Boston Red Sox slump

The fall of the Boston Red Sox

A little over a month ago, the Boston Red Sox were the best team in baseball. They were sitting over four games ahead of the AL East and rolling on both sides of the ball. But since April 20, they are 11-12 and have fallen a game back of the mighty New York Yankees.

The Red Sox are 5-5 in their last 10 and just cannot seem to beat the Oakland Athletics (1-4 this season). The quality starts and the offense have not slowed down, but the bullpen has had a tough time nailing down close games.

The situation

Prior to April 20, the Boston Red Sox were 17-2, playing some of the best baseball in the league and sitting comfortably atop the AL East. Since then they have free fallen. David Price, Hector Velazquez and Carson Smith have all been in and out of the disabled list, hitters have gone cold and besides Craig Kimbrel, it seems like the back end of the bullpen is more than struggling.

There is not really one true problem to point to with the Red Sox so far. Although it was impossible for them to keep up their early season torrid pace, no one had them going 11-12 following a 17-2 start.

David Price

Boston Red Sox slump

David Price (Photo from Boston Sports Journal).

Well here we are with David Price again. Price has a 4.89 ERA with just two quality starts out of his eight. He is averaging the lowest total amount of pitches thrown per start of any Red Sox starter this season. He is averaging a walk every two strikeouts.

He is on pace to have the highest ERA of his career and is already rapidly approaching his season averages for runs allowed, and he has only pitched 42.1 innings.

Obviously it is early in the season, but Price has yet again struggled for the Boston Red Sox. He is on pace to have his worst statistical season of his career.

Hector Velazquez

One of the best pitchers on the staff might not be one that casual baseball fans have heard of. Hector Velazquez is quietly going about his work and has a 2.10 ERA through 25.2 innings.

He has started two games and appeared in eight others. He has given Boston’s offense a chance to shine. He is 5-0 this season, has kept the ball in the ballpark and also has not handed out free passes. He has quietly been one of the best pitchers on staff, and the Red Sox cannot get him back fast enough.

The top of the lineup: The good

1. Mookie Betts, 2. Andrew Benintendi, 3. Hanley Ramirez, 4. J.D. Martinez, 5. Xander Bogaerts.

The top five of the Red Sox order has been the most consistent thing there is.

Andrew Benintendi is on an eight-game hitting streak where he is hitting over .360. Mookie Betts has hit three leadoff home runs this season and is sitting squarely in the MVP conversation. Hanley Ramirez, outside of his recent woes, has been hitting around .300 and is seemingly knocking a runner in every single night. J.D. Martinez is hitting well over .300 and is proving that he is not just a power hitter, but one of the best overall hitters in all of baseball. Finally, Xander Bogaerts has been the most consistent hitter this season. The five of them account for 130 of the Red Sox 213 RBIs thus far.

The pen

There has been some good in the Red Sox bullpen. However, as the Sox are rotating pitchers in and out, the pitchers have hiccuped. Carson Smith was just recently placed on the 10-day disabled list. He was having a solid first half to the season before hurting his throwing shoulder.

The long relief pitching has struggled for the Red Sox. In 19 1/3 innings, Heath Hembree has given up 11 runs. Brian Johnson, who has been in and out of the bullpen, has given up 14 runs in 21 innings. Steven Wright, who has finally returned from injury, has given up two runs in two 1/3 innings. In other words, when the Red Sox are down in a game, they struggle to get back in it. The long relief pitchers have struggled to pick up the starters when they have struggled.

The Boston Red Sox are not a good come-from-behind team this season. In games that Rick Porcello and Chris Sale start, they have seemingly dominated this season. Due to the fact that the two starters can almost always be counted on, the Red Sox always jump out to an early lead. Just to speak the obvious, everyone is more relaxed when a lead is acquired early in a game.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Richard Rodriguez

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2018 Cy Young Award watch

MLB: 2018 Cy Young Award watch

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

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

Cy Young Award Watch: American League

2018 Cy Young Award watch

(Photo from Sports Illustrated)

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

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

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

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

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

Cy Young Award Watch: National League

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

2018 Cy Young Award watch

(Photo from SI.com)

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

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

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

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

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

As the Seasons continues…

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

 

Featured image from Baseball-Almanac.com

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For many children that have grown up playing sports, they have all dreamed of one day making it into the pros at one point. Baseball is one of the most popular destinations for this kind of journey. The rookie class of 2018 is now living out that life-long dream on the big stage.

In this rookie watch, we will be taking a look at the rookies that are making impacts in their inaugural seasons. Establishing their commanding presences, these guys have made their cases early in the “Rookie of the Year” conversations. Whether from the pitcher’s mound or the batter’s box, these rookies are looking to command the respect of the league.

rookie watch: American League

The Boston Red Sox pitching staff has established itself as among the elite in 2018. One of many names blazing on the mound is 29-year-old righty, Hector Velazquez.

MLB rookie watch

(Photo by AP Photo/Colin E. Braley)

Do not let the age fool you. Velazquez has given no quarter this season. He boasts a 4-0 record, the best of all AL rookies. He also leads the pack with a 2.38 ERA. Though only starting his MLB career, Velazquez is a can’t miss contender for AL Rookie of the Year, and potentially a Cy Young Award. Boston’s lineup is stacked, but Velazquez has become a vital asset keeping the Red Sox on top.

Speaking of stacked lineups, The New York Yankees are slugging it out with Boston for the AL East. The Pinstripes have become a batting terror this season, and home of the next name in this rookie watch. Meet Gleyber Torres.

Though he is not a home run hitting master, Torres has nevertheless made his presence felt. The 21-year-old second baseman leads all AL rookies in batting average and on-base percentage. He has also hit 11 RBI in his 16 games in the big leagues. With New York closing in on Boston, Torres can be an x-factor if he can continue this kind of batting.

You might be asking, “How come I have not mentioned Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels yet?” Relax, he is still the leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year in virtually everyone’s book. His 3-1 pitching record and .344 batting average have definitely put him among the brightest young stars of 2018. On top of that, Ohtani has belted 14 RBIs and only yielding a .213 batting average from opposing batters. Enough said.

Rookie Watch: National League

The first player in our NL rookie watch is starting to get his name out as a Los Angeles Dodger. Meet right-handed pitcher, Walker Buehler.

MLB rookie watch

(Photo from Sports Illustrated)

Buehler is currently boasting a 2-0 pitching record this season, along with a 1.13 ERA. He has accomplished this within the 16 innings he has pitched so far. The rest of the Dodgers, however, cannot seem to break out from their slow start to the new campaign. Not to mention their legendary ace, Clayton Kershaw, is on the disabled list. Buehler and company will have to step up to keep the Dodgers’ playoff hopes alive.

In the NL East, the Atlanta Braves hold a very thin lead in their division. One rookie that has helped Atlanta to the top is a familiar name around the league: left fielder, Ronald Acuña Jr.

Acuña currently leads all NL rookies in batting average and slugging percentage. Plus, his fielding abilities are razor sharp for his age, having yet to record an error this season. Not only will he be a contender for NL Rookie of the Year but also could be a Gold Glove winner in the not-so-distant future.

Returning to the NL West, Christian Villanueva has turned into a formidable power hitter for the San Diego Padres. However, he has entered a slump in recent games, including a .040 batting average in his last seven. Despite this, Villanueva continues to lead all rookies in both home runs and RBIs. If he can get his batting average back up, the 26-year-old third baseman can help brighten up San Diego’s offense, as well as its season.

Looking ahead

Winning the Rookie of the Year Award can push a player to stardom. It can also preview a bright future for the baseball club. But let us not forget that we have seen some of the game’s greatest not win this particular honor. Not to mention that anyone can enter a cold streak at any time. For all of the new guys, we wish nothing but the best in their baseball careers.

 

Featured image by Karl L. Moore and baseballamerica.com

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Is Ichiro retiring?

On Thursday afternoon it was announced that Ichiro Suzuki was retiring and moving to a front office role with the Seattle Mariners. A little while later his agent, John Boggs, announced that he was not retiring and was just shifting roles with the club for this year and even hinted at a possible return for next season, which includes a season-opening series in Japan.

Boggs said via Ken Rosenthal, “He’s not retiring. He’s taking on a different role for 2018, and 2019 is yet to evolve.”

While the status of Ichiro’s future is up in the air, for the rest of this season he will be an assistant to the GM. The Mariners have stated that they love what he brings to the club, they just won’t be putting him in games any longer.

The Japanese legend returned to the Mariners organization this offseason after not being with the club since the first half of the 2012 season. He was traded to the Yankees and since has also played for the Miami Marlins.

Since rejoining the Mariners this season, the 44-year-old has played in 15 games and hit .205. His struggles at the plate are likely what led management to move him into a front office role.

Ichiro played 18 years in Major League Baseball after coming over from the Japanese League. In his 18 seasons, he hit .311 and had 3,089 hits. He had 1,278 hits in Japan, which added to his hits in America totals 4,367, which is the most ever for a professional baseball player, although the MLB record holder is Pete Rose with 4,256 hits.

In addition to his hitting accolades, Ichiro made 10 All-Star Games and won one MVP, Rookie of the Year, 10 Gold Gloves, two Batting Titles, three Silver Sluggers and one All-Star Game MVP.

Even if this is the end of the list of his accomplishments, it’s not a matter of if he’ll be in the Hall of Fame, but when.

 

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players to watch out for in May

MLB power rankings

With a new month of baseball rolling, some teams have found to jump ahead of the pack. Both the American and National Leagues have seen squads entering May red hot. While other teams are looking to improve these next few weeks, others look to continue winning like they have in April. These are the teams atop of our own MLB Power Rankings.

Some have a commanding presence on the pitcher’s mound. Others have made their marks from the batter’s box. Then there are those who let little get past their fielding. Whatever these squads have done to remain victorious has worked at say the absolute least. As of right now, these are the teams making noise and strong cases for spots in October early.

MLB Power Rankings: American League

1. Boston Red Sox (22-8)

MLB Power Rankings: Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz, (AP Photo/Steve Nesius).

There are several reasons why the Boston Red Sox are the top dogs of the American League. The Boston Red Sox lead the AL in batting average as a team. At the same time, they boast one of the league’s stingiest pitching rotations and fielding corps. It doesn’t hurt that their current manager was once a Red Sox player and World Series champ himself.

2. New York Yankees (20-10)

The New York Yankees have won nine of their last 10 games, the best outing in that span. The Pinstripes owe it mostly to their thunderous batting crew, who share a lead in the American League for home runs belted, and lead alone in RBI’s. Along with a solid pitching season so far, the Yankees are looking to remain on fire in May.

3. Houston Astros (20-12)

The reigning World Series champions are looking to pick up where they left off in 2017. So far, the Astros have the AL’s best pitching unit and fielding squad at once. Houston has constantly shown why some view them as the favorite to win it all again in 2018.

4. Los Angeles Angels (18-12)

These two squads are making big splashes in 2018. For Los Angeles, the one-two punch of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani has taken the league by storm. However, the Halos have won four of their last ten games. I do not believe this isn’t something they can’t overcome with their pitching and fielding rosters.

5. Toronto Blue Jays (17-13)

The Toronto Blue Jays have made their presence felt in the batter’s box, being tied in the AL for most home runs as a team. However, their batting average will need improvement in order to prolong their fireworks displays. Toronto’s pitching crew will need to step as well, especially when they have division rivals in the Red Sox and Yankees to compete against.

MLB Power Rankings: National League

MLB Power Rankings: National League

Diamondbacks manager, Torey Luvollo (Image courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

1. Arizona Diamondbacks (21-8)

The Arizona Diamondbacks have the most dominant pitching core in the National League, plus one of the best fielding defenses. Last season, the Diamondbacks entered October as wild card winners, in Torey Luvollo’s first season as the skipper. Now, they have the Division title and more in their sights.

2. Atlanta Braves (18-11)

With a number of rookies hungry to strike it big on board, Atlanta has entered the National League playoff conversation. Not to mention that they’ve won seven of their last ten games. Atlanta currently leads the NL in team batting average and RBI’s. Continuing their momentum should give the Braves the lead in the NL East before even they know it.

3. New York Mets (17-11)

The New York Mets are looking to turn things around from their 2017 campaign. So far, they’ve done well in doing so. Stats wise, their batting and pitching run around the middle of the pack. But to return to its 2015 days, New York will have to kick it up a few notches to get back to October.

4. Milwaukee Brewers (19-13)

The Milwaukee Brewers are duking it out with the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central. The Brewers have a merciless pitching roster, but also a fielding unit in need of improvement. Not to mention, Milwaukee leads the NL in errors. They have the lead in their division, but only a small one.

5. Chicago Cubs (16-12)

The Chicago Cubs have won seven of their last ten games. A big part of their good fortunes is their pitching lineup, whose boasts a more than solid ERA in the NL. However, the Cubs will need to clean up their fielding to keep men off base. Not to mention, the Milwaukee Brewers are not making it easy for the Cubs to take the NL Central.

Moving Forward

As the new month thunders onward, teams will be looking for improvements in lacking areas to keeps wins coming. Some will hit slumps, and some will starts winning bursts: while others will look to remain hot like they have in April. There might be new teams eager to shake up MLB Power Rankings from across the league. In the meantime, PLAY BALL!

Featured image courtesy from wikipedia.org

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MLB players of the month

2018 MLB: April’s greatest hits

The first month of the 2018 MLB season is approaching its final act. The league has seen struggling teams and players trying to find their footing. But on the flip side, we have seen several players dominating right out of the gates. Today, we will be taking a look at some of April’s greatest hits.

These greatest hits are a list of some names starting off red hot in the first few weeks of the season. It seems that the league cannot stop talking about them. Repetitive? Maybe. But these names have grabbed the attention of the entire for good reason.

Here are some of my picks of “Player of the Month,” “Rookie of the Month,” and “Manager of the Month” from both the American and National Leagues.

April’s greatest hits: American League

Player of the Month

The New York Yankees are starting to kick it up a notch, winning their last nine games. With a high-powered batting order, it is no coincidence. Leading the charge from the batter’s box is shortstop, Didi Gregorius.

MLB players of the month

(Photo from wikipedia.com)

Gregorius has caught fire with his bat in April, tallying 10 home runs and 30 RBIs, along with a .340 batting average. He currently leads the AL in RBIs and is tied for the most home runs. As a team, the Pinstripes lead the AL in home runs and RBIs. No. 18 is most certainly a big part of the Yankees offense, which is why he is my pick for “Player of the Month” for April.

Rookie of the Month

My leading candidate for AL “Rookie of the Month” is Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. I mean, how can it not be him? Ohtani has belted four home runs to go with 12 RBIs this month. On top of that, No. 17 has a 2-1 record on the mound.

Yes, his ERA is over 4.00, but let’s be honest, even the most elite pitchers have a bad day once in a while. To call this an impressive start to Ohtani’s rookie season would be an understatement.

Manager of the Month

Returning to the AL East, the Boston Red Sox remain at the top. The Red Sox have a stingy fielding corps, a relentless batting crew and a formidable pitching rotation.

They also have my pick for “Manager of the Month” for April. In his first as skipper, Alex Cora has played almost every note perfectly in 2018. Cora has found ways to keep winning, and has adapted to most situations. Boston now boasts the best record in the AL, but with the rival Yankees on a tear, Cora will have to keep up the winning ways.

April’s greatest hits: National League

Player of the Month

My pick for “Player of the Month” comes from the pitcher’s mound. It was not an easy decision to make, but Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals takes my vote. The 33-year-old righty has tallied a 5-1 record and a 1.62 ERA. In addition, opposing teams have only managed to scrape up a .156 batting average against him. The three-time Cy Young award winner is eyeing a fourth, and it is not hard to see why.

Rookie of the Month

The San Diego Padres are struggling to find momentum in the NL West. But one Padre has stood as a one bright spot at the batter’s box. Third baseman Christian Villanueva is my pick for the National League “Rookie of the Month.”

MLB players of the month

(Photo from USA Today)

Villanueva has caught fire with his bat. So far, he has eight home runs and 18 RBIs to his name. He also boasts a .329 batting average.

The rest of the Padres, however, will need to wake up. San Diego, as a team, has put together a .228 batting average, which is 13th out of 15 NL squads.

Manager of the Month

The Arizona Diamondbacks hold a healthy lead in the NL West. Manager Torey Lovullo has steered the team in the right direction since taking over last season. Not to mention he manned the helm and took the team to the Wild Card last season.

Returning to the playoffs may not seem so difficult if Lovullo can keep it up. With the team at 19-8, the best record in the NL, Lovullo and company have substantial momentum to build off of for the next games to come.

a new month approaches

Several great players have struck it big in April. These names a few of April’s greatest hits. As May approaches, some players look to remain hot, while others look to break out of their cold streaks. But like everyone else, I cannot wait to see who kicks it into gear in May.

 

Featured image from Wikipedia

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2018 Toronto Blue Jays preview

Opening week for the Blue Jays has to start off hot

The Blue Jays kick off the opening week at home, with the much improved New York Yankees. This series is a must-win for the Blue Jays as they need to start off hot. That might be challenging with the Yankees shoring up this past offseason in acquiring one of the best right fielders in the league, Giancarlo Stanton who is batting third in the lineup.

The reason for the Jays needing a hot start is that every team that was in front of them last year got ten times better. As mentioned the Yankees added to the second-best offense in the league by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton during the offseason. Stanton was the NL MVP last year as well posting a career high in home runs with 59. He also posted a career year in RBIs with 139. With his addition, the Yankees are primed to be the top-ranked offense in the league.

The Red Sox may not have made a big splash in offseason moves but they improved by changing the way things are run. They were not happy with the way things went with John Farrell, so they fired him and replaced him with Alex Cora. This change in management can improve the already deadly Red Sox with a new mind behind the bench ready and willing to what it takes to win.

With these improvements by the two biggest teams in the division, the Blue Jays are in a position where if they don’t start off hot, they will flounder this season. Another reason for the need for a hot start is to convince former American League MVP Josh Donaldson to re-sign. If the Blue Jays start off cold and miss the playoffs for a second straight year it could convince Donaldson that he should take his offense elsewhere, leaving the Jays with not much talent.

This series will be heated as all Jays and Yankee games are with both teams hoping to start off on the right foot. The Blue Jays, who didn’t make as many headlines this offseason, will certainly look much different. For the first time in 10 years, neither Jose Bautista nor Edwin Encarnacion will be on the Blue Jays’ roster.

Opening Week

(Photo: Benny Sieu, USA TODAY Sports)roster.

But this roster has the potential to do some major damage.The Blue Jays have one of the best rotations in the league. With the addition of Jaime Garcia this past offseason, even if an injury occurs it will still do well.

The outfield will also have new face Randal Grichuk manning it with regulars Dalton Pompey and Kevin Pillar. The addition of Aledmys Diaz at shortstop will be a welcome sight as Troy Tulowitzski is out with an injury.

Some outstanding news though, Marcus Stroman was cleared to play after suffering an injury in spring training. He isn’t slated to start until the end of the series so that he can stay 100% healthy.

Series preview

The pitchers on the slate to start for the Blue Jays for the opening series in order of starts are J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada and Marcus Stroman. If all four of these pitchers are on their game then it should be an easy road for the Blue Jays. All four need to be on high alert with this Yankee lineup. It could be the deadliest lineup out of all teams in the league. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez alone combined for a total of 144 home runs last year.

The Blue Jays starters can nullify this offensive threat with all four starters only allowing 76 home runs combined last year. They also have a combined ERA of 3.96 last year. While a high number on its own this was during a down year for the main four and will certainly improve with a much better defense behind them this year. With all these stats combined the Blue Jays starters can stop a Yankees offense in its tracks and easily win this series to begin the new season right.

Opening week

Photo courtesy of Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sport

On the Yankee side, they have Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Sonny Gray. These four pitchers are deadly and can all easily shut down any offense. But much like the Jays, Yankees’ pitchers need to be careful.

The Jays may not have the big name fire powers as the Yankees, but they do have Josh Donaldson. Along with some fresh faces ready to prove themselves to the team in Aledmys Diaz and Randal Grichuk. With the two new guys ready to show their worth, and proven home run hitter in Donaldson, the Jays offense should be able to keep up the Yankees.

 

 

 

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players to watch out for in May

2018 MLB season: New faces in new places

Well, here we are. After months of waiting, a new MLB season is finally here. The teams have finalized their 40-man rosters, and we are about ready to see cleats hit the diamond once again.

Like every year, we are seeing many players and managers making their debuts either for a new team or their first ever season. Starting at 12:30 p.m. today, the very first game of 2018 will commence. The Miami Marlins will host the Chicago Cubs to kick off the new season.

Besides sunny Miami and sweet home Chicago, every other team is eager to take the field. Some teams are working new faces, while others have new skippers behind the wheel. But some are getting more attention than others, and for good reason. These names are the ones that should make big splashes in the 2018 MLB season.

2018 MLB Season: Changes in scenary

This past offseason had no shortage of notable names finding new homes for 2018. As spring training thundered onward, they took time to break in to their new uniforms. Now that the exhibitions are over, these names will have to hunker down and prove why their teams went after them.

MLB new faces in new places

J.D. Martinez (Photo from Arizona Sports)

The first name to note is Boston’s J.D. Martinez. The 30-year old outfielder is coming off of a career year at the plate. He posted season bests in home runs, RBIs and slugging percentage. The Red Sox were looking for the next big bat to pick up where David Ortiz left off. Considering that they took the AL East crown last season without Big Papi, don’t be surprised to see Boston back in October.

Over on the West Coast, Seattle is working in their new center fielder, Dee Gordon. The former Miami Marlin was always an infielder, prior to becoming a Mariner. But his speed showcased in his base-stealing can give him a razor-sharp edge in defending those line drives and fly balls.

Speaking of former Marlins, St. Louis’ Marcell Ozuna is another name to look out for in 2018. Ozuna is also looking to capitalize off of an epic 2017 season. He finished last season with 37 home runs, 124 RBIs and a .312 batting average, all career highs. His batting will be needed for the St. Louis Cardinals. As a team, St. Louis ranked 14th in batting average (.256), 18th in home runs and 13th in RBIs (728).

If he repeats or exceeds what he did last season, Ozuna can bring substantial boosts in offense for St. Louis, as well as another trip to the All-Star festivities in Washington D.C.

2018 MLB Season: Welcome Back

Sometimes, it does a team good to see a familiar face back in the dugout. They can provide current players who watched them as kids some advice at the plate or on the diamond. These names have had some experience with their old teams in the past. 2018 will prove the strength of these reunions.

MLB new faces in new places

Aaron Boone (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

For Yankees fans, there is much to be excited for with the arrival of their newest manager, Aaron Boone. Boone rocked the pinstripes himself in 2003 as a third baseman. He is widely known for his walk-off home run in the ALCS against Boston that would put the Yankees in the World Series against the Florida Marlins.

Boone has not hit the field since 2009, but Yankees fans and the front office are confident that he can lead a stacked Yankees team to take over the AL East and more.

Another name entering old stomping grounds is the newest Boston Red Sox skipper, Alex Cora. As a player, Cora called Fenway Park home for four seasons. He was a member of the Red Sox team that won the 2007 World Series.

Last season, Cora was the bench coach for the Houston Astros during their World Series run and victory. Cora’s knowledge of the Red Sox can be a valuable tool in leading them back to October.

Though more teams are working in new managers, Boone and Cora inherited playoff-ready teams. Will these two repeat playoff appearances for their squads? Wait and see.

Play Ball!

Spring training is now done and over. The stage is now set for the regular season. America’s pastime will now start a new chapter in its long history, and all 30 teams will look to hit the ground running.

This afternoon, the 2018 MLB season will begin. The league, the locals and the world will get that famous two-word command once again: Play ball!

 

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Shohei Ohtani

Patience is key for Shohei Ohtani

Opening Day is coming up this week, and teams are finalizing their rosters for the beginning of the season. One of the largest stories of the winter was Shohei Ohtani’s decision to play in the United States for the Los Angeles Angels. With his top-end ability on the mound plus his bat, the Japanese rookie has a shot at making a splash in California.

Let us not forget though who Ohtani will be playing against. He is just 23 years old and has grown up playing in the NPB, which is quite different than Major League Baseball. Although spring training is just training, it may be a sign that shows Ohtani is not quite ready to make the impact he is capable of.

Weak spring

Shohei Ohtani

Ohtani has struggled in spring training with the Angels. (Photo from DailyNews)

Ohtani did not get the amount of opportunities to play this spring that we might have liked to see. He only amassed 28 at-bats along with 2.2 innings pitched. In the 28 at-bats, Ohtani managed just three hits. In those 2.2 innings he pitched, he allowed three home runs, which led to eight total earned runs.

While this small sample size may not be indicative of his potential, it may show that the Angels should be patient with their young star.

Los Angeles did send Ohtani out to play against the Angels affiliates. While they wanted him to hit the 85-pitch mark, he could not even get up to 50. Seeing that he couldn’t even reach that point, there is not much hope in Ohtani making a start early in this season.

We will see how the Angels work Ohtani into the league, but it may not be as soon as we would like to see.

Could Triple-A be a solution?

Ohtani does have half a decade worth of experience against professional baseball players in Japan. He may not be ready for the major league level in baseball yet though.

A viable option would be to send Ohtani to the Triple-A Salt Lake Bees. This would give Ohtani more game time against what is still one of the best baseball leagues in the world, while not putting the same kind of pressure on him to be an All-Star quite yet.

While this may not be the most exciting path for baseball fans who are anxious to see what this kid can do, it may be what is in the Angels’ best interest in order to capitalize on their potential. With the Angels having the core of their roster in tact for the coming years, they can afford to let Ohtani develop in a smaller stage.

What to expect for 2018

Shohei Ohtani

With Trout expected to play the full season, the Angels can stir the pot in the AL. (Photo from USA Today)

The wise move for the Angles would be to send Ohtani down to the minors for the time being. Even if it means just seven or eight starts at the lower level, it could still have a significant impact on his growth as a player.

While it may not be a popular move for the Angels to avoid showcasing the young star, it may be necessary. Who knows if the hype around this kid will actually die down, even if his debut is delayed.

It would be very reasonable to see Ohtani making his debut closer to the All-Star break. It may depend largely on whether or not the Angels are in a pennant race with the Astros and Yankees. With the bevy of moves they have made this past year, it would not be that outlandish to think the Angels have some sort of shock. The issue for them at the moment is their pitching, and if Ohtani begins to prove himself in Salt Lake, it could make sense for him to be brought back up for that race.

For the time being though, it would be wise on the Angels’ part to send Ohtani down to Triple-A.

 

Featured image from SportMax

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national league teams regress

Teams likely to regress in the National League

It is always fun speculating about what teams will step up in the upcoming year. After an offseason full of speculation and player movement, we are approaching the promised land that is Opening Day.

Teams like the Brewers and Yankees have reloaded their rosters and will expect great things in 2018. Who will be the ones to take a step back though?

Los Angeles Dodgers

national league teams regress

The Dodgers lost a key starter in Yu Darvish. (Photo from SI.com)

The Dodgers finished 2017 with 104 wins, which almost turned out to be a disappointment as some people thought they would have a shot at the coveted 116 mark. They hit a snag late in the summer though with just one win over a 17-game stretch from late August into September.

Nonetheless, Los Angles picked themselves up by the bootstraps and dominated in October. They only lost five games in the entire postseason, but that was not good enough as they fell one short by falling to the Astros.

Winning the World Series is about as much improvement as this team can make after losing in seven games last year. There isn’t anywhere else to go if they are to improve. That is why they are a prime candidate to regress in 2018.

The only notable move the Dodgers made was a salary dump in which they also acquired former Dodger, Matt Kemp. Some thought that Kemp would immediately be released, but it looks like they are holding onto him and they may even start him. However, the addition of Kemp is not enough for this team.

Yu Darvish is now a Chicago Cub, and even though the Dodgers are still a prime contender, it is still conceivable to see the Nationals, or even the Brewers, outplay them in October.

Miami Marlins

This one is a no-brainer. Ever since Derek Jeter and his ownership group gained control of the Miami Marlins, things have gotten ugly. Miami managed to win 77 games in 2017, which is nothing to write home about, but they didn’t have that bad of a team.

With Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich being one of the best outfield trios in baseball, things looked good in Miami. Jeter and company did not see it that way though. They elected to blow the whole thing up by trading all those guys away along, with Dee Gordon. Now, Miami is one of the least desirable places to play baseball.

Jeter has acknowledged that this process will take time, but the pushback has not been easy. Dan Le Batard lit up Rob Manfred for letting this sale happen, which led to the destruction of the current Marlins. If you were to ask ownership though, the current cast was not going anywhere.

We will look back in six or seven years and have a better grasp on whether or not this was the right call for a floundering organization. For the time being though, it does not look good.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Another team from the NL West will be taking a step back in 2018. The Arizona Diamondbacks put in a solid 2017 season, coming in second place in the West behind Los Angeles. After beating Colorado in the Wild Card, Los Angeles let them know why they were a second place team by sweeping them out of October.

Arizona has not had any key losses by any means, but they could possibly fall victim to the powerful division that is the National League West. Both San Francisco and San Diego saw how their divisional counterparts were doing and decided to make some moves to get more competitive. The Giants especially have shown that they take their even years seriously by acquiring Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria.

The Diamondbacks still have some solid rotational pitching along with great bats like Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. They won’t have the same teams to beat up on in the bottom of the division anymore. On top of that, they still have to deal with the Dodgers, who may regress, but are still a dominant team in the National League.

Pittsburgh Pirates

national league teams regress

The Pirates sent Gerrit Cole off to Houston this offseason. (Photo from USA Today)

The Pirates fall into the same category as the Miami Marlins. Although they did not have the same sort of future potential as the Marlins, they pretty much jumped ship on their current roster.

The two faces of the franchise were Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. Neal Huntington did not hesitate to keep them though as he shipped both of them out West. The Pittsburgh faithful were not happy with this decision, as they are pretty much abandoning the coming seasons.

They may have realized that nothing was coming from the current core, or they could have recognized the other teams in the division and seeing what they were looking like.

The entire league looks tough right now, and that is why the Pirates may be looking to invest in their future now. After all, it is not ridiculous to try to pull off the same sort of success achieved by Theo Epstein in Chicago and Jeff Luhnow in Houston.

 

Featured image from ABC15Arizona

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