Tag Archives: Jake Arrieta

2018 MLB Free Agency Projections

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

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 Baseman 

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

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

A World Series Hangover

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

When the 2016 Major League Baseball season concluded, the Chicago Cubs were able to do something that no one in their current fan base had previously been able to enjoy. The Cubs World Series Championship marked the first time that they had won it all since 1908 and thus they became rock stars within the Windy City. Every place that the Cubs went they were adored and given the red carpet treatment. The love affair with the Cubs would continue this year in spring training as they were selling out the majority of their exhibition games. And when the regular season began last month, the Cubs were able to raise their World Series banner, while also receiving exquisite World Series rings. But one of the questions that I posed in my baseball preview for this year was whether or not that the Cubs would have a World Series hangover here in 2017; and right now it appears that they just might.

Through 43 games the Cubs find themselves with a record of 22-21 which is good for third place in the National League Central. And after the Cubs won a combined 200 games over the last two regular seasons, they are going to have to put in some work this time around.

The talent is still in place for the Cubs to be successful as they have the likes of starting pitcher Jake Arrieta, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and third baseman Kris Bryant who is the reigning National League MVP, while Joe Maddon is still the manager of this team. But after the Cubs spent this past winter hearing how good that they were from passers by along with the media constantly discussing them, they must now accept the fact that they’re going to play 162 World Series games this season just to make it back to the postseason.

In winning 103 games last year, the Cubs won the National League Central by 17.5 games, while they also went 50-25 within the division. This season the Cubs are 15-11 versus the N.L. Central and it appears that they’re going to be in for a dog fight as the teams within the division have improved in the hopes of overtaking Chicago.

The Cubs were able to win their series last week against the Cincinnati Reds whom they swept, but the same could not be said about their previous three series. The Cubs were swept at home by the New York Yankees, while they also dropped series’ versus the Colorado Rockies and St. Louis Cardinals. And when you peel back the surface and take a look into the organs and infrastructure of the 2017 version of the Cubs, the key ingredient that is missing for them is hunger.

Joe Maddon

When Maddon joined the Cubs in 2015 after nine years as the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays, he was the perfect person to lead this team that was young, hungry, and playing with house money as they all were attempting to establish themselves.The Cubs were the sweethearts in 2015 as they secured a wild card berth and made it to the National League Championship Series before being swept by the New York Mets. The Cubs would use the loss to the Mets as hunger for last year, but where will that extra desire come from this year?

The Cubs team earned run average of 3.94 is fourth in the National League, but that number is deceiving. Arrieta is 5-3, but his earned run average is 4.80, and he has been unable to get past the sixth inning in any start since April 9 as this is a far cry from a man who won the N.L. Cy Young Award in 2015. Starting pitcher Jon Lester was 19-5 last year with an earned run average of 2.44, but this time around he is 2-2 with an ERA of 3.57. In allowing relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman to leave as a free agent to re-join the Yankees, the Cubs didn’t skip a beat as they acquired relief pitcher Wade Davis from the Kansas City Royals. Davis already has 9 saves, but he could have more if the Cubs starters were handing him the ball with a lead in the ninth inning.

Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs offense is surprisingly a middle of the pack unit in spite all of their firepower. Last year the Cubs were the modern day Murderers’ Row as they decimated opposing pitching staffs. Bryant is off to another solid start as he is batting .296 with 10 home runs and 22 runs batted in. Rizzo has 8 homers and his 24 runs batted in lead the team. However Rizzo has not been consistent at the plate which is illustrated in his .222 batting average. Outfielder Kyle Schwarber is a power threat, but his batting average is south of .200. The Cubs are not getting quality production from youngsters such as infielder Addison Russell who is only batting .216, while even a dependable veteran in utility man Ben Zobrist has yet to get it going as he is only batting .252. And after the Cubs gave outfielder Jason Heyward $184 million over eight years, his signing could be one of the worst free agency deals in the franchise’s history as the oft-injured right fielder is only batting .255 with 3 homers and 17 runs batted in this season.

But little did we know of the impact that outfielder Dexter Fowler had on the Cubs lineup over the last two years. Fowler was the Cubs table setter over the last two seasons, however Chicago allowed him to hit free agency and he joined the rival Cardinals, while leaving Chicago without a guy to generate some life for their offense which is showing up this season.

The Cubs are in third place in the National League Central, but they aren’t far off of the pace as they’re only 2.5 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs definitely have a run in them due to the fact that at some point their offense should be able to get clicking and the same is true in regards to their starting pitching staff. And even if the Cubs can’t get it going, I expect their president of baseball operations in Theo Epstein to use all of his resources to make deals in order to get this team back to the postseason.

The taste of victory was very sweet for the Cubs last year, but now that their appetite has been satisfied, will they have enough left for another helping of success this season?

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

2017 National League Central Projections

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

X-Chicago Cubs 101-61

Life is good right now for the Chicago Cubs as they are set to embark on the 2017 Major League Baseball season. The Cubs are fresh off of winning their first World Series Championship since 1908, and the bad news for the rest of the National League is they might not be slowing down anytime soon.

The Cubs won the World Series with a solid blend of youngsters and veteran players as this team was skillfully crafted by their president of baseball operations in Theo Epstein. Epstein began the process of building the Cubs at the conclusion of the 2011 Major League Baseball season as he inherited a team that was one of the league’s bottom feeders. And in less than five years Epstein was able to lead the Cubs to World Series glory.

The Cubs possess arguably the best infield combination that Major League Baseball has seen since the 1970’s when the Los Angeles Dodgers had Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, and Steve Garvey, or the Cincinnati Reds of that same era with Tony Perez, Davey Concepcion, Joe Morgan, and Pete Rose. And heading into a new season, this unit will once again be the fuel of the Cubs engine.

Kris Bryant

It hasn’t taken third baseman Kris Bryant that long to establish himself as one of the game’s top players as in just two seasons, he has already been named as the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 2015, while he took home N.L. MVP honors last year. Bryant is only 25-years of age and already he has become a household name as he batted .292 with 29 home runs and 102 runs batted in. Bryant’s swing is extremely effortless as he can carry the Cubs lineup for weeks at a time. And if Bryant were to somehow slip, he can lean on Rizzo right behind him in the Cubs lineup.

Like Bryant, first baseman Anthony Rizzo batted .292 while he launched 32 home runs and drove in 109 runs. Together Rizzo and Bryant give the Cubs two of the best power bats in the National League, while giving the fans on Waveland and Sheffield Avenues plenty to cheer about.

Russell was able to hit 21 home runs last season, but he must improve his batting average which was only at .238 last season, while he also needs to cut down on the errors at shortstop where he committed 14.

Second baseman Ben Zobrist is in the midst of his second tour of duty under manager Joe Maddon as these two helped the Tampa Bay Rays win the American League Pennant in 2008. Zobrist brings a good presence to a locker room, and more importantly he knows how to win. In 2015, Zobrist was traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Kansas City Royals and he was vital in their winning the World Series. Zobrist would then become an unrestricted free agent and as he signed with Cubs, he batted .357 in the Fall Classic which led to him being the World Series MVP. And even though that Zobrist will be 36-years of age in May, expect him to once again have a solid impact on this Cubs team.

The Cubs lost outfielder Dexter Fowler in free agency as he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals, but they won’t skip a beat as they brought outfielder Jon Jay on board. Jay knows a thing or two about winning as he helped the Cardinals win the World Series Title in 2011, and he fits into that mode of those scrappy players that are willing to do anything to win which is something that every championship team needs.

Outfielder Jason Heyward needs to put his disappointing 2016 campaign behind him as he was only able to bat .230 with 7 homers and 49 runs batted in after signing a huge contract in free agency. The last two years have seen Kyle Schwarber be a man without a position as the Cubs haven’t committed to him as a catcher, while they’ve stuck him in left field. Schwarber has been like a deer in the headlights in the outfield, but as he plenty of pop in his bat, Maddon must find a place for him in this lineup.

The Cubs starting rotation is an embarrassment of riches as each starter has the potential to win at least 15 games. For the second time in the Major League Baseball career of starting pitcher Jon Lester, he won 19 games, and as he has a potent lineup to work with, he’ll still be one of the better pitchers in the National League. The last two years have seen starting pitcher Jake Arrieta combine to win 40 games. And with Arrieta scheduled to become a free agent at the end of this season, he should be locked in on the mound. The win total of starting pitcher Kyle Hendricks has increased in each of his three MLB seasons, and the sky is the limit for him after he won 16 games last year which included him leading the N.L. in earned run average at 2.13. Starting pitcher Jason Hammel has been a journeyman in MLB, but he’s coming off of his first 15-win campaign, while veteran starting John Lackey rounds out a staff that’ll it be tough to get wins against.

As a unit the Cubs led the National League in team earned run average at 3.15 last season and their bullpen will once again be difficult to deal with. Relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman came up big for the Cubs in their run to the World Series Championship. But when Chapman hit free agency and his asking price was too high for Chicago, Epstein got creative as he traded outfielder Jorge Soler to the Royals for relief pitcher Wade Davis.

Wade Davis

Davis is another former Rays player who was under Maddon, and after arms issues took away his usefulness as a starter, he has been valuable in the bullpen. Davis was lights out for the Royals in their run to the World Series Championship in 2015, and he gives Maddon a very reliable arm to close out games.

The Cubs should expect to get every team’s best punch this season due to the fact that they are the defending champs. And unless the Cubs have themselves a World Series hangover, expect this team to be right back in the hunt to go all the way.

St. Louis Cardinals 87-75

Make no mistake about it that the St. Louis Cardinals are one of Major League Baseball’s most consistent teams. Since 2000, the Cardinals have reached the postseason 12 times, while they have a pair of World Series Championships to their credit during this span. But the Cards will enter the 2017 Major League Baseball in an unfamiliar spot as they missed the postseason for the first time since 2010, however they can take solace in knowing that the last time this happened, they would win it all in the following season.

Mike Matheny

Mike Matheny is set to begin his sixth year as the manager of the Cardinals and he’s never had a losing record. For 13 years Matheny was a Major League Baseball catcher which included a five-year stint with the Cards. And that knowledge of the game has helped Matheny have success in St. Louis. What has also helped Matheny is that he can rely on one of the best catchers in MLB to lead the Cardinals pitching staff.

The last 13 Major League Baseball seasons have seen catcher Yadier Molina control things behind the plate for St. Louis. Molina is one of the best in the business as far as calling a game for the Cardinals pitching staff, while his defensive skills are second to none. Molina has been known to throw out runners who are attempting to steal on him from his knees, while he can catch players napping at first base. Molina is a lifetime .285 hitter that always tends to get the clutch hit, and the age of 34 with him set to crack the Cardinals top 20 list for all-time wins above replacement as he’s currently at 33, it’s time to give him serious consideration to one day be enshrined into Cooperstown.

Yadier Molina

Molina’s ability to call a game will come in handy for a Cardinals pitching staff that is seeking to get back on track. Last year the Cards team earned run average of 4.08 was seventh in the National League which was a drop from where this staff has typically been in recent years.

In the off-season Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak signed starting pitcher Carlos Martinez to a five-year extension that is worth $51 million. Martinez is coming off of a 16-win campaign and he can be the future of the Cards rotation if he learns how to consistently bring it every fifth day. Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright might no longer be looked at as a National League Cy Young Award candidate, but even the age of 35, he is still a quality hurler that is capable of winning 15 games. And although that there are question marks surrounding both Martinez and Wainwright, there are even bigger ones in regards to starting pitchers Mike Leake and Michael Wacha who have been up and down just like the stock market.

Last year would see relief pitcher Trevor Rosenthal lose his status as the Cardinals closer to Seung-hwan Oh. After saving 19 games and posting an earned run average of 1.92, Oh should once again be the incumbent to get the baseball from Matheny heading into the ninth inning. But if Rosenthal is able to regain the magic that saw him combine to save 93 games in 2014 and 2015, it will add depth to the bullpen in St. Louis.

Offensively the Cardinals finished third in runs scored in the National League with 779. The injury bug really got the best of St. Louis in 2016 as only two everyday players were able to appear in at least 135 games which means that there is some optimism around this squad if they can remain healthy.

Jedd Gyorko

After languishing with the San Diego Padres for three years, second baseman Jedd Gyorko appears to have found a home in St. Louis. Gyorko led the Cards in home runs last season with 30 which was also a career-high for him as he appears to be another player who has bought into the “Cardinal Way”. Three of the last four years have seen infielder Matt Carpenter be an All-Star as he is one of the scrappiest players in baseball. There’s absolutely nothing that stands out about Carpenter’s ability, but he is one of Major League Baseball’s hardest workers which has allowed him to become a cornerstone in St. Louis.

Outfielder Randal Grichuk has worked his way up through the Cardinals system and after his 24 homers last year, he could be in the mix to be an All-Star in 2017. Outfielder Stephen Piscotty was the Cardinals first round choice in 2012 and he is beginning to come into his own as he hit 22 home runs, while batting .273, and driving in 85 runs last season. And just like Grichuk, Piscotty could flirt with being an All-Star this year as both players, along with the newest Cardinal in Dexter Fowler give St. Louis plenty of range in the outfield defensively.

After the Cards missed out on the playoffs last year, I expect this organization to put forth the effort to get back to the postseason while pushing the Cubs in the National League Central.

Pittsburgh Pirates 84-78

From 2013-2015, the Pittsburgh Pirates enjoyed a level of success that they had been denied for a very long time. The Pirates enjoyed winning baseball for the first time since the early 1990’s which also saw them postseason bound. But 2016 would be a different story in Pittsburgh as the Pirates took a step back as they limped to the finish line with a record of 78-83.

Andrew McCutchen

A big reason for the Pirates struggles last season was that center fielder Andrew McCutchen had a down year. McCutchen batted a career-low .256 which is a far cry from a player who won the National League MVP Award in 2013. This off-season has seen the Pirates front office flirt with the notion of trading McCutchen which has yet to happen. But where there is smoke, there is also fire, and I do believe that McCutchen’s time with the Pirates in winding down. However if things are able to be smoothed over between McCutchen and the Pirates, this outfield has the makings of one of the better units in the N.L.

Gregor Polanco

Outfielder Gregor Polanco continues to emerge as a solid contributor after he hit a career-high 22 homers last season for the Pirates. Polanco also continues to flash the leather in the outfield, and if he’s able to get his batting average up, he should be able to increase his impact for the Bucs. Outfielder Starling Marte’s power numbers may have dipped last season, but he has become more of a consistent hitter at the plate with a batting average of .311, along with an on-base percentage of .362. And if Polanco is able to have a good balance this season between his power and consistency at the plate, the Pirates will be in business.

The Pirates pitching staff also needs to rebound after a down 2016. The Pirates team earned run average of 4.21 was ninth in the National League as they were ravaged by injuries.

No Pirates starter was able to make at least 22 starts last season and led by starting pitcher Gerrit Cole, this aspect must change if the Bucs want to flirt with getting a playoff berth. Cole won 19 games in 2015 and finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting. But Cole was never able to recover from going over the 200-inning plateau in 2015 for the first time his career as this will be something that Pittsburgh must monitor this season.

Along with Cole, there are nothing but question marks on the Pirates pitching staff which has the look of being held together by spit and glue.

With the National League Central expected to be a battle between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, it will be hard for the Pirates to not get lost in the shuffle within the division.

Milwaukee Brewers 70-92

With the recent success in the National League Central of the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers have become a forgotten franchise. The Brewers have failed to make the postseason since 2011 as they are a middle of the pack team. The Brewers currently find themselves in a rebuilding process while they also have some aging players on their roster which doesn’t leave that much room for optimism heading into the 2017 Major League Baseball season.

Craig Counsell

After taking over midway through the 2015 Major League Baseball season, Craig Counsell is set to begin his second full season as Brewers manager. The Brewers embody the kind of player that Counsell was during 15-year MLB playing career as they are a scrappy bunch that doesn’t mind being the underdogs. But does Milwaukee have a legitimate shot to be a postseason team in 2017?

As Brewers general manager David Stearns has spent the last year trading away most of the quality players, the 2017 team in Milwaukee will be unrecognizable to the casual baseball fan.

Utility man Chris Carter led the National League in home runs last year 41. However the Brewers elected to not bring him back as he joined the New York Yankees which leaves a hole in their lineup. The Brewers still have outfielder Ryan Braun who in spite of the fact that he was linked to performance-enhancing drugs earlier his career, is still one of the better players in the National League. At the age of 32, Braun was able to bat .305 last season, while hitting 30 homers. I was shocked to see that the Brewers have yet to trade Braun as he could be very beneficial to a contender. But in the interim Braun gives Milwaukee a solid veteran in the middle of their lineup as they look to stay afloat.

Jonathan Villar

One building block that the Brewers do have for the future is infielder Jonathan Villar. After being acquired from the Houston Astros, Villar was able to lead the National League in stolen bases last year with 62 as the Brewers appear to have themselves a table setter going forward.

The Brewers pitching staff only managed to get 62 quality starts last season which was 13th in the National League and there isn’t much optimism heading into the new campaign. No Brewers pitcher last season was able to throw at least 200 innings which included starting pitcher Zach Davies who led this staff with just 11 wins. And as the Brewers don’t have a prototypical ace to rely on, it will be difficult for this team to be a contender.

More than likely the Brewers won’t be a playoff team in 2017, but they will be scrappy.

Cincinnati Reds 65-97

It’s no secret that the Cincinnati Reds are in rebuilding mode as the last few years have seen them become an afterthought in the National League Central. The Reds are coming off of consecutive 90-loss seasons for the first time since 1934 and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight for the current baseball futility in Southern Ohio. Manager Bryan Price is set to begin his third season as Reds manager and as he has spent the last two years on the hot seat, he could become the scapegoat if Cincinnati is unable to get it turned around.

Joey Votto, Adam Duvall

Two of the bright spots on the Reds roster for the upcoming season are outfielder Adam Duvall and first baseman Joey Votto. Last year saw Duvall become an overnight sensation as he batted .297 with 33 home runs 103 runs batted in which led to his first All-Star Game appearance. This was Duvall’s first opportunity to become an everyday player and now it is time to see if he is ready to turn the corner and put these numbers up consistently. During the past ten years Votto has gone about his business and been the face of the franchise for the Reds as his offensive numbers put him in the mix with some of the greats who have played for this franchise. After a down 2014, Votto has once again found his groove at the plate as the former National League MVP is one of the best all-around hitters in baseball.

But as the Reds are rebuilding, it will be interesting to see how much longer that Votto will be in Cincinnati. Votto is still owed nearly $200 million on his contract which runs through 2024 and at some point you have to expect Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams to move his All-Star to a contender which would be beneficial to all parties involved.

After appearing in 159 games last season, third baseman Eugenio Suarez could be ready to become a breakout player in Cincinnati. Like Duvall, Suarez has finally gotten a consistent chance to show what he can do and he could be one of the centerpieces of the Reds rebuild. Suarez is only 25-years of age and after hitting a career-high 21 homers last season, opponents have to pay more attention to him.

But as the Reds lineup could be fun to watch, their pitching staff will once again have some questions. Last season the Reds were 14th in the National League in team earned run average (4.91), and 10th in quality stars with 67.

Starting pitcher Dan Straily led the Reds in victories last season with 14, but he was traded to the Miami Marlins in January. Starting pitcher Brandon Finnegan emerged on the Major League Baseball scene in the 2014 playoffs when he helped the Kansas City Royals win the American League Pennant. But after Finnegan was traded to the Reds, his role has been shifted to that of a starter. Finnegan does have an electric fastball, and if he is able to reach the 200-inning mark this season, there is a possibility that he could also strike out 200 batters.

Bryan Price

As the Reds more than likely will fall short of making the postseason here in 2017, I doubt that Price will be able to save his job. However the problems in Cincinnati are bigger than Price as this organization has become a train wreck.

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

October Here We Come

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

The calendar has yet to shift to the month of September, but you can all but pencil in the Chicago Cubs for a second consecutive trip to the postseason. From 2010-2014, the Cubs endured five losing seasons which included them dropping 101 games in 2012. But last year under the guidance of former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, the Cubs took the field with young phenoms such as third baseman Kris Bryant, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo as they won 97 games en route to a berth in the National League Championship Series. And although that the Cubs fell short of making the World Series last October, they entered 2016 as one of the favorites to get there, while they are doing their part to meet the expectations.

The Cubs began this year with a record of 27-8 as they’ve been the team to beat in the National League. At the All-Star break, the Cubs were 53-35 and their entire infield were voted as starters for the Midsummer Classic. The second half of the MLB season has seen the Cubs once again catch fire as they are 29-10 and they haven’t lost more than two games in a row since July 9. And as the Cubs are currently 83-47, they’ve secured their second consecutive winning season, while they have a nice cushion to work with in the N.L. Central as the St. Louis Cardinals who are 14 games back with just 35 games remaining are their closest competition. The Cubs have to feel good about themselves as they are clicking on all cylinders with an eye on reaching the World Series for the first time since 1945, and winning it all which would be the organization’s first since 1908.

Theo Epstein

The Cubs turnaround began when Theo Epstein became the team’s president of baseball operations. In October 2011, Epstein joined the Cubs after a successful run as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox which included winning a pair of World Series Championships. Epstein got the Cubs back to the basics which meant rebuilding the organization’s minor-league system through trades and drafting. Within three months with the Cubs, Epstein acquired Rizzo from the San Diego Padres in a deal that saw him part with the likes of starting pitcher Andrew Cashner. In 2013, Epstein would acquire starting pitcher Jake Arrieta from the Baltimore Orioles, and in that same year, he would use the second overall pick of the Major League Baseball Draft on Bryant. In 2014, Bryant made a blockbuster trade with the Oakland Athletics that saw the Cubs receive infielder Addison Russell as he parted with starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. And just like it was in the film Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come” as that is what Epstein has done with the Cubs.

When Epstein first arrived in Chicago, the Cubs were an organization in disarray that nobody from the outside wanted to touch with a 10-foot pole. But by the end of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, people that were associated with the sport were more than willing to catch a flight to O’Hare International Airport as the Cubs bandwagon began to grow.

Joe Maddon

Once Maddon had opted out of his contract with the Rays, he was more than willing to talk turkey with Epstein after they had battled each other in the American League East. Maddon’s style of keeping a clubhouse loose while also developing the young and talented Cubs roster was important. And once the Cubs began to show their potential last year, so did the baseball world. Last off-season the Cubs signed outfielder Jason Heyward and second baseman Ben Zobrist to contracts to give Chicago one of the deepest lineups in baseball. The Cubs also signed veteran starting pitcher John Lackey, and last month, flame throwing relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman was acquired from the New York Yankees to give Chicago a lights out closer that will be vital in the playoffs.

Now the Cubs have everything in place to make a run at the World Series as they have a powerful lineup that puts pressure on opposing pitchers. So far this year the Cubs are second in the National League in runs scored (663), third in slugging percentage (.434), and fifth in home runs (165). Bryant is becoming the superstar that most people expected him to be as he is batting .303 with 35 home runs and 89 runs batted in as he is on pace to become the first Cubs players to be named the N.L.’s MVP since Sammy Sosa in 1998. Rizzo isn’t that shabby either as he is batting .297 with 25 homers and 91 runs batted in. And the combination of Rizzo and Bryant fits right into a city such as Chicago that is very familiar with great sports tandems such as Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Jake Arrieta

Arrieta is the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and although that he more than likely won’t win 22 games like he did in 2015, he still leads the N.L. in wins with 16 as he is one of the few bona fide aces in baseball.

There’s a buzz around the Cubs that hasn’t been there for quite some time as this team’s fan base travels well on the road, while there isn’t an empty seat to find at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The Cubs are on pace for their first 100-win season since 1935, but this team will be defined by whether or not that they’ll be able to get those 11 victories in October that have eluded them for more than 100 years.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

Murderers’ Row

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

The Chicago Cubs have been romanticized in books, on television, the internet, and overall fandom. The Cubs have played their home games at Wrigley Field since 1916 as the park itself is a national treasure. But more than anything the Cubs have been deemed as the “loveable losers” of professional sports as this organization has not won the World Series since 1908, while they’ve failed to advance to the Fall Classic itself since 1945. And the Cubs have had their fare share of heartache which includes blowing the lead in the National League East in 1969 to the New York Mets, failing to win the National League Championship Series in 1984 after defeating the San Diego Padres in the first two games of the series, and of course blowing the NLCS in 2003 after taking a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Marlins. In 2008, the Cubs won 97 games which was their best season since 1945. But in spite of the Cubs having home-field advantage that October in the NL, they were swept in the first round by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But after that foray in the postseason, things would change drastically for the Cubs. In the summer of 2009, the Cubs were sold to the Ricketts family after the team was on the verge of bankruptcy. The Cubs roster would be gutted as by the 2011, they had lost 91 games. Following the 2011 Major League Baseball season, Theo Epstein would resign as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox to become the Cubs president of baseball operations. Epstein’s arrival in Chicago was met with a ton of excitement as he was the architect that helped the Red Sox win a pair of World Series Titles while ending the organization’s 86-year drought of not winning it all.

Theo Epstein

Upon joining the Cubs, Epstein would bring his assistant general manager with the Red Sox in Jed Hoyer to the Chicago to be the team’s new general manager. The duo of Epstein and Hoyer had a philosophy of starting over from scratch which meant developing the Cubs minor-league system. In 2012, the Cubs lost 101 games for the first time since 1966, which was followed by a 96-loss campaign in 2013. Over this stretch the only thing that Epstein and Hoyer did to waver from their strategy was replacing managers as in 2013, Dale Sveum got the ax as the Cubs skipper, while his replacement Rick Renteria would only last one year on the North Side of Chicago.

Both firings were surprising, but in Renteria’s case, the market for managers changed following the 2014 Major League Baseball season when Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon had tremendous success with the Rays which included leading the team to five playoff appearances in a six-year span, and the organization’s only American League Pennant in 2008. On November 2, 2014, the Cubs named Maddon as their new manager and immediately the tenor of the team changed as Epstein’s plan was beginning to come together.

Joe Maddon

Maddon inherited a young team with the Cubs, in the mode that he did with the Rays. The Cubs had lost 89 games in 2014, but they were still expected to possibly contend for a playoff berth in 2015. The youngsters for the Cubs such as first baseman Anthony Rizzo and third baseman Kris Bryant would live up to their potential and then some as Chicago would win 97 games en route to their first playoff appearance since 2008. The Cubs took home a ton of individual hardware as Maddon was named the National League’s Manager of the Year, while Bryant was the NL Rookie of the Year, and starting pitcher Jake Arrieta was named the NL Cy Young Award winner.

But as good as the Cubs were, they could not win the National League Central as that honor went to the St. Louis Cardinals who won 100 games. The NL Central was so tightly contested that the Cubs finished in third place in the division behind the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cubs would defeat the Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game before taking down the Cards in the NLDS. But the Cubs ran into a buzzsaw in the NLCS as they were swept by the New York Mets. However that didn’t stop the Cubs who still had high hopes with their core of youngsters heading into 2016.

Over the winter, the Cubs would sign veteran starting pitcher John Lackey and outfielder Jason Heyward away from the rival Cardinals, while it was a Tampa Bay reunion when utility man Ben Zobrist came to Chicago fresh off helping the Kansas City Royals win the World Series. The Cubs entered the 2016 Major League Baseball season with a loaded team that is living up to the lofty expectations that were thrust onto them.

Through 36 games the Cubs record of 27-9 is the best in Major League Baseball while they have already distanced themselves from the pack in the National League Central as the second-place Pirates are 8 games behind them.

The Cubs began 2016 by sweeping the Los Angeles Angels and they have yet to lose more than two games in a row all season long. Within the National League Central, the Cubs are 15-3 while they’ve only lost one series this season. The Cubs already have an eight-game winning streak under their belts as they’re not only well on their way to winning 100 games, but they could also become the first Cubs team to win at least 105 games since the 1907 Cubs who won 107 games en route to winning the World Series. And of course this start by the Cubs has people in the Windy City thinking about the Fall Classic and rightfully so.

Jake Arrieta

Last year the Cubs pitching staff was soley Arrieta, but things are different this year. Even though that Arrieta is 7-0 with an earned run average of 1.29, he is not the only Cubs starting pitcher that is currently sporting and ERA below 2.00. Starting pitcher Jason Hammel is 5-0 with an earned run average of 1.77 while Jon Lester is 4-2 with an ERA of 1.88. And for Lackey, he is 4-2 with an earned run average of 3.54. The Cubs team earned run average of 2.66 is the best in the National League, and if their pitching wasn’t enough, opponents still have to contend with their lineup.

The Cubs offense is leading the National League in runs scored (213), runs batted in (202), and on-base percentage (.370) as there is not a soft spot in this lineup. Rizzo is leading the Cubs in home runs with 11, while Zobrist and outfielder Dexter Fowler are each sporting batting averages above .300. After the slow start by Bryant, he is getting it going as he’s batting .275 with 6 home runs and 25 runs batted in. Injuries had slowed down Heyward upon his arrival to the Cubs, however he is currently sporting a seven-game hitting streak which has seen his batting average jumps 24 points to .236. And after finishing second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2010, Heyward has shown that he is at his best when he is a part of a deep lineup that takes pressure off of him.

The success of the Cubs has some people believing that Epstein could be the best executive in Major League Baseball right now as he has not only set the Cubs up to win right now, but also for the foreseeable future. There have been renovations to Wrigley Field which has made it more modern, while the Cubs are enjoying life with their new television deal. And what the hot start by the Cubs has done is that is gives Epstein the opportunity to sit back and evaluate his team in the case of making a minor tweak at the trade deadline which could make this team that much more dangerous in October.

The Cubs transformation is the shining example of what happens when companies put the right people in place to succeed. Epstein was given free reign to build this team, and he got himself a manager in Maddon that knows how to develop young players while keeping the atmosphere in the clubhouse loose. And now what the Cubs have is a team that enjoys coming to the ballpark on a daily basis, while their opponents dread it being that this roster doesn’t have any soft spots. The Cubs are expected to go wire-to-wire in the National League Central as they’ve established themselves as the team to beat. Now it just a matter of whether or not they’ll be able to do what no Cubs team has done since 1908, which is to win it all and “reverse the curse”.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

What To Expect In The 2015 NLCS

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

If Joe Maddon can get the Chicago Cubs, he will never have to buy around drink in the Windy City.

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

A New Day For The Cubs

facebooktwittergoogle_plus

The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of their best year since 2008. The Cubs currently have a record of 72-51 as they are on the cusp of eclipsing their win total of 73 games from last year. And only the stellar seasons of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates respectively are preventing the Cubs from being in first place in the National League Central.

Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon is in his first year as the manager of the Cubs and he’s always been known to do things a little bit differently. For nine years, Maddon was the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and during his time in Tampa, he led the Rays to their only American League Pennant in 2008 along with three additional postseason appearances. Maddon has never been a conventional manager which is perfect for a Cubs organization that is desperate to re-write their record book.

Whereas the Cubs have not made the playoffs since 2008, they have not played in the World Series since 1945 and they haven’t won the Fall Classic since 1908 as this is a franchise that is hungry for a title.

When Tom Ricketts purchased the Cubs in 2009, he looked to revitalize every aspect of the organization which included renovations to Wrigley Field which has been the team’s home ballpark since 1914. Ricketts would simply love to build a new ballpark for the Cubs, but the City of Chicago has designated Wrigley as a landmark which hasn’t stopped him from building and developing the actual team.

Theo Epstein

In 2011, the Cubs hired former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein to be their new president of baseball operations. During Epstein’s time with the Red Sox, he helped them win a pair of World Series Titles; including the team’s first championship since 1918 which was 86 years in the making. Epstein brought Jed Hoyer to Chicago with him to be the Cubs general manager after Hoyer’s stint with the Red Sox as the team’s assistant general manager. And as Epstein and Hoyer have rebuilt the Cubs minor league system, they have turned over the reigns to Maddon to get this team to the promised land.

When the Rays began their turnaround in 2008, it was Maddon that was at the helm of that young team which is once again the case for a young Cubs squad in 2015.

Anthony Rizzo

The Cubs currently have seven players on their roster as everyday players that are 26-years old or younger and they aren’t just on the roster to get coffee for the veterans. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is in his fourth season with the Cubs and he has the makings of a player that could someday become the National League MVP. This season Rizzo is batting .291 with 25 home runs and 76 runs batted in as he has become the epitome of what a cleanup hitter should do. Rookie third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant began the year in the minors as the Cubs were looking to milk all of the service time possible before calling him up. But since Bryant joined the Cubs on April 17, he has been a regular in the starting lineup as he has 20 home runs and 75 runs batted in. And aside from Rizzo and Bryant being named to the Major League Baseball All-Star Game last month, the Cubs now have two anchors in their lineup for the coming years.

But the arrival of Maddon to Chicago brought with it huge expectations although some people didn’t think that the young Cubs were ready to achieve in 2015. After several years of rebuilding, the Cubs were expected to need another year to develop, but under Maddon there time appears to be now. Although the Cubs currently own the second wild card spot in the National League, they have a strangle hold over that position as they possess a 6.5-game lead over the San Francisco Giants. The folks in Chicago are so confident in the Cubs postseason chances this year that the Cubs front office has already given season-ticket holders the opportunity to purchase playoff tickets for October.

During his time as an MLB manager, Maddon has left no stone unturned to lighten the mood in the clubhouse. During Maddon’s time with the Rays, he was infamous for having his club dress up in costumes on road trips just to lighten the team’s mood. And upon Maddon’s arrival in Chicago, he had the press there eating out of his hand as he heldd his introductory press conference at a watering hole where he promised to buy a round of drinks for everyone in attendance.

There are long suffering sports fans and then there are the folks that follow the Cubs. It’s been 106 years since the Cubs won the World Series and the next closest current title drought in Major League Baseball belongs to the Cleveland Indians who have not won the Fall Classic themselves since 1948. And aside from the drought of the Cubs, it is the bad luck that has been in place to befell them over the years which ranges from “the curse of the billy goat” to the infamous black cat incident in 1969 just to name a few. Maddon doesn’t believe in curses or jinxes, but even if he had to bring a witch doctor to change the fortunes of the Cubs, he would pony up the bread for it.

Kris Bryant

With the young bats of Rizzo and Bryant leading the Cubs lineup and a pitching staff that has the fourth lowest team earned run average in the NL as they are led by starting pitcher Jake Arrieta and his 15 wins, Chicago has what it takes to makes the playoffs. And everyone that is currently on the Cubs roster is too young and thus too immune to remember the team’s long history of futility which could be good for the North Siders come October.

facebooktwittergoogle_plus