2018 Cy Young Award watch

MLB: 2018 Cy Young Award watch

In the game of baseball, no position is as praised or scrutinized as the pitcher. The pitcher has to ward off batter after batter and keep as many off base as possible. The pitcher also has to work with varying amounts of run support in the process. For those few who are the coolest under this kind of pressure, the Cy Young Award awaits.

This watch will highlight some of the early favorites to win the coveted hardware in 2018. Will there be a new, young ace reigning supreme? Will there be a veteran looking to expand his trophy case? These are some notable aces making their cases this season.

Cy Young Award Watch: American League

2018 Cy Young Award watch

(Photo from Sports Illustrated)

The Houston Astros house several pitchers off to a great start, as well as the first stop of this Cy Young Award watch. Picking just one from this bunch was difficult, but ultimately, Charlie Morton takes the marginal lead here.

Yes, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole boast lower ERAs than Morton (both below 2.00). However, Morton has more wins and an undefeated record to his name.

Morton has no doubt found his footing in Houston, rocking a 19-7 combined record in his two seasons as an Astro. As a pitching unit, the Astros lead the American League in ERA and batting average surrendered. Morton’s role has become a huge part of this feat.

Over in the AL East, Luis Severino of the New York Yankees has entered the conversation as well. The 24-year-old has tallied a 6-1 record on the mound this season. He has also surrendered a meager 2.14 ERA in his nine starts this season. Severino’s arm has more than helped the Pinstripes as they look to take over the division. If he can remain hot, he will end up in many more All-Star rosters and Cy Young Award conversations to come.

Another AL East arm to keep an eye on for the hardware is Boston’s Rick Porcello. Though Chris Sale holds a better ERA, Porcello remains undefeated this season. Porcello retains a 2.79 ERA, plus a 5-0 record in 51 2/3 innings pitched. Porcello and the rest of the Red Sox rotation will need to stay hot with their archrivals on their tail. As for Porcello, a second Cy Young Award to his name would not hurt.

Cy Young Award Watch: National League

Over in the NL East, The Washington Nationals are now on a tear. In the NL Cy Young conversation, Max Scherzer is among the first names to pop up. It is not very hard to see why.

2018 Cy Young Award watch

(Photo from SI.com)

“Mad Max” currently sports a 7-1 record, along with the second lowest ERA in the National League.

But it does not stop there. Scherzer’s ERA has been below 2.00 in each of his starts this season. The 33-year-old ace is now eyeing a third Cy Young Award in a row, which would be the fourth of his career.

Another NL East name has entered the fray, from the Philadelphia Phillies. Meet right-hander Aaron Nola.

The 24-year-old has put together a 6-1 record with a 1.99 ERA this season. Not to mention he is undefeated in the month of May with a 0.89 ERA. Nola has shown significant improvement throughout his career. It is very likely he will be at the All-Star game in D.C. But if Nola can remain this imposing from the mound, the Cy Young Award, and possibly a playoff spot, will be a sight for the sore eyes of the Phillies faithful.

Over in the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals are fighting for the division with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh (all within only 0.5 games of each other). Pitcher Miles Mikolas of the Cards has done his part to keep the Cards in the race. Mikolas boasts a 5-0 record with a 2.51 ERA this season. He has also yielded a mere .233 batting average in his seven starts. With pitchers like Mikolas on board, the St. Louis pitching staff has become one the most ferocious rotations in the big leagues, with the third lowest ERA in baseball.

As the Seasons continues…

There are plenty of candidates worthy to be mentioned in the Cy Young Award conversation. At any time, unknown faces can become household names, if not take over the spotlight completely. As the season continues, the race for the playoffs, as well as yearly player accolades, will intensify with time.

 

Featured image from Baseball-Almanac.com

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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

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2018 Detroit Tigers preview

2018 MLB preview: Detroit Tigers

2017: 64-98 (fifth place in AL Central)

Last Postseason appearance: 2014

Last World Series title: 1984

2017 Recap

In 2011, the Tigers made it all the way to the ALCS before losing to the Texas Rangers in six. The following season, Detroit made it to the World Series. In 2013, they were back in the ALCS, and the following season, they won the American League Central Division for the fourth straight year. Boy that seems like decades ago.

64 wins was Detroit’s fewest since the dreadful 2003 team that won just 43 games. It all started in March when Tigers star, and future Hall of Famer, Miguel Cabrera left a World Baseball Classic game with back tightness. He would eventually spend some time on the DL and posted the worst numbers of his career. Cabrera hit just .249 with an OBP of .329 while slugging just under .400. He had a WAR below zero for the first time in his 15-year career.

Also in March, J.D. Martinez was forced to miss around two months because of a right foot sprain. However, in his 57 games, Martinez mashed 16 home runs and hit .305. He was later traded to Arizona in July for a trio of prospects.

Detroit’s offense finished 16th in OBP and 18th in slugging percentage. They ended up 29th in run differential, which was mostly due to their atrocious pitching. The pitching staff finished 20th in BB/9, 23rd in HR/9 and last in H/9, WHIP and ERA. Among the 15 AL teams, they were 11th in walks and 12th in home runs.

Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad. Before being traded to the Los Angeles Angles, Justin Upton hit .279, 28 home runs and 94 RBIs in 125 games for Detroit. Nick Castellanos hit 10 triples, which was good for third in the MLB. He also hit 26 home runs, had 101 RBIs and batted .341 with men on base.

2018: Around the Diamond

No more Justin Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton or Ian Kinsler means a new wave of Tigers will be asked to step up in 2018. Numbers show that Miguel Cabrera should go back to being his elite-level self.

Last year, in expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA), which, according to rotoballer.com, establishes the “value a player brings per plate appearance, accounting for unintentional walks, hit by pitches, and all base hits,” Cabrera ranked 19th in the MLB. Expected weighted on-base average uses launch angle and exit velocity of every ball put in play, so it is quite possible that Cabrera was just a tad unlucky last year.

2018 Detroit Tigers preview

Miguel Cabrera will bounce back in 2018. (Photo from Call to the Pen)

James McCann will remain behind the plate, but needs to do a better job defensively. In 2017, he allowed the fourth most steals and had the fifth most past balls.

Taking over Kinsler at second will most likely be Dixon Machado. The 170 pound Machado has played in 105 career games and has hit just .246 with a .303 OBP. Jose Iglesias, who hit 33 doubles last season, will remain at shortstop, while Jeimer Candelario is in line to start at the hot corner. Candelario, who was acquired by the Cubs in the Justin Wilson and Alex Avila trade, hit .330 in 27 games for the Tigers in 2017.

Nick Castellanos, the former third baseman, will start in right field if he remains on the team. Castellanos has been heavily mentioned in trade talks and is coming off a solid offensive season. Newcomer Leonys Martin, who Detroit signed as a free agent this offseason, will start in centerfield. In limited games, Martin struggled mightily last season with the Mariners and Cubs, but hit 15 home runs and stole 24 bases back in 2016.

Mikie Mahtook will most likely start in left field after posting the second best OBP on the team last year. JaCoby Jones and Victor Reyes will also be competing for playing time.

As far as the DH goes, Victor Martinez, in his last year of his deal, will start. Now 39 years old, Martinez did not have a great 2017, hitting just .255 with 10 home runs in 107 games.

On the Bump

Michael Fulmer, who was an All-Star in 2017, looks to be the No. 1 option on this team and should be ready for Spring Training following an elbow injury. Fulmer is lucky the All-Star game is a first half competition, because he posted a horrendous 5.33 ERA in 49 innings during the second half of the season. However, Fulmer looks like a legitimate top of the rotation starter, as he allowed the second fewest home runs per nine innings in 2017.

2018 Detroit Tigers preview

Jordan Zimmerman is owed around $75 million over the next three years. (Photo from Bleacher Report)

Detroit also signed Mike Fiers, who won a World Series with Houston, but did not pitch in the playoffs. In the 2017 regular season, Fiers went 8-10 with a 5.22 ERA.

Speaking of scrub pitchers over 30, Jordan Zimmermann will again attempt to figure it out in Detroit. Zimmerman, who was terrific in Washington, has been a total disaster with the Tigers. In 48 career games with Detroit, Zimmerman has a 5.60 ERA. In 2017, he finished tied for the most earned runs allowed.

Keep in mind, Zimmermann is owed $24 million in 2018, $25 million in 2019 and another $25 million in 2020. I know there is a lot of crime in Detroit, but Zimmermann stealing from the Tigers is the biggest of them all.

Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris will make up the rest of the rotation. Boyd rocked a 1.56 WHIP in 2017, while Norris, a former second-round pick, posted a 5.31 ERA in 18 starts. Both are still considered young, so hopefully they turn out better. In 2017, Shane Greene looked good when he moved over to the closer role after trades, so it makes sense for him to remain the ninth inning guy.

The Future

The Tigers have four starting pitchers on MLB.com’s “Top 100 Prospects” list for 2018. Among them is Franklin Perez, who was sent over in the Verlander trade. The 20-year-old Perez went 6-3 with a 3.02 ERA in 19 appearances between A+ and AA. He is seen as a middle of the rotation type of starter.

Next on the list is Matt Manning, son of former NBA player Rich Manning. Matt was the ninth pick in the 2016 draft and pitched well between short-season Class A ball and Class A West Michigan.

Alex Faedo, who ranks 59th on the list, was selected 18th overall in the 2017 Draft. Coming off knee surgery, Detroit opted not to use him in 2017, but he pitched well with the Florida Gators, so Detroit is hopeful they made the right decision.

The last Tiger on the prospects list is Beau Burrows. The right hander has a fastball in the mid-90s and looks to be a big league starter down the road.

 

2018 Prediction: 72-90

Miguel Cabrera will be back in the All-Star game, and Nick Castellanos, if still on the team, will have another good year with Detroit. However, the pitching is still a disaster. They’ll win more games than last year, as they should play better against the White Sox and the Royals, but it will be another long year for Tiger fans.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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We need baseball back

We need baseball back ASAP

Alabama football just won its fifth National Championship in nine years. The New England Patriots have been to seven straight AFC Championship games and are favored to win its third Super Bowl in four years.

In 20 of the last 21 seasons, Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils have earned a four seed or better in the NCAA Tournament. This season, they are off to an 18-2 start, and when it comes to next year, the Blue Devils will have the nation’s top three recruits all wearing blue and white. That’s right, R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish, the three highest recruited players in the country, have all committed to Duke. UConn women’s basketball has been to 10 straight Final Four’s and have won four out of the last five NCAA Tournaments.

We need baseball back

In the last three Finals, we have seen these two square up. (Photo from slamonline.com)

Barring an epic collapse, the Golden State Warriors will win its third championship in four years. Despite what the media says, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, in all likelihood, will face the Warriors in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive season. This would mark LeBron’s eighth straight Finals appearance.

In October, the Warriors opened as a -240 favorite to win the title. The best odds given to any 2018 MLB team to win the World Series is +525.

In 2016, the Minnesota Twins went 59-103, which was good for the worst record in baseball. A year later, with virtually the same roster, they were competing against the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card game. From 2011-13, the Houston Astros averaged 54 wins per year. In 2017, they won 101 games and were World Series Champions.

Translation: baseball is the most competitively balanced sport, and it’s not even close. Sure, dominance like Brady and Belichick, Nick Saban, LeBron, the Warriors, Coach K and Geno Auriemma is awesome to see, but as a fan, isn’t it better to have more parody and uncertainty when it comes to sports?

Systems

Not only is baseball the most competitively balanced sport, but it is also the only sport in which we can accurately critique someone’s skill level on a yearly basis. We know college is all about recruiting. The best coaches recruit the best players.

Last season, in the NFL, we saw the Rams finish 4-12 under coach Jeff Fisher (4-9) and John Fassel (0-3). Quarterback Jared Goff went 0-7 as a starter, and Todd Gurley rushed for under 890 yards and averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

Now was this because these players were bad? Of course not. They were just in a garbage system, and an offense that, according to Gurley, “looked like a middle school offense.”

We need baseball back

Gurley averaged less than four yards per carry a season ago. (Photo from CBS Sports)

This season, with head coach Sean McVay, the Rams looked like a completely different team. They beefed up the line, and Goff threw 28 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Gurley had 19 total touchdowns and over 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 15 games. He became one of 11 running backs in the history of the sport to accomplish these two feats in the same season.

Tom Brady is widely considered as the greatest quarterback of all time, but have you ever seen Aaron Rodgers throw a football? Do you know how many top-10 defenses, in regards to scoring, Aaron Rodgers has played with in his 10 seasons as a starter? Only two. One of them being the time Rodgers helped them win the Super Bowl, and another when they won 11 games.

Since Brady took over as the starter in New England, the Patriots have had 12 top-10 defenses. If Rodgers played with a better coach and personnel, we would probably be telling a different story in regards to the best quarterback.

Case Keenum and Blake Bortles just brought their respected teams into Championship weekend. They were behind center for two of the final four teams, and now the sports media is questioning if any team should pay them “starter” money next season. You know why? Because they are both in good systems with top defenses, and coaches who did a great job hiding their flaws.

Basketball too?

In the 2016-17 season, Victor Oladipo was a solid player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He averaged about 16 points and four rebounds per game.

After being dealt to the Indiana Pacers in the Paul George deal, Oladipo is now an All-Star. He is averaging 24.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. He is also shooting a career-best field goal percentage, as well as 3-point percentage. Oladipo is playing the same minutes he did last year, except on the Pacers, he does not have to play alongside Russell Westbrook, a ball-dominant player.

As a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Kevin Love was a monster. He was a three-time All-Star, and averaged 19.2 points and 12.2 rebounds per game over six seasons. He is the only player in NBA history to have multiple seasons with averages of at least 26 points and 12 rebounds, while shooting over 80 percent from the free-throw line. In 2010-11, he became the only player to ever average 20 points and 15 rebounds, while shooting 85 percent from the free-throw line.

Since being traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Love has made just one All-Star game (soon to be two) and averages less points and rebounds. Of course, this is because he has been the third option in the offense for essentially all of his four seasons in Cleveland.

America’s Pastime

In 57 games as a member of the Detroit Tigers in 2017, J.D. Martinez hit .305 with an OPS of 1.018. In the last 62 games of the season after being traded to the Diamondbacks, Martinez hit .302 with an OPS of 1.107.

Justin Verlander was dealt to the Houston Astros, and he continued to be the same old Justin Verlander. In fact, he was even better than we expected.

Even though they joined new teams, which meant new coaches and new teammates, these players continued to excel. This is because baseball is the purest sport, and the only sport we can examine someone’s statistics, and without hesitation, declare if they had a good season or not.

We need baseball back

No matter the coach, teammates or system, good MLB players produce. (Photo from Over The Monster)

The point is this. In the NBA and NFL, blaming the system, coaches and teammates can all be valid excuses, to an extent, as to why your production is not where it could be. In the MLB, this is not the case. As a starter, you are given the same amount of chance to succeed as any other starter in the league.

A player cannot blame his batting average on the coach, or his teammates. A pitcher can’t tell the media that “the system” is the reason he walked all those batters. As an MLB player, you are either good or you are not. You had a good hitting season, or you didn’t. You either pitched well, or you didn’t.

Luckily, we are a month away from Cactus League and Grapefruit League games. 2018 will be another unpredictable season. The New York Yankees picked up Giancarlo Stanton, which means they have arguably two of the best four right fielders in baseball.

Once Kevin Durant moved to the Warriors, it was obvious they would win the title. In the MLB, big moves like this do not guarantee anything. Baseball will always be America’s pastime, due to its batter vs. pitcher, “You vs. Me” style of play.

 

Featured image from Grantland

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Machado

Where things stand with Giancarlo Stanton

There has been no doubt that the MLB offseason has been engulfed by the rumors surrounding the 2017 NL MVP, Giancarlo Stanton. At this point, mostly all there has been is speculation. There are a lot of factors that go into a trade of this magnitude, so there are a lot of things that have to go right in order for it to go through. Here is an up to date summary of all that has been going on surrounding Stanton.

No-trade clause

Stanton

Magic Johnson and the Dodgers probably don’t have the ability to take on Stanton’s contract (Getty Images)

One of the biggest factors in Stanton’s contract at the moment is not only the large amount of money he is owed, but the fact he can reject any trade the Marlins may put in front of him.

Stanton is a SoCal native, and he reaffirmed that when he put the Los Angeles Dodgers as his preferred spot to be traded to, per MLB.com columnist, Jon Morosi. The Dodgers are the only team to be reported on that list. It has also been reported by Chad Jennings of the Boston Herald, that Stanton would reject a trade to either Boston or St. Louis. However, that report has been refuted by others.

The Jon Morosi report suggests that Stanton is keeping an open mind to where he could be traded. He will evaluate his options once there is some more light shed on them though.

This is not the first time a no-trade clause has been a factor lately. Justin Verlander told the Tigers as well that he would prefer to play for the Dodgers. However, once late August came around, Verlander realized that he would not be going to Los Angeles. He then accepted a trade to the Houston Astros, and the rest is history.

Best fits for the Marlins

Stanton

Reyes is a very attractive pitching prospect for the Marlins (ESPN)

The Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are the teams that appear to be pursing the Miami slugger the most. While all of them could use him in their lineup, there are some that can offer more to the Marlins than others.

The only two teams who have actually submitted an offer to the Marlins are the Giants and the Cardinals. It has been reported that Joe Panik and Tyler Beede have been mentioned in that offer. The Cardinals have a lot of pitching to give, and one name mentioned in the offer was Sandy Alcantara while other details remain unclear.

What the Marlins are looking for out of this trade are to relieve some of the financial burden of Stanton’s contract, and to acquire some young pitching. The team that has the most to offer in that department are the St. Louis Cardinals, who may have the best pitching prospect in baseball in Alex Reyes. They are also well below the luxury tax cutoff, giving them a lot of financial flexibility.

The number one priority for the Marlins right now though is speaking to the Dodgers and seeing if they can come to an agreement. Stanton will not consider any other teams without knowing that Los Angeles is out of the running. The Dodgers are already likely going to go over the luxury tax, so it would not be in their best interest to add the largest sports contract in the world to their payroll. It would not make sense for the Marlins to take on a large part of Stanton’s contract for the Dodgers either, as then there would be little point to be trading him at all.

The Marlins need tor rule them out quick though, as some reports have indicated that other teams want a resolution from Stanton by December 10th, the first day of the Winter Meetings. This is so they can move onto other options as the free agent market remains untapped.

What all this means for Stanton

Stanton has made it clear that he does not want to go through a rebuilding phase. Derek Jeter has suggested that rebuilding may be the route the Marlins take though. Stanton has been in the league for seven years now and has yet to play on a winning team. In order to avoid this, he is going to have to redefine where he would like to be traded to.

The Cardinals make sense from a baseball perspective for Stanton. They are in big need for a game changing bat in the middle of the lineup, and are looking to consolidate talent. The Cardinals have also only had one losing season since 2000, so he would be playing for a winner. St. Louis isn’t far off from competing with the Chicago Cubs, and this offseason will really define their future. Stanton would play a big part in helping them compete, and surely could make them into World Series contenders.

The case seems to be that Stanton wants to play in a more high-profile place rather than St. Louis, and who can blame him? He is a young baseball star with loads of money and wants to spend nights out on the town. Not to mention he is also from Los Angeles and has family and friends there. Stanton will have to make the decision as to what is more important to him though.

The Giants don’t seem to fit the criteria of being soon to be winners either. The fact they don’t have much to offer the Marlins on the prospect side doesn’t help either. Boston would make sense for Stanton as they seem to be perennial contenders. That is why Boston and St. Louis seem like the most likely destinations with all things considered. Which means Stanton has to reevaluate his options in order to play for a winner.

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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

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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

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Dodgers Astros World Series

Astros vs Dodgers: Who has the edge?

The matchup we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. The Fall Classic is upon us, pitting the two best teams in baseball against each other. The Dodgers and Astros took two very different routes to get here, but here they both are.

The Dodgers trounced their way to the World Series, posting a 7-1 record so far. Needless to say, the Astros 7-4 record isn’t bad, but they are coming off an emotional seven game series where they struggled to put away a young Yankees squad. So who do you trust in this clash of sabermetric savants? The rested Dodgers or the battle-hardened Astros?

avoiding elimination game drama

Jose Altuve looks to launch the Astros to a World Series title (USA Today).

Lineup

Both of these teams put up spectacular numbers in the regular season. The Astros paced all of baseball in team average (.282), were second in team home runs (238), and lead the major leagues in runs scored (896). They also had a decided lead over the Dodgers in those three major categories. The Dodgers were only 19th best in team average during the regular season (.249), 11th in home runs (221), and 12th in runs scored (770).

Even with this decided advantage in the regular season belonging to the Astros, the Dodgers have shined brightest on the biggest of stages. The Dodgers have average six runs per game this postseason, compared to the Astros four runs per game. But in a seven game series like this, one player can carry an offense.

And the best suited for that behemoth task is the diminutive Jose Altuve. The presumed American League MVP has hit a scorching .400 in the postseason and launched five home runs. The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig may have Altuve bested in postseason average at .414, but he has done so in only 14 at bats, a far cry from Altuve’s 40. With the amount of firepower in Houston’s lineup, they should be more than able to keep pace with the Dodgers.

Verdict: Astros

Starting Rotation

Dodgers Astros World Series

Dodgers co-ace Yu Darvish has the ability to stymie the astros potent offense (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson).

The biggest deciding factor in Los Angeles has also been the biggest presence on the mound. Clayton Kershaw has been one of the best pitchers of his generation, with a 2.36 career ERA and three Cy Young awards to his name. But what you won’t find on the burly left hander’s possession is a World Series ring. There are some players that blossom under the playoff spotlight, but Kershaw hasn’t been one of them. In fact, he’s wilted to the tune of a 4.40 postseason career ERA. Even so, Kershaw does have a steady stable of starters to rely on to help carry the slack.

Fellow lefty Rich Hill and former Rangers ace Yu Darvish are slated to start Games Two and Three respectively, and have pitched well for the Dodgers in this postseason. Hill has pitched to a 3.00 ERA while Darvish has sparkled with a 1.59 ERA. Those types of numbers will give the Dodgers plenty of chances to win. That is, if they can score.

Justin Verlander has been, bar none, the best pitcher in baseball since the Astros acquired him in August. He cruised through the finish of the regular season, going undefeated in an Astros uniform. And he hasn’t let up yet. In 24.2 IP this postseason, he has a 1.46 ERA, a perfect 4-0 record and has struck out 24 batters. Given that he will be preceded by co-ace Dallas Keuchel (2.60 postseason ERA) in Game One, The Astros have the definite advantage at the top of the rotation. But depth will play a key role in this series. With Cy Young caliber pitchers in the form of Kershaw and Darvish, and the depth of Rich Hill, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda all able to start for Dave Roberts, the Dodgers have the advantage.

Verdict: Dodgers

Dodgers Astros World Series

Kenley Jansen has posted a stunning 0.00 ERA in the postseason (espn.com).

Bullpen

If you’re going to make a run like the Dodgers and Astros have, you must be able to shut teams down in the late innings. The Dodgers have paced baseball in team ERA this postseason with a 2.28 ERA. That is good enough to lead the next best team (Nationals) by almost a half run per game. The Astros have been markedly worse at preventing runs from scoring, with a 3.79 team ERA.

Even with the team advantage, the Dodgers have the individual advantage as well. Kenley Jansen has pitched eight innings of shutout ball this postseason, as fellow reliever Brandon Morrow has posted a 1.08 ERA in 8.1 innings of work. The Astros flagship ace hasn’t fared nearly as well. Ken Giles has allowed three runs over the past three innings pitched. That does not bode well for an Astros team that may have to rely heavily on him late in critical games.

The wildcard from the mound will be Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. McCullers will start Game Four of the World Series, and could come in as a relief pitcher in Game Seven if needed. He has shown lights-out stuff as of late, and A.J. Hinch could opt to use him in relief after his start. Even so, the Dodgers have the clear advantage in the pen.

Verdict: Dodgers

Prediction

This World Series is shaping up to be one for the ages. As the historically dominant Dodgers look to make a return to glory, the Astros are on the hunt for that elusive first title. But the Astros may have to wait just a little bit longer. The Dodgers are on a postseason run unlike any seen in a long time. And that may just be the deciding factor in this series.

Verdict: Dodgers in six

Feature image by Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

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2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

The Yankees fought to be here

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

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

Houston has New York’s number

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

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

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

How the series will play out

2017 ALCS Preview: New York Yankees vs. Houston Astros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALCS Prediction: Yankees in 7

 

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Trade

Post-deadline trade market still buzzing

It has been a month since the non-waiver trade deadline passed but there still have been all sorts of wheeling and dealing. It is much more difficult to complete a trade after July 31st, but it can still happen and make an impact for a team. Here is a look at some of the big trades over the past month and the impact it can have on their respective teams.

Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers

Trade

Granderson has ripped 3 bombs since arriving in LA (NBC Los Angeles)

Granderson had been having a good power year but has been struggling otherwise, much like a lot of hitters this season. He has 23 home runs and a .217/.330/.480 slash line on the year. Since making his way to Los Angeles, he is only hitting .135.

It was an interesting move for the Dodgers to make as they have a well-rounded outfield. However, it is evident that Dodgers managements knows that this is their time to go for the whole thing. Thus, they made the decision to do everything they can to improve their offense. The outfield already consists of Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and rookie sensation Cody Bellinger. Bellinger was recently on the disabled list though, so the Granderson deal may be precaution just in case something goes wrong. He started most games with Bellinger on the DL and was able to hit three home runs in that time.

Replacing Chris Taylor would also be a tough sell given that he is having a breakout year at the plate with a .305/.375/.532 slash line along with 18 home runs. It would be tough to see Granderson starting in the outfield come October barring injury. He would provide impressive pop off the bench in important situations, so look for him to make his impact there.

Mariners make moves for Mike Leake and Yonder Alonso

The Mike Leake trade news came as a surprise this week. This seemed to be more of a salary dump for the Cardinals as they look to add in free agency this winter or re-sign Lance Lynn. Several sources also reported that Leake was not happy in St. Louis, so that may have contributed in him waiving his no-trade clause. Players in the St. Louis clubhouse were not happy with the deal though, asking if it was a joke even.

Leake has been struggling as of late. He was not contributing much as he has a 8.88 ERA in the month of August. He has shown signs of brilliance though. In April he looked to be one of the best pitchers in the National League as he went 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA. The Mariners may be looking for that Mike Leake for the wild card race at hand, as well as the future with his contract running until 2021.

Yonder Alonso was a big bat that the Mariners were looking for. He has managed to hit 24 this season along with a respectable .267 batting average. It is obvious that Seattle is serious about making a run for the wild card, however they are slumping as of late and will need to turn it around. They are 4.5 games behind the Twins for the second spot in the playoffs. It is going to be especially difficult considering the moves that the Angels are making in Anaheim.

Angels acquire Justin Upton from Detroit

Trade

Upton joins Mike Trout in a star-studded outfield (Sports Illustrated)

The Angels traded for a big name in Justin Upton on Thursday. Upton provides a very strong presence in the middle of the Angels lineup. This acquisition is exactly what the team needs in terms of morale and support. It shows that the Angels are not going to sit idly by when they see there is a chance for the team to do something in the postseason.

Albert Pujols is not the hitter he used to be but he is a great compliment to Justin Upton and Mike Trout. Andrelton Simmons is also having one of his best years at the plate, so there is potential for the offense to take the Angels to the playoffs. Their main issue is pitching though. The performance of their pitching staff is vital in order for the Upton trade to work out this season.

What the Upton trade also shows is that the Tigers are in selling mode. They have now unloaded Alex Avila and their star outfielder Justin Upton. Is there going to be a Verlander-sized domino that falls next? Many teams would love to have an arm with the kind of experience Verlander has at this point in the season. Look for him to be moved soon as multiple sources are reporting that the Tigers want to deal their ace. It is not a sure thing but there are plenty of teams, even the Angels, that are probably calling Al Avila.

Johnathan Lucroy to Colorado

This trade went a tad under the radar, but it has been paying off for Colorado. Lucroy provides solid veteren experience to a relatively inexperienced pitching rotation. He is a good guy to have behind the plate if the Rockies make it to October and have their young pitchers go up against the league’s best.

Lucroy has a solid .299/.415/.448 slash line since being traded to Colorado from Texas. He had a -0.5 WAR in Texas as well but has been looking better with a .4 WAR in his 22 games with the Rockies. He also rounds out one of the better offenses in the league and is making a difference down the line.

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