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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Over/under and playoff picks

Now that we’ve previewed the 2017 season of all 30 MLB teams, let’s take a look at how the season is going to play out. In this post, I’ll be analyzing Vegas over/under totals for each team and pick the teams that will make the playoffs.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: 71.5
The Braves are coming off a 68-win season and should be improved this year, particularly with SS Dansby Swanson finally making it to the majors. I think they can go Over.

Miami Marlins: 77.5
The Marlins may have won 79 games last season, but I don’t think they’re that good. Other than OF Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins don’t have much going for them. Their pitching isn’t good and I have to go Under for them.

New York Mets: 89.5
The health of the starting pitchers is key to how successful the Mets will be this season. It’ll be tough to win 90 games, which they would have to do to beat this number. I think it’ll be close, but I’m going Under.

Philadelphia Phillies: 72.5
In my preview, I said the Phillies are probably about a 70-win team — at best — and I don’t see them winning many more games than that so I’m going Under.

Washington Nationals: 90.5
The Nationals are still the best team in the division. I expect OF Bryce Harper to bounce back from a subpar season last year and put up good numbers in 2017. They won 95 games last year and I don’t think they’re significantly worse heading into this season so even if they finish a few games worse than last year, they have a bit of a cushion to get to 91 wins so I’ll take the Over.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: 84.5
I expect a regression for the Orioles after winning 89 games a year ago. I think they’re about a .500 team, which leads me to go Under.

Boston Red Sox: 90.5
We’re I was more confident in the Red Sox having a big season before the injury to SP David Price that I fear could linger well into the season. Combine that with the absence of DH David Ortiz and an expected improvement from the Yankees and now I have to go Under 90.5. I think it might be a bit of a struggle for the Red Sox to reach 90 wins.

New York Yankees: 83.5
The Yankees are going to be an improved team this year if their young players — such as C Gary Sanchez and 1B Greg Bird — can do well at the plate. Their biggest questions lie with their starting rotation, which may not be very good save for SP Masahiro Tanaka. Regardless, they won 84 games last year and since I think they’ll be better this year, so I think they’ll win at least that many again, so it’ll be Over.

Tampa Bay Rays: 75.5
SP This number is 7.5 more wins than the Rays had last season and I don’t know where that’s coming from. The Rays are clearly the worst team in the AL East and could be one of the worst in Major League Baseball. This is an easy Under for me.

Toronto Blue Jays: 86.5
The Blue Jays should have a fine offense this season, but the pitching may not be so good. I think they’ll be competitive in the AL playoff race, though, and should be able to go Over the 86.5.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 95.5
The Cubs have the majority of their players coming back from last year’s 103-game winner, including NL MVP Kris Bryant. Barring any major injuries to their stars, they should easily go Over this number.

Cincinnati Reds: 73.5
The Reds are coming off a last-place finish, and that’s probably what they’re looking at again for this season. I think that’s a high number, so I’m going Under.

Milwaukee Brewers: 72.5
OF Ryan Braun had a good season last year, but not having C Jonathan Lucroy hurts the offense. Without any good pitchers on the roster, they’re not going to be good this year. It could be close, but I’m going Under.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 85.5
I said in the Pirates preview that they’re probably about a .500 team, which is slightly better than they did last season. Based on that prediction, I’m going Under.

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5
This is a tough one. The Cardinals won 86 games last season and playing the Cubs 19 times doesn’t help their cause, but the Cardinals are a good team. I think SP Carlos Martinez could become an ace this season. If he does, I think they can go Over.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: 73.5
The White Sox are in rebuilding mode. I expect them to be worse than the 78-win team from 2016. I think it’ll be close, but I’m going to take the Under for them.

Cleveland Indians: 92.5
The Indians should reach 90 wins for the second straight season and because they’re in a division with a couple of bad teams in the White Sox and Twins, I think they can make it to 93 so I’m going Over.

Detroit Tigers: 85.5
The Tigers won 86 games last year, which is basically right on the number. If SP Justin Verlander can repeat the performance he had last year, I think he can help the team at least match their win total from a year ago, so I’ll go Over, but just barely.

Kansas City Royals: 80.5
This is another number that I think is right on. The Royals won 81 games last season, and I think they’ll be right there again this year. It’ll be close, but I’m going to take the Under. I think they’ll be around 79 or 80 wins.

Minnesota Twins: 70.5
The Twins could be the worst team in baseball again this year. They won 59 games last year and I don’t see any way that they’ve improved enough to get up to 71 wins, so this is an easy Under for me.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: 78.5
SP Zack Greinke could be a key to how well the Diamondbacks do this year, as well as the health of OFs A.J. Pollock and David Peralta. They’re better than the 69-win team from last year, but probably just improved enough to get up to the 75-win range, so I’ll go Under 78.5.

Colorado Rockies: 79.5
The Rockies could easily go over this number if they get some decent performances out of their pitchers. Otherwise, I think they’ll be right around the 75 wins they tallied last year. So I’ll go Under, but it’s another close one.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 91.5
I expect the Dodgers to be the best team in the division, but they won 91 games last season which will be tough to beat. SP Clayton Kershaw missed time with an injury in 2016 so having him healthy for the full season could get them an extra win over last year, so I’ll take the Over — but just barely.

San Diego Padres: 64.5
The Padres are going to be a bad team this year, but I don’t think they’ll be 64-wins bad. I think they can come close to matching last year’s record of 68 wins, so I’ll take the Over for them.

San Francisco Giants: 87.5
The Giants are right behind the Dodgers in talent, in my opinion. They’re coming off an 87-win season and I don’t think they got much worse this winter, so I’ll take the Over. They could get close to 90 wins.

AL West

Houston Astros: 87.5
With the offense the Astros have, I think they can reach 90 wins if their starting pitching holds up, particularly with better numbers out of SP Dallas Keuchel and if SP Lance McCullers can stay healthy. They’re a good team, I’ll take the Over.

Los Angeles Angels: 76.5
CI don’t think OF Mike Trout is enough for the Angels to be competitive this year. He won the MVP last year, but the team only won 74 games. I don’t think they’re much improved this year, so I’ll take the Under.

Oakland Athletics: 66.5
The A’s are one of the worst teams in baseball, but this is a low number. I’m going to go Over just because they won 69 last year and could finish right around there again in 2017.

Seattle Mariners: 85.5
The Mariners are going to be competitive in the division, especially if SP Felix Hernandez improves upon his disappointing season from a year ago. I think they can get around 86-88 wins, so I’ll take the Over.

Texas Rangers: 86.5
The Rangers are coming off a 95-win season, so I have a hard time thinking they’ll be nine games worse this year so I’ll go Over, but I think they’ll be closer to 90 wins than 95 this year.

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Playoff Picks

National League

NL East Champs: Washington Nationals
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wild Cards: St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants

American League

AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox
AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indians
AL West Champs: Houston Astros
AL Wild Cards: Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays

World Series: Indians over Nationals in 6 games

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Texas Rangers

We finish previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season with the two-time defending AL West champion Texas Rangers; the monthlong series concludes tomorrow with over/under picks and playoff predictions

The Rangers are coming off of two straight AL West titles, including a 95-win season a year ago. Given that recent success, the team apparently didn’t feel the need to add many players of significance this offseason. The most notable signing was a reunion, with 1B Mike Napoli signing a one-year contract to return to the team with which he played in 2011-12 and 2015. The team also signed SP Tyson Ross and re-signed OF Carlos Gomez, who they originally picked up in August after the Astros released him. Returning players include SS Elvis Andrus and 3B Adrian Beltre on offense and SPs Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish in the rotation. The team did lose a couple of key members of its offense as OFs Carlos Beltran and Ian Desmond left in free agency.

The Rangers’ .262 average was tied for the fifth-best in MLB, and their 215 home runs were the seventh-most in the majors. They finished in the top half of the league with a .755 OPS. 2B Rougned Odor hit .271 last season with a team-high 33 home runs — more than double the 16 he hit in 2015 — and a .798 OPS. Beltre was the team’s best overall hitter, hitting .300 with 32 home runs and a .879 OPS; he had a 4.2 WAR. Andrus hit .302 with 8 home runs and 24 steals, tied for seventh-most in the American League. Splitting time between the Brewers and Rangers last season, C Jonathan Lucroy hit .292 with 24 home runs and a .855 OPS. OF Nomar Mazara added another 20 home runs, with a .266 batting average. Napolit hit .239 with 34 home runs for the Indians in 2016.

The pitching wasn’t great, as the team finished in the bottom 10 of the majors with a 4.37 ERA and the staff struck out just 1,154 batters, which was the second-fewest in MLB. The bullpen had a good season, though, as the Rangers led the majors with 56 saves. Hamels led the rotation with a 3.32 ERA and 200 strikeouts — seventh-most in the AL — in 200.2 innings. Darvish made 17 starts in an injury-shortened season and put up a 3.41 ERA with 132 strikeouts in 100.1 innings. SP Martin Perez posted a 4.39 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 198.2 innings. RP Sam Dyson led the team with 38 saves in 43 opportunities. He put up a 2.43 ERA and struck out 55 guys in 70.1 innings.

The Rangers had one of the better offenses in the league last season but losing Desmond and his 22 home runs will hurt them. Napoli may be able to make up for a lot of that lost power, but he likely won’t come close to the .285 that Desmond hit last year. Gomez played well after joining the Rangers last season — .284 with 8 home runs in 33 games — but he hit just .210 with 5 home runs in 85 games with Houston after hitting just 12 home runs total in 2015. He is past his prime and the numbers he put up with the Astros are likely closer to what the Rangers will get out of him this year than the performance he put up in the second half after joining the team.

The Rangers need a pitcher to step up and perform well  as a No. 3 behind Hamels and Darvish. Perez could be that guy, if he can increase his strikeout totals to keep more guys off of the bases. P Mike Hauschild is expected to break camp as the fifth starter, targeting him to make his major league debut early in the season. He has put up decent numbers this spring and has a career 3.50 ERA in five minor league seasons. No one knows what the team will get out of Ross, who made just one start last season and will start 2017 on the DL while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He is not expected to be ready to join the major league roster until around June. Assuming he comes back then, there’s no telling how he’ll performed since he essentially hasn’t pitched since 2015.

The Rangers are looking to win their third-straight division title, but I’m not convinced they’ll get it. They should regress a little this season and the Astros should be a better team with the moves they made this offseason. And the Mariners are still in the mix in the division after finishing in second place last year. The Rangers, Astros and Mariners should all be competitive for most of the season, but I don’t think the Rangers will be the team of the three that ends the 2017 campaign atop the division.

That’ll do it for all 30 of our team previews — you can see them all here — but there’s one final post in our season preview coming up tomorrow featuring over/unders and playoff predictions.

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

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Seattle Mariners

Our previews of the AL West continue, with the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Seattle Mariners, who finished in second place in the division last season

The Mariners had a bit of a surprising season in 2016, winning 10 more games than in 2015 to finish in second place in the division, but that still wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. They were looking to change the lack of a playoff run this winter by making several trades, some more impactful than others. Among the big moves the Mariners made were trading SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks for a package that included SS Jean Segura and OF Mitch Haniger. They also acquired SP Yovani Gallardo from the Orioles in exchange for OF Seth Smith and traded SP Nathan Karns to the Royals for OF Jarrod Dyson. And they acquired SP Drew Smyly from the Rays for some prospects, including OF Mallex Smith, and made a trade with the A’s for 1B Danny Valencia. Those newly acquired players will join the likes of 2B Robinson Cano and SP Felix Hernandez in Seattle.

The Mariners ranked 10th in Major League Baseball with a .259 average, but their 223 home runs were the third-most in the majors. Their .756 OPS was also in the top 10 in the league. Cano hit .298 with 39 home runs — tied for ninth in MLB — with a .882 OPS and a 7.3 WAR, which ranked sixth in the majors. DH Nelson Cruz hit the second-most home runs in the majors, with 43 to go along with a .287 average and .915 OPS, which was the sixth-highest in the American League; his WAR was 4.7. 3B Kyle Seager added another 30 home runs, a career high, with a .278 average and a 6.9 WAR. With the A’s, Valencia hit .287 with 17 home runs, and Dyson hit .278 and stole 30 bases with Kansas City.

The pitching staff finished in the top 10 with a 4.00 ERA and just missed the top 10 with 1,318 strikeouts. The bullpen recorded 49 saves, sixth-most in the majors. None of the starting pitchers was particularly good last season. Hernandez posted a 3.82 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 153.1 innings. SP James Paxton finished with a slightly better 3.79 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings, and SP Hisashi Iwakuma was the only starter to surpass 30 starts, making 33 starts with a 4.12 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 199 innings. With the Rays, Smyly put up a 4.88 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 175.1 innings, and Gallardo posted a 5.42 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 118 innings with Baltimore. RP Steve Cishek led the team with 25 saves, but RP Edwin Diaz took over as closer in the second half of the season and recorded 18 saves with a 2.79 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 51.2 innings in his rookie season.

The Mariners shouldn’t have a hard time hitting the ball out of the park with Cano and Cruz in the lineup, but they need better pitching if they want to take the next step and pass the Rangers in the AL West. Hernandez is trending in the wrong direction, with two straight years of regression in his numbers. He needs to turn it around and get closer to the numbers he was putting up in the prime of his career to return to being the true ace of the team that the Mariners currently lack. Smyly also had a disappointing year in Tampa, and if he doesn’t improve upon his numbers from 2016 that trade doesn’t look like it’ll work out the way the Mariners want it to. Paxton could be poised to have a breakout season if he can stay healthy, which he has struggled to do in his career so far. In the bullpen, Diaz will be the closer to start the season as Cishek is starting the season on the DL as he recovers from hip surgery.

I think the Mariners are going to take a step back this year, and with some of the moves the Astros made this offseason to improve their team I think the Mariners will return to being the third best team in the division after finishing in second place last year. After winning 86 games last year, I think the Mariners will be closer to a .500 team this season.

Be sure to check back tomorrow around 12pm Eastern for the final 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.mariners.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Oakland Athletics

Our previews of the AL West continue, with the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season is the Oakland Athletics, who finished in last place in the division last season

The A’s are coming off two straight seasons with fewer than 70 wins, and this season won’t get off to a good start. SP Sonny Gray, the team’s ace, is expected to miss most of April as he starts the season on the disabled list while recovering from a lat strain he suffered in spring training. The team is trying to make improvements, acquiring a number of hitters this offseason, including signing OF Matt Joyce to a two-year contract and inking 3B Trevor Plouffe and OF Rajai Davis each to a one-year contract. With Gray out for the time being, the A’s rotation is made-up of largely inexperienced pitchers, including SPs Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton.

The A’s .246 batting average was the fifth-worst in Major League Baseball. They hit 169 home runs,which was the 10th-fewest in the majors. Their .699 OPS was the worst in the American League and third-worst in MLB. OF Khris Davis hit 42 home runs last season — which was tied for third-most in the majors — with a .247 average and .831 OPS. SS Marcus Semien added another 27 homers to the team’s total but hit just .237, and DH Ryon Healy hit .305 with 13 home runs in 72 games. C Stephen Vogt hit 14 home runs with a .251 average. With the Twins, Plouffe hit .260 with 12 home runs, while Davis hit .249 with 12 home runs and 43 steals — the most in the AL — with the Indians.

The A’s 4.51 ERA was tied for the sixth-worst in MLB and their 1,188 strikeouts were the fourth-fewest in the majors. The bullpen’s 42 saves ended up in the bottom half of the league. In an injury-shortened season, Gray posted a 5.69 ERA — nearly three runs worse than in 2015 — with 94 strikeouts in 117 innings over 22 starts. Manaea posted a 3.86 ERA with 124 strikeouts in 144.2 innings, and Graveman put up a 4.11 ERA with 108 strikeouts in 186 innings. In five starts, Cotton posted a 2.15 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 29.1 innings. RP Ryan Madson was the team’s main closer, recording 30 saves with a 3.62 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. RP Sean Doolittle, who tallied 4 saves, had a better season than Madson with a 3.23 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 39 innings.

The A’s made some acquisitions this winter that could help their offense, but they didn’t do anything to address their pitching — which is a bigger issue for the team. With Gray, who didn’t have a good season in 2016, likely out for nearly a month, the team has to rely on inexperienced guys on the mound — including Cotton, who has appeared in five games in his big-league career, although he has pitched well in that limited sample size. The bullpen is another issue because Madson, who is expected to get the first shot to pitch in the ninth, doesn’t have stuff that is good enough to be a closer. Don’t be surprised if Doolittle takes over the role sooner than later, but he’s also not the lights-out closer that most teams would like to have.

The A’s were one of the worst teams in the majors last season and that will likely continue into 2017. They don’t have a true star on the team; Khris Davis and Semien can hit home runs but they don’t hit for average. Their rotation is made up of inexperienced and unproven guys. who would have to take major steps forward to help the team have a significant improvement over last year’s 69-93 mark. It won’t be much better, though, because they’re probably, at best, a 70-to-72-win team.

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.oaklandas.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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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 MVP 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 he 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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