Tag Archives: All-Star Game

My updated MLB All-Star Game ballot at the end of May

We’ve reached the end of May, which is sometimes considered the first checkpoint of the Major League Baseball season, as it is now about a third over. It has also been nearly a month since the league opened up balloting for this year’s All-Star Game. When the ballot was released, I posted my way-too-early selections for the all-star teams, but as we now have another few weeks of stats to look at, it’s time to take a second look at who should play in Miami on July 11.

Some of my selections have changed since last time, and for those positions I have noted in parentheses who I originally picked at those positions. Now, here are my picks for the American League and National League all-star teams. All stats are through Tuesday and don’t include Wednesday’s games.

American League

1B Yonder Alonso, A’s (Miguel Cabrera): I switched from the Tigers’ Cabrera, who’s not having a typical season that we have come to expect from him, to Alonso because the 30-year-old is having a career year. He is hitting nearly .300 and has already surpassed his career home-run total, crossing over into double-digits for the first time.
2B Jose Altuve, Astros (Jonathan Schoop): I gave the Orioles’ Schoop the nod early on because Altuve got off to a relatively slow start, but he has since put some distance between the two of them in batting average, hitting more than 40 points better than Schoop. It was a close call between Altuve and the Yankees’ Starlin Castro, but Altuve gets the nod because I think he’s more likely to keep it up as the season goes on.
SS Carlos Correa, Astros (Francisco Lindor): Yet another switch here. You can’t go wrong with either Correa or the Indians’ Lindor, but again it’s the batting average difference that gives Correa the edge to me. He’s well above .300, compared to Lindor being around .275. Lindor has a slight edge in home runs, but it’s not enough to make up the difference in average.
3B Miguel Sano, Twins: I’m sticking with Sano here. He is having, by far, the best season at the position, hitting close to .300 with 12 home runs for a team that is outperforming most people’s expectations.
C Salvador Perez, Royals: Offensive expectations are lower at catcher than other positions, and Perez is having a good season at the plate, with one of the higher batting averages at the positions and leading the group in home runs.
DH Corey Dickerson, Rays (Nelson Cruz): The Mariners’ Cruz is having a good season, but Dickerson’s average is significantly higher in more at-bats than Cruz has had this season. Dickerson’s average is bound to come down closer to his .288 career number, but he’s hitting now so I’ll give him the credit for what he’s done.
OF Aaron Judge, Yankees; George Springer, Astros; Mike Trout, Angels (Khris Davis): Springer replaces Davis, of the A’s, because Davis’ batting average is too low to continue getting my vote. He has 16 home runs but is hitting just .226. I’ll take Springer’s .265 with 13 home runs over that. Judge is continuing the torrid pace of his rookie season, hitting well over .300 with 17 home runs. Trout was having another good season until he broke his thumb sliding into second base over the weekend. He’s on the DL for the first time in his career and will be out six to eight weeks, which means he won’t be able to play in the game. I’ll keep him on my ballot anyway since he deserves it — to this point — but that’ll likely change next time I make my picks.

al-allstars2

My second ballot for the American League all-star team.

National League

1B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: Zimmerman is continuing to rake while the Brewers’ Eric Thames‘ power production has tailed off. Zimmerman is having a great season, and he is definitely deserving of the vote here.
2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals: I’m sticking with Zimmerman’s teammate here because he’s hitting .326 and leading the league in home runs among second basemen. He’s the top choice here.
SS Zack Cozart, Reds (Corey Seager): There’s no standout here, but I switched away from the Dodgers’ Seager because Cozart is having the better overall season at the plate. They have the same number of home runs, but Cozart’s average is much higher than Seager’s.
3B Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks: Lamb continues to have the best season among NL third basemen, leading the group with 14 home runs and batting .283, which is among the best averages at the position.
C Buster Posey, Giants (Jett Bandy): I went away from the unexpected candidate in the Brewers’ Bandy to the perennial all-star contender in Posey because the latter is having a better season. Its close in home runs, but Posey has the definite edge in batting average.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Marcell Ozuna, Marlins (Matt Kemp): Ozuna slots into the spot where I had the Braves’ Kemp on my original ballot. While Kemp is keeping his numbers up better than I expected, Ozuna’s extra power gives him the edge in my opinion. Harper is an obvious choice, hitting .328 with 15 home runs, and Blackmon is having one of the best offensive seasons in the NL, regardless of position.

nl-allstars2

My second ballot for the National League all-star team.

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but I’m sticking with the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel in the AL and switching from Gio Gonzalez to Nationals teammate Max Scherzer in the NL.

Stay tuned for more ballot updates as the season progresses.

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MLB Weekly: Nationals continue to roll, more pitchers head to the DL

Looking Back

The Nationals continue to roll with the best record in the majors while the Rangers and Indians put big-name starters on the DL in this week’s MLB Weekly.

The Nationals got bad news last week, with OF Adam Eaton suffering a season-ending injury, but that hasn’t put an end to their winning ways. Entering Sunday they have the best record in Major League Baseball at 21-9; they’re 7-3 in their last 10, and their four-game win streak is tied for the longest active streak in the majors. They’ve opened up a 6.5-game lead in the NL East.

They’re winning despite having one of the worst bullpens in the majors, with their 5.32 bullpen ERA ranking as the fifth-worst in the majors and opponents hitting at a .266 clip against their relievers. The Nationals’ 4 blown saves put them near the middle of the league. The bullpen’s 10 saves have been split between five pitchers, which isn’t a good sign. RPs Blake Treinen and Shawn Kelley are tied for the team lead with 3 saves apiece despite holding a 9.00 ERA and a 5.40 ERA, respectively (Kelley was placed on the 10-day disabled list this week).

On the other side of the spectrum, the hitting has been fantastic. The Nats’ offense ranks first in the majors in batting average, OPS, hits, doubles and RBI, while their 48 home runs place them second, behind the Brewers. Individually, 1B Ryan Zimmerman is leading the team with a .435 average and MLB-leading 13 home runs, and OF Bryce Harper — who has sat out the last couple of games with a groin problem — is hitting .376 with 9 home runs. Even their worst-hitting regular, OF Jayson Werth, is at a .264 average with 3 home runs in his first 26 games of the season.

The starting pitching is doing all right, with a 3.63 ERA and 15-5 record through 30 games. Their 172 strikeouts are the sixth-most in the majors, and opponents are hitting .235 against the starters, the best mark in the National League and third-best in the majors. It is SP Gio Gonzalez leading the rotation, with a 1.64 ERA through six starts. SP Max Scherzer leads with the team with 51 strikeouts in 40.2 innings, and his 2.66 ERA ties him with SP Stephen Strasburg for the second-best ERA in the team’s rotation.

Elsewhere in MLB, the injuries keep piling up with this week’s injury report highlighted by a couple of big-name pitchers being placed on the DL by teams who had high hopes of making the playoffs before the season started. The longer-term of the two looks to be Rangers SP Cole Hamels, who is expected to miss at least eight weeks with a strained right oblique muscle. That timeframe means he is likely to be out until after the all-star break in mid-July. That is not a good sign for a team that is trying to win the AL West for the third straight year. Even before Hamels’ injury, the Rangers were not performing to the expectations people had for them. After Saturday’s action, they’re five games under .500 and seven games behind the Astros in the division.

The other notable starting pitcher who went on the 10-day disabled list this week was Indians SP Corey Kluber, who is dealing with a stiff lower back. His injury isn’t as serious as Hamels’, and the Indians will test him before Monday’s game with the Blue Jays before determining a timeline for his return. He’ll be eligible to return to the squad next weekend, although he may need more time than that to fully recover and come off the DL.

Updating previous injury news, Mets SP Noah Syndergaard won’t throw for at least six weeks as he recovers a from a partially torn lat muscle. Although the Mets haven’t given a timetable for how long he is expected to be out, a typical recovery for this type of injury lasts about three to six months, so he won’t take the mound for a while, and possibly not again this season. He’ll be placed on the 60-day DL soon.

Other players placed on the DL this week include Orioles RP Zach Britton (left forearm strain), who was activated off the DL earlier in the week, Marlins SPs Wei-Yin Chen (left arm fatigue) and Edinson Volquez (right thumb blister), Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez (right elbow soreness), Mariners SP James Paxton (left forearm strain), Mets C Travis d’Arnaud (bruised right wrist), White Sox RP Nate Jones (right elbow inflammation), A’s RP Sean Doolittle (left shoulder strain) and Yankees 1B Greg Bird (right ankle bruise).

The Week Ahead

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The featured series for the first half of the week is actually a couple of two-game series back-to-back as the Nationals take on the Orioles in a battle of the Beltway. The teams begin in Baltimore on Monday and Tuesday before heading to D.C. to complete the four-game set on Wednesday and Thursday. The Cubs head to Denver for three games against the Rockies starting Monday in a battle of division leaders. The White Sox and Twins look to keep pace in the competitive AL Central with their three-game series in Chicago starting Tuesday. Heading into next weekend, the top two teams in the American League meet in the Bronx when the AL East-leading Yankees host the Astros for a Thursday-Sunday series, with Sunday’s game featuring the jersey retirement of former Yankees SS Derek Jeter. The Angels host the Tigers for four beginning on Thursday, and the Rockies host the Dodgers in a four-game set as two of the NL West’s best do battle. The Indians host the Twins starting Friday in another key AL Central series, and in the NL Central longtime rivals meet in St. Louis when the Cubs come to town to play the Cardinals starting Friday.

The pitching performances to look for in the first half of the week include Orioles SP Kevin Gausman, who was controversially ejected in the second inning of his last start against the Red Sox, taking the mound Monday in the series opener with the Nationals, and Yankees SP Masahiro Tanaka goes for his fifth straight win against Reds SP Rookie Davis. Yankees SP CC Sabathia looks to return to how he was pitching in his first three starts of the season, not the last three, when he throws Tuesday against Reds SP Tim Adleman. Giants SP Jeff Samardzija opposes Mets SP Zack Wheeler at Citi Field that day, and a couple veterans meet in interleague play in Houston when SP Bartolo Colon leads the Braves against the Astros and SP Charlie Morton, who has pitched surprisingly well so far this season. Wednesday, Rays SP Chris Archer follows up  the 11-strikeout performance from his last start when he pitches against Royals SP Jason Hammel

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My 2nd annual way-too-early MLB All-Star Game ballot

We’re barely a month into the 2017 Major League Baseball season and the league, as it has done in recent years, has already released the ballot for July’s All-Star Game, allowing people to vote up to 35 times per day per email address, all so the league can boast about how many ballots are cast by the time voting ends in the summer. As I said last year, I’m not a fan of allowing this excessive voting, but it is what it is. At least MLB has fixed the other major issue I had with the game: the All-Star Game no longer determines which league gets home-field advantage in the World Series. Per the new collective bargaining agreement, which was agreed to in the offseason, home-field advantage will now go to the World Series participant that has the better regular-season record — as it should be.

Even though I feel it’s too early to vote on all-stars in early May, since MLB is allowing people to do it already, I’ll make my preliminary choices for both the all-stars in both the American and National leagues, with updated ballots in the coming weeks — as the all-star picture becomes clearer — as we get closer to the game July 11 in Miami. And as MLB begins releasing the balloting results, I’ll critique how the fans are doing in making their choices.

American League

1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: He’s not leading the league in batting average or home runs, but he’s having one of the best all-around seasons at the plate among AL first basemen, so I’ll give Miggy the nod here.
2B Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: Schoop is hitting near .300 and is near the top of the league in home runs and RBI at the position and he’s on a team that has one of the best records in the majors.
SS Francisco Lindor, Indians: LIndor is performing well offensively at a position that lacks offensive output. He leads AL shortstops in homers and RBI, and he’s hitting above .300. Lindor is an easy choice here.
3B Miguel Sano, Twins: He’s finally hitting for average to go along with the power he has shown throughout his career. This was a toss-up between Sano and the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, but Sano has slightly better numbers so he gets my vote.
C Salvador Perez, Royals: Perez is having the best overall season at a position that isn’t traditionally strong offensively. He earns my vote behind the plate.
DH Nelson Cruz, Mariners: He’s having a great season offensively and none of the other options at DH really come close to his stats thus far in the season. An easy selection for me.
OF Khris Davis, A’s; Aaron Judge, Yankees; Mike Trout, Angels: Davis and Judge are two of the only players in the majors who has already reached the 10-homer plateau on the season. Davis’ average isn’t great but the home runs are enough to give him my vote, while Judge is hovering around the .300 mark as he is making a case to win the AL Rookie of the Year award. Trout, meanwhile, doesn’t have quite as many home runs as the other guys, but he’s hitting well over .300 and is having a typical Mike Trout season, which is usually good enough for an all-star selection.

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My first American League all-star ballot of 2017

National League

1B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals: The veteran first baseman is among the league leaders in many offensive categories. Brewers 1B Eric Thames has obviously hit a lot of home runs thus far, as well, but I need to see more from him before completely buying into it. Zimmerman is the choice here.
2B Daniel Murphy, Nationals: Zimmerman’s teammate is continuing the strong offensive attack he’s been on since the 2015 postseason, when he was with the Mets. He gets my vote for NL second baseman.
SS Corey Seager, Dodgers: There is no real standout at the position, but Seager is the best of the bunch as he continues with another good season to follow-up his strong rookie campaign of a season ago.
3B Jake Lamb, Diamondbacks: The usual suspects, like Cubs 3B Kris Bryant and Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, aren’t having their typical seasons, opening up this spot for someone else to take. I’ll go with Lamb here because he’s having the best overall season at the plate of the third basemen.
C Jett Bandy, Brewers: I suspect this pick may change as we get closer to the All-Star Game, but Bandy is hitting for average and has a few home runs so he’ll get my pick at the position not known for its offense.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF Charlie Blackmon, Rockies; Bryce Harper, Nationals; Matt Kemp, Braves: Harper is having one of the best seasons of all major leaguers, harkening back to his MVP season of 2015. He’s the obvious choice here, with Blackmon the second option for me. I didn’t see any clear choices for the third spot, so I gave it to Kemp, who’s doing surprisingly well so far in 2017. Like with Bandy, Kemp may fall off my ballot as time goes on, but I’ll give it to him for now.

2017nl-1

My first National League all-star ballot of 2017

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but I’ll go with a make my choices, with Dallas Keuchel of the Astros in the AL and the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez in the NL.

I’ll be updating the ballot as the season continues so keep checking back in for updates.

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The 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez

Due to a rule change several years ago, a player only has 10 years on the writers’ ballot to be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame before having to wait to potentially get inducted by the veterans’ committee. Since this was LF Tim Raines’ final year on the ballot, it was a make-or-break election for him. With 86% of the 442 ballots cast — well over the 75% needed — Raines was finally elected in the Hall of Fame this year with 380 votes. Also voted in by the writers this week are 1B Jeff Bagwell — who led all candidates with 86.2% of the vote, with his 381 votes edging Raines by one — and C Ivan Rodriguez, who netted 76% (336 votes) in his first year of eligibility. P Trevor Hoffman and RF Vladimir Guerrero fell just short of election, with 74% and 71.7% respectively. With those numbers, both are virtual locks to be elected in 2018. For comparison, Bagwell garnered 71.6% of the vote last year before vaulting up nearly 15% this year and Raines had 69.8% in 2016.

Jeff Bagwell spent his entire 15-year MLB career with the Astros after being traded to Houston in 1990 (for veteran P Larry Andersen) as a minor-leaguer while he was in the Red Sox organization. He earned National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1991 with a .294 batting average, 15 home runs and 82 RBI in 156 games. That marked the lowest full-season home-run total of his career as his power numbers increased throughout his time in the league, peaking at a career-high 47 home runs in 2000. He was voted NL MVP in the strike-shortened 1994 season, when he hit a career-best .368 with 39 home runs and a career-high 116 RBI in 400 at-bats over 110 games. His 116 RBI and 104 runs scored both led the National League that season. He was named to the NL All-Star team in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1999. Although he continued to put up decent home-run totals, his batting average started to decrease starting in 2001 as he started dealing with an arthritic right shoulder that eventually ended his career following the 2005 season.

Bagwell wasn’t just a power hitter — he could also steal bases, entering the 30-30 club in ’97, when he swiped a career-high 31 bases, and ’99. With 43 and 42 home runs, respectively, those years he actually was in even more rarified air in the 40-30 club. When his career ended, he had a .297 average and set Astros records with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI in 2,150 regular-season games. He also had 202 steals and 1,401 walks by the time he called it a career. Before he hung up the cleats for good, though, he finally got to play in a World Series, playing in all four games of the Fall Classic when the White Sox swept the Astros.

Other honors Bagwell received during his career include a Gold Glove in ’94 and Silver Slugger awards in ’94, ’97 and ’99.

Tim Raines is most often associated with the Expos, with whom he spent the first 12 seasons of his career. He later spent five seasons with the White Sox, three with the Yankees and one in Oakland. After taking a year off in 2000, he returned in 2001, spending time with the Expos and Orioles (for four games) before joining the Marlins for his final season in 2002. He is known as a base-stealer, and for good reason; he is the most successful base-stealer — by percentage — in MLB history (min. 400 steals). He didn’t waste any time showing off his speed, notching 71 steals in his first full season of 1981, being caught just 11 times. He led the National League in steals for four straight seasons, from 1981-84, with a career-high 90 steals in 1983. He made the NL All-Star team in each of his first seven full seasons from 1981-87. His best offensive season came in 1986 when he led the NL with a .334 average and .413 OBP. The height of his power came the following year, when he swatted 18 home runs.

Raines earned a World Series ring in 1996, when he was part of the Yankees team that swept the Braves in the Fall Classic, the only time in his career that Raines made it to the World Series. He won a Silver Slugger award in 1986.

Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is a rare catcher who excelled both at the plate and behind the plate. Rodriguez spent most of his 21-year career with the Rangers, also playing for the Marlins, Tigers, Yankees, Astros and Nationals for various lengths of time. Of the 2,543 games he played in his career, 2,427 were as a catcher — the most games behind the plate of any player in major-league history. His 14 all-star selections (1992-2001, 2004-07) and 13 Gold Gloves (1992-2001, 2004, 2006-07) also are the most all-time for the position.

Rodriguez was voted American League MVP in 1999, the best offensive season of his career when he hit .332 with 35 home runs, drove in 113 RBI and stole 25 bases. His 199 hits fell just shy of the 200-hit milestone. Defensively that season, he threw out 55% of potential base-stealers — that number topped the majors, one of nine seasons in which he led the majors in caught-stealing percentage. His best season in that category came in 2001, when he threw out 60% of runners who tried to steal a base against him. Back to the offense, he finished his career with 2,844 hits, which is the most in history for a major-leaguer who played at least 50% of his games as a catcher. HIs career batting average is .296, with 311 home runs and 1,332 RBI. He also stole 127 bases, which puts him near the top of the career list among catchers.

Rodriguez played in two World Series — winning it in 2003, his only season with the Marlins when they beat the Yankees in six games, and making it there again in 2006 with the Tigers, who lost to the Cardinals in five games. In addition to his MVP and 13 Gold Glove awards, Pudge won seven Silver Slugger awards (1994-99, 2004).

Also being inducted this year, who were voted in by the Today’s Game Era committee, are former team executive John Schuerholz and former commissioner and Brewers owner Bud Selig.

Percentages for other notable players on this year’s ballot include: DH Edgar Martinez, 58.6%; P Roger Clemens, 54.1%; LF Barry Bonds, 53.8%; P Mike Mussina, 51.8%; P Curt Schilling, 45.0%; OF Manny Ramirez, 23.8%

Players set to appear on the ballot for the first time in 2017 include P Chris Carpenter, OF Johnny Damon, P Livan Hernandez, CF Andruw Jones, 3B Chipper Jones, P Brad Lidge, OF Hideki Matsui, P Jamie Moyer, 3B Scott Rolen, P Johan Santana, 1B/DH Jim Thome and SS Omar Vizquel.

The 2017 National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

2016 World Series preview: Chicago Cubs vs. Cleveland Indians — A battle of the droughts

With the conclusion of the ALCS and NLCS, we have reached what may be the most anticipated World Series in quite some time with the Cleveland Indians, who haven’t won the World Series since 1948, taking on the Chicago Cubs, whose World Series-winning drought famously dates back more than a century to 1908, and their last World Series appearance taking place in 1945 — before the World Series was even televised.

Regardless of the lack of World Series success the teams have had in their respective histories, they both deserve to be in this year’s Fall Classic; the Cubs had a MLB-best 103 wins during the regular season, while the Indians’ 94 wins left them one victory behind the Rangers, giving them the second-best record in the American League. The Indians bulldozed their way through the American League playoffs, sweeping the Red Sox in the ALDS and beating the Blue Jays in the ALCS, losing just one game to win the series in five. The Cubs’ path to the World Series was a little more difficult; they needed four games to beat the Giants in the NLDS and the Dodgers took them to six games in the NLCS.

The American League won this year’s All-Star Game for the fourth straight season, giving the Indians home-field advantage in the World Series. As a result, Games 1 and 2 will be in Cleveland. Wrigley Field will host its first World Series game in 71 years on Friday when Game 3 takes place, with Games 4 and, if necessary, 5 following it over the weekend — assuming there are no weather issues that affect the schedule. If Games 6 and 7 are necessary, they are scheduled for Cleveland on Nov. 1 and 2, respectively. First pitch for all games, except Game 5 on Sunday, are scheduled for 8:08pm Eastern; first pitch Sunday is at 8:15pm Eastern. All games are on Fox in the U.S.

The Cubs have the advantage in the starting rotation, led by likely National League Cy Young winner SP Kyle Hendricks, who pitched 7.1 innings of 2-hit ball in Game 6 of the NLCS to clinch the pennant for the Cubs. During the regular season, Hendricks was 16-8 with a 2.13 ERA. SP Jon Lester also had a big season for the Cubs, going 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA. After a strong start to the season, SP Jake Arrieta was inconsistent in the second half en route to a 18-8 record and 3.10 ERA. If a fourth starter is needed in the series, the task would likely fall to veteran SP John Lackey, who is a two-time World Series champion, having won it with the 2002 Angels and 2013 Red Sox. Injuries have had an affect on the Indians’ rotation, with SPs Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar missing significant chunks of the season; Carrasco is out for the season, but Salazar has recently started throwing and could be added to the World Series roster. Leading the Tribe’s rotation is SP Corey Kluber, who led the team during the season with a 18-9 record to go with his 3.14 ERA. Behind him in the rotation are SP Josh Tomlin, who was 13-9 with a 4.40 ERA this season, and SP Trevor Bauer, who is confident he’ll be able to pitch in the World Series despite a well-publicized finger laceration caused by a recent drone accident. If Bauer can’t go, P Ryan Merritt may get his second start of the postseason; he went 4.1 scoreless innings in the Game 5 clincher.

While the Cubs have the better rotation, the bullpen advantage goes the other way, with the Indians. RP Andrew Miller, who was acquired from the Yankees in a midseason trade, was an X-factor in the ALCS and could be the same against the Cubs. He can come in in the middle of the game if needed or pitch later in the game to get the ball to closer Cody Allen with the lead intact. In six appearances in the postseason, Miller has struck out 21 batters in 11.2 innings while earning a win and a save and not allowing an earned run. Allen is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities this postseason. Like the Indians, the Cubs acquired a top-level reliever from the Yankees before the trade deadline, RP Aroldis Chapman, who saved 18 games for the Cubs during the regular season after the trade. His numbers in the postseason haven’t been great, however. Chapman has gone 8 innings, with 10 strikeouts and a 3.38 ERA. He is 1-0 and a has 3 saves in 5 opportunities. That’s not the way you want your closer to be pitching heading into the World Series.

Offense is another part of the game in which the Cubs have the edge.  OF Javier Baez has been leading the charge at the plate for the Cubs, with 13 hits in 38 at-bats, with 4 doubles, 1 home run and 2 steals. 3B Kris Bryant is right up there with Baez; he’s 13-for-39 with 5 doubles and 1 home run. 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Addison Russell have underperformed in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Each of them is currently hitting under .200 so if they can get back to the offensive production the Cubs have come to expect from them, that would give the Cubs more of an offensive boost. For the Indians, SS Francisco Lindor is the sole regular hitting over .300; he has 10 hits in 31 at-bats, with 2 doubles and 2 home runs. Other key hitters, like 2B Jason Kipnis and 1B Mike Napoli have sub-.200 batting averages in the postseason. If they can’t get out of their slumps early in the series, don’t expect them to have much success against the Cubs’ stellar starting pitchers.

Neither team is lacking in the managerial department, with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Indians skipper Terry Francona both considered among the best in the majors.

My preseason prediction for the World Series was the Blue Jays over the Cubs. Toronto fell just shy of making it, but the Cubs are in it. With the way the Cubs played all season and the strong starting pitching they’ve gotten in the postseason, I’m going to pick them to win their first World series title in 108 years. I think the series will go six games, which would mean the series would finish in Cleveland and the Cubs wouldn’t be able to celebrate the title at Wrigley.

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2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Eric Hosmer

MLB Weekly: All-Star Game recap, Red Sox trade

In this week’s MLB Weekly, the all-star break dominated the week, while the Red Sox made a trade to improve their starting rotation.

Looking Back

With the all-star break extending until Friday, there wasn’t much action this week. During the break were the traditional Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. Marlins OF Giancarlo Stanton won the derby in impressive fashion. The All-Star Game was won by the American League for the fourth straight year. Royals 1B Eric Hosmer won MVP honors, going 2-for-3, including a home run, with 2 RBI. Indians SP Corey Kluber got the win, throwing a scoreless inning in relief, and Orioles RP Zach Britton closed out the ninth for the save.

With the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaching the number of trades is likely to increase in the coming weeks. The Red Sox aren’t waiting until the deadline; they acquired SP Drew Pomeranz from the Padres on Thursday as they continue to nail down one of the American League’s playoff spots. In exchange for the 27-year-old lefty, San Diego got Boston’s top pitching prospect, Anderson Espinoza. In 17 starts this season, Pomeranz is 8-7 with a 2.47 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 115 strikeouts over 102 innings.

Elsewhere in MLB, not much movement in the standings with four days this week without meaningful games, but the NL Central-leading Cubs have won the first two games back from the break after slumping toward the end of the first half. Things are tightening up in the AL West with the Rangers, who had a double-digit lead in the division a few weeks ago, just 4.5 games ahead of the Astros in the division. The AL East continues to be the closest divisional race, with the Orioles leading the second-place Red Sox by two games and the Blue Jays just four games back in third place.

The Week Ahead

The Mets visit Wrigley Field this week.

The Mets visit the Cubs at Wrigley Field this week.

As we get back to a full week of games in the wake of the All-Star Game, the Royals face an important three-game series against the AL Central-leading Indians as they try to stay in the division race. The Mets, who are falling back in the NL East race head to Wrigley Field for a three-game set with the Cubs. In the second half of the week, division leaders meet when the Orioles host the Indians starting Friday. The Mets visit the Marlins as the two teams battling for second place in the NL East meet for a weekend series. And it’s a battle of second-place teams when the Dodgers head to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals.

Taking a look at pitching matchups for the week, Cubs SP Jon Lester looks to get back on track Monday when he opposes the Mets and SP Steven Matz, who is dealing with bone spurs. Indians SP Corey Kluber gets his first start since winning the All-Star Game on Monday, against Royals SP Edinson Volquez. Cubs SP Jake Arietta takes the mound on Tuesday, hoping to improve upon the 8.27 ERA he has in his last three start, against Mets SP Noah Syndergaard. On Friday, Rangers SP Yu Darvish is slated to make his second start since coming off of his latest DL stint, hoping to last longer than the 4.1 innings he went in his last outing, when he faces the Royals.

Mets SP Matt Harvey is scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery

MLB Weekly: Harvey’s done, Carpenter goes to the DL, Cubs struggle

In this week’s MLB Weekly, injuries hit stars on contending teams while the Cubs struggle heading into the all-star break.

Looking Back

Mets SP Matt Harvey hasn’t been having a good season, and now it’s over in the first half of July. The team has announced that Harvey will have season-ending surgery next week to try to take care of his thoracic outlet syndrome, which is causing muscles in his neck and shoulder to impinge a nerve in his right shoulder. In 17 starts this season, Harvey is 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA and 1.47 WHIP. He is expected to be ready for the start of next season. In other injury news, SP Noah Syndergaard and OF Yoenis Cespedes both left Friday’s games with injuries; Syndergaard is suffering from a dead arm while Cespedes has a strained right quad. With the all-star break coming up this week, it is possible both players could avoid the disabled list, but it’s something to watch heading into the second half of the season on Friday.

The Cardinals, who are in contention for the National League Wild Card, also suffered a significant injury this week when 2B Matt Carpenter suffered a grade-2 oblique strain in Wednesday’s game against the Pirates. Unlike Harvey, Carpenter is having a good season. Through 78 games, he’s hitting .298 with 14 home runs and 53 RBI. Although a timetable for his return hasn’t been determined yet, similar injuries to this usually sideline a player for about a month, so a mid-August return seems likely for Carpenter, which would allow him to help the team in its playoff push during the latter portion of the season.

The Cubs, the Cardinals’ NL Central rivals, started the season strong but have struggled of late, going just 5-15 over their last 20 games. The Pirates, meanwhile, have won 12 of their last 15 games to pull to within 6.5 games of the Cubs in the division, entering Sunday. Cubs ace Jake Arrieta, the reigning NL Cy Young winner, has lost three of his last four starts, giving up at least 4 ER in each of his last three games. The all-star break could be coming at a good time for the Cubs, who are still tied for the third-best record in the majors despite their swoon in recent weeks.

Elsewhere in MLB, the AL East race is tightening up, with the Red Sox and Blue Jays each two games behind the first-place Orioles. The Indians have opened up a 6.5-game lead in the AL Central, while the Rangers’ lead is shrinking in the AL West. The Astros, who are 6-4 in their last 10 games, are now 6.5 games back of the Rangers, who are 3-7 in their last 10.  In the National League, the Nationals and Giants continue to hold decent leads in the East and West, respectively; the Nationals hold a five-game cushion over the Mets, and the Giants are 6.5 games ahead of the Dodgers.

The Week Ahead

Petco Park is the site of the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday

Petco Park in San Diego is the site of the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday

There isn’t much regular-season action, with the all-star break from Monday through Thursday. The home run derby is on Monday with the All-Star Game on Tuesday before regular action picks back up on Friday. Some notable series coming up next weekend include the Rangers traveling to Wrigley Field to face the Cubs in a battle of division leaders who have been going in the wrong direction of late. Another series featuring two contenders will take place in D.C. when the Nationals host the Pirates.

Most teams have not yet announced their rotations for after the all-star break so we can’t discuss any pitching matchups for next weekend.

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