The 2017 Dodgers were a few Yu Darvish tipped pitches away from winning a title.
For the first time since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL Pennant. Unfortunately for them, the season did not end as they hoped, as they lost to the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series. Their 104 regular season wins was tied for the second-most in the franchise’s history, which dates all the way back to 1884.
Los Angeles was the clear-cut, best team in the National League. Their pitching staff finished first in the NL in ERA, strikeouts, BAA, and walks. Of course, they were led by one of the best left handed pitchers of all-time, Clayton Kershaw. Although he missed time because of back tightness, the 3x Cy Young award winner finished tied for the league-lead in wins with 18. Kershaw also ranked second in ERA and BB/9, sixth in FIP, seventh in H/9, and ninth in SO/9.
Budding superstar, Cody Bellinger (LA Times)
Los Angeles’ bullpen led the NL with a 3.38 ERA, and finished first in the MLB in opponent OBP. Kenley Jansen finished second in the league with 41 saves, while Josh Fields and Pedro Baez each appeared in over 55 games and finished with sub 3.00 ERAs.
The Dodgers offense, which finished third in the NL in OBP, was led by some notable names, but also some surprises. Justin Turner, who was designated for assignment by the Baltimore Orioles, and hit .265 in 301 games for the Mets, finished eighth in NL MVP voting, and was named to his first All-Star team. Turner finished fourth in OBP, fifth in batting average, and eighth in adjusted OPS+. Since becoming a member of the Dodgers, Turner has turned into a superstar.
Speaking of superstars, the Dodgers have a budding one in Cody Bellinger. Bellinger was called up in Late-April, and finished the season with 39 home runs, which was sixth-best in the MLB. His slugging percentage ranked 10th overall, and he joined Mel Ott and Eddie Matthews as the only players under the age of 22 to hit at least 39 home runs, with a .350 OBP and .580 SLG.
Corey Seager cemented himself as the top shortstop in the NL. In 2017, he joined Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Correa, and Cal Ripken, as the only shortstops, under the age of 24, to hit 22 home runs with a .370 OBP and 5.5 WAR.
Chris Taylor, who did even make the Opening Day roster, led the team in doubles with 34. He slashed .288/.354/.496, and was named NLCS MVP (with Justin Turner) after hitting .316 with a pair of home runs and five runs scored.
2018: Around the Diamond
It’s no surprise that the Dodgers have the best odds out of any NL team to reach the World Series in 2018. Cody Bellinger will be at first for a full season, and Seager is a serious MVP candidate at short. However, they will have to start the season without Justin Turner, after the third basemen was hit by a pitch and broke his wrist on Monday. The most likely candidate to hold down the hot corner while Turner is out would be Logan Forsythe. This means Chase Utley will probably get some starts at second.
The Dodgers will begin the season without star third basemen, Justin Turner (LA Times)
Behind the plate will be Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal. Grandal, a fantastic defensive catcher, hit 22 home runs in 2017, but lost a good chunk of playing time to Austin Barnes during the postseason. Barnes finished 2017 with a .408 OBP.
In 2017, Los Angeles started 12 different players in left field. With Chris Taylor starting in center, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Trayce Thompson, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo will all battle for that corner outfield spot. Kemp, who spent his first nine seasons with the Dodgers, has hit .317 with four home runs and eight RBIs in 15 Spring games.
One of the most polarized players in the game, right fielder Yasiel Puig, will look to build off his sold 2017. After injuries and demotions derailed his 2015 and 2016 seasons, Puig played 152 games last year, and hit 28 home runs with 15 steals. His 11.2 percent walk rate was the highest of his big-league career.
On the Bump
Both Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow signed as free agents with the Cubs. Still, a rotation led by Kershaw is one that will find ways to thrive. Following Kersh, will be Alex Wood, who finished third in WHIP and 10th in wins, Rich Hill, who posted a 3.32 ERA in 135.2 innings, Kenta Maeda, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. All five of these guys spent time on the DL last season, but are ready to go.
There is no reason to think the Dodgers bullpen will not be among the best in baseball. They traded for Scott Alexander, who was great for Kansas City in 2017, and, of course, they still have guys like Josh Fields, Pedro Baez, Ross Stripling, and Tony Cingrani, to make sure Kenley Jansen comes into the game with a lead.
Walker Buehler (No.12) is the highest rated Dodgers prospect on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect’s list. Buehler, a right-handed pitcher, pitched a little bit out of the bullpen for the Dodgers in 2017. While his control wasn’t great in 2017, he still looks like a top-of-the-rotation type starter.
Alex Verdugo (No.33), who was mentioned earlier in the left field chatter, is hitting .324 with two home runs and six RBIs so far this spring. He had a solid 2017 season in AAA, hitting .314 with an OPS of .825. However, Matt Kemp and Andrew Toles appear to be ahead of him on the depth chart, so look for Verdugo to develop more in AAA.
Los Angeles also has the third best catching prospect, Keibert Ruiz (N0. 52). Ruiz hits for a good average, hitting .315 in 101 games between A/A+, and has good speed for a catcher. He needs to develop more defensively, but could be the catcher of the future in Los Angeles.
2018 Prediction: 95-67
There is a reason why the Dodgers are the NL favorite to reach the World Series in 2018. When Turner comes back, this will be one of the best teams in baseball. As long as the squad stays healthy down the stretch, Los Angeles should, again, be right in the mix for a World Series title.
Featured image by MLB.com
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Cleveland is looking for redemption after their skid in the 2016 World Series (ABC Chicago)
A rematch of the 2016 World Series is on the eyes of many. Last year was one of the most successful World Series of the century in terms of viewership. The narrative of the two teams and their droughts captured the hearts of America.
The series went to extra innings in game seven, and the Indians are surely looking to redeem themselves after giving the title to the Cubs. Cleveland had a 3-1 game lead and were not able to end their drought.
The Indians look like the better and more complete team this year with all the inconsistencies that Chicago has been dealing with. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor look stronger than ever and would be difficult to stop.
New York Yankees vs Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw would love to reverse his postseason woes (Photo Courtesy of: Gary A. Vasquez, USA TODAY Sports)
We all know the networks are pulling for this one. The two largest markets in the country battling it out in October may be what the league needs to keep the World Series ratings on pace with last year. A rematch between the Cubs and Indians is enticing, but it may not have quite the same sparkle to it as this match up of two iconic teams.
Not only will the markets be battling it out, but the two rookie sensations in Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger would be highlighted. Both of these young stars broke home run records that were thought to be near impossible to break. Both teams have well-rounded hitting and would make for a long series.
The Yankees have had much more success out of these two titans of baseball. The Dodgers have a drought they are looking to break of not going to the World Series in 20 years. A Dodgers-Yankees World Series would make for a great final hurdle for LA to get over in order to win the series.
Houston Astros vs Los Angels Dodgers
Cleveland may have ended up with one more win than Houston, but the Astros and Dodgers were the two teams that had a stronghold as the best two teams in the majors for most of the year. The Astros have the hitting edge with their three headed monster of Correa, Altuve, and Springer. However, the Dodgers have the pitching edge with Kershaw, Wood, and Hill. Not to mention Kenley Jansen, who was one of the best closers in baseball this year.
This would be the superstar match up that many would have predicted in June. Things have changed since then, but they are still 100+ win teams that are not messing around. Both teams are hungry for a World Series title. The TV networks would love this as well as Houston is looking for a win after Hurricane Harvey. A Fall Classic in Houston would bring life to a city that needs it.
Washington Nationals vs Houston Astros
Bryce Harper is looking to prove the Nationals can play in the postseason (Sports Illustrated)
The last few years we have been talking about World Series droughts. The Cubs broke their 100+ year losing streak last fall, and the Indians are prime candidates to break their drought that goes back to 1948. However, the Astros have never won a Fall Classic, and the Nationals have never even been to one!
The Nationals (formally Montreal Expos) have only been around since 1969, and the Astros were founded in 1962. They reached their first and only World Series in 2005 when they lost to the Chicago White Sox.
So who wouldn’t want to see two teams duke it out for the right to bring the title to their hometown for the first time (excluding the 1924 Washington Senators)?
Cubs vs Red Sox
A rematch of the 1918 World Series, would feature two baseball teams that have the most historic World Series droughts in the game. Both were lead by Theo Epstein, who is probably the best executive we have seen this generation. This match up would be centered around the history behind these two teams as well as the connection with Theo.
Boston and Chicago played at similar levels this season, with a little bit of edge given to Boston. The Red Sox have a solid pitching staff centered around Chris Sale and their stud closer Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox have their own version of Andrew Miller now as well with David Price. It will be interesting to see how he is worked into a World Series.
Another intriguing similarity between the two teams is Jon Lester and John Lackey. That is just one other connection between these two teams that seems to be endless. If these two teams had met in the Fall Classic 15 years ago, it would be a whole other level of excitement. Now that they have both broken their streaks now, it doesn’t have the same pop. However, it would not be surprising for this match up to keep those ratings on par with 2016.
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This team could do exactly what it has been doing and it would stay in first place. The Nationals have a 11.5-game lead going into Tuesday night’s games and Hotlanta would need a miracle to catch up.
The problem in our nation’s capital has not been getting to the playoffs, but getting to the World Series. With that in mind they still desperately need bullpen help.
The Nationals made a deal to get Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson from the A’s about a week ago. This has obviously been a great upgrade for them but they still could use at least one more rock solid piece to give them the best chance in October.
In steps, no not Brad Hand (Padres want way too much for him), A.J. Ramos. The Marlins have not been able to put it together for the last two years and their team is up for sale in two different ways (let us pray that the baseball gods will rid the MLB of Jeffery Loria).
Courtesy of: Faketeams.com
A.J. Ramos is a hot target, but from it sounds like he is not as expensive as other relievers like Hand and the Reds’ Raisel Iglesias are. He is also having a down year compared to his normal for his career, so he may end up costing even less than he would have last year.
As far as his contract goes, he is still owed some of his $6.5 million and is arbitration eligible next year. So, he has some team control but would could cost a bit more next year.
Taking this all into consideration, the Nationals need to try to make this deal. Their farm system is weaker due to the deals they have already done in the last year. But most people are hearing that they will not give up top prospect Victor Robles.
Right now most of the top Marlins top prospects are pitchers and outfielders so it is likely that they would like some infielders to go along with them or just more pitching.
I can see the trade being A.J. Ramos to the Nationals for Carter Kieboom (SS), Drew Ward (3B) and a hard throwing pitching prospect outside of the Nationals top 30 prospects. While this may seem like a lot, let’s look back at what Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman cost last year. Relievers are valued very highly (overpriced in my opinion) but at least three prospects seems to be the standard for closers and other top tier bullpen pieces.
Courtesy of: Nolanwritin.com
Raise your hand if you picked the Brewers to be in first place in July. No one? Yeah, me neither. This team has played well and some of their pieces are melding together very well. Some players may be a bit of a fluke, but overall their young players are really looking solid. The problem is that they are in the same division as the Cubs.
The Brewers should actually sell. It sounds crazy, but they are doing well and have an amazing farm system to boot. They won’t go far in the playoffs this year so it doesn’t make sense to trade away strong assets for rentals.
That said, this is a piece about staying in first place and if they want any chance at holding off the Cubs, then they will have to make a move.
Their biggest weakness is their starting pitching. While some of them have good records such as Zach Davies at 11-4, only Chase Andreson has an ERA below 3.45. There are some good options out there, and if the Brewers can get someone for the right price, then they will make the trade. This means staying out of what will probably be a bidding war for Sonny Gray.
While his ERA might not be exactly what they are looking for, he does provide experience and a lively arm. Andrew Cashner would be a relatively cheap rental and a player that most have forgotten was a big trading chip for the last few years. It also helps that everyone else will be focused on Yu Darvish and Sonny Gray.
Marcos Diplan (RHP) and a player to be named later would get this deal done. The Brewers would take on the rest of his salary which is not cheap, but they would not be giving up much in terms of prospects. Cashner would appease those who want the Brewers to make a move and would slot in well as another solid veteran along side Matt Garza.
The Cubs may not be in first place, but they are just a half game out.
The Cubs are the defending World Series champs and until recently they have not been playing like it. Luckily they are in a very weak central division (sorry Brewers fans). They also already made a big trade getting Jose Quintana and at this point their farm system is depleted.
Considering all of that it, seems like the Cubs will do whatever they have to do to make it back to the Series. Their bats are coming back to life and Jose Quintana was the shot in the arm the rotation needed.
But if they had to make a move, it might be worth going back to the rotation. John Lackey has been a great pitcher for a long time, but age is catching up to him. His ERA is the second highest it has ever been and his strikeouts are down. While he has said he would not move to the bullpen, it may end up being that or getting let go.
The Cubs have one prospect in the top 100, Jeimer Candelario (3B/1B). Would they be willing to give him up? From the looks of things, they could. He plays two positions that are taken up by the two biggest stars in Bryant and Rizzo. With that in mind, Sonny Gray will be the guy they go for.
The A’s are selling everyone, again. Thus, they will take the best prospects they can get and see who pans out. The trade will be Sonny Gray to the Cubs for Candelario, Oscar De La Cruz (RHP), Justin Steele (LHP) and a prospect outside of the Cubs’ top 30.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Courtesy of: Outsidepitchmlb.com
This team has been on an unreal tear. They look primed for October and we still have around 62 games left. They are up by 12.5 games and even with the injury to Clayton Kershaw, they will still keep that big lead.
One thing that has hurt the Dodgers has been injuries. Scott Kazmir, Branden McCarthy and Clayton Kershaw are all missing from the rotation. They need someone to fill this hole now. The great thing for Dodgers fans is unlike the Cubs, they still have plenty of prospects to trade. That is why they will get Yu Darvish.
If you are a team in a five-game series and you have to go up against Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood, then you are most likely sitting in a corner crying.
Even going to a seven-game series like the World Series you might think, phew we got through those three, now we get a break– nope. Rich Hill, a healthy (hopefully) Scott Kazmir or Kenta Maeda could all come in for at least one game.
Yu Darvish to the Dodgers for Walker Buehler (RHP), Willie Calhoun (2B/OF), Mitchell White (RHP) and DJ Peters (OF) could be a trade the Dodgers make. While the Dodgers are giving up a ton, they are also giving themselves a great chance at a World Series run.
I hope you enjoyed my take on the trade deadline. The trade deadline is a very interesting time for baseball. Hopefully this year will produce the craziness we have seen in the past.
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I present you with my fantasy baseball tips and tricks: veterans to keep your eye on in 2017.
Veterans commonly go overlooked in fantasy baseball. They are assumed to have undergone regression from the previous year. Multiple veterans disproved this theory last year, including David Ortiz, Justin Verlander and Adrian Beltre.
Ortiz astounded baseball fans around the world with arguably his best season since 2005. His 38 home runs and 127 RBIs helped crown the Boston Red Sox as the best offensive team in baseball. The 40-year-old finished sixth in AL MVP voting and received his seventh Silver Slugger award to validate him as an elite player.
Verlander underwent some struggles in 2014, sporting a 4.54 ERA and a career low strikeout rate of 6.9. He hoped for a bounce-back season in 2015, but only made 20 starts after being sidelined by a tricep injury.
Many people lost faith in the former Cy Young winner and MVP. However, the 33-year-old proved everyone wrong. He finished with 16 wins, a 3.04 ERA and a league high 254 strikeouts. Verlander finished second in the AL Cy Young voting and 17th in AL MVP voting.
The first ballot Hall-of-Famer, Adrian Beltre, also entered 2016 with some question marks. He was a 37-year-old who had failed to play 150 games and hit 20 home runs since 2013. The four-time Silver Slugger went to work and batted .300 with 32 home runs and 104 RBIs. Beltre subsequently finishing seventh in AL MVP voting.
Many veterans slide down the board on draft day, but the following old-timers should stay on your radar come 2017.
The following players are all 34 years of age or above and are being selected out of the top 100 players according to fantasypros.com average draft positions (ADP’s). Players are listed in order of ADP, with their age, position, team and composite 2017 projections following.
Albert Pujols, 37, First Base, Los Angeles Angels (128)
536 AB, 72 R, 29 HR, 91 RBI, .265 AVG, .792 OPS
Pujols has dealt with nagging foot injuries over the course of his last four seasons. However, he has still managed to play 150 or more games in his last three. The 37-year-old remains a staple of power and production. He will continue to bat behind Mike Trout, making him a 100-plus RBI threat until he retires. Injuries will remain threat to his success, but his ADP makes him well worth the risk.
Adrian Gonzalez has quietly been one of the leagues most consistent players. (Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)
Adrian Gonzalez, 34, First Base, Los Angeles Dodgers (146)
539 AB, 69 R, 22 HR, 84 RBI, .273, .790 OPS
Gonzalez has remained one of the most consistent big leaguers of the last decade. He has amassed 90 or more RBIs in 10 consecutive seasons. The 34-year-old will continue to be a cornerstone of the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup that is bound to improve. Young stars Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig will continue to grow.
The first overall pick in 2000 has a career .290 batting average, which makes him a very safe selection as your first basemen in 2017.
Carlos Beltran, 39, Outfield, Houston Astros, (190)
499 AB, 62 R, 21 HR, 72 RBI, .271 AVG, .783 OPS
Beltran will jump from one AL West team to another, leaving the Texas Rangers to join the Houston Astros. The 39-year-old had begun to fall off in 2014, although his 2016 campaign began a resurgence. Beltran smashed 29 home runs, which is something he hadn’t done since 2012.
If Beltran can find consistent at bats as an Astro, then there is no reason that he cannot be a top-20 outfielder once again in 2017.
Victor Martinez is still a cornerstone of the Detroit Tigers offense at 38 years old. (Courtesy of USA TODAY Sports)
Victor Martinez, 38, Designated Hitter, Detroit Tigers (192)
514 AB, 61 R, 21 HR, 76 RBI, .278 AVG, .785 OPS
The former catcher has found a home at designated hitter. He has been able to manage at least 150 games in three of his last four seasons. Martinez’s career batting average of .301 makes him a great late-round pick who can boost your average.
If the Detroit Tigers are successful this season, it will be in part because of this 38-year-old’s production. He has amounted 100 RBIs five times in his career, which is not out of the realm of possibility if he can stay healthy once again.
Yadier Molina, 34, Catcher, St. Louis Cardinals (195)
434 AB, 43 R, 7 HR, 48 RBI, .286 AVG, .733 OPS
Molina is a future Hall-of-Famer because of his glove. However, he batted .307 last season while finishing 23rd in NL MVP voting. Molina may be a 34-year-old catcher who hasn’t surpassed 150 games played ever in his career, but he remains one of the safest choices you can make late in the draft. The Cardinals will only go as far as Molina, Carpenter and Piscotty will take them.
Starting and Relief Pitchers
Rich Hill, 37, Starting Pitcher, Los Angeles Dodgers (122)
132 IP, 10 W, 3.07 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 143 K
Hill inked a three-year, $48 million deal after finishing 2016 with 110.1 innings pitched, 12 wins, a 2.12 ERA and 129 K’s. The 37-year-old will remain a staple in the Los Angeles Dodgers rotation for years to come. If he were to come close to 200 innings, he is a sure-fire top-25 starting pitcher. Hill is a late bloomer in the MLB and commonly sliding in drafts. However, should not be overlooked due to his incredible strikeout upside.
John Lackey has remained an innings eater for which ever team he suiting up for. (Courtesy of The Chicago Tribune)
John Lackey, 38, Starting Pitcher, Chicago Cubs (142)
182 IP, 11 W, 3.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 162 K
The Chicago Cubs veteran remains a consistent innings eater, reaching the 180-innings mark in four straight seasons. The 38-year-old will continue to pitch every five days for the Cubbies come 2017, which makes him extremely valuable in all formats. He is sure to win games, strike batters out and have respectable ratios.
J.A. Happ, 34, Starting Pitcher, Toronto Blue Jays (169)
183 IP, 12 W, 3.93 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 156 K
Happ came out of nowhere in 2016 to win 20 games and finish sixth in AL Cy Young voting. Regression may be in store for the veteran. However, if he can match his 195-inning total last season, he is sure to be a solid fantasy pitcher in 2017. The 34-year-old will be pitching for an intriguing Blue Jays team that is sure to compete in the AL East as they have for the last few seasons.
Francisco Rodriguez will remain the closer to start 2017. (Courtesy of Blessyouboys.com)
Francisco Rodriguez, 35, Relief Pitcher, Detroit Tigers (143)
58 IP, 35 SV, 3.57 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 55 K
Once arguably the greatest closer in the game, Rodriguez has since fallen off that pedestal. His strikeouts per nine innings has dropped in consecutive seasons since 2013, which is a bit disconcerting. However, the Detroit closer will continue to have the opportunity to be a premier closer in this league, as the Tigers will be a contender in 2017.
Fernando Rodney, 39, Relief Pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks (241)
57 IP, 23 SV, 3.95 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 60 K
Rodney will make the move to the desert in 2017 and become the Arizona Diamondbacks’ closer to start the season. Rodney still has plenty of strikeout potential, and will be saving games for a Diamondbacks team that is sure to be better than they were in 2016. Rodney will make for a great late round pick for teams that need some cheap saves.
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The MLB season is closing in! With only sixty-six days of preparation left, it’s time to tackle our early 2017 fantasy baseball pitcher rankings.
I have categorized the top 100 pitchers into twelve different tiers. Creating tiers allow owners to separate and compare players based on their projected value and cost. Players at the bottom of a tier present more value, as they project to have similar stats as a player at the top of a tier, with less of a cost.
Tiers below are given a star rating. A five-star rating is given to the best of the best, where a zero-star rating is given to an average, waiver wire pickup type player.
The top and bottom pitcher in each tier will be profiled below.
Tier 1 – 5 StarS
Kershaw looks to reign in fourth Cy Young heading into 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
To qualify as a five-star pitcher, a player must consistently have seasons with a sub three ERA (earned run average), sub one WHIP (walks/hits per innings pitched), and over 200 strikeouts.
Clayton Kershaw remains the golden standard of major league pitching. He has eight consecutive seasons with an ERA in the twos and a career strike outs per nine innings (K/9) of 9.8. If the 28-year-old retired today, he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. Kershaw looks to recover from his back ailments and return to his godly form in 2017.
Madison Bumgarner emerges as a five-star pitcher in 2017. Last season was his sixth straight with 200 innings pitched. He has averaged 214 strikeouts per year over the last six seasons, and continues to improve those totals every year. The great playoff performer sports a career 2.99 ERA, and 1.09 WHIP. Bumgarner, at only twenty-seven years old, will remain in Cy Young talks for years to come.
Tier 2 – 4.5 StarS
Thor looks to electrify the competition in his third MLB season. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
This tier is home to the man that will one day overtake Clayton Kershaw for the number one ranked pitcher spot in baseball.
Thor looks to continue his dominance heading into 2017. The Mets ace enters his third season with hopes of being a top 20 MVP candidate for the second year straight. With a career K/9 of 10.4, Syndergaard will be fanning batters into oblivion for the next decade. A lack of experience is the only reason he is left out of the five-star tier, as he is yet to log 200 innings in a season. He has the potential to be a top 3 fantasy pitcher in 2017.
Tier 3 – 4 StarS
Arrieta looks to impress in important contract year. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
To be considered for tier three, one must have multiple seasons with 200 innings pitched, 200 strike outs, and an ERA in the low threes.
Confident Chris Sale enters 2017 with adversity, will he perform in his first season with Boston? The answer is uncertain, but the numbers suggest he will. Sale has a career 3.00 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 10.1 K/9. He joins a talented and seasoned pitching staff that will relieve him of pressure, as he no longer the lone ace in the rotation. There is no reason Sale can’t finish as a top five Cy Young finisher for a fourth straight season.
Jake Arrieta schemes his way into the four-star category in 2017. The 31-year-old is coming off of two consecutive seasons of 197 plus innings, 190 strike outs, with an average ERA of 2.44. Arrieta signed a one year, $15.6 million contract for 2017, and looks to impress in order to receive a pay day in 2018. With the Cubs lineup currently projected as the top offense, a fourth consecutive top ten Cy Young finish for Arrieta is more than likely.
Tier 4 – 4 StarS
Darvish looks to bounce back from injury ridden 2016. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
To qualify for this tier, player must have a high floor and high ceiling. They must show a strong potential to reach 200 innings pitched, 200 strike outs, and a low three ERA. Players in this tier may or may not have reached these marks before, but will do so in 2017.
Yu Darvish looks to return to super star form in 2017. He is coming an injury ridden season where he was limited to a mere seventeen starts. When healthy, Darvish is a menace. His career K/9 is 11.3, showing that he has the potential to strike out 260 plus batters. Also, his career ERA sits just below 3.30. Darvish’s extremely high upside is accompanied by injury concerns, but name a player that isn’t.
St. Louis Cardinals Ace, Carlos Martinez, looks to build on his early Major League success heading the upcoming season. With two consecutive seasons of 180 innings, and a career K/9 of 8.5, Martinez provides a high floor with a potential to continue to improve. The 25-year-old hurler provided a 9.2 K/9 in the minors, which shows that his strike out totals can continue to improve as he adjusts to life in the big leagues.
Tier 5 – 4 Stars
Pretty Ricky looks to double his Cy Young total in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
Players in this tier WILL contend for a Cy Young, although are being over looked as they have less of a track record.
Rick Porcello was a completely different pitcher in 2016 than in any of his previous campaigns. He started to make better in game adjustments, allowing him to get through lineups multiple times over. Also, he has done a great job eating innings, as he managed to finish sixth in innings pitched in 2016. Pretty Ricky has the potential to win another twenty games, and compete for back-to-back Cy Young awards.
2016 Rookie of the year award winner, Michael Fulmer, shows promise of being a future Cy Young candidate. With a career K/9 of 8.4 and an ERA of 3.17, his potential is through the roof. The 23-year-old former first-round pick will look to record 200 innings for the first time in 2017.
Tier 6 – 4 StarS
Can Kyle Hendricks repeat his miraculous 2016 season? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
These players are proven inning eaters, have great ratios, but lack the strikeout upside that makes a top ten pitcher. These players are lower risk than the comeback candidates, but have a lower ceiling as well.
Top three Cy Young finisher in 2016, Kyle Hendricks looks to continue his dominance heading into 2017. He managed to finish with a 2.13 ERA, .979 WHIP, 170 strikeouts in 190 innings. Even if Hendricks adds an entire point to his ERA, he will still be under 3.2. His dominant sinker and change up will continue to keep hitters off balance in 2017.
Two time all-star Julio Teheran looks to help a young Braves team reach new heights this upcoming season. With a career ERA of 3.39 and K/9 of 7.8, Teheran has continued to impress on a lack luster Braves team. The Braves offense started off 2016 at a historically bad pace, but managed to be a top five offense in the second half. This gives Teheran hope improve his career high win total of fourteen.
Tier 7 – 3.5 StarS
Gerrit Cole looks for redemption in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
This tier includes players who look to recover from sub-par or shortened 2016 campaigns. These players are higher risk draft picks, with higher ceilings.
Gerrit Cole finished 2015 as a top five Cy Young finisher and top twenty MVP candidate. He endured a tough 2016 campaign where he made twenty-one starts with his career worst ERA, WHIP, and K/9. A lingering rib injury, which is gone by the way side, was the cause of his 2016 struggles. The twenty-six-year-old will return to form in 2017, rejoining the Cy Young conversation.
Garrett Richards elected to skip surgery to repair a UCL tear in his throwing elbow in 2016, and instead received a plasma injection to repair the injury. Before the injury, Richards started six games, nursing a 2.34 ERA and 8.8 K/9. Richards will be the ace for the Los Angeles Angels in 2017, and hopes to return to his 2014 or 2015 form, where he averaged a 2.82 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 170 strikeouts.
Tier 8 – 3.5 StarS
Will Danny Duffy go into cruise control after inking five-year contract? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
This tier may be small, but is important none the less. These players have proven to show top-twenty pitcher upside, but don’t have the names to match. They tend to fall in drafts but have tremendous value.
Danny Duffy is expected to be the number one starter for the Royals heading into 2017. He just received a five year, $65 million deal. The twenty-eight-year-old made the transition from the bullpen to the rotation look easy last season. Duffy struck out 188 in 179.2 innings, resulting in a 9.4 K/9. He will reach the 200 innings and 200 strikeout marks in 2017.
Tanner Roark is the most over looked and undervalued players in my opinion. He has two seasons with over thirty starts, over 198 innings, under a 2.85 ERA, while averaging 154 strikeouts. He will slot in behind Max Scherzer and Stephan Strasburg in a very strong Nationals rotation. With the success of the Nationals imminent, Roark’s chances of matching or passing his career win total of sixteen is likely.
Tier 9 – 3 Star
McCullers looks to transition from prospect to prodigy in 2017. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
Tier nine consists of young studs who are ready to explode. These players will have the opportunity to be enormous contributors come 2017.
2012 first round pick, Lance McCullers, looks to continue his tirade on the MLB. He has started a total of 26 games, resulting in a career 3.22 ERA and 10.2 K/9. McCullers will slot in as Houston’s number two starter in 2017. He will start over thirty games and log over 200 innings for the first time in his career next season.
Carlos Rodon, former third overall pick in 2014, looks to finally reach his potential in 2017. He has struggled early in his career, with an ERA of 3.9 and WHIP of 1.4. Although the bright spot in Rodon’s game is his devastating slider, which helps him strikeout 9.1 batters per nine. Rodon will begin to figure things out in 2017.
Tier 10 – 2 Star
McHugh looks to bounce back and revitalize a young Houston Rotation. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
The tenth tier of pitchers is loaded with upside. These players show high K/9 potential, along with being young enough to continue to improve their ratios.
Colin McHugh finished 2016 with his worst ERA and WHIP in his three seasons as a starter, although he had a career high in strikeouts. McHugh looks to rebound to his 2015 Cy Young candidate form where he won nineteen games, with 171 strikeouts. The Astro’s look to impress in 2017, and McHugh will be a huge part of that.
James Paxton is ready to break out. The six foot four lefty managed 8.7 K/9 in 2016, along with a career high in innings pitched and games started. Paxton will be a heavy contributor for the Mariners this upcoming season where he will log a career high in innings pitcher, strikeouts and wins.
Tier 11 – 1 Star
We have to respect our veterans! These veterans provide above average value as they are reliable inning eaters with proven track records. They provide value later in drafts because as they tend to fall in draft position due to age concerns.
Invader Zimm looks to recover from 2016 blunders. (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
The anomaly Rich Hill just received a three year, $45 million contract as a thirty-six-year-old pitcher. The age may affect people’s desire to select Hill, but his skill set says otherwise. He has a demoralizing 12-6 curveball, which helped him reach a career high in K/9 as a starter, with 10.5. He will be an integral part to the Dodgers rotation in 2017, and should be drafted in all leagues.
I’m not sure who showed up in Jordan Zimmerman’s uniform last season, but it wasn’t him. The imposter registered career worsts across the board, with a 4.87 ERA, 1.367 WHIP, and 5.6 K/9. No one was more frustrated with Zimmerman’s 2016 than himself, which leads me to believe he will not stand for another disappointing season. If the Tigers have any hope of making the playoffs, Zimmerman will have to step up and return to his form, as his career averages are 3.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 7.3 K/9.
Tier 12 – 0 Star
Will Bundy find success post Tommy John surgery? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
Players in this final tier will commonly go undrafted in standard ten team leagues, and are worth the low risk investment. They have had hype in the past, and show potential to be successful in 2017.
Can Conely improve his ratios enough to become fantasy relevant in 2017? (Courtesy of ESPN.com)
Former fourth overall pick Dylan Bundy looks to gain more major league experience in 2017. He has battled adversity throughout his short career as he underwent reconstructive Tommy John surgery in 2013. Bundy will be an important part of the Orioles fragile rotation come next season. He will continue to improve on his career highs by staying healthy and striking out batters. His career 8.4 K/9 bodes well as Bundy has shown above average strikeout ability at all levels. Whether or not the ratio stats are there, the K’s will be.
Adam Conely is will end up on all of my teams this season. He has struggled mightily in the Majors, displaying a career ERA of 3.82, WHIP of 1.36, and 3.7 walks per nine (BB/9). I understand this is disconcerting, but his K/9 keep me believing. The twenty-six-year-old has averaged 8.2 K/9 through all levels, which gives me hope that he can continue to improve and possibly break out in 2017.
Here I’ll continue to analyze some of the biggest names to watch in the free agency this offseason. I previously focused on positional players heading into the free agency from National League teams, but this piece will focus on pitchers, both starters and relievers. Again, these players are not ranked in any particular order, as I feel all of them will be highly sought after this offseason.
1. Aroldis Chapman – Closer
Where will the ex-Cub bring the heat in 2017? Image courtesy of FOX Sports.
While closers tend to find themselves traveling to new cities every few years in the offseason, teams know just how important they are to a successful season. A weak bullpen has been the death of numerous teams, especially come postseason, over the years. Chapman was one of the biggest names to hit the market around the trade deadline, and I don’t expect that to change this offseason. A World Series victory on his resume will definitely help his case. He’s got the fastest stuff in the MLB, averaging 100.88 mph per fastball in 2016. He made 13 appearances in the 2016 playoffs, posting a 2-0 record, recording four saves, and striking out 21 in 15.2 innings of work. It may not have been his most dominant showing, but he still proved that he has what it takes to close on a World Series roster. The experience from doing so certainly boosts his value heading into 2017.
2. Kenley Jansen – Closer
Where will 2016’s NL Reliever of the Year end up in 2017? Image courtesy of CBS Sports.
Jansen is the second of three big closers hitting the free agent market this offseason. He was tied for second in the MLB with 47 saves during the regular season, and was the final piece of the Dodgers’ dominant bullpen in 2016. While he doesn’t offer the same overpowering stuff that Chapman does (and to be fair, I don’t think anybody does), he was still awarded the NL Reliever of the Year honors. The Dodgers were a team plagued with injuries in the starting pitching role, putting even more stress on the bullpen, and yet Jansen and his teammates delivered over and over in 2016. He also furthered his postseason experience, pitching in seven games and nabbing three saves over 11.2 innings. Like Chapman, Jansen will be another highly sought after closer for 2017.
3. Mark Melancon – Closer
Where will one of the MLB’s most successful journeyman closers end up next? Image courtesy of USA Today.
Rounding out the trio of big-name closers to become free agents is ex-Nationals/Pirates closer Mark Melancon. Melancon stabilized a Washington bullpen that was shaky at best with Jonathan Papelbon in the closing role. He recorded 30 saves in 33 opportunities with the Pirates, before recording another 17 in 18 chances with the Nats. In the postseason he displayed his versatility, even coming into games where the Nationals were trailing, and delivering. Melancon is no stranger to moving, having played on five teams during his eight years in the MLB. He’s a strong closer who has experience acclimating himself to new teams and performing well without drawing unnecessary attention to himself. He’ll certainly warrant some looks from a number of teams looking to build or retain a strong bullpen in 2017.
4. Rich Hill – Starter
Rich Hill has proven that he’s a force on the mound when healthy. Image courtesy of USA Today.
Rich Hill showed us two things in 2016. The first is, he spends a lot of time on the Disabled List. He made two stints on the DL in 2016, both taking place in Oakland, although one of them carried over to when he was traded to LA. He’s now made seven trips to the DL in his 12 years with the MLB (nine if you count two more that occurred while he was rehabbing in the Minors). He’s also 36 years old, which begs the question of how much teams will be willing to give him, and for how long. But all of these things can be offset by the second thing we learned in 2016. He’s really freaking good when he’s healthy. He posted a 2.12 ERA in 20 starts during the regular season, 14 with the A’s and six with the Dodgers. He did have a couple of short, rough postseason outings against the Nationals, but he showed up big time when his team needed him most. Even though the Dodgers lost the NLCS to the Cubs, Hill posted a stellar six shutout innings against one of the best offenses in the MLB to tie the series at two. Hill should get plenty of looks this offseason, it just comes down to which teams are willing to chance his injury-prone past.
5. Ivan Nova – Starter
When the Pirates acquired pitcher Ivan Nova from the Yankees at the trade deadline, a lot of people were left scratching their heads as to why. They had already given up closer Mark Melancon to the Nationals, so the team had realistically lost a lot of its talent on the mound to make a serious postseason push. But Nova quickly silenced a lot of doubters, delivering a red hot August, going 4-0 in five starts. While his win-loss cooled off some in September, going just 1-2, his numbers still looked great. In two months with the Pirates, Nova posted a 3.06 ERA over 64.2 innings, with 52 strikeouts. While these numbers certainly aren’t going to blow anybody away, Nova proved himself to be a solid starter, even on a team with a middle-of-the-pack offense like Pittsburgh. I could see him garnering a fair bit of interest on a strong team needing a middle-rotation starter, or a weak staff looking for a potential dark horse ace. Nova is a guy who probably won’t receive as much media attention as the big three closers or Hill this offseason, but is certainly worth keeping tabs on.
Ivan Nova quietly stood out on the Pirates in August and September. Image courtesy of Rum Bunter.
With the NLDS out of the way, the Cubs and the Dodgers now sit just one series away from the World Series. Both teams showed a flair for late game heroics, with the Cubs tying the largest ninth inning comeback in MLB playoff history to win game four in San Francisco. The Dodgers scored five runs in the final three innings in games four and five to eke out a series win vs. Washington. During the regular season, the Cubs won the series 4-3, capped by some stellar pitching against some of the Dodgers best bats. Like every series so far, the Cubs vs. Dodgers matchup will pit some of the NL’s best against one another on the mound. Here’s what I think each team will have to do, and who will have to do it to win the series.
The Cubs come into the series the favorite, and with good reason. Joe Maddon’s Cinderella Cubs appear to be the team destined to end Chicago’s World Series drought. Jon Lester and the rest of the pitching staff have been fantastic on the mound throughout the year, and Kris Bryant heads a Cubs offense that’s almost unstoppable when it’s running at peak performance.
Can the NL MVP favorite lead the Cubs to their first World Series since 1945? Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Bryant has to be one guy that everybody is looking at coming into this series. He put up fantastic numbers against the Dodgers during the regular season, batting .320 and hitting four homers in seven games against the team. He hit .375 against a stout Giants rotation, and is one of many weapons the Cubs will look to utilize on offense. Another guy who we may not have expected to be looking at coming into the series is Javier Baez. There’s no denying Baez’s talent, but he wasn’t putting up the same gaudy numbers as Bryant or Anthony Rizzo during the regular season. He showed up big against San Francisco, providing the only run for either team in game one of the series. He also batted .375 throughout the series, and scored four runs during that time.
Two guys that Chicago needs to step up at the plate against the Dodgers are Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo. Heyward had a lot of success against LA during the regular season, batting .360 with a homer in seven games. However, he didn’t provide much at the plate in the series vs. the Giants, squeaking out a lone double in game two for his only hit of the series. Anthony Rizzo also only had one hit during the series against the Giants, but also worked his way on base with two walks in the series. The Cubs will definitely need to see more than that against the Dodgers from their regular season leader in RBI’s.
On the mound for the Cubs, Jon Lester is obviously one guy you have to watch. Lester went eight scoreless against an anemic Giants offense. We’ll have to see how he fares against a Dodgers offense that should provide significantly more resistance. Eyes will also be on Kyle Hendricks, who took a line drive off his arm in game two against the Giants. While he’s been cleared to pitch in game two, we’ll have to see how he fares and if his arm has any lingering tenderness that could take him off of his game. We’ll also have to see how the Cubs bullpen as a whole fares. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts showed that he’s not afraid to go to the pen early and often in the NLDS; we’ll see if Joe Maddon responds in similar fashion, and if the Cubs bullpen is up for the additional pressure.
The Dodgers willed their way past the Nationals in a gritty five-game series that came down to the wire. While they aren’t sitting on a drought quite as long as the Cubs, the organization hasn’t been to a World Series since 1988, when they won the series 4-1 against the A’s to cap off Orel Hershiser’s monumental season. Hershiser may be long retired, but this Dodgers pitching staff still looks plenty strong, perhaps even more so in the bullpen than the rotation.
Manager Dave Roberts went to the bullpen early and often against the Nationals. Only one starter made it past the fifth inning, Clayton Kershaw, who went five innings in game one and 6.2 in game four. Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill combined for just ten innings of work in their three starts. The Dodgers bullpen looked very strong for most of the series, just as it had during the regular season. The Dodgers had six of its arms combine for no runs allowed in 14.2 innings over those five games, with only Kanley Jansen and Grant Dayton surrendering runs from the pen during the NLDS. Joe Blanton saw the most work during that time, aside from Jansen, allowing just one hit in five innings of work over four appearances. On the mound, I’ll be watching for him to bridge the gap between Dodgers starters and the back of the bullpen if Roberts continues his current bullpen-centered pitching style.
Of course, I’ll also be looking for the Dodgers starters to step up in this series, to ease the stress of a potential seven-game series on the pen’s arms. Kershaw surrendered eight runs combined in his two starts against the Nationals, and the Cubs offense has a lot more weapons than Washington did. Rich Hill surrendered five runs over seven innings in two starts as well. The Dodgers rotation will have to step up to the postseason pressure to keep the game within striking distance for their offense.
Justin Turner showed up big vs. the Nationals, can he continue his hot hitting against the Cubs? Image courtesy of Fox Sports.
Speaking of their offense, they’ll have to turn in a stronger performance against the Cubs in the postseason than they did during the regular season. I’m looking at Justin Turner specifically, who was just 2-for-24 with eight strikeouts in seven games against Chicago in the regular season. Turner was a huge performer in the NLDS, batting .400 and driving in 5 RBI’s, including the deciding two-run triple in the seventh inning of game five against Washington. Corey Seager is another guy who will have to step his game up in the NLCS. He had just three hits in the NLDS, including two solo homers, all coming in the first inning of the game. Outside of the first inning, he was 0-for-18. While it’s great to get your team started on the right foot, Seager will have to provide more support at the plate later in the game to give his team a chance. Joc Pederson is the last guy I’m looking at in this series. He, also had an abysmal time against Chicago in the regular season, going 0-for-20 with eight strikeouts. Pederson hit .333 in the NLDS, and provided the catalyst for their game-winning seventh inning in game five with a solo shot on the first pitch from Max Scherzer. He’ll have to continue to come up clutch to help his team overcome the juggernaut that is the Cubs.
Earlier this week, I evaluated how all of the trade deadline moves made by contending American League teams panned out. Now, I’ll give my take on how National League trades fared.
Chicago Cubs – Aroldis Chapman/Mike Montgomery: 5/3
The Cubs came in to the deadline with plenty of offensive firepower, so they made some deals to acquire some lefty relievers to diversify a right-hander flooded bullpen. Chapman has looked fantastic in Chicago, to nobody’s surprise, he’s 13 for 14 in save conversion in 18 appearances. He’s surrendered just three runs in 17 innings, and hasn’t allowed a run in three appearances this September. With the Cubs having clinched the NL Central on Thursday, I doubt Chapman will see as much play as he did in August, in an attempt to preserve him for the playoffs. They’re still looking to solidify home-field advantage, however, so he certainly won’t be shut down entirely.
Montgomery was originally brought in as another southpaw in the pen. He now sits apart of the Cubs rotation, and frankly, he’s looked better there than he did starting off in the pen for the Cubs. He allowed runs in three consecutive outings, two of them lasting just one-third of an inning, while in the pen. Since his relocation to the rotation, he’s looked better on the mound, even if his starts don’t last particularly long. He averages just under five innings per start, and has only thrown over 90 pitches on one occasion. Recently his starts have improved, and he even notched his first quality start in their division-clinching victory vs. the Brewers. Since becoming a starter, Montgomery has posted a 3.33 ERA. We’ll see what Joe Maddon has planned for him over these next two weeks heading into playoffs.
LA hopes Rich Hill can stay healthy for the playoffs. Photo courtesy of todaysknuckleball.com
LA Dodgers – Josh Reddick/Rich Hill: 2/4
The Reddick plus Hill deal was seen as the Dodgers’ power play to take control of the NL West. Reddick has certainly struggled since the deal, however, batting just .225 since heading to LA. He’s only hit one homer, driven in three RBIs, and stolen one base. His August numbers (.161 BA, .172 slugging) are certainly not what a team wants to see from their deadline acquisition. Things are beginning to look up for Reddick at the plate this month, he’s hitting .394 and slugging .576. He’s still not producing runs, though, with just a lone homer and two RBIs to show. We’ll see if he can get back on the up-and-up in time for playoffs, however, let’s not forget he had a spectacular May following a sub-par August. Maybe the Dodgers just need him to have a good month at the right time.
The only reason Rich Hill doesn’t get a five here is because he’s only made four starts since the Dodgers acquired him at the beginning of August. With that said, three of those four starts have been spectacular, including a flirt with perfection against the Marlins. The Dodgers are playing it smart, not allowing him to hit triple-digit pitch counts while still working off his injury. Thursday’s start against the D-Backs was a return to Earth for Hill, who was riding a 24 inning scoreless streak, spanning back to July, coming into the game. With a four game lead over the Giants in the heart of the home stretch, we’ll see if Hill and Kenta Maeda can continue to make life miserable for batters and secure the division for the Dodgers.
Photo courtesy of miamiherald.com
Miami Marlins – Andrew Cashner: 1
Oh Miami, when are you going to catch a break? I guess losing the other half of the deal, Colin Rea, to injury after his first start should have been a sign of things to come. Cashner only recently picked up his first win with the Marlins against the Phillies, making him 1-4 in eight starts with the team. His stat line as a starter since the move isn’t much prettier, a 6.18 ERA through 39.1 innings of work, a 32/22 K/BB ratio and opponents batting .303 off of him. Cashner was supposed to provide a solid arm, replacing injured Wei-Yin Chen, in a rotation that has been cluttered with inconsistency for Miami from the get-go. Needless to say he hasn’t lived up to the expectations set for him. Combine that with Marcell Ozuna’s massive second-half slump and the loss of Giancarlo Stanton and you can see why Miami currently sits four games out of the Wildcard.
Photo courtesy of nypost.com
New York Mets – Jay Bruce: 2
If it’s true that, prior to the deadline, Bruce explicitly said that he didn’t want to go to the Mets, then maybe we can attribute his stats since coming to New York to spite instead of an actual drop in his caliber of play. Regardless of why the numbers have dropped, they certainly aren’t what the Mets wanted from their deadline acquisition. He was supposed to provide a shot in the arm for a Mets offense that had sputtered all year, and only really saw (limited) success via the long ball at various points throughout the season. Bruce, who had 25 homers on the year with Cincinnati, seemed like the perfect candidate for the offense’s playstyle. He’s hitting just .192 since coming to New York, with four homers and 11 RBIs in 36 games. He looked like he might be heating up at the end of August, piecing together a five-game hit streak from August 30 to September 4, but he’s now hit just .120 and notched a lone RBI in his past seven games. The Mets have, against my predictions, remained in the hunt for the Wildcard and even hold the last spot in, currently, but Bruce’s contributions have been below average at best.
Ivan Nova has been hot since coming to Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of rumbunter.com
Pittsburgh Pirates – Ivan Nova/Antonio Bastardo: 5/4
Why the Pirates made acquisitions at the deadline after selling closer Mark Melancon to the Nationals boggled my mind at the time. But the Pirates have at least remained in contention for a Wildcard spot, currently 5.5 games behind the Mets, in no small part due to the efforts of Ivan Nova. He’s looked spectacular since coming to Pittsburgh, posting a 5-0 record alongside a 2.41 ERA in eight starts for the Pirates with a stellar 43/3 K/BB ratio. Nova came in from New York with a 7-6 record, a 4.90 ERA, and a 75/25 K/BB ratio in his seventh season with the Yankees. I don’t know what pitching coach Ray Searage does to these guys in Pittsburgh, but you can’t argue with his results. At this rate, Nova will be one of the more interesting pitchers to hit the free-agency after the season.
Antonio Bastardo is also showing marked improvement from his performance in New York. Bastardo was acquired in a deal that brought him back to Pittsburgh, after half a season with the Mets, and returned Jonathon Niese to New York. Bastardo posted a 4.74 ERA in 43.2 innings with the Mets; since returning to Pittsburgh, his ERA sits at 2.41 and he’s got a 2-0 record to show for it. Stats-wise, I’d definitely say Pittsburgh came out ahead of their awkward pitcher exchange program with the Mets.
San Francisco Giants – Matt Moore/Eduardo Nunez: 3/4
The Giants stayed true to their pitcher-first, small ball mentality with the acquisition of Matt Moore. It should be noted that Moore wasn’t brought in to provide the same level of performance as guys like Johnny Cueto or Madison Bumgarner at the front of the rotation. Moore’s job is to be a guy who holds things down and keeps things close at the back of the rotation. I would say been hit-or-miss in that department. His production with the Giants sits almost exactly where it did in Tampa, a record around .500 (3-4), and an ERA in the low 4s (4.08). He’s had a mix of really good starts with really bad starts almost at random; I think if he’s able to begin to build momentum with a string of good starts heading into the postseason, then he could be in good shape.
Eduardo Nunez fits the typical depiction of a Giants position player. He’ll help the team manufacture runs via small ball, work his way on base, and make productive at-bats. Nunez is sitting with a .329 OBP, 18 RBIs, 18 runs scored, and nine stolen bases. None of these numbers are going to blow people away, but then again I think that can be said for anybody on this Giants offense. He seems to be getting more and more consistent at the plate, as well. He’s currently on a nine-game hitting streak, spanning back to September 3.
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com
St. Louis Cardinals – Zach Duke: 4
Duke has been quietly performing since the Cardinals nabbed him to help out their bullpen. While his record is 0-1, he’s allowed just three runs in 18.1 innings over 20 appearances with St. Louis. His biggest concern comes in the control department. Since coming to St. Louis, he’s walked 11 men and fanned 20. 11 walks in 18.1 innings isn’t the most optimal way to operate as a reliever, but he’s been able to play damage control thus far.
Washington Nationals – Mark Melancon: 4
The Nationals bullpen has been the bane of their existence in September/October for seemingly years now. As of right now, Melancon appears to have aided those bullpen woes in Washington. He hasn’t blown a save opportunity yet, although September has looked rockier than August. Last month he allowed just one run over 13.2 innings, posting a 0.66 ERA. This month, his ERA sits at 4.50 with four runs surrendered in eight innings. Luckily for Washington, the Nats sit ten games ahead of the Mets with 16 games to play, so if there was a time for Melancon to get the bad mojo out, it would be now.
This past Saturday, September 10th, Rich Hill was pitching a gem of a game. Hill pitched seven innings, dishing out nine K’s without giving up either a hit or walk. Hill was on the verge of throwing a perfect game, with only two innings left and sitting at only 89 pitches going into the 8th inning. Yet, amidst the potential perfection, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled Hill in favor of a reliever fresh from the pen. The move drew the ire of fans post game, as the feat of a perfect game has only occurred twenty-three times in major league history and Hill was only six outs away.
Rich Hill could make a significant impact for the Dodgers playoff run…so long as his blisters do not get worse. Photo courtesy of Mark Terrill of the AP.
Roberts did not pull Hill simply because he wanted to ruin Hill’s perfect game chances, but actually had legitimate reasons for doing so. Rich Hill has spent the past month and a half battling painful blisters on his throwing hand, making only three starts since July 17th. Every inning during the perfect performance, a trainer checked Hill’s hand to make sure the blisters were not becoming worse. The blister’s condition was the true reason Roberts pulled Hill despite his historic performance.
The situation Roberts was put in was a lose-lose situation. Leaving Hill in there could lead to another DL, or season ending stint for Hill due to inflammation of the blisters. How would Dodgers fan react if their trade deadline acquisition was going to miss the rest of the season/the playoffs because of overuse, especially since there was no guarantee that Hill could have closed out the final two innings of the game perfectly? The truth is, nobody will ever know, but what we do know is that Hill may still have a shot at pitching for the Dodgers come playoffs time, as the Dodgers currently reside in first place of the NL West with a four game lead.
Rich Hill as a young pitcher early in his career with the Cubs. Photo Courtesy of Jamie Squire of Getty Images
Hill’s career, historically, has seen a lot of bouncing around various clubs. Hill started in the rotation for the Cubs before bouncing back and forth between rotation and bullpen for the Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox again, Athletics and finally the Dodgers. Hill pitched well as a reliever, but was never really used in high leverage situations, never recording a save. 2016, however, has seen a new Hill rise from the ashes of the old one, as he started fourteen games for the Athletics, amassing an ERA of only 2.25. Hill was one of the few bright spots on the Athletics team, which led to Athletics’ GM Billy Beane moving him at the deadline for prospects.
The blister issue was known before the trade was finalized, but the Dodgers were paying for the potential Hill could provide to the rotation once healthy. The Dodgers’ rotation has been decimated by injuries already, but even healthy, Hill could still slot in to the middle of the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda. The truth is, there is no guarantee that Hill’s blisters will subside by the postseason, but monitoring and being conservative with them can give the best opportunity to help the Dodgers in the long run.
Perfect games are a rarity in baseball, with the idea of twirling one a fantasy for about all pitchers in the modern game. Rich Hill came close, going seven perfect innings for the Dodgers before being pulled after 89 pitches by the manager Dave Roberts. Roberts made the right call, however, for the good of the team, despite the backlash from baseball fans nationwide. If saving Hill’s throwing hand for two innings now can lead to two more innings in the playoffs, then I’d say it is worth it for the Dodgers, especially if he keeps pitching the way he has been all season. I mean, just check out how nasty of a curveball Hill can unleash
Rich Hill unleashing his devastating curveball to get Brad Miller looking absolutely silly, on a full count no less. GIF courtesy of giphy.com