Tag Archives: Brewers

3rd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Milwaukee Brewers

Our look at the NL Central teams, part of our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2017 season, continues with the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished in fourth place in the division last season.

The Brewers are coming off of two straight fourth-place finishes in which they finished more than 30 games back of the division champs. They had a fairly quiet offseason, with the most impactful move possibly being adding RP Neftali Feliz to serve as their closer. The team also made a trade that sent RP Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox in exchange for a package highlighted by 3B Travis Shaw. The team also traded for C Jett Bandy, who is essentially replacing C Jonathan Lucroy, who the Brewers traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline last season. OF Ryan Braun continues to be a veteran presence on a largely inexperienced team.

The Brewers struggled offensively in 2016, with their .244 team average ending up as the fourth-worst in Major League Baseball. They were better with their power, hitting 194 home runs, which was higher than the MLB average of 187, which helped them finish around the middle of the league with a .729 OPS; 41 of those home runs were hit by 1B Chris Carter, who is now with the Yankees. Braun had his best season since 2012 at the plate, hitting .305 — 10th in the National League — with 30 home runs and a .903 OPS, which was ninth-best in the NL. SS Jonathan Villar, who is sliding over to second base this season, hit .285 with 19 home runs, but his biggest value came on the bases, collecting a MLB-best 62 steals, which helped him earn a 3.9 WAR. With the Red Sox last season, Shaw hit .242 with 16 home runs.

The pitching staff finished a bit better than league average with a 4.08 ERA, but the pitchers had the third-fewest strikeouts in the majors with 1,175, and the bullpen recorded an above-average 46 saves. SP Junior Guerra led the staff with a 2.81 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 121.2 innings. SP Jimmy Nelson led the team in strikeouts with 140 in 179.1 innings while posting a 4.62 ERA. SP Zach Davies had a 3.97 ERA and 135 strikeouts in 163.1 innings. RP Jeremy Jeffress recorded 27 saves with a 2.22 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 44.2 innings over 47 games. With the Pirates, Feliz struck out 61 batters in 53.2 innings to go along with a 3.52 ERA.

Going from Lucroy to Bandy, who hit .234 in limited playing time with the Angels last year, is a significant offensive downgrade at the catcher position, but putting Shaw in at third in place of Aaron Hill should provide the team with more power at the hot corner, but probably not enough to make up for Lucroy’s lost production. Braun is likely a key to how successful the offense will be in 2017. He had somewhat of a rebirth at the plate last season and the team needs him to repeat his performance this season to have any chance of a good offense in 2017, but it would hurt the team if Braun regresses toward the numbers he had been putting up in the 2013-2015 time frame because the team counts on him to be its leader at the plate.

The pitching staff lacks a true ace, with Guerra slotted into the No. 1 spot. He pitched well last year in his rookie season, so if he can pitch to a sub-3.00 ERA again in 2017 he could earn that “ace” label, but I need to see him do it again before believing it. Davies is going to have to see a significant improvement this season to solidify the No. 2 position in the rotation because posting a nearly-4.00 ERA doesn’t cut it in the NL. Veteran SP Matt Garza sits at the backend of the rotation, but don’t expect him to last there all season. He is coming off of two mediocre seasons and will likely wind up in the bullpen at some point, giving way to a another pitcher to get a chance to start — probably Chase Anderson, who made 30 starts last season but currently is listed sixth on the starting-pitching depth chart. Feliz is coming off of the two worst seasons of his career so he may not last the full season as the closer, but there’s no young prospect behind him in the bullpen waiting for the opportunity to replace him.

While the Cubs and Cardinals are at the top of the division, the Brewers will again be battling with the Reds to avoid finishing in the basement in the NL Central. They just don’t have enough talent to win enough games to be competitive. If they’re lucky, they may win 70-75 games, but that may even be a little on the high side of expectations.

Let me know your thoughts by commenting below. And be sure to subscribe, 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.brewers.comhttp://www.baseball-reference.com

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The latest MLB All-Star Game voting results: How are the fans doing?

The MLB All-Star Game is scheduled for two weeks from tomorrow in San Diego, which means voting is almost over, with the deadline being 11:59pm ET on Thursday. Earlier today, MLB released the latest results from the All-Star Game balloting. As usual, the fans who vote are choosing some players who frankly don’t deserve to be starting in the game. So which positions are the fans getting it right and which selections seem to be the result of popularity contests rather than stats?

Last year, Royals fans seemed to be stuffing the virtual ballot boxes in support of their players on the American League side, but this year it seems to be the Cubs fans trying to get as many of their team’s players on the National League as possible. Do the Cubs deserve five starters, as they currently have? Let’s take a look.

American League

1B The Royals’ Eric Hosmer leads the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera by about 550,000 votes. I had Hosmer as my selection in the last ballot I published, and I’m sticking with him. I would, however, put the Orioles’ Chris Davis over Cabrera as the runner-up at the position.
2B Jose Altuve of the Astros is on pace to far surpass his single-season home run mark; he currently has 13 long balls and is hitting .347 to go with the power. He definitely deserves the nod here, and he has a significant 900,000 vote lead over the Mariners’ Robinson Cano in second place.
SS I previously had the Astros’ Carlos Correa as my selection here, but I’m jumping off that bandwagon. It’s hard to go against Xander Bogaerts, who is hitting .344 for the Red Sox with 9 home runs and 50 RBI. He’s currently in first, nearly doubling the vote total of the Royals’ Alcides Escobar, in second place. Surprisingly, Indians SS Francisco Lindor doesn’t even make the top five; he would’ve been my second selection behind Bogaerts.
3B The Orioles’ Manny Machado has been my selection all along at the hot corner, and I’m sticking with him. Todd Frazier, of the White Sox, has more home runs (21 vs. 18) but his .201 batting average isn’t in the same neighborhood as Machado’s .325 so Manny gets the nod from me — and the fans. Machado is in the lead, with about a 600,000-vote lead over the Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson, who is in second (Frazier doesn’t make the top five).
C Royals backstop Salvador Perez is the leading vote-getter at any position in either league, with more than 3.7 million votes and a lead of about 2.7 million over the Orioles’ Matt Wieters. Perez is the top offensive catcher in the American League so far this year so it’s hard to argue with that selection.
DH There’s no competition here, with David Ortiz having a monster year for the Red Sox, and it is being reflected in the voting. He has the second-highest overall vote total, with more than 3.4 million. The Blue Jays’ Edwin Encarnacion is in a distant second, with about 1.1 million votes.
OF While the Angels’ Mike Trout has the most votes among AL outfielders, the Red Sox are well represented, with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts in second and third, respectively, earning them starting nods if their totals hold. The Royals’ Lorenzo Cain and the Orioles’ Mark Trumbo are about 100,000 votes behind Betts. I think Trumbo should be in the top three, replacing Betts. The Astros’ George Springer is having a good season, as well, but I have to put him behind Trout, Bradley and Trumbo on my list. The fans aren’t voting for Springer, who isn’t even in the top 15.

The latest selections on my AL all-star ballot

The latest selections on my American League all-star ballot

National League

1B Anthony Rizzo is the first of five Cubs leading the voting at their position. He has a sizable lead over the Giants’ Brandon Belt. I think it’s a toss-up between Rizzo and the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, who currently sits in third in the voting. I had Rizzo on my previous ballot, so I’ll stick with him, although I couldn’t argue with people who prefer Goldschmidt. Belt is also having a good season, but I’d put him behind Rizzo and Goldschmidt.
2B The Cubs’ Ben Zobrist leads the Nationals’ Daniel Murphy by about 300,000 votes, but the fan voting is getting this one wrong. Murphy is having a better season in just about every notable offensive category. Zobrist is having a good year, but Murphy is having a better season. Let’s see if Murphy can pass Zobrist in the final days of voting.
SS This may be the position in either league that I disagree with the most. The Cubs’ Addison Russell is in the lead despite hitting .241 with 7 home runs and 40 RBI. Compare those numbers to the Rockies’ Trevor Story, who is hitting.271/19/50, and there’s no question that Russell doesn’t deserve to get the start. Story needs more than 300,000 votes to surpass Russell. It’ll be tough to do in just a few days, but Story definitely deserves to be the National League’s starting shortstop with the rookie season he is having.
3B Once again, a Cub is atop the vote — this time at third base. This time, it’s Kris Bryant. His 18 home runs and 51 RBI are good, but he’s hitting .263, which prevents me from picking him when the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado has stats of .296/21/63. There’s no comparison there; Arenado deserves the start, but he needs to make up about 350,000 votes to get it.
C This is the tightest race is either league, with the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina leading the Giants’ Buster Posey by a mere 5,130 votes. Unfortunately, neither of them deserves to be the starter, with Nationals C Wilson Ramos — who’s currently third in the voting, nearly 300,000 votes out of first — hitting .342 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI.
DH With no DH in the National League, fans don’t get to vote for one.
OF The Cubs’ Dexter Fowler, the Nationals’ Bryce Harper and Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets are the top three in voting among outfielders. There’s a significant margin separating that threesome with the Cubs’ Jason Heyward and the Brewers’ Ryan Braun, who round out the top five. Of the top three, only Cespedes would be on my ballot. In addition to him, I’d go with the Marlins’ Marcell Ozuna and the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez. Braun is having a good year but not as good overall as the three I selected.

The latest selections on my NL all-star ballot

The latest selections on my National League all-star ballot

Starting pitchers are not on the ballot and are chosen by the all-star managers, but if I were to choose, I’d go with White Sox SP Chris Sale in the American League and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in the National League.

The all-star teams and candidates for the Final Vote ballots will be announced next Tuesday, July 5.

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The Nationals celebrate a win

MLB Weekly: Chicago teams winning, Harper and the Nats stay hot

With another week in the books, it’s time to take a look back at the last seven days and see what lies ahead for next week in MLB Weekly. As we head into May next weekend, the Cubs and Nationals are tied for the most wins in baseball, with 14 apiece, while the White Sox are surprising many, just a game behind with 13.

Looking Back

The Nationals continued their hot start, going 5-2 last week, largely behind the bat of OF Bryce Harper, who hit 3 home runs this week, including as a pinch-hitter today after getting the day off to rest. That game eventually went to 16 innings, with the Nats winning on a walk-off home run by OF Chris Heisey. The Cubs also went 5-2 in a week that included SP Jake Arrieta throwing his second no-hitter in the last two seasons, a game in which the Cubs beat the Reds 16-0 on Thursday.

The Cubs aren’t the only team winning in the Windy City. The White Sox, who were 76-86 last season, are off to a 13-6 record, leading the defending World Series champion Royals in the AL Central. SP Chris Sale is having his typically good season on the mound, 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and 26 strikeouts. He’s not the only pitcher on the team who is 4-0, though; SP Mat Latos, after winning today, has the same record and an even lower ERA — 0.74. As the season continues, we’ll see if Latos is for real. The ERA will likely go up, but if he can keep it below 3.00, he’ll make a strong 1-2 combo with Sale.

The Orioles are still leading the AL East at 11-6. It’s the offense continuing to do the damage for the Orioles, led by 1B Chris Davis, OF Mark Trumbo and 3B Manny Machado; Davis and Trumbo each have 6 home runs so far, while Machado has 5 and a .380 batting average, while Trumbo is hitting .373.

The Astros continue to be the most disappointing team in the majors thus far, with just six wins entering Sunday night’s game against the Red Sox. The Astros still have not won back-to-back games, with much of their lack of success due to the pitching staff, which has an AL-worst 4.94 ERA. Even reigning AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel is just 2-2 with a 3.71 ERA. No one else in the starting rotation has a sub-4.00 ERA. The Astros had a chance to make up ground in the AL West this week, playing a three-game series at Texas, but the Rangers swept that series. The Rangers then got swept by the White Sox this weekend, allowing the A’s to tie Texas for the division lead at 10-9.

The Week Ahead

The series to keep an eye on early in the week is the White Sox visiting the Blue Jays Monday through Wednesday. It’s a battle between the AL Central leaders and the team many picked to win the AL East. At 10-10, the Blue Jays are in second in the East, 2.5 games behind the Orioles, who have played three fewer games than Toronto. After Toronto, the White Sox travel to Baltimore for a four-game set against the Orioles. With seven games against Toronto and Baltimore, the White Sox could face their biggest test of the season thus far. If they do well, it could mean their hot start is for real. If they falter, it could be a sign they are pretenders more than contenders the rest of the way.

There are some pitching performances to pay attention to on Monday, with Orioles SP Kevin Gausman coming off the DL to make his first start of the season and Diamondbacks SP Zack Greinke, who has a disappointing 5.25 ERA, looking to get on the right track in a tough matchup with the Cardinals. Tuesday could see a good pitching matchup in D.C., with SP Vincent Velasquez, who has had a couple of impressive starts early this season, going for the Phillies against SP Max Scherzer and the hot Nationals. Wednesday, Arrieta tries to complete “the Vander Meer” with back-to-back no-hitters; he faces the Brewers at home.

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2nd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Over/under and playoff picks

Now that we’ve previewed the 2016 season of all 30 MLB teams, let’s take a look at how the season is going to play out. In this post, we’ll be analyzing Vegas over/under totals for each team and pick the teams that will make the playoffs.

NL East

Atlanta Braves: 66.5
They won 67 games last year and added some pieces to their offense, like SS Erick Aybar, but lost their best pitcher in SP Shelby Miller. Overall, I think they’ll win at least as many games as they did last year, which would be an Over.

Miami Marlins: 79.5
They have one of the best power hitters in OF Giancarlo Stanton and a good young pitcher with SP Jose Fernandez, who should be in the running for the Cy Young Award if he can stay healthy. Stanton is surrounded by some young hitters. I think 79.5 is too many wins, so I’m going Under.

New York Mets: 89.5
Again, this number basically equals the 90 games the Mets won last season. They’ll have OF Yoenis Cespedes for the whole season, plus one of the best starting rotations in the league, led by SPs Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. They’ll play a lot of games against bad teams in the Braves and Mets. I think they can get back to 90, so this is another Over.

Philadelphia Phillies: 65.5
The Phillies are a bad team. They won 63 games last season. They lost a key piece of their offense with the departure of OF Ben Revere and they don’t have  a good pitching staff, which could be a problem when playing teams like the Mets and Nationals. Under.

Washington Nationals: 89.5
They’re going to compete with the Mets for the best team in the division. OF Bryce Harper is one of the best hitters in the majors, and they added Revere to their offense. They’ll likely get more out of OF Jayson Werth than they did last season. On the mound, they have SPs Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. They have a good team, and I’ll go Over.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: 79.5
The Orioles have some good hitters — namely 1B Chris Davis and 3B Manny Machado — but lack a great rotation. Closer Zach Britton can get the job done to finish games when the starters give him a lead. They won 81 last year, I think they can get up to 80 this year so that’s an Over.

Boston Red Sox: 86.5
We’re looking at a big number for a team that won 78 games in 2015, but adding SP David Price is huge for the rotation. If OF Hanley Ramirez can bounce back from a difficult season last year, that would be a key piece for the Red Sox to turn things around. I think they’ll finish above .500 in DH David Ortiz‘s last season before retirement, but I don’t think they’re quite to 87 wins yet so I’m going Under.

New York Yankees: 85.5
The Yankees are an old team. I don’t think anyone expects DH Alex Rodriguez to come close to the numbers he put up last year. There are question marks in the rotation, especially with veteran SP CC Sabathia, but they have a strong bullpen in the late innings. They won 87 games last year, but I think they’re going Under this year.

Tampa Bay Rays: 81.5
SP Chris Archer proved himself to be one of the best pitchers in the majors last season, but they don’t have much else in the rotation. Outside of 3B Evan Longoria, the Rays don’t have many big-time hitters. After winning 80 games last year, I think they’re around 80-81 again so it’ll be close, but I’m going Under.

Toronto Blue Jays: 87.5
The Blue Jays won 93 games last season, and I don’t see them being much worse this season, especially with SP Marcus Stroman healthy. They still have the reigning AL MVP with 3B Josh Donaldson and OF Jose Bautista. I’m surprised this number is so low because I think they’re winning more than 90 again,so this is an easy Over.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: 92.5
Many people are all-in on the Cubs this season, after winning 97 games last season. SP Jake Arrieta  and 3B Kris Bryant are expected to lead the way again this season. It’s a tough division with the Pirates and Cardinals there, but I’ve got to go Over with the Cubs.

Cincinnati Reds: 70.5
The Reds won 64 games last season, and I don’t see how they’re much better this year. They traded away RP Aroldis Chapman, one of the best closers in the majors and they’re just not a good team. Under.

Milwaukee Brewers: 69.5
OF Ryan Braun is the best hitter on the Brewers, and C Jonathan Lucroy also has a good bat if he’s healthy after being injured much of last season. But they don’t have much else on the team and I don’t see them getting 70 wins, so it’s Under with them.

Pittsburgh Pirates: 86.5
After 98 wins last season, I’m not sure how the over/under number is this low. They didn’t lose anyone from the core of their team, so I expect OF Andrew McCutchen and SP Gerrit Cole to help lead them to well over 90 games again. This one’s an easy Over.

St. Louis Cardinals: 87.5
Again, after a 100-win season a year ago, the Cardinals’ number is this low? They’re getting SP Adam Wainwright back after he missed essentially all of 2015 on the DL. Like with the Pirates, this is an easy Over.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: 80.5
The White Sox added offense this offseason, with 2B Brett Lawrie and 3B Todd Frazier joining 1B Jose Abreu. SP Chris Sale is among the best in the game and SP Carlos Rodon could be a good young pitcher. They’re improved over last season, when they won 78 games, so I think they’ll go Over 80.5.

Cleveland Indians: 84.5
The Indians’ success this season could depend on young guys, like SS Francisco Lindor. If he can step up to the next level, he could be a leader for the offense. They won 81 games last season, and I think they could be a game or two better in 2016, but I’m thinking Under for this number.

Detroit Tigers: 81.5
The Tigers only won 74 games last season, but I think they underperformed some. They added OF Justin Upton and SP Jordan Zimmermann to the mix this season. But SP Justin Verlander is key to this team. If he has a good season, the Tigers could contend for the division. Either way, I think they’ll go Over 81.5 wins, potentially more like 86 or 87 wins if Verlander returns to his old form.

Kansas City Royals: 85.5
The defending World Series champions are coming off of a 95-win season. I don’t expect them to reach that number again, especially with the White Sox and Tigers both improved this season, but 85.5 seems like a low number so I’ll go Over.

Minnesota Twins: 78.5
Unlike the Tigers, I think the Twins overperformed last season when they won 83 games. I don’t think they were that good, and without any major additions in the offseason, I still don’t think they’re very good. They’ll be a sub-.500 team, but I think they’ll get close to .500 so I’ll reluctantly go Over and say 79 or 80 wins.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: 82.5
The Diamondbacks won 78 games last season but have now lost added SPs Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to the rotation and have a good offense with 1B Paul Goldschmidt, but they may have lost OF A.J. Pollock for the season with an elbow injury. They improved significantly this winter, so I’m going Over.

Colorado Rockies: 70.5
They won 68 last year and I think they may actually do a little worse than that this year. They don’t have starting pitching and there’s no telling when SS Jose Reyes may be able to play as rookie SS Trevor Story starts the season filling in for him. Despite having OF Carlos Gonzalez, I’m going Under for the Rockies.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 88.5
The Dodgers have the highest payroll in the majors and perhaps the best pitcher in SP Clayton Kershaw, but they lost SS Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks and they have some injury concerns on offense. They had 92 wins last year en route to a division title but I don’t see it happening again. I think it’ll be close, but I’m going Under, which would likely be a disappointing season for the Dodgers.

San Diego Padres: 72.5
The Padres won 74 games last year. They added OF Jon Jay in the offseason but lost 2B Jedd Gyorko and OF Justin Upton. I think SP Colin Rea is going to have a breakout season in the rotation, helping to get the team Over 72.5 wins.

San Francisco Giants: 89.5
The Giants won 84 games in 2015, then added SPs Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzjia to the rotation and OF Denard Span to the offense. They still have the likes of OF Hunter Pence, C Buster Posey and SP Madison Bumgarner, making them a formidable team in the West. They have a well-rounded team that I think can reach 90 wins, so I’m going Over.

AL West

Houston Astros: 87.5
The surprising Astros won 86 games last year and now have SS Carlos Correa in the majors for the whole season to go along with 2B Jose Altuve. Reigning Cy Young winner SP Dallas Keuchel should have another good season at the top of the rotation. Over.

Los Angeles Angels: 81.5
Coming off of an 85-win season, the Angels face a tough battle in the division. The offense should be fine with OF Mike Trout and 1B Albert Pujols, but there are concerns about the pitching staff, with SP  C.J. Wilson expected to miss the first month or so of the season. I think the Angels should finish the season above .500, so I’ll go Over.

Oakland Athletics: 75.5
The A’s won 68 games as a last-place team last season and I don’t see how they’re going to be much better in 2016. They added OFs Khris Davis and Chris Coghland, but they’re not game-changers for a team. SP Sonny Gray should have a decent year out of the No. 1 spot in the rotation, but I don’t see the A’s winning eight more games than they did last year, so this is an Under.

Seattle Mariners: 82.5
The Mariners should be on the upswing after acquiring OF Leonys Martin, 1B Adam Lind and SP Wade Miley this winter so they should surpass the 76 wins they had last year, but 82.5 is a big jump. I don’t think they’re there yet, so I’ll go Under for them.

Texas Rangers: 84.5
The Rangers won 88 games last season, and that was with just half a season with SP Cole Hamels, who underperformed with the team, and they’ll now get a full season with him. They added SS Ian Desmond to a roster with DH Prince Fielder and 3B Adrian Beltre. They should get a boost a couple months into the season when SP Yu Darvish is expected to return from Tommy John surgery. I don’t see them winning four fewer games than last season, so I’m going Over for the defending division champs.

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Playoff Picks

National League

NL East Champs: New York Mets
NL Central Champs: Chicago Cubs
NL West Champs: San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Cards: Pirrsburgh PIrates, Washington Nationals

American League

AL East Champs: Toronto Blue Jays
AL Central Champs: Kansas City Royals
AL West Champs: Texas Rangers
AL Wild Cards: Houston Astros, Detroit Tigers

World Series: Blue Jays over Cubs in 6 games

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2nd 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 2016 season is the Seattle Mariners, who finished in fourth place in the division last season

The Mariners, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2001, showed some promising signs with 87 wins in 2014 but took a step back in 2015, finishing 76-86. Not content with their 76-win season, the Mariners had a busy offseason, acquiring OF Leonys Martin from the Rangers, 1B Adam Lind from the Brewers and SP Wade Miley from the Red Sox. In trading for those players, the Mariners gave up the likes of SP Roenis Elias, SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RP Tom Wilhelmsen. The team also signed C Chris Iannetta and RP Steve Cishek in free agency. Even with those moves, it’s going to be a tough climb for the Mariners to get into contention in the AL West.

The Mariners’ offense was a mixed bag in 2015; their .249 batting average was the third lowest in the American League, but they hit the fifth-most home runs in the league, with 198. OF Nelson Cruz was responsible for many of those home runs, hitting 44 of them to go along with 93 RBI and a .302 batting average, leading the team in all three categories. 2B Robinson Cano hit .287 with 21 home runs, while 3B Kyle Seager hit at a .266 clip with 26 home runs. The pitching staff posted the fourth-worst ERA in the AL at 4.16. Even usually dependable SP Felix Hernandez had a disappointing year — by his standards — with a 3.53 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 201.2 innings. SP Hisashi Iwakuma posted a 3.54 ERA in an injury-shortened season in which he started 20 games. SP Taijuan Walker had a disappointing year in his first full season in the majors, posting a 4.56 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 169.2 innings. With the Marlins and Cardinals last season, Cishek posted a 3.58 ERA, going 4-for-9 in save opportunities over 55.1 innings.

Cruz is likely going to provide he bulk of the offense again this season, although the addition of Lind gives the Mariners another potential 20-homer guy in the lineup. SS Ketel Marte showed promising signs in 57 games last season, so he could help out the offense if he can get to the next level as he starts the season in the majors. Hernandez needs to be closer to his 2.14 ERA from 2014 than his 3.53 ERA from last season to anchor the rotation as the team expects him to do. Walker and Miley improving from their performances last season is also essential for the Mariners to have much success in 2016. Cishek, likewise, needs to have get better than he did last season if he is going to keep the closer’s role. If he can’t, then veteran RP Joaquin Benoit will likely get a chance to take over the role as the season progresses.

The keys for the Mariners to improve upon their 76-86 record are much better pitching out of the rotation and a higher batting average from the offense. If those things happen, the Mariners will likely stay out of the cellar, but it still won’t be enough to pass the Angels, Astros or Rangers in the standings. The Mariners are looking like a fourth-place team again in 2016.

Be sure to check back tomorrow at 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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2nd 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 2016 season is the Oakland Athletics, who finished in last place in the division last season

After three straight playoff appearances from 2012-14, the bottom fell out for the A’s last season, going 68-94 for a last-place finish in the AL West. Most of the A’s notable transactions this winter involved trades. In one of the more significant deals, the A’s acquired OF Khris Davis from the Brewers for a couple of prospects. In other trades, the A’s acquired OF Chris Coghlan, who is likely going to spend the season as a utilityman in the outfield, from the Cubs and were reunited with 2B Jed Lowrie, who was traded by the Astros after playing for Oakland in 2013-14. The A’s also traded a package of players led by P Drew Pomeranz to the Padres for RP Marc Rzepczynski and 1B Yonder Alonso, and they traded 3B Brett Lawrie to the White Sox for a couple of minor leaguers. They also signed free-agent SP Rich Hill.

The A’s ranked in the second half of the American League in both batting average (.251) and home runs (146). OFs Billy Burns and Josh Reddick led the offensive attack, with Burns’ .294 average the best on the team, while Reddick led the squad with 20 home runs while hitting .272. C Stephen Vogt showed some power in his first full season in Major League Baseball, smacking 18 home runs to go along with his .261 average. SS Marcus Semien had year in his first full season in the majors, hitting .257 with 15 home runs but just 45 RBI. The A’s 4.14 ERA ranked as the fifth worst in the AL. Outside of SP Scott Kazmir, who was traded to the Astros in July, SP Sonny Gray had the best season in the starting rotation. He had a 2.73 ERA with 169 strikeouts in 208 innings in 31 starts. Rookie SPs Chris Bassitt and Kendall Graveman showed some promising signs; Bassitt posted a 3.56 ERA over 18 appearances — 13 starts — with 64 strikeouts in 86 innings. Graveman started 21 games, throwing 77 strikeouts in 115.2 innings with a 4.05 ERA. In four starts with the Red Sox last season — his first starts in the majors since 2009 — SP Rich Hill posted a 1.55 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 29 innings. While a small sample size, it is encouraging for the oft-injured hurler. RP Tyler Clippard served as the team’s closer for most of 2015, notching just 17 saves, but he signed with the Diamondbacks this winter, leaving RP Sean Doolittle to take over the closer’s role. In an injury-shortened 2015, Doolittle appeared in just 12 games, posting a 3.95 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 13.2 innings.

The same offensive core that the A’s relied on in 2015 will need to keep it up this year if the team has any chance of improving this season. Davis provides better offense than OF Sam Fuld, who he’s replacing in left field, with 49 total home runs in the last two seasons. The team’s biggest questions are with the pitching staff. Gray and SP Jesse Hahn are the only members of the rotation who are likely to have good seasons. It is yet to be seen if Bassitt and Graveman can improve upon their numbers from last season, and HIll is a major question mark, both in terms of health and performance; he last made a full season of starts in 2007, when he started 32 games for the Cubs, and at 36 years old it is unknown how he will hold up to a full season of pitching. In the bullpen, Doolittle has just one year of experience as a closer, saving 22-of-26 games in for the A’s in 2014. Coming off a shoulder injury that cost him most of the 2015 season, can he perform well in the high-pressure role?

The A’s were the worst team in the West last season and with some concerns about the team entering this season, they shouldn’t expect much of an improvement this season. It’s going to be another down year for the A’s, who are likely to remain at the bottom of the AL West standings.

Be sure to check back every day at 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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2nd Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Arizona Diamondbacks

Up next in our preview of all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2016 season is the NL West, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who came in third place last season, up first for the division

The Diamondbacks had one of the better offseasons of all the teams in Major League Baseball this winter, beefing up their starting rotation by signing coveted free-agent SP Zack Greinke to a six-year, $206.5 million contract and acquiring SP Shelby Miller from the Braves in a trade. They also made a trade with the Brewers that saw Arizona get SS Jean Segura. They did have to get rid of some players to acquire Miller and Segura, sending SP Chase Anderson and veteran 3B Aaron Hill to Milwuakee, while RF Ender Inciarte and SS Dansby Swanson — the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2015 — are now part of the Braves organization. So they sacrificed their future somewhat and spent a lot of money on Greinke to try to win now. They haven’t had a winning season since 2011 so they’re trying to continue the positive trajectory they’re on, having won 79 games last season after having just 64 wins in 2014.

The Diamondbacks had the third-best average (.264) in the National League in 2015, but were right around the league average with 154 home runs. Leading the offense was NL MVP runner-up 1B Paul Goldschmidt, who hit .321 with 33 home runs and 110 RBI. OF A.J. Pollock had the best season of his young career, hitting .315 with 20 home runs and 76 RBI. Segura should give the Diamondbacks a better average from the shortstop position, replacing SS Nick Ahmed, who hit .226 last season, but providing a little less power than Ahmed. Adding Greinke and Miller will provide a better top of the rotation for the Diamondbacks, to improve upon the team’s 4.04 ERA from 2015. On his way to finishing second in NL Cy Young voting last year, Greinke went 19-3 for the Dodgers while posting a career-best 1.66 ERA and 200 strikeouts in 222.2 innings. For the Braves, Miller pitched well, with a 3.02 ERA and 171 strikeouts in 205.1 innings, but went just 6-17 because of a lack of run support from the offense. With the Diamondbacks’ offense helping him this season, he should have a much improved record if he can come close to reproducing the numbers he put up last season.

The offense should be comparable to what it was last season, but the starting rotation is where the Diamondbacks should see a vast improvement this season. Greinke is bound to regress a bit this season because it’ll be hard to match his performance from last season, but even if he adds a run to it, which would be significant regression, a 2.66 ERA would still be almost a run better than any starter’s ERA last season. Then add in Miller and his career 3.22 ERA, and you have one of a strong 1-2 combo at the top of the rotation, which takes some of the pressure off of the other starters in the rotation. There are questions about what kind of production they’ll get out of closer Brad Ziegler, who had one of the best seasons of his career in 2015 but he is now 36 so if age starts to catch up to him, that could hurt the bullpen. But the Diamondbacks signed RP Tyler Clippard last month to be the setup guy, and he has closing experience so he could step into the ninth-inning role if Ziegler struggles.

The Diamondbacks vastly improved their team this offseason, vaulting them into contention in the NL West. Signing Greinke away from the Dodgers hurts them, but the Giants improved themselves this winter, likely putting those three teams in contention to win the division, but I think the Giants and Diamondbacks have the best shot to unseat the Dodgers and win the West in 2016.

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

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

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