Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cubs Come Back Around While Astros Fall Back To Earth

Another two weeks have come and gone in the 2016 Major League Baseball regular season. Normally, these are two-week reviews, but this review will essentially cover the time since the All-Star break though. Let's dive in.

The Chicago Cubs, after floundering around for most of June and early July, made several game changing moves at the trade deadline, acquiring closer Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. The Cubs are now the hottest team in baseball, and are 10-1 in their last 11 games. Chapman has been a huge difference maker for this team, giving them the closer they so desperately needed. After these moves, the Cubs are now the runaway favorites to win the World Series. The second hottest team in baseball at the moment are the Detroit Tigers, who are right behind the first place Cleveland Indians in the American League Central, just two games back. The Tigers are doing it with a mixture of offense, and Francisco Rodriguez, who has found the fountain of youth in 2016. Rodriguez has a 3.07 ERA and 32 saves on the 2016 season. The third hottest team in baseball at the moment is also in the American League Central, and this one is a surprise. The team I am referring to is the Minnesota Twins. The Twins are playing their best baseball of the season since the All-Star break, and Max Kepler has emerged as the AL rookie of the year front runner in a weak American League. Kepler is batting .259 with 15 home runs and 49 RBI's, and he has only played about ¾ of the whole season. Miguel Sano has also looked comfortable again since moving back to third base. Now it is way too little and way too late to mean anything, but it is nice for this team to play as good as they are supposed to be playing for a change.

One the flip side, the coldest team in baseball are the Houston Astros. The Astros stood silent at the trade deadline, and that decision may cost them their postseason spot. Houston is reeling, and is just 2-8 in their last 10 games. Fortunately, the real deadline general managers are concerned with is the August 31st waiver wire deadline, as that is when postseason rosters are set, so the Astros have time to correct their mistakes. They could use a starting pitcher and another bat. The other cold team right now is the Arizona Diamondbacks. 2016 has been nothing short of a nightmare for these Diamondbacks, who lost All-Star outfielder A.J. Pollock towards the end of the Spring Training. The Diamondbacks currently sit at 45-66, and are 18 out of first place.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

AL 2016 Mid-Season Review

All season long, I've been bringing you reviews every other week. Time to take a look at where we stand, division by division in the MLB.

The American League East has formed up well. The Baltimore Orioles currently lead the division with a 58-40 record overall, good for the best record in the AL. The Boston Red Sox are in second place, and surging, with a record of 55-42. The Blue Jays are right on their tail at 56-44. The Yankees, a semi-surprise, are at 51-48, and are looking to sell, for the first time in years. They already traded closer Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs. The Rays are 38-60, and fading fast. Time for Tampa Bay to finally move Evan Longoria.

The American League Central is upside down, literally. The Cleveland Indians, though to be a fourth place finisher, have stormed to the division lead with a record of 56-41. Right behind them are the Detroit Tigers, thought to finish third, with a record of 52-48. The Kansas City Royals currently stand at 48-50, and are a second half surge waiting to happen. Tied with them are the Chicago White Sox, who raced out to an early lead in May, but have come to back to earth since then. In last place are the Minnesota Twins. As I've said all season long, this is the most inexplicable phenomenon in recent memory. They have been playing much better though since mid-June. 

In the American League West we have the Texas Rangers leading the division with a record of 58-42. However, this comes with a yeah but. Yeah but, the Rangers once had an insurmountable lead over the Houston Astros, who have cut this thing down to 3.5 games. Speaking of those Astros, they are 54-45, and coming on strong. I think it's only a matter of time before they take the division lead. The Seattle Mariners are a mild surprise at 50-48, and they have a pair of MVP candidates in Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. The Oakland Athletics are 45-55, and nobody knows what direction they are going or what they are doing. The Los Angeles Angels are 44-55, and have too much of the wrong thing. In fact, rumors are now starting to surface that Mike Trout could be moved. So, to sum all of that up, if the playoffs were to start right now, this is how it would look.

East: Orioles
Central: Indians
West: Rangers
Wild Card 1: Boston Red Sox
Wild Card 2: Toronto Blue Jays

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Baseball Review 2016 All Star Break Edition

2016 All Star Break
Another two weeks in the 2016 MLB season have come and gone. The term that could be best used to describe the last two weeks in baseball is “flip the script”.

The Minnesota Twins, who have been the biggest disappointment in baseball in 2016, have been playing their best baseball of the season as we enter the All-Star break. The Twins are 9-5 in their last 14 games, including 7-2 in their last nine. They made some lineup adjustments to get to this point. Miguel Sano who began the season out in right field, spent some time on the DL with a hamstring injury. Since his return, he has been moved back to his natural position third base, and it has worked out like a charm. Sano looks so comfortable back at his natural position and is seeing the ball very well. Byung Ho-Park, the Twins big off season signing, struggled the first half of the season, so to help settle him down, was option to Triple A and the powerful switch hitting Kennys Vargas was called up to take his place. Vargas has been splitting time between DH and first base with Joe Mauer, which has worked out well. Max Kepler, the talented German kid, has been called up, and is playing well full time in right field. The Twins are not as bad of a team as their first half record shows. I think, and so do a lot of people, now that they figured some things out, they will play much better in the second half than they did in the first, as in perhaps .500 baseball the rest of the way.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are playing some great baseball without star ace Clayton Kershaw. Over their last 14, the Dodgers are 10-4, and their pitching has been just phenomenal during this stretch. During this 14 game stretch, the Dodgers have allow just 51 runs in that 14 game stretch. Also during this 14 game stretch, on five occasions the Dodgers have allowed just one run or less. Also playing better are the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates were drowning there for quite a while, but have gotten really hot the last several weeks. The Pirates are 12-4 in their last 16 games, and in the process, have chopped the Chicago Cubs lead in the NL Central in half, down to just 7.5 games.

Speaking of those Chicago Cubs, they are the coldest team in baseball at the moment, minus the Tampa Bay Rays who are a whole other conversation for a whole different day. The Cubs are just a woeful 6-15 in their last 21 games. The potential trip-up for the Cubs this season has reared it's ugly head in a major way- the bullpen. Nobody down there is pitching good right now, and they still don't have a closer. Look for them to trade for one as we move towards the trade deadline. Also getting the script flipped on them are the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are just 3-9 in their last 12 games. Of those 12 games, they have played seven against the Twins, and are just 2-5 in those 7 games. You have got to do better than that against the teams at the bottom of the divisions.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

2016 Trade Deadline Big Name Players On The Move

2016 Trade Deadline MLB
The 2016 Major League Baseball season has arrived at June, so that means it is time to start sizing up the trade deadline. This year's trade deadline will feature plenty of names, and will be focused around our very own Milwaukee Brewers. Let's dive right in.

Jonathan Lucroy- “The Jonathan Lucroy watch” is on. He could end up in several places, but the leader is Texas. Rangers GM Jon Daniels and Brewers GM David Sterns are in a blinking contest over the package the Brewers will get in return. Daniels wants to give the Brewers a “ready now” prospect. Sterns wants long range prospects, specifically teenage pitchers he can project long term. Basically, Daniels told Sterns this is what I will give you, Sterns told Daniels we have other packages from other teams that are just as good and make more sense for us. Daniels told Sterns I don't believe you. Hunker down folks, because this one isn't going to be resolved anytime soon.

Ryan Braun- Another big name being thrown around out there is Lucroy's teammate, outfielder Ryan Braun. Two years ago we all thought Braun was finished, and I even wrote post asking the question, “How will Braun be remembered?” Well, looks like we were all really wrong. Braun has return to form in 2016, proving the doubters wrong. He isn't in Milwaukee's long term plans and the fire is hot to trade him now. The Giants and Dodgers are two teams to keep an eye on.

Evan Longoria- At some point the Rays are going to have to move this man. He is the best two-way third basemen in the game, and is baseball's current iron man. The Red Sox, Astros (Who has a massive sized hole at third base), Mariners, or Mets could be interested.

Danny Valencia- The Athletics' third basemen is having a career year. So far this season, Valencia is batting .338 with 10 home runs and 25 RBI's. His value couldn't be any higher, so now would be a good time to move him. He would come cheap as well, so a lot of teams could be interested. The Royals, Indians, Mariners, and Mets could all use a third basemen right now.

Carlos Gonzalez- When healthy, the Rockies outfielder is one of the best, in the GAME. The problem is when healthy. So far, Gonzalez only has one full season in his career. So far this season though, he has stayed healthy, and is having a big season. Gonzalez is batting .298 with 14 home runs and 34 RBI's. Now would be a time to move him. The Giants, Nationals, Cubs, and Rangers could all show interest.

Mike Trout- The Angels have flirted with the idea of trading Trout away to replenish their farm. After all, they are fading fast this season and they have a bunch of old contracts that will prevent them from making any short term moves. Trout is the best in the game, and will demand a monster asking price. The Red Sox, Yankees, or Giants would all have to dump their farm to acquire him.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Indians Are Hot Now and Cubs Go Cold

Another two weeks has come and gone in the 2016 Major League Baseball season and we have quite a bit to get to so let's jump right on in.

After such a focus on a top-heavy National League all off season and the first two months into 2016, the focus has now shifted to the American League, where the three hottest teams in baseball at the moment all reside. The Houston Astros, who have been slumping all season so far, and whom everyone is has been waiting for a big breakout from, have finally pulled it off. The Astros finally lost today to the Royals, ending an eight game winning streak. Overall, the Astros are 10-2 in their last 12 games and 23-9 in their last 32 games. Over the last month, the Astros have gotten back to what they did so well last year, hitting home runs and getting outstanding work from their bullpen.

The second of these three hot teams in the American League is the Cleveland Indians. What a time it is to be a Cleveland sports fan. After Lebron James willed the Cavaliers to the NBA title, and ending five-plus decades of suffering for the city, the Indians are on FIRE right now and have surged to the top of the American League Central. The Indians have won nine in a row, and it is time for us to finally take these Young Indians seriously. The third of these three hot teams in the American League are the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are 27-8 in their last 35 games, 49-27 overall, good for the second best record in baseball at the moment, and have emerged as the odds-on favorites to win the American League. This run of success really makes the Jonathan Lucroy situation more interesting by the day, as the Rangers are the one and only team he is linked to at the moment.

Then you have the flip side of that, pretty much the entire National League. The Cubs, who have been pillaging, plundering, and taking no prisoners all season, raced out to a 47-20 record, the best in baseball a week ago. They still have the best record in baseball, but they are just 1-6 in their last seven games, and their bullpen issues are starting to surface. Rumors are now popping up linking them to the Yankees Aroldis Chapman and the Brewers Jeremy Jeffress. The Pittsburgh Pirates, at least until this weekend anyways, were the coldest team in baseball. Prior to their three game sweep of the Dodgers this weekend, the Pirates were just a woeful 2-13 in their last 15 games. Their rotation was just failing them. Time will tell if this weekend was the turning point.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Past Two Weeks of Baseball Were a "Snoozefest"

Two Weeks of Baseball 2016
It has been a very quiet two weeks in the world of baseball, so this is not going to be the most detailed review. Let's get started.

The biggest story of the last two weeks has been the play of the Chicago White Sox. After starting the 2016 season 23-10, many people were dreaming of an all-Chicago World Series between the Cubs and White Sox. The last two weeks may have changed that. After starting the season with their pants on fire, the White Sox are just 4-13 in their last 17 games, and are showing serious holes. One such hole is the starting rotation behind Chris Sale. It appears that Kenny Williams and Rich Hahn aren't going to wait for the trade deadline to try to fix this, as they are already shopping around the league looking for help. The biggest name that has come up is San Diego Padres ace James Shields, who has kind of fallen off the map in the last 18 months, and is looking to get back to the American League. Meanwhile their cross-town rival, the Chicago Cubs, are continuing to run away from everyone in the National League. The Cubs are currently riding a four game winning streak and are 33-14, the best record in all of Major League Baseball.

After a decent start, the Reds are really sputtering in recent weeks, although that was sort of expected. The Reds began the season 14-19, but are just 2-14 in their last 16 games. Their entire pitching staff is a mess, but they are just going to continue to run those guys out there and let them see if they can fix it on their own. Staying in the National League Central, the Cardinals were getting ready for the return of veteran shortstop Johnny Peralta. However they are going to stall that due to him cutting his thumb now.

Moving out to the National League West, the San Francisco Giants are the hottest team in the game right now. The Giants started the season 16-18, and were kind of stuck in first gear. The Giants have taken off in recent weeks, and are 14-2 in their last 16 games. This was expected though. The Giants are now looking like what we all thought they would look like, the team most suited to prevent the Cubs from winning their first World Series in a century. The Major League debut of the Dodgers 19-year-old phenom pitcher, Julio Arias, was short lived. After not even making it out of the 4th inning in his first start, the Dodgers quickly sent him back down to Triple A. The Dodgers are desperately searching for answers for their rotation before the Giants runaway with the National League West, which it appears is going to happen.

Outside of the White Sox, there has been nothing to talk about in the American League over the last two weeks, I will forsake reviewing the AL in this post.

Friday, May 6, 2016

First Month of Major League Baseball 2016 Brings Big Surprises

MLB 2016
Well that was an interesting month now wasn't it? The first month of the 2016 MLB season is now in the books, and there is plenty for us to digest. The two biggest surprises in a bad way from April are the starts of the Minnesota Twins and Houston Astros. Before the season began these two teams were considered playoff teams according to most. I had the Twins in the ALDS and the Astros, were well, my 2016 World Series champions. But here they are, the Astros sitting at 8-17 entering May and the Twins sitting at 7-18 entering May. Guess what? They play each other this week. At the beginning of the season, this could have been looked at as one of the highlight series of the week. Instead, it is a series between two teams that are nearing the panic button. For the Astros, it is their offense that is failing them. For the Twins, it is their starting pitching and bullpen depth that are failing them. The Twins have already called up their mega pitching prospect Jose Berrios to try to rectify some of the problem.

The two biggest positive surprises are the play of the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. The White Sox currently sit at 18-8 and own baseball's second best record. For the White Sox, Todd Frazier has been everything they could have hoped for and their pitching has been phenomenal, well above anything they could have asked for. Chris Sale has been the best pitcher in the game to begin the season. For the Phillies, they currently sit at 15-10, good for third place on the NL East behind the Mets and Nationals. The Phillies the offense has been good, especially lately, and they have won a lot of close games. Of the two, it is more likely the Phillies fade, but I expect both teams to eventually fade as the season drags along.

Another team that is off to a disappointing start according to most experts is the New York Yankees. Of all of the “contenders” to begin the season, this could have been the candidate to be the most likely to come up short though, due to their age and lack of a rotation. Problem is for the Yankees, they owe a lot of old players a lot money, and it may be time to start thinking about the future for the first time in a long time, especially with the league-wide usage of the shift, making all of those Yankee left handed hitters even less effective.

Does Clayton Kershaw really need to do everything for the Dodgers? He pitched a complete game shutout against the San Diego Padres on Sunday and drove in the game’s only run. Despite his efforts this season, the Dodgers are just 13-13. He is probably asking himself, what else do I have to do? There is a chance, a small chance, that at some point. Kershaw might say enough is enough, and ask for a trade out of Los Angeles.

As we enter May, we also begin to look at possible trade possibilities for the deadline. Two that are really heating up involve two Milwaukee Brewers, left fielder Ryan Braun and catcher Jonathan Lucroy. For Braun, he is being tagged to the Angels. But Arte Moreno, the Angels owner, doesn't want to give up the prospects and pay Braun's salary, so David Sterns may have to choose from one of the two. If I were him, I would choose the salary dump, and wash my hands of Braun so I can move on. Lucroy is being linked to the Rangers. It always has been the Rangers for Lucroy and it always will be. The only question is when does the Brewers catcher head for Arlington?