Tag Archives: Cubs

MLB Weekly-ish: Surprising teams, injuries mark the start of the season

Looking Back

We’re a couple weeks into the 2018 MLB season with most teams having played about 15 games thus far and there are a number of teams that are surprising people by their performances — both good and bad — and some star players are dealing with injuries in this season’s first edition of MLB Weekly.

Taking a look at the standings entering Sunday, the Mets — who are coming off a 70-92 season — are coming out of the gate strong with the best record in the National League and leading the NL East at 11-2. The Nationals, who were the favorites to win the division, sit in fourth place with a 7-8 mark. The Mets’ struggles last season were caused by injuries, with the starting rotation hit particularly hard, so they were expected to have a better season this year assuming health. Through two weeks, their pitchers haven’t dealt with injuries, but C Travis d’Arnaud will undergo Tommy John surgery, which will end his season, and backup C Kevin Plawecki is also on the DL with a broken hand that is expected to keep him out of action for a few weeks. Apart from SP Zack Wheeler, who has a 1.29 ERA in his only start, none of the Mets’ starters have a sub-3.00 ERA but only SP Matt Harvey, who has the worst injury history of the group, has posted an ERA above 4.00 with a 3.60 ERA in his first two starts, but that should get better if he can stay healthy for the first time since 2015.

There’s also an unexpected team at the top of the standings in the NL Central, with the 10-4 Pirates 2.5 games ahead of the second-place Cardinals and the improved Brewers. The Cubs — who have won the division each of the last two seasons — are in fourth place at 7-7. After trading their best pitcher (SP Gerrit Cole) and hitter (OF Andrew McCutchen), the Pirates were thought to be in rebuilding mode and not expected to be competitive in the division in 2018. They are getting production, though, from two of the hitters they added this winter: OF Corey Dickerson, who they acquired in a trade with the Rays, is hitting .347 with 10 RBI and a couple of steals while 3B Colin Moran, who came over from the Astros in the Cole trade, is hitting .316 with 8 RBI in his first 11 games with the team. A couple of young pitchers have had terrific starts to their seasons, with SP Jameson Taillon posting a 0.890ERA with 18 strikeouts in his first three starts and SP Trevor Williams with a 1.56 ERA and 10 strikeouts in three starts.

In the American League, the Angels and Red Sox were both expected to be in the playoff picture this season but not many people expected them to get off to the kinds of starts they they have. The 12-2 Red Sox have been getting it done on the mound, with the second-lowest ERA in the American League. They’ve also been getting offensive production out of SS Xander Bogaerts — who is currently on the DL — and OFs Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez, who are all hitting .353 or better. For the Angels, the much-hyped Shohei Ohtani has shown his subpar spring training performance was a fluke and has gotten off to a hot start both at the plate and on the mound. He’s hitting .367 with 3 home runs and 11 games in eight games as a DH and has posted a 2.08 ERA with 18 strikeouts over 13 innings in his first two starts of the season. OF Mike Trout, a perennial MVP candidate, is having the type of season people have come to expect from him with 6 home runs in his first 16 games.

It’s not good news for every team, though. The Cubs are one of the bigger disappointments early in the season at .500. That is due in large part to their pitching. Of their five starters, only SP Kyle Hendricks has a sub-4.00 ERA, and it’s not overly impressive at 3.71. SP Yu Darvish, who the Cubs signed to a big contract this winter despite his struggles in the postseason, has a 6.00 ERA in three starts. The Yankees, who were a game away from making the World Series in 2017, are also 7-7 as they sit in third place in the AL East, but the biggest disappointment early in 2018 is the Dodgers. Coming off their first World Series appearance since 1988, the Dodgers are just 4-9 and 6.5 games out of first in the NL West. Part of that is because 3B Justin Turner started the season on the DL and has yet to play in a game, but they’re not getting much out of SS Corey Seager, who hit .293 last season but is at .196 entering Sunday. The starting pitching is a mixed bag, with Clayton Kershaw sitting at a 1.89 ERA but SP Alex Wood posting a 5.09 ERA and SP Rich Hill at a 6.00 ERA. Closer Kenley Jansen is 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA and a couple of saves in his first six appearances of the season.

The first couple weeks of the season haven’t been kind to teams in terms of injuries, with the list of players currently on the DL including: Angels SP Matt Shoemaker; Rangers OF Delino Deshields, SS Elvis Andrus and 2B Rougned Odor; Phillies SP Jerad Eickhoff; Blue Jays SS Troy Tulowitzki and 3B Josh Donaldson; Giants SPs Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and RP Mark Melancon; Indians SP Danny Salazar; Royals C Salvador Perez; Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia; Marlins C J.T. Realmuto; Yankees 1B Greg Bird, SP CC Sabathia and 3B Brandon Drury; White Sox SP Carlos Rodon; Nationals 2B Daniel Murphy and OF Adam Eaton; Pirates SP Joe Musgrove; Mariners DH Nelson Cruz; Diamondbacks 3B Jake Lamb; Padres OFs Wil Myers and Manuel Margot; Brewers SP Jimmy Nelson, RP Corey Knebel and OF Christian Yelich; and Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo.

The Week Ahead

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The Angels and Red Sox are the best teams in the American League right now, and they begin a three-game series in Anaheim on Tuesday after the Red Sox host the Orioles Monday in their traditional 11am start on Patriots’ Day. The Astros begin a weeklong road trip on Monday with the first of four at the division-rival Mariners in Seattle. The classic Cubs-Cardinals rivalry gets going for three games at Wrigley starting Monday, and longtime Yankee SS Derek Jeter brings the team he now co-owns, the Marlins, to Yankee Stadium for a two-game interleague series Monday and Tuesday. Over in Queens, the Mets look to keep their hot start going with a three-game series against the Nationals starting Monday. Later in the week, the Cubs visit the Rockies starting Friday in a series between two teams that made the playoffs last season but haven’t begun 2018 the way they would have liked. And the Dodgers look to get things going when they host the Nationals over the weekend.

In some pitching performances to look out for this week, Astros SP Dallas Keuchel looks to lock down his first win of the season Monday when he faces SP James Paxton and the Mariners. Sabathia is scheduled to come off the DL to get the start Tuesday in the Yankees’ second game against the Marlins. Wednesday sees Cole take the mound for his fourth start for the Astros as he looks to continue his streak of double-digit strikeout performances against Mariners SP Mike Leake. And there are aces scheduled to be dueling in Southern California Saturday night with Ohtani scheduled to start for the Angels and a pitching matchup of Stephen Strasburg and Kershaw on the docket for the Nationals-Dodgers game Saturday.

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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: Los Angeles Dodgers

Continuing with the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the division last season

The Dodgers came within a game of winning the World Series last season but ultimately lost the Astros in seven games. They’re trying for a sixth straight division title this season, and to help them achieve that they re-acquired a former Dodger, trading a package that included SS Charlie Culberson and pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir to the Braves in exchange for OF Matt Kemp. They also signed P Tom Koehler to pitch out of the bullpen to replace departed RPs Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. They also have to fill a hole in the rotation caused by SP Yu Darvish heading to the Cubs in free agency. So the majority of last year’s National League championship team returns, but there are a couple of important pieces who are no longer on the team entering 2018.

The Dodgers’ .249 average was in the bottom half of Major League Baseball last season, but their 221  home runs were the 11th most in the league. They finished in the top 10 with a .771 OPS. 1B Cody Bellinger had a strong rookie year, hitting .267 with 39 home runs and 97 RBI. He had a .933 OPS and a 4.2 WAR. SS Corey Seager hit .295 with 22 home runs, and 3B Justin Turner hit a team-high .322 and added 21 to the Dodgers’ total. OF Yasiel Puig hit a career-high 28 homers, which was more than double his total from the previous two seasons combined. OF Chris Taylor hit .288 with 21 home runs. C Austin Barnes hit .289 with 8 home runs in 102 games. Kemp hit .276 with 19 home runs in 115 games with the Braves.

Pitching was where the Dodgers shined in 2017. Their 3.38 ERA led the National League and was behind only the Indians in the majors. They struck out 1,549 batters — which ranked fifth in MLB — and their 51 saves were the third-most in the majors. Not surprisingly, SP Clayton Kershaw led the starters with a 2.31 ERA in 27 starts, and he struck out 202 batters in 175 innings. Kershaw’s 18 wins was tied for the most  in the majors. SP Alex Wood posted a strong 2.72 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 152.1 innings over 27 games, including 25 starts. SP Rich Hill made 25 starts — his most since 2007 — and put up a 3.32 ERA, recording 166 strikeouts in 135.2 innings. Closer Kenley Jansen pitched in 65 games, saving 41 of them. He posted a 1.32 ERA and struck out 109 in 68.1 innings. Koehler struggled with the Marlins and Blue Jays last year, putting up a 6.69 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 72.2 innings over 27 games, including 13 starts.

Anything short of a return trip to the World Series will probably be a disappointment for Dodger fans. Much of the team is back this season, you have to wonder if a guy like Bellinger will be able to have another season like he had his rookie year, or did he set a bar so high that he won’t be able to get there again this year? Getting Kemp back should help provide a boost to the lineup. I don’t think the pitching will be as good this season. Obviously Kershaw is one of the best in the game, but the rest of the rotation is made up of guys who have been largely inconsistent in their careers. The Dodgers lost a key piece of the bullpen with Morrow gone and Koehler, who was expected to fill his role as an inning-eater, is dealing with a shoulder injury that is sidelining him indefinitely. The Dodgers were dealt another setback this week when Turner broke his left wrist when he was hit by a pitch. The injury will sideline him indefinitely, for what is expected to be a period of a few weeks.

The Dodgers are still probably the best team in the division, but the gap is closing. The Giants and Padres both improved their teams this winter, and the Diamondbacks and Rockies were both playoff teams last year. It should be a tight race to win the division, but I think the Dodgers will finish the season atop the NL West again.

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Colorado Rockies

The next NL West team up in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Colorado Rockies, who came in third place in the division last season

The Rockies are coming off their first winning season since 2010 and focused on adding to the bullpen this winter. They signed RPs Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw, and offensively they signed free-agent C Chris Iannetta in addition to re-signing OF Carlos Gonzalez to a one-year deal. The offense will again be led by OF Charlie Blackmon and 3B Nolan Arenado, but they are without a true ace in their rotation. They lost a few free agents who helped the team make the playoffs last season, including 1B Mark Reynolds, SP Tyler Chatwood and RP Greg Holland.

The Rockies’ .273 average led the National League and was second behind only the Astros in Major League Baseball, but they were in the bottom half of the majors with 192 home runs. Their .781 OPS ranked fifth in MLB. Blackmon had the best numbers of his career, hitting .331 with 37 home runs and 104 RBI. His 1.000 OPS was third-best in the NL. He has a 6.5 WAR, which was second in the NL, and he finished fifth in NL MVP voting. Arenado hit .309 with 37 home runs and 130 RBI, which was the second-highest total in the NL. SS Trevor Story had a bit of a sophomore slump, hitting 24 homers with a .239 average — more than 30 points lower than the .272 he hit in his rookie year. 2B DJ LeMahieu hit .310 with 8 home runs, and OF Gerardo Parra added 10 home runs on a .309 average in 115 games. Gonzalez hit .262 with 14 homers in 136 games. Iannetta hit .254 with 17 home runs in 89 games with the Diamondbacks.

The Rockies’ 4.51 ERA placed them in the bottom half of the league, as did their 1,270 strikeouts. They recorded 47 saves, which was fourth in the majors. SP Jon Gray posted a 3.67 ERA in 20 starts, recording 112 strikeouts  in 110.1 innings. SP Kyle Freeland recorded a 4.10 ERA in 33 games, including 28 starts, and struck out 107 in 156 innings. SP German Marquez had a 4.39 ERA with 147 strikeouts in 162 innings over 29 starts, and SP Chad Bettis put up a 5.05 ERA, striking out 30 batters in 46.1 innings over just 9 starts. Davis recorded a career-high 32 saves with the Cubs, posting a 2.30 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over 59 appearances, and Shaw put up a career-worst 3.52 ERA in 79 appearances with 73 strikeouts over 76.2 innings with the Indians.

Blackmon had a career year in 2017 and he will likely lead the offense again this season, along with Nolan Arenado. That’s not the part of the team that the Rockies should be worried about, though. It’s the pitching staff that has the most question marks. It’s a young rotation without a true ace. Gray is the closest pitcher the team has to a No. 1, but he needs significant improvement to be the true leader of the starting staff. The rest of the rotation is filled with pitchers who have either been inconsistent in their careers or have health questions, including Jeff Hoffman, who is unlikely to be ready to begin the season and will probably pitch out of the bullpen when he is healthy to make his regular season debut. With the team not re-signing last year’s closer Greg Holland, Wade Davis will get the first shot at taking over the closer’s role and he has experience pitching in the ninth inning so he should have success pitching at the end of games. But there the team should have concern about how many leads will end up in his hands with the inconsistent starting pitching.

The Rockies barely made the playoffs last season, but I don’t  think they’ll make it this year. Their pitching isn’t good enough to match up with some of the league’s best teams and other contenders — like the Giants, Brewers and Cardinals — got better and may have passed the Rockies in talent. The offense will have to carry the team, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to get back to the postseason.

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Kansas City Royals

The next AL Central team in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Kansas City Royals, who came in third place in the division last season.

Since winning the World Series in 2015, the Royals have won 80 and 81 games, respectively, the last two seasons. They’re looking to get back to where they were in that championship year, and perhaps the move they made this winter that will best help them achieve that goal was re-signing 3B Mike Moustakas, who didn’t have the free-agent market that he expected. They also signed OF Jon Jay and 1B Lucas Duda. They traded for SP Jesse Hahn but subsequently placed him on the 60-day DL with a UCL strain, which could lead to Tommy John surgery. Also unavailable for a while will be OF Jorge Bonifacio, who has been suspended 80 games for testing positive for a PED. They lost longtime 1B Eric Hosmer and OF Lorenzo Cain in free agency.

The Royals were in the top half of Major League Baseball with a .259 average last season while their 193 home runs were below the league average; their .731 OPS placed them in the bottom 10 in the league. Moustakas hit a career-high 38 home runs and 85 RBI last season with a .272 average and .835 OPS. 2B Whit Merrifield had an unexpectedly productive year, hitting 19 home runs and stealing 34 bases with a .288 average. OF Alex Gordon had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .208 with 9 home runs, and C Salvador Perez added 27 homers with a .268 average in 129 games. Bonifacio hit .255 with 17 home runs in 113 games. Jay hit .296 with the Cubs and Duda hit 30 home runs with the Mets and Rays but hit just .217.

The pitchers posted a 4.61 ERA,which was in the bottom half of the league, as were their 1,216 strikeouts. The bullpen’s 39 saves matched the league average. SP Danny Duffy was the best in the rotation with a 3.81 ERA and 130 strikeouts over 146.1 innings over 24 starts. SP Ian Kennedy posted a 5.38 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 154 innings, and SP Jason Hammel had a 5.29 ERA in 32 starts with 145 strikeouts in 180.1 innings. Hahn posted a 5.30 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 69.2 innings with the A’s. RP Kelvin Herrera recorded 26 saves in 64 appearances, posting a 4.25 ERA with 56 saves in 59.1 innings.

Re-signing Moustakas is a big move for the Royals because losing him would have put a big hole in the middle of their lineup, especially with Hosmer also gone. The 38 home runs that he hit last season, however, were 16 more than he ever had in a season before so you would expect a drop in his power numbers. Gordon, on the other hand, had such a bad season by his standards that he should be able to bounce back this year. With Bonifacio now out for half of the year, OF Jorge Soler, who hit .144 last year, needs to step up and make up for some of that lost offense. The pitching staff lacks a true No. 1 starter, with Duffy currently pegged for that role, and will have a hard time keeping the team in games. Hahn will miss the first two months of the season, but it could be significantly longer than that. But SP Nathan Karns, who had an injury-shortened season last year could be healthy for the start of the season, or close to it, as he has been pitching in spring training.

In a tough division with two teams that made the playoffs last season, including the 102-win Indians, it’ll be tough for the Royals to find much traction in the AL Central this season. I think they may actually fall back to fourth place this year after the White Sox got better this winter. It’s looking like another season without a postseason appearance for the Royals.

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Detroit Tigers

The next AL Central team in our monthlong series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season is the Detroit Tigers, who finished in last place in the division last season.

At 64-98, the Tigers are coming off their worst season since 2003 and for the first time since 2004, they’ll play an entire season without ace SP Justin Verlander, who they traded to the Astros in August. And with the three players they got in return not major league-ready yet, the Tigers are probably looking at a few more seasons before they’re competitive again. Their notable signings this offseason were OF Leonys Martin, SP Mike Fiers and P Francisco Liriano. On the other side of the spectrum, they traded 2B Ian Kinsler to the Angels in exchange for a couple of minor leaguers. Among the notable returning players are 1B Miguel Cabrera, SS Jose Iglesias, OF Nicholas Castellanos and SPs Michael Fulmer and Jordan Zimmermann.

The Tigers hit .258 last season, which put them in the top half of Major League Baseball, but their 187 home runs were in the bottom half of the league and their .748 OPS was near the middle of the pack. Castellanos was among the team’s best hitters with a .272 average, 26 home runs, 101 RBI and an .811 OPS. Cabrera had one of the worst seasons of his career, hitting .249 with 16 home runs in 130 games, and DH Victor Martinez also continued his downward trend with a .255 average and just 10 homers in 107 games. Iglesias hit .255 with 6 home runs in 130 games, and C James McCann added 13 home runs on a .253 average. OF Mikie Mahtook hit .276 with 12 dingers. With the Cubs and Mariners last season, Martin hit a paltry .172 with 3 home runs in just 49 games.

The pitchers posted a MLB-worst 5.36 ERA — and that was with having Verlander for all but the last month of the season — and were tied for the fourth-fewest strikeouts with 1,202. Unsurprisingly, with just 64 wins, the team’s 32 saves were tied for the third-fewest in the league. In 25 starts, Fulmer posted a 3.83 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 164.2 innings — and what worse for the rest of the rotation. Zimmermann posted a 6.08 ERA in 29 starts in which he struck out 103 batters in 160 innings. SP Matt Boyd posted a 5.27 ERA with 110 strikeouts in 135 innings. With the Astros, Fiers put up a 5.22 ERA in 29 games, including 28 starts, while striking out 146 batters in 153.1 innings. RP Shane Greene — who took over the closer’s job in August after the team traded RP Justin Wilson — ended up with 9 saves and a 2.66 ERA with 73 strikeouts in 67.2 innings over 71 games.

The trades the Tigers have made since July have been an indication that they are in the midst of a rebuilding process so fans shouldn’t expect much of an improvement over last year. This season should give them an idea of what their future offense may look like with young players like 2B Dixon Machado and 3B Jeimer Candelario expected to make the major-league roster out of spring training and get the starting jobs at their positions. The rotation, on the other hand, is made up of largely mediocre veterans without much upside at this point in their careers, with the exception of Fulmer and, to a lesser extent, Boyd, but they need to take their games to the next level if they want to help get the team out of the basement in the AL Central.

With the Indians and the Twins the best squads in the division, and the White Sox expected to be better this season, it won’t be easy for the Tigers to get many more than 64 wins they earned last season, so they’re likely going to experience their third last-place finish in the last four seasons, but there could be some promising signs for the team if the youngsters show some promising signs.

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: St. Louis Cardinals

Our look at the NL Central, part of our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, concludes with the St. Louis Cardinals, who came in third place in the division last season.

The Cardinals have had a winning record each season since 2008, but they have missed the playoffs two straight years. They’re trying to reverse that latter trend and made a couple of big acquisitions this winter to try to get back to the postseason, both coming on the same day in December. They signed veteran RP Luke Gregerson and traded three players — including OF Magneuris Sierra — to the Marlins in exchange for OF Marcell Ozuna. In other moves, the Cardinals signed P Bud Norris and traded away OFs Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty, taking advantage of their depth at the position to try to restock their farm system following the Ozuna trade.

The team hit .256 last season, which was in the top half of Major League Baseball, with 196 home runs and a .760 OPS. Rookie SS Paul DeJong led the team with 25 home runs in 108 games, to go along with a .285 average and .857 OPS. OF Tommy Pham hit .306 with 23 home runs and a .931 OPS; he also stole 25 bases. 1B Matt Carpenter added another 23 home runs, with 3B Jedd Gyorko hitting .272 with 20 homers. OF Dexter Fowler hit .264 with 18 home runs. C Yadier Molina, who’s been a mainstay of the team since 2004, hit .273 with 18 home runs — his most since 2012. With the Marlins last season, Ozuna had the best year of his career as he hit .312 with 37 homers.

The Cardinals’ 4.01 ERA was the 10th-best in the majors, their 1,351 strikeouts put them in the top half of the league. The bullpen recorded 43 saves, which was also in the top 10. SP Carlos Martinez made 32 starts, posting a 3.64 ERA with 217 strikeouts in 205 innings. SP Michael Wacha had a 4.13 ERA with 158 strikeouts in 165.2 innings over 30 starts. Veteran SP Adam Wainwright appeared in 24 games — including 23 starts — and put up a career-worst 5.11 ERA, striking out 96 batters in 123.1 innings. Young SP Luke Weaver struck out 72 batters in 60.1 innings while posting a 3.88 ERA. Gregerson posted a 4.57 ERA last season with 70 strikeouts in 61 innings for the Astros.

Looking ahead to this season, the Cardinals improved their offense by adding Ozuna to the outfield, but they could face some offensive issues from the infield. DeJong had a good rookie campaign, but will he be able to repeat that success this season? And Carpenter is dealing with a back injury that could cause him to miss the start of the regular season. If that issue lingers and he misses more than just a few games, the Cardinals don’t have a viable alternative to man first base. And with Molina now 35 years old, his offensive output will start to decrease at some point. One of the biggest issues for the Cardinals in terms of pitching is Wainwright. He had a 5.11 ERA last season and will be 37 by the end of the season. Is the season he had in 2017 the new normal for him or can he bounce back from that high ERA? The Cardinals are hoping the latter is the case, but I’m not so sure it is. SP Miles Mikolas is expected to land a spot in the rotation. He last played in the majors in 2014, when he made 10 starts with a 6.44 ERA, but he found success playing in Japan since then. In three seasons with the Yomiuri Giants, he posted a 2.18 ERA with 378 strikeouts in 424.2 innings.

The Cardinals should compete with the Cubs and Brewers in a three-way race for the NL Central crown this season, with the Cubs holding the advantage over the other two teams. If guys like Wainwright, Weaver and Mikolas don’t perform well, it’ll hurt the Cardinals’ chances of passing the Cubs for the division title. Even if they don’t win the Central, they should be able to hang around the Wild Card race for most of the summer.

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

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