Category Archives: Sports

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Los Angeles Angels

The next AL West team in our continuing previews all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, is the Los Angeles Angels, who finished in fourth place in the division last season

Coming off a 74-88 season, the Angels made some trades intended to upgrade their offense, namely getting 2B Danny Espinosa from the Nationals and Cameron Maybin from the Tigers. They also made a swap of catchers, sending C Jett Bandy to the Brewers in exchange for C Martin Maldonado and a pitcher. In free agency, they signed 1B Luis Valbuena to a two-year contract, but a strained hamstring will cause him to miss four to six weeks, which opens the door for Jefry Marte and/or C.J. Cron to get more time at the position in the early part of the season. Other than that, the team remains largely intact from last season, including 2016 American League Cy Young winner Mike Trout manning center field. The starting rotation includes SPs Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker.

The Angels hit .260 last season, which ranked ninth in Major League Baseball, with 156 home runs, which were the sixth-fewest. They ranked in the bottom 10 with a .726 OPS. Trout hit .315 — 10th-best in the majors — with 29 home runs and a .991 OPS that was second-best in the majors. His 10.6 WAR was tops among all major leaguers. DH Albert Pujols led the team with 31 home runs and hit .268, which was 24 points higher than a season before. Cron hit .278 with 16 home runs, and OF Kole Calhoun hit .271 with 18 home runs. With the Astros last season, Valbuena hit .260 with 13 home runs. Espinosa hit 24 home runs but hit just .209 with Washington last season, and Maybin hit .315 with 4 home runs in 94 games with Detroit.

The pitching staff finished in the bottom half of the league with a 4.28 ERA and was last in the majors with 1,136 strikeouts. The bullpen wasn’t much better, saving 29 games, which was the third-fewest in MLB. Richards only made six starts, but he pitched well with a 2.34 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 34.2 innings over that limited sample size. Shoemaker posted a 3.88 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 160 innings. Veteran SP Ricky Nolasco, who was acquired midseason in a trade with the Twins, put up decent numbers in his 11 starts with the Angels, posting a 3.21 ERA, with 51 strikeouts in 73 innings. SP Tyler Skaggs, who spent much of the year on the disabled list, had a 4.17 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 49.2 innings over 10 starts. No reliever saved more than 10 games, with RP Huston Street leading the team with 9 saves while RPs Fernando Salas and Joe Smith each recorded 6. RP Cam Bedrosian, pitched in 45 games, striking out 51 batters in 40.1 innings as he put up a 1.12 ERA and recorded 1 save.

The offense should be improved this season with the acquisitions of Maybin, Espinosa and — when he returns — Valbuena, but the pitching is where the team will again suffer this season. There is no true ace in the rotation,though I suspect Showmaker could have a breakout season this year. And if Nolasco can continue the strong performance he had in the second half after coming to the team, it would help the team win more games. There’s no clear closer in the bullpen. Going by numbers, Bedrosian is probably the best option, but Street and RP Andrew Bailey both have experience in the position, which could sway old-school manager Mike Scioscia to use them in the role.

The division should be a three-team race again this season with the Rangers, Astros and Mariners competing for the top spot, leaving the Angels and A’s on the outside of the race. As was the case last year, the Angels are probably a better team than Oakland, which should help them avoid a last-place finish, but the Angels aren’t looking like they’ll be able to avoid another fourth-place finish in 2017.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.angels.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Houston Astros

The AL West is the final division left in our previews all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, beginning with the Houston Astros, who finished in third place in the division last season

The Astros were one of the busiest teams in free agency and the trade market this winter after finishing third in the division and winning two fewer games than in 2015. The focus was on adding hitters to the lineup, including sending a couple minor-leaguers to the Yankees in exchange for C Brian McCann. They also signed veteran OF — and former Astro — Carlos Beltran to a one-year deal, while OF Josh Reddick inked a four-year contract with the team. The Astros also signed OF Norichika Aoki. They join an offense that already had a good, young core with 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa and OF George Springer. As far as pitchers, the Astros signed SP Charlie Morton and traded RP Pat Neshek to the Phillies.

The Astros’ .247 batting average was the seventh-lowest in Major League Baseball, but they finished in the top half of the majors with 198 home runs. Their .735 OPS put them in the middle of the pack. Altuve led the way with an American League-best .338 and a career-high 24 home runs — nine more than he hit in 2015 — and a .928 OPS that ranked fifth in the AL. Even though Altuve’s power output increased, his speed didn’t go away as he stole 30 bases, which was tied for the second-most in the AL. His 7.7 WAR was tied for the third-highest in the majors and the best of his career. DH Evan Gattis‘ career-high 32 home runs were the most on the team — and he hit them in 132 games — and he hit .251 with a .826 OPS. Springer hit a career-high 29 home runs, to go along with his .261 average and a .815 OPS. Correa hit .274 with 20 home runs in his first full season in the league. With the Yankees last year, Beltran had one of his best seasons in a while, hitting .295 with 29 home runs, and McCann hit .242 with 20 home runs.

The team’s 4.06 ERA was in the top half of the majors and the pitching staff’s 1,396 strikeouts were tied for the fifth-most in MLB. The bullpen recorded 44 saves, which was one more than the MLB average. After winning the AL Cy Young in 2015, SP Dallas Keuchel posted a disappointing 4.55 ERA last season, with 144 strikeouts in 168 innings. SP Collin McHugh put up a 4.34 ERA with 177 strikeouts in 184.2 innings. SP Lance McCullers did better, with a 3.22 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 81 innings, but he started just 14 games in a season plagued by injuries. There was no set closer in the bullpen, with three relievers each earning between 12 and 15 saves on the season. RP Will Harris put up the best ERA of the three, with a 2.25 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 64 innings. Harris saved 12 games while RPs Ken Giles and Luke Gregerson each recorded 15 saves. Giles struck out 102 in 65.2 innings with a 4.11 ERA, and Gregerson posted a 3.28 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 57.2 innings.

The Astros should have an improved offense this season with some of the hitters they acquired this winter. In addition to their trade and free-agent acquisitions, the Astros should have 1B Yulieski Gurriel and 3B Alex Bregman in the majors for the whole season after they got limited playing time late in the 2016 campaign. If they can perform to the lofty expectations that have been set for them, the offense will be significantly improved. Having McCann behind the plate allows Gattis to spend less time at catcher, which should improve the defense at the position, and play more at designated hitter and in the outfield. With McCann being a veteran catcher, he could also help a rotation with a couple of young pitchers in key roles.

It appears as though McHugh will start the season on the disabled list with a dead arm, which should allow young SP Joe Musgrove to get in the rotation to start the season, which was questionable when spring training began. Musgrove made 10 starts and one relief appearance in the majors last season, posting a 4.06 ERA but as he gains experience he should improve upon that. If he pitches well, he should be able to stick in the rotation when McHugh comes off the DL. The key for the rotation will obviously be Keuchel having a much better season. The team was counting on him to be the ace of the staff last year, which wasn’t the case. He needs to return to his Cy Young form of 2015, that would be a big help to a rotation that struggled in 2016. If McCullers can stay healthy, he can also help the performance of the rotation, as he was the best starter on the team last year but missed much of the season because of injury. Giles should get the first shot at being the closer this year, but if doesn’t perform to expectations, manager A.J. Hinch probably won’t hesitate to put someone else in the role, as he did last season. RP Chris Devenski is someone to watch for who could make some spot starts if needed, as he did last year when he put up good numbers — including a 2.16 ERA — mainly pitching out of the bullpen.

After surprising people with a strong 2015 the Astros failed to live up to high expectations that were set for them last year, but with the additions they’ve made over the last few months I think the Astros are ready to take the next step. After a disappointing third-place finish last year, I think they’ll pass the Rangers to win the AL West this year. The key for them to do that will be to beat the Rangers in their head-to-head matchups because the Astros went 4-15 against their in-state rivals last year, which won’t help them win the division if they have another record like that in 2017.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.astros.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: San Francisco Giants

Finishing up the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the San Francisco Giants, who finished in second place in the division last season

The Giants will look to pass the Dodgers and win the division this year after a quiet offseason in which their most significant move was signing RP Mark Melancon to a four-year deal, taking over the closer’s role from RP Santiago Casilla, who is now with the A’s. SP Madison Bumgarner, who is one of the best starting pitchers in the majors, continues to lead the pitching staff as he throws to C Buster Posey, himself one of the best in the game. OF Hunter Pence and 1B Brandon Belt also lead the offense as the team hopes to return to the playoffs to avenge last season’s LDS loss to the Cubs.

The Giants hit .258 last season, which put them near the middle of the pack among the 30 Major League Baseball teams. Their hitters didn’t show much power, as their 130 home runs were the third-fewest in the majors, and their .728 OPS ranked in the bottom half of the league. Pence led the team with a .289 average to go along with his 13 home runs and a .858 OPS. Posey finished the year with a .288 average, 13 home runs and a .796 OPS. Belt led the team with home runs, but he hit just 17; his average was .275 and his OPS was a team-high .868. SS Brandon Crawford set a career high with a .275 average, but his 12 home runs were nine fewer than he hit in 2015. He also hit a career-best 11 triples, which put him in a tie for the most in the majors.

The pitching staff ranked fourth in the majors with a 3.65 ERA, but the Giants’ pitchers were in the middle of the pack with 1,309 strikeouts. The bullpen recorded 43 saves, which matched the MLB average. Bumgarner, of course, led the staff with a 2.74 ERA and 251 strikeouts in 226.2 innings, putting him in the top 10 in the majors in all of those categories. His 34 starts tied him for the National League lead and was one behind the major-league leader. Bumgarner’s 5.0 WAR was the best of his career and was tied for the eighth-best among NL pitchers. SP Johnny Cueto’s numbers were right up there with Bumgarner’s. Cueto posted a 2.79 ERA with 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings over 32 starts, and he put up an impressive 18-5 record. He posted a 5.6 WAR, which placed him in a tie for the second-best among pitchers in the NL and fourth among all pitchers. SP Matt Moore, who the Giants acquired in a midseason trade with the Rays, posted a 4.08 ERA for the season with 178 strikeouts in 198.1 innings. But perhaps most importantly, his 33 starts was the most of his career and it was the first season he stayed healthy since he made 27 starts in 2013. With the Pirates and Nationals last season, Melancon posted a 1.64 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 71.1 innings, and he saved 47 games in 51 chances.

The offense was a bit of a disappointment last season, and it likely won’t get much better this year since the team didn’t add any notable hitters this winter. One guy to watch to perhaps step up his game this season is 3B Eduardo Nunez, who hit 16 home runs in 141 games last season — just his second season of 100-plus games in his career — if he can get up to the 20 range in home runs, it would help the offense a bit. Otherwise, it seems like the team will again be relying on Cueto and the rest of the pitching staff to lead it through the season. The Giants have one of the best 1-2 punches at the top of the rotation of any team in baseball and Melancon gives them an upgraded option at closer. If the middle-of-the-rotation guys like Moore and Jeff Samardzija can give the team more than they’re expecting to get out of those guys, their pitching would be even more formidable.

The Giants won 87 games last season, which wasn’t enough to win the West as the Dodgers won 91. It’ll likely take another 90-win season to take the division this year, and I’m not sure the Giants quite have what it takes to get there. While the Giants have a good team — particularly pitching — I think the Dodgers are better overall and will again finish a few games ahead of the Giants, who should get another second-place finish in the division and have a good shot at landing a wild card.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.sfgiants.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: San Diego Padres

Continuing with the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the San Diego Padres, who finished in last place in the division last season

The Padres went 68-94 last season — their worst record since 2008 — and are entering this season with a team made up of mostly inexperienced hitters and veteran pitchers who don’t have a great track record in the majors. The team traded away C Derek Norris — who was subsequently released by the Nationals and then signed by the Rays — this winter, which means Austin Hedges, who has played 64 games in Major League Baseball, will begin the season as the starting catcher. The rest of the offense includes 1B Wil Myers — who signed a six-year contract extension with the team in January — and 3B Yangervis Solarte, who are the team’s best hitters, and 2B Ryan Schimpf, who showed some power in about half-a-season in the majors last year. The rotation is led by veteran SPs Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver, who comes to the Padres after spending the first 11 years of his career with the Angels.

Last season saw the Padres hit a MLB-worst .235 while finishing in the bottom half of the majors with 177 home runs. Their .689 OPS was tied for the second-worst in the majors. Solarte hit .286 with 15 home runs and a .808 OPS. Myers hit .259 with a team-high 28 home runs and a .797 OPS. Myers also stole 28 bases, which was the 10th-most in the National League. In 89 major-league games, Schimpf only hit .217, but he smacked 20 home runs in 330 at-bats and led the team with a .869 OPS. OF Alex Dickerson showed some promising signs in 84 games, hitting .257 with 10 home runs in 253 at-bats.

The pitching staff also wasn’t very good last season, finishing the year with a 4.43 ERA that was the eighth-worst in the majors. The pitchers recorded 1,222 strikeouts, which ranked in the bottom six, and the bullpen totaled 35 saves, which was fifth-worst. In 36 appearances last season, but only nine starts, with the Cubs and Padres, Richard posted a respectable 3.33 ERA but had just 41 strikeouts in 67.2 innings. Weaver started 31 games for the Angels last season and posted a career-worst 5.06 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 178 innings. SP Christian Friedrich, who is fighting for a spot in the rotation, put up a 4.80 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 129.1 innings. RP Fernando Rodney, who is now with the Diamondbacks, led the team in saves last season, but RP Brandon Maurer wasn’t far behind him with 13 saves. Maurer’s 4.52 ERA wasn’t great, but he did get 72 strikeouts in 69.2 innings.

Again, apart from Myers and Solarte there’s not a lot to get excited about with the Padres’ offense. Hedges could show the team something as he gets to be he everyday starter behind the plate, but the most promising prospect on the team is OF Hunter Renfroe, who hit .371 with 4 home runs in 11 games last season. Obviously a miniscule sample size, but if he can even be around the .275 mark with about 20 home runs for a full season, it would provide a significant boost to an offense that desperately needs it. Look for Renfroe as a potential NL Rookie of the Year candidate as the season progresses. There’s not a lot to talk about with the starting rotation, unless SP Luis Perdomo can put together a strong season, but that’s not likely after he put up a 5.71 ERA in his rookie season last year. There’s not a clear-cut closer in the bullpen, though Maurer will probably get the first shot at closing out games. RP Carter Capps could get some saves during the season, but he’s dealing with an elbow injury that could prevent him from being ready for Opening Day.

Barring a miracle, don’t expect the Padres to even come close to a .500 record this season. Not only are they the worst team in the division, but they’re probably one of the worst teams in the National League with a rotation made up of guys who would be at the backend of most teams’ rotations, if they even made the starting lineups on other teams.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.padres.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Los Angeles Dodgers

Continuing with the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the division last season

The Dodgers have been the class of the NL West in recent years and are looking for a fifth straight season of 90-plus wins. They’ll be looking to achieve that with a new second baseman, having acquired 2B Logan Forsythe from the Rays in exchange for P Jose De Leon. They also re-signed SP Rich Hill, who they traded for in the middle of last season and sits in the middle of a rotation led by SP Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers re-signed RP Kenley Jansen to a new five-year deal that will keep him as the team’s closer for the foreseeable future. Forsythe joins an infield that includes SS Corey Seager, who is coming off a strong rookie season, and veteran 1B Adrian Gonzalez. OF Joc Pederson leads the offensive attack in the outfield, which also includes Yasiel Puig, who has not lived up to the hype when he first entered the league in 2013.

The Dodgers’ .249 average ranked as the ninth-lowest in Major League Baseball, but their 189 home runs put them near the middle of the pack. The team had a .728 OPS, which was in the bottom half of the majors. Seager’s .308 batting average was tops among the team’s starters, and his 26 home runs ranked second on the team. His OPS sat at .877 last season, and he posted an impressive 6.1 WAR — fifth-best in the National League — in his first full season in the majors. Seager ranked seventh in the NL in batting average and his 193 hits were second-most in the NL and sixth in MLB. 3B Justin Turner hit 27 home runs — tied with C Yasmani Grandal for the team lead — with a .275 average and .832 OPS. Pederson hit .246 with 25 home runs in 137 games, and Puig played in 104 games, due to injury and being sent down to the minors in August, with a .263 average and 11 home runs. Gonzalez hit .285, but had 18 home runs, which was a drop-off of 10 from 2015.

Pitching was what led the Dodgers last season, with a 3.70 ERA that ranked fifth in the majors. The pitching staff led all of baseball with 1,510 strikeouts, and the bullpen’s 47 saves were tied for eighth in the majors. Kershaw spent some time on the DL so only started 21 games, but posted an impressive 1.69 ERA in those games with 172 strikeouts in 149 innings. He also tied his career high with 3 shutouts, which was tied for the fifth-most in the majors. In his first season in the majors after coming over from Japan, SP Kenta Maeda put up a 3.48 ERA in 32 starts, with 179 strikeouts in 175.2 innings. He posted a 16-11 record, which tied him with several pitchers for the sixth-most wins in the majors. With the A’s and Dodgers last season, Hill posted a 2.12 ERA in an injury-shortened season — which has been a problem throughout his career — in which he made 20 starts. Jansen continued his streak as one of the game’s best closers, recording all 47 of the team’s saves (in 53 opportunities) while posting a 1.83 ERA and striking out 104 batters in 68.2 innings over 71 appearances.

The offense has a couple of young guys in Pederson and Seager who had breakout years in 2016, but there are also veterans like Gonzalez and OF Andre Ethier who are on the backsides of their careers and have declining production. Then there’s Puig, who has never hit more than 19 home runs in any of his four seasons in the majors and got on the team’s bad side last year, which led to his demotion, and he could see his playing time diminished this season if he doesn’t start to put up better numbers at the plate.

If Kershaw can stay healthy this season, he should be able to have a typically outstanding season, but there are question marks behind him in the rotation. Maeda pitched well last season and will be a viable No. 2 starter if he can repeat that performance this year, but then there are veterans like Hill and SPs Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir who have all spent a lot of time on the disabled list throughout their careers. An X-factor on the pitching staff could be Julio Urias, who posted a 3.39 ERA in limited time in the majors last season. The Dodgers took things very cautiously with him last year and will likely do the same this year with the 20-year-old, who is expected to pitch mainly out of the bullpen but fill-in as a starter as needed, and he likely will be needed with the injury history of some of the starters. When the team gets a lead to Jansen late in the game, he should be able to secure the victory most of the time while racking up the strikeouts.

The Rockies are probably going to be improved this season, but it’s still likely to be the Dodgers and Giants fighting it out for the top spot in the West. I think the Dodgers have the edge, especially if they can get a third starter to put up good numbers behind Kershaw and Maeda. I expect to see the Dodgers playing in the postseason again this year, even if it’s as a wild card if the Giants manage to pass them to win the division.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.dodgers.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Colorado Rockies

The next NL West team up in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Colorado Rockies, who came in third place in the division last season

The Rockies are on a positive trajectory in recent years, having gone from 66 wins in 2014 to 68 in 2015 and 75 in 2016. They hope to continue that trend in 2017, but that might be complicated by a rash of injuries that will leave the team short-handed to begin the season. 1B Ian Desmond, the team’s big offseason acquisition, underwent surgery to repair his broken left hand earlier this month and will start the season on the DL, but with a four-to-six-week timetable, he could be back before the end of April. It’s expected to be a similar timetable for C Tony Wolters, who has a hairline fracture in his right forearm. And OF David Dahl suffered a rib injury early in spring training, but he has optimistically said that he thinks he could miss as little as one to two weeks of the regular season. Although none of those injuries appears to be serious enough to require an extended absence for the player, having all the players out at the same time could put the team in a hole early in the season. In a more serious situation, SP Chad Bettis is out indefinitely after announcing that his testicular cancer, with which he was diagnosed in November, has spread and he will be starting chemotherapy treatment.

The Rockies had the best batting average in the National League — and second best in Major League Baseball — last season with a .275 mark. They hit 204 home runs, which ranked 10th in the majors, and their .794 OPS was also tops in the NL and second in the majors. Among the offensive leaders was 3B Nolan Arenado, who hit .294 with 41 home runs — which was tied for the most in the NL and sixth in MLB — and a .932 OPS, which was 10th-best in the majors. His 6.5 WAR ranked 10th among all position players in the majors. OF Charlie Blackmon had a career year, hitting .324 with 29 home runs and a .933 OPS, which was ninth in the majors, and he posted a WAR of 4.4. The offense continued with OF Carlos Gonzalez, who hit .298 with 25 home runs and a .855 OPS. SS Trevor Story came out strong in his rookie season, hitting .272 with 27 home runs in 97 games before being shut down after undergoing thumb surgery. 2B DJ LeMahieu led the majors with a career-high .348 average and a 5.2 WAR, which ranked eighth among position players in the NL.

The pitching wasn’t as successful as the offense last season, with the staff’s 4.91 ERA tied for third-worst in the majors. The pitchers compiled 1,223 strikeouts, which was seventh-worst, and the bullpen racked up only 37 saves, tied for sixth-fewest in MLB. SP Tyler Chatwood was one of the better starters with a 3.87 ERA, but he only struck out 117 batters in 158 innings. SP Jon Gray led the team with 185 strikeouts in 168 innings, but he had a 4.61 ERA. SP Tyler Anderson only made 19 starts, but he led the rotation with a 3.54 ERA and had 99 strikeouts in 114.1 innings. In limited time in the majors — eight games, including six starts — prospect Jeff Hoffman posted a 4.88 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. RP Jake McGee got most of the save opportunities, going 15-for-19, but posted a 4.73 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 45.2 innings. RP Adam Ottavino pitched most of the second half of the season after returning from Tommy John surgery and recorded 7 saves in 12 opportunities to go along with a 2.67 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 27 innings.

Offense isn’t an issue for the Rockies, it’s the pitching that is questionable. The starting rotation, in particular, needs help and since the team didn’t acquire any starters this winter, it’ll be up to young pitchers like Hoffman and German Marquez, who is expected to make the rotation out of camp, to pick up some of the slack of the veterans who aren’t exactly aces. RP Greg Holland, who the team signed in January, is expected to get the first shot at closing out games. The former Royals closer hasn’t pitched in about 18 months while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the last three seasons he pitched, he recorded 47, 46 and 32 saves in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively. It might be unreasonable to think he can return to that type of performance, but if he can save about 30 games with decent peripheral numbers, it would improve the bullpen. If he isn’t able to pitch at the start of the season, Ottavino should get another shot at the closer’s role.

The Rockies are on the verge of competing in the NL West, if they can just get some better pitching. Unless they trade for a starter during the season, I don’t think they’re there yet. I think they’ll win more than the 75 games they won last year, but I think they’ll be a .500 team at best so they’ll still trail the Dodgers and Giants in the division.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.rockies.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Arizona Diamondbacks

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the NL West, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came in fourth place last season, up first for the division

After a disappointing season in 2016 when they failed to win 70 games, the Diamondbacks hope to live up to the expectations people had for them last year in 2017. To achieve that, they made one major move this winter, a trade with the Mariners. In the deal, the Diamondbacks acquired SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker in exchange for a package highlighted by SS Jean Segura, who the Diamondbacks traded for last offseason. Marte is in a competition with Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings for the starting shortstop job and Walker will slot in near the top of the rotation, behind ace Zack Greinke. The team also signed C Jeff Mathis and RP Fernando Rodney and claimed OF Jeremy Hazelbaker off waivers from the Cardinals, though he likely will just provide depth in the outfield rather than be an everyday starter, at least to begin the season.

The Diamondbacks finished tied for seventh in Major League Baseball with a .261 batting average last season but their 190 home runs put them around the middle of the pack, as did their .752 OPS. Among their best hitters was perennial all-star 1B Paul Goldschmidt, who hit .297 with 24 home runs and a .899 OPS (10th best in the National League); his WAR was 4.8. While those are good numbers, they were down significantly from his 2015 performance that earned him a second-place finish in NL MVP voting that season. OF Yasmany Tomas led the team with 31 home runs while hitting .272 for a .820 OPS. 3B Jake Lamb showed power, hitting 29 home runs to go along with a .249 average. Ahmed played in 90 games, hitting just .218 with 4 home runs. As for his competition for the starting job at the position, Owings went .277 with 5 home runs in 119 games and Marte hit .259 with 1 home run in 119 games with the Mariners.

The pitching staff posted a MLB-worst 5.09 ERA, but their 1,518 strikeouts finished in the top half of the majors. The bullpen recorded the fourth-fewest saves in MLB with 31. Greinke did not perform to the level people expected him to after signing a nine-figure contract with the Diamondbacks in free agency last winter. He put up a 4.37 ERA — his worst since posting a 5.80 mark back in 2005, his second season in the league — and struck out 134 batters in 158.2 innings over 26 starts. And it pretty much goes down from there for the rest of the rotation, with the possible exception of SP Robbie Ray, who had 218 strikeouts — tied for the ninth-most in the majors — in 174.1 innings, but that went with a poor 4.90 ERA. SP Shelby Miller, who the D-backs traded top prospect Dansby Swanson for last season, started just 20 games because he was sent down to the minors during the season as a result of putting up a 6.15 ERA with just 70 strikeouts in 101 innings. Walker made 25 starts with Seattle, compiling a 4.22 ERA with 119 strikeouts in 134.1 innings. Things weren’t much better in the bullpen. RP Brad Ziegler led the team with 18 saves. He posted a 2.82 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 38.1 innings before being traded to the Red Sox in July. Other than him, the relievers didn’t pitch well, with many of them posting ERAs above 4.00 and 5.00. Splitting time between the Padres and Marlins last season, Rodney went 25-for-28 in save opportunities while posting a 3.44 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 65.1 innings.

One reason to be optimistic about the Diamondbacks’ 2017 season is injuries were one reason why they underperformed last season, with OFs A.J. Pollock and David Peralta limited to 12 and 48 games, respectively. While they both could be ready to play on Opening Day, or shortly after, Tomas strained his oblique earlier this month and doesn’t have a timetable for a return, which means his status for Opening Day is in question. If the outfielders can stay healthy and on the field for the bulk of the season, it would provide a boost to the offense and take some of the pressure off of Goldschmidt to carry the team.

Walker should help improve the team’s pitching, but Greinke and Miller need to pitch better to keep the Diamondbacks in the games that they start. If Ray can lower his ERA, he could become a top pitcher with his ability to strike out hitters. Although his ERA was higher than you’d like to see from a closer, Rodney’s other numbers were pretty good so he will improve the bullpen if he can have another season like that, but he recently turned 40 so that could be asking a lot out of the veteran.

The Diamondbacks are better than they were last year, but how much better their record ends up being largely lies with the starting pitching. Greinke returning to form will be key to their success and ability to compete with the likes of the Dodgers and Giants in the division. I’m not convinced they’re as good as those teams, but it should at least be closer than it was last season.

Be sure to check back every day around 12pm Eastern for another team preview, see them all here, and follow me on Twitter for a link to each new post when it’s posted.

Source: http://www.dbacks.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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