Category Archives: Major League Baseball

The Giancarlo Sweepstakes

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Derek Jeter

When former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter became part of the ownership group that purchased the Miami Marlins earlier this year, you expected changes to be coming to South Florida. Jeter is now the Marlins CEO as well as having a 20% ownership stake in the franchise. Jeter won five World Series Championships with the Yankees as he was the greatest winner of his era in baseball. And as Jeter is seeking to change the culture for the Marlins and mold them into the Yankees of the South, he is evaluating each and every player on the roster that he inherited.

One thing that the Marlins can hang their hats on is that they have one of the game’s best power hitters on their roster in outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. For eight years Stanton has morphed into the best power hitter that the Marlins have had in their 25 years as a Major League Baseball franchise. Stanton has 267 career home runs which was paced by his record setting 2017 campaign.

Giancarlo Stanton

This past season Stanton led Major League Baseball in home runs with 59 and in the process he became the first player in Marlins franchise history to be named as the National League’s MVP. On the surface Stanton appears to be the quintessential player for the Marlins to build their team around. At 6’5″, 245 lbs., Stanton is an imposing figure as a power hitter, and when he is hot at the plate, there is nobody like him in baseball. But those attributes have not guaranteed Stanton a spot on the Marlins roster for 2018.

In 2014, Stanton signed a lucrative 13-year, $325 million extension from the Marlins. Stanton’s extension was the largest in North American sports history and it was also back loaded. In each of Stanton’s first two years of his deal, he only received $6.5 million, while this past season he earned $14.5 million. But things will change at the start of next season as he is set to earn at least $25 million in base salary per season for the remainder of the contract. Stanton also has an opt-out clause in his deal following the 2020 Major League Baseball season when he’ll be 30-years of age. And as Stanton will still be in the prime of his career, it would be prudent for him to opt-out in order to secure another big pay day. Stanton’s production as well as his hefty salary have made Jeter think twice in regards to trading him which has made things rather interesting this off-season in Miami.

If the Marlins were to trade Stanton, it would free up salary, while also putting some prospects into their system, but be careful what you ask for. In order to trade Stanton, it means that the Marlins would need a big market team to deal with. The Yankees don’t need the services of Stanton as they have their own slugger who plays right field that is chiseled out of granite in Aaron Judge who last week was named as the American League’s Rookie of the Year. And if the Marlins are completely intent on trading Stanton, he has already let it be known that he won’t accept a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals or Boston Red Sox which changes things as far as him being traded to a big market team.

But there is always the possibility of the Los Angeles Dodgers being a landing spot for Stanton. For the past few years the Dodgers have not paid attention to Major League Baseball’s luxury tax as their team payroll is consistently north of $200 million. However the Dodgers already have a right fielder in the form of Yasiel Puig. Puig is coming off of his best season as he batted .263 to go along with 28 home runs and 74 runs batted in. Unfortunately for Puig he has been an enigma during his time with the Dodgers as he has been known to lose focus at times which has led to him being suspended as well as getting into confrontations with his teammates. Puig is set to enter the final year of his contract, and the Dodgers could be looking to move on from him, while also getting a bigger power bat in their lineup.

The Dodgers were able to win 104 games this past season, while also winning the National League Pennant for the first time since 1988. However in the World Series, the Dodgers would lose to the Houston Astros in the seven games. The Dodgers hit 10 home runs during the World Series compared to 15 by the Astros. And unfortunately for the Dodgers , many of their homers during the series were of the solo variety which don’t do that much damage as they are missing that feared power hitter like Stanton in the middle of their lineup.

Acquiring Stanton would be a match made in heaven for the Dodgers. Stanton grew up in the Los Angeles area as he was born in Panorama City. Stanton is a star and his arrival in Los Angeles would be welcomed with open arms.

The Los Angeles Angels just re-signed outfielder Justin Upton, while the New York Mets have a litany of injury issues that they must address before they can think about adding any pieces. The Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Philadelphia Phillies are in full rebuilding mode, while the Chicago Cubs and Astros who have won the last two World Series Titles will each soon have to focus on re-signing their young stars. And this leaves the San Francisco Giants along with the Seattle Mariners as the only other big market clubs that could be in line to potentially acquire Stanton.

The Giants were only able to win 64 games this past season as they were tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in Major League Baseball. But the Giants have displayed a winning pedigree as they have been able to win three World Series Championships this decade. The Giants have lacked a consistent power hitter since the days of Barry Bonds. But are the Giants ready to contend again?

The Giants were 14th in the National League in batting last season (.249), on-base percentage (.309), and runs scored (639), while they were dead last in home runs with just 128. The Giants pitching staff didn’t help things either as their team earned run average of 4.50 was eighth in the N.L. Acquiring Stanton would be one piece for the Giants, but it would not be enough to instantly make them contenders once again.

As far as things go for the Mariners, they have the longest current playoff drought in Major League Baseball. You have to go back to 2001 to find the last time in which the Mariners were postseason bound. The Mariners have come close to getting back to the playoffs on several occasions, but they’ve always found a way to come up short. The Mariners have talent in the middle of their lineup with designated hitter Nelson Cruz and second baseman Robinson Cano, But as Cruz is 37-years of age, while Cano is 35, Seattle needs a younger player that can carry this team and ultimately get them to the playoffs.

It’s not a guarantee that the Marlins will trade Stanton as Jeter is only going to make a deal which is in the best interest of his club. And with the Yankees and Red Sox not expected to be involved in attempting to acquire Stanton, that bidding war won’t be as substantial. Stanton is still owed $310 million on his deal which means this if his new potential team were to take on the bulk of his salary, they would not be parting with that many prospects. And the cherry on top is that Stanton also has the ability to opt out of his current deal following the conclusion of the 2020 Major League Baseball season which is something else that teams must also account for.

This situation is far from resolved, but if Stanton is not traded by the start of spring training, expect him to spend the entirety of the upcoming Major League Baseball season in a Marlins uniform. And even if Jeter does not deal Stanton, it won’t effect the sluggers play as he understands the business side of things.

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Sixteen Years And Counting

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The 2017 Major League Baseball season came to an end earlier this month with the Houston Astros crowned as World Series Champions. The Astros along with the Los Angeles Dodgers were the two participants in this year’s Fall Classic as they each one 100 games. But the modern version of MLB’s Playoff format is different from your father’s version as parity is now the king which has seen teams who were not overwhelmingly dominant like the Astros and Dodgers were in the regular season qualify and win it all. More than ever it is a free-for-all to qualify for the playoffs as of the ten teams that made the postseason here in 2017, five of those clubs failed to qualify last year. This group was highlighted by the Minnesota Twins who lost 103 games in 2016, and became the first team in MLB history to make the playoffs immediately following a 100-loss campaign. The additional wild card spot as well as the luxury tax are two features that MLB has recently implemented in order to even the playing field. And since 2008, all but three MLB teams have failed to make the postseason with the Seattle Mariners at the top of this very short list.

You have to go back to 2001 to find the last time in which the Mariners were able to make the playoffs. That year Seattle tied the 1906 Chicago Cubs for the most single-season wins in Major League Baseball history with 116. However things would not work out for the M’s in the postseason as they were eliminated by the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series in six games. Each of the next two years would see Seattle win 93 games, but fall short of qualifying for the playoffs. And since then the opportunities have been few and far between in regards to the Mariners ending their streak.

The Mariners were consistently inconsistent this year as they finished 78-84. Injuries in the starting rotation as well as an overall lack of pitching did them in. The Mariners team earned run average of 4.46 was eighth in the American League, while their 62 quality starts were 13th. No Mariners starting pitcher made at least 30 starts this season, while starting pitcher James Paxton led the club in victories with just 12. Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings are right around the corner and for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, he’ll head to Orlando knowing that he must bolster the team’s pitching staff going forward, while also coming to grips with certain things.

Felix Hernandez

At the age of 31, starting pitcher Felix Hernandez is not the dominant force that he once was as he is beginning to break down. In 2014, Hernandez led the American in earned run average (2.14) for the second time in his career. But after Hernandez won 18 games for Seattle in 2015, his career begun to spiral downwards. Over the last two years Hernandez has only combined to make 41 starts compared to the 31 that he made in 2015. Hernandez is the Mariners all-time leader in strikeouts with 2,243, but he can no longer be counted on to be a front line starter.

There will be quality pitchers on the free agent market during the winter which includes Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jake Arrieta as well as Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish, but will Dipoto have the flexibility to spend the money?

The Mariners already have more than $113 million committed to salary next season, but they need another arm in their starting rotation as well as another bat for their lineup.

Robinson Cano

The Mariners offense was a middle of the road unit this year in the American League. Second baseman Robinson Cano is still a quality hitter, while designated hitter Nelson Cruz continues to defy the odds at the age of 37 as he led the team in home runs (39), and runs batted (119) which also led the American League. The M’s also have some additional pop in their lineup in the form of third baseman Corey Seager who belted 27 homers, while driving in 88 runs this past season. But this pop didn’t prevent the Mariners from being seventh in the A.L. this is past season in runs scored (750), while they were 10th in home runs with 200.

With an ownership change by the Miami Marlins, it has become common knowledge that they are open to trading outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton led the National League in home runs this past season with 59 as well as runs batted in with 132 en route to being named as the N.L. MVP yesterday. But with Stanton set to earn $25 million in base salary for next season, the Marlins could be ready to shop him instead of keeping a star player on a team that is a perennial loser.

Jerry Dipoto

The Mariners and Dipoto need to make a splash in order to show the rest of the American League West that they are serious about contending in 2018, as well as reigniting their fan base. The City of Seattle has rallied around the Seahawks of the National Football League in recent years as well as the Sounders of Major League Soccer. Both the Sounders and Seahawks have won league championships during this decade and the M’s cannot afford to fall any further behind them.

Giancarlo Stanton

Pulling out all of the stops to acquire Stanton would be huge for the Mariners, but will all parties be open to it as Stanton has already let it be known that he won’t accept a trade to the Boston Red Sox or St. Louis Cardinals.

The Mariners can also go the route of signing Japanese baseball player Shohei Ohtani who has starred in recent years in The Land of the Rising Sun as both a pitcher and hitter. And the Mariners organization once had success in signing a Japanese player as outfielder Ichiro Suzuki was one of the best players in the franchise’s history.

But anyway that you slice it the Winter Meetings next month will kick start a very important stretch for the Mariners. By far the M’s have the longest current playoff drought in Major League Baseball, while they along with the Washington Nationals are the only franchises to have never appeared in the World Series. Parity and the luxury tax have made it easier for clubs to get to the postseason, but that party has yet to reach the Pacific Northwest.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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2018 MLB Free Agency Projections

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It’s almost that time for the free agency sweepstakes around Major League Baseball. Next month’s Winter Meetings will be telling of how the off-season will go as deals will be made, but he is a look at some free agents and their potential landing spots during the off-season.

1. Eric Hosmer-First Baseman

In seven years with the Kansas City Royals, first baseman Eric Hosmer always had a nose for making the big play. In 2014, Hosmer came up big for the Royals in helping the franchise reach the postseason for the first time since 1985 as he would provide clutch hits coming down the stretch of the regular season as well as in the playoffs. And after the Royals fell one victory short of winning the World Series in 2014, Hosmer would emerge as a leader in 2015 to help Kansas City win it all.

In 2011, Hosmer finished third in the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award voting as he batted .293 with 19 home runs and 78 runs batted in. Hosmer is coming off of his best season at the plate as he hit .318 with 25 homers and 94 runs batted in. But Hosmer’s biggest contributions come courtesy of his solid glove at first base.

Hosmer is a four-time American League Gold Glove Award winner who acts as a vacuum at first base due to his ability to suck everything up. Hosmer just turned 28-years of age last month, and as he is in the prime of his Major League Baseball career, his glove, along with his leadership will be hot commodities on the free agent market over the winter.

Prediction: Boston Red Sox

2. Jake Arrieta-Starting Pitcher

Jake Arrieta

After starting pitcher Jake Arrieta spent the first six years of his Major League Baseball career as an afterthought, he made a name for himself in 2015. Arrieta enjoyed a breakout campaign by going 22-6 with a 1.77 earned run average to help the Cubs reach the National League Championship Series, and in the process he would take home the NL Cy Young Award. Arrieta would follow this up by going 18-8 with a 3.10 earned run average in 2016 to help the Cubs win the World Series.

But Arrieta would not be as effective this past season as he was 14-10 with an earned run average of 3.53. Arrieta has only thrown at least 200 innings in a season once as his durability comes into question. However with a thin market for starting pitchers over the winter, Arrieta should be able to cash in.

Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Yu Darvish-Starting Pitcher

In 2012, starting pitcher Yu Darvish bursted onto the Major League Baseball scene with a ton of hype. Darvish came to MLB as a prized free agent from Japan, and he would get his opportunity in the United States with the Texas Rangers who won a bidding war for his services. Darvish’s finest season with the Rangers came in 2013 when he went 13-9 with an earned run average of 2.83, while he struck out 277 batters. Darvish would finish second in the American League Cy Young Award balloting as the Rangers fell one victory short of qualifying for the playoffs.

Since then Darvish has been hampered by injuries which included him being forced to miss the entire 2015 Major League Baseball season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Darvish is an up and down pitcher, and he missed the opportunity to really solidify his chances of really striking it big in free agency.

This past July, Darvish was traded by the Rangers to the Los Angeles Dodgers as he was expected to help them with their postseason push. Darvish would make nine starts for the Dodgers during the regular season and he went 4-3 with an earned run average of 3.44. Darvish would help the Dodgers win the National League West, while they would reach the World Series for the first time since 1988. But in the World Series, Darvish would get rocked by the Houston Astros.

In two starts in the Fall Classic, Darvish would post an earned run average of 21.60 as he only managed to last 3.1 innings which included him not being able to get through 2 innings in Game 7.

Darvish is 31-years of age, and although that he has injury issues on his resume as well as a bad performance in the World Series, the lack of quality starting pitchers heading free agency will help his chance to earn a contract this winter.

Prediction: Texas Rangers

4. J.D. Martinez-Outfielder

After being an afterthought with the Houston Astros for three years, outfielder J.D. Martinez came into his own with the Detroit Tigers in 2014. That season Martinez would bat .315 to go along with 23 home runs and 76 runs batted in to help the Tigers win the American League Central. For Martinez’s career with the Tigers, he would hit .300 with 99 homers and 285 runs batted in.

The Tigers finished this past season tied with the San Francisco Giants for the worst record in Major League Baseball which resulted in them having a fire sale. In July, Martinez was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks and he would become vital to their push to the postseason.

In 62 games with the Diamondbacks, Martinez would bat .302 with 29 homers and 65 runs batted in to help Arizona reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

For the season Martinez would bat .303 with 45 home runs and 104 runs batted in as he only played in 119 games. Martinez is 30-years of age, and he picked the perfect time to get hot at the plate. However with many teams around Major League Baseball shying away from overpaying sluggers in free agency, Martinez might have a hard time finding a new team to play for in 2018.

Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks

5. Jay Bruce-Outfielder

After outfielder Jay Bruce spent nearly nine years of his Major League Baseball career with the Cincinnati Reds, he has bounced around over the last two seasons. With the Reds in the middle of a rebuild, they traded Bruce to the New York Mets in 2016. At first Bruce was ice cold at the plate as he found himself “pressing”. However Bruce would get on track coming down the stretch as he helped the Mets secure the top wild card spot in the National League.

Bruce started this past season with the Mets as in 103 games with the club, Bruce batted .256 with 29 homers and 75 runs batted in. However the injury bug would get the Mets this past season, and once they fell out of contention, Bruce and his expiring contract became expendable. The Mets would trade Bruce to the Cleveland Indians and in 48 games with the club, he would hit 7 homers, while driving in 26 runs to help Cleveland win the American League Central for a second consecutive year.

Bruce will be 31-years of age when the 2018 Major League Baseball season rolls around, and he falls into the category of a player that can used in multiple roles. Bruce is primarily a right fielder, but he can play first base, as well as being a designated hitter for an American League club which will make the pursuit of him during the winter rather interesting.

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels

6. Wade Davis-Relief Pitcher

After Wade Davis spent the first five years of his Major League Baseball career as an up and down starting pitcher, he found his true calling in 2014 as a relief pitcher. Late in the 2015 MLB season, Davis became the full-time closer for the Kansas City Royals after an injury sidelined relief pitcher Greg Holland. Davis would save 17 games for the Royals and he came up big during the postseason as Kansas City was able to win their first World Series Title since 1985. Davis would save 27 more games for the Royals in 2016 before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs prior to the start the 2017 MLB season. With the Cubs, Davis was able to save 32 games as he helped them win the National League Central.

Wade Davis

Now Davis will hit free agency at the age of 32, while he is one of the premier closers in the game. Davis won’t get a long-term deal, but you can bank on him getting a contract within the three-to-four year window. And with the importance of a needing strong bullpen being more prevalent than ever, Davis should get paid handsomely this off-season.

Prediction: Houston Astros

7. Mike Moustaksas-Third BasemanĀ 

This list is littered with players who helped the Kansas City Royals win the World Series Championship in 2015, while also suiting up for the club this past season. And you can add another player to that list in third baseman Mike Moustakas. Moustakas was the second overall pick of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft by the Royals and he has been with the big club regularly since 2011. Moustakas struggled to begin the 2014 season which resulted in him being demoted to Triple-A, but upon returning to the Royals, he was a different player.

Moustakas batted .284 with 22 homers and 84 runs batted in during the 2015 Major League Baseball season to help the Royals win the World Series. And after an injury plagued 2016 season, Moustakas came back very strong in 2017 to have the best year of his career. Moustaskas batted .272 to go along with 38 home runs and 85 runs batted in while also earning his second All-Star Game appearance.

Moustakas 29-years of age, and although he is not a player that can carry a team, he is someone who’ll fit nicely into the middle of the lineup for a contender, while also giving them leadership as well as championship experience.

Prediction: Los Angeles Angels/San Francisco Giants

8. Neil Walker-Second Baseman

Throughout the nine-year Major League Baseball career of second baseman Neil Walker, he has been “Steady Eddie”. Walker has a career batting average of .272 to go along with averaging 20 homers and 80 runs batted in per season. And aside from being a solid hitter, Walker backs this up with a good glove in the field.

The last two years have been injury filled for Walker as he has combined to miss 98 games. And even though that Walker is 32-years of age, the fact that he can contribute to a team at the plate as well as in the field will lead to him finding a new franchise to play for this winter.

Prediction: New York Mets

9.Eduardo Nunez-Shortstop/Third Baseman

Eduardo Nunez

There are not that many quality utility players around Major League Baseball which means that when a solid one comes down the pike, he will be in demand. Infielder Eduardo Nunez has been in MLB since 2010 and he has bounced around as he has suited up for three different teams. But with Nunez’s ability to play shortstop, second base, and third base, teams will love to have his services and versatility.

Prediction: Boston Red Sox

 

10. Lorenzo Cain-Outfielder

Lorenzo Cain

Lorenzo Cain is another one of those players that was a key contributor to the success of the Kansas City Royals, but now it is time for him to hit free agency. In eight Major League Baseball seasons, Cain is a lifetime hitter who can provide a contender with leadership in the clubhouse as well as a solid glove in the outfield who can play multiple positions.

Prediction: Cleveland Indians/New York Mets

Source: Baseball-reference.com

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The Astros Blueprint For Rebuilding

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Six years ago things were looking bleak for the Houston Astros. The Astros were losing money which led to their team owner Drayton McLane selling the team. In 2011, Jim Crane would purchase the Astros for $680 million while also taking on debt as well as accepting the fact that Houston would switch from the National League to the American League in 2013. Crane knew that it would not be a quick turnaround for his Astros as they lost at least 100 games in each season from 2011-2013.

Jeff Luhnow

Upon taking over the Astros, Crane hired Jeff Luhnow to be the team’s general manager. Luhnow understood that the Astros were starting over from scratch and focused on drafting, while also developing those players in Houston’s minor-league system.

Upon taking over in Houston, Luhnow inherited starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and second baseman Jose Altuve who would develop into cornerstones for the Astros. Keuchel would be drafted by the Astros in 2009, and he’d make his Major League Baseball debut in 2012. By 2015, Keuchel would win 20 games and in the process he would be named as the American League Cy Young Award winner.

For Altuve, he had to work his way onto the big stage through a tougher route. Altuve tried out for the Astros in his native Venezuela, but he didn’t received a contract as he was dubbed to be too short at 5’6″. Altuve would not give up and came back for another tryout with the Astros and this time he was signed by the team in 2007.

Jose Altuve

Like Keuchel, Altuve worked his way up through the Astros system and he was ready for his debut with the big club in 2011. Altuve was the only bright spot for the Astros during their lean years due to his prowess for being a solid contact hitter. In each of Altuve’s full seasons with the Astros, he has led the club hits, while he has exceeded the 200 mark in hits in each of the last four years as he has led the American League in that category.

But Keuchel and Altuve alone could not make the Astros respectable as Luhnow would continue to come away from the Major League Baseball Draft smelling like a rose.

In 2012, Luhnow’s first draft choice was used on shortstop Carlos Correa who rose through the Astros system with outfielder George Springer who was selected in the first round in 2011. Springer would make his debut with the Astros in 2014, while Correa would follow suit in 2015 as things were beginning to come together in Houston.

By 2015, the Astros were playoff bound for the first time since 2005, and in the postseason they fell one victory shy of knocking off the eventual World Series Champion Kansas City Royals in the American League Divisional Series.

The Astros failed to make the playoffs in 2016 as things never came together for them, but with their core set, it was now time to just add a few pieces in order to make a run at a championship in 2017.

After an 84-78 campaign in 2016, Luhnow sought out to get Houston back to the postseason and his big moves last winter were to acquire catcher Brian McCann from the New York Yankees as well as signing designated hitter Carlos Beltran. McCann became expendable with the Yankees due to the emergence of Gary Sanchez, but he immediately found a home with Houston. Throughout McCann’s 13-year Major League Baseball career he has been known for his ability behind the plate to work with a pitching staff. In comparison to 2016, the Astros team earned run average did slightly increase during the regular season, but their opponents batting average dipped by 16 points. And most importantly, the Astros pitchers felt comfortable with McCann behind the plate.

The 2017 Major League Baseball season was the 20th one for Beltran who is a borderline Hall of Famer. At 40-years of age, Beltran is no longer going to hit 30 homers in a season or steal 25 bases, but what he gave the young Astros this year was a veteran bat off of the bench as well as being a shoulder to lean on in the clubhouse due to his experience.

The Astros began 2017 with the right blend as they finished the month of April with a record of 16-9. Houston would keep that momentum going as by the time that the month of May finished, their record was 38-16, and in the process they were running away with the American League West. The Astros would never look back as by the time that the All-Star break rolled around, their record was 60-29 and it was now time for them to think about the postseason.

As the summer progressed, the Astros maintained their firm grip on first place in the American League West, and now it was time for them to solidify their chances to do some damage in October. This led Luhnow to pull off a huge deal just minutes away from the waiver trade deadline on August 31 when the Astros were able to acquire starting pitcher Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers.

Justin Verlander

When you think of Verlander, one of the first words to come to mind is professionalism. Verlander is one of the best pitchers of this era which included him being named as the American League’s MVP in 2011 when he won 24 games as well as leading in earned run average (2.40), strikeouts (250) to win pitching’s version of the Triple Crown. And aside from bringing a wealth of experience with him to Houston, Verlander also provided the Astros with some depth in their starting rotation behind Keuchel.

By the time that the regular season had ended, the Astros had won 101 games for their second best record in franchise history, while it was also a far cry from a team that had just lost 111 games in 2013. The Boston Red Sox may have won the American League East here in 2017, but they proved to be no match for the Astros in the American League Divisional Series as they fell in four games. The Astros would then tango with the Yanks in the American League Championship Series who took the field with house money after they had knocked off the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS after they were expected to reach the World Series for a second consecutive year.

Houston would maintain home-field advantage after winning the first two games of the series at home, but when the series shifted to the Bronx, the Astros offense didn’t make the trip as they were limited to a combined 5 runs in the road games versus the Yankees which were all losses. The Astros would then return home facing elimination, but they would outscore New York over the final two games of the series 11-1 to advance to the World Series for the second time in franchise history, while becoming the only team in Major League Baseball history to appear in the Fall Classic in both the National and American Leagues.

In the World Series, the Astros would meet the Los Angeles Dodgers who like them were faced with an ownership change several years ago which threatened to cripple the franchise’s finances. The Astros and Dodgers were evenly matched which resulted in a back and forth series that was a classic. And like a good boxing match, both the Astros and Dodgers showed that they had what it took to go the distance, but since Houston could not win via the knockout, they had to settle for winning on points.

The Astros defeated the Dodgers for their first World Series Championship and they did it by seizing the moment. Just like it was when the Astros faced the Red Sox and the Yankees, Houston was not fazed by the rich tradition of the Dodgers. The Astros were able to get to the Dodgers bullpen which up until the World Series had been tough to score runs against. But Houston found away to crack the spell and importantly Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen as they would rally for key victories in Games 2 and 5 as each win would be a turning point in the series for the Astros.

The Astros have spent the past few years picking early in the draft and their stars came to the forefront when it mattered the most. In the World Series, Springer batted .379 to go along with 5 home runs and 7 runs batted in to be named as the World Series MVP. And Springer would save his biggest hit for Game 7 when he belted a two-run homer off of Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish in the second inning to put Houston ahead 5-0 which all but made their victory a formality.

Alex Bregman

Third baseman Alex Bregman was the second overall pick of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft and ever since he joined the big club in 2016, he has provided some slick fielding at the hot corner which was on display throughout the World Series as he consistently made key plays with his glove that prevented the Dodgers from scoring runs.

During the regular season Altuve led the American League in batting for the third time in the last four years, but he struggled at the plate during the World Series as he only batted .194. However when it mattered the most Altuve came up with big hits which included a game-tying three-run homer off of Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda in the fifth inning of Game 5.

The Astros bullpen had been shaky in the American League Championship Series versus the Yankees which carried over to the World Series as relief pitcher Ken Giles finished the Fall Classic with an earned run average of 27.00. But for Astros manager A.J. Hinch he was able to lean on a pair of the team’s starting pitchers to be a force coming out of the bullpen in October.

Starting pitchers Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined to win 21 games for the Astros during the regular season, but when the postseason rolls around the philosophy changes as it is simply “whatever it takes”. In Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, Morton limited the Yankees to just a pair of hits over five innings, while McCullers would finish them off by going the final four innings without surrendering a run. In Game 7 of the World Series, McCullers was shaky through 2 1/3 innings as the starter for Astros which led to Hinch pulling him. But it was Morton who sealed the deal by shutting down the Dodgers lineup over the final four innings of the contest. And as the majority of the 56,000 fans that filed into Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night anticipated a championship for the home team, it was the Astros who foiled those plans.

So now things have come full circle for an Astros organization that just five years ago was an afterthought. The Astros didn’t do it by having press conferences in order to announce the signings of marquee free agents as they simply went under the radar and focused on building from within. Having early picks is one thing, but it comes down to making the most of those selections which is exactly what the Astros did. Each championship team has the support of the respective city that they call home, but it meant a little bit more to the Astros this year as the City of Houston is still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey over the summer. And although that there are those who lost their lives as well as those who lost most or all of their personal belongings, the Astros have given the ones who survived something to put a smile on their faces.

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What To Watch For In The 2017 World Series

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It’s almost time for the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers to get it on in the World Series.

 

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