 years in the MLB. Beltran will make quite the Hall of Fame case, although looking back at his attributes in Backyard Baseball, I don’t recall him being one of the pros that chosen very often, if at all. He tended to be outshined by Kenny Lofton’s speed, Larry Walker’s power or Vladimir Guerrero’s all-around ability, causing him to consistently fall short of making my Humongous Melonheads lineup.

After looking back at each player’s in-game stats and their real-life stats prior to the 2001 season, it’s fair to say some of these major leaguers were significantly snubbed.

Carlos Beltran

Beltran took the league by storm in 1999, batting .293 with 22 home runs, 27 stolen bases, 112 runs scored and 108 RBIs. He was subsequently voted the American League Rookie of the Year, receiving 95 percent of the first place votes. His 2000 season was cut short due to injury, which was the likely cause for his low attributes.

Backyard Baseball 2001

Beltran has a great swing and can steal bases like nobody’s business. He’s also one of the best switch-hitters around. The outfielder’s exceptional coordination and defensive ability make him an asset to any team. (Photo via Cespedes Family BBQ on Twitter)

At 24 years old, Beltran represented the Kansas City Royals in Backyard Baseball 2001, although his stats failed to resemble his real-life ability. His batting attribute was 5/10, which was the same rating given to pros Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson, who were the two pitchers featured in the game.

Both Schilling and Johnson’s career batting averages were under .151 at this point in their careers. Why the developers gave Beltran, Schilling and Johnson the same batting attributes is beyond me.

In 2001, Beltran had a 20/30 season while batting over .300. He must have used his poor attributes as motivation, as he would go on to hit over 400 home runs and steal over 300 bases in his illustrious career.

Jason Giambi

To me, Giambi is easily the most disrespected player on this list. As the American League MVP in 2000, Giambi batted .333 with 43 home runs and 137 RBIs. He led the league in walks, on-base percentage and on-base plus slugging.

Backyard Baseball 2001

Great power, excellent fielder with great hands, drives in runs, walks – everything you ask for from a first baseman. Great coordination that rivals Vicki Kawaguchi’s. His all-time favorite baseball player is Mickey Mantle, in case you’re wondering. (Photo from Viva La Vita)

Giambi, who represented the Oakland Athletics in 2001, had a batting attribute that measured 7/10, which may seem respectable at first glance. However, Derek Jeter and Jason Kendall, who also shared a 7/10 batting stat, had less combined home runs and RBIs than Giambi in 2000. Anyone who saw Giambi play in late ’90s knows that he deserved a full 10/10 batting stat, as he was arguably the most dangerous hitter in the game at that time.

In 2001, Giambi batted .342 with 38 home runs and 120 RBIs, coming in second in the American League MVP vote behind Rookie of the Year and MVP Ichiro Suzuki. In my opinion, Giambi was snubbed, as his WAR measured a full 1.5 points higher and lost by seven vote points.

Due to his admitted steroid use, Giambi will likely fall short of the Hall of Fame. His career .277 batting average, 440 home runs and 1,441 RBIs make him a Hall of Fame caliber player either way.

Jeromy Burnitz

Backyard Baseball 2001

Jeromy is one of the best left-handed batters in the league. This talented outfielder has a sweet swing and can hit to all fields. His defense is solid and his arm is fantastic. He also likes to play Ping-Pong – but hey, who doesn’t? (Photo via Reddit from r/Baseball)

Coming off of three consecutive seasons with over 30 home runs from 1998-2000, one would expect Jeromy Burnitz to receive one of the higher batting attributes among sluggers in Backyard Baseball 2001. I would consider his 7/10 batting rating to be a bit disrespectful.

Representing the Milwaukee Brewers, one could expect Burnitz to be snubbed in the ratings department, as the team had failed to reach the .500 mark since 1992.

Both Kenny Lofton and Barry Larkin had identical 7/10 batting stats as Burnitz, although Lofton and Larkin combined failed to hit as many home runs through the same three-year period as Burnitz did alone. I believe Lofton and Larkin deserve their 7/10 marks, as they were both great contact hitters in their own right, although I believe Burnitz absolutely deserved a higher rating in the batting category.

Shawn Green

Green had a miraculous 1999 campaign, batting .309 with 42 home runs, 123 RBIs and 20 stolen bases with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 2000, he would move out west to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal centered around fellow Backyard Baseball pro Raul Mondesi.

Backyard Baseball 2001

Shawn, a rare blend of power and speed, has a strong arm and is a decent fielder. This outfielder’s mighty swing can send the ball yard and then some. He’s been playing baseball since he was a toddler – and it shows! (Photo via Reddit from r/Baseball)

Green took a step back in 2000, but still managed to score 98 runs and drive in 99 RBIs with 72 extra-base hits.

Due to our shared Jewish heritage, I tended to select Green quite often. His batting stats are not what I am putting into question, rather his fielding. The vision of Green costing me precious runs after taking a fly ball of the head remains to this day.

The Backyard Sports developers decided to give him 5/10 for his fielding attribute, which made him tied for the second worst fielding player of the featured pros despite being only one season removed from winning a Gold Glove award.

Two notable names that have a better fielding attribute than Green include Mo Vaughn (8/10) and Mark McGwire (7/10). McGwire won his sole Gold Glove in 1990, ten years before the game had been released, while Vaughn never did. Interesting to see Green be snubbed so blatantly.

Which sport stars do you think were disrespected in the Backyard Sports series?

 

Featured image by MuseumOfPlay.com

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Bounce back candidates for 2018 MLB season

Bounce back candidates for the 2018 MLB season

Baseball fans were lucky to witness an incredible 2017 World Series this October, where bounce back players like Dallas Keuchel and Yasiel Puig were significant contributors. It is officially time to look ahead to the 2018 MLB season, where a new group of bounce back performers are sure to emerge.

The following players are not the only bounce back candidates, but are the ones who I believe are most likely to return to their previous form. Keep an eye out for these players heading into the 2018 season, as their price on draft day may be discounted due to their struggles in 2017.

Honorable mentions: Jose Bautista (FA), Jonathan Villar (MIL), Kyle Schwarber (ChC), Addison Russell (ChC), Ben Zobrist (ChC), Odubel Herrera (Phi), Maikel Franco (Phi), Carlos Gonzalez (FA), Kole Calhoun (LAA), Joc Pederson (LAD), Greg Bird (NYY), and Gregory Polanco (PIT).

Players who EVERYONE anticipates to bounce back, whose cases I do not feel are worth explaining: Noah Syndergaard (NYM), Yoenis Cespedes (NYM), Mookie Betts (BOS), Xander Bogaerts (BOS), Josh Donaldson (TOR), A.J. Pollock (ARI), Kyle Seager (SEA), and Jason Kipnis (CLE).

Batters

Hanley Ramirez, Designated Hitter/First Baseman, Boston Red Sox

GamesBA/OBP/SLGRRBIsHRXBHSB
2017 Season133.242/.320/.429586223471
162-game AVG162.291/.362/.49010389266628
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

Hanley Ramirez had a career low batting average (.242) in 2017. (Photo by the Boston Herald)

At this stage in Hanley’s career, we obviously aren’t expecting a 20/20 MVP candidate season, but his 2017 campaign was a clear disappointment. His .242 batting average was a career low, while his 21 percent strikeout rate was at a career high.

Ramirez dealt with soreness and inflammation in his left bicep and shoulder throughout the year. According to rotoworld.com, he underwent a “relatively minor” surgery on his left shoulder on Tuesday, Oct. 17, which should allow Ramirez to return healthy for 2018 season.

The Red Sox, who finished 27th in home runs in 2017, will rely heavily on Ramirez to provide power in the heart of their order. If the Sox have any chance of returning to the playoffs next year, Ramirez will have to be a major piece to their puzzle.

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Lucroy, Catcher, Colorado Rockies

GamesBA/OBP/SLGRRBIsHRXBHSB
2017 Season123.265/.345/.37145406301
162-game AVG162.281/.343/.433687616515

Lucroy’s 2017 campaign made people forget that he is only one year removed from being the top ranked catcher in fantasy baseball. Aside from his rookie year where he played only 75 games, he managed to set career lows in home runs, slugging percentage and runs scored.

The 31-year-old was traded for a second time in as many years, this time heading from the Texas Rangers, whose stadium ranks second in terms of runs created by park factors, to the Colorado Rockies, whose stadium ranks first. The difference in scenery may not seem like a significant change, but Lucroy’s slash line in Colorado, .310/.429/.437, was substantially better than in Texas, .242/.297/.338.

Lucroy is currently a free agent, but according to purplerow.com, “there has been a lot of mutual interest expressed by the Rockies and Lucroy in reuniting.”

In Colorado, Lucroy spent the majority of the year batting eighth, which clearly isn’t ideal for your fantasy team. However, any spot in the Rockies’ lineup is fine, as they ranked third in runs scored, fourth in RBIs and second in batting average in 2017.

Whether Lucroy were to re-sign with Colorado or not, he still promises to be a major bounce back candidate in 2018.

Troy Tulowitzki, Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays

GamesBA/OBP/SLGRRBIsHRXBHSB
2017 Season66.249/.300/.3781626     7170
162-game AVG162.290/.361/.495969828647
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

According to Rotoworld.com, the Blue Jays and manager John Gibbons expect “Tulowitzki (to) be healthy come spring training in 2018”. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Tulowitzki’s production has been on a steep decline since being traded from the Colorado Rockies to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015. The two-time top-five National League MVP candidate slashed .299/.371/.513 in his 10 years in Colorado, while he has slashed just .250/.313/.414 in his three seasons with Toronto.

Now 33 years old, Tulowitzki was placed on the 60-day disabled list after suffering ligament damage in his right ankle in July. According to Rotoworld.com, the Blue Jays and manager John Gibbons expect “Tulowitzki (to) be healthy come spring training in 2018.”

According to Alec Gentry of Sportingnews.com, Gibbons also stated that “Tulo is our shortstop,” showing that despite his struggles, the team will continue to deploy him at shortstop for the foreseeable future.

The only real case for Tulowitzki bouncing back is his track record and opportunity. He is signed through 2020 and must be desperate to prove his worth to the city of Toronto.

 

 

 

Adam Eaton, Outfielder, Washington Nationals

GamesBA/OBP/SLGRRBIsHRXBHSB
2017 Season23.297/.393/.4622413     2233
162-game AVG162.284/.358/.41610457115217

There were high expectations for Eaton in 2017, as it would be his first season batting leadoff for his new club, the Washington Nationals, whose star-studded lineup ranked eighth in runs scored, 11th in home runs and seventh in RBIs just a year prior. With Eaton atop their lineup, the Nationals became that much better, as the 28-year-old was coming off of back-to-back seasons with at least a .280 batting average, 175 hits, 90 runs and 14 stolen bases.

Sadly, Eaton’s 2017 campaign was cut short after suffering a torn ACL on April 28. According to Jamal Collier of MLB.com, Eaton stated, “I’m going to work my butt off and give myself the best-case scenario to play. This year would be great, and if that is the case, that means we are playing in October, that is for sure.”

Unfortunately for Eaton, the Nationals failed to make the World Series, which was the earliest Eaton was expected to return. His clear hunger to play and prove doubters wrong inspires me to draft him in 2018. The Nationals lineup improved in 2017, ranking fifth in runs scored, third in RBIs and fourth in batting average.

If Eaton were to bat atop their lineup next season, he would likely return to his top-30 outfielder status.

Pitchers

Masahiro Tanaka, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

GamesW-LERAWHIPIPK/9BB/9HR/9
2017 Season3013-124.741.24178.19.82.11.8
162-game AVG3417-93.561.102168.61.71.3
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

Tanaka’s 2017 regular season was an absolute disaster. (Photo by the Japanese Times)

Tanaka’s 2017 regular season was an absolute disaster. The 29-year-old once had a reputation for limiting walks, hits and home runs, but that status has officially been revoked. His 1.8 HR/9 ranked third worst among qualified pitchers, while his ERA ranked ninth worst.

One interesting stat for Tanaka is the decline in the frequency of his fastball, as it has been in decline every season since 2014, where he was throwing it about 40 percent of the time, down to 28 percent in 2017.

In turn, the frequency of his off-speed pitches has continuously risen, which may have contributed to the rise of his strikeout rate, as his 2016 strikeout rate of 7.4 increased dramatically to 9.8 this season.

A positive sign for Tanaka moving forward was his 2017 playoff performances. In his 20 innings pitched, Tanaka allowed just two earned runs, 10 hits and three walks. This was the Tanaka baseball fans expected heading into 2017.

Looking ahead to 2018, Tanaka will once again be expected to play a key role atop the Yankees rotation. If he is able to continue his postseason success into 2018, there is no reason he cannot bounce back to his top-20 fantasy starter status that he earned just a year ago.

Felix Hernandez, Starting Pitcher, Seattle Mariners

StartsW-LERAWHIPIPK/9BB/9HR/9
2017 Season166-54.361.2986.28.12.71.8
162-game AVG3415-103.201.182278.42.60.8

Hernandez has been in a downward spiral over the course of his last two seasons. After four straight Cy Young caliber seasons from 2012-15, the 31-year-old has thrown a total of 240 innings while posting a 4.01 ERA. Many factors could be contributing to Hernandez’s struggles, although fatigue and injuries seem to be the main causes.

King Felix has had one of the heaviest workloads among starting pitchers in the last decade, as he has recorded over 190 innings pitched over ten different seasons, most notably in 2010 where he pitched a league high 249.2 innings.

I personally refuse to believe that Hernandez, one of the best pitchers of his generation, is out of gas. Shoulder bursitis and bicep tendinitis cut his 2017 campaign short.

If a healthy Hernandez returns next season, his 2018 campaign will be a very different story.

Aaron Sanchez, Starting Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays

StartsW-LERAWHIPIPK/9BB/9HR/9
2017 Season81-34.251.7236.06.05.01.5
162-game AVG2211-63.011.211587.03.50.8
Bounce back candidates 2018 MLB season

Aaron Sanchez finished seventh in American League Cy Young voting last year after tossing 192 innings that resulted in a 15-2 record, 3.00 ERA and 161 strikeouts. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Sanchez was considered a blossoming star in 2016, as he finished the year seventh in American League Cy Young voting after tossing 192 innings that resulted in a 15-2 record, 3.00 ERA and 161 strikeouts. In 2017, his story was quite different.

Lingering blisters on his right middle finger resulted in four separate stints on the disabled list for Sanchez. Although it may seem like this season was a lost cause for the 25-year-old, he thinks otherwise.

According to Sportsnet.com, Sanchez stated that missing the majority of the year was “a benefit for (himself) honestly… (as) it gave (him) a full year to… rest,” as he had thrown over 200 innings in the regular and postseasons combined in 2016.

Sanchez won’t begin throwing until December, so we won’t know the status of his finger until then. What we do know is that Sanchez is one of the top young talents in the game and is sure to be overlooked in fantasy circles due to his “wasted” 2017 season.

 

 

 

Gerrit Cole, Starting Pitcher, Pittsburgh Pirates

StartsW-LERAWHIPIPK/9BB/9HR/9
2017 Season3312-124.261.252038.72.41.4
162-game AVG3416-113.501.222098.42.30.8

Although Cole started a career high 33 games in 2017, he had career worsts in ERA at 4.26, hits allowed with 199 and HR/9 at 1.4. Cole ranked 10th worst in home runs allowed with 31, which is nerve-racking, although in 2015, Cole ranked fourth best in HR/9 at .48, and home runs allowed at 11.

At only 27-years-old, it is more than realistic for Cole to bounce back to his Cy Young caliber form we saw just two years ago. The former first overall pick in 2011 needs to be on your draft radar next season, as his price is sure to be discounted due to his mediocre 2017 campaign.

 

Featured image by 710 ESPN Seattle

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Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

With the World Series having been settled, Houstonians prepare to honor their championship winning team. For the fans in Houston, all the talk will be on the greatness that this season has produced. For the rest of us it’s time to warm ourselves around the hot stove, and talk about all things past, present and future. Yes, now’s the time to talk about why Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown.

As we move forever into the future, it’s hard to look back sometimes at those “less glamorous” items from the past. Catcher Ted Simmons is just one of those items that seems to have lost its shine through the years. How sad. The former Cardinals, Brewers and Braves player deserves to stand on that stage in Cooperstown and talk about what it means to be a Hall of Famer.

There has been much written about the likes of Alan Trammell, one of the greatest Detroit Tigers to don the uniform, but Ted Simmons is probably one of the greatest players you don’t realize was great. Simmons’ numbers hold up to this day, nearly 30 years after he played his last professional game. His numbers aren’t just good, they’re great. I would say, they are Hall of Fame great.

The BBWA has made a huge mistake by not admitting Simmons to the Hall when they had their chance. In fact, I wonder how it could possibly be that Simmons only garnered 3.7 percent of the vote in his bellwether year on the ballot. It’s quite mind boggling to be frankly honest. Especially when considering all his peers are in the Hall of Fame.

For Simmons, affectionately known to his fans as Simba, being frozen out of the Hall of Fame is a nightmare that needs to end.

Simmons’ WAR and JAWS ratings

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons putting on his Cardinal red jacket while be formally inducted into the St. Louis Cardinals team Hall of Fame. (Photo courtesy of: CBS St. Louis/Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

As someone who was brought up in the pre-money ball era, it has taken time to adjust to the advanced metrics of modern day analysis. I see their usefulness, but there isn’t a ton to be gleaned from them that you can’t glean from a comprehensive analysis of the traditional stats, but I digress.

The WAR rating system is just a quicker way to get to the nuts and bolts of a player’s value. Instead of pouring over stat line after stat line of data, it is much faster to take the numbers and plug them into a handy formula that weights each category appropriately. Much to the credit of Jamesian statistics, these types of stats have made it easier to gauge a player’s individual worth compared to his positional peers.

In the case of Ted Simmons his WAR, 7-year peak WAR and JAWS ratings stand him in good stead. It’s also the jumping off point for arguing that Simmons should be enshrined in Cooperstown. So, where does Simmons rate?

In WAR, Ted Simmons ranks 12th among all catchers with a solid (50.1) rating. Take into consideration that the average HoF catcher has a (53.4) career WAR, and it seems like splitting hairs to say that Simmons’ career WAR isn’t good enough. We’re talking about a difference of (3.3) Wins Above Replacement over the length of a career.

Considering that Simmons is one of only 12 catchers with a WAR rating over (50), it makes little sense that he’s not already enshrined in Cooperstown. All other catchers that amassed a 50+ career WAR rating are in the Hall of Fame, except for the still active Joe Mauer.

But it gets even better for Simmons’ case when accounting for both his 7-year peak WAR, and his JAWS ratings. Starting with Simba’s 7-year peak WAR (34.6), he’s slightly above the average HoF catcher in that category. The average 7-year peak WAR for all HoF catchers is (34.4), making Simmons just your average HoF caliber catcher. Nothing more, nothing less.

Simmons’ JAWS rating of (42.9), which is a combination of both a player’s WAR and 7-year peak WAR, sits just off the average of all HoF catchers (43.9). So, regardless of how you view Ted Simmons, what you can’t argue with is the notion that he’s one of the all-time greats behind the plate.

It’s a crime against baseball that a player that ranks 12th in WAR, 12th in 7-year peak WAR and 11th in JAWS at his position all-time, doesn’t have a bust in Cooperstown. Simmons resides at, or very near, the average HoF numbers in each of these three categories.

Simmons at the plate

If advanced metrics aren’t your thing, that’s ok. A comprehensive look at the traditional state lines will tell you that Simmons is still worthy of the Hall call.

Let’s just start with games played. Simmons to this day, still ranks third in games played all-time. He also ranks third in both plate appearances (9,685) and at-bats (8,680). This shows that Simmons was a guy you could count on to be healthy, and ready to rock and roll every day, for the better part of 20 years.

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. (Photo courtesy of: Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Simmons also ranks sixth in runs scored (1,074), making him one of only 10 catchers to surpass (1,000) runs scored for a career. Jason Kendall is the only other catcher in this category that isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Everyone else that achieved this feat is included in Cooperstown.

Now we get into the real meat and potatoes of the matter. In hits, Simmons, still ranks second all-time (2,472), behind only Ivan Rodriquez’s (2,844). That means, when Simmons retired after the 1988 season, he was the all-time hits leader for catchers. A record that stood for 19 years until Rodriquez bested Simmons’ in hits during the 2007 season.

If that doesn’t do it for you, then let’s talk about doubles. Simmons was the first catcher ever to hit over 400 career doubles. He finished with a whopping (483) two-baggers in his 21-season career. Simmons remained the all-time doubles champion for catchers, until again bested by Rodriquez in 2007. Keep in mind that when Simmons retired in ’88, Carlton Fisk was the next closest to him in doubles at (346). It wasn’t until the 1991 season that Fisk finally joined Ted Simmons in the 400-double club.

Simmons was also a (.285) career hitter, which is identical to Yogi Berra’s career average at the plate. However, very few catchers can boast a prolific strike out ratio like Simmons’. He struck out an average of once every 12.5 at-bats for his career, which is phenomenal. Simmons also walked 1.23 times to every time he struck out. This is the hallmark of a HoF caliber hitter folks.

If all this isn’t enough for you to digest, Simmons still ranks second in RBI for a catcher with (1,389). Who’s better than Simmons in this category? Only Yogi Berra, and his (1,430) RBI’s are better than Simmons’ mark. Surprisingly, Simmons knocked in more runs than the legendary Johnny Bench’s (1,376). That’s some exclusive company if I do say so myself.

Simmons’ bat alone should have been enough to get him into Cooperstown. Especially when you realize that when he retired in 1988, he was the all-time leader in games played, plate appearance, at-bats, hits and doubles.

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

It’s hard to say where we go in the case of Ted Simmons from this point. Thus far, there isn’t exactly a fire here. Certainly, the Veterans Committee will debate Alan Trammell’s case long before they will Ted Simmons’ case.

Ted Simmons deserves Cooperstown

Ted Simmons putting in work behind the plate, this man deserves a better historical fate. (Photo courtesy of: bestsportsphotos.com)

One of the bugaboos about Ted Simmons is that he didn’t win a gold glove at catcher. However, there can be only one winner each season. Going up against the Red’s 10-time Gold Glove winning catcher, Johnny Bench, Ted Simmons was probably never going to win that award. To Simmons’ credit though, he had an arguable case for the award in 1976. Johnny Bench edged out Simmons for a Gold Glove in ’76 by the slimmest of margins.

Simmons was a competent defender. He was good, but not great, a point that I will readily concede. But the facts remain, Simmons’ bat should have been enough to catapult him into baseball immortality.

Let’s face it, Simmons was a Mike Piazza style of catcher long before Piazza even came around. Although Simmons does have a superior dWAR (4.7) to Piazza’s (1.0). It’s for this reason, that Simmons gets dogged by the BBWA, because it surely isn’t his bat. Simmons’ bat is sound and worthy of all the pomp and circumstance that comes along with being a Hall of Famer.

It’s time for baseball fans to band together to fix this injustice. In Ted Simmons’ case, the Veterans Committee remains his only lifeline to the Hall. However, they don’t vote players in every year.

It’s time to apply the pressure folks.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Sports Illustrated)

 

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Brewers prospect Keston Hiura's bright future

Brewers prospect Keston Hiura’s bright future

The Milwaukee Brewers might have struck gold with Keston Hiura, their first-round selection, in 2017’s first year player draft. Let’s talk about Brewers prospect Keston Hiura’s bright future before he’s a star everyone knows.

David Stearns, Milwaukee’s general manager, has done many good things in his first two years at the helm. Perhaps one of Stearns’ best moves though is his selection of sweet-swinging second baseman Keston Hiura with the ninth pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. For Hiura, the best is most certainly yet to come.

Hiura’s Bat

Brewers prospect Keston Hiura's bright future

Keston Hiura was the Division I college batting champion last season at UC Irvine. (Photo courtesy of: Baseball America)

Hiura was billed by many pundits leading up to the draft as the best pure hitter available. It’s not hard to figure out why either. As a junior at the University of California–Irvine, Hiura batted (.442/.567/.693) leading to an astounding OPS of (1.260). As far as college bats go, a scout for any MLB team would be hard pressed to find one better.

Hiura did, after all, lead Division I college hitters in both batting (.442) and OBP (.567).

Hiura’s hitting prowess saw him named as a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award in 2017. Though the UC-Irvine standout didn’t win the honor, it is most certainly high praise to be named to the semi-finalists list.

The hits just kept on coming for Hiura after making the jump to pro-ball as well. In his first 42 games of professional baseball, the first-round pick belted an impressive (.371/.422/.611), split between two levels.

Putting those number into perspective, Hiura spent the majority of his first pro season at Low-A Wisconsin. It was there that Hiura put up an impressive batting line, hitting (.333/.374./.476). As the old turn of phrase goes, “That’s just par for the course.” Well, for Keston Hiura it is anyway.

Hiura, at 21 years of age, still has a long road to travel to get to the big leagues. His bat might be hard to slow, however. He showcases the plate discipline of a player more advanced in years, and that bodes well for Hiura. He could potentially be one of the first hitters from this year’s draft class to step to the plate in the majors.

Hiura’s Injury

As good as Hiura is at the dish, he doesn’t come without a certain amount of risk attached. This is not a unique circumstance though. There is a certain amount of risk with every prospect that makes the jump to pro-ball.

In 2016, as a sophomore at UC-Irvine, Hiura suffered an injury to the elbow of his throwing arm. While playing center field, Hiura unleashed a throw to home resulting in a sprained ulnar collateral ligament. The injury led to many MLB teams wondering if the dreaded Tommy John surgery would be in Hiura’s future.

Hiura has said in an interview with Baseball America that the injury never affected his swing. It did, however, affect his fielding. As a result of the injury, Hiura spent the entirety of his junior season as UC-Irvine’s DH. Hiura’s lack of game film in the field and the threat of a possible surgery on that elbow without doubt caused some of the teams picking ahead of the Brewers to go another direction with their pick.

Brewers prospect Keston Hiura's bright future

Hiura has also played for the U.S. Collegiate National Team. (Photo courtesy of: Orlando Sentinel)

An outfielder by trade, Hiura’s task now is learning how to become a professional second baseman. Not a small task, but if anyone is capable of the transition it would be Hiura. This youngster has drawn rave reviews from his former coach at UC-Irvine, Mike Gillespie, about his work ethic.

Much to the delight of David Stearns and the Brewers organization, Hiura was back in the field by the middle of August while with Low-A Wisconsin. Even better still, Tommy John surgery has been ruled out for Hiura’s elbow.

Hiura did suffer an injury that saw him on the DL toward season’s end, but breathe easy Brewers fans, it was a strained hamstring that kept him out of action. Hiura’s arm is seemingly good to go for 2018 and his first full season of professional baseball.

Playing a full season at second base, the Brewers and Hiura should know very early on in the year if his arm is going to be an issue. At least for the moment though, all signs point to his UCL sprain as being behind him.

Hiura in 2018

Based on the numbers Hiura pounded out in his first taste of professional baseball, Brewers fans might want to see him start 2018 at High-A Carolina. It is very doubtful that he will start there with the work he needs in the field.

It is far more likely that he will be the opening day second baseman for Low-A Wisconsin.

While his bat is ready right now to face tougher competition, his glove invariably needs work. Brewers fans need to remember that Hiura is essentially learning a new position. There will be a learning curve to this process and it will take time.

Hiura won’t be toiling away at Low-A Wisconsin all season though. I fully expect Hiura the climb the prospect ladder at least one level by the end of 2018, if not two levels. It isn’t unreasonable to assume Hiura could hit his way to Double-A by season’s end. Of course, this depends on how Hiura adapts to second base and how that arm holds up.

The good news though, is if a player can play center field he more than likely can handle second base as well. As he logs more innings, he should come to terms with how to play second base fairly quickly.

Another factor that bodes well for Hiura is time. At the tender age of 21 and with a glut of rising prospects at the keystone positions in the Brewers organization, there is no need to fast-track this young man to the big leagues. Time is on Hiura’s side as far as learning how to properly defend second base is concerned.

Hiura’s ETA in Milwaukee

Brewers prospect Keston Hiura's bright future

Keston Hiura signs his autograph for some of the Milwaukee faithful. (Photo courtesy of: The Post-Crescent)

While the fans in Milwaukee will want to see Hiura sporting the ball and glove logo on his hat sooner rather than later, it would be asking too much to see him up with the big club at any point in 2018. He simply has too much glove work to do before making that jump.

Also, there is no question that as the standard of pitching gets better, his bat will have to adjust as well. In this category though, Hiura will most likely do just fine. There is absolutely nothing in his past to suggest that he will suddenly forget how to hit. It is, after all, his best tool.

The future is indeed a bright one for Keston Hiura. He’ll be knocking on the door of the big leagues by mid-2019, and his bat will be the major reason why. But of course, this is all assuming he experiences no further problems with that balky elbow on his throwing arm.

Hiura seems intent on battering minor league pitching. This should leave Brewers fans with those warm and fuzzy feelings inside. With the emergence of Travis Shaw at third base and Orlando Arica at short stop, adding in Keston Hiura could be a watershed moment for the Brewers organization overall.

How quickly Hiura makes the transition to second base will be the difference maker in how quickly he ascends to the big club in Milwaukee. One thing is for certain though, if his glove adapts anywhere near as quickly as his bat has, you will see him in Milwaukee sooner than later.

Hiura has the bat to play beyond the level he is currently at. If he can become just an average defender in short order, he will be forcing the Brewers’ hand very soon.

For Brewers GM David Stearns this is an excellent problem to have. And it’s a far cry from the pile of smoldering, twisted, wreckage that the Brewers’ farm system had become under Stearns’ predecessor, Bob Melvin.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: azcentral.com)

 

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Domingo Santana fantasy

Domingo Santana fantasy: By the numbers

Domingo Santana broke out in 2017, finishing as a top-20 outfielder in standard ESPN fantasy baseball leagues, ahead of players like Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, Andrew Benintendi and Andrew McCutchen. Was Santana’s 2017 season a fluke, or a sign of what’s to come?

Background

Domingo Santana fantasy

Domingo Santana was traded to the Houston Astros in a multi-player deal that sent All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence to Philadelphia. (Photo from Wikipedia.com)

Santana originally signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009 as an international free agent. After three mediocre minor league seasons in low and single-A, Santana was traded to the Houston Astros in a multi-player deal that sent All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence to Philadelphia.

In his first full minor league season with Houston, Santana batted .302 with 23 home runs, 87 runs scored and 97 RBIs in 119 games in high-A. He was promoted to double-A in 2013 and batted .252 with 25 home runs, 72 runs scored and 64 RBIs in 112 games. Although there was a bit of regression in his batting average and BABIP from 2012 to 2013, the Astros felt enough comfort to continue Santana’s ascension through the minors.

In 2014, Santana played 120 games with the triple-A Oklahoma City Red Hawks, where he would bat .296 with 16 home runs, 63 runs scored and 81 RBIs. His first major league action came in 2014, but in his six games and 18 plate appearances, Santana failed to record a hit and struck out 77.8 percent of the time.

Santana began his 2015 campaign in Oklahoma City. After 75 games played with a .320 batting average and 16 home runs, the Astros decided to trade the then 22-year-old and others to the Milwaukee Brewers for starting pitcher Mike Fiers and All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez. Santana continued his success that season, batting .380 with 18 RBIs in the remaining 20 games of the season with the triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

In 2016, Santana began the year in the major leagues with Milwaukee, but only played in 77 games due to right elbow and shoulder injuries that landed him on the disabled list on two separate occasions. Santana went on to bat .256 with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs, putting him on a 162-game pace to hit 23 home runs with 67 RBIs.

2017 season 

2017 will be considered Santana’s breakout campaign. In 151 games, a 24-year-old Santana batted .278 with 30 home runs, 88 runs scored, 85 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He managed to finish as a top-20 fantasy baseball outfielder and can be considered one of the biggest draft steals of the season.

Among qualified batters, Santana’s BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, ranked sixth highest with .363, and his strikeout rate ranked ninth worst at 29.3 percent. Out of the four professional seasons in which Santana played in over 100 games, he has registered a BABIP of at least .316 and strikeout rate above 28 percent. Santana fits in perfectly in this new era of baseball where sluggers are not afraid to strikeout, as guys like Aaron Judge (30.7), Khris Davis (29.9), Eric Thames (29.6) and Justin Upton (28.3) all managed to hit 30 or more home runs while striking out at least 28 percent of the time.

2018 outlook

Domingo Santana fantasy

Domingo Santana batted .278 with 30 home runs, 88 runs scored, 85 RBIs and 15 stolen bases in 2017. (Photo by AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Due to his unproven track record and playing in Milwaukee, Santana’s cost is sure to be discounted on draft day. Do I think he will hit 30 home runs again? No, as his 30.9 home run to fly ball rate seems unsustainable, as it ranked third in the MLB behind only Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.

Do I think he will steal 15 bases again? Yes, as Milwaukee has finished within the top two in stolen bases in the last two seasons, suggesting that Santana will have no problem swiping double-digit bags.

Do I think he can score and drive in over 80 runs? Yes, as he spent the majority of the season batting fifth, and even spent seven of his last 23 games batting second. This suggests that Milwaukee will use Santana in multiple fantasy friendly spots in the top half of their lineup in 2018.

Finally, do I think he can bat above .275? No, as his BABIP ranked sixth highest in the MLB at .363, suggesting that luck was on his side in 2017. I understand his medium and hard contact rates are impressive at 39.7 percent and 48.6 percent respectively, but I anticipate pitchers to continue to make adjustments, as Santana batted .291 in the first half, and just .262 in the second.

Overall, I think Santana will be a solid fantasy asset and will finish the year batting around .260 with 25 home runs, 80 runs scored, 80 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. In my mind, he will finish as a top-40 outfielder in 2018. Feel free to let me know your thoughts on Domingo Santana and his outlook heading into the 2018 MLB season.

 

Featured image by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Injuries 2018 MLB season

Injuries to keep an eye on heading into the 2018 MLB season

With the ALCS and NLCS around the corner and the 2017 fantasy baseball season officially in the books, it is time to assess the 2018 outlook for the following four players. They are all currently injured with fairly loose time tables for return, but also could be impact players next season.

Jimmy Nelson, Starting Pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers

Injuries 2018 MLB season

Jimmy Nelson’s 2017 WAR of 4.9 ranks fourth in the MLB, only behind Chris Sale, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer. (Photo by The News and Observer)

Nelson quietly emerged as one of the most dominant pitchers in Major League Baseball this season.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Jimmy Nelson. His 2017 WAR of 4.9 ranked eighth in the MLB. Nelson also finished in the top 10 in K/9 (10.21) and xFIP (3.15) to go with a 3.49 ERA. In 175.1 innings, Nelson fell only one strikeout short of 200, which was a huge improvement from his prior career high of 148 in 177.1 innings.

According to fangraphs.com, Nelson’s curveball in 2017 was valued at 9.2, where a value of zero represents average, a positive value represents above average and a negative value represents below. To put this in better perspective, Clayton Kershaw’s curveball has been valued at a total of 63.8 over the course of his career, with a high of 16.5 and a yearly average of 7.2, although his curveball is currently valued at 6.4 in 2017. This shows that Nelson’s stuff is similarly effective to the likes of Kershaw.

The 28-year-old suffered a partially torn labrum and a strained rotator cuff after sliding back head-first into first base on September 8. He underwent surgery on September 19, which will undoubtedly set him back at the start of the 2018 season. According to MLB.com, Nelson shouldn’t be expected to return until midseason.

Nelson is well worth a flyer in fantasy drafts next season, as his price is sure to be discounted due to his long-awaited return.

Adam Eaton, Outfielder, Washington Nationals

Injuries 2018 MLB season

Adam Eaton tore his ACL and meniscus on April 28, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2017 MLB season. (Photo by the Cincinnati Enquirer)

In his first season in Washington after being traded for prospect pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, Eaton had found himself in a fantasy friendly leadoff role. It was undeniable that he could score triple-digit runs and steal double-digit bases atop a loaded Nationals lineup.

Unfortunately, he tore his ACL and meniscus on April 28, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2017 season.

Eaton was batting .297 with two home runs, three stolen bases and 14 walks through 23 games this season. His combination of speed, plate discipline, contact hitting and opportunity in the Nationals’ lineup push me to compare him to the likes of his former teammate A.J. Pollock.

Pollock is a career .286 hitter with a 162-game average of 16 home runs and 28 stolen bases. Eaton’s 162-game average is .284, 11 home runs and 17 stolen bases, showing that he offers similar value to Pollack a much cheaper price.

Early reports this season suggested that there would be a possibility for Eaton to return at the end of the 2017 season if the Nationals were to make a deep postseason run. However, the Nationals were eliminated in the NLDS and Eaton did not enter a game. This indicates that Eaton should be ready to go by the start of 2018, and by his own account according to the Washington Post, he plans to return “a better player for sure.”

Eaton’s confidence in himself is reassuring for his fantasy value moving forward, although the current outfield situation in Washington is not. Superstar Bryce Harper is locked into right field as long as he remains a National. Michael Taylor has emerged as much more than a depth outfielder after batting .271 with 19 home runs and 17 stolen bases in Eaton’s absence. Veteran slugger Jayson Werth was on pace for 23 home runs through 162-games, but was plagued with injuries. Top prospect Victor Robles has also shown that he is deserving of MLB at-bats.

It is uncertain if and to what extent Eaton will play in 2018. If he returns to an everyday role, he will reemerge to fantasy relevance once again.

Troy Tulowitzki, Shortstop, Toronto Blue Jays

Injuries 2018 MLB Season

Troy Tulowitzki is only three seasons removed from when he batted .340 with 21 home runs in 91 games with the Colorado Rockies. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

Tulowitzki was placed on the 60-day disabled list on August 6 after suffering ligament damage in his ankle. The 33-year-old played in only 66 games, slashing a career worst .249/.300/.378. Despite his clear struggles and lack of durability, manager John Gibbons told MLB Network Radio that they are committed to Tulowitzki as their starting shortstop in 2018.

He is only three seasons removed from when he batted .340 with 21 home runs in 91 games with the Colorado Rockies. The once perennial National League MVP candidate has been reduced to a shell of his former self. In his three seasons as a Blue Jay, he has a combined .250 batting average and just 36 home runs in 238 games.

He spent the majority of the season batting either fifth or sixth. With the anticipated departure of Jose Bautista and the Josh Donaldson trade rumors, it is hard to identify where Tulowitzki will fit in the order or how productive the Blue Jays’ lineup can be.

His fantasy value moving forward is a conundrum, as no one knows what to expect at this point in his career. Will he resurrect his MVP form? Or will his skills and durability continue to diminish? Only time will tell, but his price on draft day in 2018 is sure to be a bargain.

Michael Conforto, Outfielder, New York Mets

Injuries 2018 MLB season

Prior to the injury, Michael Conforto was slashing .279/.384/.55 with 27 home runs and 68 RBIs through 109 games. (Photo by NY Daily News)

Conforto underwent season ending surgery on September 6 to repair a torn posterior capsule in his left shoulder. His anticipated return is around early March, although this only gives him a month to ramp up baseball activities before the start of the season in April, suggesting that he will miss the beginning of the 2018 regular season.

Prior to the injury, Conforto was slashing .279/.384/.555 with 27 home runs and 68 RBIs through 109 games. This rate of production put Conforto on pace to hit 40 home runs and drive in 101 RBIs.

Whether he is in left, right or center field, Corforto is a lock to be in the Mets’ lineup. He has proven that he is not just a left-handed side of a platoon, but yet a budding superstar, as he was playing nearly everyday in July and August. However, he still only bats a career .180 against lefties, so be weary.

The soon-to-be 25-year-old is sure to be undervalued in fantasy circles next season. He is obviously coming off of an injury, but more importantly, he plays for the Mets, whose offense ranked in the bottom half of the league in runs, RBIs and batting average in 2017. With a healthy Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes, the Mets could easily become a top-15 offense in 2018, making Conforto’s fantasy value rise immensely.

 

Featured image by NJ.com

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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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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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Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins playoffs: Nobody saw this coming

Seven years ago, the Minnesota Twins headed in to the 2010 postseason as the 94-win AL Central champions. It was their last playoff appearance.

Even the most optimistic of Minnesota Twins fans could not have foreseen what this season had in store. Sure, there are probably a select few who were predicting the postseason in April, but then again, every year is a World Series year for those people. It’s adorable. And as someone who has spent the better part of 30 years rooting for Milwaukee, I get it. We had our own improbable run this year.

The Manager

Minnesota Twins

Twins Manager Paul Molitor has done a lot more smiling this year than he did in 2016. (Photo courtesy of: KARE TV)

Unlike the upstart Brewers (who cling to just the faintest of life), you have succeeded in stamping your ticket to the postseason. Although, it did require the help of a legendary Milwaukee Brewer “Igniter” piloting that ship and steadying it through turbulent waters. Obviously, this is tongue in cheek, but let’s face it, Paul Molitor has done a heckuva job with this ball club.

I’ve heard grumblings from Twins fans on social media questioning how Molly runs a pitching staff. I find that a lot of the time, however, you can’t please everyone. The differences in this year’s Twins twirlers compared to that 2016 abomination are something you should be celebrating.

Don’t misunderstand, nobody is saying the Twins staff is dominant, but improvements in team pitching are why you’re here. Last season you finished dead last in the American League in pitching and that had to be painful to watch; 59-win seasons do tend to be pretty awful.

This season however, the Twins pitching staff ranks 10th of 15 in American League total team pitching. This team has shaved close to half-a-run off their team ERA (4.63) in 2017, down from a revolting (5.08) ERA in 2016. It must be at least a little depressing to average giving up five-plus runs per game. What am I talking about? It is depressing, I’ve been there and done that with some of those fine collections of soft-tossing beach ball dealers the Brewers have collected over the years. Doug Davis anyone?

Ask yourself one question: Would you rather have another season where you endure giving up 889 runs, or would you rather give up over 100 fewer runs and play October baseball? This is more than enough reason to get behind your club and your manager in my estimation. Forget about the questionable pitching management, you’re in the playoff club!

Byron Buxton

Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton, at age 23, already makes center field look way too simple. He should win the Gold Glove in 2017. (Photo Courtesy of: Twincities.com)

It doesn’t hurt a team’s fortunes either when one of your top youngsters flips the switch and begins to figure out the Major League game. This is exactly what Byron Buxton has done in 2017 for the Minnesota Twins.

I’m going to say this right now. Minnesota Twins centerfielder Byron Buxton is a Gold Glove winner. Should he not win the award bestowed upon the season’s best fielders in the AL this year, it will be an injustice.

He is just glove-ly. He uses that blazing speed to his advantage to become the predator lying in wait for any unsuspecting line drive looking only for clean grass to nest in. Even the best hitters regularly find the deep pocket of his cavernous glove.

And you can forget about burning this man. You’re not going to. He gets such an unbelievable jump on the ball and his read off the bat is so sharp, balls that would eat up most normal centerfielders find Buxton effortlessly tracking them down.

Long story short, he makes center field look easy. His (dWAR), or defensive wins above replacement, rating of 2.9 is second best in the majors this year to only all-world short stop, Andrelton Simmons who sits at a not too shabby 4.2 dWAR. And I do say that sarcastically by the way. Simmons is a man-god at short for Los Angeles.

Since the beginning of August, Buxton has been absolutely raking. As we have hit the dog days of summer, Buxton seems to be playing his best baseball at the right time stroking a (.303/.349/.556) line. Down the stretch, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is a scorching (.380). This suggests he will almost certainly cool off. Twins fans however, hope that happens after the World Series.

It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, Buxton has been  great this year for the Twins. At 23 years old, the best is almost certainly yet to come. But for now, this is a young player on the rise and seemingly coming into his own. Buxton will not be a free agent until 2022, so enjoy your defensive stalwart in centerfield while he’s there.

Please, Not New York… Again

With Boston again losing to the Astros last night 3-2 and the Yankees shutting out the Blue Jays 4-0, the AL East is still in play. New York is sitting two back with a pair left to play entering Saturday.

While it is still mathematically possible the Yankees could walk away with the East, they need to win out. They also need Boston to lose out. And then they would need to win a one game playoff at Yankee Stadium to send Boston into the Wild Card matchup with the Twins. Is it possible? Sure. Is it likely? No.

The Minnesota Twins are most likely going to New York, folks.

Minnesota Twins playoffs

The 85-win Minnesota Twins record the final out in the 1987 World Series, overcoming a stacked St. Louis Cardinals team. (Photo courtesy of: Minnpost.com)

If you’re a Twins fan, you don’t need to be reminded of the tough luck in October since the 1991 dream season. The Twins successfully went from dead last in 1990 to champs in 1991. Since that season, which culminated in arguably the best World Series of all time, Minnesota’s fortunes have been much different. The New York Yankees have been a main culprit.

In four of the last seven playoff series the Twins have played, the Yankees have been their opponent. The results have been far from resembling competent baseball. In four Division Series hookups, the Minnesota Twins have played to a (2-12) record. The Twins were also swept out of October in each of the last two playoff series they played (2009 & 2010).

Over those 14 games, the Yankees have regularly out-slugged the Twins. Take Derek Jeter for instance, as he hit at a .351 clip through that stretch while also adding eight RBIs to further his team’s cause.

This type of performance wasn’t limited to just Jeter though, because the Yankees also hit 20 homers to Minnesota’s eight. That’s a lot of runs to be giving up over one swing of a bat, so it’s really not surprising they have only taken two wins in 14 games.

Although Jeter has since ascended in to baseball mythology, the Yankees have a new batch of talented players. Of course, this is including Rookie of the Year shoe-in and notorious baseball abuser Aaron Judge.

Here’s the good news though Twins fans, this is a one-off matchup. We all know that on any given day in MLB literally any team can win. This my friends, is the great equalizer. You don’t need to be consistent over a series of games. You only need one performance to pass your first test.

Granted, it’s a big test going on the road with a pitching staff that can be prone to giving up some runs. On top of that, you are facing a good slugging Yankee team.

But, there is always one of those, right? If you can get to the Yankees early and allow defenders like Byron Buxton to salt the game away in the field, you might just pull this baby out. And you might just start exercising some of those historical demons.

Just remember this, in 1987, the Minnesota Twins went 85-77 and won the whole dang thing. Anything is possible, dreamers!

 

(feature photo: KMSP TV)

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