Another all-Wild Card World Series is a real possibility- Here's why

Wednesday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks pulled out the big sticks to fuel an 11-8 win over Colorado.  The D'Backs' lineup looked scary top to bottom, sending Rockies outfielders scrambling all over Chase Field. 

When you have relief pitchers roping extra base hits, you know things must really be clicking.

This victory comes just a day after the New York Yankees used their own offensive fireworks to overcome a disastrous start by their ace Luis Severino, hitting three home runs to power themselves to an 8-4 victory over the Twins.

These are two of the strongest Wild Card teams in recent memory, both winning over 90 games in the regular season in tough divisions.

Now, they're each faced with daunting task- the top seed in their respective leagues.  Arizona will face a Dodgers team that was once on a record-setting pace for wins.  Not to be outdone, the Yankees will have to travel to Cleveland to play an Indians side who broke a record of their own with their incredible winning streak.  Many baseball fans think this is the end of the road for New York and Arizona-- but there's good reason to say they're wrong. 

How many teams can win a playoff game after their starter exits in the first inning?  That's the beauty of the Yankee bullpen. 

After Severino was out of the game, Yankees pitchers gave up just one run on five hits, and hurled 13 strikeouts over 8 2/3 innings.  Not to mention they didn't even use their best reliever, Dellin Betances.  Mix that with a Yankees offense that has been hot down the stretch and maybe Cleveland has something to worry about.

The Yankees need a big start out of Sonny Gray in Game 1 of the Division Series if they want a chance to move on.  No matter how hot their offense gets, Indians ace and likely AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber has been dominant all year long, and poses a problem for the Yanks in Game 2.  However, if the Yankees can take Game 1, the rest of the series is manageable.  If they can beat the Indians, going against Boston or Houston looks a lot more manageable.  Pitching is the most valuable thing a team can have in the playoffs, and the Yankees bullpen makes them a deadly threat if they can get a lead early.

The Diamondbacks are in an interesting spot, facing a Dodgers team who had an incredible first five months to the season, but went through a horrendous month of September.  No one ever wants to face Clayton Kershaw, but Arizona looks like the team in the National League who is best equipped to do so.  There's plenty of offensive power in the D'Backs lineup, but obviously the man who stands out the most is Paul Goldschmidt.  The first baseman went deep 36 times during the regular season to go along with 120 RBIs.  Add in Jake Lamb with his 30 home runs and 105 RBIs, along with other quality bats like AJ Pollack and Ketel Marte and the D'Backs are a real threat.  Ace Zack Greinke didn't look great against Colorado, but is capable of pitching with anyone else Arizona may have to face.

The last time a Wild Card team made it to the World Series was 2014, when both the Royals and the Giants made it after having to win the one-game playoff.  With the firepower that the Yankees and the Diamondbacks bring to the table, perhaps this year we will see at least one Wild Card team back in the fall classic-- or even two.

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention Aaron Judge.

End of Season and Playoff Predictions: Separating the Boys from the Men

Welcome back, everyone. I took a bit of a break due to starting up college and getting adjusted to my schedule. Now that I am, for the most part, adjusted to college life and my new schedule, I will be posting more often, with an NFL blog on Mondays and a MLB blog on Fridays, with a possible blog on Wednesdays depending on my availability. Jeff Uveino and I have discussed our podcast, the Immaculate Inning Podcast, a little bit, but not too much. It is in the process. We will probably have our first episode up after the Postseason is finished, which will allow us to start up with the 2017-2018 offseason and get into full swing when the 2018 season comes around. 

Now that my personal stuff is out of the way, let's check in on what the Postseason will probably look like. It will look a lot like what the playoff picture is right now, with one change. Currently, the seedings look like this: 

AL                                                                                                      NL

1. Cleveland Indians                                                                    1. Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Houston Astros                                                                      2. Washington Nationals

3. Boston Red Sox                                                                     3. Chicago Cubs

Wild Card

1. New York Yankees                                                                  1. Arizona Diamondbacks

2. Minnesota Twins                                                                    2. Colorado Rockies

This playoff picture includes five teams that were in the playoffs last year, and five that did not. However, I expect the Brewers to overtake the Rockies for the final NL Wild Card Spot. They are one game out, the Rockies are locked in at .500 in September, and the Brewers are 11-8 in that same span. Do the math, and you find that the Brewers have gained three games on the Rockies in September. With a week and a half left to go on the season, I expect the Brewers to gain that last Wild Card spot, despite a solid season for a Rockies franchise that has not been too successful over the last five years. Next year, watch out for the Rockies. I expect them to make a few moves to bolster the pitching staff this offseason and challenge the Dodgers and Diamondbacks even more so than they did this year. With that said, the Mayor of Ding Dong City (Travis Shaw) and the Brew Crew will be headed to the one game playoff where Zack Greinke will shut them down and the Diamondbacks will secure a spot into the actual Playoffs. 

The AL Wild Card will stay the same, and the Yankees will send Luis Severino against Ervin Santana. Advantage: Yankees. The offense in the Bronx as of lately has been hot, and I cannot see it slowing down here. The Twins are coming off of a 2016 where they finished with the worst record in the entire league. They are ahead of a rebuilding schedule, and should look to be more competitive next year.

Now, this is where the fun starts. The five game Divisional Series. Let's start with the NL side of things.

 

 

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Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

This is a matchup we have seen NINETEEN other times this season, and it is actually a lot more competitive than it looks. The Diamondbacks have been able to average more than five runs a game against the Dodgers this year and actually have edged the Dodgers in eleven of those nineteen games, and I expect that they will hit that five run mark in a game or two. Clayton Kershaw is not good in the Postseason. I do not care how great he has been this year, in his career, etc. There are some guys that just cannot do it in October. The 4.55 ERA in the Postseason is just bad for Kershaw, and that comes from an 89 inning sample size. The rest of the Dodgers staff and bullpen will pick up the slack in this series, leading the Dodgers to a 3-2 series win over the Diamondbacks. Expect this to be the best Divisional Series matchup this year.

 

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Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs

The defending 2016 World Series Champions will face off against the powerhouse from the NL East, the Washington Nationals. Both teams have playoff experience and have the superstar players to make this matchup a very entertaining series. I think the Nationals pitching and the return of Bryce Harper will lift Washington to the NLCS. Mark up Washington for the W in this series, 3-1 with all games being within two runs. 

Now to the ALDS: 

 

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Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees

Two of the hottest teams in the MLB in September will battle in October. This series will depend on one start, and that will be Masahrio Tanaka's start. If he pitches well and the Yankees win that game, it will put a lot of pressure on the Yankees. However, with Severino most likely starting in the Wild Card game, Tanaka will most likely get Game One against the 2017 Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber wins that battle, and the Indians, with a healthy Andrew Miller, sweep the Yankees in this series like they did to the Red Sox last year in the ALDS.

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Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox

I am a huge Red Sox fan, but for the purpose of this blog I have put all bias aside. The Red Sox will struggle after they send Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz out. Yes, I believe Drew Pomeranz will win his start in Game Two. After that, they will have to send out either Doug Fister (yeah, THAT Doug Fister) or Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been inconsistent since his time on the DL with a patella subluxation. Justin Verlander looks resurrected in Houston, and Dallas Keuchel is a force to reckon with as well. With the strength of their bullpen and a little bit of magic, the Red Sox pull this series off, 3-2. Two games go into extras during this matchup.

Oh, and the Red Sox and Astros face off for a four game series to end the season. This means they will play each other for nine straight games, so be ready for tempers to flare and tension to increase around Game Three or Four in this playoff series. 

NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals

We are blessed with this matchup. 1 vs 2. The best in the East against the best in the West. Kershaw vs. Scherzer. Harper vs. Bellinger. The better team here is the Washington Nationals, but the better bullpen belongs to the Dodgers. The bullpen is what wins these Championship Series, and Washington's bullpen is 22nd in ERA on the season, while LA's is sitting at a stout 4th best in the MLB. Washington's bullpen has given up a batting average against of .257, whereas LA's is at .221. The Dodgers win this one with their bullpen, 4-2.

ALCS: Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox

Let's all go back to the night of August 1st, shall we? 

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The three-run, walk-off bomb that Christian Vasquez sent over the center field wall against the Indians to win 12-10 in the best game of the MLB season so far. That put the Red Sox in first place of the AL East, a position in which they have not given up yet. The Red Sox have a 4-3 record vs. the Indians, but Cleveland is red hot. Twenty-two straight wins does not happen coincidentally, and they look primed for some playoff baseball. This is also the best bullpen in the MLB (Indians) vs. the second-best bullpen in the MLB (Red Sox). This will be a heartbreaking series, Red Sox fans, and the Indians will win Game Seven on a walk-off. 

World Series: Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Tito has his team back to the place where their dreams were crushed by Crazy Scientist Joe Maddon and the Cubs. The advantages all point towards the Indians: better starters, more quality playoff experience, a deeper lineup, and a better bullpen are all possessed by Cleveland. I see Cleveland taking home the World Series trophy in a 4-1 Series victory, with Francisco Lindor winning the Series MVP.  

Next week, I anticipate putting out an article on my award winners and predictions on those unless something wild occurs within this next week, which is incredibly possible. Monday is for the NFL, and I will most likely do a review of the weekend games, winners, losers and surprises of Week Three. 

 

Follow me on Twitter: @itsnickharmon Instagram: @nick__harmon

What's the real situation with the Yankees?

You know at the beginning of the 2017 season, the Yankees had a very good solid April and May but a really bad June and July.  Those latter two months included them making moves to fill holes on their roster by acquiring guys like Sonny Gray from Oakland.  Also, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox.  Todd Frazier was included with the two pitchers in that deal to solve the Yankees 1B issues.  They weren't done there as they also added Jamie Garcia from Minnesota for rotation depth.  Unfortunately for the Yankees, that move hasn't worked out as well as they had hoped as Garcia has had his fair share of struggles since arriving in the Bronx. 

The real question is what’s going on?

The Yankees weren’t expected to compete for the playoffs until next year as they experience a bit of a retooling with the addition of many young players and ridding themselves of big contracts.  This way of doing business is the total opposite of former owner the late George Steinbrenner. 

What nobody expected was how quick the Yankees prospects would adjust to the Majors.  The emergence of Gary Sanchez last year and Aaron Judge this year has really put the Yankees ahead of where they expected to be.  The emergence of the prospects isn't the only thing that has gotten the Yankees to this point, some crafty trading by GM Brian Cashman has as well.  Cashman acquired outfielder Aaron Hicks for backup catcher JR Murphy and Hicks has hit .265 with 13 homeruns and a .367 OBP this season.  Additionally, Cashman acquired infielder Starlin Castro from the Cubs for what now amounts to pennies on the dollar.  Cashman hasn't just focused on the major league team when making trades as the deals for Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier prove.  Even with the emergence of the kids the Yankees still have some others waiting for their call.  The most important of those prospects is probably pitcher Chance Adams.

While the Yankees won't be World Series bound this season, they seem to be on the right track and their future looks bright thanks to the crafty moves of longtime GM Brian Cashman.  With Joe Girardi on the last year of his deal, I wonder if he will be given the chance to lead the team into its bright future or if they will bring in someone else like Mike Scioscia for example.

Well that’s all from me thank you for taking your time of reading this lines.

You can follow me on twitter at:

@RicardoNavarro

Why Giancarlo Stanton Shouldn't be a Marlin

Giancarlo Stanton is on a tear. 

With nine home runs over his last ten games, he has pulled away from the pack of league leaders.  One of the hottest hitters in the league, Stanton as of late has looked like everything the Marlins could have hoped for when they resigned him nearly three years ago.  He hits the ball a mile, he puts people in the seats.  But, could he actually be hurting the Marlins?

In November of 2014, the Miami Marlins offered a contract that will make Giancarlo Stanton the richest player in baseball history upon its completion- a 13 year deal worth $325 million.  Now, there's no question that Stanton is an elite player whose raw power and productiveness is worth a lucrative contract.  However, signing a guy with world class talent like Stanton's could be counterproductive to a team such as the Marlins.

The rising level of parity in baseball today has made it harder and harder for teams to win championships without developing young talent.  The days of "the best team money can buy" are over.  This has been showcased year after year by teams that go deep in the postseason.

Think of teams like the Cardinals.  World Champions in 2006 and 2011, National League Champs in 2013, and a perennial threat to go all the way for the last decade.  The Cardinals are one of the best in the business at developing young prospects into quality major leaguers, and without that homegrown talent they would be nowhere near the level of success they have attained.  An even more recent example of building from the bottom were the 2016 World Champion Cubs, whose roster was packed with young talent that General Manager Theo Epstein worked hard to bring into the organization through rebuilding.

Now, of course these teams each had several big-time names come in and help them climb to the top.  But, without properly rebuilding, signing expensive free agents takes up too much salary and flexibility on a roster.

The bottom line is this: The 2015 Marlins were no where near championship caliber, and neither are the 2017 Marlins. And unless Derek Jeter and Co. do anything to change the way the roster in Miami is built, they're never going to be with Stanton.  A team like that can't afford to sign a guy to the largest contract in baseball history.  Before signing Stanton, the Marlins should have realized the position they were in.  A lack of a quality farm system sending players to the majors to compliment guys like Stanton and Martin Prado (another free agent signing) prohibits them from ever finding real success.

The Marlins could have just as easily traded Stanton to a contender before the trade deadline in 2014 and gotten some big-time prospects in return.  The front office in Miami needs to realize that something needs to be done with their farm system if they ever want to return to championship potential.  It's no secret the organization is horrendous.  Baseball America ranked it dead last out of every farm system in baseball in 2017, down from 29th in 2016.  The $25,000,000 on average that will be paid to Stanton every year for the next decade could be used to put together a quality roster, and trading away current aging talents could help turn around the organization.

What I'm suggesting is that the Marlins need to rebuild, not reload.  Finishing .500 every season stalls any progress that could be made, as the team is neither contending nor getting high draft picks.  Nothing should be taken away from Stanton, he is producing at a great clip and is one of the most fun players to watch in MLB.  However, of the many problems with Miami baseball, Giancarlo Stanton's wealth could be just another.

Twitter: @realjuveino

Instagram: @jeffuveino

Yard Sale: Reevaluating the Chris Sale Trade After 20 Starts

Here we are, twenty games into Chris Sale's career as a Red Sox stud.  The guy has been nothing short of amazing (besides the game in Chicago against his old club), and proceeds to leave us shaking our heads as to how a pitcher can continue to throw absolute heat and make the greatest batters in our game look stupid.  His numbers have been phenomenal, and Boston has been saying since his first start on April 5th that this is the most dominant pitcher in the organization since Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez.  Since then, he has continued to make that performance into something consistent. 

However, the Red Sox did not just acquire Sale through Free Agency.  They paid a price, and not David either.  Well, technically, they did pay Price A LOT of money last year.  But instead of paying for Sale in a lucrative contract, they paid the White Sox in prospects. Which, at the time, were elite prospects.

On December 6th, 2016, the Red Sox dealt Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz for the electrifying Sale.  Sale has proven himself over the last five years as a starting pitcher as one of the most dominant starters of this decade, we can all see that.  However, what was given up at the time was huge.

Moncada was the second-best prospect in the league, behind Boston's own Andrew Benintendi.  Moncada has only had one hit so far in Chicago, going one-for-six.  That one hit was a grand slam last night against the Royals.  In AAA-Charlotte, he hit a solid .282 with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs, tacking on 17 stolen bases in 80 games.  However, his strike out percentage was higher than his batting average, striking out an insane 102 times over 309 at bats, which is one strikeout away from striking out a third of his at bats.  According to Fangraphs, a 27.5% strikeout to at bat ratio is awful, making Moncada's strikeout to at bat ratio absolutely horrendous in the minor league system this season.

Enough on Moncada, what about the other three prospects that were labeled as, well, "three other prospects" when the trade first came out?  Well, Red Sox fans had very high hopes for Kopech, as he was able to hit 105 MPH on a radar gun in a minor league game as a 20 year old.  He drew comparisons to Noah Syndergaard, the Mets current ace who is known for his consistent 101 MPH fastball and 90 MPH curveball.  Kopech has had a good season in AA-Birmingham, posting a 6-6 record, a 3.51 ERA, 119 strikeouts in 92.1 innings and a .197 batting average against.  That is what you expect from a 21 year-old that is developing.  Kopech has the potential, but just is not there yet.

Luis Alexander Basabe has had a pretty below average season in Advanced-A-Winston-Salem (hyphens, anyone?), posting a poor .218 batting average over 316 at bats.  He also has 89 strikeouts on the season, which is a 28.2% strikeout to at bat ratio, which would probably be considered by Fangraphs as "a little more than awful".  Victor Diaz started on the DL this season, and has been absolutely terrible in the 12 games he has appeared in.  He possesses an obnoxious 12.27 ERA through only 11 innings, has walked 10 batters and only struck out 14, AND has a .304 batting average against.  Not to mention that Diaz is 23 years old and struggling at an Advanced A level ball club.  You can probably give him the tag of being a bust, unless he miraculously turns things around and starts to appear in the Majors after he turns 28.

Chris Sale? Well, he is top five in every single starting pitching category in the AL.  Best WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for a pitcher, best ERA, tied with the most wins, lowest walks and hits per inning pitched, lowest hits per 9 innings, most strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, most innings pitched, most strikeouts, highest win probability added, etc.  You get it!  Sale is the most dominant pitcher since Nolan Ryan.  Case closed!

For what the Red Sox had to give up, it was a fantastic deal for John Henry, Dave Dombrowski and crew.  The fans loved the acquisition, his performance on the field has been great, and he has been described as a great teammate.  Did I mention that his contract is also controlled by the club in for the next two seasons after the 2017 season AND his contract will never pay him more than $13.5 million a year?  Well now I did mention it, and now you know.

My letter grade for the Sale trade is whatever letter comes above A+, obviously with a bit of a bias.  The Red Sox did a phenomenal job here, as the prospects they sent over have potential, but have been struggling after the trade, while the Red Sox, who needed another starting pitcher and are always in a "win now" state of mind, got the best available pitcher that was on the market this past winter.  They also did not give up Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero, Jay Groome or Tzu Wei-Lin, who are good, young talent that have succeeded in the farm system and, in the case of Benintendi, along with Marrero and Lin to an extent,  have found success on the major league level.

I am Nick Harmon, this is my first piece writing for On The Bleachers.  I will be bringing you a constant feed of Red Sox takes, along with takes on college football, the NFL, and NBA.  Check out my Twitter down below, I will be tweeting all of my articles there along with any developments of the website and my blog.  If you like the article, please tweet it, share it, and tell your friends.  Tell them about the fantastic detailed and thorough content that can be found on, On The Bleachers.  Let them know so they can enjoy this as much as you can enjoy it!

Sources: www.baseball-reference.com, www.milb.com, www.usatoday.com

Twitter: @itsnickharmon

Instagram: nick__harmon

The Sad Life of Pablo: A Look into Pablo Sandoval's poor career in Boston

THANK GOD. PRAISE THE LORD. HALLELUJAH. THE DAY HAS FINALLY COME.

The Red Sox have finally released third baseman Pablo Sandoval. After DFAing him five days ago, the news broke late this afternoon that Sandoval was released. And with that concludes the Panda’s era in Boston.

It was quite the eventful one. About two and a half years of booted errors, constant injuries, and belts being busted. All in all, it was one of the biggest busts in current day baseball.

Sandoval signed a five year, $95 million contract before the 2015 season, coming off of a record breaking postseason with the Giants, setting the record for most postseason hits with 26. It was the Giants’ third World Series win in five years, where Sandoval was named MVP in 2012 and heavily contributed in 2014. Boston couldn’t have been more excited to bring a power hitting, switch hitter to Boston to lock up the third base spot, who also had a history of being dominant in October. However, what followed was a disaster.

In 2015, Sandoval hit .245 with only 10 home runs and 47 RBIs, all of which were career lows for Sandoval. There were many questions surrounding the Red Sox management, as Sandoval’s dismal season was also paired with Hanley Ramirez’s headache of a season in his return to Boston. Both offseason acquisitions had much below average performances, and given the amount of money that the Red Sox put into the two, it looked like it was a bust for the both of them.

When 2016 rolled around, an overweight Sandoval showed up to training camp in Fort Myers, and the critics bellowed again. Sandoval was the laughing stock of the Sox, and rightfully so. He didn’t look healthy, and after a subpar first season, it only reassured to the fans that Sandoval’s signing was a poor one. He was beat out for the starting third base position by Travis Shaw, and Sandoval saw six, I repeat SIX, plate appearances total for the season. He was shut down for shoulder surgery in early April and didn’t see the field again for the rest of the year. Oh, and those six at-bats? 0-5 with four strikeouts and a walk.

In the offseason before the 2017 season, the Red Sox announced that they traded Travis Shaw to the Brewers for reliever Tyler Thornburg. With that in mind, it would seem that the Red Sox felt confident enough in Sandoval’s rehab and that he would be the starting third baseman for them. Sandoval looked a bit more healthy than he did before, and management guaranteed that he was ready for the season. Well, he might’ve been able to go on the field and throw a baseball, but he was NOT ready.

Sandoval was under performing yet again. He wasn’t reliable at third base and he was hitting .213. A knee sprain put him on the DL at the end of April, which sidelined him for about a month. In that time, Josh Rutledge was activated from the DL and took over at third. By the end of May, Sandoval was rehabbing in Pawtucket, showing small improvements in his knee. He was slated to be have a designated hitter sort of role, but when Dustin Pedroia went down with an injury, the Red Sox recalled Sandoval on May 30 to be on the 25 man roster. Sandoval was rushed back onto the roster, and as a result, was performing poorly and continued to see limited playing time. He typically only saw plate appearances against right handed hitters. Devin Marrero had taken over at third and was playing well enough to keep Sandoval on the bench. On June 20, Sandoval was placed on the 10-day DL with an ear infection. He was then getting ready for a rehab assignment in July in Pawtucket when he was DFA'd. And finally, on July 19, he was released.

It was a sad career here in Boston for Pablo. His only true accomplishments were pictures of his fat belly hanging out used as jokes on social media. It was a bust from the start. Money that was sitting on the bench or on the DL. And lots of it. I can’t imagine any other team will look to sign him. He saw his prime in San Francisco. Perhaps a team in the American League that is willing to sign him to fill a DH role. But thank goodness, the Panda will never wear a Red Sox jersey again.

 

Twitter: @b_murph109

 

Kershaw v Scherzer: The Sabermetric Side

The age long question: is anyone better than Kershaw? Yes it's that time of the year in which we ask ourselves which pitcher will have dozens of articles written about him, claiming to have dethroned the reigning greatest pitcher on the planet. It's been Arrieta, Lincecum, embarrassingly RA Dickey, and now it's Scherzer's time to shine. I am a man of Sabermetrics, and will use Sabermetrics to break down this debate for you. I understand not all of you are sabermetricians like myself, but I will try my hardest to help you understand these stats and if you find yourself being confused by these stats, I encourage you to read their respective descriptions on FanGraphs.

 

 

wOBA: created by the fantastic Tom Tango, Weighted On-Base Average is one of the most important stats in the sabermetric world. It shows how good a batter is at producing runs for his team, or how good a pitcher is at preventing runs. Without getting into the nitty gritty of it all, it assigns values to BBs, 1Bs, 2Bs, 3Bs, and HRs as to what their true worth is, because using total bases doesn't measure the worth, or effect, that having a double over a single has for a team. The lower a player's wOBA, the lower their ability to produce runs, or in the instance of pitchers, the higher their ability to limit runs. Naturally, higher indicates a batter is better at producing runs, and a pitcher is worse at preventing runs. Typically, a league average hitter would have around a .320 wOBA, while an elite player would produce around a .40O wOBA, and your worst players would hover in the high .200's.

 

BABIP: Batting Average on Balls in Play measures the batting average of only all non-HR balls put in play.

 

K/9: Strikeouts per 9 is a stat that shows how many strikeouts a pitcher has for every nine innings they pitch.

 

WPA: Win Probability Added measures how much a player has actually done for a team rather than what they're value is, because a walk off home run is far more valuable than a home run when your team is down 15-0. It doesn't entirely tell you how well they performed, but more how valuable their performance was. The scale traditionally ranges from about -3.0 (Worst) to 6.0 (Best), with 1.0 representing an average performance. Unlike the other stats, it is a stat you add up, most comparably to WAR. It shows factually what a player did in a season, compared to their worth like WAR, as it takes in conditional situations into account unlike WAR.

 

Clutch: Clutch is a sub stat of the WPA stat which declares how much better from his baseline of performance when he is in high leverage situations. Not overall dominance, and doesn't take postseason into account (Sorry Giants fans)

 

2015 Clayton Kershaw: 0.281 BABIP, 11.64K/9, 4.96 WPA, -0.45 Clutch, 0.231 wOBA

2015 Max Scherzer: 0.268 BABIP, 10.86K/9, 3.22 WPA, -0.56 Clutch, 0.259 wOBA

2016 Clayton Kershaw*: 0.254 BABIP, 10.39K/9, 4.57 WPA, -0.11 Clutch, 0.204 wOBA

2016 Max Scherzer: 0.268 BABIP, 11.19K/9, 4.24 WPA, 0.48 Clutch, 0.267 wOBA

2017 Clayton Kershaw**: 0.248 BABIP, 10.81K/9, 3.11 WPA, 0.88 Clutch, 0.246 wOBA

2017 Max Scherzer**: 0.226 BABIP, 12.13K/9, 3.05 WPA, 0.16 Clutch, 0.226 wOBA

*Did not have enough innings to qualify for ERA or WHIP titles

** Season still in progress

 

Now I don't want to tell you which is better, I'll let you decide that for yourself. But from this data, I can tell you factually who did more for their team. Kershaw’s WPA is superior to Scherzer's in each of the past three seasons, including 2016 in which he pitched about 80 fewer innings than Scherzer.

 

From this data, I can also tell you Max Scherzer is having a better season than Clayton Kershaw, based on skill, not worth or Win Probability Added. But a pitcher is defined by more than half a season. Kershaw has the track record to beat Scherzer, with an MVP, 3 Cy Youngs, ranking 3rd in Cy Young voting in the Zack Greinke vs Jake Arrieta season, and displaying more worth than Scherzer in Scherzer's NL Cy Young year.

 

I would love to hear about what you all took away from these stats, and encourage you all to engage me on Twitter to discuss (@LiveBreatheLA).

Help Wanted for Boston's Bullpen

We are now two weeks away from the MLB trade deadline and as the Red Sox hold onto the AL East, it is expected that GM Dave Dombrowski will look to make a move at the deadline. It has been rumored that the Red Sox are looking for a starter, reliever, and a third baseman. However, in my opinion, the only real focus they should have is the bullpen.

The Red Sox have a lights out closer in Craig Kimbrel, who has done tremendously well for them all year. He has blown two saves recently, but honestly, it is nothing to worry about. He is 24 for 27 in save opportunities and anyone who can make Aaron Judge look like a fool is an elite pitcher. Joe Kelly has come out of NOWHERE and has been a dominant arm from the pen. He has earned the 8th inning role and has been a very reliable source for them. Both pitchers have ERAs under 1.50 and are a main reason for the Red Sox's success. Everyone else in the pen...Well let’s just say the only other reliever with a sub-3.00 ERA is Fernando Abad. And I’m sorry, but I don’t have enough confidence in him.

A reliever is frankly a must need for the Red Sox at the deadline. Teams have already started making moves for relievers, so the Red Sox need to act fast. Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have already been moved from the A’s to the Nationals, a team who badly needed to find someone for their bullpen. A name that has been consistently thrown around in Boston is Pat Neshek of the Phillies. He’s a veteran who has bounced around the league, but his 1.21 ERA is no joke. Neshek has made himself a very promising candidate to be moved at the deadline and he is exactly the kind of relief the Red Sox need. As a dominant right handed reliever, he will fare will pitching in Boston. David Robertson of the White Sox has been another name that has come up. However, Robertson is a closer and a closer adjusting to other roles in the bullpen sometimes does not fae well.  

If the Red Sox want to make a run in the postseason, they need to solidify their bullpen. Look at the last few teams to win the World Series. Last year, the Cubs acquired deadly closer Aroldis Chapman, and also had traded for relievers Joe Smith and Mike Montgomery at the deadline. These players were put alongside relievers Pedro Strop, Carl Edwards Jr and Hector Rondon in pen and got the Cubs their rings. And in 2015, when the Royals won, they had the terrifying combination of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. The team needs at least three solid, reliable relievers to spread the wealth, otherwise Kimbrel and Kelly are going to be burnt out by the time October comes around.

All in all, Dombrowski better be making moves. Neshek to Boston would be huge for the Red Sox. We’re into the second half of the season now, and I cannot bare to watch Matt Barnes blow the lead in the 7th inning in away games anymore. I just can’t. Forget about third base, Devin Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin have stepped up huge and are playing well. Brock Holt seems to be on his way back too. Just keep Pablo Sandoval as far away from Fenway as possible. We don’t need the overweight, “ear infected” panda in the clubhouse.

Bring in a reliever to give Kimbrel and Kelly some help so they can take some nights off. God knows they have earned it.

 

Twitter: @b_murph109


 

Breaking Down the Jose Quintana Trade

Oh my gosh, it happened!  The Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox executed the improbable crosstown blockbuster.  The White Sox sent 2016 All-Star, Jose Quintana, to the Cubs for a prospect package consisting of Eloy Jimenez (OF), Dylan Cease (RHP), Matt Rose (1B/3B), and Bryant Flete (INF).  I am going to breakdown the ramifications that this insane deal has on both clubs.

What does this mean for the Cubs?

            The Cubs have now added some stability to a rotation that has been anything but.  Quintana will be able to slot in as their number two starter immediately.  Even though Quintana struggled so far this season, he has showing improvement of late posting a 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 10.13 K/9 over his last 7 starts.  Not to mention he has been arguably a top 15 pitcher over the previous 5 seasons.  Throughout those years Quintana kept his ERA in the mid-low 3s with a combined WAR of 20.2.  For comparison, Madison Bumgarner had a war of 19.8 over the same time period.  The cherry on top of this is Quintana’s extremely cheap contract.  He is due to make $8.85 million in 2018 and has team options in 2019 and 2020 for $10.5 million each.  His contract is immensely valuable when you compare it to other player of his caliber.  For example, a 37-year-old Rich Hill signed a 3-year deal worth $48 million last offseason with the Dodgers.  Quintana will be an instant boost to a stagnant rotation that has suffered from injuries (Kyle Hendricks) and regression (John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, and even Jon Lester).  To get such a valuable asset the Cubs had to give up valuable assets, which I will break down below.

What does this mean for the White Sox?

            Rick Hahn and the White Sox management did an extremely effective job of getting the return the desired for Quintana.  The White Sox picked up two consensus top 100 prospects in Eloy Jimenez (#8 according to MLB.com) and Dylan Cease (#63 according to MLB.com) along with Matt Rose and Bryant Flete.  Jimenez has the potential to be a superstar.  He has a plus to plus-plus power grade and a solid hit tool to go along with it.  He most likely will not win any Gold Gloves but has the potential to be an effective corner outfielder and already has a powerful arm.  He has been hitting well in High A ball and I have seen mentions of his ceiling being on the Giancarlo Stanton level.  As for Dylan Cease, the White Sox have added to their arsenal of fire-balling right-handed pitchers.  Cease has electric stuff but still has a lot of development ahead.  He has an elite fastball that sits at 93-97 but has reached 100 as well as a wipe out 12-6 curveball.  He still needs time to work on his changeup and form it into an effective pitch but he has legitimate top of the rotation upside.  The two prospects on the end of the deal are not as highly touted as Jimenez and Cease.  Neither were ranked inside the Cubs top 30 prospects but both are interesting players.  Rose is primarily a 1st baseman with a great power tool.  However, he can also play outfield if needed.  He has mashed 14 homeruns and 38 RBIs through 65 games in High A but with just a .227 batting average.  Bryant Flete was an international signing for the Cubs in 2012.  He is a utility infielder who is a bit old for High A (24) but has hit the ball relatively well throughout pro-ball.  He was named an All-Star this year with a slash line of .305/.355/.425 with 6 homeruns and 37 RBIs through 70 games.

            In conclusion, this was a rare win-win trade for both sides.  The Cubs picked up a controllable frontline started to help ease the damage of someone leaving next offseason and the Sox continued to bolster their dynamic farm system.  Chicago baseball is looking like it will be must-see in years to come.

Who Is MLB's 2017 First Overall Pick, Royce Lewis?

Royce Lewis, 18, was drafted first overall this week by the Minnesota Twins.  He is a 6'2" SS from California who is committed to UC Irvine.  He has been a standout player at showcase events around the country the past few years, receiving a perfect 10 'PG Grade' by a Perfect Game scout.  Known for his athleticism, speed, and power potential, he played 3B and OF before moving to SS during his senior year of high school.   Last summer he played in both the Under Armour All-American Game and the Perfect Game All-American Classic, and was named MVP of both games.  As a junior at JSerra Catholic High School, he was the Los Angeles Times high school baseball player of the year after hitting over .400.  He also played on USA Baseball's 18U national team and hit .500.

The question of who would be the #1 pick did not have a clear answer until Rob Manfred was at the podium.  Many predicted another high school SS, Hunter Greene, to go first, as he was the top-ranked player by Baseball America.  Royce was ranked 5th by Baseball America, but took the 1st spot, which Greene then followed, selected by the Cincinnati Reds.  The 3rd pick of the draft was also out of high school, being lefty MacKenzie Gore from North Carolina to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Dark Knight Rotating?

(@miles_migs)

Where’s Matt Harvey? I’m not a New York Mets fan (go Tigers), so anytime I can see a semi-impressive Harvey performance followed shortly by a quirky antic or disaster makes me happier than Greg Popovich belittling a reporter.

Steven Matz and Seth Lugo are coming back soon, so how do you get the best of a hot headed Harvey? Drop him to a closer.

I know the Dark Knight is still pretty peeved about the Adriana Lima/Julian Edelman situation. Let him really work off some steam of that mixed in with being demoted by punishing the catcher’s mitt. Let him picture Edelman’s smug mug centered in Rene Rivera’s glove and watch as batters strike out swinging late on 100 mph pitches.

Better yet, next time "Mighty Matt" is starting on the mound, have Mr. Met walk around flip him the bird, and duct off to the nearest exit.

Read between the lines, Harvey. Read between the lines.

I love the controversy that has found the Mets this season. The best part: it’s only June.

Are the Mets winning a world series this year? No. Are they the most dysfunctional team in the Majors? Debatable. So why not starting gunning for the title of ‘The WWE of the MLB? The Knicks basically did.

Edinson Volquez Ends the No-Hitter Drought

Marlins pitcher Edinson Volquez no-hit the Diamondbacks on Saturday, striking out 10 and leading his team to a 3-0 victory.  The no-hitter was the sixth in Marlins history, and Volquez capped it off by striking out the side in the ninth.  Volquez hasn't been the best this year, leading the MLB in losses, but on Saturday his change-up was on-point.  He gave up only 2 walks, and required only 98 pitches to shut-out the Diamondbacks.  Only 12 other pitchers in MLB history have thrown no-hitters with fewer than 100 pitches.

The no-hitter was the first of the 2017 season, and the first in over a year, the last having been thrown by Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta in April of 2016.  The no-hitter happened to occur on what would have been Yordano Ventura's 26th birthday, former Royals teammate of Volquez who passed away last year.  In the post-game interview, Volquez dedicated his performance to Ventura and Jose Fernandez, a former Marlin who tragically passed away.  Both were young aces in the MLB who inspired many people and brought joy to the game.

Doolittle Doing Well

(@miles-migs)

As several Oakland A’s fan know, pitcher Sean Doolittle has been on the DL (disabled list) for the month of May with a shoulder strain.

Fortunately, Sean could be looking to return as soon as the next home series.

“I’m getting close to coming back, I’m set to make another rehab appearance on Friday in Stockton,” explains Doolittle. “Progress was slow in the beginning, and it’s an injury you base on feel. It you set yourself to be back at a certain date or pitch a certain game, and don’t reach that milestone, you get super frustrated and have to answer to the media. But I’ve seen a huge improvement since throwing against live batters on Friday and hope to be back this next home stand, but I don’t know how realistic that is.”

Doolittle threw 19 pitches during extended spring training May 30, striking out four of the six batters he faced.

Aaron Judge is Unlike any Player the MLB has Ever Seen

Aaron Judge is making a huge splash in the MLB in his rookie year.  At the time I'm writing this, he leads the MLB in home runs, and the Yankees are in first place in the AL East.  Every year there are a few rookies who come out to a hot start and are all over the news, but what makes Judge different from all the others is his size.  Judge is 6 foot 7 inches and over 280 pounds. That size is unheard of for MLB player; it would be more suitable in football.  He's bigger than many of the NFL's 'big guys': Cam Newton, Rob Gronkowski, JJ Watt, etc.

Aaron Judge towers over teammate Ronald Torreyes     Image Source: http://on.si.com/2sixNXL

Aaron Judge towers over teammate Ronald Torreyes     Image Source: http://on.si.com/2sixNXL

There have been only 10 other position players ever to be at least 6'7", the most memorable being Frank Howard, who averaged over 30 home runs a season for 10 years.  While their size and strength may seem to be an advantage, in baseball it is often harder for the bigger guys. Mainly, the strike zone is increased the taller you are, and at the MLB level, the pitchers will hit their spots and take advantage of those holes.

If Aaron Judge can keep up his current performance for the rest of the season, he will be the AL Rookie of the Year without a doubt.  And if this is the type of season he'll have every year, he could be one of the best of his generation.

The history of American ballparks.

We hear the stories from our grandparents, their sweet reminiscence of the "good ol' days" always intrigued us and brought upon a smile on our young face. Back when a ticket to the ballpark was less than a dollar and snacks didn't cost an arm and a leg. Of course it is only natural that after hearing these stories, the curiosity of the human mind has made us want to experience a ball game the same way they did 50 years ago. 

Unfortunately, if you don't live within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field or beneath the Green Monster that is Fenway Park you are certainly out of luck. The sprawl in the expansion of project housing and industrialization caused many ball parks to close for good and leave the tenants to rebuild their home field in a better, more modernized area. These areas that the Major League teams move to are more equipped to handle the growth of MLB fanatics that arose exponentially in the mid 20th century.

Such parks that have met their demise include...

  • Ebbets Field (1913-1960)

Ebbets Field in it's 'Hey Day' during the 1954 season. Four years before the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

Ebbets Field in it's 'Hey Day' during the 1954 season. Four years before the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.

The home of the infamous Brooklyn Dodgers organization from 1913 to 1960 became a staple to the city of Brooklyn, it was a landmark that was a modern marvel from the day it opened to the day it closed it's doors for good. It was the place where Jackie Robinson took his first and last at-bats  and where Pee-Wee Reese stunned spectators with his shortstop magic. The glory and infamy only lasted for so long however, the park was later demolished and replaced with project housing. 

ebbets field today.jpg

 

  • Old Yankee Stadium (1923-2008)

Aerial shot of Yankee Stadium in 2002. 

Aerial shot of Yankee Stadium in 2002. 

Another beloved New York ballpark that was taken too soon. Unfortunately for Old Yankee Stadium, the damages were beyond repair and the stadium was replaced by a much similar looking stadium named New Yankee Stadium in 2008. The memories from Old Yankee Stadium can never be replaced however. Legends who've carved their names in baseball history have ties to this landmark. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Joe DiMaggio, and most recently Derek Jeter have stepped foot into this great palace of greatness and with that in mind, it was ruthlessly demolished in 2008. 

Not to completely destroy the history of the Yankees, the city of New York built a minor league baseball field that mirrored the exact infield of Old Yankee Stadium. Certainly a delight for many children who have wished to have stepped on the same field as many Yankee and baseball legends. 

Infield of Old Yankee Stadium is still in place today. 

Infield of Old Yankee Stadium is still in place today. 

The rise and fall of these ballparks can reflect on much of the history of the city, they represent the great times and the not-so-great times from those times where you could catch a game at the ballpark. A time most people like to call the simple times. With the complex baseball stadiums being today, it becomes easy for one to forget about the past, and forgetting about one's past is the ultimate downfall of humanity. 

Who knows? Maybe 70 years from now we'll be looking at Sun Trust Park the same way we look at Wrigley Field today. With the same mystique and character that builds on through the years. One thing that can never be replicated however, is the era in which the parks withheld through. From the first World War all the way to the Civil Rights movement, these ballparks have remained a place of neutrality where fans can come and enjoy a ball game. Although ironically fortunate, we will never see another Wrigley Field or Fenway Park for these very reasons. 

Life moves on though, sometimes it is best to just appreciate what you have instead of replicating what's already happened. So... with that said, take the day off, gather up your family, and spend the day at the ballpark enjoying a classic American pastime. You might even be telling these stories to your grandchildren some day.