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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Over/under and playoff picks

Now that we’ve previewed the 2018 season for 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 make my playoff picks.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: 74.5
The Braves have some young prospects with potential — including OF Ronald Acuna, who is starting the season in the minors. If they can play well this season, the Braves should be able to get to 75 wins, which is only three more than last season. I’ll go Over.

Miami Marlins: 64.5
The Marlins had a fire sale this winter, getting rid of all of their stars save for C J.T. Realmuto, and I think he’ll be dealt at the trade deadline. They should be the worst team in the majors this season. Under.

New York Mets: 81
Last year, I said the health of the starting pitchers is key to how successful the Mets will be this season. The same applies for this year. They have to be healthier than they were last season, so I think the Mets can barely go Over the 81.

Philadelphia Phillies: 75.5
The Phillies won 66 games last season and I think they’ll be better this year after adding guys like 1B Carlos Santana and SP Jake Arrieta to a roster with young guys like 2B Scott Kingery and SS J.P. Crawford, but I don’t think they’ll see 10 games worth of improvement. It’ll be close, but I’ll go Under.

Washington Nationals: 92.5
The Nationals are the best team in the division with SPs Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on the mound and OF Bryce Harper providing power in the middle of the lineup. They won 97 games last season so I think they could be around 95 this season. Over.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: 73
It won’t be an easy road for the Orioles, who have to face the Yankees and Red Sox nearly 40 times this season. I expect them to win around 70 games, so I’ll go Under.

Boston Red Sox: 91.5
Adding J.D. Martinez this weekend will provide the Red Sox with much-needed power, which should help them stay above 90 wins this season after winning 93 in 2017. I’ll go Over.

New York Yankees: 94.5
Adding OF Giancarlo Stanton to a team that already includes OF Aaron Judge gives the Yankees a duo that could hit 100 home runs between them. Stanton’s health is a concern, though, as last season was us the second time in his career he’s played at least 150 games. I don’t think he’ll get there this year, so I’m going to go slightly Under.

Tampa Bay Rays: 77.5
The Rays won 80 games last year and I think they’ll do worse than that this season. I think who they trade — or don’t — at the deadline could be key to how well they do this season, but I think SP Chris Archer will be dealt. If he is, I think they end up Under 77.5 wins.

Toronto Blue Jays: 81
The Blue Jays aren’t the worst team in the division, but I also don’t think they’re a .500 team. They won 76 games in 2017 and I don’t think they’re five games better this season, so this is a relatively easy Under for me.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 94.5
NInety-five wins is a lot for a Cubs team that lost Arrieta and replaced him with SP Yu Darvish, who I think is past his prime and will ultimately be a disappointment with his new team. Overall, I think the starting rotation is worse than last year, so I don’t think the Cubs get to 95 wins. They could get to 90, but that would still be Under.

Cincinnati Reds: 73.5
I think the Reds will be hard-pressed to get to 70 wins after winning 68 a year ago. Other than 1B Joey Votto, they don’t have many stars on the team. It’s going to be Under for them.

Milwaukee Brewers: 84.5
The Brewers were one of the most-improved teams this offseason, trading for or signing OFs Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. They won 86 games last season and I don’t think they’ll win fewer than that this year, so this is Over.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 73
The Pirates traded SP Gerrit Cole and OF Andrew McCutchen this winter and got mainly prospects back in return, which doesn’t bode well for their results this season. I’m not sure they get to 70 wins this season, let alone 73 so I’m going Under.

St. Louis Cardinals: 85.5
Like the Brewers, the Cardinals improved their team this offseason, adding OF Marcell Ozuna, who should hit more than 30 home runs again this season to provide more pop for an offense that already includes SS Paul DeJong, who had 25 home runs last year. I’m going Over for the Cardinals.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: 68
The White Sox don’t have much upside this season. I don’t think they’ll lose 100 games, but I think their loss total will be in the 90s, so their win total could be close to 68 but I’m going to go with what I think is the safer pick and go Under.

Cleveland Indians: 94.5
The Indians won 102 games last season, but I don’t think they break 100 again in 2018., They won more than 20 straight games last year, which I think helped inflate their win total. But they’re in a division with four teams that aren’t very good, so I think they can get up to 95 victories. Over.

Detroit Tigers: 68.5
The Tigers won 64 games last year, when they had SP Justin Verlander for most of the season. Without him on the roster in 2018, I don’t see how they beat that total. They could lose 100 games this year, so it’s Under.

Kansas City Royals: 71.5
The Royals lost 1B Eric Hosmer and OF Lorenzo Cain in free agency this winter, which will hurt them at the plate and cause them to fall from their 80-win total a year ago, but 71 wins may be dropping them a little too far. I think they’ll finish with about 75 or so wins, so I’m going Over 71.5.

Minnesota Twins: 82.5
I think the Twins won more games last year than they should have given their talent. They’ll be starting this season with SP Ervin Santana on the DL and SS Jorge Polanco serving an 80-game PED suspension, so they won’t match last year’s 85 wins. But I think they can get 83 or 84 so it doesn’t give me much margin for error, but I’m taking the Over.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: 85.5
The Diamondbacks have a good offense led by 1B Paul Goldschmidt and their pitching can be good if SP Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray continue to pitch well, like they did in 2017. I think the Diamondbacks go Over 85.5.

Colorado Rockies: 82
The Rockies won 87 games last season, but I think they’ll be worse than that this year. They’ll still be better than .500 and I think they could win 84 or 85 games, so I’ll go Over.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 96.5
The Dodgers will be without injured 3B Justin Turner to start the season, which will hurt them early on. They did trade for OF Matt Kemp, who could make up for some of Turner’s lost production. Other teams in the division got better this winter, so the Dodgers probably won’t lead the majors in wins like they did last season, with 104. They should stay above 90, though, and it’ll be close but I’m going Over 96.5. They could hit the 97-win mark.

San Diego Padres: 69.5
For the second straight winter, the Padres spent money to sign a free-agent bat, this time with Hosmer. He’ll help the offense put runs on the board, along with OF Wil Myers, who moves off of first base to make room for Hosmer defensively. The Padres had 71 wins last season, and I think they’ll have at least that many this year so I’m going Over 69.5.

San Francisco Giants: 81.5
The Giants improved their offense this season, trading for McCutchen and 3B Evan Longoria. Their starting rotation took a hit in spring training, though, with SPs Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner both suffering injuries that will keep them sidelined for a significant length of time. Those injuries will tamper expectations, but I still think they can surpass .500 this year, so I’ll go Over.

AL West

Houston Astros: 96.5
The Astros won 101 games last season and this year have Verlander or the entire season, in addition to Cole, who they acquired from the Pirates. With the offense they have — headlined by 2B Jose Altuve, SS Carlos Correa, 3B Alex Bregman and OF George Springer — and their pitching, the Astros should surpass 100 wins again this season. I’m going Over.

Los Angeles Angels: 84.5
The Angels made one of the biggest signings of the offseason with SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, but he has struggled this spring so he may not do as well as the Angels had hoped he would. I still think they can get to 85 wins behind the bat of OF Mike Trout,so I’ll go Over.

Oakland Athletics: 74.5
The A’s won 75 games last year and I think they may be a little better this season after acquiring OF Stephen PIscotty. I think they can barely get Over 74.5 wins.

Seattle Mariners: 81.5
I think the Mariners are around a .500 team. They won 78 games last year and I think they’ll end up within a couple games of that total this season, so I’m going to go Under 81.5, but it could be close.

Texas Rangers: 77.5
The Rangers are clearly the worst team in the division and I don’t think they’ll come close to the 78 wins they earned last season. I think this is an easy Under pick.

World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven

Playoff Picks

National League

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

American League

AL East Champs: Boston Red Sox
AL Central Champs: Cleveland Indians
AL West Champs: Houston Astros
AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels

World Series: Astros over Brewers in 6 games

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Texas Rangers

We finish previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season with the Texas Rangers, who finished in fourth place in the AL West; the monthlong series concludes tomorrow with over/under picks and playoff predictions

The Rangers’ 78-64 record last season was 17 games worse than in 2016. They didn’t make any major moves this winter, signing SPs Doug Fister and Mike Minor and trading for SP Matt Moore. They also signed RP Tim Lincecum, but he is going to start the season on the disabled list. SP Cole Hamels remains at the top of the rotation, with 1B Joey Gallo and 2B Rougned Odor leading the charge offensively.

The Rangers had a feast-or-famine offense last season, with their .244 average tied for the fourth-lowest in Major League Baseball, but their 237 home runs were the third most in the league. They had a .750 OPS, which equaled the MLB average. Gallo’s batting average was just .209, but he hit 41 home runs with an .869 OPS. Odor put up similar numbers, with a .204 average and 30 home runs. SS Elvis Andrus hit .297 with 20 homers and 25 steals, and OF Nomar Mazara added 20 home runs and a team-high 101 RBI with a .253 average. Veteran 3B Adrian Beltre hit .312 with 17 home runs in 94 games. DH Shin-Soo Choo hit 22 homers and OF Delino DeShields stole 29 bases.

The pitchers posted a 4.66 ERA, which was in the bottom half of the majors, and they struck out 1,107 batters, which was the fewest among the 30 pitching staffs. The team recorded 29 saves, which was the second-worst in the league, behind only the White Sox. Hamels posted a 4.20 ERA in 24 starts with 105 strikeouts in 148 innings. SP Martin Perez posted a 4.82 ERA with 115 strikeouts in 185 innings over 32 starts. Fister posted a 4.88 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 90.1 innings for the Red Sox. Minor pitched out of the bullpen for the Royals last season, making 65 appearances with 88 strikeouts in 77.2 innings, and Moore put up a career-worst 5.52 ERA in 32 games — 31 starts — with the Giants; he struck out 148 in 174.1 innings. In the bullpen, RP Alex Claudio recorded 11 saves late in the season. He appeared in 70 games, posting a 2.50 ERA with just 56 strikeouts in 82.2 innings.

The Rangers’ power isn’t in question, but their ability to hit for contact is. They had one of the worst batting averages in the majors last season, and it doesn’t look to be much improved this season with the team not signing any major hitters. Guys like Odor and Gallo need to get their averages up to try to increase the chances of their teammates driving them in if they want to be competitive this season. The starting rotation is full of guys who are on the downsides of their careers, including SP Bartolo Colon, who is starting the season at Triple-A Round Rock. The closer’s role is in flux. Claudio ended 2017 with in that role, but the team is hinting he could be used in high-leverage situations earlier in games. That would leave the closer position up for grabs with LIncecum — who didn’t pitch in the majors last season and doesn’t have a timetable for his return from the DL — and RP Keone Kela among the candidates who could earn the ninth-inning job.

After finishing in fourth place in the division last season, that’s probably the best the Rangers can hope for in 2018. The A’s may have a better team this year, leaving open the possibility that the Rangers could finish the season in last place. They need to get better starting pitchers if they want to be competitive again, especially being in the same division as the Astros, who are coming off their World Series title, and the Angels, who improved their team this offseason.

That’ll do it for all 30 of our team previews — you can see them all here — but there’s one final post in this year’s 30 in 30ish series coming tomorrow; follow me on Twitter or subscribe to the blog to know when it’s posted.

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

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4th 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 2018 season, the Seattle Mariners, who finished in third place in the division last season

After the Buffalo Bills made the NFL playoffs this season, the Mariners now hold the longest active streak in the four major U.S. pro sports leagues without making the postseason. They last made it to the playoffs in 2001, and they’ll have to improve upon their 78-84 from last season if they want 2018 to be the year they again play deep into October. They traded for a couple of hitters this winter, with 1B Ryon Healy and OF Dee Gordon joining the team. They also signed RP Juan Nicasio and OF Ichiro Suzuki, who last played for the team in 2012 when he was a teammate of SP Felix Hernandez, who has had trouble staying healthy over the last couple of seasons.

The Mariners’ .259 average last season put them in the top half of Major League Baseball, but their 200 home runs and .749 OPS were both below the league average. DH Nelson Cruz hit .288 with a team-high 39 home runs and 119 RBI to go along with a .924 OPS. 3B Kyle Seager hit .249 with 27 home runs, and 2B Robinson Cano added 23 homers and 97 RBI with a .280 average. SS Jean Segura hit .300 with 11 home runs and 22 steals in 125 games. OF Mitch Haniger hit .282 with 16 home runs in 96 games. With the Marlins, Gordon hit .308 with 60 steals and Ichiro hit .255. Healy hit .271 with 25 homers for the A’s.

The pitchers’ 4.46 ERA placed them in the bottom half of the majors, and their 1,244 strikeouts were the 10th-fewest in the league. The bullpen recorded 39 saves, which matched the league average. SP James Paton put up the best numbers among the starters, with a 2.98 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 136 innings over 24 starts. Hernandez posted a 4.36 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 86.2 innings over 16 starts. SP Mike Leake made five starts for the team last season, putting up a 2.53 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 32 innings, and P Marco Gonzales made 10 appearances — seven starts — with the Mariners after being traded from the Cardinals, striking out 30 with a 5.40 ERA in 36.2 innings. RP Edwin Diaz recorded 34 saves in 66 appearances, posting a 3.27 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 66 innings.

Adding Gordon to the lineup gives the team a speedy player who can get on base, but he doesn’t give them much power. Ichiro doesn’t have much left at this point at the age of 44 and he will serve as a backup in his return to the team. So they’re going to rely on the likes of Cruz, Cano and Seager for their power output. Hernandez is the key to the pitching. He used to be the team’s ace, but Paxton seems to have claimed that title now, even though Hernandez will be starting on Opening Day. He hasn’t made more than 25 starts in either of the last two seasons, though, and his ERA has been on a steady climb over the last three years. He’ll have to right the ship and get his ERA back down closer to his 3.20 career ERA to give the team a second ace behind Paxton, whose ERA has steadily improved in recent seasons. This is Gonzales’ first full season in the majors but he hasn’t had much success in his brief stints in the big leagues to date. If he can live up to his potential, that would help the Mariners stay in teams by keeping opponents from scoring too many runs.

The Mariners finished in third place in the division last season and they’re probably still the third-best team in the AL West. The Astros are clearly the best team in the division and the Angels are likely ahead of the Mariners as well, especially with moves they made this offseason like signing Zack Cozart and Shohei Ohtani. If their young players keep improving, they could compete for a playoff spot in the coming years, but I think the American League has too many good teams for this to be the year the Mariners end their playoff drought.

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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4th 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 2018 season is the Oakland Athletics, who finished in last place in the division last season

The A’s won 75 games last season, but that was a six-win improvement over 2016 so things appear to be looking up for the young team. Their biggest acquisition this offseason was acquiring OF Stephen Piscotty from the Cardinals. They also signed C Jonathan Lucroy and P Yusmeiro Petit. Back to lead the offense again in 2018 is DH Khris Davis while the team hopes a true No. 1 starter emerges from a rotation that currently lacks such a player.

The hitters hit .246 last season, which put them in the bottom 10 in Major League Baseball, but they were fourth with 234 home runs. They were in the top half of the league with a .755 OPS. Davis hit 43 home runs, which was the fourth-most in the majors, but hit just .247 with an .864 OPS. OF Matthew Joyce hit .243 with 25 home runs, and OF Matt Olson hit .259 with 24 home runs in just 59 games. SS Marcus Semien hit .249 with 10 home runs in 85 games, and 3B Matt Chapman added 14 homers in 84 games. Piscotty hit .235 with 9 home runs in 107 games with St. Louis. Lucroy had one of the worst seasons of his career with the Rangers and Rockies, hitting .265 with 6 home runs.

The pitchers’ 4.67 ERA was in the bottom half of the league, as were their 1,202 strikeouts and 35 saves. SP Kendall Graveman posted the best ERA in the rotation at 4.19. He had 70 strikeouts in 105.1 innings over 19 starts. SP Sean Manaea made 29 starts, posting a 4.37 ERA and striking out 140 batters in 158.2 innings. SP Daniel Mengden showed some promising signs in seven starts, posting a 3.14 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 43 innings. In 35 games after being acquired from the Nationals at the trade deadline, RP Blake Treinen recorded 13 saves with a 2.13 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 38 innings. With the Angels, Petit put up a 2.76 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 91.1 innings over 60 appearances.

The A’s have a young team, which could be good if they are able to take the next step in their careers and get the team to where it needs to be in order to be a legit playoff contender. Olson, in particular, showed promising signs, with 24 home runs in 59 games. He probably won’t be able to keep that pace up for a full season, but 35-40 home runs isn’t out of the question based on what he did with his limited playing time last season. Davis has proven he is a 40-homer hitter, so they could provide some nice power output in the middle of the lineup. There isn’t is much of an obvious leader in the starting rotation. Lucroy has to bounce back from his disappointing season and get back to the double-digit home-run totals he usually has if he wants to help the team. Graveman has been named the Opening Day starter, but he has not yet proven himself to be an ace in the first three seasons of his career. SP Jharel Cotton will miss the entire season after recently undergoing Tommy John surgery.

The A’s may have improved this offseason, but if they did it wasn’t by much, and they’re still behind division foes like the Astros, Angels and Mariners. They may be able to pass the Rangers to avoid another last place finish this season, but the A’s can’t expect much more than that because they’re still at least a couple years away from competing, especially with the rotation they have.

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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4th 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 2018 season, is the Los Angeles Angels, who finished in second place in the division last season

The Angels signed one of the most-hyped players on the market this offseason, inking Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani — who is known as the “Japanese Babe Ruth” because he can pitch and hit — to a six-year contract. They also signed 3B Zack Cozart and OF Chris Young, and they traded for 2B Ian Kinsler and RP Jim Johnson. And they still have one of the best players in Major League Baseball in OF Mike Trout and veteran DH Albert Pujols as staples of the middle of the lineup. They’re looking to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2014,

The Angels’ .243 average last season was the third-lowest in MLB, and they had the sixth-fewest home runs with 186; their .712 OPS was in the bottom five in the majors. Despite those numbers, Trout put up the type of numbers we’ve come to expect of him. He hit .306 with 33 home runs and a 1.071 OPS; he also stole 22 bases and had a 6.7 WAR. Pujols hit .241 with 23 home runs and a team-high 101 RBI. OF Kole Calhoun hit .244 with 19 homers, and SS Andrelton Simmons added 14 home runs and 19 steals with a .278 average. Kinsler had 22 homers with the Tigers, while Cozart hit .297 with 24 home runs with the Reds. With the Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani hit .332 with 8 home runs and a .942 OPS in 65 games.

The pitching staff posted a 4.20 ERA, which ranked in the top half of the league, and was below the league average with 1,312 strikeouts. In the bullpen, the Angels were in the top half of the majors with 43 saves. SP Garrett Richards missed most of last season with an arm injury, but pitched well the few times he took the mound. In six starts,he posted a 2.28 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. SP Parker Bridwell posted a 3.64 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 121 innings, and SP Matt Shoemaker put up a 4.52 ERA and struck out 69 batters in 77.2 innings over 14 starts. SP Tyler Skaggs made 16 starts, with a 4.55 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 85 innings. RP Blake Parker recorded 8 saves while putting up a 2.54 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 67.1 innings over 71 appearances. With the Braves, Johnson recorded 22 saves but had a disappointing 5.56 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 56.2 innings in 61 games. On the mound, Ohtani recorded a 3.20 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 25.1 innings, and he has a 2.69 career ERA in five seasons in the Japan Pacific League.

The Angels beefed up their offense this winter to give Trout some help. Cozart, in particular, should provide him some support in the middle of the lineup, and if Pujols can stay healthy the veteran can still provide some pop, with around 20 home runs. How the pitching does will largely depend on how healthy the starters are, as many of them dealt with injuries at some point last season that limited the number of starts they made. And the biggest X factor on the team is, of course, Ohtani. He was expected to be a big part of the team from Opening Day, but he has a 27.00 ERA in two spring training starts and is 3-for-28 (.107) with 1 RBI, 3 walks and 9 strikeouts at the plate. With those numbers, there has been speculation that he could open the season in the minors, but it appears he will start 2018 in the majors. If he continues to struggle early in the season, though, he could get sent down. That would put a damper on the team’s expectations for the season and potentially push back by a season the plan they had when they signed the Japanese star.

The Angels finished as runners-up to the Astros in the division last season, and that’s probably the best they can hope for this year. In a competitive American League, I’m not sure they have enough talent — especially with their pitching staff — to land a Wild Card. If they don’t get the type of performance they’re expecting from Ohtani, the Mariners could even pass them in the West. The Angels are on the right track, but they’re likely not yet to the point where they’re a playoff 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.angels.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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4th 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 2018 season, beginning with the Houston Astros, who won the division — and the World Series — last season

After more than 50 years in Major League Baseball, the Astros finally won the first World Series title in franchise history last season. While they lost some players from the championship team this winter — OF Carlos Beltran retired and they traded 3B Colin Moran and pitchers Joe Musgrove and Michael Feliz — the core of the team remains, including 2017 American League MVP Jose Altuve and World Series MVP George Springer. The team’s biggest addition this offseason was trading for SP Gerrit Cole, who joins a rotation that includes former Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. The Astros also signed RPs Joe Smith and Hector Rondon to get a better performance out of the bullpen, which was the weak spot on last year’s squad, as they look to become the first team since the 1998-2000 Yankees to repeat as World Series champions.

The Astros led MLB last season with a .282 average and an .823 OPS, and their 238 home runs were second to only the Yankees. Altuve led the way with a MLB-best .346 average, 24 home runs and a .957 OPS. He also led the majors with an 8.3 WAR on his way to earning MVP honors. Springer led the team with 34 home runs with a .283 average, and SS Carlos Correa hit .315 with 24 home runs in 109 games. Utilityman Marwin Gonzalez had a career year, hitting .303 with 23 homers and a team-high 90 RBI in 134 games. 3B Alex Bregman had a strong rookie campaign, hitting .284 with 19 home runs. OF Josh Reddick set a new career high with a .314 average to go along with 13 home runs.

The pitching wasn’t as good, but their 4.12 ERA was in the top half of the league, and the Astros’ 1,593 strikeouts were the second most in the majors. Their 45 saves were tied for sixth in MLB. After coming over the team in an August 31 trade, Verlander was 5-0 in five starts in the regular season for the Astros. He posted a 1.06 ERA and struck out 43 in 34 innings. Keuchel was limited to 23 starts but put up a respectable 2.90 ERA with 125 strikeouts in 145.2 innings, and SP Lance McCullers posted a 4.25 ERA in 22 starts, recording 132 strikeouts in 118.2 innings. Veteran P Brad Peacock had a strong season, putting up a 3.00 ERA with 161 strikeouts in 132 innings over 34 games, including 21 starts. RP Ken Giles put up a 2.30 ERA with 34 saves in 63 appearances; he recorded 83 strikeouts in 62.2. innings. With the Pirates, Cole posted a 4.26 ERA and struck out 196 batters in 203 innings over 33 starts.

The Astros were among the best offenses in the majors last season, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue in 2018 with the bulk of the lineup returning. They will be without 1B Yuli Gurriel for the first couple weeks of the season as he recovers from a minor injury suffered during spring training, then serves a five-game suspension that was issued during the World Series. That’ll open up some extra playing times for a guy like OF Derek Fisher, who has the potential to be a good hitter. Another young outfielder with potential is top prospect Kyle Tucker, who has hit the ball well in spring training but won’t start the season in the majors but should get called up in the second half of  the season — if not sooner if the Astros deal with injuries. The pitching staff should be better this season now that the Astros will have Verlander for the whole season and with Cole added to the rotation. While he’s not a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, which was how the Pirates were using him, he’s a decent No. 3 or No. 4 starter, as he will be in the Astros’ rotation with McCullers and Charlie Morton expected  to fill the remaining spots in the rotation. That means guys like Collin McHugh and Brad Peacock, who would be starters on most teams, will work out of the bullpen to start the season. That should help the rest of the relievers as those guys can give the Astros length out of the bullpen and save the arms of guys like Giles and Chris Devenski, who are key pieces of the bullpen late in games.

There’s no reason to think the Astros aren’t among the favorites to make it to the World Series again in 2018 after winning their first championship last season. The division may have more competition with some of the moves the Angels made to improve their team, but the Astros are still the best team in the AL West and among the best teams in the American League. A second straight World Series appearance is a distinct possibility.

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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4th 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 2018 season is the San Francisco Giants, who finished in last place in the division last season

The Giants had a disappointing showing last season, going 64-98 a year after making the playoffs as an 87-win team. Looking to get back to their winning ways, the Giants added some veterans with playoff experience to  the team this offseason. At the plate, they traded for 3B Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, giving up players like SS Christian Arroyo, OF Denard Span and P Kyle Crick in those two deals. They also signed free-agent RP Tony Watson and OF Austin Jackson. The newest additions to the squad join the likes of C Buster Posey, 1B Brandon Belt and SPs Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto as the Giants hope to make a push to return to the postseason in what should be a competitive NL West.

The Giants hit .249 last season, which was in the bottom 10 of Major League Baseball, and their 128 home runs were the fewest in the majors. Their .689 OPS was also the worst in the league. Posey’s .320 average led the team, but his 12 home runs were a career low; he had an .861 OPS. Belt led the team with 18 home runs, which tied his career high, but he hit just .241, which was well below his .268 career average. OF Hunter Pence hit .260 with 13 home runs, and 2B Joe Panik hit .288 with 10 homers while SS Brandon Crawford hit .253 with 14 home runs. McCutchen hit .279 with 28 home runs for the Pirates, but Longoria had a down year with the Rays, hitting .261 with 20 home ruhs, 16 fewer than in 2016.

The pitchers posted a 4.50 ERA,which was in the bottom half of the league, as were their 1,234 strikeouts. The bullpen recorded 32 saves, which was the fewest in the National League and tied for the third-worst in the majors. Bumgarner missed much of the season with injury, making only 17 starts. He did well when he pitched, though, putting up a 3.32 ERA with 101 strikeouts in 111 innings. Cueto posted a disappointing 4.52 ERA in 25 starts, with 136 strikeouts in 147.1 innings. SP Jeff Samardzija put up a 4.42 ERA with 205 strikeouts in 207.2 innings over 32 starts. RP Sam Dyson led the team with 14 saves in 38 games after being traded by the Rangers in June. RP Mark Melancon added 11 saves with a 4.50 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 30 innings over 32 appearances. With the Pirates and Dodgers, Watson posted a 3.38 ERA with 53 strikeouts in 66.2 innings, and he recorded 10 saves in 71 games.

McCutchen and Longoria should provide the Giants with much needed power at the plate, but Posey’s consistent downward trend in home runs over the past few seasons is troubling. He’s still hitting for average but isn’t as prolific of a power hitter. While the Giants helped improve the offense, they didn’t do the same with their pitching. The rotation is sure to be improved just with a full season from Bumgarner, but the rest of the starters have question marks. Cueto’s ERA went up  nearly two runs last season, and it would help the team if it could get his ERA back under 3.00. In the bullpen, the Giants have yet to name a closer and have several possible candidates to fill the role. I would expect Melancon to get the first shot at closing out games in the ninth.

The NL West could be one of the most competitive divisions in the majors this season, but I don’t think the Giants will be among the top teams in the division. Even though they got better this winter, the Dodgers are still the class of the division and the Rockies and Diamondbacks are both probably still better than the Giants, who don’t have enough pitching to make a serious run for a Wild Card. The Giants should avoid last place this season, but I don’t think they’ll do much better than that.

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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