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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: Seattle Mariners

Our previews of the AL West continue, with the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, the Seattle Mariners, who finished in third place in the division last season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: 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: 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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4th 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 2018 season, continues with the Milwaukee Brewers, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Brewers’ 86-76 record last season was their best mark since 2011, but it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. So they added a couple bats to their lineup this winter to try to get over the hump and into the postseason. In addition to signing free-agent OF Lorenzo Cain, they traded for OF Christian Yelich, sending four minor leaguers to the Marlins, including OF Lewis Brinson. They also signed a pair of starting pitchers, Jhoulys Chacin and former Brewer Yovani Gallardo. They join a rotation led by SP Chase Anderson, who had a breakout season in 2017, as did closer Cory Kenebel and 1B Eric Thames.

The Brewers’ .249 average last season placed them in the bottom half of the ranks of Major League Baseball, but they were in the top 10 with 224 home runs and their .751 OPS was just about the league average. Thames, playing his first season in the majors since 2012, hit 31 home runs with a .247 average and a .877 OPS in 138 games, but he struck out 163 times and had a low 63 RBI total considering how many home runs he hit. 3B Travis Shaw matched that 31 home runs but with a higher .273 average and 101 RBI in 144 games. OF Domingo Santana added 30 homers to the team’s total, with a .278 average. OF Keon Broxton hit 20 home runs with 23 steals, and veteran OF Ryan Braun hit .268 with 17 bombs in 104 games. With the Marlins last season, Yelich hit .282 with 18 homers and 81 RBI, and Cain hit .300 with 15 home runs and 26 steals for the Royals.

The pitchers’ 4.00 ERA was in the top half of the majors, as were their 1,346 strikeouts. The bullpen led MLB with 54 saves. Anderson went 12-4 in 25 starts last season, setting careers highs with a 2.74 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 141.1 innings. SP Zach Davies posted a 3.90 ERA in 33 starts with 124 strikeouts over 191.1 innings. SP Brent Suter posted a 3.42 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 81.2 innings over 22 games, including 14 starts. With the Padres, Chacin posted a 3.89 ERA with 153 strikeouts over 180.1 innings in 32 starts, and Gallardo put up a 5.72 ERA with the Mariners; he struck out 94 batters in 130.2 innings. Knebel saved 39 games in his first full season as a closer, posting a 1.78 ERA with 126 strikeouts over 76 innings in 76 appearances.

The Brewers made some good additions to the team with Yelich and Cain. Adding them, however, presents a problem with a surplus of outfielders, cutting into playing time for guys like Broxton and Brett Phillips. It also seems to make Braun a part-time player and could get him some playing time at first base, where he has been getting some reps this spring. Having that outfield depth is also a positive in case the Brewers deal with injuries in the outfield. There could be some concern that the production from guys like Thames and Anderson could drop coming off of their career years, and Knebel had a good season, but it was the only full season on record for him and leaves open a question about whether it was a one-time thing or if it’s repeatable. His minor-league statistics seem to indicate that the season wasn’t a fluke for him, but that remains to be seen at the major-league level. There are also performance concerns for Gallardo, who has posted 5.42 and 5.72 ERAs in the last two seasons. If he doesn’t do better than that early in 2018, he might not last long in the rotation. He could just be holding down a spot until SP Jimmy Nelson is recovered from September shoulder surgery; he is on schedule to be ready for game action by the all-star break.

The Brewers got better this winter, but so did the Cardinals and they’re both chasing a Cubs team that has won at least 92 games in three straight seasons. It should be a tight race atop the NL Central and the Brewers have a good chance to make the playoffs — they missed a spot by just one game last season — but increased competition in their division could make it hard to surpass last season’s total of 86 wins. I think the Brewers are still behind the Cubs, but they’re right with the Cardinals in terms of talent and should be in the fight for a Wild Card all season long.

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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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: New York Yankees

Our previews of the AL East teams, part of looking at all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2018 season, continue with the New York Yankees, who finished in second place in the division last season.

The Yankees surprised many people by winning 91 games and earning one of the Wild Cards in the American League. The emergence of rookie OF Aaron Judge helped the Yankees to a better-than-expected season as he hit 52 home runs en route to earning AL Rookie of the Year honors and finishing second to the Astros’ Jose Altuve in MVP voting. And he’s getting some help in the power department in 2018 with the acquisition of reigning National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, who the Yankees traded for in December, sending the Marlins 2B Starlin Castro and minor league SS Jose Devers and P Jorge Guzman in return. The Yankees also acquired 3B Brandon Drury in a three-way trade involving the Diamondbacks and Rays in which the Yankees gave up a couple of prospects. Drury replaces 3B Chase Headley, who the Yankees traded to the Padres this winter. The team also re-signed veteran SP CC Sabathia to remain a mainstay in the starting rotation.

The Yankees hit .262 last season, which was seventh highest in Major League Baseball, and they led the majors with 241 home runs, while their .785 OPS was third. Judge hit .284 with 52 home runs — second in the majors behind only Stanton — and 114 RBI, which were second in the AL. His 1.049 OPS was second to Mike Trout. Judge also led the AL with 127 walks, but on the other side of the coin he also struck out more than anyone else with 208 Ks. Overall, he had a WAR of 8.1, which was second in the majors. Elsewhere on the roster, C Gary Sanchez proved he’s one of the top offensive players at the position with a .278 average and 33 home runs in 122 games. SS Didi Gregorius had a career year, hitting .287 with 25 homers in 136 games. Stanton played a career-best 159 games with the Marlins last year — just the second time he’s played in 150 games or more — and hit .281 with a MLB-leading 59 home runs and 132 RBI. His 1.007 OPS ranked fifth in the majors, and his 7.6 WAR was tied for fourth-highest in MLB. With the Diamondbacks, Drury hit .267 with 13 home runs in 135 games.

The Yankees also had good pitching, with their 3.72 ERA ranking as the fifth-lowest in the majors last season. They were fourth in the majors with 1,560 strikeouts, but their 36 saves were in the bottom half of the league. SP Luis Severino was the best pitcher in the rotation with a 2.98 ERA ahd 230 strikeouts in 193.1 innings over 31 starts. SP Masahiro Tanaka had an inconsistent season, finishing with a 4.74 ERA and 194 strikeouts over 178.1 innings in 30 starts. Sabathia posted a 3.69 ERA with 120 strikeouts in 27 starts, and SP Jordan Montgomery put up a 3.88 ERA with 144 strikeouts in 29 starts. SP Sonny Gray, who the Yankees traded for at the deadline, started 11 games for the team in the regular season, posting a 3.72 ERA and striking out 59 in 65.1 innings. RP Aroldis Chapman recorded 22 saves in 52 appearances, with a 3.22 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 50.1 innings. RP Dellin Betances saved 10 games and posted a 2.87 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 59.2 innings.

Last year, Stanton and Judge combined for 111 home runs. Reaching that number again in 2018 could be a lot to ask for because of Stanton’s durability questions. Stanton will be playing mainly DH this year, with some starts possible in the outfield, which could help him stay healthier and on the field more this season than he has been able to in the past. OFs Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks are slated to get the bulk of the outfield starts with Judge, and veteran OF Jacoby Ellsbury should be the main backup. 2B Ronald Torreyes is expected to begin the season as the starting second baseman, but top prospect Gleyber Torres should come up at some point during the season to take over the position, moving Torreyes into more of a utility role. 1B Greg Bird, who was limited to 48 games in his rookie season due to injury, gets a chance to show what he can do at the position now that he is recovered. While the Yankees traded for Drury expecting him to be their starting third baseman, prospect Miguel Andujar is hoping to get that job — if not on Opening Day, then at some point during the season. Andujar has gotten off to a good start during Spring Training, strengthening his case to make the Opening Day roster.

Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Yankees, but they managed to win 91 games, which was just two games behind the Red Sox for the division title. Adding Stanton to the lineup, which should give the Yankees the biggest power output of any two teammates, makes the Yankees even better and should help them surpass the Red Sox and win the AL East for the first time since 2012. Even with the Red Sox signing J.D. Martinez, the Yankees are likely the better overall team between the two and, thus, the best team in the division. The Yankees came within one game of making the World Series last year, and it looks like they have a team that should allow for another deep playoff run in 2018.

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

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4th Annual 30 in 30ish MLB Previews: Washington Nationals

We finish out the first division in our continuing previews of all 30 MLB teams with the Washington Nationals, who won the NL East last season.

After winning 97 games last season, the Nationals again failed to advance past the National League Division Series, losing to the Cubs in five games. They don’t have many holes to fill on the roster so they didn’t make any major moves in free agency or on the trade market this season. They signed 1B Matt Adams, who will serve as the backup to veteran Ryan Zimmerman. One addition they will get to the roster this year is OF Adam Eaton, who only played in 23 games last season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery. He is expected to be ready to take the field on Opening Day. 2B Daniel Murphy also underwent knee surgery last year and could be on track to be ready for the start of the season. OF Bryce Harper remains in the heart of the lineup in the last season before he hits free agency next winter. SPs Max Scherzer — who has won the last two NL Cy Young awards — and Stephen Strasburg remain at the top of the rotation.

The Nationals ranked fourth in Major League Baseball last season with a .266 batting average, and their 215 home runs were in the top half of the majors. They also ranked in the top five in RBI, steals and OPS. Zimmerman led the team with 36 home runs, to go along with a .303 average and .930 OPS. Harper hit .319 — more than 70 points better than 2016 — with 29 home runs and a 1.008 OPS in 119 games as he bounced back nicely from a disappointing season the year before. 3B Anthony Rendon had career highs with a .301 average, 25 home runs, 100 RBI and .937 OPS, and SS Trea Turner hit .284 with 11 homers and 46 steals in 98 games. In 118 games OF Michael Taylor, who became a starter when Eaton went down, hit .271 with 19 home runs.

The pitching staff posted a 3.88 ERA with 1,457 strikeouts, which both ranked in the top 10 in the majors. Their 46 saves ranked fifth among the 30 teams.In his Cy Young-winning campaign, Scherzer put up a 2.51 ERA with a MLB-best 268 strikeouts in 200.2 innings on the way to a 16-5 record. SP Gio Gonzalez had one of the best seasons of his career, striking out 188 batters and posting a 2.96 ERA in a team-high 201 innings with a 15-9 record. Strasburg started 28 games, with a 2.52 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 175.1 innings. The team had struggles in the bullpen and made some trades at the deadline to improve late-game pitching. RP Sean Doolittle came over from the A’s and became the team’s primary closer in the second half of the season. In 30 games with the Nationals, he recorded 21 saves while posting a 2.40 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 30 innings.

The window may be closing for the Nationals with Harper a free agent after this season so this may be their last best chance at making a deep playoff run. They shouldn’t have much of a problem winning the division title again. With guys like Harper, Zimmerman and Rondon, the offense should put plenty of runs on the board and opponents will have trouble scoring against the likes of Scherzer, Stratsburg and Gonzalez. A healthy Eaton can provide an offensive boost that the team missed for most of 2017 and getting Murphy back also helps the team. The team could experience issues if Strasburg deals with an injury, as he had in the past, but otherwise the Nationals should have another good season.

With the Marlins trading their stars and the other teams in the NL East all being flawed, the Nationals are the team to beat in the division for the third straight season. Unless the Nats have a rash of long-term injuries, they should easily reach the postseason and then it’ll just be a matter of them having to overcome their October demons to advance deep into the postseason, and potentially the World Series.

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.

Sources: http://www.nationals.com, http://www.baseball-reference.com

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