By: Noah Wright
Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
The Pirates probably outperformed most baseball fan’s expectations. They’re 2 wins away from having an above .500 season, and their first .500+ season since 2015. But this season’s success couldn’t have been done if it wasn’t for the team’s pitching staff. The bullpen has gotten plenty of attention, but the rotation is one of the most underrated rotations entering 2019, and here’s why.
The Pirates haven’t had an ace level pitcher since 2015 when they had Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano, and A.J. Burnett, but the former prospect, Jameson Taillon has finally been the pitcher The Pirates were hoping he’d eventually become. Taillon has a 3.16 ERA, 3.48 FIP, and 1.178 WHIP in 185 innings. He’s also carried a healthy 8.4 K/9 rate, while lowering his BB/9 rate from 3.1 last season to 2.2 this year. But what he has done that makes him an ace is his last 21 consecutive starts have seen him give up 3 earned runs or less, showing that he’s easily giving The Bucs a chance to win.
The #2 and #3
The #2 and #3 could probably be flipped flopped depending on who you’re asking, but I would put Trevor Williams behind Taillon for multiple reasons. Some reasons may include the fact that he has a 3.04 ERA, or 2.8 BB/9 rate, an MLB career low. Or maybe it’s because of his below .700 OPS against both left handed batters and right handed batters alike. But the real reason I would put him #2 is because of his second half performance. In 66 and two thirds innings, Williams has given The Pirates a 1.06 ERA, .990 WHIP, and 3.02 FIP post break. The third pitcher The Pirates will utilize next season is likely going to be Ivan Nova. Nova’s 4.19 ERA, or 4.57 FIP in 161 innings may not look pretty, but his 2.0 BB/9 walk rate, and one of his lowest hard hit rates (31.5) is what should be looked at. However after a DL stint back in late May, early June, Nova has gone off to record a much better looking 3.71 ERA in 99 and a third innings. His numbers would look even better if his last wasn’t one of his worst since the injury. Nova could easily be a much better pitcher if he just could control the long ball, which he’s given up 26 times.
Saying that Chris Archer is your likely #4 starters is pretty nice. Sure, Archer hasn’t been an ace since 2015, and wasn’t even one after the trade to Pittsburgh, but after a rough first few starts, Archer started to look much better in September. In his 30 innings in September, Archer went on to record a 2.70 ERA, 3.45 ERA, and 1.067 FIP. If Archer can carry that kind of performance, or at least something within the range of a 3.00-3.50 ERA, a FIP similar to that, Archer could be a very valuable asset for The Pirates, and maybe even make-up for the guys they had to give up, and the rough starts in July and August. The #5 starter will more than likely be Joe Musgrove. Musgrove, one of the pieces The Pirates picked up in The Gerrit Cole deal, has been a solid pitcher for the team. He has an overall ERA of 4.06, a decent FIP of 3.58, and WHIP of 1.179 in 115.1 innings of work, and all 19 games coming as a starter. Plus he’s been one of The Pirates best control starters. Joe lowered his walk rate from last year’s 2.3 BB/9 to 1.8 BB/9, while also giving up 18 home runs last season, to 12 home runs in more innings.
The Pirates don’t have the best rotation in The MLB or National League, but it’s one that can easily be overlooked. However if The Pirates want to win next season, their pitching staff, both bullpen and rotation, should be things to build off of next season.
By: Noah Wright
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
The St. Louis Cardinals are a team that had a good season this year, but not good enough to win the division. They’ll likely settle for a wild card spot, but there’s plenty for them to build off of throughout the off season. So how exactly could The Cardinals regain the division title in 2018? Well that’s what I’m here to talk about today in Making The Good, Great
One of the first things The Cards have to do is find a permanent closer. At the closing role, Bud Norris has done a solid job at the 9th, recording a 3.49 ERA, and high 10.5 K/9, but the ERA estimator of FIP pins him at 3.93. Plus next season he’ll be entering his age 34 season. The easiest option for them to go after to get a long term permanent closer would be flamethrowing right hander Jordan Hicks. Hicks may own a 3.32 ERA, his FIP is a touch higher at 3.62. However I think The Cardinals would like to see either improved contro (5.0 BB/9), or better strike out numbers (8.2 K/9) before they make the decision to give him the ball in the 9th. The biggest option on the free agent market is current Boston closer Craig Kimbrel, but that might be a bit of an expensive option. The next best option would probably be Jeurys Familia. Familia has pitched well with both The NY Mets and after the trade to The Oakland A’s. All in total this season, Familia has a 3.17 ERA, 2.66 FIP, and 1.239 WHIP. In 71 innings, the righty has only allowed 3 home runs, has only walked batters to a 3.5 BB/9 rate, and struck them out at a 10.4 K/9 rate. However one problem is acquiring Familia is there will likely be a bidding war for him. After all, he will be only 29 next year, and hitting the market with all-star potential, but I still think The Cardinals should be in on acquiring him. After Familia would be Cody Allen, which I think fits The Cardinals perfectly. Though he’s had a down year, Allen has shown that he can be consistently good. From the time he became one of The Indians best bullpen pieces in 2013 to last season, Allen posted a 2.59 ERA, 2.86 FIP, and 1.129 WHIP. His strikeout numbers were also pretty good at 11.9, and kept walks to a minimum (3.3 BB/9). Kelvin Herrera is another closer option The Cardinals could pursue. Herrera got of to an amazing start with The Royals, and was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball at the time of the trade. He had a 1.05 ERA, 2.69 FIP, and .818 WHIP in 25 and two thirds on an inning. Most impressively, he only walked 2 batters in 25 and two thirds of an inning with The Royals. He was then traded to The Nationals early in the season. After arriving in DC, Herrera was not nearly as effective, with a 4.34 ERA, 5.67 FIP, and 1.714 WHIP. Then The Nats placed him on The DL in late August, and he is to miss the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his foot. Even though this season has been one to forget for Herrera, he will be hitting the open market as a 29 year old with multiple years of very good relief pitching innings. On the trade market, The Orioles are all but confirmed to sell off some players, but most notably Mychal Givens. Even though Givens, like Allen, is having a bad season, he’s coming off a very successful run of consecutive very good season. Between 2015 and 2017, Givens has given The Orioles a 2.75 ERA, 3.23 FIP, and 1.107 WHIP. Plus his strikeout per walk rate was 3.31 in 183.1 innings. To add to his value Givens is controllable through 2021. The Cardinals should be able to throw together a package good enough for The Orioles to accept it.
The next thing The Cardinals need to figure out is what Jose Martinez. Martinez keeps getting playing time because of his big bat. He’s currently batting .306/.364/.461 with 17 home runs, 83 RBI’s, and has 126 wRC+ in 572 plate appearances. He’s even a good with RISP, with a .315/.356/.479 line. While his offensive output has been worth 2.6 WAR, his defense has been worth -2.0 WAR. That mainly stems from his -5 DRS at first base, and -6 DRS in right field. In a crowded infield with guys who can play defense, and hit like Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong and especially Matt Carpenter (who can also play first), The Cardinals should make the decision to try and trade Jose Martinez, preferably to an American League team where he can DH. One spot I could see them trying to trade J-Mart to, along with a few other prospects to The Orioles for Mychal Givens.
While it may be a small move, the last thing that The Cards should do to find more success is to get rid of Greg Garcia. Whether that’s by him being a throw in piece in a trade, or being flatout released is up to the team, but they have a much better version of Garcia Yairo Munoz. Munoz not only provides a greater amount of utility than Garcia, but he also younger (23 to 28 yrs. old), faster (28.1 F/PS compared to 27.3 F/PS), and has better clutch numbers (.291 avg and .914 OPS with RISP compared to a .196 avg, and .582 OPS with RISP).
The Cardinals should be right there in the division race next season, however their competition will more than likely upgrade themselves, so they must keep up. They easily have the current roster resources to do it, and enough resources to acquire a few players that could really boost their playoff chances.
By: Noah Wright
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
The Phillies were a very surprising team in 2018. No one thought that they’d even be leading The NL East for some time this year, and while they fell out of contention after The ASG break, them finishing right around or above .500 should still come as a shock. Over the off season, The Phils will likely be big spenders, but what exactly should they target to put themselves over the top? Let’s discuss that in this new series: Making The Good, Great
One of the first things The Phillies need to do is get a #2 starter. Jake Arrieta is on the decline, and some of the young guys have shown promise, but you need another reliable arm behind the potential Cy Young winner Aaron Nola. One of the easiest solutions to this is signing Patrick Corbin. Corbin has had an excellent year with The Diamondbacks, and probably the best of is career so far. He’s given The Snakes a 3.23 ERA, 2.47 FIP, and 1.056 WHIP. Plus he’s walked less (2.2 BB/9) and has struck out more batters (11.5) than he ever has in his career. Corbin will likely be sought after by other high spending clubs like The Yankees or Red Sox, and maybe even The D-backs if they really want him back, but The Phillies should be able to compete with them in terms of money. Another free agent solution is Dallas Keuchel. The left handed Astros pitcher has overall been solid, with a 3.75 ERA, 3.69 FIP, and 1.304 WHIP, but not too impressive for the usual all-star pitcher. Keuchel again has showed good control with a 2.5 BB/9 rate, and near career low .8 HR/9 rate. Plus when he’s healthy, he can provide 200+ innings a season.
The trading market side of starting pitching is fairly shallow, but there are still some decent options. The Indians’ Danny Salazar is kind of an odd man out in a rotation of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. Plus after missing some time with injury in 2017, and all of 2018, The Indians could be dangling him in trade talks. When he’s healthy, he can provide a solid mid-to-upper rotation starter. Another player The Phils could pursue in trade talks is Tigers’ Michael Fulmer. The 2016 Rookie Of The Year was an all-star for the first half of 2017, faltered in the second half, and hasn’t been the same since, but that can be party in due to injury. Before being shut down for the rest of 2018, Fulmer was pitching for a 4.69 ERA, 4.51 FIP, and 1.315 WHIP. His hard hit rate jumped to 39.4% after being around 30% throughout 2016 and ‘17. Fulmer is though controllable through 2022. These two options should be within The Phillies prospect range since they do have the prospects to make
The next thing The Phillies should do is sign Manny Machado. Phillies are already one team that fans have been pointing out as a landing place for Machado, and for good reason. The former Oriole is currently batting .296/.367/.541 with 37 home runs, and 104 RBI’s in 684 plate appearances between The Orioles and Dodgers. His overall offensive output has been worth 141 wRC+, a career high. He’s also been more willing to run with 14 stolen bases, and that base running has been pinned at 1.1 UBR. Plus, The Phillies could use a player at either third base, or shortstop. Rookies Scott Kingery, and J.P. Crawford have not been too impressive in their time in The MLB, and The Phillies could use either third baseman Maikel Franco, or second baseman Cesar Hernandez in trade talks. However if The Phils decide to sign Machado to play short, there could be some worries over his defensive ability. With The Orioles this year, he never played a single inning at third base, but at short, he was a negative defender. He was worth -18 DRS, and -1.2 defensive WAR at shortstop, but turned it around once he got traded to The Dodgers. While he’s seen some time at third base, he’s mainly played short after the trade, but a much better shortstop. So far, he’s given The Dodgers 7 DRS, and a 1.2 defensive WAR between second and third.
Within the organization, they need to find room for Rhys Hoskins at first base. The Carlos Santana signing blocked Hoskins at first, which forced them to move him to left field full time, and he’s struggled greatly. In the grass, he’s hurt the team with -25 DRS, -11.5 UZR, and -3.5 defensive WAR. His defense almost makes him a negative WAR player even though he’s batting .245/.351/.494 with 33 homers, 94 RBI’s, and 127 wRC+. His wOBA has been .361 too. And The Phillies have been trying to get Hoskins first base time by using Carlos Santana at third base more. So if The Phillies decided to sign Machado to play shortstop, and move Santana to third base, they would likely trade Maikel Franco, and then trade Cesar Hernandez and/or even J.P. Crawford.
The Phillies are right there. They could easily overtake another young and talented team in The Braves for The East Division next season. The Phillies front office should be aware that moves need to be made to give them that last push over the top. And with a large payroll to work with, there should be no reason that they should not be able to acquire some high quality ball players to improve their team.
By: Noah Wright
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Behind middle infield, The Brewers worst offensive position this year was probably catcher, but on the other end, it was probably one of their best defensive positions on the field. While the current catchers they’ve been using have been getting the job done, it’s definitely a position the team should, at the very least, look into investing in this upcoming off season.
Their Current Situation:
The Brewers could just stick with the current catching duo of Manny Pina and Erik Kratz, since that’s not been a bad duo this season. The main guy getting the lion’s share of the workload behind the plate has been Pina. He’s a light hitting catcher (like many in today’s game), batting just .249/.307/.396 with 9 home runs, and 26 RBI’s in 323 plate appearances. He’s also not helped the team in wRC+ at just 86. However that’s not why he’s on the team. He’s on the team because of his defensive ability. Pina is one of the better defensive catchers in the game, and currently has 4 DRS, and worth .8 dWAR. He has also been one to be weary if you are on base, as he’s caught 41% of runners taking off. Erik Kratz is on the team for similar reasons. His batting line of .251/.298/.383 may not be too impressive, but he’s been worth 2 DRS, .3 dWAR, and has caught 29% of runners. Kratz also provides value in his pitch framing abilities, being worth 7.5 framing runs. All told, the duo has caught 35% of runners, which is well above league average, but have combined for only a .248/.302/.338 batting line
Their Other Options?:
One of the easiest ways The Brew Crew could improve their catching situation is by signing someone on The FA market. The best option hitting the open market is Yasmani Grandal. The current Dodgers catcher provides both a big bat (24 home runs, 122 wRC+, .226 ISO) and defensive ability (7 DRS, 26% of runners caught, .5 defensive WAR). He currently has an overall slashline of .233/.344/.459. One of their other options could be current Phillie backstop Wilson Ramos. He’s had a terrific bounceback season after a down 2017. He’s been just as productive, if not more than, Grandal with the bat, batting .313/.363/.497, and 134 wRC+ in 406 PA’s between The Rays and Phillies. But his defensive ability is something that they’d have to sacrifice. While he’s not a complete liability, he’s not helping the team all that much, as he’s been worth .1 dWAR, -3 DRS, and has caught 29% of runners. One of the last options The Brewers could pursue on the FA market is Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki would definitely bring a bigger bat behind the plate, as this has been his second straight season with double digit home runs (12 in 2018). Plus he carries a solid slashline of .272/.333/.448, and wRC+ ranks him as an average to above average offensive player with 109. But signing Suzuki means sacrificing some defense. This season, he’s been OK in terms of metrics, with -4 DRS and .6 dWAR, but he’s struggled to throw runners out. His career norm is about 24%, but this season it’s dipped to 17%. Pitch framing is another thing The Brew Crew would be giving up with Suzuki, for he’s been worth -4.4 framing runs.
The trading market isn’t as deep as the FA market, but there are still some nice options out there. The most notable will be Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto. It’s pretty clear that Realmuto is one of the best, if not the best catcher in The MLB right now. His batting line of .284/.384/.498 is one of the best in The NL, and it also represents a power breakout. This is his highest slugging %, home run total of 24 and counting, RBI total of 73 and counting, and ISO of his career. J.T.’s defense is also a valuable asset. While he may only be worth -4 DRS, and .3 dWAR, he has caught 39% of runners trying to take a base off of him, which is 11% higher than the league average. His caught stealing total is high because of him having one of the best reaction/pop times in The MLB, 7th among all catchers. He’s also team controllable through 2020. One of the other options on the trading market is Royals’ Salvador Perez. Perez, like many catchers, is a very defensive heavy catcher, but he can still crank the ball. That’s indicated by his 27 home runs, and .209 ISO. However one of Perez’s biggest weaknesses is his OBP, which has dropped to a career low .273. However his glove and arm is the main attraction for Perez. He’s leading the league in caught stealing percentage again at 49%. That helps him get a 1 DRS, but a 1.4 dWAR rating. This option also gives The Brewers a good catcher for 3 years of control after 2018. However The Brewers biggest problem may be prospects in either of these trades. If rumors are true, The Marlins may be asking for a truckload of top prospects for Realmuto, but they may be able to acquire Salvador from The Royals, but that’s assuming that they won’t be asking for 2+ top 100 prospects.
Whether The Brewers decide to go with the in house options they have now, or decide to go out and acquire a new catcher, they’ll be fine either route if you ask me. Manny Pina can be a regular catcher, despite his offensive struggles, which seems to becoming a norm for some teams deciding on catcher. The Brewers going out to acquire an upgrade over Pina would definitely help, but it is not something that should be their top priority. But with the team not having that one ace starter, they will most likely turn their resources to that, rather than finding a catcher.
By: Marc Lam
Ronald C. Modra, Getty Images
In 2018, we are still seeing an evolution in pitching. Relievers are becoming significantly more important and starters are staying out less and less. The Tampa Bay Rays are a great example of this evolution, as they have pioneered the opener, a method where a reliever will begin a game, stay in for an inning or two, and then come out. In the middle of all of this, on a team predicated on relief pitching, there is Blake Snell and his magnificent 2018 season.
Snell’s dominance began this year when he was the number two starter behind Chris Archer, although that changed quickly. While Archer had early season struggles, Snell emerged as a true ace. By the all-star break he had an ERA of 2.09 and was 12-4. Despite him originally being snubbed for the all-star team, he eventually made it as Corey Kluber’s injury replacement. As 2018 went on, Snell’s dominance continued. In 169 innings Snell has a 1.97 ERA with 200 strikeouts and a 0.970 whip. His opponents have a measly .178 batting average against him. These numbers are arguably the greatest in Rays history, even topping David Price’s excellent 2012 Cy Young season. However, are these impressive numbers enough to win him the Cy Young?
For the majority of 2018 Chris Sale has been the front runner for the Cy Young, however with his recent stint on the DL, Sale could potentially lose votes for lack of innings. This should also be accounted for with Snell as well. Snell has only thrown 169 innings, a weak point for some Cy Young voters. In the history of the award no winner has ever thrown less than 200 innings. For some of the older voters this could come into play, but seeing as pitchers are throwing less and less, I think the winner could definitely throw less than 200 innings. Considering the voters love workhorses who throw lots of innings, Corey Kluber and his 203 IP could overtake Snell or Sale, however I think his raw numbers simply do not match up with either. Kluber’s 2.93 ERA and 205 strikeouts are nice, however they aren’t on the same caliber as Sale’s 229 or Snell’s 200, and both have thrown 40-50 less innings than Kluber. Another factor that could play into this is wins. While I believe that wins are completely irrelevant, there are still plenty of voters who value wins a lot. Snell’s 21 wins could sway a lot of voters, and compared to Sale’s 12 wins, this could be one of the deciding factors. Now as far as narrative goes, the Cy Young award is less about narrative than it is about raw stats. It’s not like MVP where if you are leading a great playoff team with a great story you can take the award(I’m looking at you, 2002 Miguel Tejeda). Sale has the better overall narrative, but even so Snell should take it.
Overall, I think Snell beats all of the other candidates for Cy Young. However, since he plays for a small market team in Tampa Bay, it will be hard for him to gain votes over big market pitchers like Sale. Either way, both Snell and Sale are deserving, I just think Snell deserves it a tad bit more.
By: Noah Wright
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
It’s all come down to this. The Oakland Athletics vs The New York Yankees. A David Vs Goliath like matchup for The AL Wild Card. Whoever moves on, this game should be a great game to watch. The Yankees were basically guaranteed a playoff spot to start the season, while The A’s looked close to contending, but still at least another year away from actually competing. But here we are, in the final days of September and The A’s in the second Wild Card spot. With that being said, let’s analyze these team’s likely starters for the game, relief pitching, catcher, corner infield, middle infield, outfield, and DH, and see if we can determine a winner.
The Pitching Match-up
Mike Fiers (A’s) and Luis Severino (Yankees) will likely be the starting pitching matchup for The Wild Card game, and basically sums up each team. On one end, we have a young star who’s destined to be a great starting pitcher, and on the other end, we have a little known veteran who’s just coming through. But that little known veteran should be taken seriously. Fires was a deadline move for The A’s when they acquired him from The Tigers for 2 minor league players. Since coming over to Oakland, Fiers has a 3.09 ERA, and 1.008 WHIP in 43 and two thirds innings. Plus his peferials show that he’s been a decent pitcher. With The A’s, Fiers has a low 2.1 BB/9 rate, which isn’t too surprising since he is a control pitcher, but what is surprising is that he raised his K/9 in Detroit from 6.6 to 9.1 in Oakland. However he’s not a perfect pitcher. Fires has been bitten by the long ball before, and that didn’t change in Oakland, with a 2.1 HR/9 rate. This impart made his FIP rise to 4.96, and hard hit rate go up to 38%. The Yankees will likely counter with Luis Severino. Overall this year, Sevy has had a decent season, and currently holds a 3.38 ERA, 2.95 FIP, and 1.138 WHIP. Plus he’s struck out 10.3 Batters/9, and has only walked 2.1 per 9. But Severino, though a young star in the making, isn’t flawless. Severino struggled greatly between July and August, which raised his ERA from 1.98 entering July 7th, to 3.52 entering September 12th. It really depends on which Severino shows up to the game. If the July to early September Sevy shows up, The A’s are going to jump on him quickly, and that could be a game changer. If early season Severino shows up, then The Yankees are going to be given a very good chance to win, even if Fiers is dealing too. In that match-up, I see Severino being the better pitcher. Entering the postseason hot gives Sevy the edge here, and with Fiers being home run prone, but will likely pitch in Yankee Stadium against big hitters like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, and Miguel Andujar loosens some leverage that Fiers has. While a Fiers vs Sevy match-up is the most likely, let’s look at other possibilities. Masahiro Tanaka has probably been The Yankees’ best pitcher the last month or so, but has been an opposite Severino. While Luis started the year hot, and cooled off in late summer, Tanaka got to a slow start, and has been really good at the end of summer, so if The Yankees decide to go with Tanaka, we could be looking at a similar situation to if Severino were to start. Another thing The A’s could do is start an opener, but in a game like this, I think The A’s would be a little hesitant to try something new right now. The last thing I think The A’s could possibility do is start Trevor Cahill. Cahill has been one of The A’s better starters after signing a minor league deal and with the homerun ball likely to be a factor in this game, this could be the guy The A’s go with since he has the lowest HR/9 rate among their starters that have pitched at least 100 innings (102.2), and sits at .6 right now.
At the beginning of the season, I put The Yankees at the #1 spot for best bullpen, and The A’s very low among my rankings. While I do still think The Yankees deserve a #1 spot on my list, The A’s have made many strides to improve their bullpen. Plus with the breakout of Blake Treinen, The A’s have a top 3 bullpen in The AL. Let’s start by looking at The A’s pen. Closer Blake Treinen has been one of the best closers in The MLB and for a good reason. Right now, Blake holds an ERA below 1, as he has nearly all season (.85) while his FIP sits at 1.86, and WHIP at .848. His K/9 is very high too at 11.4, while his BB/9 is at 2.5, and HR/9 is a low .2. Behind him, new acquiries Jeurys Familia, Shawn Kelly, and Fernando Rodney hold it for Treinen. Plus Yusmeiro Petit gives The A’s a utility pitcher option who can pitch multiple innings, or close it down if need be. Lou Trivino, and lefty Ryan Butcher have also provided quality innings of work for Oakland. Like I stated earlier, The Yankees have one of the best bullpens in the game as well. Their biggest bullpen weapon easily is the hard throwing Aroldis Chapman. The Cuban Missile (when healthy) is a top closer in the game, and is no different this year. In 47 innings, Chapman has given The Yanks a 2.11 ERA, 1.89 FIP, and 1.043 WHIP. Plus with only .2 HR/9 given up this season, and a 16.1 K/9, he’s definitely one of best, but if Oakland hitters are patient, they can get to him. Chapman’s one weakness is his control, as he’s given up 5.2 BB/9 this season. The Yankees have a mirid of set-up guys that would be closers on a lot of other teams. Delivering the 9th to Chapman will be one of 3 guys, Jonathan Holder, Dellin Betances, or David Robertson, all of whom have an ERA of 3.03 or lower, and a FIP lower than 3. The Yanks have a utility pitcher in the pen as well with Chad Green, who, like Petit can close games, start them, or set it up for the closer. In the end, it’s hard to decide who has the better bullpen, and these kind of games usually become bullpen games, sometimes early on. But in the end, I think The Yankees have the better bullpen. New York, while has about the same amount of depth in the pen as The A’s, it’s better quality. Rodney, Kelly, and Familia have all done decent with The A’s this season, but the trio of Betances, Robertson and Holder is better.
At the beginning of the year, it would be weird to think that there would be anyone better The Yankees could use behind the plate that wasn’t Gary Sanchez. But in September, it’s a real question to examine. In 2018, Sanchez has been bitten by the injury plague, and has only came to the plate 341 times. Plus even when he’s been healthy, he hasn’t been productive. This season has given Sanchez a .186/.297/.402 line with 16 home runs, 47 RBI’s, and worth 87 wRC+. While Sanchez has never been a gold glove level catcher,he’s given up 14 passed balls in a limited amount of time, compared to 16 passed balls in nearly 300 more innings behind the plate. He’s alsos struggled to keep runners still, catching a below league average 26% caught stealing. However, The Yankees have used a solid second option in Austin Romine, who’s batted .248/.302/.430 with 10 home runs, 39 RBI’s, and worth 96 wRC+ in 253 plate appearances. While Romine may not be super impressive offensively, his defense much out-does Sanchez’s, who’s been worth 7 DRS compared to 4, and .8 defensive WAR compared to .4. Plus Romine has caught 29% of runners trying to take a base on him. On The West Coast, The A’s have been using the catching tandem of Jonathan Lucroy and Josh Phegley for most of the season. But neither have been all that impressive. Both are batting below .250, both have an OPS below .625, and both don’t have super impressive defense. Phegley has probably been the better defender behind the plate, as he’s been worth .3 defensive WAR, 1 DRS, and has thrown out 39% of runners trying to take an extra base off of him. On the other end, Jonathan Lucroy’s defense has slowly been degrading, now at -9 DRS, -.1 defensive WAR, but still has caught 29% of runners, which is league average. When comparing each team’s options behind the plate, it’s hard to decide who has the better catcher for one game. But I think I have to go with The Yankees. Even if they use Gary Sanchez, there’s much better power potential, and if they use Romine, they get much better defense, and not too bad offense.
This is where The A’s excel, their corners. Let’s first start looking at first base for each team. Oakland clearly has the better first baseman here with Matt Olson. He’s been extremely valuable to the team both offensively, and defensively. Olson’s offensive output has been pretty above average, as he’s batted .246/.332/.452 with 27 home runs, 77 RBI’s, and worth 116 wRC+. His wOBA has also been good, sitting at .338. The first base Matt has been one of the best in The MLB defensively, as he currently is worth .6 defensive WAR, 9 DRS, and holds a 1.4 UZR. The Yankees on the other hand haven’t had a proven option at first all year. Greg Bird was injured for part of the year, and in a slump when healthy; only batting .195/.285/.383 in 305 plate appearances. They’ve also utilized a more utility option now that second baseman, Neil Walker, but neither he has been super impressive, with just a .220/.307/.346 batting line in 374 plate appearances. The Yankees best option at first has to be Luke Voit. Voit, since coming to The Yanks, has been a diamond in the rough for the team. He’s currently has 10 home runs in only 30 games, which equates to a .320/.394/.646 batting line (109 plate appearances). Even with Voit’s hot streak, I still have to go with The A’s here. They have the more proven option in Matt Olson, which gives them an edge in my book. Across the diamond, The A’s probably have a top 3 third baseman in Matt Chapman. Chappy has always been known for his defense; and still has with very impressive numbers to say the least (27 DRS, 12.1 UZR, and worth 3.3 WAR defensively); but his bat has developed into one that pitchers should worry about when he comes to the plate. He’s currently batting .283/.361/.519 with 23 home runs, 66 RBI’s, and worth 142 wRC+. Chap’s WOBA also is a healthy .375. His baserunning ability, for a big guy, has been above average as well, with a 4.9 UBR rating. However The Yankees don’t have a slouch at third base. After starting the year with Brandon Drury as the primary third baseman, The Yankees eventually started to utilize Miguel Andujar at the hot corner because of Drury’s injury and performance. But he’s proven himself worthy to stay in the line-up. Miguel is fairly similar to Chapman in terms of offensive ability. He’s batted for a .295/.329/.520 line in 566 plate appearances. Along with that, he’s blasted 25 home runs, and has driven in 84 runs, which leads all rookies. Andujar’s worth is also seen in sabermetrics like wRC+, where he’s been given a 126, and wOBA, at .358. However that’s where comparisons end for Andujar and Chapman. While The NY rookie has been worthwhile offensively, it’s his defense that hurts his game, majorly. At third base, he’s been ranked as a well below average defender with -23 DRS, -16.2 UZR, and worth -2 WAR defensively. That’s where I would give Oakland the edge. Chapman can match Andujar in every offensive category, and Chap may even be better overall offensively, but Chapman is having a better defensive season than Nolan Arenado, while Andujar is considered one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball right now. Overall on the infield corners, The A’s have the superior duo of Olson/Chapman than The Yankees duo of Voit/Andujar.
The Yankees had a solid mix of Neil Walker and Didi Gregorius up the middle entering the season, but it’s gotten even stronger since. Gregorius is putting up numbers similar to what people expected with a .268/.336/.496 batting line in 552 plate appearances. But he’s further made his presence known as one of the best offensive shortstops with 26 home runs (a career high), .227 ISO, wRC+ at 121, and getting on base at a career high rate (.336 OBP, .336 wOBA). While Gregorious may have a really good bat, it’s his defense that also stands out. He currently has -2 DRS, 3.8 UZR, and worth .7 defensive WAR at the middle infield position. On the other side of second base is The Yankees other Rookie Of The Year candidate, Gleyber Torres. The former #1 MLB Prospect has blossomed into what The Yankees were expecting, and maybe even more than anticipated. Torres rookie season has given The Yankees a .277/.344/.489 batting line in 449 plate appearances with a .354 wOBA. While that’s what they expected, it’s the 23 home runs, 123 wRC+, and .212 ISO that comes out as exceeding expectations since Torres was never a true power hitter in the minors. The second baseman is, while not super impressive, about average at his position. This season, he’s been worth 0 DRS, -5.6 UZR, and .4 defensive WAR at second. The A’s are likely going to counter with their middle infield combo of Jed Lowrie and Marcus Semien. Lowrie, the better of the two, had a fast start to the season. It even led to him getting a nod to The All Star Game as a 2B reserve. However it’s been a rough second half for the veteran second baseman as he holds just a .240/.353/.375 since then. Though overall, Jed carries a .269/.356/.450 batting line in 641 plate appearances. His home run total of 21, RBI total of 94, wRC+ worth of 124, and wOBA of .350 are all career highs. Lowrie is also a slightly above average second baseman with 1 DRS, 6.2 UZR, and worth .6 WAR defensively. On short, The A’s have deployed Marcus Semien. Semien, I would describe, is an overall average offensive player, and above average defensive player. He’s currently batting .258/.324/.382 in 668 plate appearances with double digits in home runs and stolen bases for the 4th straight season (12/14). His most useful asset this year is his defense. While Semien has struggled with the leather at short in the past two years, he’s rebounded to have 8 DRS, a 7.8 UZR, and worth 1.9 WAR defensively. Between The A’s and Yankees, The A’s have the better defense up the middle, but The Yankees have the better offensive players there as well. However, it’s not like either Gleyber or Didi have struggled with their infield defense this year. So with that, I’m giving The Yankees the edge here.
It’s easy to say that The Yankees have a top 3 outfield in all of baseball, but it’s true. Starting in left field is Brett Gardner. Gardy has never been a major contributor with the bat, but he’s still sitting around average this season with a .237/.323/.366 batting line in 579 plate appearances, and worth 90 wRC+. Plus he provides value on the base paths, and with the home run with 15 stolen bases, a 5.2 UBR rating, and 12 home runs. But where Gardner does come into play is his defense. The 2016 gold glove winner has continued to flash the leather into his age 34 season. In left field, Gardner has been worth 11 DRS, and 2 DRS in 237 innings in center field. Overall, he has a 6.5 outfield UZR, and worth 1.4 defensive WAR. In center field, The Yanks have gotten good production from a healthy Aaron Hicks. After years of inconsistent health, Hicks has finally stayed healthy for an entire year, and has produced a .245/.365/.452 line in 556 plate appearances. Along with that, he’s reached a career high 24 home runs, and 72 RBI’s. While Hicks is usually a premier defender in center, his numbers are a bit down this year, with -2 DRS, 2.5 UZR, and worth just .3 WAR defensively. We all know who mans right field for The Yankees: Aaron Judge. Sure he’s missed about a month of playing time but when he was healthy, Judge produced similar to 2017. This season, Judge has hit .279/.391/.534 with 26 home runs, and 61 RBI’s. wRC+ also posts him at 150. Judge, mostly known for his bat, has been good with the glove for a second straight year. In right field, Judge has been worth 11 DRS, 7.8 UZR, and .8 defensive WAR. The Yankees further added onto their team by adding on Andrew McCutchen who can play all 3 outfield positions. In my opinion, this is The Yankees best asset. Sure, The A’s have gotten productive seasons out of Stephen Piscotty, Chad Pinder, and Mark Canha, but compared to what The Yankees have, it’s not even close.
This is going to be a close one, but I think The A’s have the better designated hitter going into this game in the form of Khris Davis. But that’s not to rag on Giancarlo Stanton. He’s been very productive, batting .262/.338/.497 with 35 home runs, 93 RBI’s, and worth 123 wRC+. However, Khris Davis is similar to Stanton in categories like average, and OBP (.251/.329), but he’s been much better of a power hitter than Stanton. Davis has 43 home runs, 116 RBI’s, and a .542 slugging %. Davis also out ranks Stanton in wRC+ at 134, and ISO at .291.
This is going to be a very fun game to watch, regardless of who you root for. It’s the underdog vs the champion type game we’ve seen in movies, TV, and real life sports. It’s hard to root against the little guy, but I think The Yankees take this game. What’s going to come through for them is their offense, defense and bullpen. Sure they might not have the greatest infield, but when you have an outfield trio that bring the speed, power and defense that The Yankees outfield does, it’s also hard to see why The Yankees wouldn’t take it. Their bullpen has been one of the most reliable in baseball as well, so they shouldn’t have problems closing it down when it’s a close game. Plus with the depth their bullpen has, they don’t need Severino to pitch 7 scoreless, or 7 one run innings of work, so that should lift some of the reliance off of Luis’ shoulders. However it’s the playoffs. We’ve seen crazier things happen in October before, and with The As likely entering October hot, they could emerge as victors in this game as well.
By: Daniel Wilkins
KEN BLAZE/USA TODAY SPORTS
I guess we can see that consistency is seeping into the AL Central. What I mean by that is that for long stretches of time, teams like the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and others, seem to make the playoffs as a guarantee. Sure, there are many factors that go into that, like payroll, the quality of the GM, and more, but, I think we can say the Indians can join this “consistent” club.
On Saturday, the Cleveland Indians clinched the AL Central division title for the third straight year. The last time they didn’t win was in 2015, when the Royals had their incredible World Series championship run that year. Cleveland finished with a 81-80 record, finishing in third behind Minnesota, with 83 wins.
The way they clinched was quite the oddball story. Cleveland ended up driving home fifteen runs… in the first four innings. After that, neither Detroit or Cleveland managed to score, cleaning up shop with a 15-0 final score.
Mike Clevinger was Cleveland’s starter, and he threw six shutout innings, and within the shutout, was only one hit by the opposing Tigers. On the offensive side, in the first, AL MVP candidate Francisco Lindor shared a pair of consecutive shots with Michael Brantley. Yonder Alonso also hit a 2-run dinger in the bottom of the 3rd.
Cleveland finished with 18 hits, while Detroit only squeaked two into their box score. Clevinger got his 12th win of the campaign, while Detroit’s starter, Michael Fulmer, continued his unlucky season with his 12th loss, compared to his 3 wins and a 4.69 ERA.
While the Red Sox and Indians have officially clinched, four divisions remain tight for division races. In other words, we’ve gotten the two easy decisions out of the way, now it’s time for the tough battles. The Red Sox are eleven games above the Yankees, and the Indians are 16 games over second-place Minnesota, with a 67-81 record.
In the AL, a lot of teams are already either completely, or on the verge of surrendering their playoff possibilities for this season. In the AL, we know these teams don’t have a realistic shot:
You’ll most likely notice that 9 teams are theoretically October-free in the American League, while only seven teams are in the same spot for it’s opposing number. While teams in the AL are “stacked” better and more pure, the NL has three divisions racing against each other to determine a winner, and we may see all three NL counterparts settle down on a winner in the last 2 or 3 days of the year. We might possibly even see divisions being stolen in game 162, or even game 163, if needed.
In 2016, Cleveland made it to the Fall Classic to verse the Cubs and lose in seven games, and the next year, have a 2-0 lead in the ALDS versus New York wiped away and sent home to the trash bin, as the Yankees eliminated Cleveland in 5.
My question for this article’s feedback is, where will Cleveland venture in this year’s Postseason? Will they win a ring? Or will they get wringed?
By: Noah Wright
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Baseball’s sophomore slump is pretty simple to explain. Rookies who had a good year in the previous season are speculated to have bad second seasons. There was no shortage of those kind of young players in 2018. Some even were within the top 3 of Rookie Of The Year voting. Let’s look at 6 players that were majorly affected by the sophomore slump.
9/15/2018 0 Comments
By: Daniel Wilkins
PAUL SULLIVAN/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Pedro Strop, the on-and-off closer for the Cubs, racking up 13 saves for Chicago this season, has been shut down for the rest of the regular season because of a moderate strain in his left hamstring. Whether he will pitch in the playoffs is unclear, but it depends on the quality of the closer that the Cubs choose for the next 16 games.
At the start of the season, Brandon Morrow, the Cubs’ free-agent pickup, accumulated 22 saves for the club, until he was put on the disabled list on July 18 with a bone bruise in his right arm, and hasn’t been back. Reports speculate that Morrow may return as early as September 21st, for the Cubs-White Sox battle, but that day is not here yet, so we just have to see.
The Cubs, while not being at the bottom of the barrel, haven’t been very lucky with avoiding injuries. Japanese star Yu Darvish has been on the DL since late May. Drew Smyly, another free-agent signing during the offseason for Chicago, hasn’t even pitched one game in a Chicago uniform, because he’s been recovering from left elbow surgery since February. Jason Heyward has been on the 10-day DL with right hamstring tightness since August 31st.
While avoiding injuries may seem easy, Joe Maddon, the Cubs manager, has seemed to run into them a lot. With Strop’s injury, this was a prime example of that. Strop got injured because he was put in a situation that can cause a higher risk of injury.
Pedro Strop, in the top of the 10th inning, with a 4-3 lead vs. the Washington Nationals, was asked to bat. He hit a line drive to third base, resulting in Strop, who was trying to avoid a double play, was injured while running the bases. Here are three ways that this injury could’ve been easily avoided:
It’s widely agreed that this injury was easily avoidable. The Cubs, just a week or two ago, were running away with the lead, about 5 or 6 games up on second place Milwaukee. But, the Brew Crew has been on a hot streak, 8-2 in their last ten games. On the other hand, the Cubbies are only 4-6, now 1.5 games up on the rivals from Wisconsin. With Strop’s injury, the Cubs’ playoff expectations, will only get worse from here.
The big question is, who will be the closer moving forward? Joe Maddon has said that he will work things based off of game situations, so, in that case he as a few options, and I’ve ranked them from best to worst.
By: Noah Wright
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
The Atlanta Braves have utilized Johan Camargo at third base for most of the season, and he’s probably exceed expectations. After a solid rookie campaign, Camargo has developed some power that he didn’t really show in 2017. Coming into the final weeks of the season, Johan is batting .274/.354/.468 with 18 home runs, and 70 RBI’s. Plus he’s racked up 120 wRC+, a .353 wOBA, and a 3.3 WAR (according to baseball reference). On the defensive spectrum, he’s been pretty good at the hot corner with 5 DRS, 3.8 UZR, and worth .9 defensive WAR. If he entered the season as the starting third baseman, Camargo probably would have reached 20+ home runs by now. However, he’s kind of thrown a question mark in future hot corner plans. Top 3rd base prospect Austin Riley, 21, has been tearing it up through the minors. He’s currently batting .294/.360/.522 with 19 home runs and 70 RBI’s. He’s also been rated as a decent defender at third as well. With Riley’s rise, and Camargo’s breakout, this will lead the team to make a decision in the off season on what to do at the hot corner. Let’s look at some of the following things they could do to fix this.
One of the first things that I could see them doing is shopping Dansby Swanson around. Aside from 2016, Dansby has struggled with the bat in the majors. This season, he’s only batting .241/.301/.404 with 14 home runs, 58 RBI’s, and only worth 80 wRC+. However he may have just gotten unlucky, for he has a .293 BABIP. Though on the other side, Swanson is a top defensive shortstop. He’s been worth 10 DRS, 3.4 UZR, and 1.7 defensive WAR. His defensive prowess, him being 25 next year, and the fact that he was a former top 5 prospect still gives him some value. Plus Camargo can move to shortstop, making room for Austin Riley at third base.
Another move I could see them do with Swanson is moving him off of short. His defensive and athletic ability could make him a bit versatile and could be used as a SS/2B/3B defensive replacement. He may even be able to play a decent left field/center field, since he does have the speed to do so (29.5 feet per second). Swanson could also provide another clutch bat, along with Charlie Culberson, off the bench. This season, the young infielder has a .271/.392/.453 batting line with RISP, and .290/.369/.505 line with men on base.
The least likely thing that The Braves would probably do is trade Austin Riley, but it still be on the table of possibilities. A team looking to stock up on top prospects would definitely give up something decent for a guy like Riley. If The Braves do decide to go down this route, one team that they could try and shop him off to is The Tigers. In return, The Braves may even be able to get Michael Fulmer. Maybe if The Mets decide to go full rebuild, they could snag one of their decent starters if they’re willing to trade within the same division. Even though The Braves did just extend Tyler Flowers, catcher is probably one of their weaker positions, they do have more than enough prospects to trade for inter-league division rival catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Entering 2019, The Braves are going to have to do something with all the options they have at third. They could go multiple routes: trade Dansby Swanson and move Johan Camargo to short, make Swanson a super-utility man, or trade for an elite player by dealing elite third base prospect Austin Riley. I do think the most likely thing that they will do is make Dansby Swanson a utility guy. I don’t think The Braves would be willing to straight away give up on Swanson to the point on where they’d trade him, and I also don’t think The Braves would be too willing to trade Riley, even if he can bring back a decent piece. Making Swanson a utility guy and bat off the bench, and moving Camargo to short leaves Riley with less pressure since The Braves do have a solid back-up plan (moving Johan Camargo back to third base, and making Swanson the regular shortstop again), in the event that Riley struggles in his first big league stint.
By: Noah Wright
(Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
Adam Lind had one of the best offensive seasons of his career in 2017, and has yet to play a game in 2018. After an amazing season in where Adam Lind played a big role for The Nationals bench, Lind hit the free agent market, and it seemed he’d land somewhere; maybe as a bench or platoon bat, or even a starting player on a rebuilding team. However Adam Lind was a victim of the off season free agent freeze, an oversaturated market, and led to him being the most unjust doing of 2018.
To start with this story, we have to see how Adam Lind got to this point of 2018. The long time corner first base and corner outfield for The Blue Jays had a productive season with The Brewers, but then had a career worst season with The Mariners, but did still provide 20 home runs. After the 2016 season, Lind had to settle for a cheap one year deal with The Washington Nationals. The Nationals wanted a solid backup option if the oft-injured Ryan Zimmerman did get hurt, but with him healthy for the entire season, Lind was regulated to a bench role, but that’s ok. Adam hit .303/.362/.513 with 14 home runs, 59 RBI’s, and worth 120 wRC+, and .363 wOBA in only 301 plate appearances. Plus he provided utility at first base, and left field. Lind also clutched up when it came time to drive a guy in that was RISP. He had a .258/.336/.516 batting line with RISP, and .325/.384/.675 line with runners on base. However, his performance warranted at least a minor league contract.
So when off season time came around, Lind entered the market at 34 years of age. There were plenty of teams that could use a first base option. One was The Cleveland Indians who lost Carlos Santana in FA, but the team settled and signed with Yonder Alonso. Another team that could have used Lind’s services were The Twins as a DH, but went on to sign Logan Morrison. Tampa Bay was another team that could have pursued Lind, but made a swap with The Angels for C.J. Cron. However what killed Lind’s market is the position he plays. Lind is a first base/left field/DH with little speed, average glove, has an OK average, and has tons of power. With Lind, the previously mentioned Yonder Alonso, and Logan Morrison were free agents, along with Mike Napoli, Lucas Duda, Pedro Alvarez, Matt Adams, Mitch Moreland, and Todd Frazier. In the trading market, C.J. Cron (before the trade), and Ryon Healy were also options. Throw in the free agent freeze last season (like JDM signing in February), and Lind goes unsigned into spring training.
The NY Yankees signed Lind on March 2nd, a day into spring training, and he seemed to have a decent shot of making it. Greg Bird’s health and performance have been very inconsistent to say the least. Tyler Austin’s performance at the bigs has also not been great. However, Lind didn’t make the team out of ST, and released Adam on May 25th. A few days later, the rival Red Sox gave Adam another minor league contract, but went on to release him on August first.
In the end, I think The Yankees should have given him a chance. This season, first base has been their biggest weak spot in a line-up with power-houses like Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez (when healthy), and Aaron Judge (also when healthy), they could have taken the risk of having at the least platoon only bat with a veteran presence. While Bird could have done that as well, they still should have kept Lind around in case Bird got hurt again, or did not perform well when he was healthy in the majors, like he is now. But with Adam Lind exiting 2018 with not a single MLB game under his belt, this will go down as one of the biggest unjust doings in baseball within the last 10 years.
By: Noah Wright
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Catching is one of the positions on the most defensively demanding positions in all of baseball. But as we go further into the future, baseball catchers are becoming less and less of a offensive force, and being a one dimensional player, either very good offensively, or very good defensively. There are few catchers in The MLB who can do both. Let's examine some of these one-sided, and multi dimensional players, and why this is happening.
Anymore, I’d consider Buster Posey, Yadier Molina, Yasmani Grandal, J.T. Realmuto, and Wilson Contreras, as the only 5 in The MLB who are both good defensively and offensively. All of them do at least one of the following offensively consistently; Hit for power, get on base, and or hit for a decent average. Gary Sanchez is a very good offensive catcher, and can throw a runner out, but greatly struggles from blocking. While Welington Castillo has a decent bat, his defense (other than his arm) isn’t exactly standout. The same can be said about Wilson Ramos. If you list a top 10 catchers list, someone like Martin Maldonado, or Manny Pina may show up. Sure, they may not be .290 hitters, or even 20 home run guys, but they do one thing very very well; throw guys out, and extremely good defensively overall. Some other guys that fall into this category are Tucker Barnhart from The Reds, and Yan Gomes on The Indians.
So why is this happening? I think teams are realizing that catcher should be the best defensive player on the team. Plus teams are realizing that you can sacrifice some defensive and athletic ability at other positions to get some more offensive ability. That’s why there are fewer Rod Carew type players (All average, average to below average power, decent glove) at first base, and more Jose Abreu type players at first (huge bat, average to below average glove).
However this really isn’t a bad thing. A catcher’s defense should be weighed heavier than offensive ability. If you had a guy with no arm/arm accuracy behind the plate, stolen bases would happen all the time. Someone with Martin Maldonado’s athletic ability behind the plate may be more valuable than Gary Sanchez’s bat. You can surround Martin Maldonado with guys that can hit for both power, average, and get on base a decent amount, but you can’t surround Gary Sanchez with very good defensive players, and expect a similar result.
Catchers who have a big bat, and OK or better overall defense are becoming a thing of the past. Anymore, there's only 4 or 5 catchers that can really do both. But it does help teams more than an offensive one dimensional catcher.
By: Ted Rivera
Jason Miller/Getty Images
With both playoff races looking so interesting , each league has a bunch of teams who could potentially win it all. But for me there are two teams who really stand out to win it all. Both of these teams are representing opposite leagues so , with all that being said here is my 2018 World Series Prediction.
The 2018 World Series will feature the Chicago Cubs representing the National League and the Cleveland Indians in the American League. A 2016 rematch , but this time it will be filled with more bombs , more exciting plays and more exciting rosters. Both teams are extremely close in record and have stars everyone loves to watch. The Chicago Cubs (84-60) are in an extremely tight race for the division with the Milwaukee Brewers (83-63) which I believe the Cubs will win because they have performed under pressure time and time again. The Cleveland Indians (82-63) seems to already taken the division with the next best team being the Twins who have not performed to expectation this season.
With the addition of Josh Donaldson , the Indians have an infield in which they have too much talent and not enough spots. Josh Donaldson who had been our most of the season (left calf) is a former MVP and could play a legitimate role in helping the Tribe represent the American League in the World Series along with AL MVP candidates Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. On the other side the Cubs look to stay healthy and continue their nothing less than great season along with NL MVP candidate Javier Baez. If Cole Hamels continues to dominate he may be the ace of the Cubs going into October.
If the rematch does happen it could be one for the ages and could be better than 2016 which ended in extra innings in Game 7 which was no less than epic. The MLB and the fans are in for a real treat this October.
By: Ethan Cushman
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
Luke Voit. A guy who was more highly thought of as a football player but after many concussions he decided it wasn't worth it to play football. A guy who was a throw in in a trade that was meant as a roster dump for the Yankees. A guy who was never a top prospect and was always back in forth from the majors and minors on the Cardinals. A guy who has been one of the most consistent hitters in a potent Yankee lineup this year. This is Luke Voits story.
Luke Voit out of high school was drafted with in the 32nd round by the Kansas City Royals in the 2009 draft. He did not sign and instead attended Missouri state. After a full 4 fours there in his senior year he was drafted St louis Cardinals in the 22nd round. Now this may not seem like much a senior player being drafted in late round. Well yes this may make you shrug your head Luke Voits scenario was different. He grew up in St. Louis and came from a poor background. The fact that he was drafted by his hometown team was something he could not turn down.
After around a 4 and a half year career in the minors Luke Voit was doing very good. So much so that despite not being seen as a very good prospect at all really Voit was called up to the majors on June 25th 2017. He'd spend for a while going back in fourth from the majors to the minors. That is until July 29th 2018 where everything changed.
On that day Voit was traded to the New York Yankees along with international bonus money in exchange for Chasen Shreve and Giovanny Gallegos. This was just at the time was seen as a roster dump. The Yankees needed to clear out roster spots due to the Britton and Happ trades. The yankees figured we have no use for Gallegos and Shreve was out of options which means we would either needed to trade him or DFA him. So you might as well trade him for some cash to sign some more international prospects and a right handed bat with some power potential. But Luke Voit would prove he may be more than that.
Immediately following the trade Luke Voit up with the yankees and the next day 1B Tyler Austin was traded for Lance Lynn. This shows that the Yankees likely thought more highly of Voit over Austin due to them trading for one and trading the other despite them being similar players. And Luke Voit would go on to reward them for that decision.
After Luke Voits initial call up he didn't look to impressive. But then after being sent down he was recalled once more and would make an immediate impact. With Bird struggling and Voit getting hot the yankees said that they would “temporarily” platoon the lefty Bird with the Righty Voit. Since then Voit has ripped Bird from the job and as a yankee is batting .324 with a .383 OBP as well as a .972 slugging percentage and 7 HR all in 74 at bats (these stats were made before the Yankees game with the Twins Tuesday September 11th). Luke Voits incredible run has put him on the map as a potential long term candidate to fill the 1B position something that has been a hole for a while.
Now many have compared him to Shane Spencer. In case you don’t know Spencer was a September call up on the 1998 future world champion Yankees that have gone down as one of the best teams ever. With 114 wins (most by a team that won a championship) that team was so loaded but Spencer forced himself into the starting lineup. How ever his carer fell down hill after that. I don’t see that in Voit however. His former college coach has said that he is not surprised by the success he is having in regular playing time and Voit isn't surprised either. “We always knew he could hit” his college coach Keith Guttman said. He has also raved about how much his family supported him. This shows that he had the right people in his corner who believed in him but most importantly, he believed in himself. As you can see from this article Voit has gone through so many challenges but he has persevered to get where he is today. It is that attitude that makes me believe that he will have a successful long career in the majors. Message from this article. No matter your circumstances if you have the right people in your life and you believe in yourself you can accomplish what you want to.
By: Noah Wright
Most recently, MLB ready prospects aren’t receiving big league promotions, even when they’re crushing the ball in the high minor league levels. Most notably is Vlad Guerrero Jr., and Eloy Jimenez. The main reason why teams aren’t calling up these players is service time issues. You see, if The Jays and White Sox calls up Vlad and Jimenez, or other teams call-up their big time prospects now, they won’t get an extra year of control of that player. It’s all because of the new CBA. That’s also why you don’t see big time promotions right of of Spring Training,and that player gets called-up in mid-April. So with that being stated, that’s why some people see service time becoming a problem. But is it truly something we have to worry about that much?
Let’s first look at it from a the prospect’s point of view. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is probably one of the most talented prospects baseball has seen in a long time. Between double-A and Triple-A (with a 4 game sample from low-A and rookie ball), Vlad is hitting .381/.437/.636 with 20 home runs and 78 stolen bases. He was even hitting for a .402 average in double-A earlier this season. While his defense has been slightly spotty at third, he more than warrants a major league call-up. And if you’re Vlad Jr., you’re probably wondering why you didn’t get to get your sample amount of time in The Majors with a September promotion. This is one of the major points brought up by people when talking about service time issues. Stuff like this is doing a player who’s having an amazing minor league season unjustice my not giving him a call to The Bigs. While it also affects the player, it also affects the agent, a reason why some have been vocal about The CBA’s service time policy.
Now let’s take a look at it from The MLB team’s point of view. Before Josh Donaldson was traded, the team knew that Vlad would take one of 2 spots, or maybe even a third: Donaldson’s third base position, Kendrys Morales’ DH role, or potentially Justin Smoak’s first base position. If you were a guy like Morales, how would you feel with this new rookie taking over your position, and limiting you to a semi-regular role, even if you’re still a capable major league player contributing to the team positively in terms of baseball production?
The last view I want to look at is from the front office’s/owner’s point of view. From here, you can understand why they do this. The team can gain an extra year of affordable control of a young player with a high ceiling. Whether the prospect turns out good, or they floop at the major league level, the FO has no risk, especially when it’s a team that’s not in contention, to keep that player in the minors a little longer.
On the final line, I don’t think this isn’t a problem that needs to be fixed immediately. While I do think they should look into changing something with The CBA’s service time policy, I think there are other things that require more focus right now. I would rather see MLB officials work on how to keep the game popular without major changes to pace of play than service time.
By: Noah Wright
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Taking a look back at The Pirates 2018 season, it’s truly been a shocking season. I had no real expectations for this team, and thought that making .500+ would be a miracle. However, it’s now early September, and they’re sitting right at the .500 mark, and earlier in the season, even looked like competitors. Now looking ahead at the 2019 season, it’s looking a lot brighter than I thought it would 4 months ago. Now that they could potentially look like competitors next year, let’s take a look at different aspects of The Pirates team, and some problems they could take a look at over the off-season.
Catching was one of many questions entering the season, both offensively and defensively. Francisco Cervelli and Elias Diaz combined to throw out only 23% of runners trying to take a base on them, and both looked like offensive liabilities entering 2018. Diaz’s OPS was a very low .579, while Cervelli’s was an unimpressive .712. However, now it looks like The Pirates have a very good catching tandem entering next year. The veteran Cervelli currently is batting a healthy .260/.387/.432 with 11 home runs and has a 128 wRC+. Diaz has also been pretty impressive; batting .286/.336/.444 with 9 home runs and has 113 wRC+. Defense has also been sured up behind the plate, as they’ve caught 36% of runners trying to steal on them. The big question for Cervelli this season was his health. He missed most of 2016 and 2017 with injuries, but with the time share between him and Diaz, he’s been able to stay healthy most of the season, and now can rest easy some days, now that Diaz has started to prove he can be reliable behind the dish, and help Cervelli preserve his health.
Josh Bell was one of the bright spots of 2017, but hasn’t looked himself in 2018. After blasting 25 home runs, and finishing with a .800 OPS, Bell has seemed to suffer from a sophomore slump in 2018, however I do feel that he could bounce back next year in the power department, and maybe even add some batting average, as he’s been able to show the ability that he can get his average into the .260’s this season. At third base, The Pirates had a pretty good platoon of the young left handed batter Colin Moran, and right handed veteran David Freese. However, Freese was dealt at The September deadline, but The Pirates do have an upcoming option in the form of Jose Osuna. Osuna has mainly been a first baseman and corner outfielder in his time in the minors, but saw a handful of games at third base this season, and even got some good reviews there. So it seems that they’ll use a Osuna/Moran platoon at third base next season, but could bring in another option if need be.
This season, The Pirates have used Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer at second base and shortstop. While it’s no surprise that after the season, The Pirates probably won’t resign Jordy Mercer (who’s on the last year of his contract), but it is a slight surprise that they may not pick up the $10 million dollar option in Harrison’s contract. Harrison has struggled this season, both offensively and defensively, and I do see the reason why that they may heavily consider picking it up. But while any Pirate fan (including me) will be sad to see Harrison leave Pittsburgh, The Pirates have it covered with a Seinfeld Middle infield duo of Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer. Another option they can place up the middle is utility man Adam Frazier, who’s been a spark plug since being recalled from the minors.
The outfield has been one of the strong suits for The Pirates this season. The new guy, Corey Dickerson, has fit in well both offensively and defensively with The Pirates. He may have taken a dip in performance as of recently, but he’s still batting a solid .290/.319/.451, and ranks positively in DRS (13), UZR (7.2) and defensive WAR (.9). After trading McCutchen, The Pirates have utilized the speedy Starting Marte in center. Offensively, he’s been very good, batting .278/.322/.455 with 18 home runs, and 31 stolen bases. However in his new position, Marte has been decent, but not too impressive. He currently has 0 DRS, 1.6 UZR, and worth .2 defensive WAR. But a few weeks ago, there were questions about his effort level, as he’s been seen not running out ground balls, with it leading to him being benched for a few games. In right field, Gregory Polanco has actually been good this season. After a freezing cold start to the 2018 season, Polanco has batted .281/.354/.547 with 15 home runs, 56 RBI’s, and 9 stolen bases in 318 plate appearances since June. Overall, Polanco has batted .254/.340/.499 with 23 home runs, 81 RBI’s, and 12 stolen bases. One thing that Polanco needs to solve for next year is his fielding, and base running decisions. Polanco may have one of the best outfield arms in The MLB this season, but he currently is worth -1.1 defensively in right field, and has been criticized before for making many many base running errors, and the said base running errors have also been one of Marte’s weaknesses. If The Pirates can fix the base running, they can have a very good 3 in the grass.
The starting rotation has been one of The Pirates stronger suits this season. Their best pitcher this season has probably been Jameson Taillon. The 26 year old righty has played in 164 innings, and producing a 3.40 ERA, 3.57 FIP, and 1.213 WHIP. He’s also gotten better control of his pitches, lowering his walks/9 from 3.1 to 2.2. His biggest weakness has to be his ability to keep the ball in the park. He currently has a 1.0 HR/9 rate, and I feel with a bit of work and mentoring, he could probably lower that. Another impressive piece of their rotation has been Trevor Williams. Williams has pitched in 148 innings to a tune of a 3.15 ERA, and 1.177 WHIP. While his FIP may be 4.16, he could lower that by getting more control of his pitches. He currently has a 3.0 BB/9 rate, however he’s seemed to find more control recently, giving up only 17 walks, and impressively 4 earned runs in his last 54.2 innings. Their veteran starter this season has been Ivan Nova. While Nova hasn’t particularly been impressive, owning a 4.35 ERA, and 4.71 FIP, he’s only allowed 1.9 walks/9 innings. Nova could be better next season if he learns how to keep the ball in the park, like Taillon. Their starter with the most control with his pitches has been Joe Musgrove. A piece they received in The Gerrit Cole deal over the winter, Musgrove has been just fine coming off the DL early in the season, and slotting right in the rotation for The Bucs. He’s given them 103.1 innings and a 3.75 ERA, 3.77 FIP, and 1.181 WHIP. He’s only allowed 1.8 walks/9 as well, showing he’s a very good control pitcher. One thing The Pirates did at the deadline was buy some pieces (I know, crazy), and one of those pieces was Chris Archer. I had previously looked at the Archer trade in a video, and while his overall numbers in Pittsburgh haven’t been great (5.47 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 1.456 WHIP), he has performed better as of lately. Before giving up a three run home run in his last inning of work last night, Archer had a .77 ERA in his 11.2 innings before that last third of an inning. With Archer, many Pirate fans are hoping that he’ll find a groove in Pittsburgh, since they had to give up some guys that carried some value with them. The biggest problem with the rotation as a whole has been the long ball. If they can reduce the amount of home runs they can give up, this rotation could be one to look out for in 2019.
The bullpen has probably been the best part of The Pirates this season, and I don’t think many fans saw that happening. Entering the season, there were a bunch of uncertainties; how would Edgar Santana perform, how would Kyle Crick do in his first year in The Burgh after The Cutch trade, will Michael Feliz be any good; and most of them performed well. Edgar Santana and Kyle Crick have been two of The Buc’s most reliable set-up options, with minor league signee Richard Rodriguez having a very good breakout year. Then at the deadline, The Pirates further bolstered their bullpen, adding Keone Kela, The former Texas Ranger closer, who’s done very well since coming to Pennsylvania. After a questionable start to the season, Felipe Vazquez (formerly Felipe Rivero) found his grove from last season, and has pitched very well since. Long relief wise, The Pirates have plenty of options for next year. The most notable will likely be Chad Kuhl, who will likely be the odd man out once he comes off the DL next year. Some other options they have is Nick Kingham, Steven Brault, and Clay Holmes. Overall, if their main pitchers (i.e. Vazquez, Santana, Rodriguez, Crick, Kela) can perform like they have this season, The Pirates will have a bullpen that can easily lockdown leads in 2019.
In The Pipeline:
I’ve already mentioned Kevin Newman/Kramer, two prospects who could make an impact next season, but I want to go over some other prospects that could make an impact in 2019. The most notable is Mitch Keller, however since he’s struggled in his limited time in Triple-A this season, he may stay there for the first month or two before he gets a call to the majors (unless injury occurs). Another prospect that could make his debut next season is Ke’Bryan Hayes, however that’s assuming that he starts the year in Triple-A, and performs well.
Problems To Be Addressed:
The biggest problem I think The Pirates need to look at is their bench. Their bench will mainly look like this next season: Adam Frazier, Moran/Osuna, Cervelli/Diaz, and a mixture of Jordan Luplow, Max Moroff, Alex Reyes, or one of Kevin Newman/Kramer if they pick up Harrison’s 2019 option. When you look at it, their bench doesn’t really have that power hitter they could use. One option that I’d like to see them take a look at is Mark Reynolds. Reynolds has done very well in a bench role he’s played over in Washington, and is also a fairly clutch hitter (.295/.382/.659 line with RISP), another thing that they should take a look at. They could also use an actual 4th outfielder with defense. While Osuna and Frazier can play outfield, and Jordan Luplow is an outfielder, none of them are truly good at the corners. That’s when Gerardo Parra comes into play. It’s likely that after the season, The Rockies will buyout Para for $1.5 milion rather than pay him $12 million for next season. While he may not carry much of an overall bat, he performs very well against right handed pitchers (.301/.359/.399 this season), and has been pretty good in leftfield, with experience in both center field and right field. Like Reynolds, Para does well in clutch situations with a .337/.408/.446 with RISP this season. With that, I think a bench of Frazier, Moran/Osuna, Cervelli/Diaz, Mark Reynolds, and Gerardo Parra is plausible, even with the limited budget The Pirates have. Coaching decisions is another thing that has to be looked at, or something has to change. I’d be very surprised if The Pirates outright released Clint Hurdle out of his new extension, but he’s made some questionable decisions with pitching this season that can easily be fixed. The biggest is his stubbornness to pull pitchers from games. Sometimes, Hurdle leaves starters in games (some even crucial to the season) too long, which has either costed them leads or even games. One many examples of this is the game right before The All Star Break. Joe Musgrove had fired 7 strong innings, only giving up 2 runs, and his pitch count was running high. Sure, the bullpen may have been tired from the previous day’s double header, but it was right before The All Star Break, and The Pirates were making a decent push, winning 5 straight. However instead of putting in a relief pitcher, Hurdle and co. lets Musgrove pitch into the 8th with the game tied 2-2, even though he’s running his pitch count high. Musgrove goes on to give up 3 runs that inning, but The Pirates were able to come back, and walk it off, luckily. This happened again a few days ago. After pitching 5 innings of shutout ball against The Marlins, Hurdle and co. march Chris Archer out for a 6th inning. After struggling to get two outs, and visibly tired, Archer gives up a 3 run home run, giving up the 2 run lead The Pirates had previously. The Pirates went on to win that game too, but the game was almost lost over a questionable decision. One decision coaching made that did cost them the game was a move made by Joey Cora, the team’s third base coach. The game was against The Padres. The Pirates are down by one in the top of the 9th with the tying run, Gregory Polanco, at third base and one out. Jordy Mercer hits a fly ball to fairly deep right field. Hunter Renfroe catches the ball, stumbles a bit since he bumped into the wall, and fires home, but Polanco doesn’t tag. While it’s not clear whether Cora told Polanco to stay, or tag and Polanco didn’t go, Cora said that he told Polanco to go half way. Marte came up to bat next, and struck out ending the game. Small coaching decisions like this have costed The Pirates games and runs, however, they’re questionable decisions even fans have pointed out. These next few things may not be high priority, but should be something they should put on the back burner. The first thing is find a left handed bullpen guy. The Pirates have 2 lefties in their bullpen: Felipe Vazquez and Steven Brault. It would be nice to see them get another left handed bullpen guy such as Jake Diekman or former Pirate Zach Duke as a LOOGY guy they can put in. The second thing is do something with Michael Feliz. Feliz hasn’t looked very impressive in his first year in Pittsburgh. He has a 6.05 ERA, 4.28 FIP, and 1.560 WHIP in 41 and two thirds innings, and gives up a ton of home runs (1.3 HR/9) and walks (4.1 BB/9). While I don’t think The Pirates will pull another Daniel Hudson-for-Corey Dickerson, they should look into moving him; whether that’s trading him, or even outright releasing him if he starts next season struggling out of the gate.
In conclusion, I do think The Pirates have a chance at being a Wild Card contender, and if a lot of things go right for them, maybe even make a push for the division. However there are still some hurdles they need to pass before they can solidify themselves to a contender to me. But in the end, those hurdles aren’t hard to pass. Sign a few cheap players, make some better choices, and limit the long ball are the largest I that stand in the way, with one of the minor ones being fixing baserunning. If they do that, The Pirates may be looking at a playoff push in 2019.
By: Marc Lam
Harry How/Getty Images
At the beginning of the season, the Mets were projected, if healthy, to be potential wild card contenders. Obviously the Mets have been far from healthy this season, but there is still on bright spot in the Mets’ metaphorically bleak season. Jacob deGrom. In the middle of all of this madness deGrom is having one of the greatest seasons of all time. deGrom has a 1.68 ERA, 2.08 FIP, 0.96 whip in 188 innings. And yet the thing that sticks out the most is his dismal 8-8 win-loss record.
Baseball as a sport has evolved greatly over time, but one of the most interesting of said changes is the slow transition to bullpen dominance. In the early days of baseball the starter would pitch the complete game. Relievers were barely used, and if you were good, you better believe you were going for the long haul. Nowadays starters are pitching less than ever before. Relievers will often take over in just the fourth or fifth inning. Pitchers rarely make it to even seven, let alone a complete game. This year the Mets’ bullpen has a 5.00 ERA, meaning that when deGrom comes out, usually in the sixth or the seventh inning, the bullpen will blow the game, giving him a no decision or a loss. This, combined with the dismal Mets offense, makes for a starters’ hell in Citi field.
The evolution of pitching in the MLB explained previously shows why a win depends much more on the bullpen and the offense than the starter. Those that criticize deGrom for having a bad win-loss record do not understand how much more dependent the game now is on the bullpen and a strong offense. While guys like Aaron Nola and Max Scherzer are both having great seasons with records on pace for 20+ wins, deGrom’s pure dominance should signal a new era of Cy Young voting.
By: Noah Wright
As the we near the end of the season, many people start predicting awards such as MVP, Rookie Of The Year, and Cy Young, and The AL MVP this season is a tight race between 3 players, Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, and Mookie Betts. Each are providing their team with value both with the bat, on the basepaths, and with the glove. Let's take a look at these 3 superstars, and see which player deserves MVP The most.
This race is going to be close. If you ask me, Betts is the best fielder, Ramirez has the most power, and Trout is the most well rounded. After looking at all the stats, and ratings among the three stars, I think I have to give it to Mookie Betts, with Mike Trout coming in at #2, and Jose Ramirez at the third spot. Betts and Trout are similar in many ways; both have power, speed, a good glove, and have good base running instincts, but the thing that gives Betts the edge over Trout is his outfield arm. Don’t get me wrong, Trout can throw out base runners pretty good, but Betts is just better. His arm rating has been given a 4.6, way above average, while Trout sits at -.5 which sits right around average (if not, just below average). That gives Betts the small edge in this race, and gives him The AL MVP Title for the 2018 season.
By: Noah Wright
Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports
“King” Felix Hernandez was one of the top 5 starters in all of MLB when he was in his prime, but he’s far from that anymore. And unlike most starters once they start to put more wear on their arm and decline slowly, Hernandez has seemed to fall off a cliff, to the point where he is on the cusp of being a low pressure situation bullpen guy. It’s one of the steepest declines in recent MLB memory. Let's take a look at how it happened, because it’s one of the ones that seemed to be too sudden to blame on just injury.
Felix Hernandez was born on April 8th, 1986 in Valencia Venezuela. After High School, Hernandez signed with The Seattle Mariners in 2002, the team he is still with. Throughout the minors, Felix was a consensus top 30 prospect in 2004 and 2005 according to Baseball America (#30 in 2004, #2 in 2005), and it was well deserved. In his first professional season (low-A, and mid-A ball), Hernandez carried a 2.22 ERA, 2.60 FIP, and 1.145 WHIP in 69 innings. He also showed a good fastball that sat in the high 90’s with ok control (3.5), and good strikeout numbers (91, 11.9 K/9 rate). His second professional season was even better. In 149.1 innings between high-A and double-A ball, Hernandez had a 2.95 ERA, 2.73 FIP, and 1.199 WHIP. He maintained the high strikeout rate (172, 10.4 K/9), but also really improved his control (2.8 walks/9). After a short and impressive showing in Triple-A in 2005, Felix Hernandez would start his Major League career, with a call-up as a 19 year old. He showed great potential in his debut game on August 4th, 2005. Felix pitched 5 innings against The Detroit Tigers, only giving up 1 run, struck out 4, and walked 2, but received the loss. His overall rookie season was pretty impressive. A 19 year old King Felix pitched to a 2.67 ERA, 2.85 FIP, .996 WHIP in 84.1 innings, along with a 2.5 walk’s/9 and 8.2 K’s/9.
While he showed potential throughout his next 3 seasons, he wouldn’t have a true ace season until 2009, but it was one hell of a season. At 23 years old, Felix pitched to a 2.49 ERA, 3.09 FIP, and 1.135 WHIP in 238.2 innings. His perferials were pretty similar to his rookie season, with a 2.7 BB/9 rate, 8.2 K’s/9 rate, and .6 HR’s/9 rate. He also finished second in Cy Young voting. His 2010 season is one of his best seasons, but not his best. King Hernandez had a 2.27 ERA, 3.04 FIP, and 1.057 WHIP in 249.2 innings. Plus he struck out 232 batters. Felix was very consistent throughout his early years, posting another 2.5 BB/9, and 8.4 K’s/9 rate. Felix took took the next step in his career, winning The Cy Young that season to add on to his king-like season. Hernandez’s next 3 seasons would also present him as an ace level pitcher with a plus fastball, but his 2014 season has so far been the best of his career. In his age 28 season, Felix Hernandez finished the season with a 2.14 ERA (league leading), 2.56 FIP, and a league leading .915 WHIP in 236 innings. He also struck out a career high 248 K’s, and walked a tie-career low with 46 free passes. It was also his second 50 or less walk seasons with 200+ innings pitched, and 6th straight season with 200+ strikeout seasons. Hernandez’s last full productive season was 2015. That season was the start of a decline for Hernandez, but it would be extremely hard to predict what would come in the following seasons. Felix still produced a quality 3.59 ERA, 3.72 FIP, and 1.180 WHIP in 201.2 innings. However his Walk/9 and K/9 rate were almost the same to what they were to previous seasons (2.6, 8.5). Hernandez also reached 191 strikeouts.
The beginning of 2016 is probably the last time Seattle fans saw a consistently decent King Felix. For the first half of 2016, Hernandez had a 2.86 ERA, 4.04 FIP, and kept batters to just a .217/.306/.336 line in 63 innings. However, his first half was cut a bit short after he suffered a right calf strain, which would prove to hurt him further on in the season. The second half of 2016 looks more like the Felix Hernandez we watch today. He recorded a 4.47 ERA, 4.70 FIP, and gave up 13 home runs in 90 and a third innings. Overall however, Hernandez finished 2016 with a 3.82 ERA, 4.63 FIP, and 1.324, and his perferials dropped as well, to a 3.8 walks/9 and 7.2 K’s/9 rate. He also reached a high in HR/9 with 1.1, but it’s not his career high anymore. 2017 looked similar to the end of 2016. Hernandez greatly struggled, as he recorded a 4.37 ERA, 5.02 FIP (career high), and 1.292 WHIP. While his control and strikeout numbers returned to normal (2.7 BB/9, 8.1 K/9), his home run rate ballooned to 1.8, and gave up 17 home runs in only 86.2 innings. Felix also struggled with injuries again, only making 16 starts, and missing 2 months over a shoulder injury. 2018 has easily been the worst season of Hernandez’s professional career. So far on the season, Hernandez has a 5.55 ERA, 4.97 FIP, and 1.381 WHIP. He’s also given up a career high number of home runs at 24, and has walked 3.3 batters/9, the highest it’s been since 2008.
It’s easy to blame injuries for Felix’s downfall, but such a decline that started when he was just 30 years old seems too swift to blame on just injury. As time goes on, pitchers usually lose fastball velocity, and Hernandez is no exception. It went from a pitch that averaged around 95 MPH, to a pitch that averaged around 93 MPH, to a pitch that barely reaches above 91 MPH. The same can be said about his sinker, another pitch that he would rely on a lot in the prime of his career, but still relies on now. According to fangraphs, even though his sinker has fallen to sit around 90 MPH (and even that is being a bit generous), he has still used the pitch 32% of the time, compared to 5 seasons ago (2013) when he used the pitch 36% of the time at round 92.3 MPH. Another pitch that Felix still uses like he did in 2014 is his change-up, even though it has lost nearly 5 MPH since then. Hernandez also uses his curveball about 27% of the time, but throws it below 80 MPH. Plus it’s his most used pitch. I think that if Hernandez changes his pitching repertoire, and reworks some of his off-speed and breaking pitches, Hernandez can have a late career renaissance, something similar that CC Sabathia has had the last 2 seasons.
In the end, Felix Hernandez’s decline has been one of the fastest in recent memory. He went from a reliable veteran starter to a guy who can’t be relied on in high leverage situations in less than 3 seasons. However, he could make some adjustments, and maybe we will see a new and rejuvenated King Felix Hernandez, but only time will tell.
By: Ted Rivera
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
It’s no secret Javier Baez is one of the most exciting players in Major League Baseball. Clearly he puts one-hundred percent effort on the field every single night, and at the young age of 25 he has a very bright future. In addition to hitting exceptionally this year Javier Baez seems to make a highlight play in the field every night.
Baez is hitting .299 on the year with an on-base percentage of .330 and is slugging .578. Javí has 30 Homers, 100 Runs batted in, and 35 Doubles on the season which are exceptional numbers and all career highs. His biggest competition, Freddie Freeman have a .306 average , an on-base of .388 but a lower slugging percentage than Javí with a .502 slugging. On top of all of these stats Freddie only has 20 Homers, and 82 RBI. This shows that Javier Baez produces more runs for his offense.
Some may argue Javier is a shortstop, some will say a second baseman, others will say a third baseman. Javier Baez is a utility player, he can cover many positions on the field and he does it extremely well. He dazzles his fans night in and night out with dives, tags and running down fly balls that have instantly impressed the baseball world.
Baez made his first all star team this year which was extremely well deserved after the first half of the year that he had. On the year at all 3 positions he’s played (2B , SS , 3B) he has only 11 errors over 1075.1 innings of field work , in which he has 219 putouts. To say the least , Javier Baez rarely makes mistakes in the field.
At six feet , 190 Lbs. He is one of the most powerful middle infielders in the league. Javier also is helping the Cubs make a potentially serious run to get to the playoffs just 2 years after winning the 2016 World Series. Although there are other serious candidates for this award, Javier Baez should be the 2018 N.L. MVP.
By: Noah Wright
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
The deadline is always when the most trading happens. This season was no different, and many trades really helped contenders give them that extra boost they needed. Now that it’s been a little over a month since the deadline I’m here today to attempt to analyze the best deadline/near deadline trades.
By: Noah Wright
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Edwin Diaz and Blake Treinen are probably the best performing closers this season. The AL West rivals and all-stars may even get some Cy Young consideration too. Coming down the final stretch, Diaz and Treinen are going to be heavily relied on to hold leads that could help their team make The Playoffs. Lets compare the two right handers, and make a decision on which closer is the better of the two.
Edwin Diaz was a former 2012 third round pick, and top prospect by The Mariners. He was a closer in the minors, and there were even talks about they might utilize Diaz in a starter/swingman role rather than a late inning guy. Diaz has shown plenty of promise in seasons prior, but he’s cemented himself at the team’s closer with his amazing 2018 season. Diaz currently has a 1.97 ERA, 1.49 FIP, and .0781 WHIP in 64 innings. Edwin has also reached the 100 strikeout mark this season as well, with 108. Diaz’s preferials are also very impressive. He’s not a hard thrower that would be considered ‘effectively wild’, but effective and not wild. Diaz’s fastball can easily reach into the 100’s, but keeps walks to just 2.1 per 9, and has kept his strikeout rate above 10, at 15.2 K’s/9. Keeping balls in the park is another thing Diaz is good at, only givin up 4. Opponents are also not able to hit off of him, as his opponents only get a hard hit ball off of him 28.8% of the time. While he performs better against lefties, Edwin has kept right handers to a .164/.201/.242 line. Against left handed batters, he has kept them to a .149/.252/.213. Diaz is good at his job too. When it comes time to lock the opponent down when they’re threatening, he holds batters to a .173/.244/.253 line when runners on base, and a .156/.270/.281 with RISP. His most impressive feat this season may be that he has a shot to break Francisco Rodriguez all time single record, which currently sits at 62. Diaz has 50 and with a little over a month of the season left to go, it’s possible Diaz could reach above 62.
The former National relief pitcher and minor league starting pitcher was actually drafted by The A’s in 2011, but eventually was traded to The Nationals in a 3 team trade in the 2013-2014 off season. However Treinen eventually found his way back to The A’s in a Treinen+prospects for Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson swap nearing the 2017 deadline. Treinen has an ERA below 1 (.95) , with a 1.76 FIP, and .939 WHIP in 66 innings. Like Diaz, Treinen’s fastball can easily reach 100+ mph, and also like Diaz, he’s not really ‘effectively wild’. Treinen has a 2.7 Walk’s/9 rate, and could reach 100+ K’s on the season, and currently has 89, and a 12.1 K/9 rate. Treinen has also just given up 2 home runs all season too. Blake has also kept opposing batters to a hard hit rate of 31%. Right handed batters only bat .119/.213/.167, and left handers bat a worse but still very very useful .231/.262/.282. In total, Treinen holds opponents in an overall .173/.236/.222 line. When it comes time to hold the opponent where they are, Treinen is also very very good at that. With runners on base, Treinen has held batters to a .181/.239/.248 line, and he’s even better when the opponent is threatening with RISP, and keeping them to a .094/.156/.316 line.
This was hard to decide. Each have their strengths, and weaknesses to the point where it seemed that it balanced each other out, and in other factors they were very similar. However I think I have to give the edge to Treinen. The big thing that gives him the edge in this argument to me is that ERA below 1. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish. Another thing that gives Treinen the edge is his clutch edge, which he’s just better than Diaz, especially with RISP. In the end, Blake Treinen gets the edge in a Treinen vs Diaz closer duel.
By: Marc Lam
Jeff Nycz/Mid-South Images
As a Padres fan, my team has gone through a lot. From wasted talent to horrible management to big free agency flops, my team has made tons of mistakes in just the last few years. However, the Padres’ fortunes could all change as soon as next season. While it may seem grim at the moment, the future is most definitely bright. General Manager A.J. Preller has done a great job spotting and developing talent and has rebounded from the disastrous 2015 off-season. Just how jam packed with talent is the Padres farm system? Let’s find out.
Prospect #1: SS, Fernando Tatis Jr.
Tatis is the crown jewel of the Padres farm system. He was acquired in the James Shields trade, which is panning out better for the Padres as time goes on. He is currently the no. 2 prospect in the MLB according to mlb.com. In AA San Antonio Tatis has been raking with a 286. AVG and 16 HR and a stellar .862 OPS. Tatis would likely be playing for the Padres right now had it not been for a thumb injury that was season ending.
Prospect #2: LHP, Mackenzie Gore
Gore is the best pitcher in the Padres farm system and sits at no. 13 among the top 100 prospects. He has drawn comparisons to other big lefty’s like Madison Bumgarner. He throws in the mid 90s and has a nasty curveball to go along with it. He’s probably not gonna be ready until 2020 or 2021, but his upside is huge.
Prospect #3: C, Francisco Mejia
Mejia was acquired in the Brad Hand trade with the Indians, and the Padres landed the top catching prospect in baseball with Mejia. Mejia’s defensive abilities have improved immensely from just a few years ago. Offensively, Mejia is even more gifted. He has a 283. AVG and a 777. OPS while also hitting 12 HRs.
Prospect #4: 2B, Luis Urias
Urias was just called up to the show, and for good reason. The no. 22 prospect has already flashed great defensive abilities while being a great hitter for contact. His 398. OBP really shows how well he can get on base. Along with great speed, Urias looks to anchor the Padres infield along with Fernando Tatis Jr.
Prospect #5: RHP, Michael Baez
In 2016, the Padres went on a massive spending spree in the international bonus pool. That year they landed the then-unknown Michael Baez. Baez possesses great size, standing at 6 foot 8 and 220 lbs. He has great athleticism along with great velocity that can hit up to 98 MPH. He also throws a curve and a changeup and could be called up as soon as next year.
While the Padres do have other great prospects such as Chris Paddock, Adrian Morejon, and Logan Allen, these were the 5 prospects that were most intriguing to me. Not all prospects pan out, but the Padres’ farm system is so deep that at least 1 player will develop into an all-star caliber player, and considering the talent it could 5 or more all-stars. But, only time will tell.