Five superstars off to tremendous starts in 2018

(All stats as of 4/24 10AM)

Early on in the 2018 MLB season, we have witnessed some historic performances, from some not so historic figures. Sean Manaea of the Oakland Athletics threw a no-hitter against the hottest offense in baseball, the Boston Red Sox. San Diego’s Christian Villanueva homered three times in an April victory over the Colorado Rockies, and is currently leading the league in SLG and OPS.

Ryan Flaherty, utility man for the Atlanta Braves, is slashing .339/.446/.468. Keep in mind, Flaherty is a lifetime .223 hitter. Nobody in baseball has more hits than Oakland’s Jed Lowrie. In four starts, Astros RHP Charlie Morton is 3-0 with a 0.72 ERA.

Still, a lot of the top superstars in today’s game are on pace for monster years. The sections below are comprised of five megastars who have started the season exactly how we expected, if not better. All five of these players have yet to turn 27, and, by the numbers, are all on pace for historic careers.

Mike Trout

Over the last seven days, Mike Trout is hitting .417 (10-for-24), with three steals, four runs, and five extra-base hits. Three of his five XBH are home runs, as Trout homered in three consecutive games, during the series with the San Francisco Giants. This brought his home run tally up to nine, which means he is on pace for 63 this season.

Currently, Trout leads the league in WAR, and home runs. The 26-year-old ranks fifth in XBH, seventh in SLG, steals, runs, and hits, and ninth in OPS. Obviously, Trout is a once-in-a-generation type of player, but if he retired today, he would have a legitimate case at making the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Just take a look at these facts.

Trout is on pace for 63 HRs. (SportingNews)

During his rookie season, Trout would go on to, statistically, have the highest WAR season by any rookie in the history of baseball. He was the first position player since Barry Bonds in 2004 who had a WAR above 10.0. He joined Albert Pujols, Hal Trosky, and Ted Williams, as the only rookies to hit 30 or more home runs with a batting average better than .325.

The kid from Millville, NJ has five seasons of at least 7.9 WAR. That is tied with Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, and Mike Schmidt.  His six seasons of OWAR greater than 7 has him tied with Honus Wagner, and ahead of Frank Thomas, Wade Boggs, and Mel Ott to name a few.

# OF SEASONS REQUIRING BA>= .305, HR>= 25, SB>= 22, OPS+>= 168

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MIKE TROUT 4
BARRY BONDS 4
WILLIE MAYS 2
AROD + NINE OTHERS 1

Mookie Betts

Mookie Betts is the ringleader behind Boston’s incredible 17-4 start. Betts, who finished second behind Trout in the 2016 AL MVP voting, is making a strong case early on as the best player in the AL. The highlight of his season so far came against Trout’s Angels, as the 25-year-old Betts went 3-for-3 with three home runs, three runs scored, and a pair of walks. He already has eight multi-hit games, and has three leading-off the inning home runs.

Betts leads the league in batting average (.366), runs scored (23), doubles (8), and OPS (1.191). He also ranks fourth in SLG, fifth in OBP, and eighth in total bases. While his career is not as decorated as Trout’s, the Boston outfielder has a chance to go down as one of the greats.

# OF SEASONS WITH 18HR, 20SB, 402B, 160H (BEFORE TURNING 25)

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
MOOKIE BETTS 3
DAVID WRIGHT 2
HANLEY RAMIREZ 1
GRADY SIZEMORE 1
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 1
NOMAR GARCIAPARRA 1
ROBIN YOUNT 1
VADA PINSON 1

 

Bryce Harper

Baseball’s “Chosen One”, Bryce Harper has lived up to the expectations that were set for him as a teenager. Harper, who will be a free agent following the 2018 season, is in line to get the biggest contract in MLB history, if he stays healthy and has a big year. So far, Harper has an NL-leading 8 home runs, with 19 RBIs, 20 runs scored, and a .462 OBP. When the game is tied, Harper is hitting .412 (7-for-17), including four home runs.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WHO HAVE HIT 150 HR, 500 RUNS, 1400 TOTAL BASES, 780 HITS

(In no particular order)

ALEX RODRIGUEZ
MEL OTT
JIMMIE FOXX
MICKEY MANTLE
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT
FRANK ROBINSON
ALBERT PUJOLS
BRYCE HARPER

 

While his career has been affected by injuries, Harper is still on a Hall of Fame pace. Before he turned 25, he already had five seasons with 20HR, 20 doubles, and a .340 OBP. The only other players with five seasons mirroring that stat line, before turning 25-years-old, were Trout, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Orlando Cepeda, Frank Robinson, and Mel Ott.

Harper leads the NL with 8 home runs. (New York Post)

In 2015, at age 22, he became the youngest player in MLB history to post a season with 40 HR, .330 BA, .450 OBP, and .640 SLG. Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Jimmie Foxx, who held this record before, all accomplished this at the age of 24.

 

 

 

 

Manny Machado

Like Harper, Machado is 25-years-old and is also an impending free agent after this season. Over the past week, Machado hit .500 (12-for-24) with five home runs, seven runs scored, and eight RBIs. He, along with Manaea, were named AL Co-Players of the Week.

Overall, Machado is slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs. He leads the league in OPS+ (218), and total bases. Now a full-time shortstop, Machado is very similar to a young Alex Rodriguez, without the steroids.  He and ARod are the only two players in MLB history who posted a season with at least 50 doubles before turning 21. In 2015, he joined Rodriguez as the youngest players in MLB history (both 22 at the time) to post a season with 35 home runs, 30 doubles, 20 steals, and a batting average north of .285.

Heading into the 2018 season, Machado had three seasons, before turning 25, with 30 home runs, 30 doubles, and 160 hits, which is tied with Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and Hal Trosky for second all-time. Albert Pujols had four such seasons before he turned 25.

PLAYERS, BEFORE TURNING 25, WITH H>=860, HR>=130, 2B>=170 AND TB>=1470
ALEX RODIGUEZ
MANNY MACHADO
MEL OTT
KEN GRIFFEY JR
MIKE TROUT

 

Aaron Judge

After hitting .179 during his first taste of the bigs in 2016, Judge went on to have, historically, one of the best rookie seasons of all-time. He set the rookie record in home runs with 52, passing Mark McGwire’s previous record of 49. His 8.1 WAR was the fourth best all-time for a rookie, behind Trout, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Dick Allen.

He became one of five players, joining Barry Bonds, McGwire, Babe Ruth, and Mickey Mantle, to post a season with 50 home runs, 120 runs scored, 120 walks, and 340 total bases. This year, Judge has picked up right where he left off, batting .325 with 20 runs scored and six home runs. He currently leads the league in walks (20) and OBP (.469). While it is too early on in his MLB career to compare him to some of the greats, Judge could very well go down as one of the top power hitters in the history of the sport.

Featured image by Newsday

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2018 MLB Draft Preview

Like every year, The 2018 MLB Draft stands as the next step for promising prospects in making their dreams a reality. Most of us have imagined ourselves walking on the stage, shaking the commissioner’s hand and wearing the cap of the team who drafted us.

Of course for all 30 franchises taking part, many questions appear and need answers. Which position needs the most improvement?  How can these new additions help set the tone for success?  What traits/tools are we looking for that the team fall short on? Additionally, which of these prospects have that “IT” factor with the game on the line?

Some teams will have more work to do than others.

1st Pick of the Draft

This year, the Detroit Tigers will hold the first pick of this year’s MLB draft. Last season, the Tigers finished the regular season tied for the worst record in the lead at 64-98 (shared with San Francisco Giants) and their pitching staff ranked last in the league in ERA (5.36).

In addition, All-Star first baseman Miguel Cabrera did not have a normal season. In his tenth season with Detroit (15th year in the league) Cabrera posted up a .249 batting average, only 16 home runs and only 60 RBI. In addition, these are his lowest season numbers since his rookie season. On average, “Miggy” composes a .317 batting average, hits 34 home runs, and scores 117 RBI in a season.

MLB Draft

image courtesy of mlb.com/tigers

According to MLB.com The first 10 picks of the Draft are as follows:

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Cincinnati Reds
  6. New York Mets
  7. San Diego Padres
  8. Atlanta Braves
  9. Oakland Athletics
  10. Pittsburgh Pirates

The full draft order can be found here.

Notable Draft Pitchers

The pitcher is among the most celebrated positions in baseball, and arguably the most scrutinized. Pitchers can ignite a whole defense, shut out an entire batting roster, and come in clutch when the team needs it most. According to MLB Pipeline.com, seven of the first ten projected picks are pitchers.

Many experts predict that University of Florida right-handed ace, Brady Singer, will be the number 1 overall pick in the next MLB Draft.

MLB Draft

image courtesy of floridagators.com/baseball

As a sophomore in the 2017 season, Singer pitched his way to a 9-5 record in 20 appearances and led the team in innings pitched with 126. He earned All SEC Second-Team Honors, along with a spot on the 2017 College World Series (CWS) All-Tournament team. He also helped lead the Florida Gators team to its first CWS title in program history, beating fellow SEC team, Louisiana State University (LSU), in the finals.

With this new hardware, the University of Florida became only the fourth collegiate athletic program to win a championship title in football, baseball and basketball (joining Ohio State, Michigan and UCLA).

Singer is not the only prospect from the Florida Gators looking to make an impression.

Fellow pitcher, Jackson Kowar, looks to take it to the next level. Last season, as a sophomore, he posted a 12-1 record (.923 percentage), therefore tying the best season record in school history. Furthermore, his 12 wins led the SEC and sat second in the entire country.

During the second game (and last) in last year’s CWS finals against LSU, Kowar came in as a relief pitcher and shut down the Tigers while he was on the mound. This effort would additionally win the Gators their first World Series title.

MLB. Pipeline lists projects Kowar to be drafted 10th overall.

Looking Ahead

Although the MLB Draft does not begin until June, all 30 organizations will have plenty of chances to prepare. They will be able to analyze positions on the team that require more depth and which ones can wait during spring training and the start of the regular season. Who will step up?  Does the starting field look as well or better than last year?

Like the adage goes, one player can make a difference. Like any sport, baseball is no stranger to new faces taking names and being the talk of the league. But for the most part, superstars will take time to mold, to mature and to sharpen their talents so they can help their team get to the next level.

For some organizations, it is going to take more than drafting the right guys to improve a team. Whether a franchise is rebuilding, looking for the right people to step up after losing a prominent starter, or repeating the success of the previous season: Whatever the case may be, everything has to work, and not just on draft day.

On June 4th, baseball fans across the country and the world will tune in and watch who will dawn their favorite team’s colors.

 

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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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Top 10 MLB franchises of all time

Best baseball franchises of all time

Normally, this is the time of year when big-time moves are made. Free agents are signed, general managers are wheelin’ and dealin’ and there is a constant buzz around baseball.

This year? Not so much. The free agent market has been relatively stagnant, and trades are few and far between. So I’ve decided to actually put my history degree to use and list the top 10 baseball franchises of all time. Clubs will be ranked by World Series titles, Hall of Fame players and overall success. We will start at No. 10.

10. Detroit Tigers

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 9,235-8,979 record, nine Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the oldest teams in baseball, the Tigers have to find a way onto the list. They were a charter member of the American League and have been in Detroit since 1901.

But they don’t earn a spot on these rankings from their age alone. They have the 13th most Hall of Fame players in baseball, accumulating nine spots in Cooperstown. They also have four World Series titles to their credit, good for ninth most in baseball. But it’s the stories, myths and legends that help give this team an edge over the others.

As one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Ty Cobb was a menace in Detroit for 22 years. Stories of his aggressive demeanor are only overshadowed by his prowess on the field. He lead the American League in hitting nine years in a row and batted over .400 twice within that span. He also holds the all-time highest career batting average at .366. If that wasn’t enough, he was also an inaugural inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1936.

The Tigers never won a World Series with Cobb, but broke through in 1935 to give the city its first championship. They did it again in 1945, 1968 and 1984. Their 2012 trip to the World Series has been their most recent appearance.

The Tigers also have some greats to rely on in the 21st century, with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera leading the way. Even in the midst of a rebuild, the Tigers can still lay claim to baseball royalty.

9. Chicago Cubs

Statistics: Three World Series titles, 10,803-10,258 record, 14 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeIf the Tigers are considered an aged franchise, the Cubs are ancient. You can trace their playing history all the way back to 1876, only 11 years after the end of the Civil War. They are a charter member of the National League, and assumed the Cubs name back in 1903.

As one of the best in baseball history, it’s not surprising to find that they hold multiple records. One of those is the modern-era single-season winning percentage of .763 in 1906 when they went 116-36. But the franchise’s history goes much deeper than the team level.

Perhaps one of the more overlooked Hall of Fame players for the Cubs is third baseman Ron Santo. Playing in the 1960s through mid-70s, he teamed with Ernie Banks to return hope to the Cubbie faithful. Even though the duo wasn’t able to bring a title home to Chicago, Santo still played at a high level. He was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner for the Cubs, providing stability at the hot corner.

One thing Santo couldn’t provide was a regular World Series contender, as the Cubs would have to wait until 2016 to earn their third title. With players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and a multitude of others, another World Series title in the near future is not out of the question.

8. Oakland Athletics

Statistics: Nine World Series titles, 8,834-9,322 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeThe Athletics are another one of the old-guard franchises, joining the Tigers as an inaugural member of the American League in 1901. Unlike the Tigers, the Athletics have had multiple homes. After starting out in Philadelphia, the team moved to Kansas City in 1955 and then to Oakland in 1968.

They are also one of the few teams on this list with a losing record, posting a .487 win percentage. However, with so many World Series titles (third most in baseball history), they easily find themselves among the top ten teams all time.

One reason for their World Series dominance is Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. Before Jackson was shining under the bright lights in New York, he was blasting away at the bay. Jackson played 10 seasons for the Athletics, leading them to back-to-back-to-back titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He was also a more balanced player in Oakland, hitting 269 home runs and stealing 145 bases.

Just like many of Oakland’s stars, the Athletics weren’t able to retain him. This developed into a common theme for the A’s.

That is one reason why their win percentage is so low. The Athletics experienced multiple runs of success, winning five World Series titles from 1910-30, three in the 1970s and one in 1989. With the introduction of free agency, the small-market Athletics weren’t able to compete in the bidding wars their stars warranted.

Even so, the A’s have been one of the best franchises of all time, and could be on the verge of another dominant run with a loaded farm system and young major league club.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,394-10,233 record, 13 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAfter joining the National League in 1887, the Pirates took baseball by storm, representing the National League in the inaugural World Series in 1903. It wasn’t until 1909 that the steel city could boast its first World Series title though.

Led by players like Honus Wagner, the Pirates of the early 20th century dominated baseball. With pennants in 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1909, the Pirates established themselves as one of the dynasties of baseball.

They continued that legacy well into the 20th century, relying on one of the greatest Pirates of all time to guide the franchise. Roberto Clemente started for the Pirates at the ripe age of 20, but didn’t establish himself until he turned 25. In the following eight seasons, Clemente earned eight All-Star appearances, seven Gold Gloves and one AL MVP award. He also led the Pirates to two World Series titles, cementing himself as a legend in Pittsburgh.

His legend ended spreading far beyond Pittsburgh or baseball, as he was an avid humanitarian. That, coupled with his skills on the diamond, makes him one of the most beloved Hall of Fame players the Pirates have had. As such, a new generation looks to carry on the legend he left behind. Players like Gregory Polanco, Starlin Marte and a cast of young Pirates will look to right the ship and return to the franchises’ former glory days.

6. Cincinnati Reds

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,457-10,211 record, 10 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the charter members of the American Association in 1881, the Reds have played ball in Cincinnati for 136 seasons. In that time, some of the greatest players and teams have called the queen city home.

Unlike the other ancients of baseball, the Reds did not have much early success. They boast one World Series title in the early 20th century, winning the fall classic in 1919. Even so, their dominance in the 1970s is the stuff of legends, as only one of the greatest teams of all time can be worthy of such a title as “the Red Machine.”

At the heart of the red machine was none other than Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. He helped propel one of the most dominant teams of the modern era, and caught one of the better pitching staffs baseball has seen. He played his full 17-year career in Cincinnati. In that time, the Reds won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. With a rare blend of power and defensive skills, Bench became the standard bearer for elite catching. But a machine isn’t made up of just one member.

Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dave Conception were all vital cogs in the big red machine and were integral parts to their two World Series titles in the 1970s. Now a new machine is being constructed in Cincinnati led by All-Star Joey Votto. With a young core and stacked farm system, the Reds will try to emulate the success of the 1970s.

5. San Francisco Giants

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 11,015-9,513 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeOne of the first things that catches your eye with the San Francisco Giants is their gaudy record. Since their inception in 1883, they have posted a .537 win percentage. That includes stints as the New York Gothams, New York Giants and San Francisco Giants. While fans may have more fond memories of New York than San Francisco (five World Series titles in New York, three in San Francisco), San Francisco does have much more recent memories to draw upon.

One of the most dominant and bizarre runs baseball has seen belongs to the San Francisco Giants. In 2010, 2012 and 2014 the Giants were able to bring San Francisco a World Series title. Led by one of the best pitcher-catcher combos in the game, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey were vital to the Giants prolonged success.

In his rookie season, Bumgarner pitched eight shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Posey was also solid as a rookie in the World Series, batting an even .300. Now both grizzled veterans, they look to bring San Francisco back to its former glory.

With a strong supporting cast, they may make another run yet. Joining Bumgarner and Posey at the core of the Giants roster is Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. All in the prime of their respective careers, the Giants should definitely be feared. But it remains to be seen if they can make a return to their former glory atop the throne of baseball’s elite.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Statistics: Six World Series titles, 10,776-9,691 record, six Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAnother former New York team claims a spot on our rankings, as the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in baseball’s elite. After undergoing nine different name changes since their founding in 1884, the Dodgers moniker finally stuck in 1932. The team went on to win all six of its World Series titles as the Dodgers, bringing one home for Brooklyn in 1955, two years before their cross-country exodus. Even with five titles won in Los Angeles, Brooklyn will always be able to boast one of the greatest players of all time, Jackie Robinson.

Robinson broke onto the major league scene in 1947. As a 28-year-old rookie, Robinson won Rookie of the Year. He also added an MVP to his trophy case, bringing home the award in 1949.

Even as a six-time All-Star, MVP and World Series champion, Robinson’s biggest impact has come after his playing days. As one of the first African-Americans to play Major League Baseball, Robinson opened the door for thousands of African-Americans to follow in his footsteps. That distinction, coupled with his stellar career, made Robinson a slam dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962.

While the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, they are not far off from earning another one. With a core of Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and others, the Dodgers are believed to be perennial World Series contenders. And with future Hall of Fame lefty Clayton Kershaw as the ace, the sky is the limit for these Los Angeles Dodgers. Look for their number of World Series titles and Hall of Fame players to increase in the coming seasons.

3. Boston Red Sox

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 9,410-8,776 record, 12 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeNow we enter some rarefied air. The Boston Red Sox are one of the younger franchises on this list, debuting in 1901. Even so, they have made good use of their time. With a glut of World Series titles and Hall of Fame inductees, the Red Sox have put together a .517 win percentage. While part of that is due to their large market status that lets them spend freely in free agency, it’s also owed to some savvy drafting and player development.

One example of the Red Sox keen eye for talent is one of the best baseball players of all time, Ted Williams. Williams made his Red Sox debut at 20 years old, and led the American League in RBIs with 145. He hit .406 in 1941, while leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Even with a three-year hiatus in the midst of his career to fight in World War II, Williams is easily a Hall of Famer. That was proven by his first-ballot induction in 1966.

With all of Ted Williams’ heroics, he could not bring Boston a World Series title. It took 86 years for Boston to be title town again in 2004. What has followed has been a successful run. With two more World Series titles in 2007 and 2013, it seems the curse had finally been lifted. It will be up to Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers and Chris Sale to continue to prove the curse broken.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Statistics: 11 World Series titles, 10,739-9,918 record, 17 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeVery few teams have been as good as long as the St. Louis Cardinals have. Founded in 1882 and joining the National League in 1892, the Cardinals have been one of the most dominant teams in baseball.

In a span of 20 seasons (1926-46), the Cardinals amassed six World Series titles. Their 11 total World Series titles gives them the second most in baseball history. It hasn’t just been World Series titles that has made them great though, as the Cardinals have a slew of Hall of Famers.

Perhaps the greatest was Stan “The Man” Musial. Musial entered the league in 1941, and by 1943 was a perennial MVP candidate. He won the award three times in his illustrious career and brought St. Louis three World Series titles.

Perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was his 24 All-Star selections, garnered over a 22-year career. That career includes 475 home runs and a .331 batting average, making Musial one of the best of all time.

Cardinals greats aren’t limited to just Musial though. Players like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright have helped carry on the Cardinal’s legacy. And with players like Matt Carpenter, Marcel Ozuna and Dexter Fowler joining them, the Cardinals are set to continue their run among baseball’s best.

1. New York Yankees

Statistics: 27 World Series titles, 10,175-7,719 record, 24 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeWas their ever any doubt who No. 1 would be? The New York Yankees aren’t just one of the best franchises in all of baseball. They are perhaps the best professional sports franchise in history. With 27 World Series titles, 53 playoff appearances and 40 pennants, it’s hard to argue against it. With such a dominant history, one would believe it would be difficult to sift through all of the greats to don the pinstripes. However, one stands out among the rest.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth was the man that built the New York Yankees dynasty. Ruth wouldn’t become a full-time hitter until his move from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1925. Prior to the move, Ruth amassed 94 wins and a 2.24 ERA as a starting pitcher with the Red Sox.

But it was at the plate that Ruth made the biggest impact. He earned seven World Series titles with the Yankees, hitting 714 home runs and batting .341 in his career. When the Yankees moved to Yankee Stadium in 1923, it was nicknamed “The House that Ruth Built.” No other man has had such an impact on baseball history. A fitting distinction for a legendary franchise.

That’s not to say that others haven’t tried. In fact, the Yankees boast two of the best power hitters currently in baseball in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Both have 50-homer power, and will be the driving force behind another great Yankees team.

The major league club also has a loaded farm system, something past Yankees teams haven’t had. With so much talent throughout the organization, the Yankees are primed for another dynastic run.

 

Feature image from Cool Old Photos.

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Vladimir Guerrero’s Hall of Fame Case

If anyone in baseball were to be considered must-see TV, it would be Vladimir Guerrero. The nine-time All-Star would swing at anything, yet somehow had a career batting average of .318. Growing up watching “SportsCenter”, I would constantly see highlights of Guerrero getting base hits off balls that bounced before reaching home plate. Vlad also had arguably one of the strongest arms this game has ever seen. If you somehow forgot, go to YouTube and watch him throw a ball 370 feet at Yankee Stadium.

Last year, his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot, Guerrero finished 15 votes shy of becoming the 53rd player inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer. Luckily for Guerrero, history says this will be his year. Over the last 10 years, Roberto Alomar is the only player who reached at least 70 percent of the vote in his first year and was not elected the following year. For Alomar, the third time was the charm, receiving over 90 percent of the vote.

If Guerrero’s name is called in January, he will join Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez as the only players from the Dominican Republic to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yet, after breaking down the numbers, it is mindboggling how Guerrero was not a first ballot selection. Let’s take a look back through his eminent career.

Started from the Bottom

Guerrero, one of five children, grew up dirt poor in the Dominican Republic.  He would constantly drink from puddles because the shack he lived in had no running water or electricity. The word “shack” is used because, after a hurricane blew the roof off, his seven family members had to share one room, with only two total beds. When his mother was three months pregnant with him, his father abandoned the family.

From puddles to Cooperstown? (AZ Quotes)

Guerrero was forced to stop going to school after fifth grade because he, according to Sports Illustrated, “missed so many classes while instead harvesting vegetables in the field.”

The lack of education was a main reason why Guerrero shied away from interviews during his career, as his English was not where it should have been.

As a teenager, Vlad drew interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, according to Sports Illustrated, saw Guerrero as “a slow, fat player with a long swing.”

When Guerrero was invited to a try-out with the Montreal Expos in 1993, he “hitched a ride on the back of a friend’s motorcycle, showed up with a mismatched pair of spikes with a sock jammed into one that was too big,” according to Sports Illustrated. Ultimately, the former Expos scout, Fred Ferrera, signed Guerrero for $2,000.

Guerrero would go on to hit 449 home runs and make $125,541,455 in the MLB.

Numbers Never Lie

In his 16-year career, Guerrero was an eight-time Silver Slugger, nine-time All-Star and 2004 AL MVP. He is one of only three right fielders to have at least 2,500 hits, 400 home runs and a batting average over .300. Joining Guerrero on that list are Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Mel Ott.

Guerrero’s six seasons of at least 30 home runs, 30 doubles and a .300 average are the most among all qualified right fielders. Hank Aaron had five, and Mel Ott totaled three. The only players in MLB history with more than six seasons of .300/30/30 are Albert Pujols, Lou Gehrig, Miguel Cabrera and Jimmie Foxx.

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 1300 RUNS, 440 HR, .310 BA, 2580 HITS, 4500 TB

*= ACTIVE

BOLD= HOF

STAN MUSIAL
BABE RUTH
LOU GEHRIG
TED WILLIAMS
JIMMIE FOXX
MIGUEL CABRERA*
VLADIMIR GUERRERO

As a rookie for the Montreal Expos, Guerrero, in 325 at-bats, hit .302 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs. The following season, now a full-time starter, Guerrero hit .324/38/109. At just 23 years of age, Vlad was already one of the best hitters in the game. Over the next nine seasons, Guerrero made eight All-Star teams and was one of the best overall players in the league.

The 2004 AL MVP, Mr. Vladimir Guerrero (The Trentonian)

From 1998-2007, Guerrero ranked 10th in WAR, and was the highest right fielder on the list. Yes, for a 10-year stretch, Guerrero was the best right fielder in the game.

Guerrero’s average season from 1998-2008 was .325/34/111. Let’s emphasize that. For 11 years, Vladimir Guerrero gave you a .325 batting average, 34 home runs and 111 RBIs. Guerrero joined Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron and Miguel Cabrera, as the only players from their third to 13th season who had 2000 hits, a .320 batting average, and 350 home runs.

He eventually became the best player on the Expos and then was the best on the Angels for his first few seasons as a member of the team. Before turning 30, he joined Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx and Albert Pujols, as the only players, aged 29 or younger, to hit .325 with 270 home runs.

His age 29 season turned out to be his MVP year, as Guerrero led the league in runs and bases while hitting .337/39/126. This would be one of seven seasons in which Vlad hit .300/30/100 with over 330 total bases. Obviously, RBIs are more of a team-based stat, but, nonetheless, here is a list of players, with their amount of seasons, in which they hit .300/30/100 and had at least 330 total bases.

SEASONS WITH .300/30/100 + 330 TB

PLAYER # OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 10
ALBERT PUJOLS 9
LOU GEHRIG 8
VLADIMIR GUERRERO 7
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 7
HANK AARON 7
WILLIE MAYS 7
JIMMIE FOXX 7
TED WILLIAMS 6
STAN MUSIAL 5
BARRY BONDS 4

Later Years

Did he slow down after hitting age 30? Absolutely not. In fact, Guerrero is one of five players who, from age 30-35, to hit .310, 150 home runs, and had at least 1,000 hits. That list includes Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Dante Bichette and Babe Ruth.

The 35 Year-Old All-Star (Business Insider)

During his age 35 season, now with the Texas Rangers, Vladimir Guerrero made his ninth All-Star team. He would end the year .300/29/115. The only other players, aged 35 or older, who hit .300/29/110 with 175 hits are Babe Ruth, Andres Gallarraga, Edgar Martinez and Manny Ramirez.

Over the span of his career (1996-2011), Guerrero finished second in hits, fourth in RBIs, and third in intentional walks. He had 13 games in which he eclipsed four hits, three RBIs, and one home run. The only other players to have more than 13 games with these numbers are: Lou Gehrig, Miguel Cabrera, Al Simmons, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Dante Bichette, Dave Winfield, Manny Ramirez, Chuck Klein and Babe Ruth.

Seven of those men are Hall of Famers, one is still active and will be their eventually, and Manny, well, we will see this year how he gets treated.

All in all, Guerrero’s offensive numbers are out of this world. He is up there with the greats, and constantly performed even past his prime. As you can tell, he was absolutely snubbed last year. Using Bill James’s point system, the average Hall of Famer scores a 50. Guerrero is at 58. He finished with a higher WAR than guys like Willie Stargell, Hank Greenberg, and Tony Perez.

The fact that Guerrero was not a first ballot Hall of Famer is disappointing, but it will be awesome to see him get enshrined in January.

Featured image by SI.com

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Justin Upton

Justin Upton: The MLB’s hottest hitter

Background

Justin Upton

Justin Upton was selected as the number one pick in the 2005 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Photo by Zimbio.com)

The first overall pick in the 2005 amateur draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Justin Upton had extremely high expectations set from the start. He made his MLB debut in 2007, where he batted .221 with only two home runs and 11 RBIs in 43 games.

His struggles continued in 2008 as he was sent down to triple-A after batting .176 in both May and June. His potential began to reemerge after he was called up in late August, as he batted .276 with 21 hits in 22 games played.

2009 was Upton’s breaking party, as he set then career highs in batting average at .300, in home runs with 26 and RBIs with 86. He was voted an All-Star for the first time and was even recognized as a top-25 National League MVP candidate.

We have seen MVP-caliber levels from Upton on three occasions (2009, 2011 and 2014), although his 2011 campaign remains his most impressive. Upton played in a career-high 159 games, batted .289, hit 31 home runs, drove in 88 runners, scored 105 runs and stole 21 bases which resulted in a fourth-place finish in the American League MVP vote.

MVP Caliber once again

This year Upton’s average draft position was 76th according to ESPN.com. He has been a consistent fantasy player for his entire career, although his batting average had been on a steady decline since batting .289 with the Diamondbacks in 2011.

Now a 29-year-old veteran, Upton has acquired a second wind. He is currently batting .281 with 21 home runs, 77 RBIs and 67 runs scored. So far in the second half of the season, Upton is batting .337 with six home runs, 23 RBIs, 29 hits and a league best 11 doubles in 22 games played. Over a 162-season, he would be currently on pace to set career highs in home runs with 33 and RBIs with 121.

His BABIP is high at .351, although he is currently making 43.7 percent hard contact, which is the highest mark in his career. He also has an identical home run to fly ball rate as he did a season ago, at 18 percent, which makes his home run potential seem sustainable.

Fantasy value moving forward 

Justin Upton

Justin Upton is the hottest hitter in baseball in the second half. (Photo by Detroit Free Press)

Due to the departure of J.D. Martinez, and injuries, Upton has found himself batting primarily in the three-hole, which bodes well for his fantasy value. With 52 games left in the season for the Tigers, Upton will have ample opportunity to continue to climb the fantasy ranks.

With veterans Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler along with emerging star Nick Castellanos, the Tigers lineup remains one of the best on paper. They may be out of contention in the American League Central, but their offense should remain within the top-10.

Upton’s fantasy value moving forward should be similar to the likes of Andrew McCutchen, as they both are veteran center pieces of their offenses who offer 25 home run and 15 steal upside. He will likely be a top-75 pick once again in 2018.

 

Featured image by WBCK

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Cooperstown

Five active MLB players destined for Cooperstown

There has been a lot of Hall of Fame talk as of late after Ivan Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines all were inducted into Cooperstown last weekend. On top of that, Adrian Beltre had his 3,000th hit in Texas. All this talk has had me thinking about what major league ballplayers are a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when they are eligible.

The criteria for this list is that to be on it, a player has to have a current resume that would be worthy of a Hall of Fame induction. Here are the players in the MLB that have proven they belong in the hall.

Ichiro Suzuki

Seasons: 17 | Career WAR: 59.5 | Hits: 3060 | Accolades: 10x All-Star, 10x Gold Glove Award, 2x Batting Titles, 1x AL MVP, 2001 ROY

Cooperstown

Ichiro has had one of the more storied MLB careers (MLB.com)

It is hard to believe that Ichiro actually played eight seasons for Orix Blue Wave before coming to America to play baseball. He had a very respectable career in Japan and has totaled over 4,000 hits in his career if you combine his Japanese career with the MLB.

Ichiro came bursting onto the scene in 2001 where he broke the single-season hit record with 262 hits. He also set the record for most consecutive 200-hit seasons with 10 in a row. He helped lead the Mariners to an MLB-record 116 wins that season as well. That is not all however, as he has the most hits by a foreign-born player in MLB history.

Ichiro has superstar status in Japan and the United States. He should be considered one of the greatest ballplayers to ever play and it would be hard to argue why he shouldn’t be enshrined in Cooperstown. Although he does not have a World Series championship under his belt, it should not bring down his illustrious career.

It will is hard to imagine him not getting in on his first ballot.

Albert Pujols

Seasons: 17 | Career WAR: 100.2 | Home Runs: 608 | Accolades: 10x All-Star, 3x NL MVP, 2x World Series Champion, 2001 NL ROY

Cooperstown

Albert Pujols’ Hall of Fame career was highlighted in St. Louis (USA Today)

Albert Pujols came onto the scene in 2001, the same year as Ichiro. He was not expected to be as good as he has been or even close to it. He was drafted in the 13th round of the 1999 MLB Draft. You could say that the Cardinals got a pretty good return on him.

Pujols may have had the best 10-year start to a career with 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a .300 average in every one of his first 10 seasons in the majors. He also won three National League MVP awards and won a World Series championship with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011.

He also was the keystone piece in the Cardinals’ “MV3” which featured Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds from 2002-2007. They were the core of the Cardinals who won made it to the NLCS four times during that seven year span.

Albert Pujols also has been able to flash some leather at first base. He has won the Gold Glove in two seasons. Pujols also has an excellent baseball IQ. His knowledge of the game is a big asset to his team around him. The Pujols Family Foundation also highlights his work off the field with children with autism and improving living conditions for families in the Dominican Republic.

Pujols signed a monstrous contract with the Angels after the 2011 championship season with the Cardinals, leaving at the same time as his manager for his whole career, Tony La Russa. Pujols has not even been the best player on his team since joining the Angels thanks to Mike Trout. However, the first 10 years of his career is enough to warrant a first ballot Hall of Fame induction.

Miguel Cabrera

Seasons: 15 | Career WAR: 69.8 | Home Runs: 459 | Accolades: 11x All-Star, 2x AL MVP, 2012 AL Triple Crown, 2003 WS Champion

Cooperstown

Cabrera is one of the best all-around hitters in recent memory (Getty Images)

In 2012, Miguel Cabrera became the first player in 45 years to win the AL triple crown. This achievement is a testament to Cabrera’s all-around ability at the plate. He is currently sitting at 2,602 hits, so he will most likely reach 3,000 at his current rate. Seeing that he is 34 years old now, he may not be around long enough to reach the elusive 600 home runs.

Miguel Cabrera is a career .318 hitter, so much like Pujols he is not just a masher. This guy knows how to hit. He has also been to the World Series on three occasions, but has only won one.

Cabrera has been rather quiet this year. He is not hitting at the same rate that he usually does with his average sitting around .250. However, his resume is already at the point where he is worthy for getting the nod into Cooperstown. He might not be able to have sustained success in the twilight of his career, but that should not affect his status.

Miggy may not get in on his first ballot but it should not be long before he is enshrined in Cooperstown.

Adrian Beltre

Seasons: 20 | Career WAR: 92.4 | Hits: 3,001 | Accolades: 4x All-Star, 5x Gold Glove Award, 2x Platinum Glove Award

Cooperstown

Beltre tips his helmet to the fans after hit #3000 (New York Times)

Beltre does not have the same sort of resume that Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols or Ichiro Suzuki have. He was a bit of a late bloomer. Beltre is one of those rare cases where he actually got better with age.

Beltre’s 3,000th hit came over last weekend and it was a good one. Now there have been talks about how he is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame. He is the first Dominican-born player to get 3,000 hits (Pujols will reach the mark soon as well), and has been one of the best to man the hot corner.

The only players to not be in the Hall of Fame that have reached 3,000 hits are Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Ichiro Suzuki and Rafael Palmeiro. As you can see the only reason that they are not in the hall is because there are scandals surrounding them or they are not eligible to be voted on yet. Because of this, it will be hard to imagine Beltre not getting voted in since his character matches his excellence on the field.

Clayton Kershaw

Seasons: 10 | Career WAR: 57.2 | Career ERA: 2.34 | Accolades: 7x All-Star, 3x NL Cy Young, 1x NL MVP, 2011 Pitching Triple Crown

Cooperstown

Kershaw is making a case to be one of the greatest pitchers of all-time (Baseball Essential)

Clayton Kershaw has by far the least amount of service in the MLB on this list. That speaks to how good he is though. He has been the most dominant pitcher in the majors since coming to the big leagues in 2008. Kershaw also is one of only 10 pitchers to claim the MVP and Cy Young in a single season.

The one downfall of Kershaw’s is his postseason performance. The Dodgers have not been to the World Series since 1988, so he does not have a ton of postseason experience deep in October.

When he does pitch though he has not been his sharpest. His career postseason ERA is 4.55 which is over two whole runs above his career ERA in the regular season. The Dodgers are expected to make a run this year though, and if Kershaw is able to make an impact despite his back injury, it will be a milestone in his career.

Besides his injury this year, Kershaw has shown no real signs of slowing down. With the way he pitches as well, he may a long time away from retirement. It would be hard to argue why he shouldn’t be in the hall even if he retired today.

Honorable Mentions

These honorable mentions are players that will make it on the ballot. The issue is their resume may not be complete, or not have enough time in the MLB.

Yadier Molina

Molina is one of the greatest defensive catchers of all time. He also is one of the greatest to call a game behind the plate. The only issue is that he may not reach 2,000 hits in his career. No hitter has ever been enshrined in Cooperstown with under 2,000 hits.

Mike Trout

Mike Trout may be the most well-rounded baseball player we have seen since Willie Mays. If he keeps up his current pace, he should be a sure thing for the hall. He just can’t be a guarantee for Cooperstown yet because he has not played long enough.

Joey Votto

Votto has won an MVP and may be one of the best disciplined hitters in recent memory. He may need five more productive years in order to get a spot in Cooperstown though.

Bryce Harper

Much like Trout, Harper is a once in a generation type player. He also just needs more time to prove himself.

Jon Lester

Lester has been a stellar postseason pitcher in his career. He has won three World Series championships and his playoff performance is a big reason for that. He is still a bit of a stretch to get into the Hall of Fame though.

Buster Posey

Buster Posey is the most productive hitting catcher in the league today. He also has brought three championships to the San Francisco Bay. If he keeps up his current pace then he may have a shot for Cooperstown.

Robinson Cano

If Cano is able to reach the 3,000-hit mark, he will have a good shot at making the hall. The only problem is that he is 34 and has 700 hits to go. If he doesn’t reach the mark, he will be right on the border line.

 

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MLB second half performances

Best MLB second half performances of 2016

With the second half of the 2017 MLB season in course, it’s time to assess the best MLB second half performances of 2016. The players are organized in groups according to whether they were an All-Star, veteran, breakout performer or rookie.

All-Stars 

Jon Lester, Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs

2016 First Half Stats 18 GS 9-4 W-L 3.01 ERA 1.08 WHIP 8.8 K/9 110.2 IP
2016 Second Half Stats 14 GS 10-1 W-L 1.76 ERA 0.94 WHIP 8.7 K/9 92 IP
Best MLB second half performances 2016

Jon Lester finished second in the NL Cy Young vote after a miraculous second half. (Photo by dailyherald.com)

In his 11th major league season, Lester ended the year with 19 wins and a 2.44 ERA. He finished second in the National League Cy Young vote and was a key part of the Chicago Cubs’ championship run.

In his 14 second half starts, Lester was nearly unhittable. He had a record of 10-1 with a 1.76 ERA and .189 batting average against, or BAA.

His home run to fly ball rate, or HR/FB, dropped from 16.2 percent in the first half to 6.8 percent in the second. This, along with the fact that his left on base percentage, or LOB%, rose from 83.7 percent to 86.4 percent, made him arguably the most successful pitcher in the second half of the 2016 MLB season.

 

 

 

 

 

Miguel Cabrera, First Baseman, Detroit Tigers

2016 First Half Stats 86 GS 18 HR 53 RBI 49 R .293/.370/.507 BA/OBP/SLG
2016 Second Half Stats 70 GS 20 HR 55 RBI 43 R .346/.423/.653 BA/OBP/SLG

The future first ballot Hall of Famer had an incredible second half. Cabrera batted .346 with 20 home runs, 55 RBIs and 43 runs scored in 70 games.

The largest analytical differences between Cabrera’s first and second halves included his batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, rose from .314 to .366, as well as his weighted on-base average, or wOBA, rose from .368 to .438.

The 33-year-old’s second half of 2016 is a prime example of why he is one of the greatest hitters of this generation.

Veterans

Justin Verlander, Starting Pitcher, Detroit Tigers

2016 First Half Stats 18 GS 8-6 W-L 4.07 ERA 1.13 WHIP 9.2 K/9 117.1 IP
2016 Second Half Stats 16 GS 8-3 W-L 1.96 ERA 0.86 WHIP 10.9 K/9 110.1 IP
Best MLB second half performances 2016

Justin Verlander’s 2016 campaign was a success due to his incredible second half. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Verlander managed to finish 2016 as the American League Cy Young runner-up even after failing to make the AL All-Star team. How is this possible you ask? Well, it may have something to do with his poor 4.07 ERA in the first half.

His astonishing second half resulted in a 1.96 ERA, .180 BAA and 134 strikeouts in 110.1 innings. The 33-year-old’s success could be attributed to his ability to limit walks and strand runners on base. His strikeout to walk ratio, or K/BB, was an incredible 5.58, while his LOB% was an astronomical 90.6 percent.

Many people argue that Verlander was snubbed of the 2016 AL Cy Young award, and for good reason, as his mind-blowing second half lead to a 16-9 record, 3.04 ERA, .204 BAA and a league leading 1.00 WHIP and 254 strikeouts.

 

 

 

 

Joey Votto, First Baseman, Cincinnati Reds

2016 First Half Stats 84 GS 14 HR 42 RBI 48 R .252/.386/.446 BA/OBP/SLG
2016 Second Half Stats 71 GS 15 HR 55 RBI 53 R .408/.490/.668 BA/OBP/SLG

Votto managed to continue the lore of being one of the greatest second half hitters of all time, as he slashes .327/.440/.569 on his career after the All-Star break.

His 2016 campaign resulted in a .326 average, 29 home runs and 97 RBIs. In the second half alone, Votto managed to bat .408 with 15 home runs and 55 RBIs in 72 games. The major changes in his analytics included his strikeout rate, which decreased from 24.2 percent to 10.2 percent, his BABIP, which rose from .308 to .418 and his wOBA, which rose from .357 to .478.

Votto’s 2016 second half will go down as one of the most dominant in baseball history.

Yadier Molina, Catcher, St. Louis Cardinals

2016 First Half Stats 78 GS 2 HR 28 RBI 30 R .259/.329/.341 BA/OBP/SLG
2016 Second Half Stats 65 GS 6 HR 30 RBI 26 R .365/.398/.529 BA/OBP/SLG
Best MLB second half performances 2016

Yadier Molina batted .365 in the second half of his MVP caliber 2016 campaign. (Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the greatest catchers of his era, Molina has been a National League MVP candidate on five separate occasions, while also winning eight Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger award. His 2016 second half helped him re-enter the MVP conversation for the first time since 2013, where he finished third in the NL MVP vote.

His first half in 2016 was quite abysmal, as the 33-year-old batted only .259, which was well below his career batting average of .284. Although in the second half, Molina batted a phenomenal .365.

The major analytical difference between Molina first and second half was his BABIP, as it rose from .291 in the first half to .388 in the second.

Molina has always been a more productive player after the break, but he had never taken his production to levels like this.

 

 

 

Breakout performers

Kyle Hendricks, Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs

2016 First Half Stats 16 GS 7-6 W-L 2.55 ERA 1.03 WHIP 7.8 K/9 98.2 IP
2016 Second Half Stats 14 GS 9-2 W-L 1.68 ERA 0.92 WHIP 8.3 K/9 91.1 IP

Hendricks finished third in the NL Cy Young vote and 23rd in the NL MVP vote in 2016. The 26-year-old led the league in ERA and ERA+, which exemplifies his utter dominance over the entirety of the season. Although he was great all year, his overall success was majorly due to his impeccable second half.

Hendricks managed to finish the second half with a 9-2 record, 1.68 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. One major analytical difference between halves was his ability to strand runners on base, as his LOB% rose from 74.1 percent in the first half to 90.7 percent in the second.

The interesting thing with the rest of Hendricks’ splits include that his BABIP and hard contact rates both rose from the first half to the second, which would suggest he got luckier in the first half, even though he was more successful in the second.

D.J. LeMahieu, Second Baseman, Colorado Rockies

2016 First Half Stats 78 GS 5 HR 32 RBI 53 R 7 SB .334/.398/.490 BA/OBP/SLG
2016 Second Half Stats 66 GS 6 HR 34 RBI 53 R 4 SB .363/.437/.500 BA/OBP/SLG
Best MLB second half performances 2016

D.J. LeMahieu had a fantastic year in 2016, although he was that much more special in the second half. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com)

After being snubbed in the NL All-Star vote, LeMahieu had an exorbitant second half that landed him 15th in the NL MVP vote.

His BABIP rose from .379 in the first half to an even better .397 in the second, which kept his batting average well above .300. LeMahieu finished the year with a league leading .348 batting average, although it was his .363 batting average in the second half that blew fans away.

The 27-year-old had almost identical contact rates from one half to the other, although the direction of the contact had changed drastically. His pull percentage decreased from 24 percent to 19 percent, while his opposite field percentage rose from 35 percent to 41 percent. LeMahieu was able to spray the ball across the diamond while sustaining contact rates, which makes his 2016 second half even more impressive.

 

 

Rookies

Trea Turner, Second Baseman/Outfielder, Washington Nationals

2016 First Half Stats 3 GS 0 HR 0 RBI 0 R 0 SB .429/.500/.571 BA/OBP/SLG
2016 Second Half Stats 67 GS 13 HR 40 RBI 53 R 33 SB .340/.367/.567 BA/OBP/SLG

The 13th overall pick in 2014 exploded onto the scene in the second half of last season. Turner batted .340 with 13 home runs, 53 runs, 40 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in 67 starts, which resulted in a runner-up finish for the NL Rookie of the Year (Corey Seager).

His second-half success can be attributed to his .387 BABIP, which positively impacted Turner as 44 percent of his batted balls went for ground balls. His contact rates were also great, as he made over 80 percent medium and hard contact on all balls batted in play.

Turner showed glimpses of what could be an elite fantasy asset, as he displayed contact, power, production, speed and consistency atop the Washington Nationals’ star-studded lineup.

Jose Peraza, Shortstop/Second Baseman/Outfielder, Cincinnati Reds

2016 First Half Stats 15 GS 0 HR 4 RBI 6 R 9 SB .246/.278/.246 BA/OBP/SLG
2016 Second Half Stats 41 GS 3 HR 21 RBI 19 R 12 SB .355/.380/.477 BA/OBP/SLG
Best MLB second half performances 2016

Jose Peraza exploded onto the scene during the second half of 2016. (Photo by WKRC)

Peraza was called up in May of 2016 for his first extended stint in the majors, as he made his major league debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015.

After struggling in his first 15 games last season, he finished the year with a .324 batting average, 25 runs scored, 25 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 56 starts.

The 22-year-old put together an amazing second half, where he batted .355 with 19 runs scored, 21 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 41 starts.

Peraza’s second-half success can be attributed to multiple things, including his .389 BABIP, his ability to make 83 percent medium or hard contact and his ability to spray the ball over 29 percent of the time to each field.

His ability to make solid contact and spray to all fields helped propel him to having one of MLB’s best second halves in 2016.

 

 

 

Featured image by ESPN.com

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Judge

Is it time to sell high on Aaron Judge?

New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has officially broken out. The 6-foot-7, 285-pounder is arguably the best power hitter in baseball.

He is continuously setting MLB Statcast records, most recently hitting a home run that recorded an exit velocity of 121.1 MPH, which broke his former record for hardest hit home run that measured 119.8 MPH. Judge holds nine of the top 15 hardest hit balls recorded in 2017.

Sell high Aaron Judge

Aaron Judge suffered severe struggles in 2016. (Photo by The New York Post)

His first MLB action came in August of 2016, where the slugger struggled mightily. In 27 games, he batted just .179 with only four home runs. The most alarming observation from his first stint in the majors was his atrocious 44.2 percent strikeout rate.

Clearly, after an offseason of adjustments, Judge has significantly improved his approach at the plate. His strikeout rate has dropped to a serviceable 29 percent, which is still considered “awful” according to fangraphs.com, although it is still lower than many current premier power hitters, including Khris Davis (31.5 percent), Cody Bellinger (32 percent), Miguel Sano (36 percent) and Chris Davis (38 percent).

Judge currently leads the entire MLB in home runs with 22, while ranking second in the American League in both batting average at .335 and RBIs with 49. He is dangerously close to being in position to win the AL Triple Crown, which is an accomplishment that has only been done 17 times, most recently by future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera in 2012 (.330/44/139).

Currently on pace for about 58 home runs and 130 RBI, it is time to question whether Judge’s success is sustainable.

His current BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, of .433 suggests that he is getting incredibly lucky. BABIP measures how often a ball in play goes for a hit. A ball in play is considered any outcome other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt or home run.

According to fangraphs.com, a BABIP of .350 over a sample size of 4,000 plate appearances would be considered a mark that only the best hitters in the league will reach. An example of a player who falls into this category is Joey Votto, who over the course 5,719 plate appearances has a career BABIP of .354.

The highest BABIP registered in a complete season since 1945 was by Hall of Famer Rod Carew in 1977, in which he finished the year with a .408 BABIP and .388 batting average. In the 2000’s, only one player managed to finish a season with a BABIP over .400, which was Manny Ramirez in 2000 (.403).

This shows that Judge’s BABIP is sure to plummet from its current .425 mark, as not even the greatest hitters of all time would be able to sustain a BABIP this high.

Sell high Aaron Judge

Judge has become the best power hitter in baseball in 2017. (Photo by The New York Daily News)

Judge’s home run to fly ball rate is at 41.5 percent. To put that in perspective, when Judge has been hitting a fly ball, there has been over a 40 percent chance of it leaving the yard.

According to fangraphs.com, “good home run hitters typically have HR/FB ratios anywhere from 15-20 percent”.

Unfortunately, this analytic was not created until 2002, so we cannot compare Judge’s current HR/FB rate to Barry Bonds’ 2001 marks, although we can look at other more contemporary players instead.

Chris Davis hit 53 home runs in 2013 with a 29.6 percent HR/FB rate, Chris Carter hit 41 home runs in 2016 with a 23.8 percent HR/FB rate and Miguel Cabrera hit 44 home runs in consecutive seasons in 2012 and 2013 with 23 and 25 percent HR/FB rates respectively. It is clear that Judge’s HR/FB rate will drop significantly, but by how much we cannot be sure.

I think we can all agree Judge is the real deal, although for fantasy purposes, this seems like the optimal time to sell high on the superstar. His value could not be any higher and is sure to drop as his BABIP and HR/FB inevitably will fall.

Trading Judge now could result in the addition of a bonifide ace, like Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, or Max Scherzer, opposed to in a month were his value may only be able to garner a Chris Archer, Yu Darvish, or Carlos Martinez.

To all my fellow fantasy baseball owners, good luck to your teams moving forward.

 

Featured Image by Sports Illustrated

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World Baseball Classic Bracketology: Predicting the Semi-Finals

After an exhilarating first round in the World Baseball Classic, eight teams move on to the second round. With a few favorites and a few underdogs moving on, there is something for everyone. But as the competition grows more fierce, the cream of the crop will rise to the top. Who will make it out of the second round and make the coveted trip to Los Angeles? Pool E and Pool F have  plenty of talent, but only two teams from each pool will be able to say they are one of the four best national teams in the world. All records and standings are accurate as of March 14th.

Pool E

World Baseball Classic

Aoki brings a WBC championship pedigree to team Japan, winning the WBC championship in 2009 (Brad Mangin).

Japan (5-0 WBC Record)

After mashing their way through Pool B, Japan emerged with a decisive 3-0 record. After scoring 22 runs while giving up only eight in three games, Japan seems to be firing on all cylinders. And they have carried over that momentum into Pool E, running up their winning streak to five games. Supported by Astros outfielder Nori Aoki, NPB slugger Tetsuto Yamata and a 2-0 record in Pool E, Japan should already have their flight booked for Los Angeles.

The Netherlands (3-2 WBC Record)

As one of the four teams in Pool E, the Netherlands earned their spot with a solid 2-1 record in Pool A. Powered by the Ranger’s Jurickson Profar and Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious, the Netherlands was able to produce just enough offense to squeak by Chinese Taipei and score five runs against Korea. But with an offensive explosion that has brought them a 1-1 record in Pool E, their offensive woes seem to be long gone.

Israel (4-1 WBC Record)

With one of the deepest grouping of teams in WBC history, Israel stands out among Japan, the Netherlands and Cuba. But they have certainly earned their place in Pool E. They torched their way through Pool A, putting up an impressive 3-0 record. And they have held their own in Pool E, going 1-1. Jason Marquis and Nate Freiman hope to continue their strong play, as they have bolstered Israel up to this point. But with so much deep competition, Israel will need to play above their talent level to move on. And up to this point, they have.

Cuba (2-3 WBC Record)

Cuba has long been a national powerhouse in the baseball world. And after putting up a 2-1 record in Pool B, they earned their spot in the second round. But their performance in Pool B had many questioning Cuba, and it has only gotten worse since second round play has begun. With Cuba barely able to overcome upstart Australia 4-3 in Pool B, the doubt began to creep in. Cuba’s pitching has been their downfall, with Bladimir Banos and Yoennis Yera letting them down. And that has carried over to the second round with Cuba putting up a 0-2 record.

Pool E Representatives in Semis: Japan and Israel

Japan is just stacked across the board, with MLB players and NPB stars carrying the national team. Their 5-0 overall record in WBC play proves their depth, as they have beaten teams with relative ease. Surprise contender Israel is not far behind, with a 4-1 record in WBC play. They have advanced farther and done better than many thought they would. But don’t think their run is over, as Israel has the potential to be this WBC’s Cinderella.

Pool F

Dominican Republic (3-0 WBC Record)

World Baseball Classic

Robinson Cano led the Dominican Republic to the championship in 2013 (Al Bello/Getty Images).

As one of the most stacked squads in the WBC, the Dominican Republic certainly did not disappoint in Pool C. Their undefeated record (3-0) was the best of the Pool C competitors, and landed them a spot in the second round. With MLB stars like Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre and Robinson Cano, to just name a few, dotting the roster, the Dominican Republic scored 26 runs in round one of the tournament. If they can keep their offense clicking, don’t expect the Dominican Republic to experience a loss anytime soon.

Puerto Rico (3-0 WBC Record)

Another undefeated team, another talent-rich roster. They rode their impressive MLB talent to a perfect 3-0 record in Pool D, besting each team they faced. With the likes of Carlos Beltran. Francisco Lindor, and Carlos Correa, their talent level is off the charts. They dominated offensively in Pool D, scoring 29 runs. That kind of offensive production is some of the best in the WBC. But don’t think Puerto Rico will run out of gas soon. Their offensive depth drives this club, and they are one of the heavy favorites to move on to the semis.

United States (2-1 WBC Record)

With the top professional baseball league in the world, you would expect the United States to dominate the WBC every year. But with MLB getting so much of it’s talent from all over the world, the United States has to recruit other MLB players to don their nation’s colors. Even so, the talent on the United States roster rivals any other team in the WBC. With Andrew McCutchen, Nolan Arenado and Buster Posey headlining the roster, the United States pummeled north of the border rival Canada 8-0 and eked out a close 3-2 win over Colombia in the first round. Their offense and pitching staff are deep, and they will need every bit of that depth to move on to the next round.

Venezuela (2-2 WBC Record)

After beating Italy 4-3 in the Pool D tiebreaker, Venezuela moved on to the second round. While they have been playing .500 ball in the tournament, they will look to their stars to turn it on in Pool F. With players like Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve and Rougned Odor, Venezuela certainly has the talent to compete in the second round. But they will need to tie it all together, as they were outscored 23-24 in Pool F. If Venezuela’s pitching staff can perform well, the offense will be able to power them all the way to the Championship Round.

Pool F Representatives in Semis: Dominican Republic and United States

The talent for the Dominican Republic is undeniable, and it’s that talent that will drive them to the Championship Round. They boast legitimate MLB stars both on the mound and at the plate. This balance in talent gives the Dominican Republic a massive advantage over some of the other teams in the WBC. But one of those teams is not the United States. Their only loss so far was to, you guessed it, the Dominican Republic. Even so, the offensive firepower of the United States lineup is deafening. And with all of the quality arms skipper Jim Leyland has to call on, a Championship Round appearance seems likely for the United States.

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