Boston Red Sox Pitching: The Success and Failure

Coming into this season, The Red Sox’ pitching was ranked at the top, if not the best. The Red Sox acquired Chris Sale from the White Sox. Rick Porcello was coming off a Cy Young-caliber year. David Price was back, and hopefully healthy. Craig Kimbrel was coming off a 31-save year.

Although Boston sits in first place in the American League East, the pitching has taken a rocky path so far. Lets take a look.

Success: Chris sale

The American League All Star Game starting pitcher is on pace to winning his first Cy Young Award. The 28-year-old was traded in an offseason deal with the Chicago White Sox, involving four minor league prospects including Yoan Moncada.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (chicagotribune.com)

Sale is cruising with a 13-4 record and the most wins in the American League. He has tallied a whopping total of 211 strikeouts, the most strikeouts in all Major League Baseball.

Sale is on track to tally 300-plus strikeouts. He reached 200 strikeouts in his start this past Friday against the Angels, making him the fastest pitcher in American League history to obtain 200 strikeouts in a season. Sale did this in 141 1/3 innings.

He joins Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan in reaching 200 strikeouts in less than 20 starts. Keep in mind, Pedro did this in close to 150 innings, also known as one of the best pitchers to wear the Boston uniform.

The Red Sox are coming off a 2-4 road stretch. Sale recorded both wins. In a 6-2 win against the Angels, Sale went 6 innings on four hits with nine strikeouts. On Wednesday, he recorded a 4-0 win against the Mariners, going seven innings with three hits with 11 strikeouts.

Sale is dealing for this team. Even in his four losses, he’s been completely dominant. He’s tallied a total of 45 strikeouts in his four losses. Truly, the Sox did not produce runs for him.

Sale is the best pitcher in the American League, if not Major League Baseball. He will continue to dominate.

Success: Drew Pomeranz

For a guy who went 3-5 last season with a 4.59 ERA, Drew Pomeranz has made a complete turnaround for the first place Boston Red Sox.

Pomeranz has turned his record to an impressive 10-4 year. Yes, three wins shy of Chris Sale’s record, the American League Cy Young contender. Pomeranz has tallied 115 strikeouts on a 3.59 ERA.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (overthemonster.com)

Quite frankly, whatever Pomeranz did for change, its working. He’s defeated second-place rival New York Yankees twice this season, recording 14 strikeouts against them. He tossed 6 1/3 innings and only allowed four hits in the win against the best team in Major League Baseball, Houston Astros.

The Red Sox expected this from the lefty pitcher when they acquired him through a San Diego transaction. Pomeranz was an All-Star at the time of the transaction, and David Ortiz was one foot out the door to retirement, urging the Red Sox to add another All-Star to the team. They needed to add a starter to join forces with Rick Porcello and David Price.

Pomeranz has taken responsibility for his mistakes on the mound last year, and has transformed himself to a top pitcher on the team.

This is exactly what Boston needs, especially when the playoffs come around. The Sox will need their rotation to belly up and give it their all. Look at the 2013 World Series team. Clay Buchholz went 12-1, Jon Lester went 15-8 and John Lackey recorded 10 wins. You need depth to go deep in the playoffs. The facts show it.

success: Craig Kimbrel

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (masslive.com)

The Red Sox closer has been the reliable factor for manager John Farrell. Kimbrel has tallied 25 saves with nearly 80 strikeouts.

Kimbrel reminds the Boston fans of Jonathan Pabelbon and his dominance he had coming out in the bullpen in late save opportunities.

Kimbrel currently sits in fourth in the American League in saves, however many believe he is the best closer in the American League. He holds a 1.27 ERA, as well as a 2-0 record.

Boston looks to have Kimbrel keep his dominant self throughout the last two months of baseball.

failure: rick porcello

Red Sox Nation had big expectations for right-handed pitcher Rick Porcello this season. He was coming off a 22-4 year last season, capturing the American League Cy Young award.

Porcello was the Red Sox go-to guy, last season and this season. Yeah, they brought in Chris Sale, a guy who finished in the top five for the Cy Young race last season, but they were still depending on Porcello to be their number one guy this season.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (bostonglobe.com)

Last year, he finished with a 3.15 ERA in 223 innings pitched, finishing an impressive 22-4 year. He tallied nearly 200 strikeouts and was completely dominant the whole way through.

This year, he has a 4-13 record with a sub-5 ERA through 133 innings pitched. He’s currently tied in six place for the most home runs allowed (23). Porcello has let up a total of nearly 80 runs, the most on the team, with the second most having 48.

Truly nothing what Boston had wished for.

However, this can all be forgotten if change starts here. We are only two months shy of October. Boston is on track to winning the American League East, and the Red Sox will need Porcello to do his job to get far.

Failure: David Price

Here come the true opinions. As we all know, David Price has been a dominant pitcher in this league for as long as we can remember.

He signed with Boston in late 2015, agreeing to a record-setting contract of seven years, $2.17 million. That said, Boston is writing a check for $31 million a year for Price.

Boston Red Sox Pitching

Photo Courtesy of (usatoday.com)

Price recorded a 17-9 record last season for the Red Sox, making his Fenway career record a whopping 15-4. Pretty good, right?

Until, this season happened.

Price started off the 2017 season after missing two whole months with elbow pain. Not to mention at the time, Porcello was already starting his current cold streak that he has not broken out of.

Since he has formally recovered, he is 5-3 with a sub-4 ERA. Yeah, he’s pitched 11 games, but throughout those 11 starts, they have not been pretty. He has let up 62 hits with 28 earned runs, allowing eight homers and 22 total walks.

However, we know Price can tend to find himself with off-the-field situations as well. The Price/Eckersley altercation has stirred up in the media, finding yourself to have a new look on left-handed pitcher. For those who aren’t aware, Eckerlsey made a comment regarding Eduardo Rodriguez, which led to Price calling Eckersley out completely on the plane back home from Toronto.

Price, like Porcello, needs to find his old self back. We know what he’s capable of doing. If we didn’t, he wouldn’t be the big talk this season.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of overthemoster.com

2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

What is wrong with these 2016 Cy Young candidates?

Winning back-to-back Cy Young awards is quite the feat, as it has only been done by seven different players since the year 1956, most notably in 2013 and 2014 by Clayton Kershaw. Repeating as Cy Young is rarely anticipated, although having severe struggles are the last thing expected.

In 2017, we have seen six individuals suffer a hangover from their 2016 Cy Young-caliber seasons. In this piece, I will discuss why the player is struggling and what to expect from them moving forward.

The statistics below are accurate up to July 8, 2017

Rick Porcello

2016 Stats 33 GS 22-4 W-L 3.15 ERA 1.01 WHIP 7.63 K/9 223 IP
2017 Stats 18 GS 4-10 W-L 5.01 ERA 1.48 WHIP 8.25 K/9 111.1 IP
2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

(Masslive.com)

The reigning American League Cy Young award winner has regressed back to his normal self.

When looking at his pitches, Porcello has generally thrown his change-up at a 12 percent clip, although in 2017 he is only throwing it nine percent of the time, and for good reason.

According to his pitch values on fangraphs.com, where zero represents the average, Porcello’s 2016 change-up measured in at a 10.0, although so far in 2017, his change-up is valued at -2.2. His struggles with the change-up are possibly connected to his fastball woes as well, as in 2016 his fastball was valued at 13.0, although it is currently valued at -10.3.

His career BABIP sits at .312, although during his two most successful seasons in which he posted a 3.15 and 3.43 ERA, his BABIP sat comfortably below .300. Currently in 2017, his BABIP is an astronomical .346, which does scream for positive regression, although it explains part of his struggles.

His career home run to fly ball rate, or HR/FB, is a respectable 11.4 percent, although in his most successful seasons, he was able to keep it under 9.5.

Clearly, Porcello’s struggles have to do with the fact that he is extremely hittable. You can’t expect too much of a pitcher whose batting average against is almost .300.

Jon Lester

2016 Stats 32 GS 19-5 W-L 2.44 ERA 1.10 WHIP 8.75 K/9 202.2 IP
2017 Stats 18 GS 5-5 W-L 3.94 ERA 1.23 WHIP 9.22 K/9 107.1 IP

The 2016 National League Cy Young runner-up has been a serious disappointment this season.

He currently sports a left on base percentage, or LOB, of 71.6, which is much closer to his career average of 75.2 percent than his 2016 mark of 84.9 percent. Similarly, his current batting average against of .249 is also significantly closer to his career mark of .241, although his batting average against in 2016 was an incredible .209.

He is mixing his pitches in an almost identical fashion as he did in 2014, although his results have been quite the opposite. When looking at his pitch values and velocity, his fastball and curveball have both become negative in value while decreasing significantly in velocity.

It is fair to say that this 2017 Lester, opposed to the 2016 Cy Young-caliber Lester, is what we should expect moving forward.

Justin Verlander

2016 Stats 34 GS 16-9 W-L 3.04 ERA 1.00 WHIP 10.04 K/9 227.2 IP
2017 Stats 17 GS 5-5 W-L 4.96 ERA 1.52 WHIP 8.45 K/9 98 IP
2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

(Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Verlander’s 2017 season has been a serious anomaly. He has posted an ERA above four only twice in his 12-year career, although he seems to be on track to do so again this season.

The 2016 American League Cy Young runner-up won 16 games while posting a 3.04 ERA and an incredible .204 batting average against. Most people would say he was snubbed in the Cy Young vote, as his ratios far outshined Porcello’s, who won the award majorly because of his 22 wins and only four losses.

So far in 2017, Verlander has severely struggled with pitch location, as his career walk rate is 2.76 per nine innings, although his current walk rate is at a career high 4.39. This has caused his WHIP to rise from 1.00 in 2016 to 1.52 this year.

The 34-year-old’s BABIP of .316 suggests that he is due for some positive regression and his velocity has increased from last season, although his struggles seem control induced, which is not a good sign moving ahead.

Johnny Cueto

2016 Stats 32 GS 18-5 W-L 2.79 ERA 1.09 WHIP 8.11 K/9 219.2 IP
2017 Stats 17 GS 6-7 W-L 4.26 ERA 1.33 WHIP 8.18 K/9 105.2 IP

Cueto’s 2016 campaign reminded us of his 2014 Cy Young runner-up season, where at 28 years old, he finished the season with 20 wins and a 2.25 ERA.

In 2016, Cueto was astounding, recording 18 wins and a 2.79 ERA. Now in 2017, Cueto is having his worst career year since his sophomore season with the Cincinnati Reds in 2009.

The 31-year-old is currently allowing 35.4 percent hard contact, which is about seven percent higher than his career mark, and 13 percent higher than in his 2014 season. He seems to be getting a bit unlucky as well, as his HR/FB is very high at 16.8 percent, which is well off his career average of 10.3 percent.

The most notable change to his pitch values are with his change-up, which has been his best complimentary pitch over his career and measures in at 21.7, although in 2017 alone his change-up is valued at -3.5.

An ineffective change-up, mile-high HR/FB rate and excessive amount of hard contact all seem to be the prime causes of Cueto’s 2017 struggles. A turnaround is definitely possible if he can reign in his change-up and begin to limit hard contact.

Masahiro Tanaka

2016 Stats 31 GS 14-4 W-L 3.07 ERA 1.08 WHIP 7.44 K/9 199.2 IP
2017 Stats 17 GS 7-7 W-L 5.25 ERA 1.36 WHIP 9.03 K/9 97.2 IP
2016 Cy Young Candidate Struggles

(Photo by the Japanese Times)

Tanaka’s 2017 season has been nothing like we’ve ever seen from the Japanese international.

His current walk rate is at 2.40 per nine innings, although he had a walk rate under 1.62 in each of his last three seasons. Also, his BABIP is over .300 for the first time in his major league career, which is a bad sign for a ground ball pitcher like himself.

The major problem for Tanaka seems to be his lack of ability to throw the fastball. His four-seam fastball and cutter both rank in the deep negatives for pitch values. His off-speed pitches remain his bread and butter, although they are much less effective without a successful fastball to work off of.

Without a moderately effective fastball, Tanaka will remain unsuccessful.

Kyle Hendricks

2016 Stats 30 GS 16-8 W-L 2.13 ERA 0.98 WHIP 8.05 K/9 190 IP
2017 Stats 11 GS 4-3 W-L 4.09 ERA 1.20 WHIP 7.44 K/9 61.2 IP

Hendricks is a very interesting pitcher, as he managed to be a Cy Young candidate in 2016 while having on average an 86 mile per hour fastball.

He finished the 2016 season with 16 wins and an incredible 2.13 ERA, although in 2017, his command has decreased significantly. He is walking a full player more per nine innings than in both of his previous years.

The 27-year-old is also allowing 36 percent hard contact, which is over 10 percent higher than he has let up in his last four seasons. He is currently dealing with right middle finger inflammation, although he is scheduled for a rehab start on July 10 at the Double-A level.

It seems as though an injury has led to a lack of command, which is allowing hitters to make much better contact than in years past. If he can get healthy, there is a chance he can get back on track.

 

Featured image by the Chicago Tribune 

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Biggest disappointments of the 2017 MLB season

Fantasy baseball is always full of disappointments. Below are five players who were expected to have big years, but have fallen well short of their expectations.

Rick Porcello, Starting Pitcher, Boston Red Sox

Biggest Disappointments 2017 MLB Season

Rick Porcello is having one of the worst campaigns after winning the AL Cy young just a year ago. (Masslive.com)

The 2016 American League Cy Young winner has been a serious disappointment in 2017. Just a year ago, Porcello had won a career-high 22 games while sporting a 3.15 ERA and 1.01 WHIP.

2017 has been quite the opposite for the 28-year-old, as he currently has a 4-10 record with a 5.06 ERA. His BABIP is about .100 points higher than it was in 2016, which has resulted in a batting average against of .312, which is about .080 points off of his 2016 marks.

Porcello’s struggles have been severe and imminent, as he is giving up 12 percent more hard contact than he did a year ago. Batters have adjusted, while Porcello has not, and if this were to continue, Porcello would be in line to have one of the worst seasons by a reigning Cy Young Winner since Bartolo Colon’s 2006 campaign.

Jonathan Villar, Second Base/Shortstop/Third Base, Milwaukee Brewers

Villar finished as a top-five fantasy player in standard ESPN formats in 2016. His 19 home runs and 62 steals along with a very respectable .285 average made him a top-40 selection in 2017.

So far this season, Villar is batting a mere .216 with eight home runs and 15 stolen bases. His strikeout rate has risen five percent while his walk rate has decreased by four percent, showing that the 26-year-old is trending in the wrong direction. He has fallen from playing an everyday role at the top of the lineup, to being a platoon mate with Eric Sogard and Orlando Arcia while batting at the bottom-half of the order.

Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

Biggest Disappointments 2017 MLB Season

Justin Verlander may be a future Hall of Famer, but his 2017 campaign is far from Hall of Fame caliber. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

The future Hall of Famer has taken a huge step back in 2017. His 2016 campaign ended with a runner-up finish in the American League Cy Young race, as he logged a 16-9 record with a 3.04 ERA and 10.04 K/9.

In 2017, Verlander’s performance has been quite abysmal. His ERA sits at 4.47 and WHIP sits at 1.45, which is due to his drastically increased walk rate that is currently at 4.18 per nine innings. He is allowing about 10 percent more hard contact than last season, which has caused his BAA to rise from .207 in 2016 to .253 this season. The 34-year-old can still be fantasy relevant, although up to this point, he has been a clear disappointment.

Starling Marte, Outfielder, Pittsburgh Pirates

Marte finished the 2016 season as the 25th overall fantasy player in standard ESPN scoring formats. The expectations were high for the 28-year-old, as he had just hit nine home runs and stole 47 bases while batting .311 in only 129 games. With hopes of drafting a player who can bat over .300, hit 15 home runs and steal over 50 bases, Marte was being selected within the top-30 picks in all leagues.

He was suspended 80 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance in April. Even in the 13 games in which he played this season, Marte’s strikeout rate has risen by 10 percent while his batting average has dropped .070 points from the season before. I understand this sample size is too small to matter, to it’s worth mentioning.

Marte’s suspension will end on July 18, so look for the star outfielder to return to the Pirates outfield sometime in late July.

Mark Melancon, Relief Pitcher, San Francisco Giants

Biggest Disappointments 2017 MLB Season

Mark Melancon was brought over to San Francisco to solidify their bullpen, although he has been quite the disappointment in 2017. (Keith Srakocic, Associated Press)

Melancon was an All-Star and finished the season with a 1.64 ERA and 47 saves while playing for both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals in 2016. This offseason, Melancon signed a four-year deal with the Giants, who may be regretting their decision.

The 32-year-old currently has a 4.35 ERA and a BABIP of .355, which is a about .100 points higher than his previous season. Bad luck may be a big part of Melancon’s struggles, as his strikeout and walk rates have improved from 2016.

He is currently experiencing a right pronator strain, which he has received a PRP injection for. Since there is no structural damage, Melancon should return sooner rather than later, although the Giants have picked up struggling reliever Sam Dyson to fill the void for the time being.

 

Featured image by Sports Illustrated

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

With only a week until opening day, it is time to revisit my starting pitcher rankings for 2017. My original rankings can be found at Thegamehaus.com, which were done on January 27th, 2017.

The top 120 starting pitchers have been grouped into eight tiers. The average draft position, (ADP), of each player according to FantasyDraftPros.com, are listed adjacent to the player.

Exceptions include: Rasiel Iglesias (CIN) and David Phelps (MIA) who both will be primarily relievers in 2017.  

 

Tier 1

https://twitter.com/Papa_Seltz

Clayton Kershaw looks to return to Cy Young form in 2017 (Credit: Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images).

  • Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers, (5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tier 2

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Max Scherzer is looking to add hardware to his cabinet in 2017 (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, (13)
  • Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (14)
  • Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets, (18)
  • Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox, (19)
  • Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians, (22)
  • Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers, (39)
  • Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals, (50)

 

 

 

 

Tier 3

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Justin Verlander will hope his 2016 success carries over to 2017. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

  • Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs, (34)
  • Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers, (39)
  • Jake Arrieta, Chicago Chicago, (29)
  • Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants, (41)
  • Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays, (52)
  • Jacob deGrom, New York Mets, (58)
  • Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals, (66)
  • Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians, (59)
  • Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs, (64)
  • Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees, (73)
  • Cole Hamels, Texas Rangers, (79)
  • David Price, Boston Red Sox, (73)

 

Tier 4

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. (Courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today)

  • Rick Porcello, Boston Red Sox, (88)
  • Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox, (91)
  • Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves, (99)
  • Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians, (111)
  • Felix Hernandez, Seattle Marines, (115)
  • Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays, (106)
  • Danny Duffy, Kansas City Royals, (97)
  • Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates, (91)
  • Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles Dodgers, (98)
  • Zack Greinke, Arizona Diamondbacks, (89)
  • Lance McCullers, Houston Astros, (146)
  • Michael Fullmer, Detroit Tigers, (123)

 

Tier 5

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Marcus Stroman anchors teams USA’s rotation in route to a WBC title. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

  • Marcus Stroman, Toronto Blue Jays, (124)
  • Rich Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers, (114)
  • Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals (139)
  • Steven Matz, New York Mets, (142)
  • Dallas Kuechel, Houston Astros, (122)
  • Kevin Gausman, Baltimore Orioles, (130)
  • John Lackey, St. Louis Cardinals, (136)
  • Jared Eickhoff, Philadelphia Phillies, (217)
  • Matt Harvey, New York Mets, (134)
  • Jameson Taillon, Pittsburgh Pirates, (150)
  • Jonathan Gray, Colorado Rockies, (176)
  • Carlos Rodon, Chicago White Sox, (177)
  • Vincent Velasquez, Philadelphia Phillies, (179)
  • Sean Manaea, Oakland Athletics, (167)
  • Julio Jurias, Los Angeles Dodgers, (180)
  • Jake Ordorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays, (171)
  • Garrett Richards, Los Angeles Angels, (211)
  • Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals, (195)
  • Drew Smyly, Seattle Mariners, (185)

 

Tier 6

(Courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today)

Michael Pineda has untapped potential, can he progress in 2017?(Courtesy of Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Michael Pineda, New York Yankees, (183)
  • Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks, (204)
  • Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels, (186)
  • James Paxton, Seattle Mariners, (153)
  • Aaron Nola, Philadelphi Phillies, (162)
  • Jeff Samardzija, San Francisco Giants (164)
  • J.A. Happ, Toronto Blue Jays, (168)
  • Matt Moore, San Francisco Giants, (181)
  • Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays, (191)
  • Drew Pomeranz, Boston Red Sox, (208)
  • Taijuan Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks, (211)
  • Sonny Gray, Oakland Athletics, (212)

 

Tier 7

2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Anthony Desclafani was named the Ace for 2017, although an injury may cause him to begin the year on the DL. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • Anthony Desclafani, Cincinnati Reds, (242)
  • Junior Guerra, Milwaukee Brewers, (249)
  • Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals, (263)
  • Collin McHugh, Houston Astros, (253)
  • Ian Kennedy, Kansas City Royals, (256)
  • Trevor Bauer, Cleveland Indians, (274)
  • Robert Gsellman, New York Mets, (267)
  • Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh Pirates, (268)
  • Joe Ross, Washington Nationals, (224)
  • Jharel Cotton, Oakland Athletics, (240)
  • Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins, (256)
  • Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays, (220)
  • Daniel Norris, Detroit Tigers, (272)
  • Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay Rays, (277)
  • Francisco Liriano, Toronto Blue Jays, (282)
  • Zach Davies, Milwaukee Brewers, (285)
  • Mike Montgomery, Chicago Cubs, (274)
  • Jason Hammel, Kansas City Royals, (278)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle Mariners, (235)
  • Jordan Zimmerman, Detroit Tigers, (278)
  • Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates, (254)
  • Ervin Santana, Minnesota Twins, (266)
    2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

    Eduardo Rodriguez has made the necessary corrections to start the year with the big club. (Courtesy of Nancy Lane)

  • Lance Lynn, St. Louis Cardinals, (266)
  • Dylan Bundy, Baltimore Orioles, (268)
  • Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston Red Sox, (295)
  • Tyler Skaggs, Los Angeles Angels, (303)
  • Joe Musgrove, Houston Astros, (300)
  • Tyler Anderson, Colorado Rockies, (310)
  • Dan Straily, Miami Marlins, (312)
  • Brandon Finnegan, Cincinnati Reds, (336)
  • Shelby Miller, Arizona Diamondbacks, (376)
  • Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles Dodgers, (350)
  • Tyler Chatwood, Colorado Rockies, (361)
  • Adam Conely, Miami Marlins, (321)

 

Tier 8 (The Rest)

  • Chris Tillman, Baltimore Orioles, (308)
    2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

    Chris Tillman looks to recover from his disastrous second half of 2016. (Courtesy of csnmidatlantic.com)

  • Mike Leake, St. Louis Cardinals, (341)
  • Edinson Volquez, Miami Marlins, (390)
  • Michael Foltynewicz, Atlanta Braves, (298)
  • Jamie Garcia, Atlanta Braves, (338)
  • Steven Wright, Boston Red Sox, (321)
  • Wie-Yin Chen, Miami Marlins, (332)
  • C.C. Sabathia, New York Yankees, (361)
  • Clay Buchholz, Philadelphia Phillies, (355)
  • Charlie Morton, Houston Astros, (386)
  • Tyson Ross, Texas Rangers, (314)
  • Andrew Triggs, Oakland Athletics, (358)
  • Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox, (331)
  • Chris Devenski, Houston Astros, (336)
  • Luke Weaver, St. Louis Cardinals, (341)
  • Luis Severino, New York Yankees, (344)
  • Jose De Leon, Tampa Bay Rays, (350)
  • Zack Wheeler, New York Mets, (361)
  • Mike Fiers, Houston Astros, (384)
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers, (414)
  • Nathan Karns, Kansas City Royals, (420)
  • Ricky Nolasco, Minnesota Twins, (432)
  • Seth Lugo, New York Mets, (412)

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2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

Crying Tiers of Joy: 2017 Fantasy Baseball Pitcher Rankings

The MLB season is closing in! With only sixty-six days of preparation left, it’s time to tackle our early 2017 fantasy baseball pitcher rankings.

I have categorized the top 100 pitchers into twelve different tiers. Creating tiers allow owners to separate and compare players based on their projected value and cost. Players at the bottom of a tier present more value, as they project to have similar stats as a player at the top of a tier, with less of a cost.

Tiers below are given a star rating. A five-star rating is given to the best of the best, where a zero-star rating is given to an average, waiver wire pickup type player.

The top and bottom pitcher in each tier will be profiled below.

Tier 1 – 5 StarS

Kershaw looks to reign in fourth Cy Young heading into 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

To qualify as a five-star pitcher, a player must consistently have seasons with a sub three ERA (earned run average), sub one WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched), and over 200 strikeouts.

  1. Clayton Kershaw
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Madison Bumgarner

Clayton Kershaw remains the golden standard of major league pitching. He has eight consecutive seasons with an ERA in the twos and a career strike outs per nine innings (K/9) of 9.8. If the 28-year-old retired today, he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Kershaw looks to recover from his back ailments and return to his godly form in 2017.

Madison Bumgarner emerges as a five-star pitcher in 2017. Last season was his sixth straight with 200 innings pitched. He has averaged 214 strikeouts per year over the last six seasons, and continues to improve those totals every year. The great playoff performer sports a career 2.99 ERA, and 1.09 WHIP. Bumgarner, at only twenty-seven years old, will remain in Cy Young talks for years to come.

Tier 2 – 4.5 StarS

Thor looks to electrify the competition in his third MLB season. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

This tier is home to the man that will one day overtake Clayton Kershaw for the number one ranked pitcher spot in baseball.

  1. Noah Syndergaard

Thor looks to continue his dominance heading into 2017. The Mets ace enters his third season with hopes of being a top 20 MVP candidate for the second year straight. With a career K/9 of 10.4, Syndergaard will be fanning batters into oblivion for the next decade. A lack of experience is the only reason he is left out of the five-star tier, as he is yet to log 200 innings in a season. He has the potential to be a top 3 fantasy pitcher in 2017.

 

Tier 3 – 4 StarS

Arrieta looks to impress in important contract year. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

To be considered for tier three, one must have multiple seasons with 200 innings pitched, 200 strike outs, and an ERA in the low threes.

  1. Chris Sale
  2. Corey Kluber
  3. Johnny Cueto
  4. Jon Lester
  5. David Price
  6. Justin Verlander
  7. Jake Arrieta

Confident Chris Sale enters 2017 with adversity, will he perform in his first season with Boston? The answer is uncertain, but the numbers suggest he will. Sale has a career 3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 10.1 K/9. He joins a talented and seasoned pitching staff that will relieve him of pressure, as he no longer the lone ace in the rotation. There is no reason Sale can’t finish as a top five Cy Young finisher for a fourth straight season.

Jake Arrieta schemes his way into the four-star category in 2017. The 31-year-old is coming off of two consecutive seasons of 197 plus innings, 190 strike outs, with an average ERA of 2.44. Arrieta signed a one year, $15.6 million contract for 2017, and looks to impress in order to receive a pay day in 2018. With the Cubs lineup currently projected as the top offense, a fourth consecutive top ten Cy Young finish for Arrieta is more than likely.

 

Tier 4 – 4 StarS

Darvish looks to bounce back from injury ridden 2016. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

To qualify for this tier, player must have a high floor and high ceiling. They must show a strong potential to reach 200 innings pitched, 200 strike outs, and a low three ERA. Players in this tier may or may not have reached these marks before, but will do so in 2017.

 

  1. Yu Darvish
  2. Stephan Strasburg
  3. Jacob deGrom
  4. Cole Hamels
  5. Chris Archer
  6. Carlos Martinez

Yu Darvish looks to return to super star form in 2017. He is coming an injury ridden season where he was limited to a mere seventeen starts. When healthy, Darvish is a menace. His career K/9 is 11.3, showing that he has the potential to strike out 260 plus batters. Also, his career ERA sits just below 3.30. Darvish’s extremely high upside is accompanied by injury concerns, but name a player that isn’t.

St. Louis Cardinals Ace, Carlos Martinez, looks to build on his early Major League success heading the upcoming season.  With two consecutive seasons of 180 innings, and a career K/9 of 8.5, Martinez provides a high floor with a potential to continue to improve. The 25-year-old hurler provided a 9.2 K/9 in the minors, which shows that his strike out totals can continue to improve as he adjusts to life in the big leagues.

 

Tier 5 – 4 Stars

Pretty Ricky looks to double his Cy Young total in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

Players in this tier WILL contend for a Cy Young, although are being over looked as they have less of a track record.

  1. Rick Porcello
  2. Aaron Sanchez
  3. Michael Fulmer

Rick Porcello was a completely different pitcher in 2016 than in any of his previous campaigns. He started to make better in game adjustments, allowing him to get through lineups multiple times over. Also, he has done a great job eating innings, as he managed to finish sixth in innings pitched in 2016.  Pretty Ricky has the potential to win another twenty games, and compete for back-to-back Cy Young awards.

2016 Rookie of the year award winner, Michael Fulmer, shows promise of being a future Cy Young candidate. With a career K/9 of 8.4 and an ERA of 3.17, his potential is through the roof. The 23-year-old former first-round pick will look to record 200 innings for the first time in 2017.

 

Tier 6 – 4 StarS

Can Kyle Hendricks repeat his miraculous 2016 season? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

These players are proven inning eaters, have great ratios, but lack the strikeout upside that makes a top ten pitcher. These players are lower risk than the comeback candidates, but have a lower ceiling as well.

  1. Kyle Hendricks
  2. Masahiro Tanaka
  3. Kenta Maeda
  4. Jose Quintana
  5. Julio Teheran

Top three Cy Young finisher in 2016, Kyle Hendricks looks to continue his dominance heading into 2017. He managed to finish with a 2.13 ERA, .979 WHIP, 170 strikeouts in 190 innings. Even if Hendricks adds an entire point to his ERA, he will still be under 3.2. His dominant sinker and change up will continue to keep hitters off balance in 2017.

Two time all-star Julio Teheran looks to help a young Braves team reach new heights this upcoming season. With a career ERA of 3.39 and K/9 of 7.8, Teheran has continued to impress on a lack luster Braves team. The Braves offense started off 2016 at a historically bad pace, but managed to be a top five offense in the second half. This gives Teheran hope improve his career high win total of fourteen.

 

Tier 7 – 3.5 StarS

Gerrit Cole looks for redemption in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

This tier includes players who look to recover from sub-par or shortened 2016 campaigns. These players are higher risk draft picks, with higher ceilings.

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Danny Salazar
  3. Carlos Carrasco
  4. Zack Greinke
  5. Matt Harvey
  6. Felix Hernandez
  7. Dallas Kuechel
  8. Sonny Gray
  9. Garrett Richards

Gerrit Cole finished 2015 as a top five Cy Young finisher and top twenty MVP candidate. He endured a tough 2016 campaign where he made twenty-one starts with his career worst ERA, WHIP, and K/9. A lingering rib injury, which is gone by the way side, was the cause of his 2016 struggles. The twenty-six-year-old will return to form in 2017, rejoining the Cy Young conversation.

Garrett Richards elected to skip surgery to repair a UCL tear in his throwing elbow in 2016, and instead received a plasma injection to repair the injury. Before the injury, Richards started six games, nursing a 2.34 ERA and 8.8 K/9. Richards will be the ace for the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, and hopes to return to his 2014 or 2015 form, where he averaged a 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 170 strikeouts.

 

Tier 8 – 3.5 StarS

Will Danny Duffy go into cruise control after inking five-year contract? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

This tier may be small, but is important none the less. These players have proven to show top-twenty pitcher upside, but don’t have the names to match. They tend to fall in drafts but have tremendous value.

  1. Danny Duffy
  2. J.A. Happ
  3. Tanner Roark

Danny Duffy is expected to be the number one starter for the Royals heading into 2017. He just received a five year, $65 million deal. The twenty-eight-year-old made the transition from the bullpen to the rotation look easy last season. Duffy struck out 188 in 179.2 innings, resulting in a 9.4 K/9. He will reach the 200 innings and 200 strikeout marks in 2017.

Tanner Roark is the most over looked and undervalued players in my opinion. He has two seasons with over thirty starts, over 198 innings, under a 2.85 ERA, while averaging 154 strikeouts. He will slot in behind Max Scherzer and Stephan Strasburg in a very strong Nationals rotation. With the success of the Nationals imminent, Roark’s chances of matching or passing his career win total of sixteen is likely.

 

Tier 9 – 3 Star

McCullers looks to transition from prospect to prodigy in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

Tier nine consists of young studs who are ready to explode. These players will have the opportunity to be enormous contributors come 2017.

  1. Lance McCullers
  2. Kevin Gausman
  3. Marcus Stroman
  4. Steven Matz
  5. Jameson Taillon
  6. Alex Reyes
  7. Jared Eickhoff
  8. Joe Ross
  9. Sean Manea
  10. Aaron Nola
  11. Julio Urias
  12. Blake Snell
  13. Carlos Rodon

2012 first round pick, Lance McCullers, looks to continue his tirade on the MLB. He has started a total of 26 games, resulting in a career 3.22 ERA and 10.2 K/9. McCullers will slot in as Houston’s number two starter in 2017. He will start over thirty games and log over 200 innings for the first time in his career next season.

Carlos Rodon, former third overall pick in 2014, looks to finally reach his potential in 2017. He has struggled early in his career, with an ERA of 3.9 and WHIP of 1.4. Although the bright spot in Rodon’s game is his devastating slider, which helps him strikeout 9.1 batters per nine. Rodon will begin to figure things out in 2017.

 

Tier 10 – 2 Star

McHugh looks to bounce back and revitalize a young Houston Rotation. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

The tenth tier of pitchers is loaded with upside. These players show high K/9 potential, along with being young enough to continue to improve their ratios.

  1. Colin McHugh
  2. Drew Pomeranz
  3. Jake Odorizzi
  4. Matt Moore
  5. Jon Gray
  6. Robbie Ray
  7. Drew Smyly
  8. Michael Pineda
  9. James Paxton

Colin McHugh finished 2016 with his worst ERA and WHIP in his three seasons as a starter, although he had a career high in strikeouts. McHugh looks to rebound to his 2015 Cy Young candidate form where he won nineteen games, with 171 strikeouts. The Astro’s look to impress in 2017, and McHugh will be a huge part of that.

James Paxton is ready to break out. The six foot four lefty managed 8.7 K/9 in 2016, along with a career high in innings pitched and games started. Paxton will be a heavy contributor for the Mariners this upcoming season where he will log a career high in innings pitcher, strikeouts and wins.

 

Tier 11 – 1 Star

We have to respect our veterans! These veterans provide above average value as they are reliable inning eaters with proven track records. They provide value later in drafts because as they tend to fall in draft position due to age concerns.

Invader Zimm looks to recover from 2016 blunders. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

  1. Rich Hill
  2. Ian Kennedy
  3. John Lackey
  4. Gio Gonzalez
  5. Marco Estrada
  6. Francisco Liriano
  7. Jeff Samardzija
  8. Jason Hammel
  9. Chris Tillman
  10. Adam Wainwright
  11. Lance Lynn
  12. Hisashi Iwakuma
  13. Jeremy Hellickson
  14. Mike Leake
  15. Jordan Zimmerman

The anomaly Rich Hill just received a three year, $45 million contract as a thirty-six-year-old pitcher. The age may affect people’s desire to select Hill, but his skill set says otherwise. He has a demoralizing 12-6 curveball, which helped him reach a career high in K/9 as a starter, with 10.5. He will be an integral part to the Dodgers rotation in 2017, and should be drafted in all leagues.

I’m not sure who showed up in Jordan Zimmerman’s uniform last season, but it wasn’t him. The imposter registered career worsts across the board, with a 4.87 ERA, 1.367 WHIP, and 5.6 K/9. No one was more frustrated with Zimmerman’s 2016 than himself, which leads me to believe he will not stand for another disappointing season. If the Tigers have any hope of making the playoffs, Zimmerman will have to step up and return to his form, as his career averages are 3.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 7.3 K/9.

 

Tier 12 – 0 Star

Will Bundy find success post Tommy John surgery? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

Players in this final tier will commonly go undrafted in standard ten team leagues, and are worth the low risk investment. They have had hype in the past, and show potential to be successful in 2017.

  1. Dylan Bundy
  2. Joe Musgrove
  3. Tyler Glasnow
  4. Anthony Desclafani
  5. Eduardo Rodriguez
  6. Trevor Bauer
  7. Taijuan Walker
  8. Dan Straily
  9. Mike Foltynewicz
  10. Matt Shoemaker
  11. Wei-Yin Chen

    Can Conely improve his ratios enough to become fantasy relevant in 2017? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)

  12. Ervin Santana
  13. Mike Leake
  14. Mike Montgomery
  15. Robert Gsellman
  16. Brandon Finnegan
  17. Patrick Corbin
  18. Zach Davies
  19. Ivan Nova
  20. Tyler Anderson
  21. Andrew Triggs
  22. Jharel Cotton
  23. Tyler Skaggs
  24. Daniel Norris
  25. Alex Cobb
  26. Adam Conely

Former fourth overall pick Dylan Bundy looks to gain more major league experience in 2017. He has battled adversity throughout his short career as he underwent reconstructive Tommy John surgery in 2013. Bundy will be an important part of the Orioles fragile rotation come next season. He will continue to improve on his career highs by staying healthy and striking out batters. His career 8.4 K/9 bodes well as Bundy has shown above average strikeout ability at all levels. Whether or not the ratio stats are there, the K’s will be.

Adam Conely is will end up on all of my teams this season. He has struggled mightily in the Majors, displaying a career ERA of 3.82, WHIP of 1.36, and 3.7 walks per nine (BB/9). I understand this is disconcerting, but his K/9 keep me believing. The twenty-six-year-old has averaged 8.2 K/9 through all levels, which gives me hope that he can continue to improve and possibly break out in 2017.

Chris Sale Goes From One Sox to the Other

In case you had been living under a rock, Chris Sale has been a major trade target ever since he had his major outburst and cut up a bunch of jerseys. This made him by far and away the most attractive trade or free agent target for teams looking to contend. He is a true ace in a league that no question lacks number ones.

With the Winter Meetings in full swing and trades and signings happening left and right, this is probably the most notable deal. Honestly, this is probably the biggest deal in the last 365 days and probably will be until the next trade deadline.

Most rumors had been that up until this morning the clear front-runner was the Washington Nationals, but today the Red Sox came in and gave the White Sox an offer they could not pass up.

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In return for the illustrious but troubled ace, the White Sox got arguably the best prospect in baseball, 2B/3B Yoan Moncada. With him they also got the Red Sox’ number five prospect, RHP Michael Kopech, the number eight prospect OF Luis Alexander Basabe, and their number 29 prospect in Victor Diaz. All ranking and stats below are courtesy of MLB.com.

This deal works out well for both teams. Let me break it down for you.

For the White Sox, this is probably the best deal that they could have hoped for. Moncada is an absolute stud who can either play 2nd, 3rd, or DH. It will depend on if they feel he is a better fielder than either Todd Frazier or Brett Lawrie. Frazier has always had a solid glove so I doubt they move him. My bet is Moncada either plays 2nd or DH and bats in the 2 or 6 hole in the lineup. Either way they will make sure his bat is in that lineup everyday.

But Moncada is not the only player in this deal. Yes, he is possibly the best prospect, but the White Sox also get Michael Kopech with him. He was drafted in the first round in 2014, has great size at 6’3”, and can hit the upper 90’s with a developing slider. The hope is that he becomes a top of the rotation guy as he gets older. I imagine he will realistically be looking at a 2018-2019 call-up time.

Basabe is also a very interesting piece. He is someone who can hit from both sides and is starting to show some power. If he can keep hitting well as he moves up and gets those strikeout numbers down he could be a middle of the order bat. This is not something that you see very often in young played anymore as they are encouraged at a young age to focus on one side of the plate.

Lastly, the White Sox get Victor Diaz. This kid has a cannon for an arm. His only problem is that it is taking him a little while to learn to be a pitcher instead of a thrower. With time this guy could develop into a top-end closer if he can continue to learn his slider and splitter in tandem with the fastball.

What this signifies is that the White Sox are probably renewing the farm and will soon start to sell off other players. I imagine this will not be the last deal they make this winter.

For the Red Sox, they are getting a bonafied major league ace. The lanky lefty had a league high six complete games, 226.2 innings pitched, and 233 strikeouts. He’s also a perennial All-Star, Cy Young candidate, and someone who even garners MVP votes.

during game one of the American League Divison Series at Progressive Field on October 6, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.

They are adding him to a rotation of this year’s surprising Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello, previous Cy Young winner David Price, knuckleballer Steve Wright, and Padres Former ace Drew Pomeranz. This is easily a top 5 pitching rotation next season if everyone stays healthy.

Along with the high powered offense the Red Sox have, this team is easily a top early World Series contender.

While it will hurt the Red Sox farm quite a bit, it is clear with this move, the pick up of Tyler Thornburg, and their current pursuit of Mitch Moreland, that the Red Sox are going for it all.

Overall it seems as though both teams got exactly what they are looking for. With starting pitching at such a high demand, it is no surprise that the Red Sox had to give up this much in order to grab Sale.

Everything You Need to Know About the AL Playoffs

As the one game wild card playoffs are finishing up, now is a good time to look at each American League team and determine what will push them to win it all, or what could end up being each team’s downfall. The Boston Red Sox start their series against the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers will faceoff against the Toronto Blue Jays, who won the wildcard one game playoff against the Baltimore Orioles this past Tuesday. Both series commence on Thursday, October 6th, with the Jays vs. Rangers series at 4:30pm and the Red Sox vs. Indians series at 8pm on TBS.

 

The Boston Red Sox (93-69)

big-papi

David Ortiz has had a phenomenal last season. Will he be able to finish his career with another World Series champions celebration? Photo courtesy of John Tlu Macki of the Boston Globe

The Red Sox come into the playoffs as the AL team with the third best record. Do not let that fool you, however, as the Sox may be the most complete team in the AL. The lineup, top to bottom, may not have as much true power as the Blue Jays, but still contains three hitters with over 30 hr’s during the season (Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and David Ortiz). Betts is a potential regular season MVP (As outlined in one of my articles from last week) and David Ortiz has been Mr. Clutch during the Red Sox last three World Series runs. The true question mark around the lineup is whether the youth that powered the team, aka the Killer B’s (Betts, Bogaerts, Bradley Jr., and Benintendi) will be able to handle the added pressure surrounding the MLB Postseason.

The Red Sox’s biggest question mark entering the season surrounded the pitching rotation. As the season progressed, however, the rotation became one of the Sox’s biggest strengths. Rick Porcello, often considered nothing more than a middle of the rotation starter, has pitched a potential Cy Young season, finishing with 22 wins on the year. David Price is the big money man, brought in to be the ace, may not have lived up to the expectations of years past, but is still a strong number two. The bullpen was a bit of a question mark during much of the season, but the Sox brought in Brad Ziegler from the Diamondbacks. Since about mid-August, the bullpen has stepped up and dominated competition, turning a concern into a strength as well.

The Red Sox have the pleasure of matching up against the Cleveland Indians in the NLDS, who will provide a difficult matchup for the Sox as the series progresses.

 

Cleveland Indians (94-68)

corey-kluber

Corey Kluber has put together a Cy Young worthy season. Can he rally the injury riddled rotation and carry the Tribe past the Red Sox? Photo courtesy of Chuck Crow of the Plain Dealer.

The Indians came into a season as a favorite only if you were an Ohioan. The Kansas City Royals were coming off a World Series and the Detroit Tigers had seemingly upgraded their lineup by signing Justin Upton in the offseason. It was the Indians, however who ended up with the division crown on the back of one of the best young pitching rotations in the majors (maybe even better than the New York Mets’ young staff).

Yet, as the final months rolled around, half of the young core hit the disabled list, and leaves question marks as to how the Indians’ three man rotation will matchup with the Red Sox. Corey Kluber put together a ridiculous season pitching, putting himself in line for a potential Cy Young by finishing near the top of every pitching category in the American League. Inconsistency is Trevor Bauer’s, the Indians Game 1 starter, middle name. Josh Tomlin has not given up more than 2 runs in any of his last five starts, but was rather inconsistent leading up to September. The bullpen, much like the rotation, has been pretty strong through the season. Cody Allen is one of the more underrated closers in baseball, as he has just accumulated saves consistently while maintaining an ERA around 2.5. Andrew Miller was brought over at the deadline to give the Indians the best setup man in baseball.

The rotation may be questionable, but the lineup is not. A healthy mix of youngsters and seasoned veterans fill the squad as postseason looms. Mike Napoli, a postseason regular with the Red Sox previously, fills the veteran role for the team and will power the Indians through the series. Tyler Naquin has put together a surprising rookie campaign for the Tribe and just gets on base regularly for a team that is less about hitting homeruns and more about small ball baseball. One of the most underrated trades of the deadline saw Brandon Guyer go to the Indians who just rakes as well, scraping together an OBP of .438 since the deadline for the Tribe. All this talk surrounding the lineup does not even include the stud middle infielders the Tribe have built around of Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis who have Indians fans excited for the team’s postseason potential.

The Indians will put up a good fight against the Red Sox, but despite owning home field advantage, will fall to the Red Sox in 6 games, as Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin do not inspire much hope for the Tribe. If the Tribe had Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar healthy, this would be an entirely different conversation.

 

Texas Rangers (95-67)

The Rangers came into the regular season as the favorites in a weak AL West division. The Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners put up a fight for awhile, but the Rangers kept winning and slowly gained ground on both teams as the season progressed. By the time the Rangers were officially crowned division champs, it was a mere formality, as the chance was slim since the beginning of September for either team to challenge the Rangers for the crown. Having the best record in the American League will give the Rangers home field advantage throughout both the ALDS and ALCS rounds, but that is not the only thing the Rangers have going for them.

The Texas Rangers lineup have five players with at least 20 hr’s and most the team have been in the playoffs together multiple times. Adrian Beltre, the ageless wonder at third base, leads the lineup as he has 32 hr’s and a.300 batting average this season. Rougned Odor, the young stud second basemen, has chipped in 33 hr’s of his own (a rare sign for a middle infielder) and has double digit stolen bases as well. He does not walk much, but if Odor puts wood on the ball, he is going for extra bases. Jonathan Lucroy was picked up at the deadline (after Lucroy spurned the Indians) and has provided consistency at the single position the Rangers had issues with throughout the season. The Rangers lineup is in their peak right now, so they will be exciting to watch as the series progresses.

The Rangers also have the pitching to provide support to the lineup. The two headed monster of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish provide two aces at the top of the rotation. Darvish has been pitching better of late, so he will probably get the ball Game 1. The third spot in the playoff rotation leaves the rotation a little shaky, but if Hamels and Darvish can pitch on shortened rest, they may only need Martin Perez to pitch a single game for them in the NLDS. The bullpen is solid, with Sam Dyson closing down games with great success lately, only giving up one earned run in the last ten innings. Dyson was inconsistent midseason, but has come around and looked the part of a closer, despite a lower than usual K rate for a closer. Matt Bush may be one of the best free agency pickups as the former top pick has redeemed his life and career in Texas, performing well in the setup role for the Rangers.

rougned-odor

The animosity is strong between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. Will the hate carry over into the ALCS and hurt the Rangers’ chance at a World Series run? Photo courtesy of Richard Rodriguez of the AP.

The Texas Rangers have the best record in the AL because of just how complete the team is. The lineup and rotation have playoff experience and stability throughout. The bullpen, though inexperienced, has looked good of late. If there is one thing holding the Rangers back, it will be the animosity (The link leads to the brawl from earlier in the season between these two teams) between them and the Blue Jays from previous series hurting the team during the series.

 

Toronto Blue Jays (89-73)

The Blue Jays were a playoff favorite going into the season. It was unexpected that three AL East teams would be battling for the two wild card spots, along with the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros, but the Blue Jays came out on top of the pile. The Blue Jays knocked off the Baltimore Orioles in a one game playoff on the back of Edwin Encarnacion’s three run walkoff homerun in the bottom of the 11th.

Homeruns are what you are going to see when watching this lineup. The Blue Jays have four players in their lineups who could hit 30 homeruns a season if healthy, three of which who could reach forty homers. Jose Bautista, the batflip champion, has provided playoff homerun heroics in the past, but does not have to shoulder the power alone. Bautista, Josh Donaldson (another potential 2016 MVP), and Edwin Encarnacion give the Jays the best 3-4-5 hitter trio in all of baseball. Troy Tulowitzki, though often in the background behind the big three, is still one of the best hitting shortstops in baseball when healthy, along with very strong defense up the middle. Michael Saunders was an underrated pickup from the Mariners as he has hit 24 hr’s from the outfield and as many doubles as Josh Donaldson (32).

The Toronto Blue Jays defeat the Atlanta Braves 9-3.

Encarnacion has already hit more than 40 homeruns this season. Does he have enough power in the tank to hit a few more for the Jays this postseason? Photo courtesy of Carlos Osorio of the Toronto Star.

The downside of the Jays revolves around the pitching. Aaron Sanchez has pitched phenomenal all season for the Jays and Liriano has been pitching well since coming over from the deadline. The Blue Jays have  actually gotten a couple of strong seasons from journeymen J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada, but there is a reason they are journeymen. Marcus Stroman was supposed to be the ace of the rotation by the end of the season, but remained inconsistent through most of it. If the rotation can make it to the bullpen, though, then the Jays have a good shot. Joaquin Benoit came over at the deadline as well, and has only given up one run since the beginning of August (that is a 24 inning span).

The Blue Jays lineup is definitely the strongest in the AL, as the power potential is truly real. The pitching will be the X-factor for the Jays as the Rangers are the more complete team on paper. In the end, the Rangers are the favorite for a reason, and  will prevail over the Blue Jays.

 

AL East Shenanigans: Just How Close is the Race?

By the time September rolls around, there is generally a couple of teams who have secured playoff spots and can look to rest key players sporadically during the remainder of the season. As of September 9th, Texas had a nine game lead over the 2nd place team in the AL West, the Houston Astros. Cleveland has been cruising lately, going 8-2 in their last 10 games to secure a six game lead in the AL Central. The AL East, on the otherhand, is where it get reals interesting.

What sets the AL East apart from the rest of the American League is that the division has four teams that are within four games of each other. Not only does the division hold a playoff spot for the division leader, but also has both of the wild card spots in the AL, and a fourth team just two games back for a wild card spot. The beauty of September baseball, as well, is that the majority of games that will be played by the teams will be against their division opponents. So not only is it a tight race for the division lead, but the race is nowhere near the finish line as the standings will be in constant flux.

The Boston Red Sox are the current division leaders in the AL East with a one game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays. Buoyed by the fanfare of David “Big Papi” Ortiz’s retirement tour and an MVP-worthy season from youngster Mookie Betts, the Red Sox are looking every bit like a playoff team. The pitching has come around since the beginning of the season, with David Price, Rick Porcello and deadline acquisition Drew Pomeranz (The Killer P’s?) resembling a strong rotation come playoff time.

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. Photo courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today

Rick Porcello has impressed this season, throwing himself into the Cy Young conversation. Can he keep up his dominance down the stretch and propel the Sox into the playoffs? Photo courtesy of Dan Hamilton of the USA Today

Porcello especially has impressed, reducing his BB/9 to a career low 1.35 while maintaining a K/9 near 7.5. Porcello’s off-speed pitches have come around this season, which has led to hitters not receiving as many easy pitches to hit and thus leading to more outs generated for Porcello and the Sox. Fangraphs says this season, opponents are only hitting .171 against his change and .212 against his slider, compared to .292 and .342 respectively last season. The weakness of the Red Sox is the bullpen, especially bridging the gap from starter to Kimbrel in the 9th. The Red Sox addressed the issue at the deadline, adding Ziegler from Arizona, but Ziegler has produced mixed results since the move. Look for the bullpen being the reason why the Red Sox will either keep producing efficiently, or start to move down the standings as the month rolls by.

The Toronto Blue Jays currently sit in second by a game and lead the wild card race. I profiled the team briefly in my article on the AL Division Race a week ago, so I will just give a quick rundown. Basically, Toronto has the best offense on paper, headlined by potential AL MVP Josh Donaldson and bat flipping champion Jose Bautista. A supporting cast of hitters including Russell Martin, Troy Tulowitzki, and Edwin Encarnacion rounds out the most potent lineup in the American League, if not all of baseball (I’d argue the lineup is more potent than the Cubs).

Jose Bautista has powered the Jays to the playoffs before...can he do it again? Photo courtesy of Getty Sports

Jose Bautista has powered the Jays to the playoffs before…can he do it again? Photo courtesy of Getty Sports

 

What could be the Blue Jays downfall, and my reason of hesitancy, is that pitching matters, and the Blue Jays do not have the stud pitching seen in other potential playoff team’s rotations. Just this past weekend, the Jays’ starters gave up a combined 11 earned runs in 13.2 innings (in 3 games) against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that is twenty-one games below .500. That is not pitching a fan wants to see leading into the playoffs.

The Baltimore Orioles are the often forgotten studs in the AL East. The Orioles currently reside only two games back in the AL East standings and are perched in the second wild card spot with a one game lead over the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles also feature a potent lineup starring Manny Machado, Chris “Crush” Davis, and Adam Jones. Yet, those are not the only ones doing the heavy lifting, as the rest of the lineup has been hitting dingers all season as well. Mark Trumbo, most notably, has been a key fixture in the middle of the Orioles lineup, despite being traded for in the offseason for a backup catcher.

Mark Trumbo has been very productive for the Orioles, especially since he was traded a backup catcher. Photo courtesy of Butch Dill of the USA Today

Mark Trumbo has been very productive for the Orioles, especially since he was traded a backup catcher. Will his power be enough to get the Orioles playoff-bound? Photo courtesy of Butch Dill of the USA Today

This season, Trumbo has put up 41 homeruns while maintaining an adequate .255 batting average for the season. Another notable hitter is the underrated second basemen Jonathan Schoop, who despite only having 18 walks this year, has put up a .282 batting average and 21 homeruns for the club.

Despite all the power in the Orioles lineup, the problem comes down to the rotation once again, as the Orioles rotation is filled with veteran journeymen and super young pitchers. Keep an eye on Kevin Gausman though, who despite his record, has pitched well lately, not giving up a run in his last three starts. The rotation will be the question mark for the Orioles as the postseason looms ever closer.

The final team still battling for the AL East is the New York Yankees. The Yankees are interesting because the Yankees were sellers at the MLB Trade Deadline, moving Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman, and Carlos Beltran for a plethora of high upside prospects. Yet, a month after the deadline, the Yankees are only sitting four games back in the division and two back from the Orioles for the final wild card spot. The Yankees have been by their promoted youngsters, especially the polarizing Gary Sanchez.

Gary Sanchez has been raking for the Yankees. Can he keep up the hot hitting down the stretch? Photo courtesy of Brad Penner of the USA Today

Gary Sanchez has been raking for the Yankees. Can he keep up the hot hitting down the stretch? Photo courtesy of Brad Penner of the USA Today

Sanchez was promoted right after the deadline and has played in thirty-one games since, sporting a .336 batting average and knocking out 11 homers. Tanaka has been pitching like the ace that was expected out of his contract and the team has also received decent pitching from Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia over the course of the season.

The thing to watch with the Yankees will be whether the hot hitting will continue. The team is currently riding a five game winning streak (as of 9/9), but if the team strings together a couple of losses, it will be interesting to see if the veterans will be able to steer the rookies back on track or the team will fade off.

The battle has been raging all season long for the division, and yet, despite five months of baseball, there is no clear indication who will lead the division at the end of the season. Question marks surround each team as the margins are constantly fluctuating throughout the month. The Red Sox appear to be the most complete team on paper, but a shaky bullpen can turn a few wins into losses and hurt a team’s place in the standings. The Jays and Orioles face question marks surrounding their rotations, despite the electric lineups each team fields. The Yankees have been buoyed by their youngster hitters, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the team starts stringing together a couple of losses back to back instead of riding the hot streak forever. The 2016 AL East is the reason why baseball is exciting in September and will be a fun story to follow for the rest of the month.

 

Stats courtesy of fangraphs and standings according to MLB.com

Shoutout to u/twistedlogicx for pointing this out on r/baseball

2016 American League East Preview

Jose Bautista hit a clutch three-run home run in Game 5.

Toronto earned the AL East crown last season thanks in part to Jose Bautista. (Photo: USA Today Sports)

The AL East could be the most talented divisions from top to bottom in the entire MLB. Every single team in this division can not only compete, but compete for a playoff berth at the end of the season. Sure, the NL Central is the most loaded at the front end, but the Brewers and Reds bring them down. I find it hard to believe that any team will win less than 80 games in the AL East.

Toronto is the clear favorite to win the division, as their offense can mash home runs, their pitching is serviceable, and their defense can make ends meet. From there, the division is piled with questions.

Boston and New York need to use their youth as a springboard to a new generation of winning, while the Rays and Orioles both have potential to be good, but have holes in different areas of their respective teams.

This division may end up being the tightest division in the MLB, just like it was last season. The AL East’s first and last place teams finished just 15 games apart, five games better than the next closest division.

My guesses for how this season will shape up are simply just a shot in the dark, as there are so many ways this division could end up unfolding.

1st Place: Toronto Blue Jays (96-66)

The Blue Jays are in great shape to take the AL East crown for the second season in a row. Toronto has managed to retain every starter in the field from a season ago, but they have lost David Price to Boston.

The team will hit plenty of home runs and score plenty of runs, but they’ll need to make sure they can pitch their way deeper into the playoffs than last season. When it comes down to a team with great pitching versus a team with great hitting, history sides with the pitching team. Losing David Price is a big time loss, and Toronto can’t showcase their starting pitching rotation like other teams in the MLB can.

Marcus Stroman is by no means an elite ace, but he’s on the rise in his career and should put up 15 wins. The back end of the rotation will prove to be their weakness, but Toronto should breeze through the regular season provided they lean on the bats.

Player to Watch: Troy Tulowitzki

Can Troy Tulowitzki stay healthy in consecutive seasons? (Photo: thestar.com)

Injuries have put a hamper on what could be a potential Hall of Fame career for Troy Tulowitzki. The shortstop came to Toronto via a trade which sent him away from Colorado. Tulo hasn’t hasn’t had back-to-back seasons with at least 100 games played since the 2010 and 2011 seasons. The shortstop played in 128 games last season, which could mean he’s trending towards less games this season.

Tulowitzki also hit just .239 with Toronto, a huge dip in production from his .300 average with Colorado in 2015. If Tulo can return to play anything like his plus .300 years with Colorado, it’d be a huge boost to the Blue Jays’ chances of winning it all this season.

2nd Place: Boston Red Sox (89-73)

Boston will earn their keep this season through starting pitching. David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Rick Porcello lead a staff with potential to be the best rotation in the division. Boston also acquired Craig Kimbrel to be their new closer this season, paving way to a solid pitching staff as a whole.

Boston’s offense is nothing to scoff at, as they’ll enjoy watching Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts bloom, while looking to get steady production from veterans David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia as well.

Player to Watch: Rick Porcello

After going a combined 28-21 in 2013 and 2014, Porcello went 9-15 in his first season away from the Detroit Tigers. Porcello had his best season statistically in those two seasons, and the steep drop in production is worrisome. Whether or not Porcello can find out how to be successful this season won’t be known for a while, but the Red Sox need him to turn it around and be a reliable third man in the rotation.

3rd Place: Baltimore Orioles (85-77)

Here’s where things get fuzzy in the AL East. On paper, the Orioles look like a contender for a wild card spot this fall. Baltimore’s first four hitters are loaded, and the back end of the bullpen should be good.

Baltimore’s starting pitching leaves more to be desired. Led by Chris Tillman who went 11-11 last season, the Orioles have no established ace. The last two pitchers in the rotation figure to be rookies, so their could be some growing pains this season in Baltimore.

I still like Baltimore to win a lot of games thanks to their solid lineup. They are filled with players who could hit 25 home runs, but are also susceptible to striking out.

Player to Watch: Pedro Alvarez

Pittsburgh Pirates fans are probably rejoicing at the departure of Pedro Alvarez. A strikeout machine and error fanatic, Pedro Alvarez should feel lucky to even be on an Opening Day starting lineup. He’ll no longer have to figure out how to close his glove when a ball enters it, so he’ll have plenty of time to swing a wooden stick at a ball. Sometimes dumbing it down works for people, and I feel like it’d help for Alvarez. If he can hit 20 home runs and hit for .250, it be a great season for Alvarez.

4th Place: Tampa Bay Rays (82-82)

The Rays will welcome four new starters to Tropicana Field, none of whom are big time acquisitions. Chris Archer is an up-and-coming starting pitcher who will lead the Rays, and there are a few names behind him who could make some noise in the AL East.

The team is filled with middling starters, which is why it’s pretty easy to see them finishing as average as average gets. Evan Longoria seems to be out of his prime, and there are a lot of holes throughout this team. Even still, I like Tampa’s serviceable lineup, and potentially good pitching staff with Drew Smyly and Co.

Chris Archer simply needs run support to be considered one of the best pitchers in the AL East. (Photo: Sporting News)

Player to Watch: Chris Archer

The most helpless job in the world is being a starting pitcher in the AL. Even if you throw a seven inning, three hit, one run outing, you could still end up with a loss if your offense sucks. That’s what happened plenty of times to Archer. Archer suffered a loss or no-decision in ten games last season in which he gave up two runs or less, including four games in which he gave up zero earned runs. Provided Archer can get more run support this season, look for Archer to improve upon his 3.23 ERA and win 15 games.

5th Place: New York Yankees (79-83)

I’m all for teams with starting pitching, and the Yankees could have that. If every starter can pitch to around 80% of their potential, it should be a good season on the mound for them. New York has no shortage of overpaid, old, former superstars, so they must squeeze everything they can out of the veterans in order to have a solid season.

The Yankees bullpen is their calling card, as they’ll boast one of the best one-two punches in baseball with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller. The only players in the New York batting order that are under age 32 are Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro. The two middle infielders have been unsuccessful in living up to their hype in the MLB.

With a career ERA of 2.17, Aroldis Chapman looks to continue his dominance with a new team. (Photo: Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Player to Watch: Aroldis Chapman
After an offseason trade that sent Chapman from Cincinnati to the Big Apple, the Cuban Missile must prove he can succeed even with a change of scenery. No one likes to face Chapman’s combination of 105 MPH fastballs and 92 MPH sliders and changeups. Chapman has proven to be wild at times, but has also made countless hitters look like your grandma. Chapman is suspended for the first 30 games of the season, but after that, I look forward to seeing how Chapman does in New York.