2018 MLB season

12 days of baseball: What do we see now?

Here in the new season, 12 days of baseball have passed. The 2018 season is still very young, but several teams have shown significant surprises and concerns early on. Like any other season in any other sport, there are those who remain hot throughout the season. There are also those that start slow, but later pick up steam and momentum. Unfortunately, there will be teams that fail to find many winning formulas and find themselves at the bottom of their division.

All 30 teams have only started to make their marks. With what each franchise has accomplished until now, could this foreshadow what awaits in games to come? Not entirely. Though we have seen comebacks and cold streaks in the past, not everyone gets to play in October.

Let’s now take a look at how both the American and National Leagues look in 2018 up to this point.

12 Days of Baseball: American League

The Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros are boasting the two best records in the American League. For Boston, first-year manager Alex Cora has constantly found winning formulas, especially on the road. The Red Sox have taken the lead of the East Division early by two games. The Astros, on the other hand, have kept the engine running hot like last season in the AL West. With a roster full of household names, Houston’s chemistry has proven why many favor them to return to the World Series.

2018 MLB Season

Image Courtesy of NBC Sports

If these two continue their hot streaks, expect Boston and Houston to meet again in the playoffs.

Returning to the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays are not nearly as fortunate in their 2018 campaign. As a unit, the Rays are fighting cold streaks at the plate and on the mound. Starting the season at 2-8, manager Kevin Cash and company will have significant ground to cover. The Rays have not seen playoff action since 2013.

As for the AL Central, there is not exactly a clear standout yet. The Minnesota Twins lead the pack by only one game and have started the new season at 4-3. So far, their pitching staff is starting off strong. But Minnesota will need to start firing off at the plate if they want to take the division. With the Cleveland Indians in the same division, the fight ahead will only get tougher for the Twins from here on out.

12 Days of Baseball: National League

In the NL East Division, the New York Mets have jumped to the top. Their pitching staff has been relentless, leading the National League in ERA. But with the Atlanta Braves catching fire, the Mets must keep at it.

In the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks have also started their 2018 season on a high note. Though their batting is solid, it is their defense and pitching that is keeping the ride going.

2018 MLB Season

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

The Los Angeles Dodgers, on the other hand, are off to an uncharacteristically slow start. The reigning NL champs have struggled at the plate, ranking 29th in the MLB in team batting average. The Dodgers’ pitching rotation remains ruthless, but they have received very little run support in these first few games. They started with losses to San Francisco twice by a score of 1-0.

Staying in the NL West, the Colorado Rockies are among the teams hanging in there at the .500 mark. The Rockies’ fielding defense is among the best in the MLB. But Colorado will need to make improvements on the mound and at the plate if they want to get back in the playoffs.

Now in the NL Central, The Chicago Cubs stand at 5-4. The Cubs’ pitching rotation is among the best in baseball right now. But their offense needs to step up to take back the Central Division from Pittsburgh.

The Cubs should not panic at all right now. Manager Joe Maddon has consistently found a way to kick it into high gear and take over the NL Central, even from lukewarm starts. Seeing that the Cubs have found themselves in the NLCS in each of the last three seasons, don’t count them out just yet.

Looking Ahead

With plenty of baseball in store, momentum built now can translate to success for each team in the weeks ahead. Whatever the future may hold, these first 12 days of baseball have taught valuable lessons to each of the 30 franchises; “Do not panic.” “Weather the storm.” “Keep the motor running hot.”

As the 2018 season thunders onward, all of the right moves will need to be made to taste the October glory.

 

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2018 MLB postseason predictions

Early 2018 MLB postseason predictions

It is only a matter of time before Opening Day arrives. All 30 franchises will take what they learned from spring training to the big stage. 40-man rosters will showcase what each player brings to the table as they brave through another 162-game season.

Although the regular season hasn’t started yet, some experts and fans have already picked their favorites for the 2018 postseason. Who will take control of their divisions? Will upsets abound? Which two teams will duke it out for the World Series?

Here are some very early predictions for the 2018 MLB season.

National League Early Predictions

Many predict the Los Angeles Dodgers will reign supreme in 2018. ESPN rates them as the best odds to win the World Series this year.

However, the road will not be so easy. As unforgiving as their pitching crew has been to other teams, Los Angeles’ offense needs to catch up. Last season, the Dodgers recorded a .249 batting average, which ranked 22nd out of 30 teams.

2018 MLB postseason predictions

Photo Courtesy of CBS Sports

Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner had solid outings at the plate last year. But more work must still be done.

As for the rest of the NL playoff picture, my early predictions include the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers in the two Wild Card spots.

Last season, Colorado posted the second-highest team batting average. Although their pitching rotation needs improvement, solutions are sure to be found.

As for Milwaukee, similar to the Dodgers, the Brewers landed in the top 10 last season in ERA. But offensive production couldn’t quite catch up.

Perhaps the additions of one or two more big names will help them get to October.

In addition, I will pick the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Central Division and the Washington Nationals to win the East once again. The Nationals are working in their new skipper, Dave Martinez. Martinez was previously the bench coach under manager Joe Maddon both with the Tampa Bay Rays and the previously mentioned Chicago Cubs.

My boldest prediction for the National League is the Miami Marlins going over .500 in 2018. Yes, I said it. They have young players hungry to make a name for themselves, and manager Don Mattingly will find a way to turn the team around despite the offseason drama of the rebuilding process.

American League Early Predictions

In the American League, the Houston Astros reign as not only kings of the AL, but also all of Major League Baseball. One of many questions is can they win back-to-back rings? According to ESPN, the Astros and the Cleveland Indians both have the second best odds to win the title. Given how well Houston has been doing in spring training, it’s easy to see why their opening odds are 6-1.

2018 MLB postseason predictions

Photo from MLB.com

There is no doubt the Astros will have stubborn obstacles on the road to repeat as champions. The first among which are the New York Yankees. With the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Pinstripes are a pitcher’s nightmare. However, their success this coming season will depend on how well new skipper, Aaron Boone, can manage this team.

If spring training is showing us anything, Boone is capable of doing well. But I do not see a round two between Houston and the Pinstripes. I predict that Houston will defend their AL title, but against the Cleveland Indians.

Here is why. Manager Terry Francona no doubt has seen this situation before. Francona will find a way to adapt against the more imposing foes in the AL. Last season, statically, the Indians were among the best in the MLB in hitting, pitching and fielding. I say how Cleveland’s defense backs up the pitcher will be the big factor for their success.

For the rest of the AL playoff picture, I see the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox in the Wild Card spots. The Red Sox will be taking the field with a new manager, former Astros bench coach, Alex Cora. In addition, slugger J.D. Martinez will call Fenway Park his home in 2018

Looking Ahead

As predictions are made, many do not stand understandably. If professional sports has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can beat anyone at any time. However, baseball is among the most stats-driven of all North American sports. It could very well be that Wild Card teams surprise us all and end up winning the league pennants.

Come March 29, each team will begin new chapters in it’s own story. Come Opening Day, the race for October begins.

 

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Top second basemen 2018

Top 5 second basemen in 2018

With the off-season fading and the sweet light of baseball brightening up, we continue our countdown of the Major League Baseball’s best players. Last week, we looked at the top First Basemen, now we shift in the infield to the top five Second Basemen in baseball.

Just missed the cut

DJ LeMahieu: If there were ever a player who would be the poster child of the “Coors Field Effect,” it would be DJ LeMahieu. His home-away splits are pretty telling. Away from home, LeMahieu’s OBP droped 44 points (.396 to .352), his OPS dropped 60 points (.813 vs .753) and his strikeouts increased (39 vs 51).

LeMahieu is still a very good player with his solid hitting and defense, but it’s hard to rank him in the top five with these splits.

Javier Baez: If you like defense from your second basemen, then Javier Baez is your guy. He has incredible skill and range, making impossible throws look easy. He’s basically the Giancarlo Stanton of fielding grounders.

Where Baez struggles is in his consistency, particularly with his hitting. Baez has flashed some serious power with his bat, especially last season with his career-high 23 home runs. However, his OBP is still fairly below average at .317. His approach at the plate is still very poor, given his 144 strikeouts last season.

Baez needs to clean up his hitting and remain consistent if he’s going to take the step forward the Cubs are expecting.

Dustin Pedroia: Pedroia is typically a mainstay on top second basemen lists. But Pedroia struggled last season, particularly with injuries.

In 2017 Pedroia missed 57 games. He also took a step back last season offensively. His home run total was cut in half from 2016 and his OBP and OPS both dropped.

If Pedroia is able to stay healthy and improve his offensive numbers while still being the defensive stable for the Sox, he’ll move back into this list.

5. Cesar Hernandez

Top second basemen 2018

Cesar Hernandez has been underrated his whole career, but not for much longer.
(Photo by Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports)

Cesar Hernandez has flown under the radar as a player for most of his career. It’s probably due to the fact that the Phillies have been pretty awful his entire tenure.

Regardless, he has been an extremely solid player for the team. He has seen consistent growth offensively, particularly using his speed, evidenced by his 26 doubles and six triples. He gets on base well, with an OBP of .373. His defense is very good as well.

Once the Phillies move from tanking to actually participating, maybe Hernandez will get the attention he deserves.

4. Daniel Murphy

Above Hernandez is another player from the NL East, Daniel Murphy. Murphy is one of the most gifted hitters in the MLB today. Murphy’s 2015 postseason was some of the greatest hitting ever.

His time for Nationals has been very good, with him falling just shy of a MVP in 2016. His offense has been incredible for the Nationals, knocking in at least doubles in back-to-back years, coupled with at least 20 homers both years. In 2017, he had a .384 OBP and a .543 slugging percentage.

So why the low ranking? Murphy plays pretty bad defense. Murphy will never be a good defender, and he’s not even an average defender. While his offensive stats are impressive, his defense hurts him overall.

3. Robinson Cano

When Robinson Cano signed that staggering 10-year $240 million contract in 2013, many thought there was no way Cano would be able to keep up his production by the end. Well, we are not exactly at the end, but we are getting there, and he’s still putting up the numbers.

Last season, Cano was an All-Star. His numbers were 23 homers, .338 OBP and .453 slugging percentage, and it was a down year. If he’s able to put up a season like 2016, where he finished eighth in the MVP race, he’ll put those doubters completely to rest.

2. Brian Dozier

Top second basemen 2018

You may not be able to tell by this picture, but Dozier is a great hitter. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The Twins shocked many in the baseball world last season by making it into the last Wild Card spot only one year after finishing with over 100 loses. Many will point to the defense of Byron Buxton and the revival of Ervin Santana.

However, Brian Dozier deserves a lot of credit as well. Coming off a season with 42 homers, Dozier hit 34 more with an OBP of .359. Dozier was the heart of the offense for the Twins last season and will be for many seasons to come.

1. Jose Altuve

There’s no way this could be a surprise. Altuve is the reigning AL MVP with a ridiculous 8.3 WAR. In 2017, Altuve had a batting average of .346, which earned him the batting title. His OBP was .410, which is insane. He hit 24 homers, leading to a slugging percentage of .547 and an OPS of .957. This is all coupled with excellent speed (32 stolen bases) and defense.

It’s not even close. Sorry Dozier, Cano, Murphy and Hernandez.

 

 

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2018 Minnesota Twins preview

2018 MLB preview: Minnesota Twins

2017: 85-77

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: 1991

2017 Recap

In 2016, the Twins finished with the worst record in baseball, winning just 59 regular season games. Last year, they became the second team in MLB history to have the No. 1 pick in the MLB Draft and make the playoffs in the same year. Although they fell to the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game, Minnesota was the first franchise to lose 100 games and then go to the playoffs in the following year.

So how in the world does a team, with virtually the same roster, do a complete turnaround and win 26 more games? Well, to start, they learned how to field.

In 2016, Minnesota racked up 126 errors, the second most in the MLB. Miguel Sano, who played just 80 games in the field, had 18 errors, and Jorge Polanco had 15 in just 61 games. A year later, and the Twins made 48 less errors. Sano cut his errors in half, and Byron Buxton was the best defensive centerfielder in baseball. Here is a table to back that up.

Byron Buxton’s 2017 Defensive Ranks

STATISTIC RANK AMONG CF’S
DEFENSIVE WAR 1st (3rd OVERALL)
DEFENSIVE RUNS SAVED 1st (3rd OVERALL)
REVIZED ZONE RATING 1st (1st OVERALL)
OUT OF ZONE PLAYS 1st (5th OVERALL)
RANGE RUNS 1st (2nd OVERALL)
PLUS MINUS RUNS SAVED 1st (3rd OVERALL)
TOTAL ZONE RUNS 1st (1st OVERALL)

 

Minnesota’s 2016 team finished 11th in the AL in batting average and 11th in OBP. In 2017, they finished fourth in both categories. Eddie Rosario had a career year, hitting .290 (.332 at home) with 27 home runs. Sano raised his average by nearly 30 points, while also hitting 28 home runs with an OBP of .352.

2018 Minnesota Twins preview

Byron Buxton is one of the best defenders in the game. (Photo from Twinkie Town)

Their two big-name players, Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier, also played well. Dozier, after 42 home runs in 2016, finished 2017 with 34 home runs, 106 RBIs and a career best .359 OBP. He also ranked 10th in runs scored.

Joe Mauer, one of the best Twins of all time (fourth in WAR), hit .305 with an OBP of .384. The craziest stat was Mauer’s average after going 0-2 in the count. In 88 at-bats, Mauer hit a ridiculous .341.

Here is a table to illustrate the differences between the Twins offense in 2016 and 2017.

2016 vs. 2017 Minnesota Twins offensive ranks

STATISTIC 2016 AL RANK 2017 AL RANK
RUNS 9th 3rd
SLUGGING PERCENTGAE 9th 6th
BATTING AVERAGE 11th 4th
OBP 11th 4th
RUNS WITH MEN IN SCORING POSITION AND TWO OUTS 14th 3rd
BATTING AVERAGE WITH RUNNERS ON 13th 4th
BATTING AVERAGE WITH BASED LOADED 15th 2nd

 

2018: Around the Diamond

Minnesota will sport a practically identical team from last season. Jason Castro will remain behind the plate, while Joe Mauer, who will enter the last year of his eight-year deal, will hold down first base. Kennys Vargas will get some time when the old 34-year-old Mauer needs a rest.

Up the middle is Brian Dozier at second, and Jorge Polanco, who hit 13 home runs and stole 13 bases in 2017, will play shortstop. Miguel Sano will man the hot corner, and DH, with this current lineup, could vary between Vargas, Eduardo Escobar or Robbie Grossman.

Eddie Rosario will play left, and Max Kepler will most likely start out in right, although Grossman has a shot. Kepler hit 19 home runs in 2017. Their best defender, Byron Buxton, who won a Gold Glove, as well as the Wilson Overall Defensive Player of the Year, should improve as a hitter. He finished seventh in steals and joined Jose Altuve and Whit Merrifield as the only players to hit at least 16 home runs and steal 29 bases. Buxton will need to get on base more in 2018, but he is coming off a great second half in 2017, as he hit .300 with 11 home runs.

On the Bump

In December, the Twins signed Michael Pineda, who had elbow surgery last July and has just started throwing. He will hopefully have a positive impact on the team in 2019.

With that said, the rotation remains the same. Ervin Santana, who finished second in innings, ninth in WHIP and tied Corey Kluber with the most complete games and shutouts in the MLB, will be the ace. He was seventh in Cy Young voting, going 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA.

Santana was the only Twins pitcher to throw over 200 innings, which will hopefully change in 2018. Jose Berrios, the former first-round pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, had a solid season at age 23. He went 14-8 with a 1.23 WHIP. He is a bit wild as he was third in hit batters and needs to pitch better on the road. At home, Berrios was terrific, posting a 2.41 ERA, but on the road, his ERA sky-rocketed to 5.41.

Kyle Gibson, who has had a 5.07 ERA in back-to-back years, will follow Santana and Berrios. Adalberto Mejia looks to be in line for the fourth starter. The last spot could go to the 25-year-old Aaron Slegers, or the veteran Phil Hughes. In Triple-A during the 2017 season, Slegers went 15-4 with a 3.40 ERA.

The one thing Minnesota did was revamp the back-end of the bullpen. The Twins signed Addison Reed and Fernando Rodney, two veterans who Minnesota hopes will finish games in 2018.

The Future

The Twins best prospect has to be the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft, shortstop Royce Lewis. Lewis, the top ranked high school position player in 2017, is obviously still just a kid, but has posted solid numbers as a pro. In Rookie Ball, over 36 games, Lewis had a .390 OBP, and in A ball, he had a .296 batting average. 2018 will be Lewis’ first full season as a pro, which is exciting for everyone involved.

2018 Minnesota Twins preview

The No. 1 pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Royce Lewis (Photo from Star Tribune)

Their top pitching prospect, Fernando Romero, has spent a lot of time on the DL over the past few years, but could see big league action in 2018. Last year, in Double-A, Romero won 11 games and finished with a 3.53 ERA in 125 innings. His fastball can reach triple digits, so let’s hope Twins fans can see this guy on the big stage at some point this season.

Minnesota also has pitcher Stephen Gonsalves, who could also see time with the MLB team in 2018. Gonsalves was tremendous in 2017 at the Double-A level, posting a 2.68 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP in 87.1 innings. MLB.com claims he “has the ceiling of a solid mid-rotation starter.”

Don’t forget about Tom Gordon’s son, and Dee Gordon’s brother, second baseman/shortstop Nick Gordon. Gordon hasn’t progressed like other first-round players in his draft like Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto or Trea Turner, but the former fifth overall pick looks to be a solid everyday player at some point. Last season in Double-A, Gordon hit .270/.341/.408 with nine home runs and 13 steals.

2018 Prediction: 82-80

Minnesota is linked in rumors to Chris Archer, so if they trade for him, that could shake things up. However, in the AL, you have to think that Boston, New York, Cleveland and Houston have four of the five playoff spots locked up. That means only one spot is up for grabs, and although they made it in 2017, Minnesota will fall just short in 2018. The pitching isn’t deep, and the lineup will not perform as well as they did in 2017.

 

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MLB free agency 2018

Turning up the heat on the hot stove

As is tradition in baseball, the long winter months are kept warm by the hot stove. But that stove has been running cold this winter. So we’re gonna turn up the heat and predict where some of the top MLB free agents will play in 2018.

Jake Arrieta

MLB free agency 2018

Jake Arrieta will look to join another World Series contender. (Photo from sportingnews.com)

The former Baltimore Oriole and World Series Champion Cub is a free agent this offseason and is testing the waters. Att 31 years old, not many fish are biting.

That can’t be blamed on Arrieta though. The burly right-hander went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA last season. Any team would take that kind of production out of a starter. That is, any team that already had him.

While the Astros, Rangers, Twins, Blue Jays, Rockies, Brewers and Cardinals have all been linked to Arrieta, no deals have been offered. Arrieta is an ace-caliber pitcher and will have significant contract demands. Deals of 4-6 years and upwards of $180 million have been rumored to be what Arrieta is searching for. But in the prime of his career, it will be interesting to see what Arrieta values more: financial security or World Series aspirations. Look for Arrieta to have his cake and eat it too.

Prediction: Twins

Yu Darvish

After making 31 starts last season, Yu Darvish is out to prove he’s worth an ace’s salary and workload. He pitched to a 4.01 ERA with the Rangers in 2017, but pitched well for the Dodgers after being moved at the trade deadline.

But all of that work in the regular season won’t be able to change what Darvish did in the postseason. After two solid starts against the Diamondbacks and the Cubs, Darvish imploded on the biggest stage in baseball; the World Series.

In two starts against the Astros, Darvish posted a 21.60 ERA in only 3.1 innings pitched. Even in those limited innings, it’s the last impression the baseball world has of Darvish. He has been rumored to make a return to Los Angeles, but with the reacquisition of Matt Kemp, those rumors may be put to rest.

The Astros, Yankees, Cubs and Twins seem to be his remaining suitors. After bludgeoning him in the World Series, the Astros don’t seem like a good fit. The Cubs could really use a replacement for Arrieta though.

Prediction: Cubs

J.D. Martinez

MLB free agency 2018

J.D. Martinez is still looking for a long-term deal. (Photo from Arizona Sports)

The failed Astro and successful Tiger and Diamondback is looking to cash in coming off one of the best seasons of his career. After being sent from Detroit to Arizona, Martinez proceeded to tear the cover off of the ball for the remainder of the season. In 62 games with the Diamondbacks, Martinez blasted 29 bombs and slugged .741. Those are eye-popping numbers and are good enough to earn him a big pay day. At least, they seem to be.

Martinez has also been slow on receiving long term offers, with the Boston Red Sox five-year deal being the only one reported. Granted, there are other teams interested, like the Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Giants, but they have yet to make a concerted effort to acquire Martinez.

The Giants seem like the best fit, with them in win-now mode after trading for Evan Longoria. But something special is brewing in the desert, and the Diamondbacks don’t want to change that recipe.

Prediction: Diamondbacks

Eric Hosmer

For Eric Hosmer and the Kansas City Royals, the World Series parade of 2015 seems long ago. Hosmer is now a free agent, and the Royals face one of the toughest rebuilds in the majors.

Even so, it is because of Hosmer. The 2017 season was arguably the best in Hosmer’s career, as he posted career highs in batting average (.318) and OPS+ (132). Coming off a career year like that, Hosmer will look to get paid this offseason.

But even coming off the best year of his career isn’t enough to move the market on Hosmer. Just like every other major free agent, Hosmer still sits unsigned as Spring Training inches ever closer. He does have one advantage over his contemporaries though; multiple long term offers.

Both the Padres and Royals are rumored to have offered the first baseman seven-year deals of more than $140 million. While the Royals offer seems to be chasing what they already had, the Padres offer seems like a chase of what could be.

With the Padres on the rise (one of the best farms systems in baseball) and the Royals on the decline (one of the worst farm systems in baseball), Hosmer will have to decide on where his loyalties lie.

Prediction: Royals

 

Feature image by Julie Jacobson/AP Photo. 

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Johan Santana hall of fame

Johan Santana belongs in the Hall of Fame

On Jan. 24, 2018, a new class of National Baseball Hall of Famers will be announced. Voting is done by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who are allowed to select up to 10 members on their ballot. In order to be inducted into Cooperstown, a candidate must receive votes on at least 75 percent of the ballots. This rule does not apply for the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Modern Era ballot, which calls for 12 or more votes from the 16-member Modern Baseball Era Committee.

Voting, according to BaseballHall.org, is “based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.” Under these credentials, former Twins and Mets ace Johan Santana should, without a doubt, be named into the Hall of Fame.

Background

Santana, a Venezuelan born lefty, played 12 seasons in the majors. At just 15 years of age, he was discovered by former Houston Astros scout, Andres Reiner. It appeared he would climb up the ladder as a member of the Astros, but after the 1999 season, Houston left Santana unprotected, which meant he was eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

The Minnesota Twins, who obtained the first pick in the draft, made a deal with the Florida Marlins, saying that they would select Jared Camp, and Florida would select Santana. The clubs would then swap the two players and Minnesota would receive some cash to cover the pick.

After struggling as a rookie out of the bullpen and starting a few games, Santana was sent to the minors for two months, mostly to work on perfecting his changeup. The changeup would end up being Santana’s go-to pitch, and really turned him into an elite pitcher. In 2003, Santana went 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA. During the same year, because of Santana’s early success, a young Angels pitching prospect, also named Johan Santana, changed his name to Ervin.

Elite Years

2004 marked the first year in which Santana was named a full-time starter. This is also the year that Santana had one of the best second halves of all time. He went a perfect 13-0, and became the first pitcher since 1961 to give up four or fewer hits in 10 consecutive starts. Santana finished the year at 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA. Not only did he lead the league in ERA, but Santana also finished first in strikeouts, ERA+, FIP, WHIP, K/9, and H/9. At the end of the season, Santana was named the AL CY Young Award winner.

Johan Santana hall of fame

Johan Santana won the AL CY Young Award in 2004 and 2006 (Photo from SI.com)

From 2004-2008, Johan Santana posted a 2.82 ERA and 1.02 WHIP while averaging 238 strikeouts, 229 innings and a 7.1 WAR per season. He won two AL Cy Young Awards, and really should have won three. In 2005, Bartolo Colon was given the award despite having a worse ERA, WHIP and less strikeouts than Santana. During this time period, Santana also led his league three times in strikeouts, K/9, FIP, ERA, and ERA+. He led the league in WHIP four times, and pitched more innings than anyone else in 2006 and 2008.

After multiple injuries and surgeries, Santana missed the 2011 season in order to recover from anterior capsule surgery to his left shoulder. In June of 2012, only his 11th start since returning from surgery, Santana threw a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. Another surgery in 2014 ultimately led to the end of his MLB career.

Hall of Fame Case

Santana is one of 19 pitchers to win multiple Cy Young Awards. Of those 19, 10 are already in the Hall of Fame. He is arguably the greatest Venezuelan born pitcher. Some might consider Felix Hernandez, but Santana’s numbers are superior.

Santana had three seasons in which he pitched at least 200 innings, struck out 230 or more batters, had below a 2.90 ERA, and had a FIP under 3.05. Some notable pitchers who also had three seasons with these statistics are Pedro Martinez, Gaylord Perry, Jim Bunning, Sandy Koufax and Walter Johnson. All of these men are members of the Hall of Fame. Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, Fergie Jenkins, Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson and Bob Feller all had only two seasons with these numbers.

PITCHERS WHO WON AT LEAST 130 GAMES, ERA<=3.21, SO>=1980, WHIP<1.14, IP>= 2000

BOLD= HALL OF FAME

Tom Seaver
Walter Johnson
Pedro Martinez
Christy Mathewson
Sandy Koufax
Juan Marichal
Eddie Plank
Pete Alexander
Rube Waddell
Johan Santana

 

PITCHERS WHO STRUCKOUT 24% OR MORE OF THEIR BATTERS, PITCHED AT LEAST 2000 INNINGS, AND HAD AN ERA BELOW 3.25

BOLD= HALL OF FAME

Nolan Ryan
Pedro Martinez
Sandy Koufax
Johan Santana

 

Santana is also the only pitcher in MLB history to have three seasons of at least 225 innings pitched, an ERA below 2.90, a K/9 of 9 or greater and a WHIP under 1. He joins Pedro Martinez as the only other pitcher in history, minimum 2,000 innings, to walk less than seven percent and strikeout 24 percent or more of the batters faced.

Keltner list

If we look at some questions from Bill James’ famous “Keltner list,” it is clear that Santana has a serious shot at making it. He was the best player at his position from 2005-08. He helped the Twins win four division titles and also finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in 2004 and 2006. Santana was a four-time All-Star who also won the pitching triple crown in 2006 (leader in wins, strikeouts and ERA).

Johan Santana hall of fame

Johan Santana after becoming the first pitcher in Mets history to throw a no-hitter (Photo from SNY)

Santana had arguably the best four-year stretch we have ever seen. Off the field, he is nothing but a professional. In 2006, Santana started the Johan Santana Foundation, in which he provided assistance to hospitals and bought new gloves and bats for children in the surrounding areas. In 2012, his foundation expanded to the Hispanic community of New York, helping families who were impacted by 9/11.

As a kid, Santana was my favorite pitcher. Growing up in Massachusetts, oddly enough, I had a Johan Santana Mets t-shirt jersey that I wore until the lettering was destroyed. After looking at the numbers in his prime, Johan Santana was one of the best to ever do it.

 

Featured image by WCCO-CBS LOCAL

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greatest world series ever played

Greatest World Series ever played

When the first pitch of the 2017 World Series is thrown out Oct. 24 at Dodger Stadium, it will mark the 113th installment of baseball’s fall classic. Only one World Series, however, can be dubbed the greatest World Series ever played.

For the fans in Houston and Los Angeles, their focus won’t be on this series being an all-time classic. Their primary focus for the immediate future will be on winning at least four of the possible seven games that remain. Right now, the glory of a championship is first and foremost.

The rest of baseball’s fandom is just looking to be enthralled. We’re looking for hotly contested games that remain up for grabs into the final innings. We’re looking for immaculate pitching, we’re looking for clutch two-out hits and we’re looking for spectacular game saving glove work in the field. In short, we’re looking for the proverbial barn burner.

With 112 World Series already on record, there have been some wild match-ups throughout time. Perhaps no match-up has offered more excitement to baseball fans of all stripes than 1991’s World Series, pitting the Atlanta Braves against the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesotans will remember 1991 for two distinct reasons. First, on Oct. 27, 1991 they saw their Minnesota Twins lift the World Series title after seven games. Second, just four days later, the Twin Cities were buried under almost two-feet of snow from an epic Halloween blizzard.

In Atlanta though, 1991 will always be remembered with mixed emotions. The 1991 Braves improved from last place in 1990, to first in 1991. This was also the first year that a World Series was played in Atlanta since the Braves moved from Milwaukee at the end of 1965.

How they arrived

greatest world series ever played

Braves legend, Tom Glavine, tries to channel a little rally hat magic on the road in Minneapolis. (Photo courtesy of: Getty Images)

Speaking of the Braves’ remarkable turnaround, Minnesota also accomplished the same feat. They too finished the season in last place in 1990, only to become AL champions in 1991. It was the first time in MLB history that any team went from “worst to first” let alone having two teams do it in the same season.

For Minnesota, 1991 was the year of the bat. This isn’t to say they couldn’t pitch, but their offense was magnificent. They led the majors in average (.280) and on-base percentage (.344) that year. They also finished second in both slugging (.420) and OPS (.764) making them one of the toughest lineups for opposing pitchers to navigate.

Atlanta’s forte though, was undoubtedly their pitching. The Braves’ pitching was phenomenal in 1991. Tom Glavine, 1991’s NL Cy Young award winner, was the unquestioned leader of the young Atlanta staff. This Braves rotation was young, hungry and devastatingly good.

For the season, Atlanta finished third in team ERA (3.49), third in fewest hits given up and fourth in total runs surrendered. Any fan can plainly see, scratching runs across the plate against this pitching staff was no small task.

The 1991 World Series was more than just excellent pitching versus excellent hitting. This series was a classic match-up of two evenly matched ball clubs. Something had to give, because we all know there can only be one team left standing. That team left standing, in the end, would be the Minnesota Twins.

Minnesota didn’t get to the summit of baseball’s highest mountain without a fight though, and what a fight it was. Atlanta and Minnesota put together a performance for the ages. Culminating in arguably the greatest World Series ever played. This was a World Series filled with spectacular pitching, clutch hitting and wild defensive plays.

The greatest world series ever played

In the pantheon of World Series match-ups, there are several that stand out. For instance, 1960’s classic Pirates and Yankees showdown featured the only walk-off Game 7 homer ever, by the Pirate’s Bill Mazeroski. Braves versus Twins in 1991 rates right up there with the lot of them.

greatest world series ever played

Bill Mazeroski sinks the Yankees with his dramatic walk-off Game 7 World Series home run. (Photo courtesy of: ESPN)

The 1991 World Series offered something for everyone, including one of the most bizarre plays in World Series history. Of course this is referring to Kent Herbek pulling Ron Gant off the bag in the third inning of Game 2. For fans of a certain age in Atlanta, this certainly must still be a sore subject.

Watch the play here!

The Twins and Braves only played two games decided by more than a single run, Game 1 and 5. Minnesota took Game 1 by a score of 5-2 and Atlanta took Game 5, blowing away the Twins 14-5. All other games in the series were one-run affairs.

Extra innings was also a common thread that tied this series together as well. Game 6 and the pivotal Game 7 were two of the three extra inning games. Minnesota would find themselves on the winning side in both of the aforementioned games. The Twins’ only extra inning loss came on a Mark Lemke 12th inning RBI single in Game 3.

For the Twins, legendary Kirby Puckett was the man of Game 6. Puckett’s glove, and then his bat, cemented the win for Minnesota and pushed the series to Game 7.

Puckett seemed to defy the laws of physics, jumping at the wall in left-center to rob Gant of extra bases. Then, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Puckett sent a Charlie Leibrandt offering into the seats for a solo homer. His clutch hit won the game for Minnesota in walk-off fashion, making Game 7 a necessity.

Watch Puckett’s series saving homer here!

Game 7

The deciding game of the 1991 World Series pitted two excellent pitchers at opposite spectrums of their careers. For the Twins, it was 15-year veteran and 1984 World Series champion, Jack Morris. The Braves countered with a future Hall of Famer, 24-year-old, John Smoltz.

greatest world series ever played

1991 World Series MVP and Game 7 winner, Jack Morris, rushes to greet Dan Gladden at home plate. (Photo courtesy of: Pioneer Press/Jean Pieri)

All these two did was lock horns to produce one of the best pitched games in World Series history. Smoltz pitched excellent in Game 7, but wily veteran Jack Morris pitched a magical Game 7. With Morris in command of all his pitches, he put together one of the greatest World Series starts this side of Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. Morris went the distance, all 10 innings, to pitch a complete game shutout under immense pressure.

Jack Morris, for his part, swallowed that pressure deep down and used it to breathe fire at the Braves lineup. He gave up seven hits and walked only two hitters in his 10-inning masterpiece. On the back of Morris’ Game 7 exploits, coupled with his Game 1 win and his hard luck no-decision in Game 4, he walked away as World Series MVP.

When Gene Larkin laced a one-out single to left-center in the bottom of the 10th inning, bringing Dan Gladden in for the winning run, it was only fitting that Morris was the first player to welcome him home.

If the showdown between Los Angeles and Houston is half as good as 1991’s World Series, we are in for a treat. Play ball, boys.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: twinkietown.com)

 

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Wilson Ramos 2018

Wilson Ramos fantasy: Tale of the tape

Background

Wilson Ramos fantasy

Wilson Ramos was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2004. (Photo by Getty Images)

Wilson Ramos was originally signed by the Minnesota Twins as a 16-year-old international free agent in 2004, although he would not make his professional debut until 2006. A then 18-year-old Ramos spent his inaugural season in the Gulf Coast League, where he would bat .286 with 16 extra base hits and 26 RBIs in just 46 games.

In 2007, Ramos would progress to Single-A, where he would bat .291 with 36 extra base hits and 42 RBIs in 73 games. In 2008, Ramos would continue his ascension through the minor leagues, moving to the High-A Florida State League, where he would bat .288 with 38 extra base hits and 78 RBIs in 126 games.

At this point in his career, Ramos was ranked as the third prospect in the Twins farm system and 71st overall prospect among the MLB’s top 100 according to Baseball America.

In 2009, Ramos was promoted to the Double-A Eastern League. His minor league consistency and success would continue, as a then 21-year-old Ramos batted .317 with 20 extra base hits and 29 RBIs in 54 games.

His first struggles came in 2010, where in 71 games with the Twins Triple-A affiliate Rochester Red Wings, Ramos batted only .241 with just 19 base hits and 30 RBIs.

Ramos was subsequently traded to the Washington Nationals in July of 2010 for reliever Matt Capps, as the Twins were 56-46 at the time, and felt as though Capps could be a postseason contributor out of the pen.

In 20 games with the Nationals Triple-A affiliate Syracuse Chiefs, Ramos would begin to thrive once again, batting .316 with 14 runs scored, eight RBIs and seven extra base hits. His first substantial major league action came in 2011, where at 23 years old, Ramos batted .267 with 38 extra base hits and 52 RBIs in 113 games. He was successively chosen by Baseball America to represent as the catcher of the All-Rookie Team.

Ramos’ 2012 campaign was cut short after just 25 games due to a torn ACL that he suffered in May of that year. In 2013, Ramos would play in just 78 games as he was suffering from a lingering hamstring injury, although when on the field he would continue to impress, batting .272 with 16 home runs and 59 RBIs.

In 2014, Ramos broke his hand on opening day, causing him to miss almost half of the season. In 88 games, he batted .267 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs.

In what is considered his first full season, Ramos struggled tremendously, batting just .229 in a career high 475 at-bats. The Nationals would sign Ramos to a one-year deal just shy of $5.5 million in order to avoid arbitration.

2016 was Ramos’ breakout year, as in 131 games, he would bat .307 with 22 home runs 80 RBIs. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to another torn ACL, although he still managed win the National League Silver Slugger award.

The Nationals decided to let the injured Ramos walk in free agency, so the 29-year-old Ramos chose to sign a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

2017 season

Ramos’ 2017 campaign didn’t begin until June 24, as he was still rehabbing from his second torn ACL. In 64 games, Ramos would bat .260 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Over a 162-game sample size, Ramos would have been on pace to hit 27 home runs with 88 RBIs. I understand he has never, and may never, play in more than 135 games, although it is important to understand his offensive potential when healthy.

2018 outlook

Wilson Ramos fantasy

Wilson Ramos is a top-10 catcher offensively, and I would love to have him on my roster in 2018.  (Photo: Getty Images)

Ramos spent the majority of the season batting fifth, sixth and seventh in the Rays lineup, so we can assume he will bat primarily in the second third of the lineup in 2018. The Rays lineup is interesting, as they ranked sixth in home runs with 226 and sixth to last in batting average at .245. The Rays were also the only team in the MLB to have more home runs than doubles.

It is clear that a healthy Ramos can help balance this offense out. I expect Ramos to play in no more than 135 games, although I do anticipate him to bat above .270 with at least 40 extra base hits. When healthy, Ramos is a top-10 catcher offensively, and I would love to have him on my roster in 2018.

 

 

Featured image by RaysColoredGlasses.com

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Eddie Rosario 2018

Eddie Rosario’s outlook for the 2018 MLB season

Background

Eddie Rosario 2018

Eddie Rosario began 2015 with Triple-A Rochester, and was given a call to the majors in May. (Photo by Paul Sancya)

Eddie Rosario was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft by the Minnesota Twins. The Puerto Rican international began his professional career in rookie ball, where he would spend two seasons, batting a combined .318 with 26 home runs, 105 runs scored, 86 RBIs and 39 stolen bases in 118 games.

The Twins felt no need to rush Rosario through the ranks, as he spent nearly the entire 2012 season with the Single-A Twins affiliate, the Beloit Snappers. Rosario continued to impress, batting .296 with 12 home runs, 60 runs scored, 70 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 95 games. Rosario’s combination of speed, power and plate discipline had begun to show.

His 2013 campaign was split between High and Double-A, where he would bat a combined .302 with 10 home runs, 80 runs scored, 70 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 122 games. Unfortunately, the then 21-year-old Rosario was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance.

Rosario’s 2014 season began in May. After bouncing around between High and Double-A, Rosario recorded an underwhelming .243 batting average with eight home runs, 45 runs scored, 40 RBIs and nine stolen bases in 87 games. Adversity struck Rosario hard at an inopportune time, as he seemed nearly inches away from an MLB call-up before the suspension and his struggles in 2014.

Rosario began 2015 with Triple-A Rochester, and was given a call to the majors in May after batting a measly .242 with three home runs, 11 runs scored, 12 RBIs and one stolen base in 23 games. In his first major league action, the then 23-year-old Rosario batted .267 with 13 home runs, 60 runs scored, 50 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 122 games and was voted sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Even though he had a solid 2015 season, he struggled at the start of the 2016 season. The Twins sent him back to Triple-A, where he would bat .319 with seven home runs, 14 doubles, 26 runs scored, 25 RBIs and five stolen bases in 41 games.

Rosario was re-called to the MLB in July and remained with the team. In his second year of major league action, he batted .269 with 10 home runs, 52 runs scored, 32 RBIs and five stolen bases in 92 games. Although Rosario was already an everyday player, it was clear that at this point in his career, he had not yet fulfilled his potential just yet.

2017 season

The 2017 MLB season served as Rosario’s breakout campaign. To begin the year, Rosario was being displaced up and down the lineup, as he spent over 20 games in the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth batting positions in the order to end the year.

In the first half of the season, Rosario batted .287 with 10 home runs, 37 runs scored, 26 RBIs and four stolen bases in 81 games. To this point, Rosario was one of the Twins’ most reliable players, but his second half propelled his worth to new heights.

In 70 games after the All-Star break, Rosario batted .292 with 17 home runs, 42 runs scored, 52 RBIs and five stolen bases. Rosario became a major catalyst in the Twins lineup, finishing the year with an offensive WAR of 2.7, which was good enough for third on the team behind only Brian Dozier (4.9) and Miguel Sano (3.1).

In 2017, Rosario slashed .290/.328/.507 with 27 home runs, 79 runs scored, 78 RBIs and nine stolen bases. He failed to receive an MVP vote, but his contributions to the Minnesota Twins were duly noted.

2018 outlook

Eddie Rosario 2018

Eddie Rosario will be just 26-years-old at the start of next season. (Photo by Wikipedia.com)

Rosario’s 2018 outlook is interesting. Up until 2017, Rosario had failed to put together a complete season where he would live up to expectations, as he set the bar high for himself in the minors.

His lack of track record is nerve racking, as this was his first major league season where he would play in over 125 games, hit over 13 home runs and strikeout under 24 percent of the time. His home run to fly ball rate measured 16.4 percent, which doesn’t seem sustainable, as he has never before had a major league season with a HR/FB rate of over 12 percent.

A positive sign for Rosario moving forward is his consistent batting average on balls in play, or BABIP, which has measured in at over .312 in all three of his MLB seasons, which ranks above average in terms of MLB batters. Rosario will be given all the opportunity in the world in 2018, as he will presumably bat in the heart of the Twins lineup, surrounded by the aforementioned Dozier and Sano.

His fantasy ceiling seems to be reached. However, if he can repeat his 2017 campaign, he will be an incredibly valuable fantasy asset moving forward, as he will be just 26-years-old at the start of next season.

 

Featured Image by MinorLeagueBaseball.com

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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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