2018 MLB Preview: Houston Astros

2017: 101-61

Last Postseason Appearance: 2017

Last World Series Title: 2017

2017 Recap                       

In the past, we have seen teams like the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals (83-78) and the 2000 New York Yankees (87-74), win the World Series despite not being the best team in baseball. In 2017, the best team won the World Series. The Houston Astros were, by far, the most elite squad in 2017.

2017 AL MVP, Jose Altuve (SI.com)

Houston finished the season with 101 wins, and an incredible 53-28 record on the road. Although their second half did not mirror their 60-29 first half, Houston never had a problem. The Astros offense finished first in hits, runs, doubles, batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS, and total bases. The ringleader behind their offensive success was the 5-6, 165lb, second basemen from Venezuela, Mr. Jose Altuve.

Last year, Altuve was clearly the best player in baseball. He was named the AL MVP, and hit .346/.410/.547 with 112 runs, 24 home runs, 81 RBIs, and 32 steals. He became the first player ever to lead the AL or NL in hits for four straight seasons. 2017 marked Altuve’s fourth season with at least 200 hits, 50 extra-base hits, and 25 stolen bases, which is tied for TY Cobb for the most all-time. He is the first player to have multiple seasons of at least 200 hits, 20 home runs, and 30 steals. Here is a table to illustrate how amazing he was in 2017. 

JOSE ALTUVE IN 2017

 

STAT ALTUVE’S RANK IN MLB
WAR 1ST
BATTING AVERAGE 1ST
OBP 6TH
RUNS TIED FOR 6TH
HITS 2ND
TOTAL BASES 9TH
STEALS 6TH
ADJUSTED OPS+ 5TH
RUNS CREATED 5TH

 

Of course, Houston had plenty of other stars. Altuve, along with Carlos Correa, George Springer, Chris Devenski, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers, were all named All-Star’s. Correa, who missed a good chunk of time because of a torn thumb ligament, still managed to hit .315 with 24 home runs, 85 RBIs, and a .391 OBP. He joined Alex Rodriguez as the only two shortstops to have at least 390 hits, 80 doubles, 60 home runs, 200 runs and 240 RBIs before turning 23.

2017 was probably the best year of George Springer’s life. He finished tied for sixth in runs, and set career highs in home runs (34), RBIs (85), batting average (.283), and OPS (.889). Although he struggled in the ALCS against New York, Springer erupted in the World Series and earned World Series MVP after hitting .379, with 5 home runs (tied for most in a single World Series), 7 RBIs, and a .471 OBP.

The offense was obviously stellar, but, to bolster the pitching, the Astros added some guy named Justin Verlander at the trade deadline. The former CY Young and MVP winner went 9-1 with a 1.66 ERA in the regular and postseason with Houston. Pretty damn good if you ask me.

2018: Around the Diamond

As scary as this sounds for the other 29 teams, the Astros probably got better. They have a plethora of young talent who have yet to reach their full potential. Correa, 23, is still improving and could put up incredible numbers over a full-season, Altuve is right behind Trout as the best player in the game, and third basemen Alex Bregman is just 23 years-old and is coming off a stellar 2017.

Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa are both just 23 years-old. (Houston Chronicle)

Bregman hit .284 with 19 home runs, 17 steals, 71 RBIs, and a .352 OBP. He hit .331 against lefties, and .302 in high leverage situations. The brighter the lights, the better Bregman performs, as we saw this against the Dodgers in the World Series when he hit two home runs and drove in five.

Yuli Gurriel, first basemen, finished tied for seventh in doubles with 43, and hit .299 with 18 home runs. The most ridiculous Gurriel stat is his average in 0-1 counts. When he is down 0-1, Gurriel hit .331. As absurd as this sounds, when the count was in his favor, 1-0, Gurriel hit just .263. He actually performed better when the odds were stacked against him.

Behind the plate, for this stacked infield, will be a mix of Brian McCann and Evan Gattis, who will most likely start at DH. Gattis hit 20+ HR from 2013-2016 and was banged up last year, playing just 84 games. If Gattis struggles, Tyler White, who hit .300 with 25 home runs in AAA during his 2017 campaign, should step in. Josh Reddick, who finished 10th in batting average at .314, including .346 with men in scoring position, and had a career high .847 OPS, will start in right, while Springer will be in center.

Left field is an interesting spot for Houston in 2018. It appears Marwin Gonzalez, who finished seventh in adjusted OPS+ last season, will start there, but there is a good chance Derek Fisher will steal his job if he has a good spring. Gonzalez was great last year, but his previous best WAR season was 1.2. Fisher is a power-speed guy who hit .318 with 21 home runs and 66 RBIs in 84 games at AAA in 2017. Houston also has Jake Marisnick, who will get some playing time in the outfield.

On the Bump

Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers, and Charlie Morton were all great last year, but Houston decided to bolster up the rotation even more. In January, the Astros traded for Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole. Cole won 12 games with a 1.25 WHIP in 2017. He is now 27 years of age, and is still on the rise. Don’t forget, this is a guy who went 19-8 with a 2.80 ERA in 2015. If Cole can get back to his elite self, and let up fewer long-balls, this team might be unstoppable.

Ken Giles, who had 34 saves last season, will remain the closer. Devenski, and Will Harris are still with the ball club, and Houston also brought in Hector Rondon and Joe Smith to beef up the ‘pen.

The Future

Even with arguably the best roster in baseball, Houston has three prospects ranked in the Top 100 Prospects list on MLB.com. Headlining this list is RHP, Forrest Whitley, who comes in as the ninth-best prospect, and second-best RHP. Whitley was drafted by Houston in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, and has yet to disappoint. In 23 games, 18 starts, between A/A+/AA, Whitley posted a 2.83 ERA and struck out 143 batters in just 92.1 innings.

Whitley is facing a 50-game suspension for violating the drug policy. (Baseball America)

He stands tall at 6’7”, and, not only has a fastball that can get up to 97 mph, but Whitley also mixes in a 12-to-6 curveball, a slider, and a changeup. He is currently facing a 50 game suspension for violating the drug policy, which will slow down his progression, but expect to see this guy on the mound for Houston in the near future.

Kyle Tucker (No.17), is someone who you should expect to see at some point in 2018. The 21-year-old OF, in 120 games, hit 25 home runs, with 90 RBIs, and 21 steals between A+/AA. Tucker was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft and looks like he could be an offensive beast at the MLB level.

Houston’s final member on the Top 100 Prospects list is J.B. Bukauskas (No. 76). Bukauskas was the 17th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, and has drawn comparisons to Sonny Gray. He was a star for the UNC baseball team, going 9-1 with a 2.53 ERA.

2018 Prediction: 98-64

Because the Mariners and Angels got better, Houston may win a few less games, but this is clearly the best team in the AL. Springer, Correa, and Altuve are all MVP candidates, and if Cole can limit the home runs, there is no reason to think that this team cannot repeat as World Series champions.

Featured image by MLB.com

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Jeremy

“From our Haus to Yours”

How the Houston Astros succeeded by tanking

In 2011, the Houston Astros won 56 games. Their last season as a member of the National League, 2012, they won 55. When they moved over to the AL in 2013, Houston regressed even more, going 51-111. In their horrific 2013 season, the Astros ranked dead last in hits, on base percentage, slugging percentage and second-to-last in batting average and runs.

Led by Manager Bo Porter, the Houston Astros won 51 games in 2013. (Sports Illustrated)

From 2011-2014, Houston’s opening day starters, in order by year, were Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris and Scott Feldman. Minute Maid Park was empty, as no fans wanted to see this abomination.

In 2017, the Houston Astros won 101 games and are playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. The Astros finished first in the AL in runs, hits, batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage

Wait what? Yeah, tanking in baseball actually works.

 

Started from the bottom

So how exactly did the Astros pull this off? In 2013, the Astros threw a team on the field worth $22 million, which was good for dead last in terms of MLB payrolls. To put this into perspective, the Tampa Bay Rays, who ranked 28th that year, had a payroll of close to $58 million. The only player on the Astros roster earning more than $1 million was the 34-year-old lefty, Erik Bedard.

Carlos Correa and Bud Selig, moments after being selected first overall in the 2012 June Draft (MLB.com)

The obvious keys to building a championship team are good draft picks, smart trades, players performing, and a little luck. After their disastrous 2011 season, Houston received the number one pick in the June Draft in 2012. With this pick, the ‘Stros selected a 17-year-old shortstop from Puerto Rico, Carlos Correa. In the history of the MLB, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Correa are the only two shortstops to have at least 390 hits, 80 doubles, 60 home runs, 200 runs and 240 RBIs before turning 23. I think they made the right choice.

The next season, Houston again wound up with the first pick in the draft. The Astros selected Mark Appel, a pitcher from Stanford, who would end up getting traded in a deal for, current Astros closer, Ken Giles.

In 2014, for the third year in a row drafting first, Houston selected Brady Aiken, a top ranked, left-handed, pitching prospect. Due to injuries and contract disputes, Aiken became the first number one overall pick, since 1983, to go unsigned when the July 18th deadline came around. Originally, Aiken was offered a $6.5 million signing bonus, pending his physical.

 

Trust the Process

Once Houston saw his physical, which showed a smaller than normal UCL, they ended up offering Aiken $3.1 million. This was the minimum they could offer and still be granted a replacement pick if Aiken declined. Thankfully, Aiken declined their final offer, which rose to $5 million, and enrolled into a postgraduate school.

Houston was now set up with the second and fifth overall picks for the 2015 draft. With the second overall pick, Houston selected Alex Bregman, who in case you didn’t know, hit a home run off Clayton Kershaw in Game one of the World Series. In the regular season, Bregman hit .284 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs. The Astros used the fifth overall pick on Kyle Tucker, who, at 20 years old, hit 25 home runs, stole 21 bases, and knocked in 90, while playing a mix of High-A and AA baseball.

Also in 2015, Houston had a later first round pick, 37th overall, and selected outfielder Daz Cameron. Cameron, along with a pair of other minor league players, was later sent to the Detroit Tigers for Justin Verlander. Since joining Houston, the former Cy Young and MVP winner is 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA.

 

Luck mixed with Skill

It should also be noted that former Houston GM, Ed Wade, acquired Jose Altuve, George Springer and Dallas Keuchel. Altuve was originally cut by the Astros after his tryout in Venezuela, mostly due to his height, or lack of. He would attend the next tryout session, and, in 2007, Houston signed him as an undrafted free agent for a $15,000 signing bonus. Altuve has been to five All-Star games, and just became the first player ever to lead to AL or NL in hits for four straight seasons.

George Springer and Jose Altuve. 5 Tool Players. (Zimbio.com)

Dallas Keuchel, who was drafted by the Astros in the 7th round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft, was actually on the pitiful 2012 and 2013 Houston squads. In 2012, Keuchel went 3-8 with a 5.27 ERA, and the following year, at age 25, went 6-10 with a 5.15 ERA. Since then, Keuchel has been to two All-Star games, and won the AL CY Young Award in 2015.

In 2011, with the 11th overall pick, Houston selected an outfielder from Connecticut, George Chelston Springer. In 2016, while playing all 162 games, Springer hit 29 home runs and scored 116 runs. This past July, Springer was named a starter for the AL in the 2017 MLB All-Star Game. He would finish the regular season hitting .283, with career highs in home runs (35), and RBIs (85).

 

Patience

Houston rolled the dice on a 5’6” teenager, and stuck with a pitcher who posted a 5.20 ERA in his first two seasons. This past offseason, Houston signed Charlie Morton, who had never had a winning season in his career and was used as a reliever in 2016. Miraculously, Morton went 14-7 for Houston, and was lights out in Game 7 of the ALCS. Marwin Gonzalez, whose previous top WAR season was an abysmal 1.2, hit .303 with 23 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2017.

While they may appear flawless in their rebuild, don’t forget that this is the same Houston Astros team that released JD Martinez in 2014. Anyone that says this was just luck is ignorant. Luck is part of life. Just look at the opposing dugout in the World Series. Justin Turner is a superstar who was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles, and hit .265 in 301 games for the Mets. Chris Taylor did not even make the Dodgers Opening Day roster in 2017.

 

Current Tank Jobs

A team similar to the Astros is the Chicago White Sox. In 2013, they ranked top-10 in payroll, but now sit at 28th. They have not eclipsed 78 wins since 2012, but have traded big name players in order to receive top prospects. Chicago traded Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, which got them young studs like Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez, Eloy Jimenez, and Blake Rutherford.

Kopech, Moncada, Giolito (Youtube)

In the 2017 Draft, Chicago drafted third basemen Jake Burger, who scouts believe has serious potential. They have Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon locked up for years to come. In May they signed Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, who hit .310 in the 2017 Dominican Summer League. Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia are both free agents after 2019, but could easily resign. I don’t mean to pull a Sports Illustrated or anything, but the Chicago White Sox will win the 2020 World Series.

Nonetheless, you have to tip your cap to the Houston Astros for proving that tanking really works.

Featured image by ABC13 Houston

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Jeremy

“From our Haus to Yours”

10 reasons to be excited for the 2017 World Series

1. Game 1 is a beautiful pitching matchup 

2017 World Series

Possibly the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time, Clayton Kershaw (CBSSports)

Game 1 will feature two former Cy Young winners, Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel has looked extremely solid this postseason, striking out 25 in 18.1 innings.

Kershaw, who is notoriously known to be a subpar postseason pitcher, has possibly ended that narrative. In his two starts against the Cubs, Kershaw had a 2.45 ERA and struck out nine.

In Kershaw’s career vs. Houston, he is 3-2 with a 2.38 ERA. Keuchel has never faced the Dodgers.

2. Justin Verlander is really good right now

Verlander, who was named ALCS MVP after two magnificent starts, has been lights out since putting on an Astros uniform. Since joining Houston, the former Cy Young and MVP winner is 9-0 with a 1.23 ERA. In his two previous World Series trips, both with Detroit, Verlander is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA.

3. Kate Upton will be in attendance

Not only is Justin Verlander’s soon-to-be wife genetically gifted, but Ms. Upton also has no problem with attacking the MLB. When Verlander finished second behind Rick Porcello for the 2016 AL Cy Young Award, Upton took to Twitter to express her thoughts. She took multiple shots at the MLB, in particular, the voting system. If the Astros somehow get screwed over, make sure to check up on Upton’s social media accounts.

4. Is Sports Illustrated psychic?

2017 World Series

2014 SI Cover (SI.com)

In 2014, a Sports Illustrated cover declared the Houston Astros would be World Series Champs in 2017. The cover includes a picture of George Springer and a headline that reads, “An Unprecedented Look at How a Franchise Is Going Beyond Moneyball To Build the Game’s NEXT BIG THING.” Anytime a prediction from years back is on the line, it makes the spectacle that much more exciting.

5. The Dodgers Bullpen is unhittable

Quick recap of the Dodgers bullpen in the NLCS: 58 batters were faced. Of those 58 Cubs, only four were able to get hits. One player walked, and no one was able to cross home plate. Seriously, they did not give up a run the entire series.

Los Angeles led the NL in bullpen ERA, and finished second in saves in the 2017 MLB regular season. While finishing top five in the NL in bullpen innings pitched, the Dodgers pen had the fifth fewest walks in the MLB.

Arguably the most dominant closer in baseball, Kenley Jansen is virtually unstoppable. A former Trevor Hoffman Reliever of the Year, Jansen went 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA and led the league with 41 saves. Dating back to the 2016 NLDS, Jansen has not allowed an earned run in his last 14.1 postseason innings. During that span, he has 22 strikeouts and four saves.

6. Corey Seager is expected to be available

The Dodgers wiped out the defending champion Cubs, and didn’t even have one of their best players. Seager has been sidelined due to a back injury, but will hopefully be able to play. Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Seager hit .295 with 22 homers in 145 games for the Dodgers in 2017.  Only six shortstops had at least 385 hits, 50 home runs, and 80 doubles before turning 24: Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken, Vern Stephens, Carlos Correa (Houston’s SS), Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager.

Speaking of Correa, Houston’s stud shortstop is on pace to be one of the best players in the game. In the history of the MLB, Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Correa are the only two shortstops to have at least 390 hits, 80 doubles, 60 home runs, 200 runs and 240 RBIs before turning 23.

7. Jose Altuve is 5’6” and is arguably the best hitter in baseball

2017 World Series

Tuve. (SI.com)

Jose Altuve will be this year’s AL MVP. Altuve hit .346 with 24 home runs, 81 RBIs, 32 steals and a league-leading 204 hits. For the fourth year in a row, Altuve eclipsed 200 hits. The only other players to accomplish this were Kirby Puckett, Ichiro, Wade Boggs and Michael Young. The shortest active player in the MLB, Altuve became the first player ever to lead to AL or NL in hits for four straight seasons. This guy isn’t just decent, he is historically amazing.

Let’s not forget this guy had to plead his case to Houston as to why he should receive a try-out for the ball club. So far in this year’s postseason, Altuve, through 11 games, is hitting .400 with five home runs and eight RBIs. He is the heart and soul of this Astros team, and is a joy to watch on the field.

8. Will elite pitching beat elite hitting?

The Dodgers pitching finished first in the NL in ERA, shutouts, strikeouts and had fewer walks than anyone. The Astros finished first in the AL in runs, hits, batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. Houston also loves the long ball, and ended up second in the league in home runs.

9. Yasiel Puig is on TV

2017 World Series

Puig being Puig (SportingNews)

Baseball needs more personalities like Puig. Puig licks his bat. He flips his bat and is known as the “high-energy guy” according to teammate Chris Taylor. For a traditional baseball fan, he may not be loved, but for someone who watches baseball for entertainment purposes, Puig is perfect.

This season Puig hit 28 home runs and had 74 RBIs, which were both career highs. In the eight postseason games, Puig is on fire, hitting .414 with four extra-base hits. Puig’s love for the game will be evident on the biggest stage, and I absolutely cannot wait.

10. Will a pitcher go deep in the Fall Classic?

Since the addition of the DH in 1973, only two pitchers Ken Holtzman (1974) and Joe Blanton (2008) have hit home runs in the World Series. Will someone do it this year? Both Kenta Maeda and Clayton Kershaw have hit one home run in their careers, and none of the Astros probable starters have left the yard yet.

 

Featured image by Fan Rag Sports

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Jeremy

“From our Haus to Yours”

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

The Yankees fought to be here

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

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

Houston has New York’s number

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the series will play out

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALCS Prediction: Yankees in 7

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Andrew.

“From Our Haus to Yours”

Have the Red Sox taken AL supremacy from the Astros?

As it stands, the Red Sox are 4.5 games back of Houston for the best record in the AL. Boston has been making a push for power as of late. In August thus far, Boston has racked up an impressive 11-2 record while the Astros have been slipping. Houston has a 5-11 record in that same time span.

Failure to launch in Houston?

Red Sox

Correa’s injury has proven to be costly in Houston (Sports Illustrated)

This playoff race shows just how unpredictable baseball can be. If it was June and you were to ask the average baseball fan who the best team in the American League was, they would say without a doubt the Astros.

Fortune has been swaying as of late though. The Astros have dealt with some injury issues as Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have been hurt. Their lineup has also been bitten by the injury bug as George Springer and Carlos Correa have seen DL time.

It is not the time to say Houston can not come back from their issues. However, the team has shown vulnerability the last couple of weeks.

They also seem to be proving the fans right, as their inability to make a deal at the deadline would come back to bite them. The only trade of significance the Astros made was acquiring Francisco Liriano, which was not the kind of name they or the fans were looking for.

The Astros did make a move after the deadline and acquired Tyler Clippard, who is a two-time All-Star from the Chicago White Sox. There have still been rumors that they are in the mix for Justin Verlander. However, Jeff Luhnow has stated that expectations are “very low” in terms of trading for a starting pitcher.

Carlos Correa should be coming off the DL in the coming weeks. Houston still should feel good about their spot in the postseason, but they should be concerned with their current performance as well. This may serve as a wake up call for Houston for them to realize it is not a given that they will reach the World Series.

The Red Sox are red hot

Red Sox

Devers is the latest rookie to make a big splash in the show (Boston Herald)

Boston is 4.5 games up on the rival New York Yankees, who have been picking up the pace since their four game losing streak. Winning the division will be key for either team, as not playing in that dreaded wild-card game has a lot of upside for division winners.

Much of the team’s success has been coming from their pitching. Boston is second in the AL in ERA behind the Indians, and have the most quality starts from their starting rotation led by Chris Sale.

Last December, the Red Sox traded a couple of their best prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech for the side-armed lefty. Sale is tied in the AL for most wins with 14, and has the lowest ERA with an impressive 2.51. He also leads American League pitchers with a 5.6 WAR.

Boston has also received a shot in the arm from their new rookie sensation, Rafael Devers. In a season full of star-studded rookies, Devers has been able to make a name for himself at the young age of 20 years old.

Since being called up to Boston on July 23, Devers has hit six home runs and has a slash line of .348/.416/.667. His performance has been one of the best on the team besides their newly acquired infielder, Eduardo Nunez.

Nunez was traded to Boston at the deadline, and it showed they are not kidding around the season. Unlike Houston, Boston was able to solve some needs going into the trade deadline and it has paid off. Nunez has a slash line of .321/.348/.455. It is apparent that these moves have been working out for the Red Sox and they will be tough to beat coming down the stretch.

Will Boston prevail?

Since the Red Sox have taken off they have played some good teams as well as some lowly ones in the American Leauge. Four of their wins in August have come from the Chicago White Sox, but they have also won against the Rays, Cardinals, Yankees and Indians. This says that Boston will be able to match up with anybody down the stretch.

Boston will most likely keep pace and make sure the Yankees stay in second in the division. As I said earlier though, anything can happen. The Red Sox have a good amount of reliable players on their team though in order to ensure they stay on track.

Barring any injury setbacks that may come Houston’s way, the Astros should have Correa and McCullers back on the field in the coming weeks. Since they should be healthy for the postseason, they will prove to be a tough test for anyone that comes their way. If the standings hold as they do today, then there is a chance we could see the Astros and Red Sox face off in the ALCS.

This would be a very entertaining series as both clubs have the tools to win a World Series. Perhaps Houston will be able to break out of their slump and fend Boston off. If the Astros are able to break out of their funk and prove that their performance earlier in the season was not a fluke, then they will be a force to be reckoned with in October.

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Andrew!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon

Darvish

Dodgers, Cubs, others make big moves at trade deadline

One hour before the 4 P.M. MLB trade deadline, nothing was happening. There were rumors and whispers here and there. Some decent names had been moved but nothing that we have been looking for over the past few weeks. All of a sudden news broke that the Yankees would be acquiring Sonny Gray from the Athletics. Would this be the first domino to fall?

As the hour went on nothing else seemed to be happen. Everyone was expecting the Dodgers to make the big move they needed but nothing was coming. Is Los Angeles really going to stay put with the roster they have? Every World Series champion in recent memory had made moves at the deadline to bolster their team. Are the Dodgers really that good that they don’t have to go out and get anyone?

When 4 P.M. hit it seemed like that was the case. After about 20 minutes the news started to break however. The Dodgers acquired Yu Darvish from the Rangers in the blockbuster trade we were expecting. This trade also punctuated a trading season that emphasized pitching and had very little movement with hitters.

This was a very interesting deadline to track. There were some surprises as well as moves that we expected. Here are some of the notable teams that were making moves at the deadline.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Acquisitions: Yu Darvish, Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson

Los Angeles bolstered its bullpen with two solid left-handed relievers in Watson and Cingrani. These guys are a great compliment to Kenley Jansen and it takes a lot of pressure off of the starting rotation, especially seeing that Kershaw will be out for the coming weeks.

Yu Darvish has been expected to go to Los Angeles for the last month. Most were surprised that no news had broke when the 4 P.M. deadline approached. I was ready to criticize the Dodgers for their lack of improvement. When the news was announced, it immediately became World Series or bust for this team.

Darvish provides the same sort of punch to the rotation that Zach Greinke provided when he was in LA with Kershaw. These pitching acquisitions may make the Dodgers the most complete team in the majors now. They filled their pitching needs and left their offense alone which has been fantastic. What might be the one of the biggest upsides from this trade season is that the Dodgers did not give up any of their top three prospects for Yu Darvish.

The Dodgers know that they will be making the postseason. These trades were specifically for October because they know that it is now or never if they want to break their 30-year championship drought.

Houston Astros

Acquisitions: Francisco Liriano

The Astros currently have the best record in the American League. Going into the deadline, it was obvious that Houston needed to bolster its pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel has been dealing with injury issues and may not be the same pitcher he was when he won the Cy Young. Lance McCullers has also not been consistent. On top of that, the Astros are in much need of bullpen help.

Houston acquired Liriano from Toronto, but this was not the attractive pitcher that many were looking for them to go out and get. They needed a pitcher to fill into a rotation that looks a bit shaky. However, Liriano will not be in the starting rotation and will be filling in the bullpen.

This had to be disappointing for Houston fans because they did not make the improvements that other contenders made. Even though they are sitting comfortably in first place in the West and are a sure thing for the playoffs, they may be sweating a bit.

Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and George Springer are all on the DL right now. The Astros must be comfortable with the injuries since they didn’t make any moves. However, the gap seems to be closing between them and the Yankees and Indians.

New York Yankees

Acquisitions: Sonny Gray, Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson

The Yankees made a big move a couple weeks ago acquiring Todd Frazier and David Robertson from the Chicago White Sox. Robertson really helps out a bullpen that needed some help and Frazier is a bat the Yankees needed to fill a hole in the lineup.

Deadline

The Yankees got one of the most valuable pitchers at the deadline in Gray (Getty Images)

The big news from Monday was the Yankees acquiring Sonny Gray from Oakland. This was a trade that made a lot of sense for the Yankees because it helps answer questions in their rotation for 2018 and 2019 as well.

The Yankees may lose the majority of their rotation after this year so getting this deal done is a big deal for New York. For this year though, Gray provides a big punch in the rotation for October seeing that the young pitcher already has postseason experience.

Starting pitching was one of the biggest question marks for the Yankees. Boston made a solid move in getting Addison Reed, but the excellent job at the deadline by Brian Cashman may make the Yankees the better team.

Look for the Yankees to separate themselves from Boston and give Houston some trouble in the postseason potentially.

Chicago Cubs

Acquisitions: Jose Quintana, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila

The Chicago Cubs did exactly what they needed to do in order to finally separate themselves from the rest of the NL Central. They addressed a rotation issue, a bullpen issue and a catching issue.

Deadline

Quintana is the highlight of the deadline for the Cubs (Sporting News)

Quintana was a get for the Cubs that was way ahead of the rest of the field at the deadline. Chicago knew what they needed and got a pitcher in the prime of his career that will be under team control for the future.

The rotation has been underperforming for the most part and Quintana provides a spark that has gotten the rest of the team going. With the potential this team has, they may be one of the best teams built for the postseason after the acquisition of Quintana.

Alex Avila adds experience at the catching position that the Cubs really needed. Miguel Montero was sent to Toronto after he ragged on the pitching staff for the Cubs’ shortcomings. He was the veteran presence that the pitchers need behind the plate.

Wilson Contreras has been very productive with a bat in his hands but he does not have the skills needed to call a good game in the playoffs. He is a converted infielder that is still learning the craft, so Avila provides the presence that the Cubs needed.

Theo Epstein went out and addressed the exact problems that needed addressing. Cubs fans should be happy with how he approached the deadline. The only downside is that the Cubs now have no prospects in the MLB Top 100. Much of their talent is at the big league level so that is a big reason for that. However, their talent has been underperforming this year.

The Cubs are hoping that their players play to their potential. If they do, then they are as good as anybody in the league.

Washington Nationals

Acquisitions: Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle

The Nationals’ bullpen has pretty much been a joke this year. It is by far their biggest weakness, so much so that a fan ripped on the bullpen in his obituary.

Deadline

Scherzer got the bullpen help the rotation desperately needed (Getty Images)

Washington has one of the best hitting trios in baseball with Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Daniel Murphy. They also may have the best starting pitcher in the game in Max Scherzer.

However, they were not taken as seriously to compete with the Dodgers in the postseason because of how important relief pitching is these days.

Sean Doolittle has been struggling this year, but he is still a step in the right direction for Washington. However, Ryan Madson has been a very reliable reliever and Brandon Kintzler was an All-Star this year. Kintzler has converted 28 of 32 saves this season and also provides reliability at the back end of the bullpen.

Relievers were a hot commodity at the deadline this year. The Nationals knew that relievers are what they needed in order to win their first playoff series in franchise history. Mike Rizzo did a good job of getting these guys in order to be a threat in October.

Chicago White Sox

Deadline

Jimenez is the 7th ranked prospect in the majors (Baseball America)

Acquisitions: Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford, AJ Puckett, Andre Davis, Tito Polo, Ian Clarkin, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, Byrant Flete, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez

As you can tell, the White Sox had a busy trade season. They traded away many major leagues such as Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera. Even though it is pretty apparent that you could say the White Sox are tanking, fans have to be happy with general manager Rick Hahn’s job this past month.

The White Sox now have two of the top 10 prospects in MLB, and eight in the top 70 according to MLB.com. Chicago is the only team on this list that are not contenders this season but they may have had one of the best months in the league.

The benefits from the past month will not show this season or next season. In a few years though the success of the front office will be apparent.

This may be a slight overreaction, but there is a possibility that we could see a Cubs-White Sox World Series down the road. That may be a bit dramatic but wouldn’t it be exciting to see a Chicago championship series? The only thing I would be concerned about is whether or not the city would still be standing in the aftermath.

Final thoughts on the deadline

The most glaring detail of this trade deadline was the emphasis of pitching. Outside of J.D Martinez, there were no major position players that were moved this year. Yes, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were moved as well. However, all of the big trades were centered around pitching.

It seems that many teams are content with the hitting they have. It may not be a coincidence that major league players are hitting home runs at one of the highest rates in history. Bullpen and rotation help is the attractive thing these days. Especially considering how difficult it is to close out a game in today’s game.

By no means is the 2017 season decided already. There is still a long way to go in the season and anything can happen in October. Championship teams do look back to the trade deadline though to see what they did right at that time. Monday was a pivotal point in the season, but baseball is a crazy game so it will be fun to see how these moves pan out.

 

You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Andrew!

Fantasy Baseball

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (May 21st – May 27th)

With two months of the season in the books, it is time to continue our weekly fantasy baseball update. We will continue to notify fantasy owners about eight players who are either hot, or cold, and whether they will continue to trend in that direction. Previous weekly fantasy baseball updates can be found at thegamehaus.com.

Who’s Hot

Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman, Washington Nationals

Last seven: .476 BA, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB

Rendon flew under the radar to begin the season since third base is arguably the deepest position in fantasy baseball. So far this season, he has shown flashes of greatness with two multi-homer games, including a record-setting three-homer performance in late April.

The 26-year-old is a former first-round pick by the Nationals, and officially broke out in 2014. In his sophomore season, he batted .287 with 21 home runs, 111 runs, 83 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. Rendon clearly has the ability to be a high-end fantasy producer.

However, after battling injuries in 2015, his stock dropped significantly. He rebounded with a respectable 2016 campaign and so far has exceeded expectations this year.

He is currently batting .286 with nine home runs, 24 runs, 32 RBIs and three stolen bases. Also, Rendon’s ISO has risen significantly, which would help propel high into the next tier of elite third basemen. He is currently on pace for over 30 home runs and 100 RBI.

 

Dallas Keuchel, Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros

Fantasy Baseball

Dallas Keuchel is a clear Cy Young candidate in 2017. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

Last three: 3-0 W-L, 1.59 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 17 IP, 21/3 K/BB

Keuchel’s success in 2017 has been immaculate. He has shown that when healthy, he is a true Cy Young caliber pitcher. He recently missed one start due to a pinched nerve in his neck, although it clearly hasn’t slowed him down whatsoever. He is currently 8-0 with a 1.81 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 8.01 K/9.

The 29-year-old has an incredible xFIP of 2.75, which shows that he is finding success without his defense or other factors of randomness. His BABIP of .223 is bound to rise, especially because he is a ground-ball pitcher. However, this shouldn’t affect him too severely. At this pace, Keuchel looks to be pitching his way to a second career Cy Young award.

 

Devon Travis, Second Baseman, Toronto Blue Jays

Last seven: .419, 3 HR, 9 RBI, 0 SB

Travis underwent knee surgery this offseason, which clearly contributed to his extremely slow start this season. He is currently batting .252, although over the last 30 days he is batting .344.

The 26-year-old was on many fantasy owners’ radars entering this season, as he had batted .300 with 11 home runs, 54 runs and 50 RBIs in only 432 plate appearances last year. His career BABIP is an outstanding .340, but his current BABIP is only .286, suggesting some progression is in store. Travis will certainly be a top 20 second baseman, and possibly top 15 at the end of the year.

 

Robbie Ray, Starting Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fantasy Baseball

Robbie Ray is an official strikeout machine. (Photo by The Edwardsville Intelligencer)

Last three: 2-0 W-L, 1.93 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 18 2/3 IP, 17/6 K/BB

Ray exploded onto the scene last year after striking out 218 batters in 174.1 innings. So far this year he is 4-3 with a 3.45 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 11.10 K/9. His current BABIP of .271 is sure to rise. However,  because he is generally a strikeout pitcher, it shouldn’t hurt his WHIP too much.

The 25-year-old has and will continue to be a great source of strikeouts for the foreseeable future, although he has been far from elite. His control issues will hold him back from being considered a top 20 fantasy starter this season for sure.

Who’s Cold

Eric Thames, First Baseman/Outfielder, Milwaukee Brewers

Last seven: .087 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB

Former KBO star Eric Thames has been a major story this season. He is coming off of three consecutive 37-plus home run and 120 RBI campaigns, and has shown flashes of similar greatness at the MLB level.

The 30-year-old currently has 13 home runs, 26 RBIs and 39 runs scored while batting .278. Over the last 15 days, Thames is batting just .103, with zero home runs, one RBI and six runs scored. Ups and downs must be expected as pitchers are bound to adjust to his approach.

Thames’ plate discipline and isolated power make him a great source for home runs, RBIs and runs, but his 23 percent strikeout rate will prevent him from entering the elite first baseman conversation along with Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt.

 

Julio Urias, Starting Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers

Fantasy Baseball

Julio Urias will be apart of the Dodgers rotation for the remainder of the season. (Photo by NBC Sports)

Last three: 0-2 W-L, 9.24 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 12 2/3 IP, 6/6 K/BB

Urias, formerly the Dodgers top pitching prospect, has now made 20 starts in his major-league career. This year he is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and 4.24 K/9. So far, he has struggled to locate the ball, strike batters out and make it deep into a ball game.

The Dodgers have said they are committed to the 20-year-old staying in the majors, although his current struggles are quite alarming. His xFIP is an atrocious 5.68 and his BABIP is under .300. I would not feel comfortable starting Urias in any formats for the time being.

 

 

Manuel Margot, Outfielder, San Diego Padres

Last seven: .160 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB

Margot had arguably been the favorite to win National League Rookie of the Year this season before entering his current slump. His stat line this year consists of a .259 batting average, four home runs, 16 runs scored, 13 RBIs and five steals.

Rookie woes are typical and should be expected, so do not give up on the 22-year-old just yet. He was recently placed on the 10-day disabled list due to a strained soleus muscl, and is without a time table for return. However, his skill level makes him too talented to drop in the majority of formats. Margot will have solid fantasy value once he returns, and should not be abandoned.

 

Amir Garrett, Starting Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds

Fantasy Baseball

Amir Garrett has succumb to some serious struggles at the major-league level. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images).

Last three: 1-1 W-L, 9.00 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 15 IP, 9/9 K/BB

Garrett began the season with three electric performances. Since then, he has struggled with control and health issues.

He was recently placed on the 10-day disabled list with right hip inflammation. He is expected to make his next start on June 4 against the Atlanta Braves, although I would recommend benching him since he has allowed 13 earned runs in his last nine innings pitched.

The 25-year-old clearly has talent, but his current .232 BABIP suggests that he getting fairly lucky even with his current struggles. His 4.75 xFip would also be considered extremely poor, which shows that bad luck and defense are not the reasons for his poor performances. Garrett was a prime sell high candidate, although now on the DL, you will have to simply ride out the storm and hope for the best.

 

Featured Image by Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Avery!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

2017 MLB Season

We have liftoff: The rise of the Houston Astros

No one saw what was to come of that October night in 2005. The Chicago White Sox had just swept the Houston Astros in four games to win the World Series, and the celebration that occurred in Minute Maid Park was one that left a sour taste in Astros’ fans mouths. Little did they know that it was a precursor to the next few years of Astros baseball.

But with a long rebuild finally in the rear-view mirror, fans have a winning team again. That night in 2005 seems a lot longer ago that 12 years, and that is in large part thanks to the success the franchise is experiencing. But how did a team that hadn’t finished better than 11 games back of first place average 85 wins in the past two seasons and have one of the best records in the majors this season? It took some savvy moves, and the ability to admit that change was needed.

Houston Astros

Dallas Keuchel was one of the shiniest diamonds in the rough ever, winning the 2015 AL Cy Young Award (Colin E. Bradley/AP Photo).

Cultivating the Farm

Even though the Astros lost the World Series in 2005, the core of the roster was held onto long after their glory days. With aging stars like Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt and other core components still on the roster, management made a change for the better that came to a head in 2010.

Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt were both shipped off to contending teams, but their hauls didn’t bring back any impact players for the Astros. Even so, their trades were still a key component in the rebuild process.

With the team being stripped to the bare bones, the rebuild was officially underway in 2011, as Houston lost 106 games.

But that season saw the first glimpses of the dynamic and diminutive second baseman, Jose Altuve. They also drafted center fielder George Springer in the first round of the MLB Draft that year. The duo of Springer and Altuve have become the core of the Astros, and have set the franchise up for a succesful future.

Young studs like Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Alex Bregman were also acquired via the draft, and have helped to lift the club back into contention.

They also found a Cy Young winner in the seventh round of the 2009 MLB Draft. After struggling in 2012 and 2013, Dallas Keuchel would go on to win the 2015 AL Cy Young award. But it wasn’t just the farm system that helped lift the Astros to relevancy

Bargain Deals and Smart Investments

Houston Astros

Will Harris has had a massive impact on a dominant Astros bullpen (Mike Carlson, Stringer).

The Astros were just as good at finding talent on the free agent market and waiver wire as they were in the MLB Draft. Right hander Collin McHugh was one of the worst starters in the league in 2012 and 2013, putting up a combined 8.94 ERA in that time.

But when he came to the Astros in 2014, he became a whole new pitcher. His 3.71 ERA in an Astros uniform is a stark contrast to his younger years, and he has developed into one of the Astros’ better starting pitchers.

But it hasn’t been just the starting rotation that has benefited from free agency. Will Harris came into Astros spring training in 2015 just trying to make the roster. Little did anyone know that he would finish the season with a 1.90 ERA out of the pen. His contributions were also joined by another relief pitcher in 2015.

Prized free agent reliever Pat Neshek made the move from St. Louis to Houston in 2015 and immediately made an impact. With a 3.36 ERA in his two seasons in Houston, Nesheck became a valuable member of a much improved bullpen.

Joined by fellow free agent additions Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, the Astros have had excellent success in the free agent market. By not overspending on free agents and being able to exploit the bargain bin, the Astros have put together a consistent winner in Houston.

Putting it all together

The Astros have had an interesting approach to rebuilding the team. By tearing the team down to its roots, they lost in the present to win in the future. And the future has finally arrived with a 31-16 record in the AL West and a young core to build around.

The front office has proven to be more than adequate at picking up well-priced free agents and finding contributors on the waiver wire. With the ability to put solid contributors around an excellent young core, the Astros are primed to fully wipe away the taste of the 2005 World Series and replace it with a savory World Series title.

 

Featured image by Troy Taormina, USA Today.

You can “Like” The Game Haus on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles written by other great TGH writers along with Jonathan!

“From Our Haus to Yours”

*Featured Image Courtesy of Seth Wenig AP Photo*

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

It is one month into the 2017 season, and the league has already thrown a number of surprises our way. While April was as tumultuous as years past, it feels as though that early season rust is dissipating. Teams and players alike have begun to settle into regular season form with some standout performances mixed in across divisions.

So far this season we’ve looked at hot and cold starts and individual statistical standouts. Now let’s look at the month in review. This week will highlight the current American League standings and preview of how May is shaping up.

*All statistics as of end of day 04/29*

AL East

AL East Standings W L PCT GB WCGB
NY Yankees 15 7 0.682
Baltimore 14 8 0.636 1 1.5
Boston 12 11 0.522 3.5 1
Tampa Bay 12 13 0.48 4.5 2
Toronto 7 17 0.292 9 6.5
American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

(Image Courtesy of AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

As expected, the AL east has been one of the most contested divisions in baseball. The Yankees, and standout rookie Aaron Judge leads the division with Baltimore right on their heels. Judge has been excellent so far this season, setting the rookie home run record with ten in April. He’s more than living up to his projected power potential.

Concerns about Baltimore’s pitching staff with the loss of Chris Tillman hasn’t slowed the team down. Strong contributions from both Wade Miley and Dylan Bundy have kept the Orioles in games as their power packed lineup continues to mash.

Boston and Tampa Bay are both sporting 12 wins in the middle of the division, but don’t expect this to continue. The Red Sox have been led by utterly dominant performances by Chris Sale. Boston’s lineup has the second best team average in baseball, but is last in home runs, and bottom five in RBIs. Expect the team that generated the most offense in baseball last year to pick up its pace and its win total in May.

Tampa Bay and Toronto round out the bottom of the division, but have had two very different starts. While the Rays have shown impressive resilience behind a young core of players, Toronto is floundering. It’s hard to predict what’s next for the Jays, but below average pitching and an anemic offense don’t exactly spell future success.

AL Central

AL Central Standings W L PCT GB WCGB
Chi White Sox 13 9 0.591
Cleveland 13 10 0.565 0.5
Minnesota 11 11 0.5 2 1.5
Detroit 11 12 0.478 2.5 2
Kansas City 7 15 0.318 6 5.5

After offloading their top talent in the offseason, Chicago has decided it would like to be in first place anyways. Struggling stars Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier have contributed little, while Avisaíl García has slashed .376 / .418 / 1.053. Best bet is Chicago comes back to earth soon, but then again, no one expected this either.

Cleveland’s slow start to the season has been met with a recent resurgence and plenty of optimism. The defending AL champs have three of their five starters clicking on all cylinders with lock-down contributions from the bullpen. The not-so-surprising star of the offense has been Jose Ramirez. After a breakout campaign in 2016, Ramirez has slashed .333 / .388 / .997 with six home runs and 21 RBIs so far this season.

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

(Image Courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)

Minnesota and Detroit are locked up at 11 wins each and have continued to press the front-runners. The Twins have seen an outstanding come-back performance from Ervin Santana who currently holds a 0.77 ERA through four starts.

While Byron Buxton has continued to struggle at the plate, Minnesota has seen great contributions elsewhere. Young guns Miguel Sano and Max Kepler are both off to excellent starts with strong averages and decent pop.

Detroit is in a bit of a tail spin after dropping its last four games of the month. They will have one more opportunity to snap that in April against a hot Chicago White Sox team.

Justin Verlander and the rotation are off to a shaky start. The good news is Justin Upton has looked every bit the player Detroit expected when they acquired him last year. Between Upton and the cast of veterans on this squad, the Tigers should have plenty of run support for a struggling rotation.

Kansas City needs a turnaround, and fast. The Royals have seen minuscule production from an offense that has them last in the league in the run category. An impressive start from Jason Vargas and solid hurling from Danny Duffy has kept the royals pitching numbers respectable, but it’s not enough.

Kansas City is facing the potential departure of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Vargas at the end of the season. If the Royals are going to make one final run with this group, they will need a whole other level of urgency heading into May.

 

AL West

AL West W L PCT GB WCGB
Houston 15 9 0.625
LA Angels 13 13 0.5 3 1.5
Oakland 11 13 0.458 4 2.5
Texas 11 13 0.458 4 2.5
Seattle 11 14 0.44 4.5 3

 

American League Weekly Wrap-Up: Week 4 April Standings

(Image Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

In the West, it’s been the Astro’s and the rest. The Astros are off to an excellent start in 2017 and have received contributions from every part of the club. While it’s easy to be excited by the young talent in the lineup, it’s actually the rotation leading the way.

The resurgence of 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel has been instrumental to a rotation ranking third in ERA. If the remainder of the rotation can keep pace with Keuchel’s great start, it could be a runaway race in the west.

The Angels are actually the surprise second-place team in this division. The Angels were riding a five-game hot streak until it was broken up by Carlos Gomez and the Rangers. Mike Trout continues to quietly be Mike Trout slashing .365 / .436 / 1.155 with seven home runs.

In typical Angels fashion, other than Trout, everything has been mediocre. The offseason acquisitions, the pitching and essentially every other player has been average to start the year. It is overall an impressive start for Los Angeles, especially considering the myriad of injuries the team has faced.

The bottom of the division is essentially a three-way tie between Oakland, Texas and Seattle. It’s clear the Mariners and Rangers are underperforming, while Oakland has overachieved considering the loss of Sonny Gray.

There have been some impressive individual performances such as Seattle’s James Paxton and Mitch Haniger. Oakland’s Khris Davis has put on an impressive power display thus far, and Carlos Gomez just hit for the cycle with Texas. It’s still early in the season, so I would expect at least one, if not two of these teams, to challenge the top of the division before the year ends.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and eSports articles from other great TGH writers along with Josh!

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 2nd – April 8th)

Fantasy Baseball 2017: Weekly Update (April 2nd – April 8th)

In this weekly segment, I intend to inform fantasy owners about who’s hot and who’s cold during a specific week, and whether or not I believe they will continue to trend in that direction.

Who’s Hot?

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Veteran Mark Reynolds is taking advantage of every opportunity he gets in 2017. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

Mark Reynolds, First Basemen, Colorado Rockies

 

  • 9 for 22 with 4 runs scored, 3 HR, and 8 RBI

 

Reynolds has taken over for an injured Ian Desmond as the Rockies first basemen to start 2017. The 33-year-old veteran has been incredibly productive over the first week, as he is tied with Brandon Belt as the National League home run leader. Reynolds has been a prototypical home run or bust player over the years, as he has hit over 250 career home runs, while also leading the league in strikeouts four consecutive times. On the contrary to Reynolds perennial struggles at the plate, he batted .282 with 14 home runs in 393 at bats during the 2016 season. His playing time is sure to become sparse once Desmond returns, but until then, Reynolds will remain a comfortable source of production as he will continue to be an everyday player in the middle of the Rockies lineup.

 

Yasiel Puig, Right Fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

  • 7 for 19 with 5 runs scored, 3 HR, 5 RBI, and 1 SB

 

Puig has been one of the biggest teases in recent fantasy baseball history, as he batted .319 with 66 runs scored, 42 RBI, 19 HR, and 11 SB over a 104-game span in 2013. After dealing with nagging injuries and on and off the field issues in 2015 and 2016, he is finally showing his potential once again. The 26-year-old has begun the year batting in multiple positions in the order including fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth. It is a bit concerning that he is batting .000 in the four and five spots, although on the bright side, he may have found a home at the bottom of the lineup as he is batting over .500 as the seven or eight hitter.

Puig will continue to be a tantalizing fantasy option, but be aware of possible struggles. His plate discipline is league average, as he swings at about 30 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone, which could be a cause for concern as he will begin to see more off-speed pitches when batting in the heart of the order.

 

J.T. Realmuto, Catcher, Miami Marlins

Fantasy Baseball 2017

J.T. Realmuto is off to red hot start. (Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel)

  • 10 for 18 with 6 runs scored, 2 HR, and 6 RBI

 

The Marlins catcher is flat out on fire. Realmuto has begun the year batting primarily in the two-hole, which has worked great so far as he is currently batting over .500.  I wasn’t expecting this to type of success to happen to Realmuto, nor am I expecting it to continue.

The 26-year-old has a career ISO of .141, which suggests that his home run totals will not spike any time soon. This paired with his atrocious career walk rate of 4.7 percent makes me uneasy when thinking about Realmuto going forward.

 

Nomar Mazara, Right Fielder, Texas Rangers

 

  • 10 for 21 with 5 runs scored, 2 HR, and 9 RBI

 

The Rangers outfielder is off to a hot start in his second major league season. He has already mustered up nine RBI along with two home runs, all while batting just under .500. The 22-year-old has been a highly touted prospect since he was signed in 2012, and for good reason. He has hit 20 home runs twice, once at the minor-league level, and the other time being last season in 145 at bats in the majors. He is also a career .271 hitter at all levels, which is very respectable. In a full season, Mazara should have no problem hitting 20 bombs and batting .270 plus.

 

Dallas Keuchel, Starting Pitcher, Houston Astros

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Dallas Keuchel is looking to return to Cy Young form in 2017 now that he is healthy. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images).

  • 1-0 allowing 1 ER, 4 H, and 3 BB over 14 IP with 8 Ks

 

The 2015 Cy Young struggled last season as he dealt with nagging shoulder and back injuries throughout the year. He has come into 2017 at 100 percent, and is ready for the season, which has shown in his first two appearances. Keuchel’s two starts have resulted in one win, and only one earned run over 14 innings pitched. The Astro’s are beginning to look like one of the American League’s most dangerous teams, which along with Keuchel’s improved health, gives him good chances of becoming the Cy Young once again.

Who’s cold?

 

Sam Dyson, Relief Pitcher, Texas Rangers

 

  • 0-2 allowing 8 ER, 7 H, and 2 BB over 1 IP with 0 Ks

 

Dyson has gotten shelled in his first two appearances this season, pitching a total of one inning, allowing eight runs, walking two, and striking out none. Of course, his first two outings are disconcerting, but manager Jeff Banister has said he is not ready to move Dyson out of the closer role yet.

Dyson had a very successful 2016, pitching a total of 70 1/3 innings, resulting in a 2.43 ERA and 55 strike outs. I have confidence in Dyson retaining the closer job for the long-term future, as he has had enough success in the past to warrant a longer leash than most closers.

 

Masahiro Tanaka, Starting Pitcher, New York Yankees

Fantasy Baseball 2017

Masahiro Tanaka is off to a shaky start in 2017. (Courtesy of MLB.com)

  • 0-1 allowing 10 ER, 14 H, and 6 BB over 7 2/3 IP

 

After allowing 10 earned runs in 7 2/3 innings over his first two starts, Yankees’ ace Tanaka will take the mound Thursday, April 13th, at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. His first two appearances came away against American League East foes, which are commonly the toughest starts this pitcher will make all season. Yes, he has struggled mightily this year, although I’m confident he will turn it around.

The 28-year-old has a career 3.26 ERA over 497 2/3 innings pitched. He has no chance of losing his job, although his injury history is a bit unnerving. A partially torn UCL brought up talks of tommy john surgery last season, although he opted to forgo the surgery in order to avoid a long and tedious recovery process. Tanaka will remain an injury risk all year, but his numbers should return to form.

 

Byron Buxton, Center Fielder, Minnesota Twins

 

  • 1 for 22 with 0 runs scored, 0 HR, 0 RBI, and 0 SB

 

Unfortunately for baseball fans, Buxton is off to a brutal start. With only one hit in his first 22 at bats, once touted as the next Mike Trout, Buxton has consistently disappointed. He has batted an underwhelming .214 over 449 at bats at the major-league level.

The 23-year-old still has untapped potential, as he batted .322 with 15 home runs, 119 runs scored, 85 RBI, and 57 steals in 2013 at multiple minor league levels. In keeper leagues, he is definitely worth holding on to. Although, in redraft leagues, it may be time to go in another direction.

 

D.J. Lemahieu, Second Basemen, Colorado Rockies

Fantasy Baseball 2017

D.J. Lemahieu has only one hit in his first 22 at bats, although it is too early to give up on the 2016 NL Batting Champ. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

  • 1 for 23 with 2 runs scored, 0 HR, 0 RBI, and 0 SB

 

The 2016 National League Batting Champion is off to an ice-cold start this season. He has only one hit in his first 23 at bats, which has resulted in him receiving a day off this Sunday. Lemahieu will remain atop the Rockies lineup for the time being, but a move to the bottom half of the order could help rejuvenate the All-Star. The 28-year-old is a career .298 hitter who should have no problem getting back on track.

 

Jonathan Lucroy, Catcher, Texas Rangers

 

  • 1 for 15 with 1 run scored, 0 HR, 0 RBI, and 0 SB

 

The Rangers backstop also has only one hit to start this season, although once again, I’m not worried about the future production of All-Star. Lucroy is a career .283 hitter, who hit 24 homers just a year ago. He is also in a contract year, so he has more to prove then most players. There is no reason to worry about arguably the best two-way catcher in baseball.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Avery!

 

“From Our Haus to Yours”